“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” -Deepak Chopra
I didn’t know much about the different paths of yoga when I first started. Yoga was just a form of exercise like it is for many. There’s nothing wrong with stretching and staying is shape, but yoga is much more than just asanas (poses).
I knew that yoga began in northern India more than 5,000 years ago, but that’s really all. Even the training materials I was given lightly brushed the surface of what yoga really is. I started researching online and the two books that were recommended to read were Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
I started reading Bhagavad Gita which is a sacred 700-verse Hindu text that was written sometime between 400 BCE and 200 CE. The story was about a battle between two cousins belonging to the Pandavas and Kauravas clan.
Arjuna (the leader of the Pandavas), did not want to fulfill his duty of battle because he did not want to the kill people he loved and then Lord Krishna explained that we never actually die, we are reincarnated.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about the concept of reincarnation but I’m very open-minded and I realized that so much about yoga seems to be omitted because it doesn’t fit the Christian beliefs of most westerners.
Another part of Bhagavad Gita that interested me is it specifically talks about letting go of passion, desires, and wanting wealth.
How can we not desire wealth in a world that is controlled by it?
Are we wrong to desire nice things? Or should we only want things out of necessity? I decided to interpret this as not desiring wealth through evil or greed. Here is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita:
A person of yoga obtains everlasting peace
by abandoning the rewards of action.
The person ignorant of yoga,
selfishly attached to reward,
(Bhagavad Gita 5:12)
So it seems being self-less is the true path of a yogi.
No matter what our religious beliefs may be, these teachings are universal.
I continued reading Bhagavad Gita and I realized what the real purpose of practicing yoga is to relax the mind so that you can mediate which is something I have not mastered.
Raja yoga is controlling the mind through mediation and achieving spiritual clarity. Raja yoga is also called Ashtanga yoga which includes 8 limbs:
- Yama- Self Control
- Niyama- Discipline
- Asana- Physical Exercise
- Pranayama- Breath Technique
- Pratyahara- Withdrawal of the senses
- Dhyana- Meditation
- Samadhi- Complete Observation
- Dhyana, the 7th limb is discussed in chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita. There are a few things we must do on our path to obtain spiritual bliss.
- Moderation-One topic that’s mentioned is eating in moderation. We are not to eat too much or too little, or to sleep to much or two little which is discussed in Verse 16. So it is best to meditate when the stomach isn’t completely full such as after dinner. I have also found that my yoga sessions flow much smoother when I eat lighter meals. Perhaps this is why most people that practice yoga become vegetarians.
- Still the Mind- This is brought up quite frequently throughout Bhagavad Gita. It explains that the mind constantly has thoughts and when we mediate we must concentrate on ourselves. We are to free our mind of passion and material desires and concentrate on our inner self.
- Materialism– Letting go of the desire for material things is something that is highlighted several times. I’m not sure how this principle really fits in our modern world which is controlled by money. Is it wrong to want nice things? This concept would be very difficult to let go of but I’m sure through constant practice of yoga, eventually the desire will fade.
- Posture- Verse 13-14 discusses holding the body, head and neck straight and gazing at the tip of the nose.
With much dedication, patience, and focus, we can all achieve the ultimate consciousness. Free from desire, pain, heartache or sorrow. We can all be at peace from within. Namaste.