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Teachings of Patanjali and the Rise of "Insta-Worthy" Yoga

"It's a lot of smoke and mirrors. You see these pretty pictures, but you don't know what's happening outside of the frame. You don't know what's happening to their body, you don't know what's happening to their mind."

Jessamyn Stanley

When we think of yoga in the West, we often think of it as a form of exercise or a way to improve our flexibility and strength. Yoga has always been much more than that. Yoga is a centuries-old practice that incorporates physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and ethical principles. Its ultimate goal is to help individuals achieve spiritual enlightenment and union with the divine.

However, many people believe that in the West, the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga have been diluted, and the practice has become more about physical fitness and achieving the "perfect" body. While physical health is undoubtedly an important aspect of yoga, the spiritual and philosophical aspects are equally vital. They are what set yoga apart from other forms of exercise and make it a unique and powerful practice.

Some people argue that the emphasis on physical fitness has led to the commercialization of yoga, with studios and companies promoting expensive yoga clothing, equipment, and accessories. This commercialization can make yoga feel more like a trendy commodity rather than a spiritual practice that is accessible to everyone.

Ultimately, the loss of the spiritual roots of yoga is a concern for many practitioners. It is important to remember that yoga is not just about physical fitness but also about mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When we lose sight of this, we risk missing out on the full benefits of this powerful practice.

Patanjali and Yoga Sutras

Patanjali, who is known as the father of modern yoga, wrote the Yoga Sutras, which is considered one of the foundational texts of yoga. In this text, Patanjali discusses the importance of cultivating a stable and peaceful mind through yoga practice.

According to Patanjali, the purpose of yoga is to still the fluctuations of the mind, so that we can experience our true nature, which is pure consciousness. He explains that our minds are constantly bombarded with thoughts, emotions, and sensations, which can lead to a sense of restlessness and disconnection from our inner selves.

Through yoga practice, we can learn to quiet the mind and cultivate a state of inner peace and harmony. Patanjali outlines an eight-limbed path of yoga that includes physical postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), meditation (dhyana), and ethical principles (yamas and niyamas). By following this path, we can gradually purify the mind and develop greater levels of awareness, concentration, and insight.

Patanjali believed that a stable and peaceful mind is essential for achieving higher states of consciousness and spiritual awakening. He recognized that the mind is a powerful tool that can either help or hinder our spiritual progress. By learning to control the mind through yoga practice, we can overcome negative patterns of thought and behavior and cultivate a greater sense of clarity, wisdom, and inner peace.

Instagram Yoga

In recent years, the rise of social media has had a significant impact on the yoga industry. Many yoga practitioners and teachers use platforms like Instagram to showcase their practice and gain a following - the trend of flashy yoga poses, also known as "Instagram yoga" or "yoga as performance." These poses typically involve extreme flexibility, strength, and balance, often with the intention of creating visually striking and impressive images. However, this has led to an emphasis on physical appearance and achieving impressive poses rather than the original intention of yoga, which is to cultivate a stable and peaceful mind.

Social media has definitely put a lot of pressure on people to conform to certain beauty standards and showcase a perfect yoga practice. This can create unrealistic expectations and discourage those who do not fit the mold. It's important to remember that yoga is not just about physical appearance or achieving impressive poses. The true purpose of yoga is to achieve a state of inner peace and enlightenment.

While flashy yoga poses can be visually appealing and motivating for some people, it's important to recognize that they may prioritize form over function. In other words, these poses may encourage practitioners to focus too much on achieving a certain aesthetic rather than the true purpose of yoga, which is to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Ah, yes, the connection between flashy yoga poses and expensive clothing brands is an interesting one! It's true that many yogis who showcase flashy poses on social media also tend to wear expensive yoga clothing brands.

On the one hand, wearing stylish and comfortable yoga clothes can help practitioners feel good about themselves and motivate them to practice more often. And high-quality yoga clothing is often made with performance fabrics that wick away sweat, provide support, and allow for a full range of motion, which can be important when attempting challenging poses.

On the other hand, there's no denying that some yoga clothing brands are quite expensive, and there's a danger of creating a culture of consumerism and materialism within the yoga community. There can be a sense that in order to be a "real" yogi, you need to wear a certain brand or look a certain way, which can be exclusive and off-putting to some.

It's essential to remember that yoga is a personal practice, and each individual's journey is unique. There is no need to compare oneself to others or push beyond one's limits to achieve a certain pose. In fact, attempting these poses without proper preparation and guidance can lead to injury, especially if the practitioner is not sufficiently warmed up or lacks the necessary strength and flexibility.

Whether or not to incorporate flashy yoga poses into one's practice is a personal decision. It's important to remember that yoga is not a competition, and external validation or physical appearance should not be the focus. Instead, the true essence of yoga lies in connecting with the breath, cultivating mindfulness, and finding inner peace and balance.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever felt pressure to wear certain yoga clothing brands or keep up with the latest trends in yoga? Do you think it's possible to strike a balance between looking good and staying true to the original purpose of yoga?

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