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by Marcus Antebi


Article at a Glance:

Yoga is about recovery, healing, and wellness. This should be the focus wherever yoga is practiced and taught. 
I want to begin discussing yoga by stating two things. First, that although I have been steadfastly practicing yoga for many years, I am far from being a master of all that is yoga. Secondly, it would take about 500 pages to give a proper answer to the question “What is the meaning of yoga?”
Yoga to me is not only a discipline, but it is a concept that defines a number of things that occur in many cultures throughout the world.
When a person in the modern world first thinks of yoga, they probably think of the physical exercises and the postures (some easy, some very hard) that people do in yoga classrooms.
When I first thought about places where yoga was taught and practiced I had similar misconceptions. I thought that those who frequented such places were people wrapped in cotton robes such as celibate monks. Or young women in tight clothing, or young men in extra tight clothing.
Sometimes such scenarios are the case in facilities where yoga is taught and practices, and sometimes they’re not the case at all. But yoga and most of those who teach it would never judge people for the ways and accoutrements they use when they are in the process of recovery.
And it’s important to understand that yoga is about recovery and healing. It’s about wellness, and that should be the focus wherever yoga is practiced and taught. 
Yoga is not just the exercises that preserve and strengthen the body. Of even more importance than that are its teachings that are designed to remind people to live extremely moral and compassionate lives.
I’d like to give a definition of morality. Morality entails caring for yourself (your mind and your physical body), caring for others, and doing the right things. Yoga will help you learn what those right things are. It’s teachings go back many, many years, and they were put together by thousands of masters. 
You can learn from masters, but yoga masters should not be idolized or regarded as gurus. In fact, legitimate yoga teachings emphasize that all people are equals. Yoga masters are not saintly, and they are not any more holy than any other human being or any other creature. (Please read my book “Making Fun of Gurus” if the subject of gurus interests you.)
Yoga entails a peaceful way of living. The indigenous peoples that lived in North America, South America, Australia, Africa, and Europe lived the yoga lifestyle before major cultural shifts took place worldwide. Those cultural shifts included wars and atrocities. It’s true that many wars and atrocities were occurring in ancient history, but not nearly to the extent that became the case in the modern world.
Throughout history there have been tribes of people that lived peacefully on this earth and always attempted to avoid violence at all costs. They knew that violence would distract them and cause them pain and suffering. These people were enlightened.
The people who veered away from compassionate rules were the people who suffered. They experienced starvation, warfare, thievery, manipulation, and many other horrible things.
Yet in many times and places throughout the history of the world there have been those who lived in accordance with the balance of nature. When natural disasters occurred that wiped out entire species, the smartest creatures would not judge such events. They would understand that it was the law of the land that the land had to correct itself from time to time to keep its equilibrium.

There were those who had relationships with the creatures they shared the land with. A young boy might have become familiar with a household spider's face and give the spider a name. He would talk to that spider as if the spider was a human being and he would believe that the spider understood him. Whether or not the spider understood didn’t matter, because the boy’s attempt to communicate with the spider was a meditation. It was eye contact with another creature followed by a smiling acknowledgement of the other creature’s presence.

There was a time when there was no superstition. There was a time when there was a precise order to everything within societies, including administration of justice.
Some groups of such people took vows of complete nonviolence. And they were killed off by invaders. They were more ready to die than they were to fight, because they didn’t want to break their concentration with paradise. Such people were extremely rare. They were the closest human beings had ever been, metaphorically speaking, to the throne of God.
I find it necessary in some of my work not to use the God word because I don’t want to scare atheists off. For a long time I considered myself an atheist, but over time realized that I believed in a number of things. In my youth, I was a god in my own mind, although I no longer believe that to be the case. I would likely be considered an agnostic at this point in my life.
I digress. Back to those mighty, mighty people many thousands of years ago who chose nonviolence. When invaders came to them, they made the choice to let themselves be killed. In effect they sacrificed themselves. There could be an endless philosophical debate over whether what they did was right or wrong, but they followed their own convictions right up until the point of their deaths.
Perhaps everything in your life is positive right now. If you are struggling with something, though, the first question to ask yourself is why you are choosing to struggle in your life. Why are you having difficulty changing your perspective? I’d suggest that anyone who is having difficulty answering such questions should write in their journal regularly and see if it helps them get to the bottom of what is causing their faulty perspective.
Writing about yoga is actually a fairly easy thing to do. That’s the case because yoga encompasses many things. Yoga isn’t just about postures. Yoga isn’t just about caring for the body, Yoga isn’t just about doing charity work. Yoga isn’t just about speaking truth and kind words, or just thinking the right thoughts. Yoga, in a sense, is everything. Some, for better or for worse, might use the word “yoga” to describe God. 
In my heart, I believe yoga to be truth. And I must learn its lessons about compassion first and foremost, giving compassion to myself and asking myself if I am going with the flow of life. Am I living in the moment, or am I being needlessly anxious and worried about circumstances? If I am, then I’m holding myself back from being enlightened.

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