Now that the thirteenth “baktun”, or calendrical cycle, of the Mayans has ended and their calendar has reset, I hope we don’t have to wait for another doomsday prophecy to encourage us to practice yoga. May be it is not that the prophecy was wrong, but perhaps it is that our understanding of the prophecy was partial? Maybe the Mayan prophecy heralded a shift in the mindset of the citizens of the world; a shift towards mindfulness, maybe?
Isn’t Yoga about mindfulness as well? No wait. Isn’t Yoga about contorting the body into pretzel- postures called “asanas” to test and perhaps improve the body’s flexibility? That’s what the Yogi-model on the front page of the savvy yoga magazine seems to be doing – striking a cool pose which seems very difficult, almost impossible, for the average Jane or Joe to contort into. And, by the way, what actually is the purpose of contorting the one’s body into these “asanas”? Does a Yogi aspire to be the ultimate gymnast and, by the way, how does this help with the “mind stuff”.
As one takes the first step into the world of Yoga, one hears from their pseudo-experienced yoga buddy that Yoga in Sanskrit means “union”.
“Huh! Union of what?”
“Union of the self with the spirit.”
“Ahh…OK. But what is the self and what is the spirit?”
Well, the self is what you call as “I” and the spirit is what this “I”, and also the other “I”s and the whole Universe is made of.
What happens when this “I” forms a union with that which this “I” is made of? Fulfillment is found. Completion is achieved. In other words, we start experiencing life in a way that we have never experienced before. Aha…so that’s the purpose of Yoga – the peak experience of eternal oneness with life. Wow! So can all this be achieved by getting into some difficult to get into postures?
As one delves a little deeper into the 5000 years old philosophy of Yoga, one finds that “asanas” are just a part of the whole. Finding balance in a posture helps us find balance our breath. When the breath is balanced, the “prana” or the life-energy within us becomes balanced. And when the energy within us is balanced, the mind becomes balanced! So that’s the body-breath-life-energy-mind connection. You still one, the other becomes still, and then the other and eventually the ultimate stillness is achieved. And in the ultimate stillness something miraculous happens. The self plugs into its spirit. It becomes One. Union happens. Completion happens. Fulfillment becomes. At first, it’s almost like trying to plug a car charger into your mobile phone while driving the car – the car is moving, the hands are shaking, the heart is worried and the mind is distracted. However, how easy it becomes when the car is parked, the hands are stable, the heart is relaxed and the mind just enjoys the relief that the phone will not run out of charge when you need it the most. The car is your posture, the hands are your incoming and outgoing breaths and the phone is your personal energy. Get the point?
The ancient Yogis kept experimenting and refining the “asanas”. Evolved Yogis from other planes visited them and helped the latter’s research (spooky or cool?). Mastering all the “asanas” was not the best way to experience the union. In fact, mastering all the “asanas” was impossible. The “Dyhan-bindu-upanishad”, a treatise on Yoga, states that there are as many “asanas” as there are living species. Now, according to the Hindu philosophy there are 84,00,000 living species which presents the possibility of as many “asanas”.
The Yogis who were focused on the ultimate experience of union of the self with spirit, found that if they could master the breath directly, they could master the life force and the mind much quicker. They further realized that a Guru (an adept Yogi) could directly transmit His or Her life-energy to a disciple and accelerate the disciple’s mental progress towards the ultimate experience. Wow! Mind technology at its best! Some Gurus could even project their mind onto the disciple’s mind to teach by direct experience. Talk about show and tell!
So Yoga evolved through practice, realization gained from the practice, and the reinvestment of that realization back into the practice. God’s grace supported the Yogis’ effort.
Today, there are many disciplines of Yoga available to the discerning seeker. Classically, Yoga is one of the six orthodox “āstika”, or “believer in the Vedas”, schools of Hindu philosophy, which, according to the “Yogatattva Upanishad”, is divided into four forms – Mantrayoga, Layayoga, Hathayoga and Rājayoga.
Mantra Yoga involves respectful and attentive repetition of a Guru-given mantra to energize and focus the mind.
Laya Yoga involves respectful and attentive repetition of a Guru-given mantra combined with other yogic practices. Many times, very potent seed mantras are used to dissolve the mind and the soul to merge into the spirit. This intense practice also includes Hatha Yoga to purify the yogi’s body and the mind.
Hatha Yoga involves practicing and maintaining, by willpower, physical postures and breathing patterns. The original purpose was to please the spirit. Due to the focus on the physical aspect of this Yoga, some in the West call it “butt” yoga – the primary purpose having shifted to body sculpting.
Rājayoga, or the Royal Yoga, is the highest form of Yoga, which incorporates all Yoga disciplines into a framework to speed up the union of the self with the spirit. It is geared towards Kings, householders, professionals, businesspersons and military persons i.e. non-ascetics. The most popular framework is “Ashtānga” meaning eight-limbed and is based upon eight principles. There are other Raja Yoga frameworks such as Kriya Yoga, which is one of the fastest ways to achieve the ultimate union. Divine Heart Center teaches Raja Yoga in a framework suitable for modern times and integrated with Reiki – an energy healing and self-realization technique. The purpose is to let the Yogi self-heal first and then self-realize.
And then, of course, some teachers have created their own brand of Yoga to express their individuality through Yoga – so you will find “John’s Yoga” etc.
Yoga is a practice. This practice was ultimately intended to help the self realize it’s full potential as the spirit – nothing less. So pick a style suitable to your temperament. Yoga will evolve you to the extent that you desire and deserve. If you want a fabulous “butt” then Yoga will deliver it to you through practice. If you desire a direct experience of the spirit, then Yoga will deliver that to you as well through an authentic Guru. Yoga will also deliver mindfulness if that’s what you seek. Such is the greatness of this practice. The practice of Yoga is a testament to the wisdom of India – eternal yet ever new.
Dear ones, in 2013, I hope you find a true Yoga Master.
This article was a guest post written by Grandmaster Shailesh from the Divine Heart Center. The Divine Heart Center teaches on the practices of Reiki Raja Yoga to enable its followers to self-heal and self-actualize. Under the instruction of Grandmaster Shailesh, the Divine Heart Center provides its students with assignments and teachings to heal health, career and relationships. Visit the Divine Heart Center at http://www.divineheartcenter.com/ or call 1-877-HEAL (4325).