The whole purpose of writing this article was to give an in-depth view of what Yoga has come to be today against what it was envisioned to be by our sages and seers as expounded in the Vedantic texts of Shukla and Krishna Yejurveda.
As time passed by and life in general took the fast lane, the whole science of Yoga also was transformed by man to enable it to adopt itself to the new generation. Little did these change makers realize that this science was to be utilized in its purest form as the wisdom of its practice lies in its philosophy rather than its gross practice of performing Asanas and Pranayamas.
The science is purely intuitive in nature and needs a great level of patience and necessitates one to take an inward journey with a lot of patience, zeal and enthusiasm. These were conveniently forgotten as with them, the science could not have been diluted.
With the advent of the so called “Modern Yoga”, people still find themselves lost and take to it only when they seek solace from their problems in life. A combination of physical postures and a set of breathing practices seem to be all they are exposed to. With close introspection, it is found that even with the application of a couple of these practices, the results are profoundly soothing and calming on a person.
It’s high time the science is explored and revealed to its full potential and people get to utilize it in its true form. This will open new dimensions in a person’s understanding of life and its true purpose. Yoga is not an activity but is in essence a true way of living.
Every moment can be a moment in Yoga, a truly blissful experience. When this happens, everything else drops away to give a person the most valuable experience in life – The Moment Of Joy.
All our actions in life and all that we acquire is to get this elusive Joy. With the practice of living in Yoga, this happens without any of these acquisitions. And what we have in our possession so far can be enjoyed without getting attached to it. We are thus liberated for life and freedom dawns on us instantly. All our feelings of limitations, delusions and illusions wither away and we are exposed to the most powerful event in life – Self Realization.
Do join me on this journey which happens through 3 articles. the article is called “A LIFE’s JOURNEY THROUGH YOGA” The articles are written in a sequence to provide easy understanding and starts with the understanding of where Yoga stands today followed by its true meaning and lastly, how the truest form of Yoga can be adopted into our lives effortlessly to give us eternal peace and freedom.
1. The 1st of the 3 articles is called “Yoga as it stands today”.
The other 2 articles will follow with the titles,
2. The Philosophy and Practices in Yoga as envisioned by our Sages
3. Happiness, Freedom and Joyful Liberation through living in Yoga
Part – 1 – Yoga as it stands today
During my years of practice, too often have I come across people who seem to lay claim on the effects of Yoga in their lives. In most cases, I have found these people talking of Yoga as being an activity during a part of their day’s schedule. There are predominantly 3 groups with 3 specific understandings;
- The 1st group of people feels that an asana routine performed necessarily (either in the morning or evening) makes their day feel great. They feel vibrant, full of energy and are raring to go to face the day.
On days Yoga practice did not happen, they feel down, feel the lack of energy and enthusiasm and feel deprived of confidence and happiness to face the day. And, of course, the ups and downs that come up in life (during these days….. sigh!!!) need to be dealt with separately, on a case to case basis.
- The 2nd group of people feels that Yoga is required as a form of medicine. This understanding originates from the practice of consuming medicines to ward off symptoms. The feeling here happens thus; “Till I perform the asanas, I am fine. And when I discontinue the practice for a while, the problems come back”.
These people would want to adopt a Yoga practice with the understanding that the performance of asanas and Pranayamas can “cure” them of their symptoms and relieve them of their problems completely.
- The 3rd category of people has a very limited understanding of what Yoga is all about. They would prefer to understand it their own way, use it to their own comfort level and expect instant results out of the practice.
When the expected result does not come about, they will critically evaluate the whole science and pass judgments.
To add to the prevailing confusion, we have the so called Yoga teachers from schools that advocate Yoga system with their belief systems ingrained in them. These are the people who prefer to market their product by branding it. The “Teachers” who are ‘generated’ out of these schools teach Yoga for a living and would want to claim their pound of flesh or in other terms, ‘A Market Share’ of the “Total Yoga Industry”.
We have the following well known “BRANDS” of Yoga
- Iyengar Yoga (as taught by the self taught Yoga teacher B.K.S Iyengar, a practice completely adapted to the western philosophy of physical culture. Yoga here is regarded to be a physical routine. After a person perfects his postures (to a pre-understood geometric accuracy), he is believed to have mastered command over his body and mind.
- Jois Yoga (as taught by the Yoga Guru Pattabhi Jois who unwillingly though, preached Yoga to the west in the similar way B.K.S.Iyengar propagated his Yoga practice. Here again, perfection of postures and the capacity to perform / retain postures for a long time meant control over Body and Mind.
