Yogis have always been outcasts.
Through the ages, they lived on the fringes of society, shunned for their different ways. And I’m not just talking about crazy pretzel shapes or extreme diets. Yogis were revolutionaries because they lived beyond the everyday rules, culture and expectations that ordinary society has always tried to impose on everyone.
Chronologically speaking, the Yoga model of reality isn't new. It’s hundreds of years old, and based on trains of thought that left the station millennia ago. But as far as our blinkered materialistic culture in this modern age is concerned (including the way many yoga "businesses" are run), it’s anti-materialistic standpoint is controversial, and in fact close to heresy.
Yoga philosophy is true counter-culture. Not the kind of counter-culture that pops up like a fad, enjoys a brief life railing against authority and then disappears as it merges with the existing culture. The very methodology in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a de-programming of unhelpful mental-emotional conditioning and habits. If this is news to you, it’s no surprise, as most of what passes for Yoga today is really just paying lip-service to one-and-a-half of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s model of Ashtanga Yoga.
Even that is only one part of the entire Yoga Sutras. What Patanjali gave us in his compilation was a new operating system for the human mind that is nothing short of a radical re-imagining of how we can live our lives. A way to live that is free—free from the worry, anxiety and depression that is ever-present in our modern landscape. It doesn’t require that we give up life and go off to live in a cave in the Himalayas. We can do it right here and right now.
What it does require is a commitment to positive personal Evolution that can only come from faith in the process. And the only way to get faith in the process is to understand what it really entails. Take care of yourself, take care of others it says. Find value in kindness and compassion, not competition and building relative superiority. In-clude everyone by opening gates, don't ex-clude by building walls.
Everything we do in practice goes against the grain of ordinary social norms. Taking care of our body and mind (and all the rest), going deeper into our inner landscape, learning to connect with our deepest self so that we connect better with others, unfolding our natural tendency to human kindness; none of these have ever been the mainstream current of human society. In some ways, the practices of Yoga are radical, even heretical, in a time of great paranoia and selfishness.
Yoga is Change
If we don't like the world the way it is, we can do one simple thing - change ourselves. We can never truly change anything or anyone else anyway, so best hunker down and get to work on ourselves. If what we're doing really works, it will catch on and spread. One breath after another, in pursuit of the practice of Yoga, our individual life will change for the better. That change cannot help but impact on the people closest to us, and their changes will affect the others in their lives.
We persevere because we know that every effort takes us closer to the source. The only way to get to the source is to go upstream, against the prevailing current. Sometimes it's a difficult, seemingly endless, task, but when we get there, the water is purer than anywhere else. When we connect to the source of all that is, to our true nature inside, we will truly understand why it has been worthwhile.
This is the promise of Yoga. This is how we change the world through Yoga—one conscious act at a time.