Modern day yoga has become very focused upon asana practice but, in the yoga tradition, physical practice is only a small part of yoga. Scriptures and texts on yoga philosophy offer a set of approaches to life and techniques to enable serious practitioners to grow deeply, not only in our practice but also as human beings.
For serious practitioners, philosophy and the physical practice can be regarded as two sides of the same coin that support and supplement each other. By only focusing on asana, yoga will become just another form of exercise, however, by concentrating only on philosophy, one would miss the physical benefits of asana practice. Thus, we need to understand how to combine philosophical teachings and physical practice in the right way to support our personal growth.
Understanding yoga philosophy enables us to place our yoga practice within the context of life as a whole. For those seeking a deeper practice, yoga philosophy provides us with guidelines for living a good life, including standards of ethics and self-conduct, so that we can know what it feels like to live and act in harmony and integrity with our highest values, even when we face difficulty.
As yoga teachers, when we limit our understanding of yoga to asana, we also limit its ability to help our students. By blending asana practice with meditation, pranayama, and intentional self-study, we can support our students in cultivating a deeper and more inclusive relationship with yoga, that can continue to transform all aspects of their lives.
Finally, as yoga teachers and practitioners it is important to acknowledge the part we play in the proud lineage of yoga, passed down from teacher to student over thousands of years. Studying yoga philosophy can help us to better understand the history and the traditions of yoga so that we can practice and teach from a deeper place.
Hence, to be an advanced yoga practitioner or a successful yoga teacher, it is necessary to have a deep knowledge and understanding of both yoga philosophy and physical practice.