We keep hearing about yoga "on" and "off" the mat. But there has been a new invention that has occurred in the last few decades, the yoga "mat", which is commonly made of some sort of synthetic rubber or plastic material. This has lead to the idea that "yoga" is to be practiced "on" such a mat. Since the yoga mat is designed to be used primarily for asanas (physical postures), its invention has led to even further distortion of the true yoga. This is not to lessen the fact that through the mastery of asana, we lessen the natural tendency for restlessness and are increasingly able to meditate on the infinite, making it clear the greater purpose of our physical practice is to facilitate the mindfulness and focus necessary to attain our goal.
Along with the recent reference to yoga "on the mat", there has been a subsequent reference to yoga "off the mat" to describe some "other" form of yoga. A Google search presently reveals over 3,000,000 results for the keywords "yoga off the mat.” While it’s a good thing that students are recognizing that there are some other important yoga practices, the mere fact that the expression "yoga off the mat" has come into vogue implies that the default position that real yoga is always "on" some synthetic "mat". This is a good example of how the ancient tradition of authentic yoga is set aside for the sake of promoting a modern and limited (mostly physical) form of yoga through all of the yoga business channels and so-called yoga “communities.”
Now there’s a yoga industry. Yoga or most everything using the name "Yoga" has gotten so big and has had such great commercial success that there is now even a business category known as the "Yoga Industry". Googling the keywords "Yoga Industry" reveals over 28,000,000 results. The latest survey (2016) conducted by Yoga Journal magazine (USA) reports that it is a $16.8 billion dollar per year industry, and that over 37 million people in US are regular practitioners of yoga and about 80 million more are interested in yoga or likely to try it.
Modern yoga is promoted commercially by the use of oxymorons. An oxymoron is a phrase that combines two opposite meanings which do not go together in reality, often having a humorous effect. Real yoga is an inner experience of the union between the individual self and the Universal Self, and therefore "yoga studio" and "yoga class" fall into the category of oxymorons. The following list includes some examples of other phrases that are often considered to be oxymorons:
Let us remember that the goal of Yoga IS Yoga: The goal or destination of Yoga is Yoga itself – union itself, of the little self and the True (or Universal) Self, a process of awakening to the pre-existing union that is called Yoga. There is too much to be said here in one article to give a final or all-inclusive definition of the term Yoga – which can be described in different ways. But it has to do with the realization, of and through, the direct experience of the pre-existing union between Atman and Brahman, Jivatman and Paramatman, and Shiva and Shakti, or the realization of Purusha standing alone as separate from Prakriti. The mere fact that one might do a few asanas or stretching sequences using the physical body doesn’t in itself mean that one is headed towards that highest union referred to as Yoga.
The history of Yoga may be conveniently divided into the following four broad categories: Vedic Yoga, Pre-classical Yoga, Classical Yoga, Post-classical Yoga.
There are those who may find the information in this article of interest. Some might find it offensive. So why is this information being posted in this blog ? Simply stated, it is here to serve that number (no matter how small) of you who have come to realize that Yoga is far more than we generally see these days. Some of you may feel completely outnumbered by the current wave of distortion and devolution of Yoga. You may feel misled, confused, and alone because your personal perspective and journey seem out of alignment with your peers and the popular so-called teachers and styles that are competitive in the yoga “business.”
If you are a sincere seeker and devotee of the higher, authentic goals of yoga you may find you are sometimes on an exasperating journey and other times on one that is filled with joy. In the long run, you will certainly conclude it is infinitely worth the challenges and effort along the way.
Stay tuned, coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 3).”
Rae Indigo is ERYT 500