Change yourself and the world around will change

What is Yoga?

What is Yoga?

Most of the people when they hear the word “yoga” think of some physical exercises (asanas) and very flexible people in different weird poses. Nevertheless, asana practice is just a small part of yoga, which is a system of practices for self-development and liberation. The Sanskrit word “yoga” has many definitions, the most common ones are:

● A union: indeed, being a yogi means to be united with your higher self, as well as with others, with nature, and the whole creation. It means to understand the law of karma and take responsibility for your actions in our interconnected reality.

● Balance and control, which are also interconnected: through the control over feelings and desires, a yogi comes into balance. Patanjali gives the following definition of the word “yoga” in his Yoga Sutras: Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah – "Yoga is the restraint of the agitation of thoughts". Permanent happiness is in peace, which is right in the middle of our emotional range.

● Yoga is a system of self-development, a path, a way of communication with the world, a conscious lifestyle that includes active participation in social life and treatment of others and the environment with love and compassion. Yoga itself shouldn’t be a goal but it might be a powerful tool that can help us regulate in this world, transform and receive energy that we can invest in making this planet a better place. The main rule of yoga is “Energy is primary, matter is secondary” which means that everything outside is just a reflection of what is inside. This is why when we work wisely with our energy through a yoga practice we become able to bring the greatest changes inside ourselves and into the world. Living in a society, every day we exchange energy with hundreds of people. We can leave the house in the morning in one state of mind and come back in a very different mood. If we don’t do anything with that energy slowly but surely we start transforming into a person that we might not like. This is why it is so important to include some practices of yoga in our routine. Everyday practice helps us not only meet our true selves by peeling like an onion our imposed from the outside fears, desires, and opinions, but also brings us back to our true selves.

It is good to look at each subject from three perspectives: physical, mental, and spiritual:

Physical Level – is the most common association with yoga which is nevertheless very important. In Buddhism, there is a term: “Precious human birth”. In the Scriptures, it says that it is a result of a very good karma to be born in a human body as this is the only body in which we can spiritually grow. The Buddha said: “Your body is precious. It is your vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care”. Because almost every time when we reincarnate we forget most of our past life experiences and spend a long time before we wake up and bring ourselves to the level where we stopped the last time, it is so important to be healthy and live a long life: this way we have more time to consciously develop ourselves and help wake up others. Yoga practices such as asana (poses), pranayama (breathing), and shatkarma (cleansing) have a strong effect on our physical bodies, help us regulate the work of our organs, get rid of toxins and get more energy. Flexible spine is one of the factors that guarantee longevity. There are no doubts that your body will be grateful to you for doing yoga.

Mental Level – if we look at yoga as at a system of practices we can see a strong effect it has on mental health. Not only doing asanas helps us to release many emotions but practices like concentration and meditation have an incredible effect on mental health! Stress reduces, one gets more focused and becomes happier. Practices like meditation and concentration increase neuroplasticity and make the gray matter in the brain more dense which results in better memory and learning abilities. Following the moral principles of yoga called Yama and Niyama also helps to build a good moral foundation and develop a clear perception of reality. ​

Spiritual Level – yoga is the path that leads one to Samadhi and Liberation from the shackles of Samsara where our Atma (the divine particle) is reincarnating again and again in order to gain experience and remember itself as a part of a whole. Because the practice of yoga (including asana, pranayama, mantra, and meditation) makes us more conscious (by bringing the energy to the higher chakras) eventually we stop looking at ourselves and others as just at physical bodies or personalities, but we start seeing that light, that small shiny particle of the divine, in everyone.

Yoga helps us make our life smoother. Ups and downs come to us because at the each moment we deal with energetic pieces of karma that we bring from our past lives (or from this life), and which can be pleasant or not. Imagine if we measured karma in pounds. For example, there is one pound of negative karma that we’ll have to deal with during one month. This one pound can emerge as a lot of pain at once: let’s say someone breaks his leg or has a severe emotional breakdown as a response to some unexpected negative events in life. From the other hand, we can choose to spread this pain equally during this time period by adding consciously some limitations to our pleasures. In Sanskrit, this is called “tapasya” which means asceticism or austerity. When we tolerate some slight discomfort on a yoga mat we actually work on our negative karma. Doing yoga practice, we transform the energy from low to high vibrations which makes events of our lives happened smoother.

Even when we get too excited about positive events in life we lose a lot of energy and create this way an energetic disbalance which leads us eventually down. If we use the practice of yoga as a tool, at the moments when we feel out of balance (sad or overexcited) we can do some asanas, chant mantras, or meditate. Sometimes even 10 minutes of chanting mantra OM can make a great difference in our mood. These practices lift the energy to the higher centers where we can use it in a more creative and helpful way not only for ourselves but for the good of all living beings.

We can look at the practice of yoga as at the mast that we need to hold on to at the times of life storms to stay floating. And if at the moments of “sadness” yoga becomes a natural consolation, then when a layer of good karma comes to our lives, yoga helps to stay at the present moment and remember of the temporary and illusory nature of what is happening, thus preventing unnecessary energy losses.

Light in Me Sees the Light in You – Namaste!

Anastasia Bashuk, a yogi