Yoga and its gifts is one of my favorite topics, I could espouse on this for many hours. Each sentence could begin like, “Did you know that, and did you know this…?” There is no need to do this though and in reality, I probably do not even need to write this, because if you practice long enough, you will discover these gifts for yourself. Therein lies the magic of Yoga.
A little history first: according to many sources, Yoga began to develop as far back as 5,000 years ago, possibly even 10,000 years. This discrepancy lies in the fact that the transmission was oral and later transcribed on palm leaves, which could not stand the wear of time.
Yoga began in northern India. Yoga is found in such texts as the Rig Veda and the Bhagavad Gita. The most commonly used text in Yoga is the sutras of Patanjali, which dates from about 500 BCE.
These texts explain a complex set of practices that can be used to develop the body, mind and spirit for enlightenment. The type of Yoga that is most well known in the West is Hatha Yoga, the physical practices. This, however, is simply one part of many practices that encompass the tradition of Yoga.
As I said though, it matters not that you know this because the physical part of Yoga has a magical and mysterious way of leading you to discover the nature of the mind and connection to spirit (defined and discovered in your own way, on your own terms).
How does this happen? Well, it isn’t just magical and mysterious, although the process of how it lands within each person is. Yoga is a systematic process of self-transformation. This transformation first begins in the mind cultivated by learning to pay attention to/concentrate on/focus on , you guessed it, in your physical practice. The ultimate goal of Yoga –as stated in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras- is a still, serene mind. Yes, I did just write this. Each of us can learn to create this through dedicated practice.
Bottom line: it doesn’t matter where you “come in” to the practice of Yoga, whether it is the physical practice of poses, the study of the Yogic texts or the practice of giving service to others. You can learn to create a mind that is calm and a life that is less disturbed by the ups and downs that will invariably happen.
So, please take seriously the focus on the breath and movement in your physical practice. It has far-reaching effects and benefits. Notice how you feel after each class and in the long term. You will gain a sense of accomplishment far beyond the physical, although there is that (and that is nothing to scoff about!). Allow the focus that you develop in Yoga class to filter into your life. Focus creates calmness, less reactivity and more responsiveness, the ability to see different perspectives and more connectivity to others and all of creation. You begin to see more value in your own life and all lives. You develop in what I call the spiritual realm that may or may not be nurtured by another spiritual tradition or religion. Put simply your life begins to “magically” transform. As I often say to my students, “This Yoga thing is big stuff!”
And you thought Yoga was only physical.
Lisa Bauman, DMD, E-RYT 500, Certified You Therapist