Tag Archives: YOGA

Yoga – Is It a Religion? (Part 2)

Again – yoga means union! The word Yoga means union, and comes from "yuj" which means "to join," to bring together into union the various aspects of yourself that were never divided in the first place. From that comes the direct experience of yourself (Self) that is beyond the false identities stemming from the seemingly countless colorings of attraction and aversion. Another, more contemporary adaptation of this principle is the word holistic, meaning to become whole, or to realize your underlying wholeness.

Patanjali describes this in the Yoga Sutras (1.2) where he defines Yoga as the mastery or control (nirodha) of the modifications of the chitta (“stuff” of the mind or mind field), allowing the true Self to then come shining through (1.3). Patanjali also explains that the purpose of Yoga is discrimination (viveka) among the inner processes (Sutras 2.26-2.29). Similar processes of mastering and/or integrating the mind may be a part of some religions, but that does not mean that regulating your mind in this way is, in itself, a religion.

Yoga and religion both share many common virtues. As with many religions, yoga also recommends meditation on, and cultivation of lovingness, compassion, goodwill and acceptance, as well as non-violence, truthfulness, training the senses, non-possessiveness, and other such virtues (see Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.33, 2.30-2.32). So although, religions and yoga both recommend cultivating such virtues, it is self evident that cultivating these ways of being or living are not themselves religion. When these are practiced in yoga, the subtler, finer, truer aspects of our being are revealed, and this may or may not be seen in the context of religion.

Yoga – Is It a Religion? (Part 2)

By definition, is yoga a religion?

1. According to Encarta World English Dictionary, religion posits that people's beliefs and opinions concern the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and in human life.

  • Yoga does not require the worship of any specific "deity or deities." The word divine is defined (in dictionaries) as coming from, or connected with God or gods. Yoga does not give specific instructions for the "existence, nature, [or] worship". Yet, yoga acknowledges that bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion is a valid aspect of yoga. Yoga does not tell you where to direct that devotion, or the specific methods by which you should do it. This “direction” of devotion is left to personal religious preferences.

2. Religion adheres to a particular institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine.

  • The word divine is defined as relating to God or gods, and yoga itself does not set forth any designation to what or whom one should direct their worship, nor does yoga require it. Although yoga definitely acknowledges the value of bhakti yoga, it does not dictate which form that should take for an individual person. Also, yoga itself is not institutionalized as a religious system, although some of the principles are contained within many religions or other religious systems (examples: kindness to other people, taking care of one's body, regulating breathing, or quieting the mind).

3. Religions establish a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by.

  • Some may argue that yoga is a religion by the very definition of religion as being a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that one lives by. This is not necessarily true since this could also apply to many other things as well, including governmental, educational, psychological, social, cultural, or familial ways of living.

Fortunately, most people have a working, day-to-day, common language sense of the meaning of a religion, and it simply does not apply to yoga.

Coming next, part 3 of "Yoga – Is It a Religion?"

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Yoga – Is It a Religion? (Part 1)

Yoga is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga … Swami J.

While Yoga may be found in many religions, the numerous yoga practices involving body, breath and mind, along with their transcendent goal of direct experience, are generally neither characteristic of any particular religion, nor typically practiced by the adherents of any religion.

Yoga means “union.” It is the joining together the aspects of ourselves which were never divided in the first place.

To say that the word yoga itself is a religion makes about as much sense as saying that the words “union” or “holistic” constitute a religion.

Yoga – Is It a Religion?

Keep in mind that there is not universal agreement on these points, or even the definition of yoga for that matter. Although there are many people who feel that yoga is not a religion, there are also those who feel that yoga is a religion.

So this begs the question; what's in religion that’s missing with Yoga? Here are a few things:

  • Yoga has no deity to worship.
  • Yoga has no worship services to attend.
  • Yoga has no rituals to perform.
  • Yoga has no sacred icons.
  • Yoga has no creed or formal statement of religious belief.
  • Yoga has no requirement for a confession of faith.
  • Yoga has no ordained clergy or priests to lead religious services.
  • Yoga has no institutional structure, leader or group of overseers.
  • Yoga has no membership procedure.
  • Yoga has no congregation of members or followers.
  • Yoga has no system of temples or churches.

