What Are You Practicing When You Practice Yoga?
The yoga that we mostly see in the West is primarily physical and often doesn’t reflect the essence of Yoga. Of course, there are benefits for the mind and emotions, as any conscious movement will benefit the mind and the emotions – many people find long-distance running, for example, to be very meditative. It’s wonderful that so many people now are drawn to some version of yoga, even those who otherwise would be totally closed to spirituality in any form!
But is this all that yoga can be? How we see yoga reflects a lot about how we see ourselves. In a materialist society, where most people are totally identified with the physical body and can’t see beyond it, yoga is only for the physical body. But what if we are more than that? What if the blood and bones are only the tip of the iceberg?
What if there are dimensions of our existence that are vast and subtle, accessible only when we turn inwards? What if our limits do not end with our skin but stretch into unknown realms, edging on a mystery so profound the whole cosmos seems to circle around it, like a galaxy around the black hole at its center?
The Essence of Yoga
With this expanded perspective, we can also start to perceive the deeper dimensions of yoga. The world of energy, subtle realities and the true essence of yoga – our own essence – which is beyond even these phenomena.
We can begin to understand why the great masters and founders of yoga spoke the way they did. Gheranda, the author of one of the most revered texts of hatha yoga, described yoga as the fire in which a human being can be baked, as a clay vessel is baked so that it can hold water. Our ordinary minds, senses and sense of self are not yet expanded enough to perceive reality in its entirety.
Patanjali wrote, nearly 2,500 years ago: “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Thus the seer abides in his own nature.” Yoga is the path, but also the end of the path: union, as is the true etymology of the word “yoga.” The state of unity, of not-two-ness, the state of being undivided from oneself. It starts with a movement of the body. With a breath. It ends as this door to nowhere, the strange light created when two mirrors are held to face each other. And along the way, a process of radical self-discovery, allowing ourselves to unfold in more and more exquisite geometries.
Deepen in Your Yoga Path
If your heart is yearning to follow a deeper, more authentic path of yoga, if you’re yearning to experience the essence of yoga, you are welcome to join Aum Tantra Yoga in our upcoming 200-hour teacher training course in Mazunte, Mexico. We will explore tantric hatha yoga as it was practiced for hundreds of years, as a system of profound transformation and a path to complete spiritual realization.