Statement of Philosophy
Background and History –
While Yoga is a fairly new phenomenon in the United States (early 20th century), it has been practiced for generations upon generations in India.
What we consider Yoga in the U.S. (typically a heavy focus on the asanas or physical poses), is a very small part of the integrated system of wholeness that traditional yoga offers.
Branded styles of yoga -
Since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s several “branded branches” of yoga have arisen and become highly popular in the West. Some of these “lineages” and traditions include:
- Anusara Yoga (developed by John Friend)
- Ashtanga Yoga (developed by the late Pattabhi Jois)
- Bikram Yoga (developed by Bikram Choudhury)
- Flow or “Vinyasa” yoga (developed by various teachers)
- Iyengar Yoga (developed by BKS Iyengar)
- Jivamukti Yoga (developed by Sharon Gannon & David Life)
- Shadow Yoga (developed by Shandor Remente)
- Viniyoga (developed by TKV Desikachar)
All of the above styles of yoga – to a large degree - involve a focus on the physical or asana practice of yoga. Hence, the popularity in the West as a means for gaining fitness, flexibility, strength and overall good health.
Downtown Yoga’s alignment with traditional yogic direction -
Furthermore, at Downtown Yoga, we integrate several fundamental directions from the Yoga Sutra of Patanajali in our philosophy & teaching. These fundamental statements of direction and purpose include:
1:12 – Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah
This best translates as “Constant and consistent practice are the means by which success is achieved.” The Founders of Downtown Yoga practice every day – and believe that constant and consistent practice is of paramount importance.
1:26 – Sa esah purvesam api guruh kalena anavacchedat
God is the ultimate teacher of teachers – undisturbed and unaffected by time.
2:3 – Avidya asmita raga dvesa abhinivesah klesa
Misperception, spiritual ignorance, ego, desire, aversion and clinging to life are the “afflictions” which keep us from development in Yoga - and, are at the root of all our suffering. We must diligently watch for these and as they crop up ask to have them removed.
2:11 – Dhyanaheyah tadvrttayah
Meditation removes all suffering.
2:16 – Heyam duhkham anagatam
Future suffering can and should be avoided.
2:46 – Sthira sukham asanam
Asana or postures are to be firm, steady and immobile – yet the mind and spirit are to be calm, relaxed and benevolently reflected inward.
2:47 – Prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibyam
Perfection in the asanas is achieved when the effort to perform the pose becomes effortless and the infinite spirit within is recognized.
2:48 – Tatah dvandvah anabhighatah
Then, the student is no longer affective by dualities and all conflict ceases.
Downtown Yoga’s statement on spiritual growth, mysticism and religion:
The practice of yoga can have the effect of having a student move towards a deeper personal spiritual practice. We define a “spiritual practice” as a practice which focuses on living and expressing “spiritual qualities” in all of one’s life. These may include: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, restraint, surrender, patience, cleanliness, honest effort, contentment, and the like.
We make clear the difference between spiritual practice/principles and mysticism. We do not promote mysticism but we do strongly encourage and promote spiritual growth and development. Spiritual principles can and do have practical application. We define mysticism as a vague speculation – a belief without a sound basis which has no place in our yoga practice. Yoga is pragmatic.
While many aspects of yoga involve a spiritual practice – we at Downtown Yoga do not see Yoga as a religion – nor do we espouse it as a religion. Neither are we in conflict with any other religion or religious belief a student may hold.
While much of Yoga’s traditions and stories (including the many of the names of poses) have come out of the Hindu religion and it’s large mythological history; Yoga is not a Hindu Religion. Nor do we at Downtown Yoga promote or oppose Hinduism or any other religious belief, sect or denomination.
We honor all people that come to Downtown Yoga to learn and practice yoga – regardless of religious, spiritual or moral beliefs or practices. We provide a space and a practice where each individual can explore these questions for him or herself in a safe, non-threatening, non-dogmatic environment.
Downtown Yoga’s statement of alignment with “modern” yoga:
At Downtown Yoga we align most closely with the Iyengar Yoga Tradition for four main reasons:
1) Mr. Iyengar’s book “Light on Yoga”, first published in 1966, remains an unparalleled work in it’s description and documentation of a complete yoga system. No other documented work on yoga in the last 45 years has surpassed Mr. Iyengar’s “Bible" of Yoga.
2) Mr. Iyengar’s longevity in practice and teaching (b.1918 - d.2014) gave him unparalleled life-experience and made him an absolute authority on the subject.
3) Mr. Iyengar’s diligent insistence on precise and proper anatomical alignment in all poses.
4) Mr. Iyengar’s utilization of standardized props (blocks, belts, blankets, bolsters and chairs) as a method to access the benefits of all poses – regardless of the practitioner’s skill or physical abilities.
From time to time teachers at Downtown Yoga may draw upon other traditions and styles listed above. We are experienced and familiar with most of the above styles.