Ripling down through the centuries to us is an age-old yoga philisophy of mind, body and spirit which helps us to reveal the true beauty of ourselves.
Within the diverse yogic sytems and traditions there echoes a simple and direct core message of who we are within the wonder of this universe.
At the heart of yoga is the experience of meditation. Around this, and to support our meditation activity, are other aspects of yoga practise such as the physical exercises (asanas), recommended life-style etc.
And woven through yoga is a timely reminder that we are not separate from our source and we never have been.
One of the key gifts of yoga is the way it has structured an approach to living which allows us to discover and express more of ourselves within a non-dogmatic experiential framework.
One of the main sources of this yoga structure or system, is an Indian sage known as Patanjali.
Mr P. provided a coherent body of teachings which aimed to relieve our restlessness, pain and agnst in our daily lives, and to replace them with peace, joy and an understanding of our true nature.
A summary of the basic goal of yoga is a realisation of Kaivalya or eternal oneness, i.e. a dissolution or seeing through the illusion of separateness from our source, and a freedom from identification with the modifications of the mind.
For us to accomplish this state, Mr P. elucidated 8 sections or parts to the practice of yoga, and these are:
1. Yam (Injunctions)
These are guidelines for healthy living, such as don’t steal, not hurting others, being truthful etc.
2. Niyam (Observances)
This encourages us to have healthy relationships based on cleanliness, devotion to source and inner contentment.
3. Aasan (Physical Postures)
These are the designed to cultivate our physical bodies in the persuit of kaivalya. This is the form of yoga which may of us are most familiar with. These aasans were designed to strengthen and purify the body for meditation.
4. Praaanayaam (Breath Regulation)
This deals with the cultivation of one’s life energy (or praan) through breathing.
5. Pratyaahaar (Inward Attention)
You learn to focus your attention on your mind, instead of unconsciously following the dictates of your senses.
Focusing your mind.
Stable meditation practice.
The state of oneness.
These last three are effectively one seamless activity called meditation, which we practice over and over again until its second nature. This meditation practice aims to reduce our unconscious distractions and lead to a simple focus on our state of oneness.
As you can see, there is an elegant simplicity to Patanjali’s formulation and one which is practical for us, some thousands of years after its formulation, to appreciate and follow.
More on these in subsequent blogs.
A book which you will find useful on these: