Love is the easy yoke, the discipline which removes every burden. The yoke of love is known as Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti, pure devotion, is the short cut to realization. Please don't do yoga practices without love. Love is so easy; one moment of immersion in pure love dissolves all burdens. Love immediately centers you in the heart, the dwelling place of the Supreme.
To be a true yoga master, you need to master the art of negation. That’s Patanjali’s idea, from the Yoga Sutras:
2.33 Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam
The practice of pratipaksha bhanavam prescribes that, when disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite thoughts should be brought into awareness.
It takes a good amount of logical and spiritual training to know how to approach the art of negation. It’s like when you were studying algebra, and you learned how to use the order of operations. When you are solving for x, you need to understand the operations and their inverses, and figure out where the parentheses are, to really figure out the value of x. And just like algebra, it takes a good amount of practice to do it consistently well.
It is no secret that, when we hear or read stories about people who’ve left the world (and the things which tied them to it) behind, we often recall familiar images. Some of these may be of mild-voiced gurus sitting in the lotus position under a yellow Indian sunset. Others are of ancient men with misty eyes and beards, regarded as wise sages by travelers and townspeople alike and possessing no more than a rough-spun cloth around their waists.
Students of 21st Century Transnational Postural Yoga typically begin our study with little or no theory; practice is all. As we deepen our practice, we are introduced to what we are told is “Yoga Philosophy.” Depending on the tradition we are studying, this is usually a pat genealogy; we are told that “Yoga Philosophy” is found in the Yoga Sūtras, and that the philosophy they contain is called स़ाम्ख्य, Sāmkhya, and that it is dualistic. Because Yoga is supposedly Indian, we are also likely to be introduced to some Indian religious classics: the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gītā. In the course of this, we may be told that some of these texts expound another acceptable Indian philosophical system, that of Non-Dualism (or “Monism”). And there the matter is likely to be left.
The two historical texts employed by yoga practitioners to navigate the path are the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. The former promises freedom, or “kaivalya,” from the shackles of embodied existence through the state of samadhi; the latter promises a kind of blissful transcendence of the body-mind conundrum through union with God. These two texts offer a wealth of information to all who read them and pose an important question: what kind of yoga will you practice?
To the dreadlocked, inward gazing sadhus along the burning ghats of Benares, India the ultimate purpose of yoga is not to feel sexier, healthier, and more energetic. To the sadhus, the goal of life is to escape the attachment of samsara and the lusts of the body, escape the cycle of birth and death, stop the cause of bad karma, and, finally, to awaken one’s identity with the superconscious Self, or atman.
Whether you wish to argue the validity of a text that for hundreds of years fell out of practice in India or to full-heartedly embrace its philosophy, it is hard to argue that the eight-limbed path of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras does not bring both high-value and practical purpose to one’s sadhana. Most people jump on the eight wrunged ladder of Patanjali’s Astanga yoga with asana. Wrung number three of this ladder is, after all, where the body makes its way onto the mat, assuming unfamiliar shapes and forms. These contortions and configurations begin to bring about internal changes that enable people to feel better, which serves as a fantastic motivation to continue delving deeper into the practice. But there is more to the practice than the physical focus currently en vogue.
Once the yogi has had an experience of pure consciousness, the mind continuously strives to attain, over and over again. Attunement to the universal energy of the gunas is only one piece. There is an internal landscape, at the depths of the human mind that must be analyzed, parsed, and deconstructed. This deep psychological work happens at the most subtle level, where thoughts originate and instigate our behaviors and emotions. This exploration is the path to freedom.
In the world of contemporary Western yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is revered as canon, which is to say that the yoga community accepts this collection of philosophical aphorisms as fundamental to yogic practice and as significant in the process of understanding the history of our tradition. This work, the jump-off point for many yoga philosophy conversations, is written in a unique form, characteristic of its time: the sutra.
The lineage of modern yoga is complex and confusing, even for the savviest of students. Add to this that the word yogais often used as a vague umbrella term for a wide variety of schools within Hinduism and Buddhism and practices deriving from these traditions: meditation, asana, energetic practices, sexual practices, and so on. Many of these practices find their origin in the Vedic period, thousands of years ago. With yoga’s contemporary resurgence and the interest these practices have generated, a ‘new wave’ of the thinker-philosopher-activist has emerged. While still being well steeped and grounded in the ‘classical’ philosophies, they nonetheless advocate for strong adaptations and reappropriations of the ancient texts so as to ensure their relevance for a modern practitioner. Riding the crest of this ‘new wave’ are Michael Stone and Matthew Remski.