The philosophy behind yoga

by Sabu Chaitanya
Sabu Chaitanya is offering a week of free yoga classes

By learning yoga you can make changes in your health and habits, improve your energy level and make you feel better throughout the day. Others can sense the improvement in your energy and they will feel more comfortable in your presence. It can make your face shine and your eyes sparkle.

Yoga, or yoga shastra (science), is part of an ancient philosophical system from India that is thousands of years old. Yoga literally means “connection with the Ultimate.” 

One of the ways to achieve the connection is through Jñana Yoga. This involves self-inquiry through contemplation and self-affirmation. Another way is Hatha Yoga, which is the kind most people think of when they hear the word yoga. This involves physical exercise, breathing exercise and body cleansing, but the most popular focus in the west is the physical.

As you stretch your muscles your body structure begins to look better. Your posture improves. Many people experience weight loss as their muscles become stronger. But also there is improvement in blood circulation and a stimulation of the endocrine system.

All of these physical improvements are really just side effects of your daily practice. The main purpose of yoga is self-mastery. By improving self-control and self-confidence you will begin on the road to finding the ultimate truth. That is the basic philosophy behind yoga.

Swami Vishnudevananda, my teacher, simplified yoga into five points. These are proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, positive thinking and meditation. He compared these five points to what is needed to run a car. Proper exercise is the lubrication, proper breathing is the battery, proper relaxation is the cooling system, proper diet is the fuel (fresh nutritious food), and positive thinking and meditation is the driver.

The best way to learn yoga is through the yoga intensive. Just go for it. The yoga intensive is a committed way of learning and most of the effect of yoga can be attained only through intensive practice. The reason is because we are overpowering our bad habits in life by putting new habits in their place.

People are seeking joy in life, and the new habit you develop will bring that joy into your life.

Yoga practice can also help maintain good health. And prevention is better than cure. If you are sick or unwell, you may have to take leave from work and you may have to take time to heal or go to the hospital. Sickness is a waste of time. Time is health.

Vishnudevananda said, “Health is wealth. Peace of mind is happiness. Yoga shows the way.”

If you come to yoga you will feel good and feel healthy. I often hear people say they are too stiff for yoga. But who is not stiff? I have been teaching yoga for 30 years and I have never seen anybody who is not stiff. Generally you feel stiff every day in your body. The question is whether you want to take care of it or not.

Do you prefer to enjoy your stiffness or ignore the stiffness? Enjoying your stiffness will release energy and you will feel good. In the yoga class, the stiffness is not the main problem to do yoga. There is no flexibility competition. Feeling progress in your flexibility while practicing every day will motivate you to commit more into the intensive.

Another thing I hear is that people have no time to practice yoga. In a year there are twelve months, and one month of learning commitment is very significant for your life.

Yoga practice increases your energy, which is very much shareable with your family and work. Even your pet has to allow you to do yoga. Everything connected to your life has to allow you to do yoga. Your pet will also recognize your energy difference after doing yoga.

Try yoga for free

Sabu Chaitanya is teaching a free yoga week, Monday March 19 to Friday March 24.

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