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Looking within: Yoga & Self-Enquiry

“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains,

at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers,

at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars,

and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

~ Saint Augustine

Sage Patanjali | 900 a.D. Mysore, India.

One of the main differences between Yoga and other Hindu philosophies is that yoga is the only one with a practice.

The theory of Yoga has been codified and systematised by the great sage Patañjali around 400 years B.C. Patañjali was not the inventor of Yoga. We know that Yoga had existed before him and that he had created a synthesis of existing knowledge and information, putting it under the form of 195 aphorisms (sūtras), which may be considered as a precise road-map for the yoga practice.

Traditionally, it is believed that yoga is 99% practice and only 1% theory. B.K.S. Iyengar, used to tell us that even that 1% could be understood through the practice. Another well-known school of Hindu Philosophy is Vedānta, which in itself has seven schools, the most famous one being Advaīta of Ādi Śankara.

BKS Iyengar in Sidasana meditation seat and in Urdhva Muhka Svanasana. Pune, India 2021.

In her recently published text "Yoga & Self-Enquiry", Lucy E Johnson gives insight into the traditions and methods of both Yoga and Vedānta, remembering us of the original roots of yoga and its philosophical aim of liberation by realizisation of the self.

Claudia Lamas Cornejo: Why did you write Yoga and Self-Enquiry?

Lucy E Johnson: It was the result of an inner urge or push. I simply had to do it! It felt like a very inspired process. My sincere hope is that these ancient and timeless teachings are of benefit to my fellow yoga practitioners and other spiritual seekers.

CLC: What is your vision?

LEJ: B.K.S Iyengar introduced millions to yoga in the West. But he also encouraged practitioners to explore the meaning of the yoga sutras – not as dry theory, but actual practice! I, like many Western practitioners came to yoga because of physical issues. And yet it soon becomes apparent for many of us that this is only scratching the surface of a very sophisticated yet practical system for self-transformation. My vision is that rather than yoga being a commercial commodity that it largely is today, yoga practitioners from all traditions will begin to dive deeper into the depths of its wisdom teachings. And not just intellectually but experientially.

Extracts from the book:

CLC: What is your approach in yoga?

LEJ: We mistake ourselves to be an individual (body-mind complex) rather than the Self (Atman or Purusa) which is Pure Limitless Consciousness or Awareness. We must, therefore, learn to differentiate between the Self and the not-Self. This process is Self-enquiry or Svadhyaya which Patanjali designates as an act of yoga. Self-enquiry is not intellectual analysis but rather direct observation of ourselves. Once we have established ‘contact’ with our true Self, it is necessary to become grounded in this knowledge by practising the eight limbs of yoga. The lower limbs of yoga are practiced for purifying the mind – to remove rajas (agitation) and tamas (dullness) and render it more sattvic (calm/lucid). A sattvic mind is fit for meditation. In the end yoga becomes a way of life as we learn to integrate it into all aspects of life, not just when we are sitting for meditation or practising asanas or pranayama.

Claudia Lamas Cornejo: Thank you very much for your time!


About Lucy E Johnson: Originally from England, Lucy Elizabeth Johnson first discovered yoga in her late 20s when she happened to stumble across Mira Mehta's Iyengar yoga classes in North London. She later began to attend classes at the Iyengar Yoga institute in Maida Vale as well as classes of Vedānta and Sanskrit with the Chinmaya International Foundation, London. She went on to become a fully certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher in 2016 and retired in 2019 from her job as a Consultant to devote more time to her family and spiritual practice.

Further info on her book, sample pages and how to order: "Yoga & Self-Enquiry" >>


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