I love Yoga. I find that it is the one thing that when I practice gives me the most release in my joints. I love the space that yoga takes me inside of myself and I love when I finish my yoga practice, the calmness that I feel. It is because of this that I have decided to become a Yoga teacher. Now I might never teach yoga but I clearly want a great practice. I do teach Yoga Nidra and I feel that becoming a Yoga Teacher will help me teach Yoga Nidra better.
What I don't like about yoga is the way yoga is taught in the West. It seems that whenever something comes to the West from the East, we lose the sacredness of the things. It has become all about the poses and not so much about the spiritual side of yoga, which is the most important part of the practice. The recent explosion of Hatha Yoga (or yoga as a physical exercise) in the Western world stresses mental and physical health but often overlooks the traditional purpose of developing one’s “spiritual discipline.” Yoga is a systematic process of spiritual unfolding. The path of yoga teaches us how to integrate and heal our personal existence, as well as harmonize our individual consciousness with God. Devotional meditation upon God is at the very heart of any good yoga practice. Bhakti yoga stresses the importance of transcendence, in which food, sex, sleep, and material attachments are meaningless. For this reason, yoga has often been called “meditation in motion”.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
While the physical component of yoga is certainly of importance, it is only one of the eight traditional limbs of yoga practice, all of which have meditation on God as their purpose. These are the eight limbs of the complete yoga system as they are found in the famous yoga textbook known as the Yoga Sutras, written by the sage Patanjali in circa 200 B.C. Briefly, they are as follows:
1. Yama: These are five positive ethical guidelines (restraints, or abstinences) that include non-violence, fidelity to the Absolute, non-stealing, truthfulness and non-attachment.
2. Niyama: These are five positive behaviors, including cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and devotion to God.
3. Asana: These are the actual physical exercises that people usually associate with yoga. These powerful poses are designed to give our bodies strength, flexibility and energy. They also contribute to the deep sense of relaxation that is necessary in order to lovingly meditate on the Absolute.
4. Pranayama: These are the energizing breathing exercises that produce vitality, overall health and inner calm.
5. Pratyahara: This is detachment from the ever-present fluctuations of life. Through this practice, we can transcend all the trials and sufferings that life often seems to throw our way and begin to see such challenges in a positive and healing light.
6. Dharana: This is the practice of powerful and focused concentration.
7. Dhyana: This is devotional meditation on God, designed to still the agitations of the mind and open the heart to God's healing love.
8. Samadhi: This is blissful absorption of one's individual consciousness in the essence of God. In this state, the yogi experiences the direct presence of God in his or her life at all times. The result of samadhi is peace, bliss and happiness without end.
The Four Types of Yoga
Theologically speaking, there are four divisions of Yoga, that form one of the cornerstones of Hinduism. In Sanskrit, they are called Raja-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga and Jnana-Yoga. And the person who seeks this kind of a union is called a 'Yogi':
1. Karma-Yoga: The worker is called the Karma-Yogi.
2. Raja-Yoga: One who seeks this union through mysticism is called a Raja-Yogi.
3. Bhakti-Yoga: One who searches this union in love is a Bhakti-Yogi.
4. Jnana-Yoga: One who seeks this Yoga through philosophy is called the Jnana-Yogi.
The Real Meaning of Yoga
Swami Vivekananda has succinctly explained this as follows: "To the worker, it is union between men and the whole of humanity; to the mystic, between his lower and Higher Self; to the lover, union between himself and the God of love; and to the philosopher, it is union of all existence. This is what is meant by Yoga."
Spirituality Gives Inner StrengthSpirituality is all about living a happier life 'in the moment', responding to situations rather than reacting, de-programming and connecting with my Self to come with a fresh response to situations that repeat. Yoga and meditation give me just that! The practice of yoga and meditation prove to be a powerful combination and many enthusiasts like to round their yoga routine with a meditation. When the wobbling body becomes steadier and the disturbed mind becomes calmer, meditation can provide a deep sense of relaxation. Spirituality gives inner strength to manage difficult situations and to keep smiling. Being established in the Self, your inner peace spreads outward, and makes you a more responsible human being full of caring, sharing and love. In sleep you get rid of fatigue, but the deeper stresses remain in your body. Meditation, yoga, and Sudarshan Kriya cleanses even the deepest layers of your consciousness, leaving you rested and refreshed.
I am reading the book, Patanjali Yoga Sutra and well as the Bhagavad Gita two books I highly recommend to gain more insight and I have discovered a website, www.artofliving.org, if you sign up on the site they will send you knowledge sheets to help you learn Patanjali Yoga Sutra. I enjoy reading them. There is an expression that says "Your perspective is always limited by how much you know. Expand your knowledge and you will transform your mind".
In Lak'esh, (I am another yourself) Light, Love, Insight and Movement