When is Yoga no longer Yoga?

When is Yoga no longer Yoga?

Think of a car with missing parts: Imagine you see a car, and your friend says, “What’s that?” You say, “It’s a car”. Imagine that the car is missing a wheel, and your friend asks you the same question. Still, you say, “It’s a car”. But what if all four wheels were gone, and the doors were gone, and the engine was gone. Then, what would you say when your friend asked, “What’s that?” You might say something like, “Junk”. We may not know the exact point of change, but somewhere along the way, in removing the parts, you’d naturally stop saying, “It’s a car”…… and you are certainly not picking me up at 8 o’clock. Get the point?

Think of Yoga with missing parts: At what point, and after how much adaptation to modern culture, does Yoga cease to be Yoga? When Yoga is stripped of its higher goals and methods, can it still be called Yoga? When is Yoga no longer Yoga?

Bricks and houses: Imagine that you hold a brick in your hand, and say to a person, “This is a house!” To hold out asanas (postures) and say, “This is Yoga!” makes as much sense as saying that a single brick is a house. Both are confusing a minor, though useful part with the whole.

“But it’s useful! It helped me!”

One of the most common comments used to justify the modern devolutions of Yoga is in saying something like, “But it’s useful! It helped me!” It is as if they think that pointing out the true nature of Yoga is somehow in opposition to doing other activities that are of benefit to human beings. The argument is that if people become flexible and less stressed, the method is therefore called Yoga. Sorry, it is not.

The fact that physical postures or the modern revisions are effective is not the question. Doing asanas is beneficial, but calling it Yoga is a different matter. The fact that the brick is useful does not make it a house. Any physical exercise, such as walking or playing tennis is useful, but that does not make it Yoga. Aerobics, calisthenics, jazzercise, and kickboxing may also be useful, but that does not make them Yoga. Massage therapy, physical therapy, and respiratory therapy are useful, but that does not make them Yoga. Psychotherapy and counseling are useful, but that does not make them Yoga.

The argument that the tiny piece of Yoga called asana, when not even practiced as the foundations of knowledge from that paradigm, is useful is not a legitimate justification to reverse the part and the whole, and thus claim that Yoga, when stripped of its path, goal, and practices, is still Yoga. It is not.

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