Is yoga an art or a science?

Creative Commons License photo credit: neurollero

Dendrites, the treelike extensions at the beginning of a neuron that help increase the surface area of the cell body and are covered with synapses. These tiny protrusions receive information from other neurons and transmit electrical stimulation to the soma

–About.Com, psychology


Yoga is not a science, it is an art.

Who on earth would say such a thing? I won’t name names, to protect the innocent-of-statement, but let it be known, this was said by the teacher during a recent yoga teacher training I was observing. I won’t name the specific style of yoga, to protect my vow not to speak negatively about yoga traditions other than my own, but… I believe he was dead wrong. I stand firmly in Richard Rosen’s camp when he answers the question, Is yoga a science? this way:

The answer to our question then is, “It all depends.” If you interpret scire, [science] “to know,” in a strictly Western sense, then no, yoga isn’t a science. But if we allow ourselves to expand the territorial limits of this “knowing” to include the subtle and spiritual provinces – as the yogis do – then in this sense, yoga is the supreme science, the science of all sciences.

I also see yoga as the supreme (“para” in Sanskrit) science, a yoga world view I’ve gained from my “great-grand teacher,” Swami Rama, who said:

Yoga is a science that deals with body, breath, mind, soul, and ultimately, the universe itself.

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Ron Sombilon Gallery

Have I gone Thomas Dolby on you…  blinded you, with science? Do you think about yoga more as poetry in motion? Maybe you’d rather simply luxuriate in the art of yoga as a beautiful expression of body, breath, mind, and soul without putting it under a microscope. Dear yoga students, please tell me: are you practicing for a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BS (Bachelor of Science) in yoga?


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Barbra Brady is the Art Editor at Yoga Modern. She holds an MA in Museum Exhibition Theory & Cultural Studies, which she has exercised as a museum curator of contemporary art, nationally published writer, leader of a venerated nonprofit yoga retreat foundation, and now, yoga with a slant on channeling creative energy. When not practicing or teaching yoga in the tradition of her teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker (as a Certified Level IParaYoga teacher) or as an iRest Yoga Nidra practitioner, Barbra practices the yoga of “curiosity.” The curiosity that fuels her imagination may be through writing, curating, a turn of leaf or phrase, cinema, a century ride on her road bike… She’ll be sharing her curatorial picks and original musings, as she whispers in the ear of the Yoga Modern community: “Hey, look at this!” She lives in Sonoma, California, an Eden which naturally prompts her reflections on nature, food, and yes, wine (in meaningful moderation).

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