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Yoga Is Not What You Think

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Yoga Is Not What You Think

Many years ago Ed lived at the renowned Bihar School of Yoga in India where he became a Swami, a yogic monk. He spent time in silence and trained in many various aspects of yoga. He soon realized that yoga is far more than just a series of postures or mental exercises but is a system that guides every aspect of life, from the way we walk and talk to a state of inner freedom.

In other words, yoga is not just learning how to stand on our head but is, as Swami Satchidananda taught, actually learning how to stand on our feet. What was most profound was seeing how, without love, yoga is dry; that unless we have an open heart and compassion then there is no true yoga. We can know and read all the teachings, the sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita, but that is not enough to fully awaken.

When we complete the journey to our own heart, we will find ourselves in the hearts of everyone else —Father Thomas Keating, in Be The Change.

Last year we considered writing a book called Can Yoga Save The World? But when we discussed it with other people many were quite puzzled and asked: how can physical postures save the world? Which made us realize that modern-day yoga has, to a large extent, lost touch with the magnificence and breadth of its original teachings. As a fellow Yogi said, “Unfortunately in the West it does seem that yoga is forgetting its roots and becoming just another cool new exercise.”

Isaac, the manager at our local 24 Hour Fitness told us that people think yoga is just sitting in a room and humming and, more importantly, that men won’t go to a class as they think it is a woman’s thing. This reminded Deb of when we were teaching in India and the participants were all men. They were very surprised to find a woman teaching the class, as in India there are far more men who practice.

There are various forms of yoga, just as there are different aspects to our nature, with a wealth of teachings for each form. Here we describe the five main branches of yoga, as well as Tantra yoga, which little is known about and is the most misunderstood. The purpose of all the forms is to enable the practitioner to develop a balanced life through a healthy body and mind, deep inner peace and, ultimately, to realize their true nature. For instance, through Bhakti yoga we awaken universal love and compassion; Karma yoga is the path of selfless action, where we surrender our own needs to the joy of service; and Jnana yoga is the path of philosophy and reflection, where we use the intellect in order to transcend the intellect.

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Ed and Deb Shapiro

You can learn more in our book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and others. Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at:


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1:14AM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

Thank you

12:39PM PDT on Jun 10, 2011

thank you very interesting article

3:56AM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Thank you. I'm considering which yoga to practice. My teacher used to take the yoga class and finish with a little meditation and during the meditation she would spray some light scented oils around which I found pleasant and comforting.

10:07PM PDT on Oct 21, 2010

India has truly a blessing to the world by offering yoga to everyone.

9:41PM PDT on Oct 21, 2010

I found lot of relevant information on true Indian yoga that is at
might help !!

11:41AM PDT on Oct 15, 2010

I would try some yoga exercises but I don't expect myself to become a "raja of yoga" or whatever xD

11:46AM PDT on Oct 2, 2010

Sat Nam.

1:47PM PDT on Oct 1, 2010

thank you.

3:08AM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

nice article!

3:03AM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

interesting article

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