What is the first thing that comes to your head when someone speaks about Yoga. Let me guess…headstands, out of the world contortionist styled poses, handstands, finger stands ( I am kidding)or maybe there is. Well I was there and still am at times, thinking of yoga as just postures and could not make sense of the philosophy that was taught during the teacher training. I mean how many yogis out there actually discuss about the wisdom without posing and philosophy parts of yoga, hmmm maybe 10% based on the Instagram posts I see. And yes! I happen to fall under the 90% who just want to show what I am able to ‘perform’.
It was until I was guided to get the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda that my interest in yoga deepened beyond the postures. It is a book like no other I have ever read and I would highly recommend anyone undertaking this journey to read this book (and no I am not being sponsored). So what is it about Yoga that people are drawn to it. Frankly, anyone I ask why are they taking the class, the reasons are most often physically driven. Muscle tightness, to lose weight, more flexibility, more strength are just some of the answers I get. Which is perfectly fine, everyone has their own agenda. What I would like to share here is, that Yoga is beyond that. And once we unravel the true essence of Yoga, our lives will change.
The meaning of Yoga is union of the individual consciousness or Spirit. The asanas or postures have gained widespread popularity in recent times, but these postures are just the tip of the iceberg. It is the most superficial aspect of the main goal of the practice which is to unfold the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul. There are various paths of Yoga that can lead to this goal:
- Hatha Yoga – system of physical postures, where the higher purpose is to purify the body, giving awareness and control of the internal state preparing to for meditation.
- Karma Yoga – selfless service to others with no attachment to the results
- Mantra Yoga – centering the consciousness through japa or repetition of universal root word sound, like AUM
- Bhakti Yoga – all surrendering devotion through which one strives to see love and divinity in every creation
- Jnana Yoga – seek the path of wisdom, emphasising the application of questioning to achieve spiritual liberation
- Raja Yoga – the highest path of Yoga, combining the essence of all other paths
So you see the science of Yoga is far beyond the physical aspect, one cannot attain freedom just through postures. All the paths mentioned come together so the main goal can be achieved, the goal of conscious union with Blissful Spirit. For me this is a journey, my client once told me “every practitioner says that”, while that is true it also true everyone’s journey is different. For some the tip of the iceberg is enough, for me is not, there is a reason why I started this and is definitely not just to do headstands.
So what is it your goal?