What is Yoga? by Debbie Farrar

What is Yoga? 

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Yoga is a deeply nourishing self enquiry. It is not self enquiry with the aim of self flagellation. Although oft touted as a way of life, there is no one yogic way of life. Yoga is a broad church. Its central tenets, yam and niyam, are not the ten commandments imposed upon us from some external authority. Instead they are each a dualistic lens through which one can view oneself and one's life.

If we interpret yam and niyam as hard, fast rules, we are denying ourselves the ability to respond to changing circumstance. And the only certain thing about life is that circumstances are constantly changing. Through the concept of viveka, or discernment, yoga invites us to use yam and niyam to weigh up the possibilities and make appropriate choices based on what is actually happening, rather than on some preconceived or imagined ideas about what might be happening.


Yoga is a path to freedom, or kaivalya. This is not a care free freedom. Rather the freedom of taking responsibility for one's choices and actions. But this is not a burdensome responsibility, for that would take us back into the realm of self flagellation. This is the ability to respond appropriately to the current context. And that can only be done by putting down the burdens of preconception and prejudice to reveal a lightness of being that allows one to dance through life embracing responsibility and opportunity alike.

Yoga as deeply nourishing self enquiry allows us to set our own boundaries and know our own demons, so that we can balance on their backs as we dance the oldest dance; the Dance of Shiva.

Debbie FarrarComment