The Path of Yoga
In Vedic Sanskrit, the literal meaning of the word “yoga” is “to add”, “to join”, “to unite”, or “to attach” from the root yuj. The goal of yoga is “moksha” liberation. So, we do yoga in an effort to unite us to the goal, liberation. It is a path. Actually, it is many paths.
Lets get literal for a second. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are widely regarded as the first compilation of texts on yoga philosophy. In Yoga Sutras 1.2, he writes:
योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
“Yoga is the cessation (nirodhaḥ) of the fluctuations (vṛtti) of the mind (citta)”
In my world, this means yoga is learning to concentrate. Yoga is learning to free your mind. Yoga is many things, making it quite difficult to sum it up into a tiny little blog post.
From my experiences practicing asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation (concentration practice), it is an approach to guide us and support us to live healthier and happier lives. That’s it.
I believe that most people enter yoga on the physical level, especially in today’s world. We hear it makes our bodies feel and look better, so we dabble in it. And the truth is, it does do that. Your body will look better and feel better, without a doubt. You become stronger and more flexible at the same time. So first things first, heal the body. Next, we will heal the mind, and eventually we start working on the soul.
In our practice on the yoga mat, we learn to breathe. Inhale up, exhale down. We are given instruction on where to focus our gaze (called drishtis), and therefore are learning the beginning stages of pranayama and meditation. Breathing practices calm the mind in preparation for meditation, the yoga practice for the mind.
Meditation is when yoga became very challenging for me. I am pretty sure it is not just me but everyone. To sit silently, listening to your thoughts, the good and the bad, not passing judgment but just being aware, not craving or fearing, this is learning to accept things as they are. We are learning to be content and in turn we are learning to be happier humans.
To make the body flexible can takes mere weeks, but to make the mind flexible can take years. There is no timeframe. There is only the path. We must trust that it works. We must be patient and diligent, and we are bound to be successful.
“Practice, practice, practice and all is coming” ~ Pattabhi Jois
As we walk the path and learn more on this art of living, our body is healing, our mind is becoming more clear and focused, and our souls are naturally beginning to feel more free. To me, yoga is a path to liberate you from suffering. What big mission for such a small little yoga mat, the starting place for big change! Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.