“As animals, we walk the earth. As bearers of divine essence, we are among the stars. As human beings, we are caught in the middle, seeking to reconcile the paradox” -- Iyengar.
Recently I have been asked by some of my students what yoga can do for them apart from help them lose weight, improve body awareness and strengthen core muscles. In this article, I'd like to share with readers a bit about the spiritual side of yoga. Most of what I am sharing here is from a beautiful book I read a few months back called “Light on Life” by Iyengar.
Yoga is for everyone. Yoga may be practised at any age and is for people with injuries and people in good health. Yoga may be practised for many hours a day or ten minutes a day but should be practised daily.
Yoga keeps us healthy. Health begins with firmness in body, deepens to emotional stability, then leads to intellectual clarity and finally, unveiling of the soul. Only when we are free from physical ailments, emotional disturbances and mental distractions, can we open the gates of our soul. As long as the body is not in perfect health, you are caught in body consciousness. This prevents you from healing and culturing the mind.
Good health is not something that can be bought. It is something to work for, something to be earned through sweat. Looking after one's health is not a selfish act. Without good health, our ability to support others in our family and community is weakened.
The body is the child of the soul. Nourish and train your body as you would your child.
Yoga means union. It is the union between mind and body, the body and the spirit, the spirit in our own hearts and the spirit of God outside of us. This union, or oneness, leads to a feeling of integration and wholeness. This connection nurtures inner peace and ultimately, freedom.
Freedom is a state in which one is not reactive, but serene.
Yoga is like a song. The body is the rhythm, the mind is the melody, and the soul is the harmony.
Nature (physical reality, the body) and the soul (spiritual reality, the heart) are not opposing forces but rather like the earth and the sky which meet at the horizon.
Yoga is playful and teaches us to think of life as a game with the body and the self. You may experiment, explore and learn, in order to play the game in an increasingly fulfilling way as you grow and expand.
We are a little piece of continual change looking at an infinite quantity of continual change.
Breath is the vehicle of consciousness, so by its slow, measured observation and distribution, we learn to turn our attention away from external desires to awareness, so our minds are still and our energies (free to unhook from our senses) bend inwards. Yoga is about the inward quest or INvolution.
Breath cannot be forced. It must be coaxed. To catch a horse in a field, do not chase after it but stand still with an apple in your hand.
Our breath and emotions are aligned. When we are sad, we sigh and release long, slow breaths. When we are angry, our breath is fast and heated. As emotions are intangible and difficult to control, we can choose to control our breaths. By regulating our breaths, we can manage our emotions. To release anger, for example, a series of deep inhalations and exhalations can expel toxins from within and restore calm.
Negative dispositions are a natural result of our flawed mechanisms of perception and oppose our growth and evolution. We need not deny these flaws, but rather, we may work to change disempowering beliefs.
For more on changing disempowering beliefs, check out Intentional Smile by Shazia Omar and Merrill Khan, available at Red Shift Cafe. Yogilates Classes by Shazia Omar on Monday/Wednesday/Saturday at 6pm; new session for beginners starting March 15. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit Facebook/yogilatesindhaka.