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Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 9)

22 December 2016

What constitutes success with Yoga? There are many implications regarding the shift from traditional to modern perspectives on the nature of Yoga. In relation to modern Yoga and its shift from traditional Yoga, there are two main perspectives worth considering as far as the success of each:

  • According to the modern or contemporary view, the success of Yoga is judged by an improved state of the physical body and the reduction of physical disease.
  • According to the ancient view, the success of Yoga is judged by the degree to which one experiences realization of the eternal (or higher) Self, which is beyond the physical body, its maladies, and its inevitable death.

Today yoga is often seen as a medical treatment, as if it was reduced to a physical therapy program. There are even efforts to have modern yoga covered by insurance programs, using it as a treatment for specific diseases. While this may be good for the physical health of people, it tends to convince people that yoga is only a physical program.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 9)

Useful treatment modalities such as Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy are very effective and needed professions. However, designing such treatment methods and calling them "Yoga" is a huge disservice to both those professions and to yoga.

Remember, the sole purpose of yoga is spiritual in nature. Yoga is a systematic program whose sole purpose is spiritual, whether you call it enlightenment, Self-realization, or other similar terms. The purpose for working with the physical body is so that the body is not an obstacle in certain yoga practices such as meditation, contemplation, and prayer. Obstacles to these spiritual practices are naturally minimized (or completely removed) in the process of following the traditional teachings of yoga.

Yoga is now often prescribed for its side-effects and this leads to a confusion of goals. The goal of traditional Yoga is spiritual in nature, and the side effects regularly include physical healing. In modern times, when yoga techniques are being practiced for their side-effects, the real goal is usually being ignored.

By developing physical therapy programs and labeling them “yoga,” and by focusing on one small aspect of yoga (the physical), we find that the whole, greater, truer meaning of yoga is lost to anyone who would seek the higher ground.

It would be so much clearer if classes that are predominantly about asanas (postures) were called asana classes instead of yoga classes, though this isn't likely to happen.

Imagine for a moment that you were to go to a lecture by a yoga scholar, but the promotional material only announced that he was going to teach a “yoga class.” People would likely show up with their mats and/or other paraphernalia. But he might be giving a lecture on yogic contemplation, or jnana Yoga. What if people showed up to find it was a two hour religious ritual led by a Hindu pandit or a Buddhist priest, rather than a class about asanas.

Doesn’t it seem strange that one small part of yoga called asanas gets elevated to the status of using the whole or all-encompassing name yoga? The same is true of other parts, which together, comprise yoga. Remember Bhakti Yoga is only a part, as is Hatha Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Laya Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Nada Yoga, Raja Yoga, Tantra Yoga, etc. They are all parts and “Yoga” is the whole.

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 10),” which will deal with the touchy subject of using the subtle methods and powers of yoga as a money making technique.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

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