As the popularity of Yoga increases on an international scale, so do the many ideas and perceptions as to what it means to really “practice” Yoga.
Yoga is more than just bending and stretching and certainly all Yoga teachers are aware of a greater depth of awareness to be experienced in the Yoga postures.
The literal interpretation of Yoga means ‘union’, but it is often misunderstood as to what this union involves. Is it the union of body, mind and breath when practicing the physical asanas? Or is there a deeper application of the meaning. What is it outside of the physical practice that is to be brought into union, and for what purpose?
Practicing Yoga means maintaining the right mental attitude behind every activity in life no matter how small or trivial. Whatever attitude we project outwards to other people or objects will be returned to us. The nature of reality is one of cause and effect.
The ultimate goal of effective Yoga practice is meditation, and all other preparatory elements, such as asana, are leading up to this. This gives rise to another question concerning Yoga, and that is- “What is it that is to be meditated upon?”
There is reference in the Sutra’s of Patanjali of the merging of the meditating subject with the object that is being meditated upon. When choosing any object we are encouraged to see the object as an external manifestation of the three gunas moving through the states of tamas-sattva-rajas. Modern day physics would suggest that this as the states of matter as depicted in the structure of the atom given by the proton-neutron-electron model. Therefore when we meditate on any object at the level of its underlying structure, or make-up, we can start to see that all things are made up of the one thing and that it is only its outward appearance that is different.
If we are able to see that all that exists in the universe is fundamentally made of the same matter and that there is no difference or separation between all objects in the universe, then we can see the unity of things that were once thought to be separate – including ourselves. This is the moment when the seer merges with the seen, and there is then union between the subject and the object. The Universe is the “object” to be meditated on. It is a union of ourselves with the rest of the community, the rest of human society, with nature, the world and the cosmos.
“Yoga is a total union of oneself with the totality of things” (Swami Krishnananda)
The application of this knowledge implies that we are able to maintain a flow of conscious awareness that connects the outside world with our state of inward being. In other words we are the embodiment of the flow of consciousness between the states of prakriti and parusha.
When we practice Yoga on our mat it is an opportunity to train this mental awareness alongside the physical training of the body. The real challenge begins when we step off our mat and go about the rest of our day. Can we maintain this state of inward being that sees the connectedness of all things as we enter into the world of outward doing.