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  There are six schools in orthodox Hinduism which offer ways of salvation. The first three, nyaya (‘analysis’), vaisesika (‘school of individual characteristics’) and sankhya (‘the count’), consist of philosophical systems of knowledge. Yoga, the fourth system, may be translated as ‘spiritual discipline’ or ‘application’. The word itself is cognate with ‘yoke’ in English, and is used loosely to cover all kinds of religious exercises and asceticism. The practitioner is known as a yogi.

The eight stages of yogic training, which are similar to Buddhism\'s eightfold path, are: (1) self-control, including nonviolence and continence; (2) observance of the rules of purity and austerity; (3) posture, the most famous of which is the ‘lotus position’; (4) breath control; (5) restraint, whereby the sense perceptions are ignored; (6) steadying the mind by focusing on one object; (7) meditation; (8) deep meditation; when the whole personality is dissolved this is known as ‘royal yoga’.

The whole methodology has been exploited to gain control over feelings of pain and for bizarre contortions of the body. It is based on the idea that by yoga one can release psychic energy, the serpent power in a mystical experience which brings spiritual strength and salvation. Yoga has been adapted by Westerners as a means of relaxation and physical wellbeing, but it is doubtful if the methodology can really be separated from the philosophy behind it. EMJ



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