What IS Yoga, really?

Newsflash: Most of what is being hawked out there to the general public as Yoga is definitely NOT Yoga. As one of my teachers says, at most it may be a more sattvic (balanced) form of exercize. At the very least it is the gross misappropriation of a philosophy that dates back thousands of years for commercial gain.

People sell things called “yoga” because all human beings experience dukkha (suffering/frustration) of differing kinds and Yoga is an organic pain-killer for the body-mind. Many people want to make an honest, healthy attempt to alleviate dukkha and maximize sukkha (unshakeable happiness, unalterable bliss), so they go “do yoga.” They buy the mat, towel, pants, top, special grippy-bottomed toe socks. They pack themselves like sardines into overheated boxes, sit on plastic rectangles and twist themselves into the varying shapes the person leading the class tells them to do. Unfortunately what is being sold to them is “stuff-realization” rather than Self-realization, which is what Yoga teaches. What they are being taught to practice is not Yoga and because of that, when they meet up with the obstacles to Yoga, which is part of the roadwork that has to get done on the spiritual path, they’ll stop “doing yoga” and go on to the next thing.

I am most fortunate that very early on in my practice I realized that what I was being sold as Yoga lacked depth and authenticity and I went on a mission to find a teacher who was connected to the teachings and their source, in India. Eventually, I started studying those texts myself and learning directly from the teachers in India.

Over the years Yoga has shown me how it is a true “sorrow-killer” of all kinds, to quote Prashant Iyengar. No matter what is happening for me, or the world in which I exist, I abide in Yoga. It is my hope that this blog becomes a place where you learn what Yoga is, so when you see or hear something being called “yoga” you know when it's real or not.

As the Shanti Mantra from the Upanishads tells us, Yoga is both the means and the end:

“Lead us from the unreal to the real,

Lead us from darkness to light,

Lead us from the death to imperishability.

OM. Peace. Peace. Peace.”

*That dukkha is what connects each one of us to the other. More on that subject in my next blog post!