This article was written by Cynda Fuentes.
Yoga and Buddhism are intertwined traditions which evolved and changed through the centuries in ancient India. Yoga uses many of the same Sanskrit-origin words, as does Buddhism. Additionally many of the same principles and practices permeate both traditions. To those new to the practice of either Buddhism or yoga, it is very easy to see not only the parallels and similarities in the practices but to see the traditions as synonymous.
Yoga is any form of spiritual discipline aimed at gaining control over the mind with the goal of attaining liberation from rebirth. Body positions and breath control are common practices in many of the Indian-born religions. These practices were named ‘yoga’ before the time of the historic Buddha. The Buddha used such techniques as deep meditation, whereas other teachers emphasized the physical exercises and bodily postures that became known as the various schools of Hatha yoga.
Hatha yoga helps us to be more aware of our bodies, which supports the process of developing mindfulness and other meditative states of mind. This is why Hatha yoga is an excellent complement to and preparation for the practice of meditation. Yoga and Buddhism are both meditation traditions devised to help us transcend karma (rebirth) and become “enlightened” to truth of consciousness.
Suffering is seen as a part of life, impermanence inherent in all birth, whether it is animal, human or god. Suffering ends through the awareness brought in large part by meditation. Both emphasize the need to dissolve the ego, the sense of self. Both traditions emphasize enlightenment through meditation. Earliest Buddhist practice incorporated meditation common also to yoga. The oldest yogic ideas are found in the early teachings of the Buddha.
Some of these teachings are codified in the Yoga Sutra (2nd century CE) of Patanjali. According to this text, the goal of yoga is ‘the cessation of mental fluctuation’ (Cittavrtti Nirodha), and the practical methods it uses to attain this are very similar to early Buddhist techniques of meditation based on breath control, which was advocated by the Buddha.
Buddhism and yoga, in my experience, are natural companions. These traditions bring mind, body, soul and heart into play seamlessly. I practice one as an extention of the other. Their paths are woven together of the same strands.
About Cynda Fuentes
Cynda practices Astanga yoga and meditation. She is a Buddhist who believes in the power of meditation for putting her complicated but happy urban life in balance. She is a History and Spanish teacher and travel writer who tries to find time to surf, dive, experiment with Kombucha tea brewing, cook vegetarian meals, travel with her old black and white camera and contemplate fleeing the classroom for a full time writing job or a stint teaching meditation or self empowerment. She lives in San Diego with her partner and her 3 year old.