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Teaching Context

Understanding how the practice of yoga fits into the scheme other traditional practices can bring depth and sensitivity to your teaching.

By Dr. Swami Shankardev Saraswati

Therefore, yoga has always started with gross practices such as asana and then proceeded to the more subtle practices of pPranayama, mantra, and meditation. We then emerge from the inner processes of meditation and come back via the breath into the physical body and externalised consciousness. As a result of this inner journey, we are somehow refreshed and better able to handle life armed with our deepening inner experience.

Final Attainments

As we continue on the path of self-development, Yoga and Samkhya lead us to the third pair of Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimansa. Uttara Mimamsa is also called Vedanta. The realisation of Vedanta is equivalent to the highest Samadhi of Patanjali, or the Jnana of Jnana Yoga.

Once yoga has empowered us with a perception of the subtle dimensions of life, the object of the two Mimamsa is to describe and provide a methodology to relate to the subtle dimensions and the hierarchy of creation. We aim to develop a higher relationship between the different levels of existence and the forces and "beings" which inhabit these realms.

Purva Mimamsa is the spiritual technology, the mantras, invocations and prayers, rites and rituals that allow us to make contact with higher forces in the celestial world, and to influence them. Uttara Mimamsa is the knowledge component, the descriptions of the highest reality. It includes cosmogony, theology, the study of the celestial hierarchies, the description of the invisible world of "spirits" and "gods," and the intuition of mystics. It permits us to live life at a higher level of understanding and wisdom.

So when we practice or teach yoga techniques--the content of yoga--we need to remember that what we are learning is part of a bigger whole, that there is much more to life than we can see or experience with a limited perception. We need to remember the context in which yoga has developed and that yoga practiced in modern times is very different to that yoga practiced in times gone by. At the same time, we need to remember that the ultimate aim of all practice is higher awareness and a vision of Truth.

(1) There is a seventh system called Kashmir Shaivism which is a system of idealistic monism and which deals with the three-fold principles of God, soul, and matter. It was discovered later and added on to the list of classical philosophical systems. It lies outside of the scope of this present article.

Dr Swami Shankardev Saraswati is an eminent yoga teacher, author, medical doctor, and yoga therapist. After meeting his Guru, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, in 1974 in India, he lived with him for 10 years and has now taught yoga, meditation and tantra for more than 30 years. Swami Shankardev is an Acharya (authority) in the Satyananda lineage and he teaches throughout the world, including Australia, India, the USA, and Europe. Yoga and meditation techniques have been the foundation of his yoga therapy, medical, ayurveda">ayurvedic, and psychotherapy practice for over 30 years. He is a compassionate, illuminating guide, dedicated to relieving the suffering of his fellow beings. You can contact him and read more of his work at

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