What is yoga? What is not?
You can find a lot of definitions of “yoga” from the simplest to the complicated one with a lot of weird Sanskrit words. In real life we often see different groups and organizations which called themselves «yoga»: from religious unions to the simple athletic courses. Moreover we can meet different schools, traditions, teachings with strange Sanskrit names – different kinds of yoga. Almost everybody hear about hatha, pranayama, kundalini, less people have idea about other kinds of yoga – laya, triada, natya and etc. There are a lot of modern school as well – acroyoga, aquayoga, you even can find yoga of laughter.
This huge variety can confuse a person who just decided to start yoga practice.
I would like to give you a key what of this system is yoga and what something else.
But first of all we are going to define what is not yoga.
Yoga – is not medicine. For sure everybody hears about «miracles» of healing that practicing of yoga made with body and mind. In regular practice a lot of people reduce a lot of diseases. But this effect – side effect of yoga. This nice application of yoga practicing is on top of other deeper changes. Going on yoga class you should keep in mind that yoga can rise up your tonus, your stamina and it can be good basement for starting changes which will lead to recovery. Yoga is not substitute for medicine. Treatment of illness it is medicine task.
Yoga – is not religion. Some people refuse to do yoga because of religious views. Other people got afraid of some yoga practices which look like some religious ritual. The reason of external similarity of some yoga methods goes deep in the history of yoga. You should remember that ancient knowledge of yoga preserved in India, in the country with “300 millions of gods”. And for sure because of it got some influence of culture. If this knowledge had been preserved in another original cultural conditions we would get others name for practicing.
Yoga – is not science. If you go deeper in learning theory of yoga, axiomatic of yoga, you will be amazed how similar this knowledge to the highest knowledge of physics, mathematics, chemistry. Some discovering that science do now were “predicted” by yoga. Science still have to describe and explain some laws of functioning of human body and interaction of inner and outer world that yogi see and use in everyday life and which for some people looks like “miracles”. There are no miracles, there are some laws, but there is still no scientific explanation. This is task of science to explain “miracles”.
It reminds me my first class of philosophy course in my university, where our professor gave us definitions about what we will have been studying for the next five years – about philosophy. In the beginning she underlined what is not philosophy. Philosophy is not religion; philosophy is not science… and etc. In this meaning yoga to me has status of philosophy, practical philosophy.
So, what is yoga? Yoga it’s a system of self-knowledge leading to the freedom, and based on two main principles, that you can use as strainer to check if interesting school to you is yoga or not.
The key word of the whole system of yoga knowledge – is freedom. Unconditional freedom. Every new knowledge, every new practice, every new method should expand your freedom. This point will help you to check if your practice of yoga works? Does it give to you more freedom in physical movement, in your psychological stability, increasing your intellectual ability, help you look more beautiful? For sure definition of freedom very philosophical and complicated and we will see it in details in next article.
Next two statements will help you to understand if some system of knowledge can be called yoga or not. All articles, lectures, rules which you can find here or in other place should not contradict to these principles which express kindness, morality and efficiency of yogic knowledge.
The first one is a principle of non-harming or “ahimsa”. In other words it’s a principle of kindness. Unfortunately we cannot completely avoid harming, because the fact of our existence already brings harm and we may not even know about followings of our actions (the immune system of the human body is constantly kills harmful bacteria, human kind brings huge harm to nature). But it is in our hands to reduce harm of our actions, words and thoughts. This is principle of super logic, because it’s impossible to explain in terms of logic why person should be kind.
The second very interesting yoga principle – principle of logic. It’s principle of efficiencyin your everyday life. It says that we shouldn’t waste our life time, our life energy and point our consciousness on meaningless things that lead us away from our goals in life: in work, in studying, in practicing yoga or anything else you do. We shouldn’t waste out precious life time. This principle of brahmacharya. In some yoga schools brahmacharya is considering as vow celibacy (because according to doctrine of these schools breaking this principle you waste huge potential). But this principle of yoga can be expand on the all areas of human life when people wasting their abilities, talents and potential.
So now huge variety of yoga schools and organizations will not confuse you.
Briefly speaking if any system of self-knowledge and development follow principles of non-harming and efficiency, help you broad your freedom – you can be sure it’s yoga. But if some of principles violated or moreover, you freedom is reduced, you feel fear, sad, pain – it’s not yoga whatever it’s called.