Yulia Zenchenko’ Yoga Class
Yoga is -
a set of practices aimed at improving one’s physical condition and state of mind.
How does it work?
One can learn it from one’s own experience only. You can register for free introductory class here.
- Classical Hatha Yoga
- Yoga-therapy. Therapeutic effect of asanas and pranayamas upon human organism.
- The principles of developing individual health rehabilitation complexes.
- Cleansing procedures used in Yoga.
- Working with natural forms of behaviour.
- Meditative techniques.
- The technique of working with one’s unconscious mind.
What is Yoga?
Andrey Safronov About Yoga
Any more or less educated person has heard about yoga. But if you ask what yoga is, you will have a wide range of various and often contradictory definitions: from «Indian gymnastics» to «religious philosophic teaching», from «fakir art» to «system of spiritual perfection», from «relic of ancient civilizations» to a «gift of extraterrestrial intelligence». More «competent» interlocutor will also recall about Buddhist yoga (the less competent can confuse Buddhism with yoga), Taoist yoga and many others. Speaking about yoga we also think about Tantra, which an uneducated interlocutor can call «the yoga of sex».
So what is yoga? Is it a purely Indian phenomena or does it go through different world traditions, as many people think? How ancient is this teaching? Is it a canonic learning transmitted from generation to generation or is it a dynamic developing system? Or maybe it is just a reconstructed tradition like the «classical» Indian dance Bharatnatyam, invented only in XIX century or the animal kung fu fighting, contrived by the Institute of Physical Culture in Beijing? Can we really define «Chinese», «Russian» or «modern» yoga? After all is yoga a religion? If not, why is it so often confused with it? Let’s try to give preliminary answers to these questions.
In every culture and religion there traditionally was a specific system, mainly practical, used by the limited number of disciples. Such systems are called esoteric (from the Greek «inward»). For example, Sufism was such a system within Islam, Hesychasm within Orthodoxy, Neydan within Taosism, Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola in Catholicism etc. Esoteric systems are hidden deep inside of religions and fundamentally differ from them. First of all by the fact that… they are not religions. Actually what makes them special and «secret» is that unlike religion esoteric systems they are highly practical. One may even say that they are pragmatic… Esoteric systems have the same goal as religions: to make personality consciously change, but unlike religions these systems offer a defined set of methods to make such changes. Those changes are based on the altered states of consciousness. But unlike religionists, followers of esoteric systems strive for long-lasting changes of personality.
If you compare objects and values of religions with those of esoteric systems existing within these religions, you’ll see some clear distinctions, although they are not much proclaimed.
The reader might already see what I’m getting at. Yoga is an esoteric system within Indian tradition. Only Indian? Is there any rapport between different esoteric systems? Are they all independent or did they evolve one from another? Or maybe they all evolved from one more ancient unknown system? Or is this more ancient system yoga itself? After all it is the most ancient of all esoteric systems. Indeed comparing practices of different esoteric systems you’ll find many obvious analogies. For example, if you read one of the Hesychasm classics Gregory Palamas, who suggests to inhale the «red air» by one nostril and to exhale the «blue air» with another, if you are somewhat familiar with yoga you would exclaim: «Hey, it’s Anuloma Viloma! They happened to know about Ida and Pingala». It might seem an obvious adoption, but is it? Is it because of the same object of influence — man and his psyche? Did different esoteric systems come to the same techniques, because they were the most effective?
