The Yoga Yajnavalkya

Yoga Dharma offers a full range of workshops and training on the philosophy of yoga. The Yoga Yajnavalkya is studied as part of our 300 hour advanced teacher training and 200 hour Meditation teacher training courses.

The Yoga Yajnavalkya, like Patanjalis Sutras, sets out the eight components of yoga but, goes much further with instructions for example on how to perform practices such as pratyahara. It also differs from the Sutras in that it discusses the concept of Kundalini, which is very clearly a Tantric yoga teaching. The Yajnavalkya contains comprehensive instruction on Pranayama, Dhyana and Dharana.

The Yoga Yajnavalkya is set as a dialogue between sage Yajnavalkya and his consort Gargi and consists of 12 chapters with 504 verses. The date of the Yoga Yajnavalkya is unclear, but some sources date it around or even before Patanjalis Yoga Sutras and as early as 800 BC. It is clear however that texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika rely on the Yajnavalkya quite heavily.

Chapter 1.

The list of Yamas is longer than that in Patanjalis Sutras:  

  1. Ahimsa: nonviolence, non-harmfulness by action, with word or in thought
  2. Satya: truthfulness
  3. Asteya: not stealing
  4. Brahmacharya: celibacy, fidelity to one’s partner
  5. Daya: kindness, compassion
  6. Arjava: no hypocrisy, sincerity
  7. Ksama: forgiveness
  8. Dhriti: fortitude
  9. Mitahara: moderation in diet
  10. Sauca: purity, cleanliness

Chapter 2.

Lists the Niyamas of which there are 10.

  1. Tapas: austerity, persistence and perseverance in one’s purpose
  2. Santosa: contentment, acceptance of others and of one’s circumstances as they are, optimism for self
  3. Astika: faith in merit and demerit
  4. Dana: generosity, charity, sharing with others
  5. ishvara pranidhana: worship of Ishvara (Brahman, God/Supreme Being, True Self)
  6. Siddhanta: listening to the Vedas and Upanishads, texts about virtues and principles
  7. Hri: shyness, modesty, remorse and acceptance of one’s past, humility
  8. Mati: faith in self and duties, reflection to reconcile conflicting ideas
  9. Japa: steady reading of the Vedas, repetition of mantras or sacred sounds set in poetic meters, either with sound or silently in one’s mind
  10. Vratam: vows and self-promise to focus and achieve appropriate goals on Dharma, Artha (the means of life) Karma and Moksha

Chapter 3.

Lists eight asanas

 Chapter 4.

Vessels, nadis.

Here Yaynavalkya explains how to purify the nádis, including their location, the origin and ending. He also includes the position, function, and movement of each of the vayus.

Yaynavalkya mentions kundalini at this point.

Chapter 5.

Cleansing the vessels.

In this chapter Yaynavalkya tells us how to purify the nadis, including the environment, the routine, and includes the results of nadi cleansing.

Chapter 6.

Breath control, Pranayama

After some channels have been cleared, Yaynavalkya instructions are given on breathing exercises, including breath retention, the grades of Pranayama, and the benefits.

Chapter 7.

The five means to turn inward. Pratyahara.  

Yajnavalkya now gives us five Pratyahara practices. One is called Pratyahara Vayu, or wind withdrawal.

Instructions for Pratyahara Vayu are below.

Chapter 8.

Dharana

Yajnavalkya defines Dharna as the absorption of the mind in the self.

Chapter 9.

Dhyana

Yajnavalkya gives as several methods to practice meditation, and also breaks Dhyana into two types: with attributes (saguna), and without attributes (nirguna).

Chapter 10.

Samádhi

Samádhi is described as: meditate on the self, so that one realises the self. Yajnavalkya also explains to Gargi that in order to attain a state of Samadhi, one must do so without the motivation of desire. One must constantly strive for union of divine and self.

Chapter 11.

How to combine Yoga (Samadhi) and duties

Gargi asks Yajnavalkya: how does a person who is involved in practicing yoga do the Veda prescribed actions. Yajnavalkya answers, that when we are in a state of yoga, no purification is needed. But when we come out of Samadhi, even a realised person must again perform their duties.

Chapter 12.

Is a summery of the whole book. Yajnavalkya concisely explains the yogic path to liberation.

Instructions for Pratyahara Vayu: (Wind withdrawal)

The practice involves taking the awareness and awareness of the breath sequentially to 18 points in the body. The vital points are called Marma points.

The points are:

  1. Big toes
  2. Ankles
  3. Roots of the calves
  4. Mid shin
  5. Knees
  6. Mid thighs
  7. Perineum
  8. Centre of the body
  9. Generative organs
  10. Navel
  11. Heart centre
  12. Pit of the throat
  13. Root of the tongue
  14. Root of the nose
  15. Eyes
  16. Eyebrow centre
  17. Forehead
  18. Top of the head

Hold your full attention on each of the vital points, either beginning from the big toes working upwards, or from the top of the head down. Practice holding your full awareness, and awareness of the breath at each point in turn. You can vary the time spent on each point according to the time you have available.

Marin Thompson