The Most Important Yoga Style You've Never Learned

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The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali has inspired millions to study the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga. Hatha Yoga Pradipika expounds another approach that is highly sought-after and revered. Kundalini Yoga, Bhakti Yoga - the list of traditional approaches embraced by modern yoga practitioners keeps growing.

But chances are you haven’t even heard of the type of yoga described by the most widely-read classic of all time, the Bhagavad Gita. Many students and teachers don’t realize that the Gita describes not just one but 18 different methods of practice, under one overarching, comprehensive approach - Brahma Vidya Yoga.

It is a mystery why this tradition isn’t recognized in the West. Yoga teachers of all backgrounds are required to study the Gita during their trainings, but the translations they read usually leave out the final verse of each chapter: “Om, Tat, Sat. In the respected Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishad, the sacred yoga writings on Brahma Vidya, the teaching of Lord Krishna to Arjuna, this is chapter ‘X’ on the topic of ‘Y’ yoga.”  At a yoga instructor’s conference in India a few years ago, one of the most well-known teachers in that country spoke specifically about Brahma Vidya Yoga, yet it has not become any better known on other continents.

Why?

One important reason is that so few teachers have a working knowledge of all 18 separate yogas described in the Gita, and even fewer can present them in an accessible way. Brahma Vidya Yoga gives a limited importance to postures, which many Westerners consider to be the distinguishing feature of a yoga class. It prefers more subtle techniques which the Gita, like other ancient texts, describes in the barest possible terms, ensuring that only serious students with a competent teacher will be able to use them.

A second reason is that much of the teaching is encoded via symbol and story. Each character in the Gita represents an aspect of ourselves; their interactions shed light on our mental processes and provide instruction on how to overcome the temptations and obstacles along the path. If you aren’t clear on the difference between Bhima and Bhishma, or on which parts of the mind Sanjaya and Dhritarashtra represent, then much of the life-changing impact of the Gita will be lost.

The third and perhaps greatest reason you don’t know much about Brahma Vidya Yoga is that it is not meant to be practiced in a cozy studio, but out in your life, specifically in the conflicts of your life. Who likes to deal with conflict? Isn’t yoga, with its tenet of ahimsa, about leaving conflict behind, relaxing and enjoying tranquility? Many of us confuse escapism for relaxation. The Bhagavad Gita teaches us the more difficult path of finding real inner harmony by living our yoga off the mat, where we have to connect to our internal teacher because there is no external one on hand to advise us. In short, Brahma Vidya Yoga means we have to make a sincere effort.

But for a select few, the work is worth it, and they realize the true meaning of Brahma Vidya, “wisdom of the Creator”: knowing how to actively create the life you are meant to lead. At the beginning of the Gita, Arjuna feels helplessly swept along in situations he can’t control to an outcome he is afraid to face. By the end, he has learned 18 specific steps to manifest exactly what he wants in his life, and he moves toward his destiny with confidence, peace and joy. Brahma Vidya Yoga gives you the tools to do the same.

When you are ready to claim the ability to become the director of your own life story, when you truly desire to be an emissary of peace in an uncertain world, when you are open to experiencing what real love is, then Brahma Vidya Yoga is the next step on your yogic path. Atmadarshan, who has taught internationally on the Bhagavad Gita and is working on her own translation of this timeless classic, is the only instructor offering Brahma Vidya Yoga in this part of the world. She invites you to join her for an upcoming workshop “The Bhagavad Gita on Aging” on the West Side of Cleveland and the life-changing series “Yoga through the Bhagavad Gita” offered twice a month. She also does one-on-one work if there is a specific area in your life you wish to address and a yearly retreat over Memorial Day weekend.

We look forward to sharing more of this wisdom with you!