top of page
shiva nataraja spiritual yoga spirit yoga spiritual experiences aspect life practices home

spiritual yoga for beginners
a simple guide to spirituality in yoga for the beginner

A Simple Guide to Spiritual Yoga:
An Introduction to Yoga and Spirituality for Beginners

We spend our entire lives longing to be “at peace”—to permanently eliminate the sense of anxiety of feeling  as though we are “not enough”—so that we never feel the need to strive for anything ever again. This basic background dis-ease that we feel manifests as some version of the sense that “I’m not enough” or “there’s something missing/lacking in me, I'm incomplete/incompetent/deficient/inadequate”. And we assume that our sense of feeling incomplete will permanently disappear once we’ve obtained whatever we think will secure our sense of self against the sense of being incomplete—whatever will give us permanent emotional, psychological, material, and/or social security (i.e., financial freedom, perfect mental health, the undying love/loyalty of a partner, fame/recognition, the new car or house or job or promotion or body, etc.). Then, we think, we will be finally “at peace”, finally “whole”/“complete”. 

 

But this desire to find permanent security actually reinforces the basic sense of incompleteness that we’re trying to eliminate. In other words, striving for permanent freedom from personal suffering might be the very thing keeping you from the sense of “wholeness” that yoga is intended to help us realize. 

As part of our guide to spiritual yoga for beginners, we’ve included a short list of frequently asked questions about [spiritual] yoga, articles and short videos on a spiritual approach to yoga practice, [spiritual] yoga philosophy, and on yoga and spirituality as they pertain to achieving personal growth.

 

At balraj.yoga, this spiritual approach to yoga underlies everything we do, and its utility is absolutely not limited to beginners but remains the central theme throughout one’s practice. In other words, this isn’t a guide to [spiritual] yoga just for those beginning yoga, but is relevant for anyone practicing yoga. In yet other words, a beginner’s guide to [spiritual] yoga just is a guide to yoga; beginner yoga just is yoga. Even though one’s sense of one’s self/world will change as one deepens their practice, a yogin remains a “beginner” in their approach; yoga begins with no longer fleeing yourself.

Videos on yoga spirituality and our three introductory articles exploring the meaning of spirituality in yoga can be found below. Our guide to spiritual yoga for beginners also includes sections on the philosophy of yoga, practice(s) of yoga, and on how to use the wisdom of yoga to live a more fulfilling and “successful” life. Because our emphasis is on classical/spiritual yoga, we do not have content about most topics commonly asked by people practicing yoga today, such as yoga poses/alignment, flexibility, hatha yoga, yoga class, so-called “spiritual” yoga poses, etc. As such, we do not consider spirituality to be an aspect/facet/side of yoga, but rather as synonymous with yoga itself.

fire mountains british columbia spiritual yoga for beginners
But this desire to find permanent security actually reinforces the basic sense of incompleteness that we’re trying to eliminate. In other words, striving for permanent freedom from personal suffering might be the very thing keeping you from the sense of “wholeness” that yoga is intended to help us realize. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Spirituality in Yoga (by Beginners & Advanced Practitioners of Yoga)

What is Spirituality in Yoga?

What is spirituality? The cultivation of one’s spirituality is just the cultivation of one’s sense of wholeness—of the realization of one’s “entire” self, so to speak. In yoga, this requires, first, the cultivation/realization of one’s freedom from limitations imposed by the habits of desire (and avoidance) produced by the quest for unconditioned ego security in whatever form it takes: financial freedom, perfect mental health (i.e., only pleasant emotions), unrivalled power/status/fame, full control of our personal world, and even—perhaps especially—enlightenment itself.

 

As we spend less time habitually and automatically avoiding our unwanted thoughts and painful emotions, we are able to bear witness to the ways in which our attention is pre-absorbed. And as we become more comfortable with our own inner life, we become aware of the very (non-optional) factors determining our attention, the realization of which is the realization of our freedom. In other words, yoga just is self-awareness; and in yoga, self-awareness is self-transcendence. 

What is the Most Spiritual Type of Yoga?

