So many people think that Yoga is just a fashion statement, or a type of exercise, or a way to make their butt look good in spandex. They want sexier, more supple bodies.
But Yoga is an ancient science that has been passed down through the ages. Yoga isn’t just intended for physical fitness; although it is a part of it. Yoga is also designed for emotional and spiritual fitness as well.
Many practitioners would agree that Yoga has been dumbed down over the centuries. It has been diluted into a spectator sport. While there are still indeed some people left whose primary goal is inner freedom and eventual enlightenment, there are still so many that are perfectly happy settling for nothing more than stronger, more flexible bodies.
Now, none of these teachings are actually lost. But we are losing sight of them at a very fast pace because Yoga cannot truly be effective until we apply it to the rest of our lives as well. And to do that we must be able to refer to and draw upon its original teachings. It’s spiritual heritage.
Many Masters have successfully brought the teachings of Yoga to the West. And the West is not the only culture that has deformed it. Many Easterners don’t know much about Yoga’s original origins either, and this includes India as well.
Although the spirituality is woven more thickly into the Eastern culture than Western, in this day and age, materialism has integrated its way into the East more and more, while spirituality is finding its way into Western cultures. The East and West are slowly beginning to find something of a middle ground. Perhaps a meeting place in between.
But Masters such as Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 to 1952 Author of Autobiography of a Yogi) went to great lengths to bring the finest teachings of this beautiful tradition when he brought Yoga to the Western Shores. He strongly emphasized the moral disciplines such as the Yamas and the Niyamas well as the other limbs of Yoga.
These consist of moral structures, such as non-harming, non-lying, non-stealing, non-promiscuity and non-covetousness. The other branches consist of principles like breathwork, meditation, and self-introspection that are all steps on the road to Enlightenment. Or liberation.
If we want to ensure a stable and thriving future for Yoga, as more than just a social movement, we must look back at its roots. Then we will be able to look forward with clarity and devotion. This can help us add to our toolkit for personal transformation. Otherwise, it will continue to be watered down until it is completely ineffective.
But there is much hope indeed! More and more people are discovering the amazing benefits that Yoga is having in all of the areas of their lives.
I have talked to individuals who have found that Yoga has made them a better parent, a better lover, a better friend. Even a better employer.
The teachings begin to work their way into the fabric of our beings. While our bodies become healthy, our minds become still and even. Therefore, our emotions become lighter and brighter. This balance inevitably leads to spiritual upliftment.
The purpose of traditional Yoga is to set us free. On a profound inner level. No matter what form, branch or style we practice, it is all based on the paramount thing called Freedom. Spiritual freedom.
Regardless of what is going on in our surroundings, Yoga tells us that we can enjoy freedom in any moment. Yoga seeks to put us in touch with the spirit, which is always free.
Although many fields of contemporary Yoga focus on nothing about inner freedom, only fitness and status and competition. Well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a healthy body, but that is not the final objective of Yoga.
Hatha Yoga which consists of the physical postures is only one small point on the Yogic scale. Few followers know that contemporary Hatha Yoga is actually only the third limb of the eight limbs on the tree of Yoga.
Well, it is no secret that the physical postures and the breathing techniques work wonders on the physical body, and does much to improve our flexibility and strength. But if we can still practice Yoga as a mind training or a spiritual discipline, then we will be able to grow towards the eventual liberation that traditional Yoga holds up as the highest goal of human existence.
If you drop a boulder on a physically fit and healthy, flexible body, it will still break into pieces. But the soul will not be harmed. After our deaths, when our bodies are decomposing, we will have only our inner accomplishments to rely on.
Death will take us all eventually, and at that point, what will truly matter will not be our physically beautiful bodies, but the quality of our present state of mind.
In this day and age, where even spirituality is a fad, I think we need Yoga more than ever. We truly need to get back to the roots and allow the spiritual science to integrate into our lives.
If we approach it as a spiritual discipline, we will no longer have to feel as lost as a society. If we keep this in mind while we practice Yoga day after day, the transformation of our society will happen naturally. And inevitably. While we focus on slowly replacing our negative patterns of thought and behavior with new, more optimistic models, we will begin to weed out the negativity from our own minds and our own lives. It will start to follow in society and even the world as a whole.
While none of these teachings are actually lost, they have only been veiled by misconceptions. But as we begin to pull away the veil, we will reveal the external inspiration that will lead us to deep inner realization.
The shift is happening now and all of these teachings, although ancient, are here and revealing themselves once again, to allow us to ride the wave into a brand new consciousness.