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What is the Basic Philosophy of Yoga?
An Introduction to Yoga Philosophy in 250 Words

This article about the basic philosophy of yoga is a part of the Yoga Philosophy section of our Guide to Spiritual Yoga for Beginners.

Yoga Philosophy (& the Philosophy of Yoga Practice) in Plain English

The Path of Yoga: Core/Essential Yoga Principles 

What is the basic philosophy of yoga?

We suffer because we want our individual existence to matter more; we want our independent existence to carry more “weight” in the world. And we pursue those things that we think will make us more “real” to others—money, fame, status, power, perfect mental health, inner purity, enlightenment, etc.—and our endeavours to make our individual existence more substantial only reinforces our lack.


Yoga is not the destruction of the anxiety of inadequacy; yoga is not the destruction of invulnerability. Yoga is what remains once we’ve abandoned the quest to destroy our every inadequacy, an abandonment that occurs as a result of bearing witness to the incarnations of the impulse to self-transcend. And this results in becoming aware of the myriad ways in which our awareness is determined. In yoga, you realize your freedom as you become aware of the ways in which you are determined. This requires being able to remain with our unwanted thoughts and painful emotions (rather than unthinkingly avoid them). The practices of yoga just are variations of no longer fleeing yourself. 

What remains is a more direct experience—or awareness—of a self/world that is relatively less constrained by self-interest. What remains, in other words, is a direct awareness that we each are irrevocably embedded in structures of dependence that precede and exceed us—structures that will never allow us to self-exist. What remains, in yet other words, is a direct awareness of one’s “entire” self—self-awareness. (And in yoga, self-awareness is self-transcendence.)

Further Reading

In our article on Purusha and Prakriti in Samkhya Yoga Philosophy, we discuss the nature of our (inextricably “entangled”) existential situation. In an introductory article to yoga philosophy, we discuss how to read/study the works of yoga philosophy

This 250-word summary of the philosophy (and practice) of yoga is part of our series of articles on the philosophy of a spiritual approach to yoga.

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