Philosophy of Yoga

The term yoga is an ancient one deriving from Sanskrit, originally from a proto-Indo-Iranian word yáwgas (team, yoke) and even more archaic proto-Indo-European word yewg (to join, yoke, tie together). When the common westerner hears the word yoga, he/she is likely stricken by visions of skinny, stretching, robed monks, silently posturing in abstract positions. What many do not realize, however, is that yoga applies to many different techniques, practices, and traditions. Additionally, many people practice yoga without being conscious of it, as it is more associated with purpose and action than it is with pure movement. The technical definition of the word means “a spiritual practice or teaching that aims to master the body, mind, or spirit.” In this context, anyone with extreme mastery within these fields of life is a practitioner of yoga, as long as this practice is intended and directed towards the positive development of mind, body, or spirit.

One could say that some sort of belief in the divine must be associated with this practice, as material mastery and purely mechanical operations do not seem to qualify as yoga without a higher purpose which one practices yoga in honor of. Mastery without purpose is near worthless, and likewise, purpose without a form of mastery is fantasy.

The channels or techniques of yoga are endless in spectrum, as one can do many things, such as the classic forms of stretching and meditation we commonly associate with yoga and yogis. Martial arts, physical exercise, hiking, art, music, crafting, writing, and most forms of creative or conscious repetitive action are all forms of yoga. If the action is meant to help the operative transcend or control body and consciousness, then it is fair to say that it would fall under the loose definition of the word yoga. In a way, every act in life could be considered yoga, if applied to them sacred and divine context.  

Yoga, through a resurrection and travel through linguistic history, appears to have a common theme in joining together, bringing into union, or “yoking.” Through this union, which could very well be seen mirrored in the alchemical schools of the west, creates, manipulates, and masters man’s position in the cosmos. The yogi, through yoga, connects, joins, and unifies intention and purpose into an action. He translates physical movement into a metaphysical act of devotion. If we look at the linguistic “criteria” for yoga, thus far, we can safely say that if our chosen practice aids in our self-mastery, our path of ascension or dharma, then we successfully practice yoga. If you achieve mastery over your technique, this is what it means to be a yogi.

Don’t Be Easily Polarized

We should always have unshakable convictions, laws, and morals. However, we shouldn’t place ourselves willingly into any particular ideological box. These terms, theories and identities are too minute, small, and insufficient to attach ourselves too without limiting our growth and development. 

The Sanskrit term “Madhyamāpratipada” describes this phenomenon, meditation, or act of non-polarization in the practitioner, essentially meaning “The Middle Way.”

Many people are familiar in some regard to this concept. It’s been reworded and reworked countless times in countless traditions.

But, for those who aren’t familiar with this concept, I will do my best to summarize it in simple language. 

The “Middle Way” theorizes that while extremes are valid points of view and exist for a reason, they should be avoided by most, if not all spiritual aspirants or those looking to live a practical life. 

Of course, like the Hagalaz rune teaches, sometimes extreme measures must be taken to change a situation or element, but they cannot be practiced or embodied full time if one wishes to achieve samsara, enlightenment, nirvana etc…

We are advised to not delve too deep into the material world of sense-pleasure, as well as to not become to entranced in self-deprecating asceticism. The only reason a person should fall to one side or the other is to re-align and re-balance themselves onto this middle path. That is, of course, if one is conscious and aware that they have fallen out of balance.

The idea is that if we attach ourselves to one side of an idea, excluding the other, we will always face an antithesis regarding the same concept or thought. A type of cognitive dissonance of possibilities. 

Some might be familiar with this concept as mirrored in Greek philosophy under the title of “The Golden Mean…” 

Therefore, by taking the “Middle Way,” we leave no room for alternative or opposite thought or action. It simply becomes “the way” in which all beings “ought” to exist. In short, there is no possible opposite to the middle, so it must be the one true way or “dharma.”

The Neuroscientist Sam Harris touches upon this concept in his book “The Moral Landscape.” Stating that we can scientifically measure and calculate the ways humans “ought” to live.

This practice absorbs into one’s own dharma, duty, and daily rites, becoming one with the Eightfold Path of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. 

Strive to detach yourself from labels, identities, and denominations of any kind. They are at an incongruence with freedom of mind, body, and spirit.