In yoga, what you do is far less important than how you do it. Any yoga practice can be pursued in order to attempt to permanently eliminate our sense of being incomplete—to matter more, to command others’ recognition, etc.—will only reinforce the problem that our spirituality was attempting to solve.

 

Ultimately, the specifics of your spiritual path don’t matter. Regardless of your means for realizing yoga—regardless of the so-called type of yoga (haṭha yoga, jñāna yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga, etc.) or the specific practice (yogāsana [poses/postures], dhyāna [meditation], prāṇāyama [breath control], mantra, etc.), or the specific tradition/lineage in which you practice (kriyā yoga, kuṇḍaliṇī yoga, yin yoga, hot yoga, etc.), or the text you use to guide your practice (pradīpikā, yogasūtra, bhagavad gītā, etc.), or the philosophy underlying your practice (sāṃkhya, advaita, etc.), or even your religious practice/affiliation (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Atheist, etc.)—regardless of any of these specifics—any yoga practice ensnared in the process osecuring one’s identity/ego and running from inner lack will only reinforce the very problem you are attempting to subvert.

 

In yoga, wholeness is what remains when we abandon the quest to (1) fill up our sense of lack and/or (2) destroy the anxiety/fear/compulsions that this sense of lack produces. But this spiritual objective is not accomplished with willpower alone, which is why the traditions of yoga required practice—to free awareness from the old maps (or memories/habits/karmas) inscribed in the body (and the breath) that we developed an inherited in order to avoid our deepest anxiety.

This never stops being true—neither for the beginner, nor for the advanced practitioner—but rather is the in-disposable struggle that defines our lives, which is to say, it defines our spiritual journey (and you might think of the following things in terms of one’s relationship with this struggle: spiritual practice, spiritual growth or spiritual connectionspiritual health or spiritual wellness, etc.). As such, this guide to [spiritual] yoga is not only for the beginner but is for both beginners and advanced yogis, and everyone in between.

How Do I Start a Spiritual Yoga Practice?

To begin a [spiritual] yoga practice, you can begin wherever you are, with whatever you’re already doing. There is only one requirement for practicing [spiritual] yoga, and you always already have it: your attention; everything else is non-essential. As long as you remain aware of the “spirit” or “goal” of yoga—becoming free by realizing the ways in which you are always already determined or, stated differently, becoming independent by becoming aware of the ways in which you are irrevocably embedded in structures of dependence—the specific practice doesn’t matter.

 

That said, it remains true that certain practices are more conducive to creating the conditions for the cultivation of one’s awareness, which is why these particular practices were central components of nearly all traditions of yoga: breath control [prāṇāyāma] and meditation [dhyāna].

 

A breath-control practice and/or a meditation practice are ideal places to start. The first “goal” is just to be able to notice the ways in which we are habitually and automatically taken in/up with our inner/outer world, including the ways that we habitually and automatically avoid the more challenging aspects of ourselves. The experience of relative “stillness”—which is the primary function of traditional forms of yoga meditation and breath-control—functions like a kind of abstention, allowing us to become directly aware of our habitual, instinctive self and the ways our awareness is always already being consumed by our inner/outer world—including by the habitual ways we habitually evade the discomfort of [the experience of] our deficiencies.

 

That said, no practice—meditation or otherwise—guarantees that one remains attuned to this “spirit” of yoga and to its spiritual “goal”, and if we begin to use meditation/breathwork practice—or yoga practice in general, of course—as a way of correcting, perfecting, or elevating ourselves rather than as a tool of self awareness, we, again, only reinforce the problem we were attempting to solve. This means that our meditation isn’t an attempt at “understanding”, especially if the “understanding” we seek is in order to some way to destroy our vulnerability.

A spiritual perspective on the “spirit” of meditation is available in our section of this guide on spiritual practice.

The Spiritual Approach to Yoga for Beginners: What is Spiritual Yoga?

The Spiritual Way of Yoga:
Videos for the Beginner

A More Spiritual Approach to Yoga Studies & Spiritual Practice:
Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Practice, and Yoga Lifestyle (for Beginners)

bottom of page