Yoga is a return to wholeness. There is an uncompromising belief in yoga philosophy that wholeness is our implicit birth right. But most of us forget our wholeness, or in yogic terms we forget our true nature, and we live in a kind of illusion that we are alone. We suffer from a kind of spiritual amnesia that makes us feel separate from our authentic selves, separate from others, separate from nature. Even as we are taking a breath in, literally taking the world into us, we still think we are the masters of our own separate universe. Yoga is any practice that restores this original wholeness and sense of connection with the world.
What is Yoga?
The wonderful thing about Yoga as a life practice is that one can choose practices that suit ones constitution, age, and time of life. So for one person, meditating restores her sense of wholeness, for another it may involve rigorous physical postures, and for others a commitment to service to the community. Regardless of the practice, the ultimate purpose of yoga is to break out of this amnesia and to live every day with a full awareness, appreciation, and humility that are part of a much bigger picture. Yoga says that when we live with that awareness we are living in freedom.
Define or classify yoga?
It’s a tradition literally thousands of years old, which is to our advantage because it means that the basic precepts of the whole practice have been tested over time and proven sound. Yoga is really more clearly defined as a technology for bringing about an experience of stillness and equanimity. Yoga says that no matter whom you are your essence and heart are the same as those of everyone else in the world. The basic premises of yoga were set down thousands of years ago by people called Seers, meaning that their lens of perception was so unadulterated, so pure, that they could observe the very workings of Nature. Yoga doesn’t ask us to believe anything until we’ve proven it’s true for us. Yoga says, “There are some observations gleaned over time through the minds and hearts of clear seeing people about how to live a life of freedom. Check them out for yourself and find through your own direct experience the truth about yourself and discover what is Yoga.”
How do you differentiate between “good” and “bad” yoga?
Good yoga cultivates a deep sense of self-acceptance and tolerance for others. When I witness someone practicing and living yoga well, they have developed clear perception, concentration, and the skill to respond to any situation with a presence of mind. In my yoga class that means that the form of the postures is not the goal – you can be as stiff as an ironing board and much less flexible than your comrades in a yoga class and still be practicing beautiful yoga if your practice is fostering that respect and care for yourself.