top of page

Beyond Asanas: The Spiritual Roots of Yoga and Its Connection to Buddhism

Updated: Jun 11, 2023


Yoga means the practice of connection and performing physical poses called asana or the way you sit. Sitting or physical exercise is only one small part of yoga. In fact, the main emphasis is on the spiritual connection.

The history of yoga goes far back in time. The physical aspects of yogic practice were first appropriated by the Hindu sage Patañjali from early Tantric Buddhism between 400 and 500 CE.

Patañjali lived in ancient India. Very little is known about him except that he is believed to be an author and compiler of several Sanskrit works. The greatest of these are the Yoga Sutras, which is a classical yoga text.

In Western culture, what we know to be yoga is the postural stretching practice. What most people don't know is that it descends from Buddhism and not Hinduism.

Both Buddhists and Hindus use the word yoga to refer to their spiritual disciplines.

By looking at similarities between yoga and Buddhism, rather than differences, we can begin to understand that the result for both practitioners is enlightenment through developing wisdom and compassion.

The Buddha taught practices to cultivate the heart of deep compassion and His Holiness The Dalia Lama said; If you seek enlightenment, go to the root cause. Nothing exists without a cause. The root cause of enlightenment is compassion.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra states that the practice of ahimsa (non-harming of others) will result in good karma, which eventually will result in the experience of happiness and peace.

The tantric form of Buddhism or Vajrayana is based on Sanskrit texts known as tantras, which include teachings on yoga. The word yoga here also relates to fast methods for realising one’s innate buddha-nature.

Tantra is the method that comes from expanded pre-existing Buddhist sutras or scriptures. In this sense, all Tibetan Tantric Buddhist practice is yoga.

In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, you can only learn from a master one-on-one after having been initiated. To be ready to learn yoga in this tradition, it's not about physical agility or flexibility but about commitment to spiritual practice. For that reason and to prevent injury and misuse, the Buddhist yogic texts are rare and cryptic. They can only be understood with demonstration by an authentic master. Since Buddhist yoga had been exclusively taught in person rather than from books for many generations, Tibetan masters eventually wrote encoded texts on yoga from the 10th century onwards but the origins go back much earlier to ancient India.

Daniel Troyak is a Mindfulness-based Therapist.

With his support, unpack and unravel the contents of the mind.

Learn the tools for emotional processing and healing so you can live a happy, calm and peaceful life.

79 views0 comments


bottom of page