Monday, January 30, 2012

What is Yoga?

What is “Yoga” and why is it so popular?

Yoga is about your Self. It understandably, if regrettably, suffers from the accusation or the possibility that it can be or be seen to be vanity or self-preoccupation. Understood more deeply, however, it is the need to be more in touch with one’s true Self, or inner Being.

Let’s start at the fitness center and work our way inwards. At the fitness center yoga differs from exercise in that it is slower, more deliberate, and calming. It unites therefore one’s physical self (through movement) with self-awareness. Now, most people are so restless and so reactive that they don’t even want to be calm and self-aware. So the popularity of yoga even in such an environment signals that there are many people who are willing to be more in touch with themselves, even if they need the excuse of exercise to do it.

Moving to yoga studios we see the same impulse accelerated towards the goal of self-awareness, even if but slightly. At yoga studios the teacher might chant “Aum” or do other things that are suggestive of a spiritual context and a metaphysical reality.

At Ananda, and of course many other places and teachers, this spiritual component is not at all hidden, even if the value of the hatha yoga movements (“postures”) is upper most and given priority.

So, where is this going and what is “yoga?” Why is it so popular?  Think of the image of a yoga posture. Any posture: standing, sitting, forward bend, twist, upper bend….it doesn’t matter. It signifies an individual striking a pose that suggests a state of mind with something greater than him(her) self. It’s a pose, literally; like being in a tableau and being a statue, a mime, and an actor (actress).  It symbolizes the willingness to enter into or to identify oneself with something greater than oneself. It represents the individual who offers herself into a greater reality.

Let’s put aside for the moment the celebrity yoga teachers, the beautiful people in the tights and spandex, and look at the millions who practice yoga. Think now, too, of the most used image of one in sitting pose, essentially, therefore, meditation. For there is a deeper-than-conscious understanding that true yoga is meditation, not just movement.

Yoga is the affirmation that “we are One.” It doesn’t require a theology; it doesn’t necessarily demand an explanation, though plenty are available, and history is replete with scriptural treatises on the subject. The sense of connection with all life, the feeling of contentment and love, and the surrender of ego into the Self-existent state of Being speaks for itself. 

For more information on yoga, please visit or worldwide,


Nayaswami Hriman