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Yoga Articles by Julene Louis

What is Yoga?
by JuleneLouis

Yoga is much more than a series of postures called asanas that we do at the local Yoga Studio. Yet this is our introduction to Yoga, much like Sun Sign column in the newspaper is our introduction to the deeper, vaster more complex system of Astrology.

Yoga is a philosophy, a spiritual path, and way of life that puts us in harmony with all of existence. Yoga is a sacred science of body, mind and spirit. It includes physical well being along with a spiritual quest to know the inner reality of the universe, God, the Divine, the Absolute by whatever name you wish to call it. It is an inner science aimed at experiencing consciousness. Unlike outer sciences that seek physical qualifications and quantifiable results by analyzing exterior forms, Yoga as an inner science seeks to understand the essence of things.

Yoga is the science of the Vedas that teaches that the universe is intelligent, ordered, harmonious and conscious. This intelligent conscious universe is called Purusha, which is the un-manifest, formless, Cosmic Being. The purpose of studying and practicing yoga is to cultivate the mind as a vehicle that can realize the Cosmic Being within us. Its philosophy is one of understanding the universal laws and seeing all things as sacred parts of one greater consciousness or Purusha. Our inner connection to that pure consciousness is Atman. Nature and all matter of the manifest universe is given shape by Prakriti and experienced through the senses. Our inner connection to our outer desires, ambitions, and attachments to form is Ahamkara, the false self or ego. Yoga asks us to see deeper into nature and all manifest things, including ourselves - to see the true nature of reality, the essence behind the form; to dispel the dualistic illusions of sensory reality (illusions of maya); to look beyond our ego to the witnessing consciousness; to aim for the self-realization of our true nature that is the same as the true nature of the universe.

Yoga includes asanas (postures, sun salutation), pranayama (breath work), mantra (chanting), ritual, contemplation and meditation. These are all tools for developing a higher consciousness and self-realization as the spiritual understanding of our inner most self. Yoga means “union.” The ultimate aim of Yoga is to reconnect to a state of oneness with the divine as our deepest nature, the part of us that is higher divine consciousness. Yoga is not concerned with the ego and its needs, desires and ambitions. These are fleeting things that offer only temporary material fulfillment. Yoga is concerned with our ultimate well-being on the physical, psychological and spiritual levels. The tools of Yoga are designed to help us cultivate an awareness that reaches beyond time and space via the divine self within (Atman).

In this sense Yoga is also a path to god-realization as much as it is self-realization. Yet Yoga is not about belief in God. It is about experiencing the supreme intelligent organizing consciousness as the true nature of reality that exists inside each of us and yet simultaneously pervades the entire universe. This is quite a different way to looking at god than the western mind is used to. This is because Yoga is not a religion. It is a spiritual discipline, a way of life, a way of thinking and being. Yoga offers many paths, tools and techniques that allow us to have a personal spiritual practice. This best enables us to develop a direct experience with the higher truth of consciousness in a way that resonates with our own mind and heart.

References: Yoga the Greater Tradition, Frawley, David, Mandala Publishing, 2008