To point out that Yoga is not religion (or that yoga is in religion, but religion not in yoga), is just stating facts, but these facts are not opposed to religion. Suggestion that one should or should not practice religion is not what is being described here. Religion can be extremely useful, and there are those who would say it’s absolutely essential. Nonetheless anyone can practice yoga, and do so either with or without religion being involved.

Practitioners of yoga tend to be very clear about yoga not conflicting with any religion. However, there are many thousands of denominations and sects within many diverse religions. Some of these groups have religious beliefs that might seem very different to another’s beliefs.

Some say that certain foods should be eaten for example, while others say that the same food item should not be eaten. Some suggest polygamy, while others require monogamy. Some agree with medical treatment, while others say that healing is solely God’s job, and that faith, not modern medical treatment should be employed. Some believe in social freedoms, while others believe more in strict religious discipline.

Then there are those basic practices like calming the autonomic nervous system through diaphragmatic breathing that some consider to be of a different religion, while others see this as a universal human process from which anyone can benefit. Some others consider making the body flexible to be a part of religion, while others see it is physical fitness, while still others see it as a part of systematic, non-sectarian meditation. So while some of the customs of various religions may seem odd to the others, these are the realities of the diversity of humanity.

Emphasizing this diversity in this article is not intended to resolve these issues, or to offer a solution. However, it seems useful to accept that, to some degree, there are people who consider yoga to be religion, even though we may feel certain that it is not. After all, it is always appropriate to respect (and honor) the choice of others.

Coming next, part 2 of "Yoga – Is It a Religion?"

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 15)

With all the names and modern styles of yoga the question arises: What kind of Yoga do you do?

All the recent “inventions” just confuse matters more. The essential, authentic nature of yoga is even further confused in the public eye by the way the methods are presented and promoted. By reviewing almost any list of the best known dozen or so modern yoga "styles," it will quickly become evident that almost all of these contemporary styles have been invented in the last few decades. Very few yoga teachers today will simply teach "Hatha Yoga," the physical yoga system of the past (that actually had spiritual goals), let alone the “whole” true spiritual yoga. Remember that even Hatha Yoga (asana + pranayama) is part of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga and Raja Yoga is only one of the four traditional schools of yoga.

In addition, many, if not most of the modern "styles" of yoga have the surname of a currently living man in front of the word yoga, as if that man, himself, has invented yoga. This is not to say that these teachers aren’t competent or even superb in their physical abilities. They may do a very good job within the limited scope of their “personalized” teachings.

Oftentimes this “personalization” takes the liberty of distorting Sanskrit terms. Several modern systems have taken an ancient Sanskrit word or phrase that has a specific spiritual meaning, and then adapted that terminology to some set of postures or practices that were apart from the original intent.

Even worse, some of these modern teachers have then trademarked these ancient, traditional names, further misleading an unsuspecting public. This leaves the would-be students with the impression that the current day founder of this “brand name” system is somehow linked to the original teachings associated with that word or phrase. It may further lead people to believe that these new teachers also have some expertise or familiarity with the traditional practice or level of attainment authentically associated with that word or phrase.

Most of the modern "styles" of Yoga did not exist a few decades ago, while yoga itself is thousands of years old.

These modern styles are very suspect as they should be. If you turned back the clock a hundred years, or maybe fifty, or twenty, or even less, very few (if any at all) of these current styles, systems, or methods of yoga would have yet existed. Most of the founders of these modern, so-called yoga styles were not even born. Therefore, these modern styles are, by their very nature, suspect. Especially when, at the same time, it is claimed that yoga is thousands of years old. This is not a mere call to go back in time to some theoretically more pristine era of yoga. It really is a case of throwing away the baby with the bath water.

