From an interview with Stephen Phillips, author of Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy:
Question: How does traditional yoga philosophy relate to current yoga practice?--Marshal Zeringue
Stephen Phillips: Traditional Yoga Shastra is not just a collection of “how-to” books about Downward Dog, Pranayama, meditation, and other practices but also provides a framework for understanding the practices and the experiences to which they lead. Yoga philosophy helps us have confidence in our own capabilities and defends the testimony of our expert teachers. Also, the teachers who have given us the practices—Patanjali, for example—have in many cases explained their importance in philosophic terms and provided psychological ideas to guide advanced practices in particular. All yoga teachers in fact comprehend important theses of Yoga philosophy and psychology, which help them understand the practices holistically and to talk about them in their classes.
Q: What do you have to say about the peculiar psychological concepts found in traditional yoga teachings? Do you think there are such things as “sheaths” or koshas and chakras?
SP: Yoga is a kind a training, of the body, life, and mind, and like being trained in gardening, you need first of all to find a good teacher (who herself had a good teacher and so on) and try to understand, usually by doing. So for example, when your teacher tells you to watch your energy flow in Corpse Pose, shavasana, you don’t...[read on]