WHY/WHAT IS YOGA

Yoga originally is a basic contribution to South Asian philosophy and a basic Ethical Theory (in contrast to familiar theories). The systematic explanation of this philosophy is found in Patanjali's Yoga Sūtra. Yoga contrasts two approaches to living:

 

  • influencing your personal world to make room for people who are free not to be programmed and dominated by their environment, OR,  

  • simply believing and buying everything you experience as a matter of self definition (Yoga Sūtra I.2-4). 

In practice this amounts to three practices: 

  • Devotion to the ideal of being a person, which is something that thrives when it isn't stuck in the past, and is free to determine its own future (Īśvara praṇidhāna). 

  • The practice of challenging yourself so you aren't stuck in your past (tapas)

  • And the practice of owning your own choices that determine your future (svādhyāya)  (Yoga Sūtra  II.1).

 

In this foundational text, Patañjali sets out Eight Limbs to aid in the practice of yoga, and one of them is āsana (or posture). Due to colonialism, the philosophy of Yoga, which historically plays a key role in anti-colonial movements of diversity, is dropped out and everyone focuses on posture---to the point that Yoga organizations that regulate teacher trainings focus on āsana instruction. But to really get the most out of postural practices, practitioners have to understand postural exercise as part of the practice of yoga, and that means understanding the philosophy.  Yoga properly understood is how we live life well, and exercises of body, breathing and mind are how we take back space for ourselves in the word. 

Yoga derivatively has been incorporated in many contrary South Asian philosophies and practices, including Buddhism and Jainism. Whereas in the Western tradition there is a general denial of the reality of Yoga as a serious philosophical alternative settled and accepted ways of living, in South Asia, people were open to the philosophical question of how to live and what to aim for, including Yoga. 

The word "yoga" also has a further derivative, non philosophical meaning that has to do with joining. 

 

Yoga Philosophy (YACEP, CYA- RYSGOLD) is by Dr. Shyam Ranganathan: professional moral philosopher, translation expert, translator of the Yoga Sūtra (Penguin 2008), scholar of South Asia and DE&I, over 50 peer reviewed publications, and yogi. Dr. Ranganathan is member of the Department of Philosophy and York Center for Asian Research, York University.  

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