Yoga is both an art and a science. As it unites the body, mind and spirit, it also merges science and art, drawing on aspects of both in ways that cause the boundaries to overlap and blend. It may also be said that yoga is built on a scientific foundation, but presented as an art, similar to way an engineer and architect collaborate on an elegant skyscraper. If the science is not there, the building will collapse, but without the beauty of the final form, there is little interest in the structure that supports it.
The Science of Yoga
Yoga is built upon scientific principles. Most likely, the scientific basis was not recognized or understood by yogis hundreds and thousands of years ago, but it is today. Yoga masters without a scientific background or formal education have taught themselves the best ways to align and adjust the physical body. The benefits of this are much of what accounts for the longstanding interest in yoga in Eastern cultures. The medical value has been appreciated, if not fully understood.
As the popularity of yoga has increased and more have become aware of its benefits, acceptance of yoga by those in the Western medical community has grown. Many doctors now recommend yoga as a complementary approach to treating injuries and illness and even as an alternative to surgery in some cases. Both yoga instructors and doctors are involved in research studies to better understand the therapeutic value of yoga.
The Art of Yoga
Part of the appeal of yoga is its presentation as an art. The beauty of the human body and the form and geometry of different asanas are appreciated for their visual appeal. As artists use different media to present their ideas, the yogi uses her body as a means of expression.
There is also an art to understanding and using yoga. Knowing what pose to do when, how to assemble a sequence of asanas, is an art that is learned over time through experience. Teaching yoga to others is also an art. The teacher must share knowledge of yoga in a way that students understand, learning poses and improving their own practice with enthusiasm and without causing harm to themselves.
As yoga practitioners, we learn to balance the different aspects of ourselves. Yoga, itself, is a balance of art and science that yoga teachers and students have to maintain. If it leans too much in either direction, then it becomes less satisfying, less successful than it can be in helping us achieve full health and self realization.