To repeat the question at the beginning of this article: What kind of yoga do you do?

Traditionally, there are four schools of Yoga. If asked, "What kind of Yoga do you do?" the answer would be one of these four, or a combination of them. Briefly, the four schools of Yoga are:

  • Karma Yoga: The yoga of action, doing the practices while fulfilling one's duties in the external world.
  • Jnana Yoga: The yoga of knowledge or self-enquiry, knowing oneself at all levels through a process of contemplation and introspection.
  • Bhakti Yoga: The yoga of devotion, of surrender to the divine force or God, practiced in ways consistent with one's own religion.
  • Raja Yoga: The meditative school of yoga, such as systematized by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 15)

Additionally, it is important to note that yoga itself has been classically considered to be one of "six schools of Indian philosophy."

A true Yogi, one who sincerely practices authentic Yoga, may do just yoga, meaning some combination of Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, and Raja Yoga, in the context of the six systems of Indian philosophy and practice.

Paramahansa Yogananda, the well-known author of Autobiography of a Yogi, responds to the question "What is Yoga?" in the text The Essence of Self-Realization: "Yoga means union.” Yoga is loosely translated as the English word “yoke.” Yoga means union with God, or, union of the little, ego-self with the divine Self, the infinite Spirit. Most people in the West, and sadly many in India, confuse yoga with Hatha Yoga, the system of physical practice.

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next, the final installment in this series; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 16).” This next blog article will include some final thoughts and tips.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 14)

Teacher Training (TT) programs often avoid the spiritual aspect of yoga. Just a brief review of some of these schools and seminar offerings will reveal that in many modern yoga teacher training programs, only a small percentage of the curriculum deals with the spiritual aspects of Yoga, and these spiritual aspects are to be the true focus of yoga. Here again we see this modern focus leaning heavily toward the physical aspects of yoga and so limited compared to the authentic yoga of the ancients.

In many of these TT programs one can become a "certified" yoga teacher without having spent a single minute engaging the face-to-face instruction of a teacher studying the traditional yoga texts.

Do you really want to become certified with no face-to-face teaching of authentic yoga? The Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Sutras are two of the most authoritative texts in Yoga. Sadly, as a common example of the current state of modern yoga teacher training, the most well known agency in America (that claims certifying authority for yoga schools) has structured its standards with such a focus on the physical that it is possible for a student to become a certified yoga teacher without having spent a single minute in the face-to-face instruction of a teacher who is well versed in these texts or any of the other traditional Yoga texts.

About yoga in the US: Georg Feurstein, a well recognized scholar and teacher says: "It's a mess"

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 14) 

As if the state of yoga and yoga teacher training here in the west were not already bad enough, there’s an online company that has started to offer a $49.99 online yoga teacher training program. All you have to do is purchase their program via credit card, read their material, and take a written online exam, which consists of multiple choice questions. You can become a "Certified Yoga Instructor" and will also receive an online transcript that mentions your score, which can be used "to prove your certified credentials". Interestingly, their promotional material even explains that the certificate that you will receive does not even mention the word “online.”

When asked by LA Yoga Magazine, “How would you describe Yoga in the US today?” Georg Feurstein elaborates:

“It’s a mess. And you can quote me on that. Anything that comes to America or the West in general, immediately gets individualized and commercialized. There has always been great diversity in traditional Yoga, and this diversity was based on the experience of masters. Today even beginning teachers feel qualified to innovate and create their own trademarked Yoga system.

"So, looking at the Yoga movement today, part of me feels very saddened by it, but then I also see that it contains the seeds of something better. Also, amazingly, Yoga can be beneficial even when it is reduced down to posture practice. But people shortchange themselves when they strip Yoga of its spiritual side."

