October 2, 2011

Yoga – a luxury practice? Is it worth all that money? ~ Leila Hassen

At first glance, you’d think that yoga ought to be quite cheap.  Available for all, it is known as “therapy for the poor.”

There is no equipment involved. You don’t need a tremendous amount of space or expensive facility and with so many gyms offering yoga these days, you’d think that competition would be driving prices down, not up. Ironically however yoga classes are becoming ridiculously expensive and some soul seekers are beginning to think of yoga as a luxurious lifestyle, something that is out of line with the spirit of yoga.

Yoga was developed in India some 5,000 years ago by ancient wise men called rishis. These rishis were not interested in getting tight abs, losing weight, eliminating back pain, or even relieving their stress. Rather they were creating a method of using the body and breath to tame the wildest of beasts, the mind. 

Yoga is a Sanskrit word that can be roughly translated as ‘union’ or ‘yoking’; it is a noun and a verb, a state of being, and the actions and the practices associated with attaining that state.

The state of yoga is one in which the practitioner is no longer at the mercy of the endless spinning of the mind and instead experiences deep awareness of and an identification with a consciousness much greater than the individual ego.

The practice of yoga focuses on the concrete and practical aspects of the techniques designed to evoke this enlightened state:  the quality of the breath, the pressure of our feet when standing, the sensation of the stretching along the backs of our legs in a forward bend, and the tenor of the thoughts that flow through the mind while we move from one pose to another.

Patanjali’ s Yoga Sutras, a scripture some have likened to the Bible of Yoga, says it best right up front, in verse I.2 : yoga citta vritti nirodha, or “Yoga is the resolution of the agitations of the mind.” Only when our minds become calm and quiet, he says, can we reap the true fruits of practice which include equanimity, love, compassion and joy.

All that being said, yoga is an endless ongoing practice that is complex, spiritual and personal but has become wrapped up in the physical practice, asana, which is only one-eighth of the path to enlightenment.

The eight limbs of yoga: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.


  1. The Yamas refer to the five abstentions – non-violence, truth in word and thought, non-desire, abstinence from sexual intercourse, non possessiveness.
  2. The Niyamas refer to the 5 observances – cleanliness of the body and mind, satisfaction, self control, the study of the Vedic scriptures, and the surrendering to Truth, God in all its forms and names.
  3. The Asana refers to the physical practice – the postures.
  4. The Pranayama refers to the control of the breath.
  5. The Pratyahara refers to the withdrawal of the senses from their external objects.
  6. The Dharana refers to the concentration on some physical object.
  7. The Dhyana refers to meditation.
  8. The Samadhi refers to oneness or enlightenment.

I thought that by religiously attending my yoga practice 3 times a week at the studio on the street corner I was making my way to truth and inner peace. But it appears this isn’t the case. I also thought that all this information was available for anyone who wish to find that inner peace and for free.

In some ways yes,the asana is the gateway to self discipline and in this moving meditation practice a beginning is found in emotions buried deep inside our bodies. The asana is the gateway  And I leave you with a quot:

“Practice, Practice, Practice, and all is coming,” taken from the words of Guruji Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009).

Photo credits: barefootyoga.com, 123rf.com

Leila has been teaching yoga passionately in both Doha, Qatar (the Gulf region) and Beirut, Lebanon (Middle East). She returned a year ago to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire (West Africa), her place of birth; Lebanese and French, but born in the city of Abidjan, where she still has family. It was natural to come back and spread the yoga buzz in a land that has been through so much suffering in the past 10 or so years. She recently inaugurated Lila Yoga Abidjan, a shala in the middle of the crazy city of Abidjan, where she is teacher, manager and director. Check out her website for further information. 

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