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Why Study Yoga Philosophy in Your Teacher Training Course?

Why do i need to study Yoga Philosophy in a teacher training course?  Or I am only interested in learning the physical part, so how will it benefit my teaching career? These are some of the queries that we get before students apply for our teacher training courses. In the article below, we will try to explain as to why your teacher training course will be incomplete if we exclude studying yoga philosophy.

Yoga Philosophy means ‘Darshan Shastra’ that is ‘ability to see the things directly’.  All the scriptures or books written on yoga philosophy are the devices or techniques to take you in the present moment and be the master of your mind. It acts like a GPS which shows you a direction towards your inner being. The one who gets curious about “Who am I, where is the self, what is my relationship with the whole cosmos”? All these questions can be resolved by understanding the Yoga Philosophy. It really gives us a way to grow deep not only in our practice but also as human beings and thereby, broadening our understanding of essence of Yoga. It is not the amount of action but the depth of experience that makes a life rich and fulfilling.

Yoga Philosophy in India

Here are some of the reasons as to why one must study Yoga Philosophy while participating in teacher training course:

  • Provide foundation to knowledge attained during practice –Yogic philosophy is regarded as the root of Yoga. If you have to measure the strength of a tree, then you must check the depth of its roots and not its height. Hence, trees with deep roots are not uprooted easily by a storm or even say a tornado. This is the universal law of nature and the same applies to yoga also. So, if the base or the root i.e. philosophy of yoga is clear and deep in the mind of a teacher, they can lead their classes and guide their students confidently.
  • Philosophy is a rich diet which can freeze the activity of a hungry mind. Yoga Philosophy is a tool to subside the mental activity in order to reach the ultimate source of a life. Asana practice, on the other hand, is the physical practice which demands the steadiness and comfort of a body. Hence, both subjects must be in a perfect combination in order to reap the desired benefits. The great sage Patanjali describes Yoga as “Yogah chitta vritti Nirodhah” which means “Yoga is a process of cessation of the fluctuation of a chattering mind.”
  • Yoga philosophy answers the question: Are we on the right path of life? It helps to examine how we live our lives or are we on the right path and hence, helps us rectify our errors in case of any diversions from the path. Yogic philosophies are just like Maps that guides both the teachers and the practitioners as to whether they are moving on the right path during their yoga practice.
  • Provides opportunity for proper interaction and healthy debate amongst teachers and students from different streams of life thus the reservoir of knowledge is filled and evenly distributed. A very congenial and healthy environment for teaching and learning is thus created where knowledge is exchanged for overall improvement.
  • Philosophy and the physical Practice can be regarded as two sides of a single coin that do very well to supplement and support each other.  The physical Practice and Philosophy can be assumed as two wheels attached to a single Chariot to complete the journey of YOGA. Hence, there should be proper collaboration and synchronization amongst the wheels. By only focusing on asanas, yoga will become just another form of exercise. However, by reading only philosophy, one would miss the physical benefits of asana practice. Thus, it becomes the responsibility of the teacher to offer a right mix of both the physical practice and philosophy to guide the students properly. Hence, to have a successful yoga teaching career, a deep knowledge and understanding of both the subjects cannot be ignored.
  • Philosophies are the teachings that flow to us through the great lineage of yoga tree. They describe the understanding and the techniques as explained by enlightened minds. The sage Patanjali has described the path of yoga in a systematic way to lead a blissful and content life. All these principles and ethics have been mentioned in the Yogic scriptures for the Yoga teachers and his students i.e. Yamas and Niyamas.

All these aspects of Yoga philosophy discussed above do very well understand its importance. Shri Pattabhi Jois says that YOGA is 99% practice and 1% theory which is undoubtedly  true, as he is not only talking about the physical practice but about the theory mentioned in the Patanjali yoga sutras which need to be practiced moment to moment in order to reach at the ultimate goal of yoga.

Many Yoga institutes including Abhinam Yoga School advocate the lack of emphasis on philosophy due to lack of time. With 200 hours teacher training programs, it is sometimes impossible to explain the subject as vast as the ocean in 20-30 hours of theory class. Hence, we motivate our students to take it as a lifelong study and implement this understanding and knowledge in their daily lives.