Updated: Jul 31
Yoga is known as an empirical science, that is: “a science based on observation or experience.”
When we move from the external world into our yoga practice, we close our eyes to the outer world, entering into the 'inner' laboratory.
Often when we discuss spirituality in our everyday life the discussion of religion arises. While there is a cultural and religious context for Yoga, it is important to note the differences between Yoga and institutionalized religion:
theology- there is no specific way in which we need to view the universe; we can be Atheist, Christian, Buddhist or Jewish. There is no one way to practice yoga, there are many.
priesthood- there are no priests or centralized power within yoga.
hierarchy- there is no institutional hierarchy. There are only teachers who have practiced to the degree that they have become masterly of the subject of yoga, and they normally do not proclaim themselves as such. This proclamation is rather done by their students/ disciples
dogma- yoga is very scientifically based and does not have any need of belief within the process of understanding.
Yoga is based on our direct experience in the moment and as practitioners we are encouraged to enter our own discovery of the benefits of a yogic practice.
Here, in the body, we have the tools of our science: our feelings; sensations; thoughts; reason; emotions; body etc. Through our own diligent research, in our practice, we can determine the outcome of certain yogic practices within the framework of mind, emotions, body, and spirit. As well as separating ourselves as much as possible from imagination, and fanciful thinking, allowing us to have clarity, and discriminate intelligence over our findings.
The process of observing our inner world takes patience, vigilance, courage, and compassion. Sometimes we might find some shadows lurking beneath the surface that have been otherwise hidden from view of the conscious mind. The uncovering of such negative findings is a difficult scenario at the best of times, but the yogic practices can prepare us to face such phenomena with grace and understanding.
Yoga can be defined by many different people, and each might have a different answer. Such definitions often revolve around such ideas:
a system of exercises
a pathway to God realization
the gymnastics of the Baba-s of India
or a means of Moksha (freedom)
None of these definitions however fully encompass the full meaning of yoga.
In the modern world yoga is viewed as just a set of physical exercises.
Yoga means "to join, to yoke, to bring together”. This “joining” is in the context of philosophy and spirituality, and was developed upon the concept that within the human being there is a lower self (personality), and a higher self (spirit); sometimes expressed as a human and a universe; or sometimes even as the mind and heart. Although these aspects are essentially contained within the Being, they nonetheless define each other as separate phenomena. Yoga is aiming toward the development of the human being, toward the evolution of the soul toward spirit. Learn more about yoga as a holistic practice and science in our 1-day free Teacher Training.