Why Do We Yoga?
This week’s classes were inspired by David Frawley and his book, Yoga and Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization. In the first chapter, he says, “Yoga is first and foremost a science of Self-realization. It’s concern is spiritual practice, mainly through meditation, to take us beyond the sorrow and ignorance of the world. It teaches us how to move from our outer bodily and ego-bound identity to our immortal Self that dwells within the heart. Yoga provides the key to all spiritual development, which in the Vedic sense is gaining knowledge of our true nature beyond time, space, death, and suffering.”
Of course the yoga that Mr. Frawley is referring to is so much more than our current Western idea of yoga which consists of mostly poses and some breath work. The Yoga Tradition is at least 5000 years old, but our modern, pose-based practice is roughly 120 years old.
There was a time when traditional Hatha Yoga seemed too bound by religion to be accepted by Americans, so yoga blended with gymnastics to make it more palatable. After the initial blending, yoga continued to morph with the help of rising “yoga stars” who promised that yoga was all you needed to stay slim and young-looking. Hollywood jumped on the yoga bandwagon for these benefits, and modern yoga continued to evolve. The evolution of contemporary yoga practice continues to this day. We now have hot and sweaty yoga and yoga with goats as some of the many varietals.
For me, it can be difficult to imagine Patanjali (the man who wrote one of our guiding texts, The Yoga Sutras) meant for yoga to be practiced with goats. However, I stand by the idea that all yoga is good yoga, because it can start you on the path, or at least pique your interest enough to start your search for more.
No matter where you go to practice yoga, most of the time will be spent in modern poses. I believe postural yoga is the best way to start the journey to your Self. Begin with the tangible, gross body, and work toward the esoteric, subtle body. It makes sense to me. But we can’t stop with physical poses. We have to get into the deeper stuff.
The poses help our body remain steady as we move into pranayama (breath work) and meditation. Meditation is where it’s at. Meditation is where the good stuff happens. We can feel peaceful, present, and recognize all that is greater than ourselves while meditating. We can also feel agitated, distracted, and bound by sitting while meditating. The more we sit, the more we recognize the natural ebb and flow of the mind and of life. It’s pretty great actually.
It’s truly a gift to do something every day, no matter what, without having any attachments to what happens, with no achievable goal at the end. There’s a certain freedom that comes from not needing an outcome. The true beauty is the outcome happens anyway. You notice it in subtle ways throughout your day. You have more patience, you have more brevity, you don’t mind (as much) when someone cuts you off in traffic.
So, of course, I encourage you to get started. Go to a class, I have a few each week you could try. Your Self would really like you to know her.