Part 4 – Yoga Philosophy

Before the 200 YTT, yoga is just a type of exercise to me, like running or swimming. However, after studied the philosophy of yoga, I realised my understanding of yoga was too surface and narrow. I am glad that the decision to continue practising yoga led me to the right direction and path to the true meaning of yoga, even though I did not realise it in the first place. As I mentioned in Part 1, the reason to continue practising yoga was because I felt my body was getting stronger and healthier and it also acts as an avenue to release stress. Without knowing the purpose of Yoga, my original feeling of yoga actually proved the spirit of Yoga, from a superficial way. A positive transformation from physical to mental, i.e. feel less stress after yoga (asana and pranayama practice). 

According to “The Yoga Sutra”, Yoga is more towards Objective Idealism, because Yoga is about creating balance and equanimity to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole. The art and science of yoga is dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. The objective is to assist the practitioner in using the breath and body to foster an awareness of ourselves as individuals being intimately connected to the unified whole of creation.

However, in my personal view, I prefer to say Yoga or Yoga practice is Dialectical Materialism through a reverse order of Yama and Niyama.

In the 8 Limbs of Ashtanga/ Raja Yoga, it describes the inner workings of the mind and provides a blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoy lasting peace. Yama and Niyama, as the first two limbs, suggest how we should deal with people around us and how we can optimally shape our attitude and behaviour. In my opinion, only when you fulfill/ have the Niyama (the freedom from all observances) then you are able to fulfill/ have Yama (disappearance of all suppressions). Using a simple example to illustrate, how do you appear happy and bring the true happiness to your friends if you are in a deep sorrow? And will you give away your food to someone if you are starving? In the above, we are talking about people in general and it does not apply to those with blood ties such as mother to child. Niyama refers to intimate and personal, when you have the purity of body and thoughts (Saucha), contentment with what you have (Santosha), disciplined use of your energy (Tapas), self-study and obversation (Swadhyaya), and surrendering and letting go (Ishwar-pranidha). You will then have the energy and ability to bring out the fundamental nature of human being (i.e. compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful) and contribute to health and happiness of society through Yama.

By bringing out the fundamentals of the nature of human being, it is like to clear the dust on the table. You have to clear the dust before you can see the decorative design of the table; similar to Yoga, you got to have a clear body and mind in order to see the nature of human being. I feel that to achieve Niyama, the first and as the fundamental step is by practising Asana and Pranayama. This is the way (with healthy life style) to clear and train both your mind and body to become pure, clean, strong, and balanced. Therefore, you will be able to have the energy to be non-violence (Ahimsa), truthfulness (Satya), non-stealing (Asteya), Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.

To put it simply, I believe everybody is only able to practise Yama when he/she fulfill Niyama. The satisfaction and wellbeing of the body which creates comfort and at ease state with themselves will lead them to bringing greater good and instill peace to the society.