I have practiced yoga on and off for six years, but when I read about yoga philosophy, I realize there is much more to yoga than the physical practice. How can I experience the deeper meaning and purpose of yoga and use it to improve my life?
Melvin Karpinski, Ft Lauderdale, Fl
With the popularly of yoga in this country, its true depth has been diminished. In many cases, it has just a form of vigorous application of yoga postures for exercise. The focus on the physical aspect of hatha yoga has definitely had a powerful and beneficial impact. Today's practice may provide the breadth but certainly not the depth of authentic yoga.
Understand that the purpose of the practice of yoga is the same as the meaning of the word yoga itself. Yoga means integration of the fragmented forces of your being that shows up as tension in the body, restlessness in mind, and emotional reaction. Regardless of what asana, pranayama or other technique you practice, it must be aimed at regaining harmony of body, mind, heart and soul.
The spirit of yoga is manifest at a formless level. Yoga is incomplete without the internal, invisible component. The internal part of yoga represents the subtler form that must be brought into synchronicity through the external form. When inner and outer, external and internal, come together in harmony, your practice makes a quantum leap to a whole new level. During your practice, the most important core principals to apply are: Intention, Meditative Inward Focus, and the Posture of Consciousness
1. Intention - This is deliberate action (your movement) combined with integrative intention (internal union). By focusing on your intention, you can track all the mental dialogue, disruptive thoughts and emotions that arise along with the external practice of the asana. Intention is your guidepost; it continually brings you back when your fragmented thoughts lead you astray.
2. Meditative, Inward Focus - Maintaining an internal gaze exposes the underlying structure of underlying inhibitions that create physical tension, mental irritations and emotional reactions. Stay alert to whatever arises in your body and your mind without labeling or judging it. Simply observe it and be acutely aware of how such disturbances affect your well being.
3. The Posture of Consciousness - as you practice # 1 and #2, you will naturally begin to practice the posture of consciousness rather than the posture of ego, which is based upon competition, comparison and judgment. Integrative intention and inward focus take you on the true journey of yoga-to discover for yourself the essence of your being through these timeless techniques. It is an alignment of all aspects of your being, surrounded by a web of trust and faith in the universe.
An integrated, conscious yoga practice consists of two parts: the first part of the pose, deliberate action, is the path. The second part, surrender, is the pathless path. Once you are on the pathless path, there is no way of knowing of where you are going. You are traveling into the unknown. The second half is not about a journey through space or time, but about being totally present wherever you are. This is where trust and faith come in. On the pathless path, all effort, doing and struggles are obstacles to be surrendered. It is a non-linear, non-logical, time transcendent state of being-presence.
This is the experience of deep, silent stillness where there remains nothing for the ego to do in the dimension of space and time. When you are totally present, there is nowhere to go and nothing to achieve. The ego's futile struggle to find answers in the future instead happens here and now. The only lasting solution is unification, which brings resolution to all forms of fragmentation. This is the experience of yoga.
You cannot get any more from marriage than what you bring to it. You cannot get any more from life than what you bring to it. Thus, you cannot get any more from yoga than what you bring to it. If you bring just the physical benefits of the body as a central focus in your practice, then that is the most you can get from it. If you bring the body and mind to it, then you extend your benefits into a whole new dimension that is no longer confined to the body. If you bring the body, mind, heart and soul to it, then your practice moves into another dimension, where yoga can fulfill its true purpose.
As a result, the posture of consciousness you cultivate on the yoga mat is automatically available in your interpersonal relationships. It bleeds into every one of your daily life activities. Whatever you do outside becomes internalized; what is inside becomes externalized. There is no difference for the posture of consciousness - it is inside out and outside in.
I find myself stuck in a habit that I have been trying for years to get over it. I can stop the habit for a short time,but it comes back stronger over time. How can I free myself permanently of this habit?
If you go just through the medium of the mind alone to recondition yourself, you never have power. This is because the part of your mind that is in control works according to neuro-glandular functions of the past. These patterns can be dissolved through the practice of Yoga Nidra, Third Eye Meditation, physical postures, diet, pranayama, if you are consciously engaged. You then alter the karmic patterns and disintegrate their power through meditative awareness.
When we adopt artificial relaxation vehicles such as tranquilizers, alcohol, drugs, career work, sports or art related activities, it becomes a way of ignoring pain rather than removing the cause of pain. No matter how long you ignore the enemy, the enemy moves closer every moment and it does not solve any problem. That which is used as a way to kill the pain also becomes the source of more pain. That which is adopted to avoid pain invariably sustains, prolongs and reinforces the pain. All the devices adopted either to suppress pain or to avoid pain are like throwing gasoline on a fire; it only makes the field of unconsciousness extend, creating greater insensitivity. The avoidance of pain through distraction gives you a vicarious sense of achieving something with a superficial sense of pleasure for achievement. You may receive external validation, but it cannot free you from the internal tensions that are building. As a result, when you're feeling center becomes progressively more numb, you not only prevent feeling the pain, but you simultaneously reduce your ability to experience natural pleasures associated with your bio-intelligence.
When you deepen your ability to feel, it is invariably accompanied with gathering the psychological patterns as well as biological patterns. Psychological patterns are self deceptive and self-defensive ways of rationalizing to protect yourself from reality, and physical tensions which actively works through our nervous system, diminishes our organic biological life-giving functions. On a physical level this creates fatigue, and on the mental and emotional level it creates depression.
As one becomes more depressed and fatigued, if they do not change that consciously and intentionally, then they are again driven to resort to external stimulus that can overcome their insensitivity and their psychological and emotional disturbances. This demands their wanting to go into the next level of excitement that goes slightly above the level of their insensitivity. As a result, people go from coffee, to cigarettes, to alcohol, to marijuana, to cocaine, in order to raise their level, and this level has to be exciting enough to submerge their tension, and drown in in-order to feel the integration which comes from unconsciousness induced by such drugs.
Whenever we use external ways of tranquilizing our tensions, reducing our sensitivity to catch the glimpse of pleasure or relief from tension, the method adopted to achieve such relief, once it becomes a habit pattern, its ability of changing biological chemistry to create the effect progressively diminishes. Each method which becomes adopted becomes boring, not interesting and not as engaging as it was in the beginning.
Suppose you adopt a sexual relationship as a way to get high on the experience of falling into new and fresh love. It is exciting and temporarily appears as if you are free from the inhibitions, tensions and problems which stem from the historical you. No matter how exciting the external sexual relationship is, the law of diminishing return with repeated use invariably applies. When sex gets boring, and when you don't find the other person as way of relieving your pain, then alcohol works, because you don't have to depend on someone else, but you can just engage in unconsciousness.
There is a tension-born attraction which is unconscious and invariably seeks external agency or another person, or external situations as a way of relieving tension. Such attractions become magnified as tensions become magnified. This happens because attraction becomes the way of neutralizing tensions, and attraction then takes the form of attachment to the object of attraction. When the attention grows even more, then attachment begins to take the form of addiction. When addiction creates even more tension, then addiction takes the form of obsession. In every stage of this change there is a boredom and fear and despondency and depression and fatigue and listlessness, which is experienced all along the journey from attraction to obsessions.
By moving past the medium of the mind with the technique of yoga nidra, you are able to directly address the source cause, and remove the root of your habit patterns. Instead of using your life energy to struggle with a multitude of effects, you are able to directly resolve a single cause, which instantaneously and automatically eliminates the multitudes of effects. Yoga Nidra is a powerful technique which takes you into the fourth dimension, where all of these shifts can happen spontaneously and effortlessly.