Which form of Yoga is right for you?
Yoga has given us 84,00,000 postures to choose from. It is not a surprise then to see hundreds of new Yoga forms evolve every passing day, in form of a new art, a new therapy, a new style, and a new promise. So how does one decide what to choose and why to choose? Are people becoming oblivious to the original philosophy of Yoga or they simply do not know if there is more to it than what they already know?
For some, Yoga simply means crazy stretches as seen on the nimble bodies featured in Yoga magazines and internet, for some it means taking time off to meditate and chant or spending some quality time in an Ashram in India, for some it means building stamina, for some a slow-flowing sequence of stretches, for few it is simply a retreat for old age , for some it means a work-out for size zero or a six pack!
Yoga is all the above and much more, it helps you discover the real you as you progress with your practice. As mentioned in the traditional scripture, what is known to us is just a drop from the ocean. Yoga is our journey to discover the vast ocean and all that it has to offer.
Understanding the core philosophy of Yoga:
As a beginner, we see and learn about asanas and through practice try to perfect our practice. But do we know what effect these asanas have on us? Why are they practiced in a particular sequence? Why the alignments are important ? Why the asana feels different every time we are at it?
Even if you have never read or discussed the science of Yoga, a regular and diligent practice will slowly introduce you to the basic principles of Yoga, such as “Yamas” – rules for the outer world and “Niyamas” – rules for oneself, the first two of the eight stages of progress that are defined in the science of Yoga (Sage Patanjali’s eight fold path of Yoga).
For instance, burning in practice, also known as “Tapas” (one of the five Niyamas) is a process of burning all the impurities through your practice. This however is not limited to your physical body, but also has an immense affect on your internal organs, your thoughts. Your training is preparing your body and mind for a greater purpose, that of meditation. Eventually, a Yoga practitioner is bound to discover and explore the various benefits of Yoga.
Science behind the asanas:
If we take the practice of specific asanas, a forward bend for instance, such as Paschimottanasana, a posture where your exhalations are longer and your mind is completely internalized and calm, helps you relax your heart and ponder upon the events of the day or even your life. A complete back bend on the other hand, like Chakrasana, increases your oxygen intake by making your inhalations longer, stimulating your mind, increasing your heart beat, helping you see the world with a whole new perspective, and preparing you for challenges. Twists and balancing postures will keep you grounded to the present, enabling you increase your focus and concentration.
Yoga will teach you to breathe right, helping your body detox and helping you get rid of unwanted thoughts, keeping you in your truest disposition where nothing external will affect you as you get connected to the center of your being.
Living the “Yoga” life:
Next time when life throws you a new challenge, remember your practice and breathe before reacting, channelizing the flow of prana within and responding in complete awareness. Yoga is defined as “Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” in Patanjali’s Yoga sutras. This means cessation of mental fragments. For a true seeker, the traditional scriptures have painstakingly put down all the necessary guidelines and techniques; however, in this day and age, it is not easy to follow and implement them accurately. But one can at least make an honest attempt to start, even if it is just for half an hour a day, it will be time well spent by you, helping you build a deeper relationship with yourself.
Yoga is not an achievement or a pinnacle that you have to compete for, it is a journey – your own voyage to self discovery, a channel to unite your thought, body, and breath, and your reason to just be. It does not start and end with your practice; it stays with you for a lifetime. It is not something you do; it is what Yoga does to you.
Yoga is for life:
The same asana practiced repeatedly, opens up a whole new world of understanding each time you are at it. The bends and stretches do not just remain at the physical realm, but they slowly begin to shape your thoughts too. The deep inhalations and exhalations strike a chord with your emotion and guide you toward mastering that flickering mind. But this process is an ongoing process, just like your karmic cycle. You cannot stop living in this physical form until you free yourself of all the karma and you cannot stop your practice until you free yourself from all the obstacles, physically and mentally. This can take a lifetime or many life cycles. It is only through conviction and commitment can we gradually proceed toward the state of perfection.
So do not stop your practice once you achieve the desired results that are only physically visible, whatever that may be, weight loss or gain, flexibility, toning, muscle build up, glowing skin, or a beautiful and healthy decease-free body. You have discovered just the tip of the iceberg. What come after are the humungous change within and a deeper understanding of all that exists. It is only dedication, sincerity, and heartfelt commitment that will help you open up the gates to self-realization. The more you give to Yoga, the more you will get from Yoga.