Philosophy, Spirituality and Meditation
Yoga - religion or spirituality?
"Is yoga a religion? It is and it is not. In religion you have to believe something but in yoga you have to experience what you want to believe". Yogi Bhajan.
Yoga includes an incredibly broad collection of ideas and practices. It is not a religion, but its origins as a collection of practices to explore the human condition developed in the context of Indian religious culture. There are at times significant parallels and connections with both Hinduism and Buddhism, but it doesn't exactly belong to either. ( In my opinion). There are also atheist strands of Indian philosophy.
I know Christians, Buddhists and Humanists who practice and teach yoga. They all find that their core values are generally consistent with those in yoga. At its heart it is an inclusive practice that requires no belief system, just curiosity, an inquiring mind and a willingness to try the practices.
Yoga’s practices and teachings are universally relevant. As a collection they can help us:
- Feel more centred, balanced and comfortable in our bodies.
- Get a perspective on our busy minds and look more deeply beyond the superficial thoughts and into deeper layers of consciousness.
- Consider some of the bigger questions of life and our place in the wider scheme of things.
Traditional Indian texts that can help illuminate our understanding of a living yoga practice include: 'The Upanishads', 'The Bhagavad Gita', 'Patanjalis yoga Sutras', 'The Hatha Yoga Pradipika' and some Buddhist texts.
Some modern hatha yoga practice manuals include an introduction to yoga philosophy and interesting viewpoints. My personal favourites are 'Awakening the Spine' – Vanda Scaravelli, 'Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit' – Donna Farhi, 'The Heart of Yoga' – TKV Desikachar, 'Dancing the Body of Light' – Dona Holleman and 'Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving in Stillness' – Eric Schiffmann.
The vision of yoga
The spiritual vision of yoga is that all of life is interconnected at a deep level via consciousness and nature. In our hearts we perhaps sense this at certain times but not others. Meditation is one way that can help deepen this sense of connection which will support us to live with more care, love and compassion for ourselves, others and all of life.
The formal practice of meditation can reduce stress and facilitate a steady sense of ease within ourselves. It can give us greater insight into the patterns of feelings, emotions and thoughts that determine our lives; and how we might live with greater ease and awareness in relation to these. The relatively simple, but not necessarily easy, act of observing and understanding our mind/body processes in meditation can be transformative in terms of how we understand ourselves and relate to life.
Teaching yoga philosophy
I teach the yoga history and philosophy module on the London Yoga Teacher Training Course. I enjoy teaching this subject and am available to teach this module on other yoga teacher training courses, workshops or CPD events for yoga teachers. If you are interested please e mail or text or phone 07915 650106.