Ayurveda Day 9: Yoga

Let’s talk about Yoga!

This is a sensitive subject for me. The truth is, yoga as it is done in the west is predominately only a sliver of what yoga actually is. The poses, or asanas, are what dominates the western image of yoga. This is undoubtedly a part of it, but is only one part amongst and eight-fold process towards yoga’s ultimate intention: union. Even though I know that these poses can be a window into a much larger practice, I do feel too much of it is lost in our unfortunate desire for body image.

But before I dive into defining yoga, you may be asking
“What does Yoga have to do with Ayurveda?”

Great question! In fact, both are sister sciences and overlap.
Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India and the medicinal side of yoga.
Yoga is any practice that helps us move towards self-realization.

Fairly broad definitions, and rightfully so. There are countless different styles of yoga practiced in India, and here in the west, most manifest in the form of the poses. The emphasis has been on fitness here, but without trying to shed more and more of our ego to move towards peace and stillness in our hearts, it is not yoga. Even if it’s got Bikram’s name on it (again, don’t get me started).

To better understand yoga, we need to know the four yogic paths:

– Karma Yoga
– Bhakti Yoga
– Jnana Yoga
– Raja Yoga

I could talk about all of these in depth, but today we will focus on the Yoga you all know and partially practice, which is Raja Yoga, codified by Sri Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

In Sanskrit, the foundation of yoga is known as Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha. Translated, this means “to eradicate the disturbances of the mind to attain union”.

My instructor had great metaphor for this. Imagine that yoga is a clear body of water, still and unmoving. In it’s stillness, it reflects the sunlight, the trees, the mountains, and more. Yet even though it reflects a lot, the water is so clear and deep; you can see all that lies within the water as well. However, drop a single pebble into the water, and the ripples will obscure all of this clarity.

The water is the union within us, the peace, the clarity, the tranquility. Whenever we think a thought, good or bad, it generates a karmic effect. Those ripples disturb us and confuse us, creating much of our suffering. The more thoughts we have, the more tumultuous and undulating the effect on us.

Here is the eight fold path one can take to achieve Self-realization as outlined by Patanjali:

1: Yamas – to restrain or control (discipline of the senses)
2: Niyamas – restraint of the mind (internal discipline)
3: Asanas – poses or postures
4: Pranayama – breathing practices
5: Pratyahara – sensory withdrawals (less distractions)
6: Dharana – focus of concentration
7: Dhyana – sustaining your dharana
8: Samadhi – oneness

If you already practice asanas, that’s great! But also realize this path is best followed in order (but better followed in any order than not at all). See if you can incorporate the other parts of this path as well. All the others take place within our thought pattern anyway, so by practicing and combining all of these together with your asanas, you can create that pristine lake within you and find that peace.

With gratitude,

S

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