Philosophy is something I never liked when I was in school as I found it profoundly boring and I could not relate to it in any way. Moreover, I was not motivated as it didn’t count much towards my final exams in school.
I guess that what makes the difference is to find a way to be excited about something you don’t like.
Maybe my way is that I need to study it to pass my test at the end of the course, so it’s kind of motivating enough to drop any resistance I have against it.
A good idea when writing a blog is to recap the concepts you have to study. Writing about a concept is like studying it. You have to make a little research, you can watch videos, you can find lots and lots of resources online. There was not this great deal of opportunities when I was a student in school (no, I am not an old auntie!!!). Once you drop that curtain of resistance, you will surprisingly find yourself enjoying the topic you were so reluctant to dive into.
Back to the topic of philosophy…
Yoga is not a religion, it doesn’t derive from it. Its roots derive from the word “yuj” which means “to bind”. It also means union.
The first ideas about yoga are found in the 6thcentury BCE in the Upanishads, which are philosophical Hindu texts. They record teachings which are for intellectual people such as sages, gurus, or other highly trained people.
Western philosophies considered “the self” as something disconnected from the body (dualists’ vision) or as something nothing more than the activity of the brain, so kind of non-existing (materialists).
Hinduism has a completely different position on this. It saw the body as composed of three parts.: physical, subtle (thoughts, feelings, emotions) and pure consciousness (the atman, the absolute).
Since the atman is one thing with the absolute, when we can dive deeper within ourselves, we can have an experience of being one with the reality of the universe.
Another encounter with yoga can be seen in a section of the Bhagavad-Gita, which is an ancient Hindu scripture about virtue and duty. It tells of a dialogue between Kirshna and the warrior-prince Arjuna. This scripture dates back to the 2ndcentury BCE and it sees a very loyal Arjun torn between being loyal to his duty as a warrior or loyal to his family who he was supposed to kill to respect his tasks.
The first real encounter with Yoga is in the “Yoga Sutras”, attributed to Patanjali, a philosopher who lived in the 2ndcentury BCE. Someone claims that it is a name used to refer to a group of people, but there is no real proof of that at the moment even though it is agreed that more than one person contributed to the writing of such text.
The Yoga Sutra are a set of practices to promote mental calmness and concentration. Started as a practice for those leading an ascetic life, yoga became more popular later on. Until our modern days where it spread all the way to the Western world.
I would personally define yoga as a lifestyle, religions have very strict and rigid rules, so does yoga, nevertheless it is a godless way of approaching this.
The structure offered by Yoga is set out in 8 steps called limbs of Yoga. Yama, Niyama, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.
The first two give a context for Yoga to be effectively practiced in its integrity.
- Yama, (social discipline):
Ahimsa– non violence. The way we treat ourselves is the way we treat others. Key words to this are gratitude, caring for the others.
- Satya – truthfulness. It requires integrity to life and to our own selves. The key is to be real rather than nice, be self-expressed.
- Asteya– non-stealing. On top of the obvious meaning of this there is also the concept of focusing on ourselves for satisfaction without looking for it somewhere outside of us. Avoiding self-abusing behaviors such as lack of confidence, criticism, perfection…
- Bramacharya– non-excess. It’s about not overdoing, it’s a letting go experience of the unnecessary. It’s about “walking with God”. This is often confused with celibacy.
- Aparygrapha– non-possessiveness. Non-attachment, non-greediness. Tuning into the moment. Appreciation.
- Niyama (personal disciplines):
Saucha– purity. Cleansing of body, mind and actions. Things like exercising, drinking water, fasting and keeping our closet tidy are examples of this practice
Santoshacontentment. We can never be content if we think that satisfaction comes from an external source. Be grateful.
Tapas self-discipline. Anything that helps us change leads us into either breaking down or breaking open.
Swadhydya self-study. Study about ourselves, our true identity
Ishwara pranidha surrender. There is a divine force within which drives us. Trust it.
The next three focus on controlling the body and senses
- Asana (physical postures to control the body)
- Pranayama (controlled breathing)
- Pratyahara (disengagement from the sense). Every time our mind focuses on the stimuli received through our sense we lose our connection to the inner bliss.
The last three are pure mental steps
- Dharana (being focused) focus on one idea or object and everything else disappears.
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (state of absorbed concentration) state of bliss. A no return way.
When Dharana Dhyana and Samadhi come together we have Samyama.
What we, as human beings could do, is to go on the hunt. Hunt for any kind of discrepancy between the 8 ways into the path of Yoga and our own life.
When we are on the hunt of what doesn’t work in our life, without making ourselves wrong, without blaming anyone, but with compassion, feeling a sense of being as perfect as we are, without getting overly attached to the result, focusing ourselves on what is important, by trusting the process in a calm state of mind and practicing our postures… we are doing Yoga!
Chiara G. (May 2018)