Throughout the western world Yoga has primarily become thought of as a form of physical exercise which has been adapted to fit in with the concept of “you must be busy, or else you are not successful”. Through this the classical way of performing the physical aspect of Yoga in harmony with and in unison with the philosophy that stands behind Yoga has been put aside in preference for the more aerobic form of activity that nowadays seems to be most commonly associated with Yoga.
But as alluded to above, Yoga is not just a physical exercise system – it is a whole way of life, of living; of looking at our priorities in life, and the things that are important within our lives and within the world. It is about achieving balance on the physical, mental and spiritual planes and bringing us back into harmony and balance; and, through this, paving the way for happiness in our lives – to be content with our lives, to spread that contentment throughout our family, to our friends, our colleagues, our environment.
This is the real purpose and meaning of yoga – to achieve oneness with ourselves, to be in harmony and unity with the whole of creation.
Yes, it does incorporate physical exercises – but the exercises are not just to achieve physical fitness. They are actually psychosomatic exercises that help to release the energy blockages caused by various emotional traumas and experiences occurring through the whole of our lifetime - from the cradle up to the present; and many will say even coming from past life experiences.
When an event occurs that impacts upon us, even mildly, the body will respond – if you observe you will notice how when something happens that startles you, shocks you, frightens you, etc., you will notice a response within your body. Everybody has an area of their body in which they will hold tension more predominantly. By becoming aware of this it can be released and with it the accompanying emotion that initially created the tension.
Yoga does not work only on the conscious mind, but also on the subconscious and unconscious mind. It helps to clear many impressions that have been registered and stuffed away into tiny recesses of the subconscious or unconscious without being properly digested or processed. So through the various practices of yoga, namely Asanas, Pranayam, concentration exercises and meditation, these impressions will slowly be dug out, dealt with and discarded. And with this you will find that your response to situations will slowly begin to alter as you are no longer carrying around a lot of excess baggage.
But Yoga should be practised in the traditional way, incorporating all the techniques that the Yogis of ancient India discovered many thousands of years ago through their own experiences and meditations. Yoga is an extremely ancient science that has evolved and developed over many thousands of years to help man in his search for understanding and knowledge of the Self, of the reality of existence, and ultimately Self-Realisation.
Why change such an ancient science that has proven its worth over many thousands of years?
Why tamper with it?
Practise it in the way it was meant to be practised – with awareness, with precision, systematically, and under the guidance of a trained Yoga teacher who has trained in line with the ancient traditions through the Master–Disciple relationship; who understands the importance of practising in line with these traditions and the impact on the body, nervous system and psyche when it is not practised in the traditional way.
When Yoga is practised haphazardly you will definitely gain physical benefits, but the full benefit of the traditional practices will not be gained by you, and it can also lead to disturbances of the psyche and nervous system, as it must be remembered that you are working with the energy fields within the body, and energy can be used either positively or negatively. Think on electricity – it can help us in so many ways, but it can also seriously injure or even kill us if it is not respected and handled carefully. And so it is with energy tampered with without knowledge or respect.
Slowly and surely is the safest, most beneficial way to achieve unity and inner peace, happiness and contentment, to gain spiritual understanding and realisation, as well as achieving a healthy, fit, flexible and peaceful body. A body that doesn’t fidget, need to be doing something, but can relax at will, a mind that can remain centred, balanced and quiet, and a being that can recognise its true place within creation.
There is no magic pill for the cure of restlessness, unhappiness or discontent – we need to work at it. Our innate Self is happy and blissful at all times, but somehow we have lost our centre. To regain this we need to begin to truly look at our priorities in life, to begin to understand what is creating the restlessness, the tension, the unhappiness. It can never be blamed on anything outside ourself – we are responsible for our own reactions, our own responses to every situation and our own decisions in life. As has been said so often we need to change our way of looking at things – our attitude. But this is not always so easy.
