"Yoga" signifies many things: Higher states of consciousness that differ from our everyday waking life; a higher state of being; knowing ourselves in a more pure form; the actual "practice of yoga" which helps us reach these higher states of consciousness.
Yoga is a path to experiencing and realizing our True Nature. This is the path of Self-realization. It sounds all grand and lofty and we often say to ourselves: "Yah... right. Not today. I just want to be more active, lose a few pounds and get rid of my low back pain."
I understand that. I began the practice for the physical aspect in 1997 first for those very reasons, and found, pretty quickly, that my mind, the mental aspect, was also impacted positively. I felt a stronger sense of clarity and concentration as a result of the physical practice. I didn't let myself go past the physical and surface mental levels until my 9-day-old son passed away and I needed answers.
So, I want to let you know, I'm with you if you're skeptical and just want to feel better physically and experience less stress. I will add that devoting yourself to the physical practice itself will deepen your overall practice over time.
Yoga practice helps us answer the big questions. What I really want to say to you is that the questions we ask ourselves, the deeper questions, are no different from what Yoga helps us realize.
"Who am I?" "Why am I here?" These questions loom in the back of our minds everyday, or every time we have a moment to pause. The Yogi takes this question up as the main focus of life.
We can stay immersed in daily life while also taking up these questions with more focus. Over time, the practice helps us answer these questions, little by little, with patience and practice.
Yoga practice helps us remove our conditioning. I don't know about you, but while I have respect for him, I am not interested in remaining "Pavlov's dog" forever. Very much like that sweet and innocent animal, we are unaware of how our minds have been conditioned. This practice helps us see what we are not, what we don't truly think but learned through repetition or trauma. In it, we let the conditioned mind slowly fall away. With time, self-study, meditation, practice, we release old habits and conditioning, stepping closer and closer to an inner freedom.
Yoga practice helps us answer the most practical questions, like "What is the next step to take in my career?" or "How can I cope better with a difficult person in my life?" "Is this relationship right for me?" How? Mental clarity, sharper internal focus, a stronger ability to see where we're behaving from the conditioned mind shackled to old beliefs, desires and habits fueled by the desire to break free of them.
Yoga practice helps us grow to reach our human potential. There is a potential within you, like a seed that is dormant. And like a seed that is provided the proper conditions, that potential becomes active and grows within you. I.K. Taimni said it perfectly: "A seed is a symbol of potentiality. It contains within itself the potentiality of growing in a particular kind of tree when the requisite conditions are provided." The practice of Yoga helps us awaken the potential dormant within us. Every part of this process matters, from the most minute goal to the loftiest.
Little by little, with time and commitment, you will see your potential unfold, like the seed that grows slowly and steadily into the tree. The human being's potential unfolds in a somewhat predictable way, just like the seeds of those given plants which unfold in the same predictable way every time. Yoga is the science of human's inner development, of Self-realization, of that unfolding of the human being's consciousness, and it's the practice that accelerates all of these possibilities. Yoga practice helps us provide the right conditions so that we may live up to our human potential.
Yoga practice helps us reach a deeper knowledge. Yoga is the science of the soul. We all have one. Do you have to believe this to start deepening your practice? I don't think so... in fact... from experience, I know you don't have to believe this. But I will say, that the practice opens the mind. Eventually a deeper practice will lead to the deeper knowledge you didn't know was waiting for you.
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