Yoga has been around for literally thousands of years, although not in the same way we experience it now. The most common form of yoga practiced in the West today is called “hatha yoga,” which literally means “force” or “to strike.” It basically means anything you can do with your body. All styles of physical yoga such as Iyengar, Astanga, Power Yoga, Vinyasa, Bikram, and Anusara are all styles of hatha yoga. There is no separate hatha yoga.
Before the 14th century, the practice of yoga was primarily rituals, chanting, and meditation with the goal of liberating one’s soul from the body. Today, yoga is a more a physical endeavor with a similar, yet profoundly different goal: liberation while in the body.
There are three fundamental currents of yoga philosophy: Classical, Advaita Vedanta, and Tantra.
Classical, the earliest form of yoga, is a dualistic philosophy. This yoga’s basic belief is that matter (prakriti) and spirit (parusha) are two separate things. The goal of classical yoga is to join with the divine spirit by transcending matter. This spiritual perfection can only be achieved by overcoming the inferiority of the body and its inherent desires. Basically, yoga is the way out of the body in this style.
Advaita Vedanta is a non-dualist school. It teaches that matter and spirit are one, and the fundamental problem of the human condition is that we assume them to be separate — in other words, we live in a deluded state. The goal of Vedantic yoga is to transcend the illusion, or maya in Sanskrit, which blinds us to our essential unity with the universe. This is one of the most widely practiced philosophies in the world today.
Tantra (Kashmir Shaivism or non-dualist Tantra), the foundational philosophy upon which Namasté of Metairie is built, is also non-dualistic but sees this quest differently. Tantra states that both spirit and matter are real phenomena, but not separate. In Tantra, matter is not inferior to the divine, but an aspect of it. One does not seek freedom from the body; one seeks freedom in the body. In the history of yogic thought, this is a revolutionary viewpoint.
At Namasté, both the spiritual and physical aspects of a Hatha yoga practice are fully integrated into the student’s way of life. The foundation of the practice are summarized in three Sanskrit words: Iccha, Jnana, Kriya, desire, knowledge, and action.
Desire is of primary importance because it addresses the intention of each student. It challenges the student to look inward; to transcend mere exercise and to use the yoga practice as a means to celebrate one’s interconnectedness with all life. When desire is combined with knowledge, of the correct alignment of the body and of the postures, the student confronts the choice to take action. The right choice is the one that is shri, “that which is life-enhancing.” It enables students to consistently soar to new levels, not only on their mats, but also in their lives.
Our instructors aim to help students reveal his or her own potential. Individuals are offered a choice and a challenge to develop a strong hatha yoga practice and experience new levels of joy and well-being. Through mastery of asana and the practice of meditation, students undertake a powerful transformative journey.