It’s distressing that there are Asana teachers who say that they do understand the authentic goals of yoga, and would like to share these higher teachings with their students. However, some of them who teach at well known "Yoga Studios" around the country (USA) have privately confided that they have been directly told by studio owners to not teach this, and that if they do, they will no longer be allowed to teach there. This puts these teachers in an awkward position. Even though they understand and seek authentic yoga in their personal lives they’re discouraged (sometimes forbidden) from sharing this with students out of fear for losing students and their payments for classes.

Be positive, there’s a good chance the pendulum will swing back. Although modern yoga teaching may have gone far off track in recent years, there is some movement towards providing training that focuses on the authentic and every yoga teacher should be encouraged to head in that direction. It seems that the pendulum has swung so far away that it might slowly be starting to swing back to the real goals of authentic and traditional yoga.

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 15).” This next blog article will illustrate some modern styles of yoga, their names and how they differ from the four traditional schools of yoga.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 13)

There are those who turn away from yoga as spiritual pursuit and seek elsewhere for meditation instruction and techniques. Even among some of the teachers, scholars, authors, and publishers who profess to be experts in yoga, more than a few turn away from traditional yoga meditation to “customize” practices of meditation and contemplation and call them their own. It’s almost unbelievable, but it’s not uncommon for so-called yoga teachers to recommend that their students practice yoga solely for the physical body, and instruct them it’s not always necessary to follow practices such as introspection, contemplation and meditation to learn yoga.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 13)

As a result yoga in the West has only scratched the surface of authentic yoga.

It is true that yoga as a means for spiritual unfoldment is quite compatible with any religious orientation. It is common for people who have pursued the authentic spiritual practices of yoga to report that they become even closer to own their religious roots. Thus there should be absolutely no conflict. Although, the reverse is not necessarily true, not all religions bring their followers closer to the goals of proper yoga practice. 

It would be hard to imagine people walking into a restaurant and ordering a bottle of “Christian Communion” with their meal? Of course not, instead they order a bottle of wine. Otherwise, it would be taken as a joke. Similarly, we wouldn’t call eating bread with your meal “Christian Communion,” we’d simply call it eating bread? But people will walk into a health spa, gym or recreational center and call some of the physical practices people do there “yoga,” completely disregarding its true and full meaning?

Also, it is sad but true that some other teachers of yoga (both from the East and the West), teach in a way that worships teachers,deities, rituals and/or dogmas that are not known to their students, and this even further confuses the issue of what yoga is truly about. This is not to say that teachers should necessarily be forbidden to present their religion. Rather, the point is that by not clearly acknowledging the difference between their religion and authentic yoga, they are setting the stage for confusion about the true nature of yoga.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 13)

So, is Yoga a religion? Answer: NO!

Yoga is contained within religions. Religions are not contained within yoga. Yoga means union. It is the joining together the aspects of ourselves which (in reality) were never divided in the first place.

Too many teachers and students are being deprived. There are modern yoga teachers who are missing out on authentic, traditional yoga because of their misunderstanding, and as a result, the higher yogic practices are not even followed by them. In other words, they cannot teach or learn the more authentic perspectives of yoga if they do not know about them and they remain deprived of much of the wisdom of the ancient sages.

David Frawley, is quoted in “Yoga Journal” as saying:

Yoga in the West "has only scratched the surface of the greater Yoga tradition," he says. "The Yoga community in the West is currently at a crossroads. Its recent commercial success can be used to build the foundation for a more profound teaching, aimed at changing the consciousness of humanity. Or it can reduce Yoga to a mere business that has lost connection with its spiritual heart. The choice that Yoga teachers make today will determine this future."

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 14).” This next blog article will look at how some yoga teacher training programs are missing the point of true yoga.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 12)

Yoga as a spiritual tool – For a student longing for spiritual attainment, the path of traditional, authentic yoga may be a perfect fit, including all of the many aspects that it may encompass. However, when an authentic seeker of spiritual truths starts to explore the landscape of paths, yoga is commonly not pursued as a spiritual tool because "everybody knows" (actually they assume – and incorrectly) that yoga is merely a physical exercise program.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 12)

Of course it’s not true that yoga is a merely physical fitness program, although it appears that way to the majority of people who are reminded of the postures (asanas). Because of these erroneous appearances, many sincere seekers are not finding authentic yoga, which embodies some of the highest teachings and practices known to humanity.

