Yoga Philosophy vs. Spiritual Guidance

I recently had a colleague tell me that she offers yoga only, if people wanted spirituality they could go to church. She doesn’t need spirituality from her yoga; she has church for that.

While I was working the front desk at a local yoga studio I had more than a few requests for “something more”. People weren’t just looking for a workout they were looking for “something more”.

When I found yoga I was looking to feel better. I though I would get a workout and stretching that would help me meet my goal. I didn’t know anything about the spiritual side of yoga. To be honest, I’m not sure yoga has a spiritual side. What I do know is that yoga was developed a long time before religion and many people who practice yoga claim and/or seem to have a spiritual side.

So what does someone who practices a spiritual side of yoga look like? They are nice, amicable, and they seem to know that we are bigger than our actions. Our actions impact more than just us. Is that spirituality or morality?

I believe that yoga is a philosophy for living. If you bring your beliefs with you to practice then your practice might be spiritual. If you prefer to keep your physical practice separate from your spiritual practice then I think you will benefit from yoga physically. But if you start to have benefits that influence your spiritual life then welcome them. The philosophy of yoga is really all encompassing and there is no way to cover it all here but I will outline the parts that stick out for me.

Moderation in everything – During my training to become a yoga instructor Robert Brinberg called this the 80/20 rule.  Be as close to perfect 80 percent of the time and let your hair down the other 20 percent of the time. Workout 80% of the time but rest 20%. Eat great 80% of the time but treat yourself 20% of the time. I can’t tell what you are thinking of this idea but I can tell you what I was thinking when I heard his lecture on moderation. What!?!? You mean I should work on letting loose and treating myself 20% of the time? Well, I am sure I could work on being easier on myself that much!

I tried it. I mean, what did I have to loose? And the result was that I was more successful at being happy 100% of the time. I also experienced more growth and a feeling of success and satisfaction more often.

Then, I started this meditation program where my goal is to successfully complete the meditation 5 of 7 days. Hmmm… what’s the percentage on that? The answer is 71.4%.  That is pretty close to 80%. And as it turns out I am getting pretty good at this meditation thing.

So maybe, just maybe, nearly perfect is PERFECT! I am really learning what moderation means and I am enjoying it. I find that I have an ease about me that I hadn’t had before.

Gentle compassion for everyone – Be gentle. I am pretty gentle with people around me but being gentle with myself was a lot more difficult. Not just gentle on my physical self but on my own feelings. I am working hard at thinking and speaking better of myself.  When an opportunity presents itself for harsh evaluation of my actions or performance, I remind myself that life is a journey and there is always room for improvement but at least I am doing my best. I try to appreciate how far I’ve come and look for the good in everyone. The goal is not perfection the goal is to continue the journey.

In Everything a Purpose –  Try to have every word you speak and every action you take have a purpose. Don’t just talk to talk or work to work. Figure out what your life’s purpose is and then align your words and actions to honor that purpose. If you find yourself distracted or off track then acknowledge the digression and get back on track.

If you are considering yoga or already practicing it, you may experience an increase in spirituality even though that was not intent. Yoga has a way of bring things you find important to the surface.  Enjoy the journey!