The Purpose and Meaning of Yoga
by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
In the modern world we are confused by the true meaning of yoga.
Yoga is not primarily just an exercise practice. It’s not just spiritual philosophy. It’s not just a diet pattern, and it’s not just about focusing on pretty Hindu gods. It encompasses some of those things, but there’s much more to it than that.
The meaning of yoga is a conceptual framework within which we want to try to live our life in a pure and pristine way without causing harm to ourselves and to others. And so the physical practice of the exercises is just one aspect of it. Those exercises that help us tune our bodies so that we can then tune our minds.
Of course meditation, diet, and doing things that are helpful to others in the world are all part of yoga, but there’s even more to it than that. Yoga is an idea that entails that we learn to live again in harmony with nature. Yoga requires compassion to all living things.
Yoga is not “owned” by the far eastern Indian people. It is owned by any creature that can live in the moment, be in accordance with nature, and practice compassion. There have been many clans and tribes of people throughout history who understood the meaning of yoga.
In the physical yoga practice each posture doesn’t have a final destination or one single purpose. You might start beginning with the idea of becoming limber or strong, and then one day you may practice a posture with the idea of meditating on compassion. You might start a posture standing upright and as time goes by you learn to bend over completely and touch your head and your face to the floor, and from that point you keep advancing, advancing, and advancing. The purpose is always changing. Do not become locked into one posture or one pose that you consider to be perfect.
Now going back to philosophy. John this should be in this chapter of the yoga book and perhaps it should make its way into the book on addiction:
For the purpose of engaging in some new behavior patterns, I want to ask you to practice an exercise for 30 days. Start off by saying to yourself, “Everything that’s happening outside of my body is fictional and was made up by my mind. It’s all happening inside my mind. And even though it feels extremely real, the feeling of extreme reality is also happening inside my mind. It doesn’t happen outside. There is no outside. It’s just what I create.”
Then, coming from a place of compassion, direct your consciousness in such a way that you see yourself as being everything outside of yourself. Think of the things going on outside of you as being a part of you. Consider that the different things going on around you can be programmed in your mind, that they’re happening inside your mind, and that you are everything and everyone.
That doesn’t mean that you have control over everyone and everything. It just means that you have to let things be. You have to tell yourself that you’re not going to try to control anyone. You’re not going to hurt anyone. You are just going to focus on what’s happening inside of your mind. You are going to try to make everything that you see seem better. You are going to consider every person that you judge as being yourself. Picture everyone you see as yourself and treat them as you would treat yourself.