To do this we need to begin to look deeply within ourselves – and it is not always the most pleasant experience because there are probably many things in our life that we either do not want to look at, are painful or would prefer to forget – but to create inner stillness we need to ultimately deal with everything.
There is a system of meditation known as Self-Inquiry meditation – this gradually and systematically takes us through all the different aspects of our being, guiding us, developing an awareness of the things that REALLY impact upon us, whether family, friends, the world, etc., analysing these and resolving them. It helps us to understand the nature of the body, mind, intellect and imagination, and develop our ability to discriminate and make sound judgements, and take positive action in situations. Sounds simple! It is, but it takes time and patience.
And in conjunction with this practice it is important to practise the Asanas and Pranayam as they play such an important role in helping us to keep on keeping on, digesting, resolving and discarding all the thoughts, feelings, images, etc., that will find their way into the conscious mind through the practice of Self-Inquiry meditation.
Yoga is primarily a path of consciousness – giving us different techniques to begin to do things consciously, rather than unconsciously, as well as giving us the tools to dig up all the long forgotten, deeply buried or traumatic experiences that we just do not want to deal with. But it does it gently and at the pace that is right for you – nothing is forced, things progress naturally in plan with the natural law. So there is nothing to fear, nothing to worry about – just work your way through things at your own pace, and in your own way, utilising the techniques that the great Masters of Yoga have given us.
Their thesis was – “ to help mankind to understand the nature of his existence and his purpose in life through the tools he has at his disposal”, namely the body and the mind.
And so it comes back to us – we do need guidance and help during the process, but the work is done by us. And as the Master will say, he is guiding us until we discover our own inner Master, our own inner light and wisdom. Or, in Indian terminology, our own inner Guru. We need the external Guru to guide us until we have discovered our own inner Guru. Guru in Sanskrit means teacher – it is a person who leads us from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge. Gu = darkness, ru = light. In India there are Gurus for music, dance, mathematics, science, computers, art, sewing, etc., – it just means someone who has the knowledge and is able to pass this knowledge on to others who are keen to learn, in all fields of activities.
We are very fortunate here in Perth to have the opportunity to have the Darshan of a very great Yoga Master, Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda (known as Swamiji), in April. To have the Darshan of a master, means to see the master, to listen to his words and imbibe his wisdom, his knowledge. To take it away, digest it and utilise it in our every day life.
Swamiji is the founder of the system of Yoga known as “Yoga in Daily Life” because it incorporates the teachings and techniques of the ancient science of Yoga Vedanta, without compromising their integrity in any way, giving people the opportunity to attain happiness and to find inner peace and contentment through the practical application of Yoga in their everyday life. The theme of his 2002 Australian and New Zealand Tour is “World Peace is in your Hands” – meaning that by creating inner peace, we can help and support our society in its search for peace.
There are many implications in this and it is good to think about how we as individuals can support the process of peace throughout the world. And as a recent Body Shop promotion said “If you think you are too small to be effective, then you have never been to bed with a mosquito.” And it is so true – we as individuals can make a difference in so many ways. Think about recycling and the support it now has within communities. It is just the getting started that sometimes seems to be so difficult and not always effective, but then the ball will start rolling.
But we do need to think about the implications of ignoring the warning signs within our world at present, and look at what we as individuals can do to make the world a better place for our children and society. It may be something as simple as feeling quiet and peaceful within yourself – this then spreads to all those around you who take on this feeling to a greater or lesser degree and it keeps on spreading. Or, like the story of a person who decided to give a big smile and hullo to someone passing in the street – sometimes the person was a little stunned to have a stranger smiling at them, but apparently the feeling went with them for the day and impacted on their behaviour with others. It is really a snowball effect.
If you would like to know a little more about Swamiji’s annual visit to Australia and his teachings view our website http://www.swamiji.com.au/
Written by Swami Meera Puri a student and teacher of “Yoga in Daily Life – the System” and disciple of Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda Ji.