Atha Yoga Anushasanam (Yoga Sutra 1.1)
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a word hard to define in English. In an earlier post I gave a definition of Yoga, which is generally accepted. However, Yoga is a system as much as it is a state of being. Yoga is both the process and the end result. Yoga is the idea, the aspiration, and the inspiration all at once.
There are many paths which all may rightly claim to both be and produce Yoga. You may practice Yoga in these ways and achieve Yoga in these ways. Once achieved, you can then maintain your Yoga with these same methods.
If the above seems slightly convoluted right now, then, ironically, you may just have begun to grasp the concept Yoga. Yoga is an inherently ambiguous concept. As such, it is ripe for the picking by charlatans and the greedy.
Question – how do you know I am not a charlatan? The honest answer is even I can’t be sure. However, I practice earnestly to develop self-knowledge. As such, I am continually evolving as a practitioner and a teacher. As a teacher, I am an adolescent. As a practitioner, I am, perhaps, a young adult. In society, I am rightly seen as a man.
In fact, I am also a professional services provider. I provide advice to businesses large and small. Someone asked recently how this could be congruous with a dedicated Yoga practice?
The Bhagavad Gita, arguably the seminal treatise on Yoga, states at Chapter 3, Verse 4:
“One cannot achieve freedom from karmic reactions by merely abstaining from work, nor can one attain perfection of knowledge by mere physical renunciation.”
I think a problem with Western Yoga practitioners is they portray this exotic lifestyle whereby they seem to have renounced the world to live on beaches and swim in infinity pools. Teaching the physical postures of Yoga does not require one to be an adept Yogi. One simply needs to have dedicated time to learning the intricacies of the movements. Then one must have developed at least a basic understanding of the potential benefits of those movements.
However, simply bending the body will never make someone a Yogi. A Yogi is one who takes the lessons learned in the physical practice into their daily lives. For me, that involves using the lessons learned to be a more complete and equanimous professional services provider, a more attentive and available companion, and a kinder and more compassionate citizen.
If you are taking the time to read this and are curious about Yoga practice, I sincerely encourage you to take those first steps and reach out to a teacher you feel you may be able to learn from. My only advice, make sure your teacher has a vision for you which is empowering and uplifting. It is your responsibility as a student to chose the right teacher. It is then the teacher's responsibility to guide you on the path back to yourself.
Om shanti shanti shantih.