F acing the bewildering forest of cliches, contradictions and confusion about yoga, the aspirant wonders: What is Original Yoga? It is simply this: the process of centering our awareness in the principle of pure consciousness which is our essential being.
Yoga is a philosophy, a discipline, and an experience. Through meditation, the Yoga Life which supports it–including an ideal diet, and observing the “foundations of yoga,” (see below), and studying the ancient texts on yoga–we are empowered to reach our True Self.
The tradition of the original yogis, the Nath Yogis of India, is the repetition and meditation of joining Soham to the breath (see Soham Yoga). Jesus himself lived and studied in India and was a member of the Nath Yogi Order (see The Christ of India).
Yoga is all about freedom.
Only a fraction of the world’s population is formally imprisoned, but none are free from the inevitability of sickness, age, and death. The human condition is subject to innumerable limitations. Who really controls his life fully, attains all his goals, and knows no setbacks of any kind? No one.
Our real Self, the spirit, is ever perfect and free. But we have forgotten that. So we identify with our present experience of limitation and bondage and consequently suffer stress and pain in countless ways. Our situation is like someone who is asleep and dreaming that he is suffering or fearful. To end the fear and pain he needs only to wake up.
Yoga is the procedure of self-awakening, the way to freedom from suffering, fear, and limitation. It is the quest for liberation of the spirit. Yoga is an eternal science intended to reveal and manifest the Eternal.
Yoga is not a religion in the formal sense, so it has no dogmas. Rather, it presents various practices and says: “See for yourself that this is real: it works.” The most important thing to understand about yoga is that experience is the key element. Yoga is its own proof of validity, and the spiritual progress made by the yogi through its practice is the yogi’s validation.
So if you carefully follow the instructions given on this website, you will come to know, not just believe, that meditation, specifically the practice of Soham Yoga meditation, bestows the highest consciousness on those who practice it continually.
See below and Read Soham Yoga: Its Theory and Practice.
There is no more important subject in the world than yoga, since it so profound and so necessary to the evolving consciousness.
Yoga must be approached initially as a philosophy–but a philosophy which by its very nature stimulates its investigators to engage in practical applications through which they will experience (and demonstrate) for themselves its truth and worth. That which begins as theory develops into practice which culminates in realization.
Yoga is thus a philosophy, a discipline, and an experience. It is a revelation of consciousness. It is also a statement of Things As They Are, Things As They Should Be, and Things As They Shall Be. These three considerations, like yoga itself, possess the dual nature of theory and objectification. Yoga, then, is both philosophy and science. And since rational thought always precedes rational action, we should begin with the philosophical side of Yoga.
Yoga originated in India and is embodied in the ancient texts of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras (Yoga Darshan) of the sage Patanjali. Intelligent and effective practice of yoga is not possible without knowing and adhering to the principles presented in these classic scriptures.
These principles are explained in depth in our article, What Is Yoga?
Meditation is the process of centering our awareness in the principle of pure consciousness which is our essential being. In this way we will never lose sight of our real identity.
Normally we lose awareness of our true Self through consciousness of external objects. Since we are habituated–if not actually addicted–to objective consciousness, we can use that very condition to our advantage.
Rather than disperse our consciousness through objects that draw us outward, away from the source of our being, we can take an object that will have the opposite effect, present it to the mind, and reverse our consciousness.
That object is the mantra Soham. By sitting with closed eyes and letting the mind become easefully absorbed in experiencing the inner mental repetitions of Soham we thereby directly enter into the state of consciousness that is Soham, the state of consciousness that is both Brahman the Absolute and our Self.
The Science of Mantra and of Soham
The yoga adepts of India understood that everything is vibrating energy and therefore everything emits very subtle sound patterns. They perceived these sound patterns and translated them into verbal forms that could reproduce them. These are known as mantras. Mantra is a Sanskrit term that means “a transforming thought” because when it is repeated a mantra transforms the ordinary consciousness of the repeater into higher consciousness.
Soham was first perceived by the ancient yogis of prehistory and is not the exclusive property of any religion or philosophy. Soham means: I Am That. It is the natural vibration of the Self, which occurs spontaneously with each incoming and outgoing breath.
It is not a sectarian mantra; it belongs to all without distinction or exclusion. It does not have to be artificially implanted or empowered in us by any kind of initiation. It is going on in every one of us, but as long as we are outward-turned we do not become aware of that. It is only during meditation, when we enter into our own depths, that we become aware of that which has always been active within us.
To learn about the practice of Soham Yoga see Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self.
The Yoga Life
The Yoga Life is the way of life without which the successful practice of yoga is impossible. Yoga is not just a practice or a philosophy; it is an entire way of life. By yoga we mean the quest for liberation of the spirit, for Yoga is an eternal science intended to reveal and manifest the Eternal.
What constitutes the yoga life is determined by a thoroughly practical, pragmatic basis: that which strengthens and facilitates our yoga practice should be observed and that which weakens or hinders it should be avoided.
Responsiveness to yoga practice
The bodies, physical, astral, and causal, are the vehicles through which the individual evolves during the span of life on earth, and must be taken into serious account by the yogi who will discover that they can exert a powerful, controlling effect on the mind.
Unless our inner and outer bodies are made responsive or reactive to the effects of meditation, we will miss many of its beneficial effects. Hence we should do everything we can to increase our response levels, to ensure that our physical and psychic levels are moving at the highest possible rate of vibration.