Unfortunately in both forms of Yoga as mentioned above (B.K.S.Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois) the following anomalies are very clearly evident;
(i) A fit body through Yoga practice is meant for sitting for a long time in meditation. Also, the internal organs are massaged and made to work properly so that the body unnecessarily does not distract the mind while the person wants to meditate.
This philosophy is replaced by a sculpted or an hour glass figure. In males, it means a flat stomach and a well contoured body. This definitely is not the aim of Yoga.
(ii) The humility after having stilled the mind and controlled ones sense organs through Pratyahara (or withdrawal of one’s senses inwardly with discrimination and dispassion) after a slow and calming Yoga is necessarily the essence of the Yoga practice.
This philosophy is replaced by an aggressive Yoga practice mainly to sweat out and cut the fat to get the great figure.
(iii) The feeling of universal love, compassion and empathy for all beings is the outcome of performing the psycho-physiological postures along with understanding the philosophy behind the practice. This also enables one to attain higher states of consciousness to evolve in one’s journey through life.
This philosophy is replaced by a feeling of arrogance and aggressiveness. Yoga is becoming more of a competitive sport to prove one’s physical capabilities and suppleness of body.
Shri Pattabhi Jois was different in that he taught Yoga not with the intent of marketing it but with the intent of spreading it. But the knowledge imparted turned out to be to provide a Yoga practice designed as the west wanted it and not the way it was to be taught.
- Bikram Yoga is a total deviation from what our sages envisioned Yoga to be. Again this form of Yoga was predominantly meant to make a person attain a posture in a controlled temperature in an enclosed room called ‘Hot Yoga’. The original science of Yoga understood and believed that Yoga had to be performed to a person’s personal physical capacity without pushing oneself was thrown out of the window. Innovation was the thumb rule, again a physically oriented practice to cater to the western crowd to ward of stress.
- Sivananda Yoga was a deviation from what Swami Sivananda himself practiced and preached.
Swami Sivananda himself understood Yoga to be a state of being and not a physical culture. He saw the physical aspect of Yoga to be just a means of evolving one’s consciousness through the practice of Yoga. This practice was but the 3rd stage in the whole 8 fold path of Yoga. His disciple, Swami Vishnudevananda adopted a style of Yoga practice that again catered to the western crowd. But here, Swami Vishnudevananda also imparted an understanding of the Vedantic truths that spoke of our eternal spiritual journey. The physical aspect of Yoga was only but a part of the whole journey.
But nothing was done over and above the physical Yoga practice as the whole philosophy is now being propagated by teachers from the west. A basic understanding of the Vedanta is given which is soon followed by the physical practice of Yoga and Pranayamas, which forms most part of the Yoga practice and study.
Swami Shivananda wanted Yoga to reach far and wide and therefore asked his disciple to propagate Yoga through a physical discipline and at the same time impart the essence of the Vedanta, so much necessary to make a person aware of his very purpose of coming into this world.
3. Schools like the Bihar School of Yoga (started by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, a disciple of Swami Sivananda and the founder of Bihar School of Yoga), Kaivalyadham, Krishnamachary Yoga Mandiram and Vivekananda Yoga Kendra are involved in preaching the true essence of Yoga and so do not contribute to this confusion.
- The 8 fold path of Yoga known as Ashtanga Yoga (which is explained in detail in a section in Part – 2 of this article titled the “The Origin and Philosophy of Yoga from the Vedas) is a practice that enables a person to elevate his consciousness through 8 well thought out steps that addresses every part of one’s life. A brand of Yoga known popularly as Ashtanga Yoga today is again a physically oriented exercise pattern and a brand that focuses more on the body.
- Hatha Yoga is again a brand name without understanding the meaning of Ha-Tha.
(Ha is Sun and Tha is Moon) the 2 main channels of energy which flow from the Ida (Yin) and Pingla (Yang) nadis from the left and right nostrils respectively. Understanding the technique of balancing Ha-tha enables us to balance the heating and cooling energies. In other words, the Sensory and Motor nerve impulses get balanced thus allowing a good Body-Mind coordination.
This technique is more subtle in nature and not the same as depicted usually in a Yoga practice session where importance is again given to controlling the body through various postures.
- We have others who have ridiculous innovations to their credit with names Power Yoga, Pilates Yoga, Tai chi Yoga etc and other such gimmicks.
Yoga in itself is full and complete if the philosophy is understood behind the practice.
Yoga Acharya, Nadi Vidwan