Why Yoga Is So Misunderstood

Yoga has come a long way from its roots in the east. As it has become more popular in the west teachers have added their own twist – both literally & figuratively. In the process of becoming so widespread, however, it often gets misunderstood by both teachers and practitioners.

Yoga is a way of life, the uniting of the body, mind and spirit. Its real purpose is not just to become physically fit or mentally relaxed but also to deepen our own spirituality, enabling us to be more caring and aware, ultimately leading to self-realization. It is about making friends with our world, true inner happiness, and having a clear mind that is free from delusion.

Developed thousands of years ago, yoga has many different aspects: ethics, discipline, relaxation, service, meditation, devotion, and knowledge, as well as movement, in order to develop every aspect of our being and bring awakening. And it is in some of these other areas that we are seeing a lack of awareness, real misuse, and even abusive behavior.

In the early days, when yoga first became known in the west, the only way to train was by going to India or by a Swami or yoga master coming from India. They were the experts who embodied the wisdom of the ancients. For instance, Ed trained at the respected Bihar School of Yoga in India in 1968, in an unbroken lineage of yoga masters. He was initiated as a Swami by Paramahamsa Satyananda, whose guru was the renown Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.

Nowadays, trainee teachers are being taught in “yoga schools” by western teachers, many, sadly, without the benefit of the traditional lineage. As a result, misunderstandings get passed on from teacher to student, in particular the idea that yoga is basically just exercise, without the addition of the rest of the teachings. For example, relaxation is sometimes included just for the last five minutes of a class, whereas the practice of yoga nidra (pratyahara), a deep, dynamic relaxation also known as yogic sleep, is traditionally practiced for at least 20-30 minutes. Similarly with dharana (concentration), and dhyana (meditation), that are rarely emphasized enough and yet are main teachings.

We went into one yoga center near us and no one there had heard of any of the ‘other’ yoga teachings, they just knew and taught hatha yoga as an exercise class. This is not unusual, but hatha is only one aspect of a rich and expansive system and these teachings are there for a reason: to develop conscious awareness.

In particular, we see yoga teachers wanting to be the most well known–my yoga, my meditation, my practice is the best. And even though the traditional methods are well proven over thousands of years, in an attempt to stand out from the crowd many create their own ‘brand’ of yoga, often loosing the essence of the original meaning. It’s gone so far that, as reported in the UK Daily Mail: “Babies [are] left screaming in terror as they are swung around head of ‘baby yoga’ guru who claims it is good for them.”

Being in the role of a teacher is a position laden with responsibility. As notoriety grows we see how easily the ego can get involved and how deluding power can become. Gone are the teachings of yama and niyama, instructions on how to live an ethical and caring life through practicing harmlessness (ahimsa), being truthful, not being greedy, or indulging in addictions, as well as the importance of self-reflection so that we become aware of our own habits and mental tendencies.

Anyone can be a teacher as long as we choose that person to guide us, which doesn’t mean that person has practiced all of the teachings, or is living a yogic life. Those that have tasted the beauty of yoga and embodied the depth, breadth, and full intent of its different forms could not harm, use or abuse another. They will have recognized the beauty within themselves and be able to bring that out in their students. There is really no true yoga without love. A teacher with a loving heart is like a precious jewel.

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64 comments

Swami P.
Swami P.6 years ago

Anyone who truly loves Yoga will take the time and consideration to first find out what is Yoga. Real Yoga are the progressive teachings and practices of Hinduism; taught by Hindus (to anyone interested) and never for a fee.

Dharma Yoga Ashram
Classical Yoga Hindu Academy

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Swami P.
Swami P.6 years ago

Anyone who truly loves Yoga will take the time and consideration to first find out what is Yoga. Real Yoga are the progressive teachings and practices of Hinduism; taught by Hindus (to anyone interested) and never for a fee.

Dharma Yoga Ashram
Classical Yoga Hindu Academy

SEND
Amanda V.
Amanda V6 years ago

I used to go to a 6:30 am Saturday morning class. It was the most envigorating yoga I've ever done! and I haven't been able to find that same time slot since :{ oh well. 7:00 pm on Tuesday isn't terrible either.... :P

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bharathi A.
bharathi A6 years ago

I love Yoga

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bharathi A.
bharathi A6 years ago

I love Yoga

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bharathi A.
bharathi A6 years ago

I love Yoga

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bharathi A.
bharathi A6 years ago

I love Yoga

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bharathi A.
bharathi A6 years ago

I love Yoga

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bharathi A.
bharathi A6 years ago

I love Yoga

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bharathi A.
bharathi A6 years ago

I love Yoga

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