It’s a pretty fair statement to say that a lot more people practice yoga today than ever before. Well, at least, some form of it. While it is a good thing to note that more people are aware of the science of yoga, it is far from a true observation to state that the majority of practitioners know what they’re practicing or why.
Few people understand the essential purpose of yoga and confuse it with a system of bodily contortions, or a way to become “one” with the universe or a method of healing our inner “chakras“. However, the fault does not entirely lie in people, but in false and manipulative advertising.
Too many “godmen” parading as true gurus have come to the West and injected their deceptive rhetoric into the minds of the masses. Attempting to conflate scientific discovery with their skewed spiritual understanding, they have made a chaotic mess of the simple and grand science of yoga.
In an effort to demystify and clarify the purpose of this ancient system, let’s take a look at What Yoga actually is, and isn’t.
#1 A tool of Transformation:
Yoga is simply the science of inner transformation. It is a method to comprehend and harness the potential of the human mind-body complex. It is not a system of faith or a spiritualist club. It does not require you to believe anything or anyone on insufficient evidence.
It only requires that you practice its various methods and discover for yourself their inherent benefits and advantages.
#2 A step-by-step process with a defined goal:
Yes, the word Yoga, is derived from the Sanskrit root word “Yuj”, which means to ‘yoke’ or ‘to join’. However, according to Patanjali, yoga is ‘Citta-vritti–nirodha‘ (Sutra 1.2). Loosely translated, Citta is ‘mind’, Vritti is ‘modifications or turnings’ and nirodha is ‘cessations or bringing to a stop’. Therefore, citta-vritti-nirodha translates into the cessation of the turnings of the mind or the silencing of the modifications of the mind.
In Ashtanga Yoga which is the system of practice that Patanjali talks about, there are eight steps to achieving that goal. Each step, including Yamas (social codes), Niyamas (personal codes), Asanas (postures), Pranayamas (breadth control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (liberation) are designed to prepare the practitioner to achieve the ultimate goal.
#3 A way of life, not a set of practices:
While yoga comprises of a system of defined practices, it is much more than the sum of its parts. A practitioner of yoga is called a yogi, not simply because he practices but because he has chosen to dedicate his life to cultivating awareness and living with a sense of playful inquisitiveness.
Yoga finds its way not only into posture and breadth but also into action and speech. Learning how to move, breathe and hold oneself with awareness, yoga allows a person to act more consciously and efficiently in the world. Equipped with a heightened sense of awareness and equanimity one can truly take charge of their body, mind as well as their destiny like never before.
What IT Isn’t…
#1 An exercise routine:
The creation of many different new-age forms of yoga practice, such as “Hot Yoga” as well as several other variations have found their place in many cities, studios and homes in the West. What most of these forms of yoga have in common is their depiction and portrayal of yoga as an exercise routine.
There is little to no emphasis on awareness during practice, whether of the breadth or the body. Instead, sessions are designed with the singular goal of either helping people lose weight or become more flexible. Let’s get real for a minute, any movement of any kind done at a certain level of intensity will help to lose weight. Yoga has much more to offer than simple weight loss and aerobics.
#2 A quick fix solution to heal mind and body:
Yes, it is true that many postures have the ability to correct different imbalances in the body as well as correct posture. However, as with any practice, the results take time to appear. There are no quick fixes. If some guru or trainer guarantees they can cure all your problems and “heal” you in a few short lessons, you’re better off never going to them.
#3 A system of “Chakra” healing:
The Tantras do mention the presence of various energy vortexes or centers. Note these chakras or centers don’t exist in the physical body; if at all they exist in an astral plane, which is a different dimension of the body. At any rate, there are very few people who truly understand how to activate them and even fewer among those who masquerade as gurus in the mainstream “healing” business.
If you’re truly serious about Kundalini yoga and learning about chakras, you should spend a good amount of time doing your research before you decide to commit to any program.
In a few words, what can you take away from all that we’ve said about Yoga?
Perhaps the most important takeaway is to realize that above all else yoga is a system of practices designed to prepare the individual for the ultimate goal of reigning in the chaotic mind.
It is a sacred system that if practiced with sincerity and devotion, can disillusion the mind and equip the individual to live and act with greater awareness. It’s time that this awesome science got the respect it deserves and that people approach it with a greater appreciation and understanding for the wisdom it holds.
About The Author
Andrew Fox is the founder and CEO at Aim Workout. As a passionate fitness professional and triathlete, there is literally no adventure he won’t embark on.
From mountain biking, deep sea diving, rock climbing, and cycling to boxing and mixed martial arts, Andrew has a penchant for the wild and extreme.
After working as an investment banker in his twenties, he decided to quit and start his business to live life on his own terms.