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Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 16)

25 February 2017

When do you think the point comes that yoga should no longer be called yoga?

A good analogy here would be to consider a car that has missing parts. Visualize a car and a friend asking, “What is that?” You say, "It's a car." Now imagine that this car is missing its wheels, an engine, and the doors and seats are gone and your friend asks you the same question. Still, you repeat, "It's a car.” Or you might say something like, "it’s junk." Although it may be hard to determine the exact point of change, but somewhere along the way, in removing the parts, you'd naturally have to stop calling it “a car.”

Now apply this to yoga – stripped of its higher goals, can it still be called yoga?

Imagine yoga with missing parts. At what point, and after how much adjustment and conformity to modern culture, does yoga cease to be yoga? When yoga is stripped of its higher goals and methods, can it still be called yoga?

Imagine holding a window, and saying to someone, "This is a house!" To demonstrate asanas (postures) saying, "This is yoga!" makes as much sense as saying that a single window is a complete house. Both are confusing a minor, although useful part with the whole.

Some of the most common comments used to justify the modern devolutions of yoga are saying things like, "But it's useful!” or, “It helped me!" When the true nature of yoga is pointed out to them they tend to feel that authentic yoga is somehow in opposition to doing other activities that are of benefit to human beings. Just because people more become flexible and less stressed, it doesn’t mean that the methods they use are necessarily called yoga.

The fact that physical postures (or modern revisions) are effective is not in question. Doing asanas is beneficial, but calling them yoga is a different matter. Almost any physical exercise, such as walking calisthenics or playing tennis is useful, but that does not make it yoga. Aerobics, jazzercise, Zumba, and kickboxing, etc. may also be useful, but that does not make them yoga. Massage therapy, physical therapy, and respiratory therapy are also useful, but that does not make them yoga. Psychotherapy and counseling are useful, but that does not make them yoga.

Some modern Yoga teachers are often found arguing that the yoga they are teaching is only a physical program supported by physicians and the medical community, and they place little or no emphasis or acknowledgement on the authentic spiritual goals of Yoga. Thus, we have a situation where modern Yoga teachers are usually ignoring or minimizing the spiritual goal of yoga.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 16)

If you are a sincere student and are seeking authentic yoga it will be necessary to recognize the authentic vs. the adaptations: There are many challenges faced by those who are seeking authentic yoga as the path to Enlightenment or Self-realization, the path that it is intended to be. As with many endeavors in life, progress begins with understanding. Understanding the current situation within the modern Yoga community will help tremendously in sharpening one's ability to recognize the difference between modern adaptations and the authentic, traditional yoga of the ancients.

Once one sees the difference between the adaptations and the authentic, it then requires determination to be in a minority and to not just get caught up in the flow of the latest fad. That determination, followed by proper action will lead the sincere student of authentic Yoga to an authentic path.

It is good to keep in mind that it is said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” It is also said that the ideal teacher will come for each student, depending on the aspirations the seeker holds in their heart.

This ends this series on the “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

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