Yoga is an ancient science, but what I’ve observed over the many years, is that for myself and many others it has become a lifestyle-a way of living. Most of us on the path, strive for a more sattvic mind and peaceful way of being. Many Yoga practitioners have adopted a Yogic or Ayurvedic diet and have integrated the yamas and niyamas as part of daily living( part of the 8 limbs of Yoga similar to the Bible’s 10 Commandments-an ethical code or guidelines in which to live our lives.) And of course the practice of asana ( 1 of 8 limbs of Yoga) to keep the body and mind purified and stable.
Now, I’ll admit, I’m addicted to Yoga and the way I feel after a great practice. That’s what keeps me coming back to my mat. And depending on what tradition or style you practice and speaking from purely a physical perspective, Yoga can whip your booty into tip top shape! Of course an additional benefit to practicing:)
But is that why most of us practice? Purely for the physical and maybe because of some of the mental health benefits? I’m sure for some of us, it is. You get a good sweat and the more challenging poses keep us coming back for more. Sure, theres a spiritual element involved and in the core of our being I think a lot of us are yearning for a deeper connection to Self. But what does all that mean anyways? What actually happens during asana and breathing? Well one side of the coin is that there are physiological changes that happen in our body when we meditate and practice yoga, and modern science can prove that( what was known 5000 some years ago). There are great health benefits. But because Yoga is a Science of Living, there is another side.
Yoga in essence, is a system that helps us move beyond our own limitations. I’d even go as far as saying that many new age and holistic therapies are derived from this ancient healing science. And the physical practice is just as important because these emotional, mental , and spiritual “sheaths” affect one another in some way.
Now how do we “move beyond our own limitations”? According to the Tantrics, we do that by increasing agni aka the inner light that gives life. Many ways to increase agni, and one way we do that is by affecting the flow of prana aka life force energy. Basically everything we do affects prana. And it’s not just what we do but HOW we do it.
According to Rod Stryker, Founder of ParaYoga and Master Tantra Yoga Instructor, he says that when we transform Jathara agni ( stomach that digests food) into Bhuta agni ( agni that digests the 5 elements) we become non-dualistic. Once we dissolve the illusion that we exist in as a duality, we become AWAKE. We begin to see the sacred in all things as they truly are. When we realize that we are all connected by one common thread, and not separate as we see ourselves-separate nation, separate race, etc how can we bring ourselves to harm one another? In this awakening, we see that we have a greater purpose on this planet-to serve humanity and one another. If not, why are we here?
Yoga is a tool for transformation and awakening consciousness. And as we awaken, we light the path for others to “see” that we are more than just the clothes we wear, the jobs and homes we inhabit, our friends and status in life, or how many cars we own or don’t own. It’s about realizing that inside of us dwells a light that shines SO bright if you could actually see it, you could go blind. Such as in the story of Krisha and Arjuna from the Bhagavad-Gita when Arjuna ask to “see” God, and when Krisha “shows” himself he nearly loses his sign because of how powerful the presence of light was.
This “light” is creation in itself. And it dissolves the illusion that we are separate from ourselves and our planet. And I believe the key to peace for ourselves and our world is Self-Realization. So whether its Yoga, or eating a yummy bowl of ice-cream do what brings you closer to godliness. And lets make this world a better place for all of us to live in.
“Self-realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.”
― Paramahansa Yogananda