A few days ago we explored some of the physical effects that practicing yoga has upon the body and perhaps some of the reasons that we feel so good afterwards. However, to credit the feel-good factor of yoga to its measurable physical effects would be to reduce this practice to a superficial stretching exercise, immediately robbing it of thousands of years of spiritual wisdom and tradition.
Yoga like many ancient eastern disciplines - such as acupuncture, tai chi and qi gong - is based around the idea that there is an essential life force that sustains everything. In yoga we call this life force energy ‘Prana’. It is said that the correct use of Prana can liberate us from the enslavement of the mind and the entrapment of the ego, allowing us to elevate our waking consciousness and achieve a state of enlightenment. Yoga also theorises that Prana (life force) and the quality of our breath are inseparable. It explains that the quality of the breath reflects the quality of the mind - when one is disturbed so is the other. For example, when we are anxious, we take short, quick, shallow breaths, but when we are relaxed or asleep, our breath is longer and deeper. Equally by changing our breathing pattern we can influence our mental state, becalming the stressful thoughts that cause us so much anxiety and pain from day-to-day.
Freeing the inner breath also helps us to stay connected to the present moment – The Now. Being in ‘The Now’ frees us from past pain, worries about the future and our persistent negative patterns. In ‘The Now’ there is no interference from the mind; we have no reference to past grievances, fears or frustrations, so we see the world as it really is, without the filter of our false projections distorting the experience.
Due to the pressing nature of our personal obligations, responsibilities and commitments, most of us have lost touch with the deeper meaning of life, of who we really are. At its deepest level yoga brings us to what life is really all about, it shows you who you are when you’re free of obligation and worry, free from stress and fear. Yoga shows you the peaceful, centred and joyous being is your true essence. This is the experience of yoga, the unification of the Higher Self (the atman) and the self that we have come to believe ourselves to be. Through the dedicated and regular practice of yoga asana, pranayama and mediation we slowly clear away the junk (physical, emotional and mental) that is obstructing our experience of this shining inner light.
What we feel after class is a distant echo of our true self. Over time and with dedicated and sustained practice this experience grows to become our normal way of operating. And once locked in this bubble of our own inner brilliance the outer world can’t touch us; we sparkle with divine magnificence and feel connected to the Universe in a new and special way.
This represents a whole new paradigm of existence and requires a quantum shift in our awareness of self and the world around us. This place is the promise for continued and devoted practice, but we each get a preview of it after every class and sometimes it can be utterly profound.
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