Immerse yourself in the thought of yoga (union with God), inwardly non-attached and even-minded in both success and failure. Perfect evenness of mind and feeling itself the definition of yoga. – The Gita
In the West and these days even in India, yoga is thought to be the practice of specific bodily postures for health and relaxation. A new wave of entrepreneurs is exploiting this phenomenon and making money while reducing yoga to a few physical techniques and exercises that are supposed to enhance health.
Nothing can be farther from the truth. I approached yoga with the same mindset a few years ago and after having attended a series of classes started practicing “yoga” for 30 to 45 minutes, 3 days a week. Neither did this improve my health nor did it give me the peace of mind that I was searching for. I started investigating why this was so and this led me down the path of spirituality that made me understand the true meaning of yoga.
Yoga is essentially union with your inner self. We are living in an age where everything we do, hear, see and think promote removing ourselves from our inner self as far away as possible. We fill our minds with incessant chatter and noise to avoid facing the true self and the silence therein. So what is this true inner self?
So what is this true inner self?
Is it the “I”? Is it the body? Is it the mind? Or is it the soul? A very complex question.
Let us talk about the body first. If we consider the body as the self, then what happens to the body when we are in a dream state and our self is manifested in the dreams and visions we have?
What about the mind then? If we are able to look at our mind and see that we are thinking and that our mind is doing this and that, then the observer is the self and the observed is the mind. This means that the mind can not be the self.
To put it simply, the true self is our consciousness. This consciousness uses the body and the mind to indirectly experience the world. It can also experience the world directly – through mindfulness and awareness. These can be achieved through meditation.
Yoga, therefore, is the process of realizing this inner self – our consciousness and connecting with it. The mind connects with the consciousness and we are able to experience the awareness that leads to direct experience of the world and hence the reality of the world.
What is “reality”?
The world we see and experience through our senses and our mind is an illusion. It is not the reality. It is made up of the stories we tell ourselves. Our perceptions. Our beliefs. Our thoughts. Look at an apple. It is round, red and possibly delicious. If you show it to a dog, do you think it looks at it the same way? You see – the apple is an illusion. Not the object but how we perceive it. This is a very deep topic and please forgive me for trying to introduce it in the context of this article.
Yoga enables you to get on the path of looking more at the real world and less of the illusions that our minds spin. The yogic journey has 3 paths through which one can achieve the ultimate inner self:
Jnana Yoga: The path of self-realization
Karma Yoga: The path of action
Bhakti Yoga: The path of devotion
Each of these yoga practices helps one come one step closer to the ultimate self-realization.
In the coming articles, I will go into more detail about each of these yoga principles and practices.