Immediately, the typical answer would be ‘Yoga is a physical form of exercise called asanas (postures) used to promote strength, flexibility and balance in the body’. In the modern society especially in the West, yoga has been reduced to just a physical exercise with some breathing techniques, some chanting and some meditation thrown in to create an exotic appeal. Some of the latest fads include an obsession with precision of different complex postures and a belief in the illusion that excessive loss of water in hot yoga is equivalent to a good workout. The Western society largely sees yoga as another form of stress-buster or stretching aerobic exercise. But what they are seeing are merely the side benefits of yoga. It is almost like going to a restaurant and reading the menu without tasting the food! This is so different from what Patanjali, the father of Yoga is advocating in the Yoga Sutras! The mainstream society is only able to catch the physical dimension of yoga but not the authentic body language of yoga.
According to the Vedic tradition, the ancient masters and mystics have declared that our very nature is bliss (Ananda) and the very first verse of Isa Vasya Upanishad says “Out of energy arises all matter”. From this understanding, the constant factor in us and the universe is this energy that is eternal. Our body is an expression of energy and having a direct experience or communion with that energy is Yoga! That energy is LIFE!
Yoga literally means “to unite” or “to become one with”. Yoga is a great holistic science derived from the process of meditation and internal seeing. Yoga is a tool that we use to look within ourselves, to see where we come from, to realize who we are. In short, yoga is a means to unite with our Higher Self i.e. a movement from the outer to the inner, the union of the individual soul (Atma) with the universal soul (Paramatma). Yoga is a complete system that helps us to achieve our full potential. The beauty of yoga is – it accepts an individual as he is and where he is without judgment; the only interest is to develop the human faculties to its highest coherence and possibilities.
From my observation, as a civilisation we have not touched the core of Yoga itself. To experience the essence of yoga, our individual consciousness (Pratyagatma Chaitanya) needs to be awakened in order to delve deep into the breadth and depth of yoga. This quality happens only when we have taken the responsibility to live a conscious life and we are willing to make a complete change of the body, mind and lifestyle in order to create the right space for the transformation to happen.
I had the great fortunate of experiencing the most ancient yoga system as originally taught by Patanjali from my master, Paramahamsa Nithyananda. He had experienced the body language of Patanjali from his master, Raghupati Yogi who has experienced the consciousness of Patanjali. Paramhamasa Nithyananda once declared that “I am not here to add more movements to your life, I am here to add life to your movements.” Fundamentally, when we add life and awareness to all movements and techniques into our yoga practice, we work on strengthening and experiencing our innate nature which is bliss.
There are 3 important factors in experiencing LIFE in your spiritual practice:
The 1st factor is INTENTION. According to Raghupati Yogi, he says that “Any movement if practiced with a particular intention or belief is yoga.” For any purpose that you bend or move your body, that purpose and that memory will be completely inserted or recorded into your body and mind. It will become a memory and will start to express. The way in which you choose to move your body or the yoga poses (asanas) which you choose to practice are not too important, it is the practitioner’s awareness and intention while performing the asanas is what really matters. Intention is sankalpal (seed) or words you give to yourself so as to align the body-mind to one single-minded possibility. This is about you declaring the space you’ve chosen.
One example Paramahamsa Nithyananda shared was Raghupati Yogi would tell him to be silent and be peaceful. Then he would immediately instruct him to run around the 25-acre temple with that idea. You may think this is contradictory, by the time he had finished the run, that idea of peace and silence would be deeply rooted and recorded in his system.
He explains that “Our body itself is made out of memories. Our muscles store memories, whether we believe it or not, accept it or not, we are an expression of our own self hypnosis. Any way you move the body with a faith that this or that will happen in you, simply it will start expressing in you. Even when you sit, if you observe closely, so many physical movements are happening inside our body. Hence, ordinary sitting if you strongly believe that by sitting you will have health, and you sit just for health, simply that health will happen in you.”
In the West, too much of a disease-asana connection had happened meaning that there is a lot of advice pertaining to which poses we should practice to address certain ailments or disease. It is not mastery of asana or pranayama (breath control) that provides the bliss in the path of yoga, but the intention with which we do something and the awareness while we are doing something that is responsible for making us to experience the state of eternal bliss, Nithyananda.
Besides intention, the 2nd important factor is a constant deepening of the right internalization and experience of one eternal truth that we are embodiment of bliss, ANANADA. This requires an understanding of the nature of our mind and with the right techniques to ‘unclutch’ from the suppressed emotional blocks and cleanse ourselves from deeply embedded engraved memories of suffering. This requires a qualitative shift in the cognition of the identity you believe as you in your inner space. The more you learn about the quality of your true nature, the greater you will be able to use this knowledge to bring about a total transformation at a personal and interpersonal level. This is what Yoga is all about – the path to Self Knowledge.
The 3rd factor is INTENSITY which comes from the life principle of authenticity i.e. the ability to stretch one self to the peak capability, not just moving the body in a limited way. This requires one to go beyond the limitation of our mind such as fear, greed and other patterns of suffering. Being intense is being complete, total and integrated in expressing our full energy as a ‘being”. If we are partial in our experience or expression, we are being hypocritical. It is only by living intensely in the moment that we taste the real life or else we are just wasting life by not living it. Only when we are in intense energy, we catch the flame and the awakening of higher consciousness happens. Then one fully experiences the 8 limbs of Yoga – yama, niyama, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi.
In essence, if you are not experiencing LIFE as an intense vibrant energy within you in your practice of yoga, it is time you learn the body language of Patanjali and experience the space of the highest coherence – eternal bliss! Namaste 🙂