Why Your Intellect Is An Obstacle In Yoga.

Via Ed & Deb Shapiro
on Nov 15, 2011
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When he trained in yoga Ed lived in silence, practice and service. He soon became aware that yoga is far more than just a series of postures or mental exercises but rather is a way of life that leads to self-realization. He trained at the Bihar School of Yoga in India during the late 1960s, where he became a Swami, a yoga expert. But only when he came back to the west and began to live as a yogi did he see how inclusive and far-reaching yoga really is.

Although it has its roots in Hinduism, yoga transcends the limitations of religion; it stands alone. Yoga means union; it is waking up to the beauty both within ourselves and realizing the sacredness of all life. And it is the expression of love: loving yourself and others, which frees us from a chaotic mind, negativity and neurosis.

In this way we see that true yoga – the very essence of what yoga means – is when we find our freedom, when we open our hearts and love beyond ourselves, when we serve and awaken. For only when we open our hearts can we realize the brilliance of who we are.

Many of us are tempted to study the traditional yoga teachings, the texts, sutras and vedas, but in this way we can easily gain an intellectual understanding and miss the direct experience. For none of this, as fantastically wonderful as it is, will ever make us happy or set us free. We learn the greatness of the wise ones but how does it help us? Until we open our heart, look within, and rejoice in the love that is our true nature, all the teachings are just words. They can inspire our intellect but can never enlighten us. We can quote the scriptures, we can even become a learned scholar, but we are not true yogis until the intellect is no longer running the show.

In the western world we worship the intellect – If we have a degree we are highly respected, if we don’t we are considered uneducated. But many of the sadhus of old — the original yoga practitioners — were poor and uneducated, they couldn’t even read or write. Instead, they experienced and realized yoga deep within their hearts and lives, as the truth of yoga is beyond both mind and intellect.

The real experience of yoga is not found through the books or teachings, as helpful and inspirational as they may be. When we are about to die it won’t help to know what page we are meant to be on! Yoga can only be known by embodying it within ourselves. We manage in this world through our senses and mind; we rely on them to function in this complexity of life. But only when we enter the heart is the truth revealed.

Need Yoga: a photo by lululemon athletica at flickr.com


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About Ed & Deb Shapiro

Ed & Deb Shapiro are the authors of new The Unexpected Power of Mindfulness & Meditation. Deb is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have six meditation CDs. See more at their website.


12 Responses to “Why Your Intellect Is An Obstacle In Yoga.”

  1. Valerie Carruthers says:

    "When we are about to die, it won't help to know what page we are meant to be on!" What a GREAT line, Deb and Ed. Classic!

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:


    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  3. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  4. ed shapiro says:

    thank you Valerie!
    Was a great relief when i realized it-

  5. […] appreciate the intent behind Ed and Deborah Shapiro’s recent post, “Why Your Intellect is an Obstacle in Yoga.” Clearly, they hope to guide readers to a deeper experience of the practice, one that can only be […]

  6. Aren't we fortunate that the Bhagavad Gita figured this all out for us 2500 years ago!

    Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks (GN #9)

    Yoga of Understanding (GN #10)

    4.33, 4.37-39, 4.42, 5.4-5, 6.29-32, 7.2, 9.2, 9.15, 10.7-8, 10.10-11, 18.55, 18.70

    Yoga of Meditation (GN #11)

    6.10-12, 6.15, 6.18-22, 6.35, 8.9, 9.22, 9.34, 12.2, 12.8, 18.57

    Yoga of Love (GN #12)

    8.22, 9.13-14, 9.29, 10.7-8, 10.10, 11.54-55, 12.2, 12.17-20

    Yoga of Action (GN #13)

    3.7, 3.9, 3.25, 3.30, 4.19-24, 4.42, 6.1-3, 11.55, 12.10, 18.56-7

    Bob W. Editor, Elephant Journal
    Yoga Demystified
    Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon

  7. yogijulian says:

    i hear the point – but i don't think the intellect (or the psyche, or sexuality, or healthy skepticism for that matter) are "in the way" of yoga, meditation or any sincere path of growth, healing and integration – i think all of us is required, including our brilliant, beautiful, curious minds.

    i think perpetuating the fallacy that thinking deeply is an obstacle to spiritual growth is unfortunate and makes possible, however unintentionally, the manipulative work of many a charlatan who encourages their devotees not to question, think critically or use their unenlightened minds as they interact with the nonsensical beliefs, ideas and claims he is exposing them to… as he enacts the the age old spiritual swindle!

    in fact i think the injunction to leave out the intellect largely keeps spirituality at a low level of superstitious, unsophisticated, and shallow discourse.

    so there!


    • ed shapiro says:

      as long as you realize that none of it really matters when you awaken to Self-Realization!
      it is only an obstacle because it has nothing to do with Self-Realization –
      as a Swami I am totally aware of the Gita – Shastras, you name it – & other texts- etc.
      I remember over 40 years ago Swamis in India would laugh at the Brahmans who were scholars – knew the holy books etc. but were not awake were not free were not Self-Realized.
      It's up to you YogiJulian! I have seen so many people studying the Gita – memorizing the teachings yet not free!

      • yogijulian says:

        as long as YOU realize that none of it matters when we reach sugar candy mountain; a place of complete clarity and freedom that cannot be defined or debated, requires no evidence and is revealed to us by the grace of the flying spaggheti monster!

        i have seen so many people memorizing dianetics, yet still possessed by thetans – 40 years ago we used to laugh at them because they had not yet become "clears."

        as a jedi knight i know the teachings of the elders very well – but until you can use the force with complete faith, they don't mean anything…

  8. Joe Sparks says:

    There is no question that human intelligence is so great and human goodwill so basic that the natural way human beings feel about other hmans is love.

  9. […] Why Your Intellect Is An Obstacle In Yoga. […]

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