ˈjəʊgə/ – noun – noun: yoga
A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practised for health and relaxation.
The word yoga itself means “union”: of the individual soul with the universal consciousness or spirit. Though many people think of yoga only as physical exercises, the asanas or postures, are actually only the beginning of this incredible science.
Sadly we are living in a world that forces us to believe that outer attainments can give us what we want. Yet we continually have a feeling that something is missing or a void needs to be filled. Material possessions, food or financial wealth for example all have a limited ability to fulfill us. We therefore continually strive toward that which always seems to lie just beyond our reach. We are so overwhelmed with trying to grasp things in life that we get caught up in doing rather than being. We are continually stressed or trying to keep our heads above water therefore it becomes almost impossible for us to imagine a state of complete calmness and stillness where thoughts and feelings are kept quiet and peaceful. Yet it is through a state of silence that we can reach a level of bliss and understanding.
Through the practice of yoga we can calm this turbulence. We are taught to exist in the present because that is all we have. And here we can ask: Who am I?. Why am I here? How do I attain truth?
The first step in the discipline of Yoga, is the practicing of physical asanas or postures. Why is it important to take the time to stretch our backs or to listen to our breath?
The answer to that is: We live in a time of extreme dissociation from bodily experience. When we are not in our bodies we are disassociated from our instincts, intuitions, feelings and insights, and it becomes possible to dissociate ourselves from other people’s feelings, and other people’s suffering. This leaves us powerless to know who we are, what we believe in, and what our truth is.
So each posture demands that we hone some aspect of our consciousness and use ourselves in a new way. Asana practice, therefore is a way to develop this interior awareness.
What distinguishes an asana from a stretch or just exercise is that in asana practice we focus our mind’s attention solely in the body so that we can move as a unified whole. We don’t do something to the body, but rather, become the body. In our lives we rarely do this. We watch TV while we exercise; we eat and talk; we go over our problems while we take a walk, all the time living outside of our bodies. So asana practice is the union between our mind and body where nothing else exists.
And what a luxury this is! If you find yourself lucky enough be standing on a yoga mat with the precious gift of time in your hands you are a fortunate person, you are about to practice a valuable gift where you will find your answers.