Understanding the Philosophy and Purpose of the Yoga Practice
Yoga is the art and science of living connected. Originating in India, and first found in Hindu scriptures, Yoga is a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between your mind, your body, and your surroundings. The fact that Yoga was found in scriptures has led to a misunderstanding that it is a part of religion. However, it is not a religion itself. Hinduism used Yoga as a way to be more deeply connected to the religion.
What is the purpose of yoga?
According to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1.2 . Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha), yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind; it is a path meant to help you understand your true self and the purpose of your existence. The term "Yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit root "YUJ," meaning "to join" or "to yoke" or "to unite." The aim of Yoga is self-realization, to overcome suffering, in turn leading to "the state of liberation." I know that it seems like an enormous undertaking, but in order to be happy, you must first understand why you are anything but happy.
As we embark on the practice of Yoga we realize that the journey, much like life, is filled with ups and downs. The ego mainly causes the journey to be happy as we progress and frustrating as progress becomes slower (all happens to teach us a lesson of course). Through web, pictures, and social media we have become aware of what a Yoga pose should be like or look like. However as we begin to practice, we realize that our bodies may not depict the “traditional” way the pose looks like on magazines and TV. As humans, this allows our ego to come into play in the form of judgement. We begin to tell ourselves that if we do not look like that we must not be doing it right or if we practice for a while and do not achieve what our predetermined expectations were, then we judge ourselves as not good enough or failing.
When we start to dive down deep into the purpose of the practice and begin to release our ego’s expectation, only then can we truly be in Yoga (regardless of what the poses look like). The purpose of Yoga is to help you unlock better versions of yourself by allowing you the space to reflect on what is not what is expected. When we allow ourselves the space to become aware of our bodies, our minds, our habits and our preconceptions, only then can we start accepting what is and embarking on a journey of becoming better versions of ourselves. When we start to understand that our differences are as apparent outward as they are inward then we can understand that the journey of Yoga is a journey of the self and is as individual as we are.