We start practicing yoga for many different reasons… we want to feel better, look better, or maybe just to see what everybody is raving about!
As yoga asana (the postures of yoga) have become a mainstream phenomenon with pop-up yoga studios on every corner, more people have adapted the practice, and the practice has taken on new form and a life of its own. There is quite a range of styles from extreme cardio workouts to sitting quite still!
As yoga has evolved so have we! Now that the physical aspects of yoga asana are taken for granted as a healthy form of exercise and practice of self-care in our culture, I have a hunch that soon we will witness our society accepting, practicing, and seeking the subtler aspects of yoga philosophy too.
Physical asana is just the 3rd of 8 limbs, or aspects of yoga. The 7 others include:
1. Yamas- how we treat others and conduct ourselves (similar to the 10 Commandments!)
2. Niyamas- self discipline and how we take care of ourselves
3. Asana- physical postures
4. Pranayama- specialized breathing techniques
5. Pratyahara- practice of withdrawing the senses
6. Dharana- practice of concentration
7. Dhyana- meditation
8. Samadhi- Bliss! or Enlightenment…
One of my teachers once stressed the importance of this quote:
“There’s no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down. If you leave that to dig another well, all the first effort is wasted and there is no proof you won’t hit rock again. (52)” ― Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras
These words have stayed with me while I have witnessed my needs for yoga evolving. I began yoga from a physical place, seeking to heal my body (I deal with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis with yoga) and for the workout aspect. I dabbled with various forms of yoga before I did my first teacher training in Ashtanga, a style known for being quite rigid and physically demanding. After a few years, a became attracted to Anusara, a more playful and heart-centered practice that helped me heal on an emotional level.
Now that I have been practicing for 15 years, I’ve recently come to a new place. While I need to keep practicing the physical asana to maintain strength, balance, and flexibility for a healthy and aligned body, I have a choice to make: Do I keep physically advancing– I mean, how far does my leg need to go behind my head? And do I really need to feel validated by posting that on Instagram?? There is some excitement in that for me, BUT ultimately my choice is to Sit Down!
The ancient texts say very little about physical asana. The only asana mentioned in “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” is in line 2.46 “Sthira Sukham Asanam”, which basically translates to “sit down and get comfortable” (because you won’t be moving for a while!!)…
“The Hatha Yoga Pradipika” gives a few particular asanas, but the emphasis is that these postures purify the body and prepare it for sitting for long periods in meditation.
Kundalini yoga is fulfilling these new needs in the development of my yogic path. And what is even more compelling for me is how this directly relates to my work with sacred geometry and yantra design. In Kundalini yoga we tap into the sacred vibrations of the universe through mantra, sound waves. Yantras are a form of visual vibrations, literally containers of energy. A yantra is basically a picture of what a mantra sounds like. Working with these Sanskrit mantras and yantras is like de-coding the language of the universe…
Wherever you are on your path is exactly where your supposed to be. Focus on your goals, enjoy the process, and be open to the changes and developments. Only hindsight is 20/20!