The Lost Meaning of Yoga
Lately, I’ m having more and more conversations with friends, peers, and spiritual healers questioning the integrity of Yoga practice at Yoga studios and whether the meaning of Yoga is getting lost in translation.
The Sanskrit word Yoga means union. It refers to a union of the small, individual self with the whole infinite supreme and divine self. According to H.H Swami Chidanand Sarasiwatiji,” The path of Yoga is a path of union – union of the breath to the body and mind to the muscles, union of the mind, body and spirit, and ultimately union of the creation with the creator.” While Asanas (the physical postures) is a fundamental aspect of the path of Yoga, for some lineages it is the medium with where the union takes place. Asana only becomes Yoga if it leads to spiritual union, not just limberness flexibility and strength. Yoga has been practiced in India since time immemorial, and includes the body and breath as well as practices of devotion and worship, acts of service called Seva, all with a cultivation of wisdom and understanding.
It is incredible to see the evolution of all these Yoga studios opening up all over our world. To be able to practice and have access to a Yoga class is indeed wonderful. Yet, unfortunately in the vastness of its dissemination, something of its deep essence is being lost and it gets misinterpreted. One of the biggest misconceptions is that Yoga is solely Asana. At a Satsang I was at not too long ago, with Deepak Chopra and Eddie Stern (guru to the celebrities), there was clarification that Asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga. Asana is a practice through which the body becomes a medium for awakening consciousness and enlightenment. A medium towards ultimate peace and bliss along with practicing the other seven limbs of Yoga. Postures and meditations are tools to access self-awareness and assist in diving into the infinite nature of being.
“If you cannot see God in all, you cannot see God at all.” Yogi Bhajan
Personally, I’ve been on a quest to seek spirituality in Yoga practice. I’ve was finding it difficult to connect with my spiritual self, while the emphasis at some of the classes (that weren’t conveniently located for me ), is more on trending “workouts” rather than a vehicle to connect the mind body and spirit. I’ve also witnessed an ‘ unyoga” vibe or attitude in some studios that doesn’t align with the essence of what Yoga is supposed to evoke.
When I’m unable to get to a studio in which I feel connected spiritually, I practice on my own designing my own Vinyasas with Asanas that resonate for me intuitively. I practice mindfulness with letting go of self-judgment and comparing. The eight limbs of Yoga written in the Panjali explain the fundamental principles of what Yoga means. I believe when we have the understanding of what Yoga means, no matter how you practice, it’s imperative to keep the integrity of these principles mindful. What I’ve concluded for myself is that after researching on the principles of what Yoga means, whether yoga means practice on a yoga mat listening to Beyonce or chanting to ancient Mantras, or whatever design of yoga you are into, it is to remember we are all unique individuals with many different desires and opinions. There is no wrong way in how someone might practice. I believe it’ s more important to evaluate if within their practice, the individual is actually practicing being present, and taking accountability for the practice with removing judgment and comparison.
Tips: There are so many varieties in Yoga practice. Research and explore the practice that you feel resonates with you. Come back to your intention. Try and keep an open mind and make space for the natural variety that arises from Yoga. Try to meditate on YOUR truth in Yoga rather than from a place of inquiry and judgment. As yoga continues to evolve, try to evolve within your deeper personal meaning of the evolution of yoga.