Yoga focuses on the spiritual, right from the very beginning.

By following the path of authentic yoga the student/aspirant not only approaches the attainment of spiritual realization, but also benefits from a host of side-effects which might include physical health, the elimination or reduction of some diseases, and/or promotion of a state of health and well-being. The intent of yoga is to focus on the spiritual, right from the very beginning of practice. By engaging such an authentic orientation of yoga, many fruits will come, including the physical benefits.

The sincere student needs to re-affirm the true nature of authentic yoga. This is not a matter of changing the path of those who practice various “adaptations” of yoga, or small, isolated parts of yoga. They have a perfect right to do as they wish. However, by clearly re-affirming the true nature of authentic yoga and making this available to all true seekers, in a wide array of venues, people are more likely to be attracted. It is fortunate that at least a small percentage of teachers are trying to do this.

The journey of yoga to yoga is a Sacred Pilgrimage.

Imagine taking a sacred pilgrimage (Yatra) to a sacred place high in the Himalayas. During your journey you might fly on an airplane, ride in a car, and do lots of walking. The entire journey is one of a pilgrimage as long as you maintain a heartfelt conviction for the destination you are seeking.

The key that makes all the aspects of your journey; the airplane, the car, and the walking a Yatra is the intentionality in your heart for the destination being sought. It is this intentionality for the goal called yoga that makes the process leading there also called yoga, not merely the actions themselves.

The fact that you move your body this way or that, or do some breathing practices, doesn’t unto itself, constitute yoga. Yoga is the journey (Yatra) towards yoga, which is the union being sought.

If you are not working with relationships in the external world, with your personality, with your body, with your breath, or the levels of your mind with this intentionality towards the destination called yoga, then the process along the way is simply not yoga.

It is not hard to find practitioners and workshop leaders who provide breath training for health reasons, and do so without using the word yoga or making any mention of attaining or realizing the higher union that is at the core of yoga. These trainers are to be admired for not calling their work yoga, even though breath training is a part of yoga. This is as it should be.

So we must call into question those others who teach work with body, breath and mind and call their practices yoga, while completely ignoring the goal or destination of authentic yoga?

The destination of yoga is yoga, period. Any other use of the practices is simply not yoga.

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 13).” This next blog article will continue this discussion about yoga and its use (and/or abuse) as a spiritual tool.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 10)

Yoga and money – Is it wrong to use the subtle methods and powers of yoga as a money making technique?

We don’t have to look far to find a seminar about making money with Yoga. If calling yoga a fitness program, physical therapy or medical treatment isn’t already over the top, it has now also become common to promote yoga seminars and books in respect to yoga being a money making technique, especially here in the West. These so-called “yoga” promoters oftentimes don't openly proclaim their instructions as a means for making money, but instead, they commonly use the terms like prosperity, success, abundance or affluence. They insinuate that with their guidance the student or practitioner will attract those attributes to themselves.

This isn’t referring to teachers that charge money for training students and teaching classes. That is an entirely different matter. This is talking about intentionally using the subtle methods and powers of yoga to generate monetary wealth or to cause riches to come their way. The fruits of practicing yoga come naturally to sincere students as a byproduct of yoga. However, to conduct seminars on how to channel genuine convictions and practices into producing financial wealth is contrary to the ultimate goals of true yoga practice.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 10)

It has been said (Joseph Goebbels), “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Be careful what you choose to believe!

"Yoga is a moneymaking technique.”

It doesn't take a great amount of reflection to see that this statement is a reframing of attachment, hedonism and/or greed, which yoga would have us see as being obstacles to spiritual practice, rather than goals to be attained.

