What is common to all forms of yoga

A few posts back, I mentioned that the fundamentals of yoga are very old — take your pick how old, but for ease’s sake, we’ll go with the 5,000 year count that seems pretty popular.

You can spend some time searching around the Internet to find those who disagree with this idea. Often, they tend to focus on the asana side of things, which in its calisthenics version is maybe closer to 150 years old.

But we know yoga does not equal asana, alone.

During our weekend Moksha workshop at Ashtanga Yoga new York, Eddie Stern talked about how Patanjali put existing strands of yoga philosophy into a systematic, understandable form — the sutras, of which we’re all so familiar. (More to come on Robert Moses’ Vedanta 101 and other talks. We can only share it all so quickly.) These strands are there, older, in texts like the Ramayana, the Mahabhrata and parts of the Vedas, for instance.

And as Eddie pulled the threads together, he mentioned that all forms of yoga share a similar “viewpoint on reality,” a commonality that — and this is me building upon what he said — I think you could say might be a way to identify whether something is “yoga” or not: the focusing and concentrating of the mind toward samadhi. It is a particular type of concentration, Eddie said, in which “your mind needs to be where you are when you are doing that thing.”

Yoga is a tool to teach you to be in your being. It is about efforts toward calming and clarity. Interestingly, that doesn’t explicitly include religion or Hindu gods, although for Patanjali the “ishta devata” and God are key elements.

But they aren’t necessarily shared across yogas; what is is the peeling away of the layers of confusion as one seeks self-knowledge and understanding. (Those are my words, not Eddie’s.)

This is something we’re still reflecting upon; and remember a guiding principle of the weekend, as Bobbie already highlighted: “These are just postulations for the purpose of enquiry.”

Oh, and as an aside, this piece — on activist investors and the auction house Sotheby’s, mentions Ashtanga and Mysore. And getting there in a Gulfstream.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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