Stoic Yoga

Was Zeno a Yogi?

Was Zeno a Yogi?


Since a guy with a very cool name started Stoicism 3000 years ago, the word “stoic” has morphed into something very different than it’s original intent.  Zeno’s idea wasn’t that we should purge all emotions like Spock, but learn to cope with them better. Not much original information has survived and there is no central Stoic doctrine, but Stoics like Marcus Aurelius left us guides to a highly practical philosophy that can help navigate life, maintain control over emotions and feel more content in everyday life. A central idea of Stoicism is that we should only focus on that which is under our control; mostly our thoughts and actions. Like Zen Buddhism and Yogic Mindfulness, the stoics offer advice on “letting go”. Stoicism then encourages us to live a life of virtue, guided by wisdom, justice, courage and moderation.

We’re fortunate today that modern philosophers have taken a closer look at Stoicism and how it can be applied to modern life. For the past few years, a group of philosophers, academics and psychologists has organized a weekly course in stoicism. This week is Stoic Week .

The course is an easy to follow introduction to Stoicism. According to last years 2500 participants, spending an average of 36 minutes a day on the stoic practices “led to a significant increase in flourishing, life satisfaction and a balance of positive over negative emotions."  

Using a Stoic approach to yoga (or any exercise) has it's benefits. At this year's Stoicon in New York, author William Irvine talked about applying Stoicism to the sport of rowing. He described the ongoing "battle of self" and how he used Stoicism to control the part of his mind that is negative and destructive. With yoga practice, we can use Stoicism in the same way. And the tools of Stoicism are especially useful with a practice like Yoga Tune Up where much of the focus is on body awareness and the connection between the mind and body. Learning self mastery of the mind helps to concentrate your focus and let go of the physical tension in your body that is intertwined with emotional stress.