an essay by guest author Ali Halle Tilley
Yoga is an ancient practice, which can bring transformation and liberation to the disillusioned, disenfranchised masses of the Technological Age by combining universal moral codes and postural sequences, with breathing and meditation techniques.
One main challenge for yoga practiced in the West, however, is the contagion of consumerism where yoga students and teachers buy into what is currently fashionable and dismiss what is genuine.
This pseudo-spiritual hybrid, promoted by glossy magazines and yoga competitions, emphasises the advancement of aesthetically pleasing postures over absorption into the formless, transcendent Self.
India’s holy men label this phenomenon “yoga trippy”, indicating an altered state of consciousness contradictory to the process of ultimate union, recommended by Pātanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Though the West’s fascination with practicing yoga may seem like an “invention of tradition,” yoga, in all its forms, remains a path of self-discovery with a wealth of diverse benefits.
The physiological benefits of yoga postures (āsanas) and breath-work (prānāyāma) are commonly recommended by doctors to relieve stress disorders and improve overall health. The neurological benefits are profound, where sense withdrawal (pratyāhāra), and concentration exercises (dhāranā), in combination with physical practice, can regulate mood-related neurotransmitters and help with anxiety and depression.
The psychological benefits of meditation (dhyanā) and absorption (samādhi) connect the individual and the yoga community to an ancient tradition, which is deeply calming and self-illuminating. The personal deity of yoga (īshvara), can be the focus for life-long devotion. By defeating the false identity the yogi realises the īshvara present in everything, as an all-pervasive universal soul, dwelling simultaneously within the self.
Yoga unites a worldwide body of teacher-followers in an ancient practice of self-perfection (sādhana). Even the “yoga trippy” can eventually overcome the seductions of the ever-changing material world and attain freedom in a state of perfect rest (nirbija-samādhi), where consciousness is liberated and the eternal Self is realised.
 C.M. Slem and S. Cotler, American Journal of Community Psychology (1973) http://www.springerlink.com/content/hwm5315421736062/