The Mind of Yoga: The Jnana Path

“Wisdom springs from Yoga [practice]; Yoga derives from wisdom. For him who is dedicated to Yoga and wisdom, nothing is unattainable.”

-Anonymous, “Song of the Divine,” Kurma-Purana(2)

One way of remembering your wholeness is to approach Yoga through your intellect. Yoga need not be a mindless pursuit. While you may find that some individual practitioners have an anti-intellectual bias, Yoga truly honors the mind. Having come from a Yoga training in Gujarat, India where I was steeped in practice, practice, practice, I remember the thrill I had upon first entering the Narayana Gurukula, a small ashram/school on a mountain in Ooty, the hill station town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. In the round, windowed reception room, the bookshelves were filled with literature from around the world. Not only were the great sages of Indian philosophy represented, but Western philosophers, poets, novelists and scientists had their shelf-space, too. Finally, I thought, I don’t have to transcend the mind to find union in Yoga. In that reception room, while waiting to speak with Nitya Chaitanya Yati, the renowned Vedanta scholar with whom I’d come to study, I found total permission to use my mind as a vehicle for union with the divine.

The ancient Yogis acknowledged the differences in our constitutions. Some of us enjoy the pursuit of knowledge—we read, we discuss, we even debate, and we would not feel comfortable on a Yogic path if we believed we were supposed to abandon our critical-thinking mind in order to experience the union that is Yoga. If you love learning, perhaps the Jnana path is for you. You may be drawn to study more about Yoga philosophy or to learn Sanskrit. This is the path of the Jnana yogi. In classical terms, the jnana yogi is one who finds liberation through the doorway of the intellect. Jnana Yoga is the Yoga of pure discrimination. It transcends the intellect through the intellect. If you find inspiration in literature, then you may find that your mood lifts simply from reading about the principles of Yoga.

Many students of Yoga finish their practice on the mat with a reading from an ancient text that inspires them, like the great sage Shankara’s beautiful Crest Jewel of Discrimination: Timeless Teachings on Nonduality, or the Bhagavad Gita or a book about practice like the Yoga Sutras or the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Here’s a passage I love from the Crest Jewel of Discrimination:

The Atman is supreme, eternal, indivisible, pure consciousness, one without a second. It is the witness of the mind, intellect and other faculties. It is distinct from the gross and the subtle. It is the real I. It is the inner Being, the uttermost, everlasting joy…

…“You”, “I”, “this”—such ideas of separateness originate in the impurity of the mind. But when the vision of the Atman—the supreme, the absolute, the one without a second—shines forth in samadhi, then all sense of separateness vanishes, because the Reality has been firmly apprehended. 

Others may read from a contemporary book about Yoga philosophy and practice, like Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. Still others take inspiration from contemporary poetry by Mary Oliver or David Whyte or Jane Hirshfield. When I finish my own practice, I sometimes read from one of these poets or from the devotional poets like Rumi and Mirabai and Mechtild of Magdeburg or from the wonderful translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy of Rilke called Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. Here’s one of my favorite Rilke poems that inspires a deeper opening and a sense of flow from my practice into my writing:

Ich glaube an Alles noch nie Gesagte

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared wish for

may once again spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.(4)

You may be drawn to read a portion from your own religious tradition—the weekly Torah or Bible portion or relevant passage from the Koran. Such reading brings you back from your practice into the world of the mind through the doorway of faith.

Yoga for Depression coverTo find a LifeForce Yoga Practitioner in your area, trained by Amy Weintraub and the LifeForce Yoga faculty, click here.

Excerpted from Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books)

About the Author

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub E-RYT 500, MFA, YACEP, C-IAYT, founded the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally, and is the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is used by health care providers worldwide. She is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our Research Newsletter