Tracing back the history of yoga we meet with some difficulties. Although we can find terms «yoga» and «yogin» in the Mahabharata so that they obviously date before the Vedic period, the activity they meant often differs a lot from what we call yoga now. Furthermore even then there have already been discords in definition of yoga. Everyone agreed upon two thinks: a) yoga is a system of methods and b) yoga is a secret (esoteric) system. Analyzing ancient scripts you will also find evidence that yoga had a common object, which was to change ontological status of the practitioner in the world. Overlooking other esoteric systems we’ll easily see that they had the same goals. Taoists grow the spiritual germ, Hesychasts strive for an «angel rank in this life», Buddhists seek for Enlightenment etc. Is it an adoption? Or is it once more the same object? We can try to track down how yoga was forming. We’ll find Aryan and Dravidian background, find parallels with Shaman practices, Matriarchal cults, primitive magic and so on. We can track the origin of yoga back to the prehistoric civilizations, although it goes beyond the scope of this book. It is exiting and edifying. But probably the reader has already got my attitude to this subject. We can never find precise answers to all our questions, and it doesn’t really matter. Above all I hope we’ve already understood: the IDEA OF THE WAY, of the SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION is ARCHETYPICAL. This way or another it always comes to any tradition whether it is prehistoric culture, religious system or materialistic soviet culture. The unity of yoga is not in details and historic references. YOGA IS COMMON IN ITS SPIRIT. That is why despite all persecutions it still exists and survived most of its «persecutors».
Does the line of authority exist in yoga transmission? Is there such thing as «classic» yoga? I don’t think so. Such a view reminds me the times we were kids and believed in wise old guys who have all the answers, you just have to ask them well… Besides such a point of view is philosophically inconsistent. Where would those «guys» get that knowledge? Should we refer to extraterrestrials? Then how did they invent yoga?
No, at the heart of any esoteric tradition stand some real people, who by an inconceivable act of spiritual enlightenment have seen further than others. Sometimes their disciples kept their teaching on, climbing higher and higher, although more often they just used this teaching or turned it into a cult. Many great teachings degenerated into religions. Unfortunately it’s much easier to worship than to think and to create…
Esoteric knowledge has another distinctive feature. It cannot be transmitted without personal practice. It is «hidden» not just because someone is hiding it (although it’s also true) — you can’t conceive it without making radical changes in yourself. Esoteric knowledge cannot be KNOWN. It can only be LIVED. Otherwise it makes no sense. The understanding of every new level is possible only after the previous one is passed. It is not an act of learning, but our personal mystical experience. Esoteric knowledge cannot be transmitted in a form of scripts and tables. It must be given from the teacher to a student. The Teacher must have patience and wish to lighten fire of spirit in his student, and the student must be ready and willing to become a co-creator of himself. A Chinese martial tradition has a saying: «There is no style — just Master’s personal technique». Restating this maxim we can say: «There is no classic yoga — just Teacher’s personal yoga». It works in his hands and helps his students to change and to create their own Yoga, which stops being yoga, a method, if canonized. An esoteric teaching is inseparable from its bearer and its Teacher. While only Life can prove, if the teaching is effective and right.
Did objects and methods of yoga change through the centuries of its existence? The answer comes logically from the aforesaid: yes, constantly. But in details. Different times and different people need different words and methods. But the said above object is always there. The changing of a status can also be different. As well as the levels of Teachers.
So yoga is not a religion. Living «here and now» is not less important for a yogi than his spiritual tasks. That is why along with the Big Yoga, setting its higher aims there’s always been the Small Yoga — a system of methods (once again — METHODS), aimed at life improvement: health, wealth, emotional state. At that the Small Yoga practice is not a diversion from the Spiritual Way, but its essential element.
Yoga is not a practice of asceticism. For a harmonic and creative existence you need to love life. Although elements of ascetic practices can be used as one of the methods.
Yoga is not a philosophy, but it has philosophic basics and methods based on philosophic practice. Over years yoga repeatedly changed its philosophies (plural), explaining the same practices in different words.
Yoga is not an ethic system. Every ethic SYSTEM is in the long run engendered by the religious perception of the world, by the fear of punishment, by the supreme forces etc. Yoga has its rules too (Yama, for example), which can be mistaken for ethical, but their essence is principally different. Yogi follows these rules not because he is afraid of punishment — it is his most pragmatic choice allowing him to save energy as much as possible. On the higher levels all rules disappear and give way to the PRINCIPLES.