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   Table of Contents     
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 91-92
The sacred tradition of yoga: Philosophy, ethics, and practices for a modern spiritual life

1 Research Scholar, Division of Yoga and Spirituality, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samasthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatric Social Work, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru - 560 029, Karnataka, India

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Date of Web Publication14-Dec-2015

How to cite this article:
Park JS, Jagannathan A. The sacred tradition of yoga: Philosophy, ethics, and practices for a modern spiritual life. Int J Yoga 2016;9:91-2

How to cite this URL:
Park JS, Jagannathan A. The sacred tradition of yoga: Philosophy, ethics, and practices for a modern spiritual life. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Mar 22];9:91-2. Available from:

Author: Dr. Shankaranarayana Jois

Year: 2015

Publisher: Shambhala, Boston and London

Through this book, Dr. Shankaranarayana Jois provides the readers a strong foundation for developing an ideal yogic lifestyle to realize one's potential and achieve meaningful Yogic experiences. The yogic lifestyle is advocated through delineating key philosophical and practical elements of Yoga, especially by introducing the path of Ashtanga Yoga and focusing on the ethics of Yoga, i.e. Yama and Niyama. The underlying belief in this book is that this lifestyle adjustment can ultimately direct one to realization and liberation (p. 7).

The book contains mainly three parts, 11 chapters, and an appendix. The first part consists of six chapters which provide a foundation to Yoga. It explains the purpose of human life and recognizes Samadhi (Yogic experience) as the ultimate goal of Yoga and that of human life. The book also provides guidelines to help reach the state of realization. As means to reach the final goal, the second part (chapters 7 and 8) explains the first two limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, Yamas, and Niyamas and their 22 sublimbs. The author compares the five Yamas and five Niyamas given by Patanjali to that of Sage Yajnanavalkya's description, which details five additional Yamas and seven additional niyamas to that of Patanjali. According to the author (p. 83), in the Yoga Sutras, some of the concepts are combined together and described as one concept, whereas Yajnavalkya's notions further subdivide Patanjali's concepts. Yet, the author feels that there seems to be no fundamental differences in those two styles. In Part three, the author concludes the book by introducing the role of the teacher in the Yogic journey and provides an example of the story of the mango orchard to offer insight about one's duty in this human life. In the appendix, the author provides an overview of the traditional branches of Yoga.

Certain aspects of the book, however, require further deliberation to help young practitioners easily adopt the practices prescribed, such as:

  • The author greatly emphasizes the importance of food in cultivating a Yogic way of life. The concept of "Mitahara" has been explained in great detail as one of the last Yamas in chapter 7. Furthermore, he relates the concept of food to each discipline and how it can affect one's practice of Yamas and Niyams and eventually the practice of meditation. Rigorous obedience to food habits could help discipline the body in the beginning which could ultimately help in reaching higher states of being. The practitioners, however, need to be cognizant of the fact that these food disciplines, though could start as a ritualistic regime, are only a medium to help achieve the ultimate goal of realization. This possibly could be attained when the rituals related to food become a way of life and hence, cease to exist as rituals
  • The author chooses Yajnanavalkya's 10 Yamas and 12 Niyamas for external and internal disciplines which are an extension of the traditional Patanjali's five Yamas and five Niyamas. Though all of them are important concepts, it could seem quite extensive to a beginner. Some of the guidelines also may seem too rigid and difficult to follow in the modern society especially for young practitioners (especially on food, what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, postures while eating, how to cook, how the kitchen should be, taking bath before meal and so on), in spite of its significant relation to yogic statues and experiences. To remember and be aware of all these principles could be challenging until it becomes a way of life.

Overall, the book points out the value of human life and advocates that every human being needs to make an effort toward realization or liberation. The book is very informative, provides knowledgeable insights and specific guidelines to those who are serious practitioners. It could seem difficult reading for a person who is a novice to the field of Yoga and Spirituality. However, the book also contains a lot of interesting, wonderful examples and stories which make the author's teaching more understandable. The book can be further helpful to increase the sensitivity and awareness of all the subtle factors that are related to yoga practices and their results. Readers can enjoy reliable information which comes from a person who has really experienced that state of Samadhi and realization.

Correspondence Address:
Aarti Jagannathan
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatric Social Work, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru - 560 029, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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