YOGA IN A NUTSHELL
Yoga is an ancient tradition that originated in India long ago. The reason why it has managed to survive until now is because its legacy was kept along with much of the wisdom of the ancient east that initially was passed on by oral tradition until it made it into a written form in what we call today sacred scriptures.
The Sages of those times passed on their knowledge from their own experience for others to follow. People then adopted yoga as a lifetime spiritual path in order to achieve higher states of consciousness. Unfortunately, as we tend to repeat it over and over with our human history, such transmission of wisdom has been misinterpreted over time and therefore mutated. In fact, we are so disconnected to our existential potential that the teachings of the great masters have been turned into religions and in the case of yoga into a workout.
So what exactly is Yoga? By now you might have guessed that it is not just about bending your body into some weird postures.
A great Sage called Patanjali said “Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodah” which can be translated to Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. This is the whole point why to practice it, to stop the chatter that goes inside our head, the non-stop thinking that clouds our perception of reality. In his Yoga Sutras Patanjali explains how to approach the path of Kriya Yoga (most known as Raja Yoga) to achieve the ultimate state of Samadhi – which is the state beyond duality, the state of oneness*. He gave a structured methodological path consisting of eight-limbs, called Asthanga (not to be confused with the yoga style named equally) which are the following:
Yamas – Conduct Guidelines
Niyamas – Behavioural Disciplines
Asana – Postures
Pranayama – (Mainly) breathing techniques: connection with prana (life force energy)
Pratyahara – Emancipation of the senses
Dharana – Concentration
Dhyana – Meditation
Samadhi – Oneness
The first 5 limbs are the “doings” (the Kriyas) necessary for the last 3 states to occur, which are the Antarangas, the internal limbs.
Asana, as you can see, is only one part of it, and it is a preparation for the body and mind for the following stages. The problem when yoga is reduced to only some posture practice is that its real essence is being missed. It is like swimming in a fish tank rather than the ocean. No matter how much you swim there, you will not find any depth and certainly you will not reach anywhere.
Once there is a pure intention and a clear direction, the practice of yoga can be a paved highway towards awakening. And it is through a long and constant practice of these limbs that the possibility of attaining liberation of the body and mind is made real. Until then, it can remain as a mere physical exercise, which is also fine but it shouldn’t be claimed as a spiritual practice. In fact, I see that the difference between pilates or gymnastics and yoga nowadays is very little, yet it is more appealing for most egos to be identified with being a “yogi”.
On the bright side, this yoga epidemic can be a great tool to spark some spiritual interest long neglected in the west. Many people, attracted by the physical aspect of it have found themselves deep in the quest for understanding life from the spiritual side. So ultimately this phenomena can be an opportunity –if re-aligned to its original purpose– to catalyze the collective shift of consciousness so highly needed for our evolution as a species.
*To be able to understand Samadhi (the state of oneness) its useful to understand the meaning of the word Yoga which is to unite. It comes from the word “Yuz” which means union. The union of what? the union of consciousness and nature. Consciousness as the Divine Essence inside and around us, the experiencer. And nature as the manifested form of such essence, the experience (e.g our body and mind as well as the external objects around us). In sanskrit, they are called the Purusha and Prakriti accordingly. In simpler terms, the union happens when we evolve from the state of duality (of separation) we live in –that makes us believe we are different from one another and different from the nature around us– into the state of oneness where everything outside of us is a reflection of ourselves because indeed it is us. Sounds deep and complex I know, but that is the real essence of Yoga, so you see it goes far beyond doing a perfect handstand.
Here is an interesting movie explaining to more depth this state: Samadhi Movie
If you are interested in the subject of Yoga, I highly advise you read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are different translations and commentaries, the one I’ve read is by Swami Satchidananda but I also had the opportunity of studying the first two chapters of the Sutras with Sri. Vijay Gopala in India which made me understand that even these books have limitations and may not cover the real depth of Patanjali’s teachings, but it is a good start.
Also, this video explains the essence of yoga. It can give you a good idea of the origins and depth of the practice: Yoga: Aligning to the Source
All photo credits to Jeff Packard @jgpack
Love & Light,
Original article taken from: www.spandaspirit.com
ABOUT: Paola started practising Hatha Yoga 8 years ago. She was moved by the depth of the practice from the spiritual aspect grounded in its philosophy from the very beginning. She is now a yoga retreat instructor at Talalla Retreat in south Sri Lanka. www.paovega.com
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