What is Yoga

The ancient Indian practice of yoga, has evolved and spread worldwide. The word “yoga” in our western culture, popularly implies physical postures, breathing, relaxation, chant and meditation practices. Westerners have invested a lot of study and effort into adapting and in some instances advancing some of these practices. People find yoga helpful for managing stress, establishing balance and inner peace, healing injury or illness and developing fitness. Yoga also offers ethical guidelines for personal and social harmony.

However, the original yoga has a much richer, deeper purpose. It’s sort of like thinking the part of the iceberg you can see above water is the whole berg. Practices like the ones already mentioned are certainly aspects of modern yoga, but there is much more to it. And yet, anybody can experience “yoga” at any time, simply by being fully present and integrated in the here and now. That’s also “yoga” in a broader and deeper sense.

“We have 60,000 - 80,000 thoughts per day. About 95% of them are recycled from the day before” - The Chopra Centre

Think for a moment, what do you love to do the most in life that is also good for you? It can be anything at all, including doing nothing. Whatever this activity or non activity is, as long as you are fully absorbed in it, then it can be loosely described as a yoga practice. Even when the activity is not so enjoyable, yoga can still be practiced.

The problem is, most of us are not able to sustain the experience of being truly present in the here and now for any length of time before our habitual mind distracts us. There is a background conversation going on in our heads all the time. Its past and future programming, resulting in a lack of adjustment to the reality of the present moment. The real goal of yoga is to mitigate or altogether eliminate these distractions which keep us from channelling our soul force more fully.

“Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is what you learn on the way down.” - Jigar Gor

The word “yoga” is defined as “union”. It means uniting and balancing the energies of body, mind, heart and soul. When this happens, we feel whole and fully enlivened in the present moment. Ultimately, it’s a highly energizing, naturally mystical state of being. Yoga practices assist us in awakening into that higher frequency of love, peace, joy and bliss that already exist in present moment reality, beyond ego/mind attachment and aversion, beyond likes and dislikes.

When our mind is relaxed, we move from being pre-occupied with “thinking and doing” and become more integrated into “feeling and being”. Going deeper within, we merge into a timeless expanded state, home to our inner Divine presence, our soul, our inner Guru, where we have access to profound energy resources and creative potentials.

Yoga also mean “stilling thoughts” for the purpose of Self actualization, or merging our consciousness fully with superconsciousness or universal Soul. The final destination of every human soul is endless enlightenment. However, until then, as my beloved teacher Swami Kripalu described himself, we are simply “pilgrim’s on the path of love”.

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