Once upon a time the human brain developed the capacity to BE AWARE of itself. Human beings developed the capacity to THINK and to be aware of THINKING, to be aware of existence. With this awareness, came questions – ‘what is this body?’, ‘who am I?’, ‘why am I here?’, ‘what is the reason for suffering?’, ‘what happens when I die?’, ‘how should I live?’ These basic questions have plagued people since the beginning of time and our need for answers reflected back to us in the many religious, spiritual and social philosophies that exist worldwide, shaping our attitudes and behaviours and experiences of life. Different philosophies – same questions.
Yoga is one of these philosophies. Yoga is not a religion but has ‘spiritual’ elements in that the ultimate goal of yoga is to experience something beyond the physical or ‘material’ self. For some people yoga IS a deeply spiritual practice that connects them with ‘higher’ levels of consciousness. For others, it is a means of developing strength, flexibility, health and comfort in the body. For some, it calms the mind, balances the emotions, and brings a greater sense of wisdom. For a lucky lot, it leads to a perceived experience of bliss and ‘God’ and unity with the self and all of humankind. For some, it is part or all these things. For others, it is none of them. Confused?
Essentially, yoga might be seen as a system of TOOLS we can use for getting to know ourselves more deeply, and for perhaps reducing some of the suffering we experience via improvements to our physical health, changes in our mental perception and adjustments to our behaviours. These tools are delivered to us through several different modes, including asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation (focussing mind), and philosophical frameworks around approaches to living e.g. values, attitudes, social behaviours, health practices, etc.
If this all sounds a little abstract well…YUP… it kinda is! It’s really hard to articulate exactly what yoga is. It’s best to try it and define it for yourself. Or just to experience it without having to define it at all 🙂