Yoga History, 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, Hindus, 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, comfortable and at home 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 Flame of Life, Vital Principles of Yoga – Dona Holleman and Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving in Stillness – Eric Schiffmann.
Western scientific analysis and neuroscience is also increasingly providing some interesting insights into yoga practice and it's potential effects.
On my courses and retreats I often include relevant areas of Yoga History and Philosophy at appropriate moments. I have an academic background in in Indian Philosophy and Religion and teach Yoga History and Philosophy on a number of Yoga Teacher Training Courses including in London for the London Yoga Teacher Training Group and the Intelligent Yoga Teacher Training; in Devon and Sussex for for Still Flowing Yoga Teacher Training and in Paris for The Vinyasa Teacher training.
If you are interested in getting me in to teach then please get in touch by e mail or call on 07915 650106. It could be for a whole Yoga Teacher Training Course or for a one off workshop on a subject.
For Yoga Teacher Training Courses the syllabus could include all or some of :
- Overview of Yoga History, Culture and Development to the Modern Day
- Introduction to Indian Philosophy and it's relationship to Yoga
- Theory and Practice of Meditation
- The Upanishads
- The Bhagavad Gita
- Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
- Tantra and Hatha Yoga
- Modern Yoga
All of these would be a fairly comprehensive introduction , though as with anything it would be possible to focus on any one of these for a long time. They can be covered in shorter forms or longer forms depending on time available and the requirements of accrediting bodies ( if a training course) .
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.
For any enquires about teaching in this area please get in touch by e mail or phone 07915 650106