Part 2 of “How Do You Qualify Yoga?”
In my previous post, I noted ten points expounded by, the prolific scholar and mystic, Georg Feuerstein on determing “authentic yoga”. I acknowledged these may be controversial; however, they are an interesting platform from which to discuss various aspects of Yoga Philosophy.
Starting out with even the concept of, “Yoga Philosophy”, I often feel fractured. On one hand, I’m thankful to drive around and read all of the bumper stickers which read, ” I Love Yoga”. However, it breaks my heart that most of them are probably unaware that asana and Yoga are not synonymous.
I must backtrack a bit; I have had the great karma to only know Yoga and spirituality to be synonymous. My first encounter with Yoga was as my previous incarnation (in this lifetime) as a devotee of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.
The friends that introduced me to the Siddha Yoga Tradition were sadhakas. Furthermore, in Siddha Yoga asana was presented in the context of being an adjunctive practice.
Ironically, it was my disillusion with Siddha Yoga that brought me into the world of asana as a focus. I left Siddha Yoga because I wanted a personal relationship with my guru– it could not give me that. I explore Sivananda who presented beautiful asana sequences and techniques in the context of Raja Yoga–enlightenment was still the goal. Then, a desire began to arise to know my body more deeply. Asana opened something up that had been blocked. But, my focus moved from knowing the center of consciousness to knowing the center of anna-maya-kosha. I began to study with Iyengar teachers and learn about alignment.
It is important for me to emphasize– this is my experience. It in NOT my critique on the merit or validity of other traditions! Do not read into this what is not there…
This is where my personal Great Schism happened. I went from being a seeker to a posture technician. Although, I have no regrets. I must admit I was distracted. I was allured by the mystique of alignment, angles, and biomechanics. I was fascinated by the improvements my clients experience in their health. All of these are wonderful fringe benefits to a sincere Yoga practice.
Again, I must restate, these are amazing occurrences. But, the goal of Yoga is, as I’ve mentioned in numerous previous posts, is Yoga. Union.
Flexible hamstrings do not bring you Union. Lower blood pressure does not bring you Union. Standing on your head does not bring you Union. It does not mean that they aren’t wonderful.
If you still identify with your body, if you still identify with your career path, if you still identify with worldliness, then you have not attained Yoga.
It is not a judgement. It’s not an assessment of worth or value. Its not saying that we are good or bad if we have not attained the state. Most of us haven’t. In fact, many would argue that the reason we’re in a body is because we haven’t attained this state. Or, at least not permanently.
If the goal of your asana practice is to help you meditate so that you can attain Yoga, then the asana is part of sadhana. If its not, then its something else. That’s fine, too. Even the goal of Hatha Yoga is Yoga!
The fact is, Yoga practices are about completely deconstructing our false identities so we are no longer confused about what we are and what we are not. Once we know this, then we can decide what that is. Once we know this, we are no longer chained to the constructs of conventionality. Once we know this, which I stress as being experiential not conceptual, then we are free.