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What is Yoga?

This is the first of a series of Blog posts I am writing explaining a bit more about what Personal Yoga is all about. The first couple of posts will be about Yoga in general and then about the process of Personal Yoga and what to expect when you come for lessons.


These notes are from my very first “Introductory Study” weekend with Paul Harvey back in 2011:


People never ask “What is Yoga?”

Rather they ask “What kind of Yoga do you teach?”


We all have a sense of what Yoga is all about but would struggle to define it! Yoga is defined in the Yoga Sutra, which is essentially a text on meditation. Most of what we consider to be Yoga practices (postures, breathing, chanting) are preparatory steps along this path, very few of us ever get to do more than scratch the surface! The term Yoga comes from the root YUJ meaning “to yoke” and in practical terms the aim is to link our awareness with our actions - to act with awareness. Any practice that helps us along this path can be Yoga.


The term Sutra is from the root SIV “to sew” and refers to a way of compressing information and ideas into a form that can be transmitted orally with minimal corruption in short verses linked together in a progression. They are so dense with information that we depend upon a teacher to help us unpack the meanings.


Most of modern Yoga has been transmitted from a Hindu viewpoint and has become associated with religiosity. In fact the Yoga Sutra is psychological rather than theological, with no fixed religious ideas other than the idea of something higher, some quality of the divine (īsvara).


The ultimate goal of Yoga is freedom or independence (Kaivalya). This is freedom not from but within our past. The past is fixed and always has potential to resurrect itself but we can endeavour not to be bound by it. The first requirement in this process is hindsight, but importantly hindsight without judgement or guilt. These only serve to reinforce each other and can become a vicious cycle of associations priming us for failure.


Thanks for reading! Next post is on the fundamental concepts of cit and citta, watch this space...

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