The Philosophy of Yoga
Through the Lens of Yoga: Understanding Ourselves Better
Yoga is a series of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that originated in ancient India, aimed at quieting the mind. The poses and postures denoted by the word “yoga” were originally developed to stretch one’s muscles in order to sit in meditation longer. The goal was never—and still isn’t—competition or body sculpting. The goal is simply mindfulness and mind-body awareness, which helps us take charge and design our lives exactly the way we want them!
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for the Philosophy of Yoga: 44 mins
But before we even start doing yoga, it’s best to slowly welcome the body and mind into the practice. This was a theory proposed in an ancient Indian text called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In this series of guidelines or “sutras” compiled by a sage named Patanjali, he focused on discipline and self-study called “ashtanga yoga,” or our Eight-Limbed Path, which we will discuss in the next module. It’s basically a set of ethics for how to be a good person, like a personal code. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is known as one of the fundamental texts of classical yoga philosophy. Non-violence, truthfulness, and cleanliness of the mind and body are a few of the ideas named in the text.
Honoring the Light in You
The word namaste may already be familiar to you. It’s often spoken aloud as a blessing to open and close traditional yoga classes. It’s both a greeting of “hello” and “goodbye,” said while doing a subtle bow forward. Namaste means “the consciousness in me honors the consciousness in you,” or “the light in me honors the light in you.” Beautiful, right? But how comfortable are you honoring your own light? Let’s break it down and learn how to really honor the light in you.
In Sanskrit, nama means to “be amazed by.” If the journey starts with being in awe of the self, what can you appreciate about being you? Which talents, tendencies, and traits make you “awe”some? Can you sit for a moment in awe of what you’re meant to do in this life?
Namaste is also a gesture, or a mudra. In Buddhism and Hinduism, placing your hands and fingers into a symbolic position has sacred meaning. To place your hands in namaste, bring your palms together at your chest with your thumbs towards you. Bringing your thumbs close to your heart symbolizes honoring the self, tipping your hands outward with the pinkies dropped forward symbolizes honoring the other person. Ultimately, we can only be amazed by, honor, bow to and awaken to each other’s light if we fully accept our own light. Clearly defining and understanding your personal code can help with that.
Be here now.
What’s Your Personal Code?
If we desire to take charge and design our lives to be exactly the way we want them, then we first need to know our own beliefs. The problem is, we rarely examine where our thoughts originate. Our biology, the environment in which we were raised, and the beliefs of the people around us create our mindsets: the way we see the world, think about the world, and ultimately behave in the world. As we grow, we start to notice if our current mindsets agree with the beliefs we grew up with or not, and change them if necessary to better reflect our current values.
We can begin to develop our personal codes by self-reflecting and building self-trust. Noticing what we need, fulfilling those needs, and therefore responding in a healthy way to all of life’s ups and downs will go a long way in developing that trust. When we have the ability to care for ourselves emotionally and physically, this leads to faith in ourselves: an unwavering knowledge that we can rely on or trust in our own beliefs.
External influences, such as the people and things we surround ourselves with, also impact our mindsets. Even if we have a steady foundation of faith and self-trust, and we are able to stay connected to who we are, it is still easy to be influenced by the world around us. The company we keep and the environments we inhabit can directly affect the way we think and act. This is why it is so important to be proactive about anti-bullying. Once we understand the damage it does, we can stand up against it wholeheartedly. Whenever possible, we should choose company that is honest, loyal, and loving, and environments that are safe and supportive.
Yoga is simply a practice of self-reflection that continually asks the following questions: Is this real? Is it my truth? Why does this matter to me? Who can I defer to? Who will guide me through self-reflection growing forward? We must be able to have faith in ourselves and others to be able to live our lives in accordance with our personal codes.
Diving Into the Design of Life
In Hindu philosophy, the concept of dharma is part of the answer to the question humans have been asking themselves for millennia: “Why are we here?” According to dharma, each and every one of us is here to find and fulfill our duty and purpose. This is an essential part of the philosophy of yoga.
Connecting to our passion, strengths, and dreams through yoga allows us to design and lead a life in accordance with dharma. This helps us to build empathy and leads to a connection with the universal consciousness, which lets us better understand the circumstances of other people. It helps to regulate our nervous systems, encouraging a feeling of safety and allowing the mind to open and absorb what it is learning.
Take a Minute
- List three people from your circle of friends and family that you admire. What qualities or actions of theirs would you like to adopt in your own life?
- If you had a billion dollars that could only be used to improve the world and make people’s lives better, what would be three things you would spend it on?
