Yoga :: Philosophy
Let's talk about yoga.
If you missed last week, I teach the yogas on Sunday evenings and so it only makes sense to me that I share yoga with you in the mornings of this, the holiest day of the week. Just kidding, everyday is holy. And, if you don't already know, yoga is a huge part of my life - not just the physical of class, but the philosophy of it. So Sundays are days for sharing yoga.
In case you are unaware, yoga has a much deeper history than a heated room with bamboo floors and mirrors. It has been a philosophy, a lifestyle that can be tracked back to ancient times. It includes a holistic view weaving together ethics, wellness and medicine, spirituality - yogic texts are some of the oldest texts we have discovered, the oldest written words. Born in the same region as some of the larger religions in the world such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism - yoga has been tied to each of those spiritual practices and more. Like so many things, it can also be separated out as it's own entity, but to deny its Vedic roots would be a disservice to it's history.
More than just postures yoga is its own philosophy and lifestyle. Raja Yoga, which western yoga (primarily asana) is derived from, has eight pathways or limbs. Asana, what most of us know in Western culture with our Lululemon and Hot Yoga, is just one. Another is Yamas, restraints like non-violence and truth telling. Or Niyamas, observances like contentment and cleanliness. Pranyama is breath control, Pratyahara is turning inward and self introspection, Dharana is about concentration, Dhyana is meditation, Samadhi is oneness. We will go into all those in more depth later, but that's just a brief overview for you.
Eastern philosophies, like every philosophy, can have their dark sides. But they also have an amazing potential to look at the world without preconceptions - many Eastern religions and practices call for a disassociation of opinion in order to better see truth. WHAT?! That is so amazing. We cannot be compassionate when we are defensive, and defensiveness comes from attachment to our opinions rather than truth.
I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let's talk about Jesus. Jesus was a historical figure who became well known for loving people deeply, without shaming or judging them. He cared for those who had been largely ignored or rejected by society and most religions. He turned hierarchy on its head and gave power to the people, to the peaceful, to the broken. Jesus had a philosophy that started a revolution, sparking change that seeped into the lives of people all over the world. He connected people through his holistic approach to ethics, wellness, and spirituality. It was less about rules and more about heart. This philosophy and/or religion became widely known as Christianity later on.
By the way, Jesus was from the Middle East and his philosophy was an Eastern one, not a Western one.
When I first started teaching yoga, there were Christians who came at me about the fact that in yoga you worship the sun. Now, that is not a true claim and you are maybe even laughing out loud, but what if it was? What if Surya Namaskar, sun salutations, were movements to worship the sun? If you weren't into that and you were a Christian and believed in One God creating the Universe - could you not contextualize that to thanking God for creating our sun? Not appropriating it by stealing its form and function while attaching a more PC Christian name to it (see: Holy Yoga), but simply contextualizing it? Allowing it's roots to remain intact, as it blooms in and through your own lens?
I'll let you answer that, because if you're even just taking a minute to consider it, it's important work.
No jokes here.
At least, not today.
Mahatma Gandhi, similarly from the heart of Vedic culture and follower of yogic teachings, famously said that he liked Christ, but did not care for Christians. But more than that, when asked about what it might take for Christianity to succeed in India he said this:
"First, I would suggest that all of you Christians live more like Jesus Christ. Second, I would suggest that you practice your Christianity without adulterating it. The anomalous situation is that most of us would be equally shocked to see Christianity doubted or put into practice. Third, I would suggest that you put more emphasis on love, for love is the soul and center of Christianity. Fourth, I would suggest that you study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people."
This is powerful stuff. If you aren't a Christian, you're probably nodding to yourself while reading this quote - possibly even if you are one, I know I was. Gandhi, like he so often did, absolutely hits at the heart of what Christians struggle with. Really, what all humans struggle with. Do we follow rules? Or do we love?
Before you bring up adulterating Christianity with yoga, let me do it for you. And we've reached what I'm really getting at here, for those of you still with me.
If two philosophies share similar if not same principles, are they actually different? Or were they simply born in different areas, built from different perspectives, and ending at the same conclusions?
Sit in that tension for awhile.
Thanks for being here, Beloveds.
If you are thinking more about this idea and want more, I strongly encourage you to ask questions and check out Stephanie Moors.
Please consider the above questions before and if you decide to answer them. This post and these ideas did not strike light a bolt of lightning and they are not causing destruction of any kind. Similarly put time and effort into your own ideas if you so choose to share them.
This is a safe space so if you respond in love, I am happy to engage with you.
If not? Your comments will be deleted.