Yogi Soap Opera – Why I love Hindu Mythology

Deities

If you have ever been to a yoga studio then I bet you came across at least two Hindu Gods. Ganesha, the guy with an elephant’s head, and Shiva, Maha Yogi, usually in his wild dancing pose.

When you come to my classes, it’s likely that you meet some of the Gods. Sometimes I tell you stories about them or we practice poses that are named after certain deities. Also, I can tell you, there are a few more Hindu Gods and Goddesses than just the two mentioned above that are worth meeting them on the mat.

But why do I and other yoga teachers tell you stories of a foreign religion? What has this to do with yoga when everybody is saying yoga is NO religion?

Yoga is no religion but intertwined with Hinduism

The first thing I want to get clear here is that Yoga is NO religion! Over the course of time, a lot of different “styles” of Yoga arose, with every style giving more focus to a certain aspect than another style. Some of them include devotional practices, like chanting the names of God, so it’s the name of the God from the culture Yoga came from. That’s it. If you’re into the God-thing – great! But you can also chant the Name of Jesus or Allah or whoever and don’t have to convert to Hinduism to become a “real yogi”.

Yoga is a philosophical system that includes mental and physical exercises to gain knowledge of the self and to cultivate inner peace and freedom. It’s designed to balance body, mind and spirit. It can bring you to a spiritual practice but you don’t need to be spiritual to start. Easy as that.

However, this philosophical system developed in a time where the Indian subcontinent was influenced by a lot of different cultural streams and the end-product you could say was Hinduism as we know it today. It was a mystical time where Rishis (seers, having visions in meditation), half-gods and all other mystical beings belonged to the materialistic world. They gave their wisdom to people who wrote these things down and some of these stories became epics. In texts like the Bhagavad Gita, for example, the two main characters, Krishna and Arjuna, talk about things like Karma, Dharma and Yoga. There are stories out there in which you can read that Shiva received in a meditational state of mind the wisdom of Yoga and without him, they say, Yoga would have never made it to the world. Therefore we name him God of the Yogis.

So again: Yoga is no religion, but you can’t avoid that you won’t find some deities on your journey through the yoga world because of the cultural background.

Yogi Soap Opera and what we can learn from it

When I came across the Hindu mythology, I inevitably fell in love with it from the first second on. And here is why: When you look at the stories of these gods and goddesses you may feel like you just stumbled across a crazy, wild and colourful soap opera.  Continue reading “Yogi Soap Opera – Why I love Hindu Mythology”

The 8 limbs of Yoga – One: The Yamas

Some days ago I wrote an article about how the 8 limbs of Yoga can help us to improve our well-being and to live in peaceful coexistence with others. I would like to take this series deeper starting with the first limb – Yama.

The 5 Yamas

First let me refresh your memory. The first limb of the eightfolded path is yama. With yama, Patanjali provides us some sort of ethical codex. Within this codex, there are 5 aspects that help you to live in peace with other beings and yourself. Sounds pretty nice, but let me say in the beginning, it’s not as easy as it sounds but so so worth trying to work on it everyday. So let me present the 5 Yamas in short.

Continue reading “The 8 limbs of Yoga – One: The Yamas”

The 8 limbs of Yoga – Living Yoga on and off the mat

Yoga. When people hear that word, most of them think of some women in yoga pants doing fancy stretches. Yoga is much more than this. “The 8 limbs of Yoga” is going to be a series that dives deeper into yoga-philosophy, while connecting this philosophy to our every day lives, outlining how we can improve our own well-being and feeling of being happy and at the same time contribute to a happier, more loving world.

Patanjali and the 8 limbs of Yoga

Patanjali, some mysterious indian man/figure, is known as the author of the yogasutra. A collection of verses in which he explains the essence of this ancient practice. What are the goals, what needs to be practiced? Within those sutras, Patanjali also talks about the 8 limbs of yoga, which can be concerned as a guideline to a meaningful, purposeful and peaceful life with the goal of reaching unity. So here is some quick overview what these limbs are.

8 limb pic

Continue reading “The 8 limbs of Yoga – Living Yoga on and off the mat”