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THE BIG BOOK OF YOGA: THE END OF YOGA

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In addition, since Yoga in its broadest sense is really more of a philosophy than a specific set of practices, there are actually many spiritual paths out there that could qualify as "Yoga". If you volunteer your time in a soup kitchen, or cleaning up the highway near your home, then these offerings of service can be a form of Karma Yoga, for example. There is an aspect of Jnana Yogain getting to know yourself better through psychotherapy or counseling. Even being completely head-over-heels in love, and feeling like you'd happily do anything for your lover - this can be a Yoga of Bhakti - blissful devotion.

It isn't so much what you are doing, as it is the attitude with which you're doing it - this is where even everyday activities can become Yoga. Even if your main practice is in fact Hatha Yoga, with this understanding of Yoga as a frame of mind, you can bring your practice "off the mat", as they say, and into the entirety of your life.

What's the correct way to practice Hatha Yoga?

One hundred years ago, Hatha Yoga - or any Yoga for that matter - was barely a whisper in the wind to most of Western civilization. Nowadays, Yoga is a household name, and just about anyone can find a Yoga studio in their hometown, whether you live in Kathmandu or Kalamazoo. In one sense, it's absolutely wonderful that such a treasure - hidden away from most of the world for much of its long history - is now available to many. But with its sudden explosion in popularity, there's a lot about the original system of Hatha Yoga that has been lost in translation, as they say, and while there are definitely some benefits to be had from some of the more stripped-down versions out there, there are many, many more rewards that are being missed out on!

The vast majority of Hatha Yoga classes offered outside of India today focuses primarily on Asana practice, with an occasional nod to Pranayama and Bandha. Asana, if you will recall from Chapter Two, is just one out of at least seven parts that make up the whole system of Hatha Yoga! So where's the rest? To say that

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having proficiency in Asana is the same thing as being a Hatha Yogi is a bit like saying that knowing how to open the hood of a car qualifies one as a mechanic. It's an important first step, but just one of several steps all the same.

And it's not to say that Asana practice Hatha Yoga Asana isn't useful - it is incredibly beneficial! (We'll talk more about this in the next section.) But if a system which claims to be Hatha Yoga isn't incorporating the full range of practices described in the original manuals of practice, then it is not accurately representing the original Hatha Yoga.

To be fair, the practice of Hatha Yoga - or of any spiritual path, for that matter - very rarely resembles a linear process. In Asana, there are also aspects of concentration and meditation involved; In Yama and Niyama, there are implications for mental and physical well-being that go beyond simply committing to a moral and ethical way of life. And since the fundamental Yogic philosophy behind Hatha Yoga isn't particular to any one practice of system of teachings, in theory you can be working towards Yoga while walking down the street, or while eating breakfast - the same as you can while performing Asanas. So it's not that one part or segment of the whole can't also incorporate other aspects - rather, the more you know and have practiced these other elements, the more you can recognize and enhance their effects when they do present themselves.

Basically, what we're suggesting in this section is that if you decide to investigate the specific set of teachings known as Hatha Yoga, then why not look into it in detail and find out all it has to offer? Have a look for yourself at what the early manuals of Yoga say - you have access to many of them now from the Timeline links in Chapter One - and maybe check out a few of the books written by the great Yogis of the 19th and 20th centuries we have up on the Lineage Tree, also in Chapter One.

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