A fundamental key to success in yoga is diet. For just as the physical substance of the food becomes assimilated into our physical body, the subtler energies become united to our inner levels, including our mind. The observant meditator will discover that the diet of the physical body is also the diet of the mind, that whatever is eaten physically will have an effect mentally.
Both meditation and diet refine the inner senses so we can produce and perceive the subtle changes that occur during meditation.
The diet which enables the necessary purification for the yogi is a vegetarian diet. We need only ask: Does it facilitate my spiritual growth–the development and expansion of my consciousness? The answer is Yes.
Read our articles on vegetarianism.
What else affects the mind?
It is wise to avoid taking into our bodies any substances that are addicting or that produce a distortion or dulling of consciousness–in other words, anything that produces an abnormal or unbalanced state of mind. This is because our body chemistry, which is produced by whatever we take into our bodies, is the most potent influence on our mental states.
For this reason those who seek higher consciousness should scrupulously avoid:
- all animal flesh, including fish and eggs;
- tobacco in any form;
- alcohol in any form; and
- mind-altering drugs, including the legal ones.
This is explained in more depth in our article The Four Soul Killers.
Ten Important Principles Every Meditator Should Know
In the classic yoga scripture known as the Yoga Sutras, the sage Patanjali outlines ten important principles which form the foundation on which we are to build an effective practice of yoga: Yama and Niyama. Often called the Ten Commandments of Yoga, they have nothing to do with the ideas of sin and virtue or good and evil as dictated by some cosmic potentate.
It is not a matter of being good or bad, but of being wise or foolish. Each one of these Five Don’ts (Yama) and Five Do’s (Niyama) is a supporting, liberating foundation of Yoga.
Yama means self-restraint in the sense of self-mastery, or abstention, and consists of five elements: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual continence, and non-possessiveness. Niyama means observances, of which there are also five: purity, contentment, spiritual discipline, self-study, and the offering of one’s life to God.
Intelligent and effective practice of yoga is not possible without knowing and adhering to those principles. They are explained in depth in our article, Foundations of Yoga.
This article is a brief introduction to the most important matter in life. We encourage you to explore the many practical spiritual resources we have provided on this website and in the links below, with the hope that they will help you progress along the yogic path to the end of suffering, and lasting peace and true happiness.
For those who are new to the Yoga Life, we suggest starting with our “Where to Begin” section (See the top navigation pull-down).
Learn to Meditate
Articles on Soham Yoga
- Soham Yoga: Its Theory and Practice — A brief summary of what Soham Yoga is and how to practice it.
- Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self — An in-depth book on the rationale of Soham Yoga meditation, its practice, points for successful meditation, and much more.
- Also available in print and ebook formats at Amazon and other online sources.
What is Yoga?
With all that is called “yoga” nowadays, it is hard to winnow the wheat from the chaff.
Read this article in which Abbot George clarifies what real yoga is both as a philosophy and as a liberating practice.
Dwelling in the Mirror
A Study of Illusions Produced by Delusive Meditation and How to Be Free from Them
from the introduction by Abbot George Burke:
“Over and over people have mistaken trivial and pathological conditions for enlightenment, written books, given seminars and gained a devoted following. Yet there are those who can have an experience and realize that it really cannot be real, but a vagary of their mind. Some may not understand that on their own, but can be shown by others the truth about it. For them and those that may one day be in danger of meditation-produced delusions I have written this brief study.” Read this valuable article.
Articles on the "Yoga Life"
Foundations of Yoga
The basis of all Yoga practice are the “Ten Commandments of Yoga”–the principles of Yama and Niyama outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. This booklet considers the various aspects of each principle as well as the spiritual power which is developed through each one. By Abbot George Burke.
How to Be a Yogi
This is not a book about the technique of Yoga, but about that without which the successful practice of yoga is impossible: the Yoga Life. Yoga is not just a practice or a philosophy; it is an entire way of life. Without this understanding and without commitment to the Yoga Life there is simply no need to give yoga a second thought. And by yoga is meant the quest for liberation of the spirit, for Yoga is an eternal science intended to reveal and manifest the Eternal. By Abbot George Burke. Read now.
A Yogi and a Philosopher
This article is Akshay Kumar Bannrjea’s introduction to the Philosophy of Gorakhnath. It compares the viewpoint Yogi with the philosopher. A Philosopher advances in the path of rational logic, a Yogi advances in the path of moral and psychical self-discipline. Discover more by reading this fascinating analysis.
The major thing to keep in mind when considering the subject of vegetarianism is its relevancy in relation to our explorations of consciousness. We need only ask: Does it facilitate my spiritual growth–the development and expansion of my consciousness? The answer is Yes. To discover more about the spiritual, mental, and physical/health aspects of vegetarianism, read the articles in this section.
Brahmacharya: The Benefit of Control and Continence
Podcasts on the "Yoga Life"
Yama, Niyama and Meditation
- Introducing the Yoga Life: Laying the Foundations
- The Yoga Life 2: a Practical Understanding of Harmlessness and Truthfulness
- The Yoga Life 3: Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha, and the Great Vow
- The Yoga Life 4: Niyama, the “Do”s of Yoga
- The Yoga Life 5: The Importance of Vegetarianism for the Yogi
- The Yoga Life 6: How to Tell if You Are Making Progress in Meditation
- The Yoga Life 7: Tips for Successful Meditation