Yoga has a lot to offer us. Through the practice of yoga, we gain physical and spiritual strength, and we enrich ourselves through a community of people and ideas. Yoga can also surprise us, giving us benefits we never expected. There’s so much involved in the practice of yoga, it’s easy to forget that yoga is rooted in a philosophy packed with lessons for us to learn.
Yoga philosophy is complex, and grounded in a history that has centuries of refinement and antiquity shaping it. Because of that, there’s a wide array of possibilities to the ways yoga philosophy applies to our lives. With the huge amount of information available surrounding yoga philosophy, it can be intimidating to jump in and explore the depths. So, in order to help break it down, I have distilled some basic parts of the philosophy that have benefitted me in my personal yoga journey.
1. Consciousness is key.
Yoga is about strengthening the body, but through practice, we also strengthen the mind. We bring ourselves to a state of consciousness—we become attentive to how we move, how we react, and how we hope to evolve. As our yoga training continues, that consciousness becomes innate. We continue to check in with ourselves, but the times we have to remind ourselves to perform the check-in become fewer and further between. We become aware of our growth over time, making sure the molding of our bodies and minds is continuously moving in the direction we want it to. This is purusha, the first component of yoga reality that allows us to maintain a system within ourselves. We experience purusha when we focus inward and gain strength through our personal awareness.
2. Mind and body work together.
Prakriti, which works with purusha, is the other component of yoga reality. This is where we accept that we are a whole person. While yoga is an exercise for the body, it is also an exercise for the spirit. How we are feeling—both emotionally and physically—affects not only our day, but our lives. We can keep this part of yoga philosophy entwined in our practice as we strive to improve our mind/body balance.
3. There is no perfect in yoga.
Yoga is a practice, and that means as yogis we accept that we are striving not for perfection, but to be constantly improving. By accepting that we are working to better our selves and that it’s a never-ending journey, we give ourselves the gift of not having to be perfect. Yoga teaches us that our expectations of who we want to be are positive goals—but that the journey needs to be the ultimate goal, not the destination.
By accepting that we are working to better our selves and that it’s a never-ending journey, we give ourselves the gift of not having to be perfect.
4. There is no ‘right’ in yoga either.
This one isn’t literal—there are certainly correct ways to do poses and salutations. This part of yoga philosophy is applied to our journey toward enlightenment. There is no right way to approach that journey. As we embrace exploration through our practice, we need to recognize the personal nature of how yoga applies to each and every one of us. In accepting that yoga is an individual journey for us all, we make space for the philosophy to teach us the lessons that are most necessary for each of us personally.
5. Yoga is rooted in balance.
We refer to yin and yang often in the yoga world, but truly knowing how these concepts apply to our lives can really improve our practice. By regularly coming to the mat, we utilize both yin and yang to advance and grow. Yoga helps us discern between the times when we should push ourselves, and the times we should hold back and recover. This is a marrying of both our emotional and physical needs, and striving to balance those within ourselves—when sometimes they feel as if they are at war. Yoga can give us the ability to find calm and truth while also strengthening our bodies.
Yoga philosophy applies to our lives in a variety of ways. The philosophy itself is complex, but also accessible for anyone interested in trying to integrate some of its lessons into their lives. As we seek to better ourselves physically through coming to the mat, we are also making space for our own spiritual betterment. The philosophy behind the practice can help us with that, as long as we’re willing to welcome it into our lives.