What is yoga? …and what is it not…

What is Yoga? Yoga is not a religion. It is also not a sport. It’s not about love. It was not invented by Madonna (yes this view is widespread in the USA). And it is also not a philosophy. But what is Yoga then?

A signpost pointing home

Yoga is a technology, a system with which we can operate our human-machine most efficiently. It is an instruction on how we can fully exploit our potential as human beings. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit syllable ‘yog’ and means unity or to join. It is a system that allows our soul drop to merge into the huge ocean of the supreme soul. Eh?? Supreme soul? Soul drop? … So again in other words: You are a soul that has come from a great sea of souls here on earth to live through human existence. The highest goal of the individual soul is to merge with the sea of souls, the supreme soul. This supreme soul has many names: God, Brahman, Allah, Divine Power. Yoga is a technique that leads us to this unity. A manual, a guide for the soul to go home.

Goat yoga, beer yoga, yogalates and co. –

As soon as we call something by the word ‘yoga’, this something is a complete path. A complete system. For example, there is Hatha Yoga, but we do not say Asanas Yoga, because this is part of the larger Hatha Yoga system. The word ‘yoga’ denotes both the goal (the unity) and the path (the method leading to unity). Swami Vivekananda brought this ancient science to the West at the end of the 19th century and that is where the drama began. Especially the marketing-savvy Americans knew how to use Yoga. Thus this ancient teaching was exploited, falsified, ridiculed and is now on the verge of being demonized as harmful to health.

Unchanged Photo of Swami Vivekananda in Jaipur (between 1885 – 1895) Source=Ramakrishna Mission Delhi

Only pieces of the puzzle

The problem is the ignorance of the power and the correct application of this ancient technique. Here in the West people are mainly focused on the physical exercises, the asanas. These are usually not only performed incorrectly but also taught in an inappropriate environment. Furthermore, the majority of the system is unceremoniously dismissed as spiritual nonsense or even ignored. Yoga can only be considered as a whole. One cannot simply take individual parts and expect to achieve the goal.

Where does Yoga come from?

According to yogic legend, these techniques were first passed on 15,000 years ago. At that time a man sat for weeks in the mountains in the Himalayas. Sometimes he danced in ecstasy and sometimes he sat in silence. Curious people gathered around him, but most quickly lost interest. Only seven stubborn ones remained after a few months. These seven were curious and wanted to experience this state too. They asked the man to teach them. But this man was not willing. He made it clear to the seven that they were not in a state to receive his knowledge. Thereupon they began to prepare themselves. Days, weeks, months and years passed in which the man only ignored them.

The birth of a guru

Then one night of a full moon the man saw that the seven were ready to receive. On the following full moon night, the man decided to become a Guru, the first Guru – Adiguru. This night is known as Guru Pournami. It was on this night that the knowledge we now call yoga was transmitted to humanity for the first time. On the shore of lake Kanti Sarovar, these seven men received the messages of the man, which took several years. These seven are known today as Sapta Rishis – the seven wise men – and the man as Adiyogi, the first yogi or Shiva. Shiva then sent these seven people to the seven corners of the earth to spread the knowledge.

What is Yoga – All roads lead to Rome

So yoga is the union with the primal soul. That is the goal. Several paths lead there. Traditionally the four yoga paths are called: Bhakti – loving devotion, Karma – selfless service, Jnana – knowledge, Raja – mind control. You can read more about the four yoga paths in my article about it.

Who is Patanjali?

Patanjali was an Indian scholar who lived sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 4th century AD. At that time there were thousands of yoga schools in India, each with its own approach. Patanjali tried to bundle all the knowledge and wrote down his findings. The so-called Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are highly logical and mathematical formulas on palm leaves. He is therefore known as the “father of modern yoga”. He did not invent yoga, but he made it available to the wider public.  Patanjali summarized all the schools known to him and thus created the 8th limbs of Yoga:

8th limbs of Yoga – Ashtanga yoga

1. Yamas – your handling of your environment 2. Niyamas – your dealing with yourself 3. Asanas – your handling of your body 4. Pranayama – your handling of your breath 5. Pratyahara – your handling of your senses 6. Dharana – concentration 7. Dhyana – meditation 8. Samadhi – your inner freedom

What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha Yoga is another yoga path that is closely related to Raja Yoga – it is, so to speak, a sub-area. The practices of Hatha Yoga prepare the body for the higher levels of Raja Yoga, the mind control. Hatha Yoga uses your body to prepare you for your greatest potential. Asanas prepare your body to receive higher energies. So with the help of Hatha Yoga, you not only shape and train your physical shell. You can change your whole being, your perception, your mind structure and thus your life. With the help of Hatha Yoga, you create a body that is free from the hurdles of daily life. Many people, therefore, reduce Hatha Yoga to its health-promoting aspects, but this is actually only a positive side effect. Only from a healthy body, you can free your mind and ascend to higher spheres.

You can learn the ancient techniques in our 200h Hatha Yoga Teacher Training. For beginners, we have developed a special 100h Yoga course, where the foundation for further growth is laid.

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