Yoga has been around for literally thousands of years. Can something so old still be relevant in 2014? Dana Burrows put this question to Byron Yoga Centre’s philosophy teacher, Swami Pujan.
Like so many who come through Byron Yoga Centre on retreat or as yoga students, I love having philosophical discussions with Swami Pujan. His interpretation of the yogic philosophy is light-hearted yet poignant, and he always explains these ancient tenets in such a way that makes sense in today’s modern world. So I asked Swami Pujan two simple questions: what is yoga? and is it still relevant today? In wonderful Swami Pujan style, we spent the next hour animatedly uncovering the mysteries of yoga.
Many of us are aware that the word yoga is Sanskrit for union. But what is the real meaning behind the practice of yoga? Why do so many people choose to bring yoga into their life?
Swami Pujan explains that yoga is a path – a pathless path that does not take us from here to there, but from here to here. “Yoga is not a linear path, not a path from A to B. It is an inward journey to deeper levels of our self in order to make sense of life. Yoga fills the hole made by our human ignorance. Yoga is our search for truth and meaning.”
So much more than a 90-minute physical practice on a mat, yoga teaches us ways to become more conscious about all facets of life. “For many, the physical aspects of yoga – asana – is a doorway to the more spiritual aspects. We learn to step back, see our thoughts arise and disappear, and find the place of the observer. We recognise the separation of our ego (or our mind) and our spirit, and through this realisation find truth, joy and fun,” Pujan says.
So is yoga still relevant today? “You bet!” is Swami Pujan’s fervent reply.
Even in this time when we can Google the answer to any question in seconds and can connect instantly to others around the globe, the human need for meaning and truth remains. According to Pujan, the relevance of yoga has nothing to do with time or society. It has everything to do with the human mind, the human existence and our timeless inner search.
The yoga path, well-trodden by many thousands before us for thousands of years, is a path of self-discovery relevant to all humans, from any time. “At the core of all of us is ignorance and a search for the truth in life. It is an essential need to find meaning in life. We all have a lack of meaning and purpose – now more than ever. Yoga gives us the purpose and relevance. It guides us on our inner search.”
So what does it mean to walk the yogic path? Does one need to quit their job and move into an ashram to become a yogi? I’m relieved when Pujan assures me that anyone can become a yogi when they bring the eight limbs of yoga into their life. He makes it sound so simple, and maybe it is. “If you are becoming more aware, conscious, loving and kind, you are a yogi.”