There is a commonly accepted assertion that teachers must meet students where they are. Proper instruction is the epitome of that process, while on the other hand; greedy teachers provide well packaged and marketed seminars to greedy students. They promote the use of “yoga” as a vehicle to make money. By doing this, the seekers are misled, receiving a form of pseudo-validation for their inner (or subconscious) longings for external pleasure. This is not to suggest that yoga should have absolutely nothing to do with any acceptable moneymaking propositions or that aspiring yogis should live in abject poverty. It is simply a result of confusing goals and methods.

Yoga is not a moneymaking technique, nor was it ever meant to be. Any use of yoga for such a purpose is a corruption of true yoga practice and devolution of authentic yoga.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, the head of the Himalayan Institute of the USA writes in an article entitled “Real Yoga” that:

"Yoga has become the health and fitness system of choice. This is odd because it is the mind – not the body – that is the main target of all genuine Yoga practices …. To regard Yoga primarily as a set of practices for increasing strength and flexibility while calming the nervous system is to mistake the husk for the kernel.”

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 11).” This next blog article will discuss the commingling of yoga and fitness programs and the resulting consequences.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 9)

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

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 7)

In this article we'll address the use and misuse of the word yoga: The misuse of the word yoga often involves what logicians call the “fallacy of composition” which basically is inferring that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole. Also this can mean projecting a characteristic assumed by a part to be the characteristic assumed by the whole or by others. Oftentimes this can lead to false conclusion that whenever a person is doing some action that is included in yoga, that person is necessarily doing yoga.

This is what happens when anyone says that Yoga is physical fitness, stress management, or medical treatment. Again, the goal of yoga is yoga, and this has to do with the realization or direct experience of the highest unity of our being.

Here are some obviously unreasonable and false arguments about the nature of yoga and the use of the word yoga. Some of the examples below might sound silly, but they are common illustrations of “fallacy of composition.”

  • Body flexing is part of Yoga; therefore, anybody who flexes the body is practicing Yoga.
  • Breath regulation is part of Yoga; therefore, anybody who intentionally breathes smoothly and slowly is practicing Yoga.
  • Contracting the anal sphincter muscles is a lock, which is part of Yoga; therefore anybody contracting those muscles is doing Yoga.
  • Cleansing the body is part of Yoga; therefore, anybody cleansing the body is practicing Yoga.
  • Purging the gastrointestinal system is a practice of Yoga; therefore, anybody taking an enema is practicing Yoga.
  • Concentrating the mind is part of Yoga; therefore anybody who concentrates is practicing Yoga.
  • Talking to yourself in a contemplative way is part of Yoga; therefore, anybody talking to himself or herself is practicing Yoga.
  • Lovingness is part of Yoga; therefore all people who love their family and friends are practicing Yoga.
  • Honesty is a part of Yoga; therefore, any honest person is practicing yoga.
  • Contentment is a foundation of Yoga; therefore, anyone who is content is practicing Yoga.
  • Eating healthy food is a part of Yoga; therefore, anyone eating fresh vegetables is practicing Yoga.
  • Attenuating attractions and aversions is part of Yoga; therefore, anyone reducing their habitual thoughts and emotions is practicing Yoga.
  • Sitting still is a part of Yoga; therefore, anybody who is sitting still is practicing Yoga.
  • Here are some other false statements about Yoga, which have unfortunately come to be widely accepted as true.
  • Since Yoga is beneficial to the body, Yoga is a physical fitness program. (Wrong; the goal of Yoga is Yoga.)
  • Since Yoga reduces stress, Yoga is a stress management method. (Wrong; the goal of Yoga is Yoga.)
  • Since Yoga has an effect on physical health, Yoga is a medical treatment. (Wrong; the goal of Yoga is Yoga.)

By understanding the fallacy of composition, and reflecting on these simple examples, it is easy to see through the numerous arguments and widespread misperception that yoga is all about physical fitness, stress management, or medical treatment. In fact, yoga is ONLY about the higher union relating to pure consciousness, soul, spirit, purusha, atman, or other such words. Other efforts for secondary purposes may be quite useful, but they are NOT part of Yoga unless these higher goals are the fundamental motive for the practices.

