“I do yoga thrice a week and the other two days I play squash.”
If this is the way you look at yoga, then you may want to consider, appreciate and experience the wider scope of Yoga as a practical philosophy.
Yoga is a science of conscious living based on a life accepting philosophy, not exploring it fully would be like abandoning an eight course meal after eating appetizers, in spite of being hungry.
It’s not about whipping the muscles in shape with a whip of impatience, but living with an honest pursuit of self exploration which goes beyond the domains of body. There is a great need of orienting yoga enthusiasts with yoga philosophy/ attitude and this is the responsibility of the yoga teachers and yoga studios that are springing across the globe.
It feels amazing going to our neighborhood studio, sweating it out and feeling free and “opened up” but how about feeling opened up the whole day ? The over emphasis on physicality in Hatha yoga is making us conveniently forget the powerhouse of simple yet path breaking methods that can help us change our life style. Yoga science gives us methods of feeling free and empowered not just on the mat but also throughout the day.
Some scholars argue that yoga philosophy needs to be taught only after the practitioners are more established in their body, I do not comply with this thought. The tersest of yoga philosophies begin with and propagate the simplest of practical wisdom. In fact, if the wider attitude and scope of yoga is not conveyed there is a danger of students getting trapped in a dependent relationship with straps and bolsters of a “Yoga class.”
The attitude of being aware needs to be practiced throughout the day, looking at yoga beyond the limits of a 90 minute class. There is an immense joy and sense of freedom in being aware, this sense of freedom makes us aware of our own potential as humans and leads to admiration of the mysterious ways of life that are beyond our comprehension.
The Yoga attitude can be practiced 24/7, every living moment of our life. With the button of awareness switched “on” it’s easier to cultivate the attitude of compassion, friendliness, delight and equanimity in our day to day life as mentioned in the Yoga Darshana.
The quick thinking attitude of raising a positive thought when the negative thought pulls us down, is also a practical method of “pratipaksha bhavana” mentioned in the Yoga Darshana.
The philosophy of Tantra saying “yatha atra tatha anyatra” meaning “as it is inside so it is outside,” is a beautiful practice mentioned in the Siva Sutra that can make us conscious while creating our own reality.
The path of Bhakti, in Love and devotion, can help us let go and drop all our “emotional tightness” at the feet of Higher Reality, thus allowing us to be loving to ourselves and avoiding being over ambitious on the spiritual path.
This attitude of conscious living can be practiced not just in the day but also while going to sleep and in the sleep state. The science of Nidra Yoga tells us about the willful way of entering sleep. I understand we are all busy and overly occupied individuals, many times we crash into bed leave alone entering the sleep state consciously.
But, taking just a couple of minutes to leave the clamour of mind and bringing the awareness to the heart and its beats, allowing us to slowly slip into sleep is an easy way of entering sleep state consciously. My experiments on myself and experiences of my students who have practiced this have borne amazing success resulting in clear and deeper sleep and freshness the next day.
And what about the different chattering selves in the mind that accompany us to work and on the way back ? The science of Mantra Yoga can help us over here. A verbal incantation of something that you want to change in your life or a simple uplifting thought can be repeated again and again with faith and trust. This will allow the mind to be uplifted to a positive frame and also allow restraint of more than usual depressing, negative thoughts that run havoc in our lives.
I’ve had people tell me that yogic life is boring and dull, living a yogic life means giving up usual pleasures and becoming kind of “dry”. I feel it’s the opposite. The yogi/yogini is in acceptance of everything and looks at everything as being in transition. Every manifestation is a little breather on the way to the next manifestation, in this sense for a yogi/yogini it’s all a beautiful play, nothing is of lesser value and everything has its purpose and beauty.
The life of a yogi (yogini ) is of moderation and not excess, a yogi does everything in moderation, even moderation. The yogi can never get bored, it’s impossible, because there is so much to explore and experience. With the correct attitude the whole world can be seen and experienced as a manifestation of Divine in some form or other.
For example, when I travel and have a compulsory stop over at the airports, my favorite past time is to visit the perfume stores. For me it is an amazing experience to see the way in which the sense of smell can be stimulated with thousands of different perfumes, one little nose and thousands of bottles waiting to be sampled. It is the universal consciousness itself manifesting into each of these bottles in different scents, names and forms, isn’t it?
Being conscious and mindful of how life unfolds can make us experience life in a completely new dimension. Then, every moment is exciting, life is not a struggle anymore and living becomes passionate.
Come, let’s live yoga in spirit of discovery and not as compulsive regiment, as the beautiful scripture “Shiva Sutra” says “vismayo yogabhumika”, Let us live life with a fascinating wonder of what the stages of yoga have to reveal to us.