Two weeks into the teacher training course and I am overwhelmed with the amount of information to process. Apparently I have an old processor that can’t keep up with the real definition of yoga.
What is yoga?
The west seems to mainly focus on the asanas part of yoga, the physical workout part. Some places will incorporate pranayama (breathing techniques), additional to meditation. But asanas is the leading limb of yoga in the west. There are 8 limbs in “Raja yoga”.
I came from the west, where I initially got introduced to yoga as a great way to be in shape. Not knowing yoga’s aim and its benefits I roamed from studio to studio for few years to get deeper into my Worrior II. Trying different styles like Bikram, vinyasana, Iyengar, traditional Hatha and experimental fusion. In each class the focus was mainly on the physical aspect, the strength of the body, and the attitude of dancing Shiva.
The mind body connection only seemed as a slogan. Very little focus on pranayama, which is the key element in connecting the mind and body. Out of all the different classes that I have attended in New York City this past few months only 3 of them had pranayama.
Regardless, with time I noticed my body changed, but also I noticed a change in my attitude and perspective. I became more aware of life and its beauties. I started paying attention to the “money can’t buy you things” instead of “for everything else there is MasterCard”. Sure MasterCard did buy more “Yoga” classes, or I should say asanas. I noticed my fears disappear, and balance became a way of life. Yoga made me feel good, confident and steady, it was a good getaway from undesired reality.
I fell in love with it, and I didn’t know why. Going to the gym never made me feel so satisfied, completing triathlon was a success but then what, it didn’t seem like a way of life. The more I practiced the more I wanted to submerge deeper. What, how and where? I realized that I need to get to the root, and learn all there is to my new addiction.
So here I am in Rishikesh, India, taking a 200 hour course that meets every day at 6am and finishes at 9pm. Four hours of asanas, and the rest are lectures about Yoga philosophy, anatomy, breathing techniques and meditation.
In the past few days I have learned more about Yoga then in the years I’ve practiced. There is a new angle in my curious path, yoga the realization of self. The word Yoga means unity, to unite the body and mind to truly speak from within. Yoga the guide who will bring you to the state of Samadhi or essence of life.
To reach this state one should pass through the other limbs of yoga that are described by Patanjali.
1. Yama: Universal morality
2. Niyama: Personal observances
3. Asanas: Body postures
4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises, and control of prana
5. Pratyahara: Control of the senses
6. Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi: Union with the Divine
Eight limbs and most focus on only one the Asanas, which means “staying” or “abiding” in Sanskrit, is used as a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being. For sure they play a very important roll, through asana practice we are more aware, stable and gain the strength to continue to the other aspects of yoga.
I recall one time in class the teacher of the class kept calling us Yogis, “Good job Yogis…” Something along those lines he kept shouting. I wonder if he really knew the meaning of the word, Yogi. Did he ever had any proper training to share the knowledge to the rest of the class. Perhaps it was a way of making the students feel good, I didn’t know much either, and I still don’t know much.
But one thing for sure I do know, Yoga is so much more then a physical exercise, is a spiritual guide that will lead one to full awareness and self realization.