The Practice Of YogaMay 17, 2008
Discovering the real path of yoga
Most people are attracted to the practice of yoga after seeing a magazine cover or article featuring a very flexible model in a pretzel like posture. Upon visiting a yoga studio, school or gym they are for the most part intending to learn how to work themselves into that kind of posture developing flexibility and tone within their bodies. Many different styles of yoga are practiced and unless one is familiar with the many styles of yoga offered he or she considers them all the same.
Practicing yoga is like a skinny person wearing an oversize coat. What you see is an oversized person, however the oversized person is not the real person, the skinny person is the real person. Yoga is that process of removing the oversized coat. The yoga postures are also like the oversized coat. By practicing exclusively the physical postures you are limiting your ability to remove the oversized coat. There is much more to yoga then a well-built body. A couple of thousand yeas ago a man named Patanjali wrote down for the first time directions for removing the oversized coat. Patanjali said that there were eight paths one had to adhere to in order to realize that state called yoga. These paths are still followed today and are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. However many students of yoga are never exposed to them.
For the most part they are exposed to an hour of yoga postures in a gym with loud music in the background or practicing in a room with heaters set over 100 degrees to encourage sweating and increase flexibility. I am not belittling these methods of practice as I also practiced them in my earlier days of yoga. I felt good after practice, sometimes very good. Maybe we could call these practices physical postures, but don’t be mislead they are not practicing yoga. Yoga is about much more than feeling good. Chocolate can also make you feel good and its just chocolate.
Listed below are the eight paths of yoga passed down to us with some remarks one which I will elaborate on at another time.
Yamas – These are guidelines on which you are supposed pattern your life. They consist of suggestions like no lying, cheating, stealing and the most important called ahimsa, which means do no harm.
Niyamas – Methods of self-purification including ways to stay healthy.
Pranayama – this is a whole section devoted to various breathing exercises. For the most part these exercises are done before meditation in order to calm and sharpen our minds.
Pratyhara – The withdrawal of the senses when practicing. The senses stimulate our minds during meditation. In order to meditate successfully we need a calm mind.
Asana – The practice of the yoga postures in order to strengthen our bodies so that we can sit in meditation without moving.
Three stages of meditation consisting of concentrating on an object, merging with that object and finally achieving a state of Samadhi or nirvana where you experience the end of your individuality and realize your connection with all there is.
Well there you are. Notice that yoga postures are only a small part of yoga practice. We need to direct our attention to the other seven paths in order to fully appreciate and start to understand this five thousand year old practice. Yoga is really about enabling us thru our practice to get in contact with our real self. Meditation is the key to this practice and you can notice that most of the other seven paths are really methods to strengthen our ability to meditate. As an example of what I mean, if one steals or lies their minds are not calm enough for meditation, they would be harboring past and present karmas inhibiting their practice.
Meditation leads to that state of calmness or I could say that calmness leads to that state of meditation, a state of thoughtlessness. Mind body and soul are connected thru proper practice. Just jump into the water, its not cold and you may enjoy it.