- What do you dream of doing? Who do you want to be? What gives you butterflies and excites you when you think about it?
- What do you stand for? What is the philosophy of your life?
Let Learning be Part of Your Dharma
Have you ever become so absorbed in a book that you forgot where you were, or looked up something online and ended up going down a 20-minute internet rabbit hole because the information was just so interesting? Time stops when we are completely absorbed in what we are learning — we enter into a flow state (described in Module 6: Me and My Brain) of laser-like focus where we’re able to understand and absorb so much more information. Imagine if this were possible for everything you are learning in school, even the subjects you don’t like. That’s what we at Conscious Classroom hope will happen with the use of our daily yoga practices.
Ram Dass, a New Age western yoga philosopher, encouraged us to be witness to our thoughts. He believed that perpetually thinking about the future or the past traps us in thought patterns that are damaging and misleading. Understanding our minds is understanding ourselves, which can show us a way out of suffering.
Unfortunately, we have “monkey minds.” It’s a funny name the Buddha used to describe the overactivity of a mind that enjoys swinging freely from thought to thought, like a monkey on vines. It swings between the past and the future with minimal care for the present moment. It is unsettled and distracted, always acting on a whim. However, a monkey mind can be calmed, centered, and grounded with breath.
Just as we use the breath to settle through a tough pose, we use it to settle through a tough moment. We learn to respond with our skill and wit to do the next right thing. When we slow down our monkey minds with simple breathwork exercises, we can grasp more clearly what the next step is. This clarity will bring understanding and authenticity to our actions. By slowing down and turning inward, we learn about ourselves, our qualities, our strengths, and our continued ability for self-study.
Doing one yoga pose per day helps us understand the strength of our muscles and the stability of our bones. Not only does it encourage a strong, healthy, mobile body, but it also supports our quality of life. The physical practice of yoga helps keep our body healthy, and the emotional and mental training improves our relationships with ourselves, others, and the world around us.
We created Conscious Classroom as a platform for lifelong learning on how to become your best self. Yoga is often translated as “union.” In the case of the philosophy of yoga, being present in the moment, united with whatever we are doing, is a gift to ourselves and to all of humanity.
Awake. Aware. Align. Activate.
The 4 A’s Philosophy of Conscious Classoom.
When we wake up in the morning, the first thing we do is open our eyes. What were your first thoughts or feelings this morning? Did the stress of the day seep into your awareness? Even before your eyelids peeled open? Whether you remember racing to the bathroom or experiencing a deluge of racing thoughts, it’s our intention to help you awaken to what is true about you. The goal of our program is for each student to awaken to the fullness of their potential. As you move through the world, we hope you’ll begin to notice patterns, behaviors, and habits that you fall into as life happens. This guidebook is a tool for discerning your interests, values, views, and morals. It’s a place to see yourself more clearly.
We invite you to discover what lies within your own awareness and make your truest potential a reality! When students awaken to things that they were not necessarily aware of, there is no going backwards. You can not un-notice what you have already examined. Your consciousness is already expanding and new pathways are being routed in your brain. You will naturally notice more about the people, places, and things around you. The more awareness you have, the more your mindset grows and the easier learning becomes!
Our aim with Conscious Classroom is to help students build stability and a strong foundation for learning. This begins with the alignment of our bodies and minds. We also must align with what helps us to stay healthy and act more effectively. The more stable and aligned we are, the more complexity our structure can handle. In yoga, we add complexity and challenge with different variations to the pose. However, in life, complexity and challenges are added when we least expect them. When you begin to align with your goals and build a strong foundation of who you are, the easier it is to navigate your education in the most optimal way.
To get to act efficiently and with focused purpose, you need to activate a certain amount of energy. It’s up to you how much effort will be required to get the job done. But it’s also up to you to notice how much energy you have to complete the task. What are you actually feeling? If you are drained and need to rest, there’s no energy to activate. Where is your energy going and why? Through being awake, aware, and aligned, you can assess if your energy is going to the places that will give you the outcome you desire. When you view your energy as currency, it allows you to wholly activate and give to what you are truly connected to, from your heart, mind, and body.
If you want to be sad, no one in the world can make you happy but if you make up your mind to be happy no one or nothing on earth can take that happiness from you.
Yoga was originally developed to stretch one’s muscles in order to sit in meditation longer. The goal is mindfulness, noticing our beliefs, and building self-trust. An essential part of the philosophy of yoga is for each and every one of us to find and fulfill our duty and purpose in life, our dharma. Connecting to our passions, strengths, and dreams through yoga allows us to design and lead a life in accordance with dharma.