The Focus of Yoga

From Progressive Yoga Vidya Training, Satsangs 2016, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Sri Swamiji’s aim was not to teach twenty asanas or pranayamas or pratyahara or dharana techniques to people, but to ensure that there is a focus and aim to the practice of yoga. This focus or aim was given by Swami Sivananda himself.

When yoga became popular in the last century, everybody thought that the practices of yoga lead to deeper states of meditation and self-realization. Yet, nowhere in the yogic literature is it said that yoga will lead to enlightenment. The focus of yoga is not enlightenment, realization, samadhi or moksha. It is management of life, in one simple sentence. This relates to two things specifically, as mentioned in the yogic traditions:

Nasti maya samah pasho

There is no bigger bondage or noose than maya.

Maya is delusion, and the mind is always in a state of delusion. It is this delusion that has to be removed. That is point one. The second is:

Nasti ahamkarat paro ripuh

There is no greater adversary in life than your own ego.

Observe how the yogis have played with words here. With two simple words they have definedthe purpose of yoga. The delusions of the mind have to be removed and the self-centric nature has to be harmonized. Why does one have a selfish, aggressive and reactive nature? Due to desires and expectations, which are again expressions of the mind. Thus, two ideas – overcome the delusion and regulate your nature – are the foundation of yoga.

The antidote to these two are wisdom and yoga:

Nasti jnanat paro bandhuh

There is no greater friend than wisdom, understanding, knowing.

Nasti yogat param balam

There is no greater force than yoga.

Knowledge, awareness, understanding, and yoga with its aspirations, practices and principles, together become the antidote for maya and selfishness. That is one theory: that the purpose of yoga is to overcome the influencesand effects of maya and make you more expansive and peaceful.

—3 October 2016, Progressive Yoga Vidya Training