When I first found the yogic path, it felt like an essential piece of the puzzle feel into place. My journey began with a search for truth. I looked into all the religions and spiritual paths I could get my hands on, investigated every perspective and philosophy I could find. And it seemed to me that they all had some really beautiful points to them, but there was a disconnect between the ideas and the actions. So much of it seemed to be talk without follow-through.
I found yoga as a way of “putting my money where my mouth was.”
Yoga is not a religion
There are Christian yogis, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, yogis in every colour and variety of the religious path. Yoga is a physical practice connected to a science of mind and spirit, a way of living in accordance with one’s spiritual values and ideals. In order for yoga to be this, though, it has to be approached as more than acrobatics or physical exercise. Your practice can transform your life, but only if it is the medium to expand your consciousness.
So what does that mean, anyway?
We hear words like consciousness and enlightenment bandied around an awful lot these days. It’s the new lingo. But what does it look like?
Hatha yoga, the yoga of the body and of asana, is learning to play the body like an instrument. Learning how to bring it into resonance and harmony. It’s movement with consciousness, with clear and focused awareness.
The body is the primary medium of our experience.
So often in our busy day-to-day life, we live in the mind, in the stories that we use as a framework to understand our experience. Each of these stories has a purpose, but they are all fundamentally arbitrary, created to apply a meaning that we have chose to our experience. The body, on the other hand, is our contact point with the present, the only thing in our experience which is truly real and immediate.
Each of the emotional and psychological imbalances or blockages we experience is reflected in a tightness or imbalance within the body.
Yoga is a process of opening and refining the body on every level, bringing life and energy into every cell. In unlocking the body, it liberates the blocked energies of mind and spirit. This only happens, though, when the movement and breath is joined with awareness, with a still, focused connection to our subtlest movements. Yoga is a process; it doesn’t happen all at once. Slowly over time, through continuous and dedicated practice, we refine our awareness to a razor edge.
Yoga is an art of conscious breath and systematic engagement and relaxation of muscles. Through the practice, we send prana, the energy of life and consciousness, through the entire being. It’s important to recognize this, because the being is more than the body; it is body, mind, and spirit, all components of our existence in the body:
- The breath focuses the awareness, allowing the prana to be directed in a smooth and even flow.
- The asanas, or postures, engage certain muscles and relax others, directing the prana to enliven areas that might be blocked or ignored with the routine motions of daily life.
Our prana directs our emotions and our thoughts, so by opening the channels and smoothing out the flow of energy, we can actually get past old mental habits and emotional blocks. Through applied effort of a regular, conscious practice, we begin to move past the things that interfere with true morality and balanced perspective. Yoga is a supplement to the religious ideal, giving us the physical, emotional, and mental capacity to become aligned with our spiritual values.
So give it a go… Slow down, breathe smoothly, and try to become aware of each detail in each pose. Don’t force it, but allow it to become deeper with each practice. Let go of how it’s supposed to look, and listen to what the body tells you in the moment. With each practice, you become more firmly balanced and seated in the self, more deeply connected to being.