What does Yoga mean? According to The Sivananda Yoga Om Page yoga means union: "Although many people think this term refers to union between body and mind or body, mind and spirit, the traditional acceptance is union between the Jivatman and Paramatman that is between one's individual consciousness and the Universal Consciousness. Therefore Yoga refers to a certain state of consciousness as well as to methods that help one reach that goal or state of union with the divine."

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 7)

In ancient times, the word Yoga previously referred to the whole; now it refers to a part, the postures. Hatha in Sanskrit literally means “effort,” “force,” or “exertion.” Hatha Yoga was considered to be only a part, or aspect of the greater whole, which was called yoga. More precisely, postures were only a part of the part. In fact, Hatha Yoga itself only partially dealt with the practice of postures, called Asanas. Thus, the postures (or Asanas) were just a part of Hatha Yoga.

Furthermore, it is not absolutely necessary for someone to do the physical postures (Asanas) to be a practitioner of authentic Yoga.

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 8).”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Has Your Mind Made You Its Slave?

Our minds are particularly affected by the following 3 things:

  • Our Concept of Time
  • The Company We Keep
  • Our Diet

Our body changes with time. Time can have a powerful impact on our mind, and subsequently, our body.  Our state of mind and the accompanying feelings tend to fluctuate, and quite often, even multiple times throughout a day!

Patterns of thought also get affected and occasionally overwhelmed by time. Each of the seasons: winter, summer, spring, and fall all affect the mind differently. People from several ancient civilizations did in-depth studies about time, including how the movement of the moon affects the mind, and how it moves around and through the different constellations. They learned how the different degrees of the moon in relation to the cosmos can have a definite impact on the mind. That’s why some used the words “Tara-bal” and “Chandra-bal” (“Tara” means star and “bala” means strength. When Vedic Astrologers refer to Tara Bala, they are referring to the placement of the planets in certain relationships with that of the Moon), and (Chandra-bal” is lunar strength and represents the positive or negative effects of the moon on human bodies). The moon is typically in one constellation for two and a half days and then it moves to another constellation. So in those two and half days changes are likely to occur in our mind, affecting our mood.

So with all this in mind, the question arises; “Has our mind made us its slave?”

We can emphatically say, “No.” There is stronger influence beyond our mind and that is our intellect. When our intellect exercises its strength, it overcomes the impact on our mind. When our intellect weakens, then our emotions exert their force on our mind. Now, what if our intellect also becomes affected? Then we must realize that something that is beyond our intellect and that is the Self and that Self is Shiva Tattva. 

Has Your Mind Made You Its Slave?

Shiva is the master of the time. So when we take refuge in the Shiva Tattva or higher Self, then the impact of time is minimized, both on our mind and on our body.

So time impacts our mind and time has definite measurements. Similarly the company we keep, the people with whom we spend time also affects us. What we listen to impacts our mind. When we are in good company then it has good impact on us. When we are in bad company then negative emotions like anger, jealousy, etc., affects us in a negative way.

Then the third thing that affects the mind is the food we eat. Food choices are secondary and are not ultimately that important? If the first two (time & company) are positive and in balance, then they can take precedence over the problem of bad dietary choices.

According to Hindu scripture, those who know time are called Devagya (one who knows God). They know about time and all this in accordance with the Divine will of time. Rule of time is Divine, thus those who know time are called Devagya.

Above God is Brahma-gnan (one who knows the Self). A Brahma-gnani is considered above a Devagya. Brahma-gnani is created by being centered in the Self. What I am is what you are, and what everything else is too. When you are established in the firm experience and faith that brings Brahma-Gnan nothing can shake you. Brahma-gnan is bigger than all other gnan (knowledge).

Stay tuned, coming up next we will continue with the series “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga” (Part 7)

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500