Yoga and Time

Often yoga teachers speak about time and consciousness in class. Mostly I am told (1) to ‘be present’, and that all that exists, exists in the present. Yet at the same time, I am also told (2) that past, present, and future are equally real. I have been trying to figure where this fits in with scientific and philosophical theories of time. Both (1) and (2) represent mutually exclusive philosophical theories of time.

Two common views in the philosophy of time are (there are more, but two are sufficient for this purpose):

Presentism – only what is present is real, and exists.

Eternalism – ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’ are all equally real.

One is either a presentist or an eternalist, but not both.

At first glance, it seems that when your yoga teacher tells you to ‘be present’, she is speaking as a presentist. Yet, if past, present and future are all equally real, then it seems that your yoga teacher is speaking as an eternalist.

I am not implying that yoga teachers are flippant when they speak of time. It is plausible that there is a coherent yogic philosophical theory of time such that statements (1) and (2) can both be true at the same time. I have not figured this out, but it has been on my mind constantly these past four weeks, and I am curious enough that I might spend a semester doing research on yoga and the philosophy of time.

WL