Yoga: Bringing Joy, Creativity and Wholeness to Life
When you think of Yoga, does it bring an image of sweaty exercises on a rubber mat with the goal mainly being physical fitness? Yoga today is most often defined in terms of the postures or Asanas that constitute the third limb of Yoga. This confuses people about the true nature of authentic Yoga, since in actuality Asana is one small part or just one tool in the box. Yoga is a complete system and the word itself refers to the entirety of YOGA.
In fact, true YOGA is for everyone. It has been called a “life-style” but is more accurately a way of living that brings inner growth for a truly fulfilling life – it is really about embracing a process that allows you to be integrated, authentic and connected to a conscious awareness of the expanding bigger picture.
What Yoga IS NOT
What YOGA IS
Yoga Alliance is a certifying organization for Yoga instructors. The organization lists 10 reasons to try Yoga. They are summarized below.
In the true living tradition of YOGA, people in both the East and West practice yogic techniques to create a sense of inner peace, harmony, and clarity of mind – values absolutely relevant and necessary in today’s world.
Just as the popular saying goes, that “We are Spiritual Beings having a Physical Experience,” the very essence of YOGA draws upon that same truth, and is at its essence a Spiritual system and spiritual practice. In Yoga, we learn to begin every day from where we are.
Yoga’s origins are ancient and deep, and have been defined and refined over many thousands of years.
YOGA in a Brief General and Historical Context
Origins of Yoga in India
Ancient scriptures define YOGA as a science. It is a practical, methodical and systematic discipline that concerns itself with helping human beings become aware of their deepest nature and realize their greatest potential. It is a living tradition with doctrines and practices dating back to the time of the Vedas and Upanishads, around 4500-5000 BCE, or some believe, even earlier.
Patanjali, was an Indian scholar and teacher who around 200 BCE codified or systematized – i.e. collected and organized – these ancient teachings into a text consisting of precepts or maxims called Sutras. Patanjali is regarded as the Founder of Yoga and defining YOGA in terms of “The Eight Limbs,” is based on his sutras. Patanjali’s efforts are deemed so important to present day Yoga, that these ancient teachings are often divided historically into three periods of different emphasis: Pre-Patanjali, Patanjali and Post Patanjali. The Eight Limbs of Yoga defined by Patanjali’s Sutras include: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.
Yogic Sciences include the practices and truths contained in the Eight Limbs, as well as:
Yoga and the West
As Yoga Gurus (teachers) and their teachings spread West in the 1800’s, interest and fascination gained followers both in Europe and the United States. Some notable followers include the British writer Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and the Transcendentalists, a philosophical and religious movement (mostly Unitarian), whose proponents included writers like Thoreau, Whitman, Emerson and many others. The teachings and principles of the ancient system infiltrated Western intellectualism, spiritualists, the emerging field of psychology, and even spilled into media and pop culture – think Beatles and beyond – on both sides of the pond. Even Albert Einstein’s quote, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” is right in line with Yogic principles of growth and consciousness.
Now statues of Buddha and mala beads are as ubiquitous as the word Yoga itself. Yet, with all this rich history and the incorporation of much of Yoga’s knowledge base into our culture, essentially no credit has been given to the rich historical tradition from which it came. When we divide the system of Yoga into pieces instead of seeing it as a whole, we do ourselves a huge disservice. In pieces it significantly loses value for all of humanity for the simple reason that it loses its spiritual base.
Many of us in the spiritual communities of today are working to help build the living principles of universal truths and true spirituality back into the lives of all individuals, our culture and the world. An interesting and engaging read on Yoga’s journey to the West and its impact, can be found in the book by Philip Goldberg, AMERICAN VEDA, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West.
I sincerely hope you will join me and find this journey of 30 days to be as valuable to you as my Yoga journey has been for me. Remember, you can only begin from where you are today, yet please remember that the energy of your intent, combined with teachings, experiences and practices, and the learning and transformations that impact your life in a positive way, will transform tomorrow not just for you, but for others as well.
We are all connected. We are all One.