What People Say

“My life is already changed! I will use the tools I learned in my own practice and in my work. I feel safe and seen.” — Susan Andrea Weiner, MA, teacher/expressive arts facilitator, El Cerrito, CA.
“I learned lots of ways to reduce the anxiety and depression of my patients and myself.” – Aviva Sinvany-Nubel, PhD, APN, CNSC, RN, psychotherapist, Bridgewater, N.J.
I absolutely love this stuff! I have been using it with my clients and I am just finding it to be so incredibly helpful. There seriously something for everything. Although I am not as skilled as I hope to be someday, even at my level of training I’m finding that I am beginning to figure out what to do. It just blows my mind! - Christine Brudnicki, MS, LPC
“Yoga Skills for Therapists is the ideal resource for those who want to bring yoga practices into psychotherapy or healthcare. Weintraub, a leader in the field of yoga therapy, offers evidence-based, easy-to-introduce strategies for managing anxiety, improving mood, and relieving suffering. Helpful clinical insights and case examples emphasize safety, trust, and skillful adaptation to the individual, making it easy to apply the wisdom of yoga effectively in the therapeutic context.” — Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author, Yoga for Pain Relief, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapy
“This workshop helped me rededicate my energies and begin to work through some of the blocks I’ve felt creatively.” — Steve Mark, college professor, New Haven, CT
“My personal practice will change, as well as my yoga classes. I have a better understanding of yoga!” — Andrea Gattuso, RYT, Yoga Teacher, Hackettstown, N.J.
“I utilize the LFY techniques in both a class room setting and one-on-one environment. The skills have infused my teachings with compassion, mindfulness, and awareness.” — Kat Larsen, CYT, LFYP
“I began a fantasy during the meditation exercise... almost as if I’d been there. It’s now an on-going work of fiction.” — Serian Strauss, Tanzania
“This program changed my life in a significant way. It helped me connect with the spirit which is something you can’t get from psychotherapy and medication.” – G. W., artist, Pittsburgh, PA
“Giving my clients a strategy and permission to quiet their minds and rebalance the sympathetic nervous system has been very beneficial to them and in our work together.” — Sue Dilsworth, PhD, RYT 200, LFYP, Allendale, MI
“I have found the LFYP training to be incredibly useful in giving people specific tools to use in maintaining physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance, and further opening their intuitive abilities.” — Nancy Windheart, RYT-200, LFYP, Reiki Master, Animal communication teacher, Prescott, AZ
“I integrate strategies like mantra tones and pranayama, but above all I invite myself and those I teach to cultivate svadhyaya, to practice self-observation without judgment.” — Barbara Sherman, RYT 200, LFYP, Tucson, AZ
“A client who returned said, "When I came before, you helped me understand and get where I wanted to go. Now you show me yoga practices I use to help myself understand and get where I want to go.” — Sherry Rubin, LCSW, BCD, LFYP, Downingtown, PA
“I gained tools for working with my own depression and with my clients’ depressions.” — Robert Sgona, LCSW, RYT, psychotherapist, Yoga teacher, Camden, ME.
“I gained perspective of who I am in the world and this will change my life significantly.” — Mary Ford, artist, Southport, CT
“I have gained an incredible opening and clearing of old obstructions. I hope to return to my life and fill this opening with things I love to do and that give me joy!” — Lisa Shine, administrative assistant, Ballston Lake, NY
“I feel profoundly transformed, both physically and emotionally. The connection between mind, body and spirit was clearly evident to me, but revealed to me through this workshop as an integrally vital link to overall health.” — Nadine Richardson, program manager at rehab agency, Monroe, CT
“My patients can now have the same effects as many medications without having to actually take medication!” — Deborah Lubetkin, PSY.D, LFYP, West Caldwell, NJ
“Words do not do justice to all that I learned. This workshop changed my life!” — Jen Nolan, Teacher, Cortland, NY
“I have been reminded that I am not on this path alone, that others are sharing the journey that sometimes seems so difficult. I have also been reminded of the importance of daily practice and I will do that. The whole program has been an incredible experience for me. Thank you!” — Lorraine Plauth, retired teacher, Voorheesville, NY
“I have gained a softer heart, more receptive mind, and tools to enrich both personal and professional aspects of my life.” – Regina Trailweaver, LICSW, clinical social worker, Hancock, VT.
“I have found the pranayama (breathing practices) especially easy to introduce in a clinical setting. Some people have benefited quickly in unexpected and transformative ways.” — Liz Brenner, LICSW, LFYP, Watertown, MA
“I came hoping to learn to move past some of the obstacles blocking my creativity. Over the course of this weekend, I feel I’ve gained a certain measure of faith in myself and in my ability to change. I also had some realizations that I believe will be very helpful to me. I feel encouraged. Both the content and presentation of this program were so well-thought out that I can’t think of any way to improve it.” — Andrea Gollin, writer & editor, Miami, FL
“This workshop has changed so much — my self-image and my life. My own heart’s desire is 100% clear. I gained tools to help myself and others to live life fully.” — Marcia Siegel, Yoga teacher, therapist, Carlsbad, CA.
Scroll to Top