Yoga Rockford: Yoga as art, science and philosophy

By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio

We hear or see the catch phrase quite a lot that “Yoga is for body, mind and spirit.” However, BKS Iyengar, one of the world’s most prolific teachers and practitioners of yoga, is well known as saying that, “Yoga is an art, science and philosophy.” This view of yoga, I find, is much more accurate and encompasses all of what the practice of yoga has to offer.

Body, mind and spirit are seemingly separate, individual things that we consider yoga to somehow bring together. Though this is not necessarily incorrect, it is much more compartmentalized than yoga truly is. To look at yoga as an art, a science and a philosophy, we are already forced to look at it as a holistic practice that encompasses all of the emotional, physical and practical aspects of our life.

Art comes in many forms, and as individuals, we look to art for transformation, or emotional or sensory experience. Though there may be certain techniques within an art form, much of what makes art is the individual experience of it. Looking at yoga as art, there is a practical technique, even a physical aspect that can be looked at as a source of beauty from the outside, but the real “use” lies in the individual results. One aspect of yoga as art may speak to one person, while another seems useless, or even revolting. But all art forms, including yoga, are there to evoke response in hopes to provide a new viewpoint or perspective on our deeper self.

For those who are not artistically inclined, yoga may also be viewed as a science. The aspects and teachings of yoga remain the same, though the approach may differ. As a science, the practice of yoga is an endless stream of experimentation and investigation within the laboratory of the self. This does not mean that it stays at a physical or bodily level. Science encompasses the study of every aspect of the universe, and so does yoga. Practicing yoga leads us to a practical understanding of our self individually and entirely. In a sense, yoga gives us a microscope, an X-ray, an MRI, and many other investigative tools to look at our own self on every level. Through this self-discovery, we come to an experiential understanding of our personal universe and its functioning within the world around us.

Lastly, BKS Iyengar encouraged us to look at yoga as a philosophy. In general, a philosophy covers a view of how the world works and why it works the way it does, explaining our place within the scheme of life. Yoga has a written philosophy called The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This treatise on yoga covers every aspect of living, from the moral precepts of interacting with the mundane world to the esoteric workings of the inner mind and consciousness. The nice thing about yoga philosophy is that it is a step-by-step approach accessible to any practitioner. No matter if you are just beginning or almost enlightened, there is a philosophical approach to yoga that can be grasped, debated and followed.

It serves us to view yoga as much more than just body, mind and spirit coming together. We avoid limiting our practice through only one aspect or another, and relate to yoga through a grander scheme. Whether you are an artist, a scientist, a philosopher or land somewhere in between, yoga is a universal practice that can bring transformation on all levels of being.

For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit or call (815) 968-9642.

From the Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2015, issue

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