One of the studios where I teach recently forwarded a request from a local university student who wanted to hear what teachers had to say about yoga. I thought I would share my answers to her three specific questions with you:
1) Why do you practice yoga?
Self-realization: I want to experience my self as I truly am beyond the confines and conditioning of the temporary mind/body complex that I have acquired in this life.
2) What do you hope to convey to your clients through yoga?
That yoga is a joyful science of self-realization.
3) Do you think the context or purpose of yoga has changed since it came to the U.S.? If so, why?
The context has changed but the purpose has not. People may invent their own reasons for doing yoga or try to change the definition of yoga in order to justify an intention other than the one given in traditional yoga wisdom texts, but the purpose of yoga remains the same: to realize the true and eternal nature of the self in relationship to the Supreme Self by means of bringing the mind and senses under the control of the self or, for the devotional yogi, the Self. The change in the context of yoga since it came to the west simply requires that this traditional understanding of the process and goal of yoga be communicated in a manner suitable for people living in the contemporary western setting to which traditional yoga has been transposed. Modifying the intention of yoga so that it complements the intention of contemporary American (consumer) culture is antithetical to the whole idea of yoga and defeats its purpose: yoga looses its meaning when it is re-defined to justify indulging the mind and senses in material pursuits. To deny the transcendental aspect of yoga is to deny yoga itself.
Her questions made me curious: how would you answer these three questions?