With more than 5,000 years of history, Yoga is having a resurgence in modern times. In fact, in nearly every city and town, we are fortunate to find a range of Yoga studios. As more people roll out their mats and practice finding physical flexibility in a class, we have the opportunity to rediscover the many other aspects of this beautiful science that can help us find mental and spiritual flexibility.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a vast practice that teaches us how to “be” in life. The asanas, or body postures we do in a typical studio class, are an important aspect of Yoga, but their role is largely to help us maintain comfort in our bodies so that we can find comfort in other parts of our lives (think about it: If you have physical pain, which asana is meant to prevent and heal, it is much more difficult to find inner peace). In fact, as popular as Yoga classes are these days, it’s interesting to know that the ancient Yogic texts only devote a small portion to asana. The majority of the wisdom is around how to conduct ourselves to find consciousness in every aspect of life through spiritual connection.
The Yogic path is one of inner awareness. This awareness, present in the classical teachings of the poses, is the reason that Yoga asana is so popular, as it offers a perfect antidote to our modern society, which is largely bent on pulling us away from our true selves with constant distractions, sensory overload and excessive stress. In this state, the ego dominates as a false protection from this bombardment. This is where the other aspects of Yoga are especially helpful. As we go within by practicing Yoga in all parts of our lives, we begin to see that the only protection we truly need is that of divine grace.
This drawing inward does not mean we have to leave the world, but rather that we begin to experience it with new presence of mind and non-attachment. This shift comes largely from a regular pranayama and meditation practice and attention to the other teachings of Yoga, including the yamas and niyamas. The yamas and niyamas offer guidelines in social and personal behavior that bring greater peace of mind. For example, by practicing the yama satya, or honesty, we become more aligned with what we truly want in life and not taken in by falsehoods. Similarly, when we cultivate the niyama samtosa, or contentment with what we have, we no longer need validation through external or material objects. We can purely enjoy them.
The shift from practicing asana to becoming a yogi is life changing. Yogis find increased clarity in their daily lives and greater happiness and peace through the relationship of body, mind and spirit – all of which comes from recognizing our part in our lives and seeing how we create our experience. Still, as with any substantial life shift, stepping on the yogic path is not always free of struggle. As you turn inward and move away from your ego, it may resist. It will begin to tell you that you will no longer fit in to your social circles, that you are too old or too young to make such big changes, or question if this is really the right path for you. But the ego feeds on a diet of drama and attention, so the less you feed it, the less room it takes up in your life. This is where true inner peace begins.
The next time you step onto your Yoga mat, remember that the reason you are there is to cultivate a deeper connection to your true self long after savasana is over. When each of us seeks our own divine light on and off the mat, that light reflects on to every other person we come into contact with. This chain reaction, from one light being to another, is how we heal the world and live in peace.
For a deeper understanding of how to bring the full teachings of Yoga into your life, take a look at our 200-hour Yoga teacher training or schedule a personal Yoga consultation.