A Very (Very) Short Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Yoga 

Is Yoga a practice or a philosophy?

At its heart Yoga is an experiential practice with its origins embedded in Indian Hindu/Buddhist culture. But, I personally know a wide diversity of people who identify as variously as Hindu, Humanist/Atheist, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim who have adopted Yoga’s core practices of asanas (postures), pranayama (breath practices) and meditation as they perceive them as compatible with their beliefs/reasoning and provide practice based experiential support to explore their worldviews or their health. This suggests to me that Yoga is primarily a practice/experiential based system that can help and support people from any number of backgrounds and cultures.

That said there is an underpinning philosophy (arguably universal beyond Yoga) which in simple form looks like this: we experience suffering and disharmony to varying degrees because we view life and relationships through the murky lens of our family and societal conditioning and potentially inherited tendencies ( whether viewed as genetic or karmic or a combination of both). Yoga practices help us unpick and cut through these knots of conditioning so we can wipe the lens clean, ‘see’ clearly, and so live in harmony and peace with ourselves and others. 

In essence philosophy gives us an approximate map to work from and reflect on, whilst practice and life is the actual territory. 

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