Month: April 2008

Yoga without Philosophy is not Yoga

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When considering yoga many aspirant yogis want to know if I teach aspects of Eastern philosophy in my class and by this they want to know actually do I speak about karma, reincarnation, the different Hindu deities and their teachings and the Chakra system in my class during the talks. Invariably I have to answer yes and explain to people that you cannot disconnect the practice from the philosophy – the overall effect of the yoga will be lost somehow.

Consider this: Is Christianity still Christianity if I ask you to exclude any reference to the Holy Communion and to cut that out from a service? Is Islam still essentially Islam if I ask you to discontinue Friday prayers? The same with Hinduism, If I ask you to omit the Aarati at the end of each day I take something away from Hinduism. I think most will agree that there are certain essential philosophies and practices which come together to form our concept of what Christianity, Islam or Hinduism represents. If you omit any of the above practices and philosophies, you have in fact rob the Christian or Muslim or Hindu of an important aspect of their religious life.

The same goes for yoga, behind all the physical asanas, pranayama, meditation and other physical practices is the philosophy which ensures that you enjoy the most benefit from your overall yoga practice. For  example, each asana is connected to one or more of the seven main Chakras. Now, you can do yoga without ever knowing this or without anybody telling you about this and unfortunately the effect will somehow be diminished as there are no cognitive recognition of this fact and therefore the connection between mind, body and soul become watered down. However if your teacher would instruct you on this aspect and relationship, then each asana will become so much more, all of a sudden there is another side to the asana, it is not merely a physical exercise anymore, but now the connection between mind, body and soul becomes more evident. And in this recognition of this connection you set in motion a chain of events on the physical plain as well as on the subtle plains to enhance and further your soul evolution.

It is important to realise that yoga philosophy is there to enlighten your soul, to shed Light on the evolution of your soul. How can you make butter if nobody ever taught you the theory behind turning cream into butter? The same with yoga, how can yoga purify and liberates the inner being if nobody give you the mental tools, i.e the philosophy behind the physical aspects of yoga to do it.

 In conclusion, yoga philosophy won’t distract from your current religious practice, in fact it will enhance it only. Remember yoga is not a religion and in no ways want to be a religion. Yoga and yoga philospohy are  tools that can help you to understand your own religious practice much better. It can open doors in your thinking(mind and body) that will lead you to greater insight and awareness about your current state of spiritual life(soul) and religious practice.

Yoga is not a Drive-Thru

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People calling me to find out more about yoga and what it is all about usually ask me along the conversation, but how soon will they find relieve from this pain or that illness. Yes, yoga has many therapeutic values, however one of the main ingredients for this therapeutic value to take effect is patience. It is impossible to tell how soon a person will experience release/relief from let’s say back pain as we have to take into consideration the years of bodily neglect, the severity of the injury, emotional and mental issues surrounding that pain and also the karmic implications of such as pain.

 Westerners tend to view yoga as a Drive-Thru, we order, we pay and we get! Instant gratification, we have lost the ability to be patient, we want everything in a matter of minutes, because that is how Western life has taught us it should be and we expect that now from yoga as well. And then comes the disappointed when I tell the interested person in yoga that this is unfortunately not how yoga works. Years and years of neglect is not corrected by a few months of yoga, it takes time and this is where we can learn from the tortoise. Cultivate patience to move forward steadily, no matter how slow your progress, eventually you will experience the benefits of a steady practice.

The main culprit in our society today, is that we think we should accomplish something without putting much effort into it. Parents teach their children from early childhood the value of instant gratification and this becomes an inherent pattern for many which they carry into adulthood as well. Then there is the culture of demanding this or that which has been added in many cultures to instant gratification. This is most unfortunate as Hatha yoga, which is the bringing together of two opposites requires consistent effort, has little time and place for instant gratification and unrealistic demands.

Unfortunately this state of mind and the lack of patience leads to disappointment for many people. They then blame either the teacher for lack of insight to teach proper yoga or they blame yoga itself, but by doing so they miss the value of yoga, to learn something about themselves.

The lack of patience has two unfortunate side effects:

a) it diverts your attention from the asanas and the yoga you are presented with to what you believe and perceive you are entitled to; and

b) it makes it impossible for you to be in the now, in this very moment and to appreciate what you are learning, what benefits your body derive from this practice, now.

So, how can we cultivate patience? I don’t say it will be easy, but by following these few steps, you may be well on your way to become more patient with yourself and your set or karmic bodily limitations:

• accept your limitations and be grateful for each of them, that is working off karmic debt;

• resolve to be present in every moment of your yoga practice;

• cultivate mindfulness, in other words become totally aware of what you are doing and how your body reacts to that;

• let go of all your expectations and accept that your life and evolution is a slow but deliberate process; and

• lastly, enjoy yourself no matter what, let go of your own pressure on yourself and be free from all bondages you apply to yourself.

These are simple and practical things you can apply to make your yoga practice more meaningful and I can give you my word, eventually the release from your aches and pains, be they physical, emotional or mental, will transpire. Have patience, the lack of patience causes so much strain and stress in the lives of so many people in this day and age. By adding patience to your own life, you add it to the universal consciousness of mankind. This is positive yoga.