In yoga philosophy, something is either spiritual or material. Spiritual things are considered permanent and peaceful; material things are impermanent, and agitated. Everything our brain generates — our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors — is considered material, a part of our material Ego.
The original forms of yoga were created as methods for transcending material reality. The goal was to abandon our physical/material existence and return to a spiritual consciousness. Achieving that spiritual enlightenment is said to be a permanently blissful state, one that lies beyond our Ego’s fluctuating thoughts and emotions.
Ignorance is not Bliss
If you’ve taken a yoga class within the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to some of the ways yoga’s original intentions have been replaced by a modern materialistic agenda. That agenda is pervasive — showing up in yoga sportswear, online media and magazines, and the zillions of local studios offering classes and teacher trainings to secularized consumers. The shift is somewhat ironic, since many people first turn to yoga after sensing it might have something more meaningful to offer than what’s available from the other fitness industries.
Ironic or not, many of the instructors and influencers responsible for misrepresenting modern yoga don’t actually know that’s what they’re doing. Instead, they’re simply inserting our culture’s narcissistic values into a sacred tradition they’ve never bothered to truly learn. The result is that yoga’s original spirituality has been abandoned for a focus on physical exercise, or stress reduction, or “scientifically-proven” ways to extend our lives. Those materially-oriented approaches may seem desirable, but they’re really just health and wellness concerns that come from a materialistic value set; they don’t have much to do with the original intentions of yoga.
Apples and Oranges
But what about yoga’s spirituality? You may have taken a class and felt like it did include some spiritual “stuff.” More than likely it didn’t, it just seemed like it did because yoga’s spirituality has been replaced with a bunch of pseudo-psychological approaches. Sadly, yoga’s original practice of peaceful self-surrender has been transformed into a self-obsessed pursuit for psychological euphoria, often attempted by injecting affirmations and fluffy self-esteem platitudes into the (mostly physical) practice.
Yoga Seeks Stability
Once we remove yoga’s spiritual core and devote ourselves to psychology’s (mostly ineffective) ideas, we’re stuck with a practice that can only deliver temporary, erratic results. Such is the slippery nature of material reality.
The same problem occurs with pop culture’s pseudo-psychology, the kind of “inspirational” and “motivational” hashtagged stuff that presents modern yoga as a self-obsessed method for gratifying and glorifying our Ego.
We suffer from those Ego approaches, forever feeling peaceful one moment then filled with turmoil the next. Bypassing that emotional chaos is part of yoga’s purpose, but we’ll never find yoga’s stability in psychology’s endless evolutions. And regardless of how great you might feel at any given moment, you’ll still sense something missing deeper within--something that our Ego’s psychological agenda can never resolve. That’s the underlying uneasiness that comes from worshipping our own psychological selves. Yoga was never intended to entrap us in that material, mental space.
Yoga Seeks Transcendence
Most of our foundational texts tell us yoga is a stilling of the mind to reveal the soul. It’s a merging into spirit, pure consciousness, God or whatever term you use to describe self-transcendence. That spiritual process and path becomes blocked when we mistakenly use yoga to bolster our Ego. So by all means challenge yourself, manifest, travel, wear eco-pants and the like, but never confuse those material pursuits with yoga. You’re a beautiful soul, an ecstatic expression of God. Yoga is simply a way to remember and experience that spiritual truth.