Authentic Yoga is a complete system for living, much more than the physical workout that the American yoga industry has created.
The ancient way of yoga was to keep the body healthy so that it could serve as a tool to allow you to do the work of quieting the mind, earning mastery over your thoughts and reactions and rediscovering your true Self. Taken as a whole this work is a spiritual practice, a deep path to discovery. It is not a religion and does not interfere in one’s religion, in fact it may enhance it.
The system of Yoga has 8 limbs, of which movement is only 1. The other 7 are about living a good life, a higher life and remembering your connection to everything. These often ignored aspects are perhaps more important for the modern world than the movement.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
- Yamas – how one relates to and treats the world
- Niyamas – how one relates to and treats yourself
- Pranayama – connection to the breath
- Asana – body movement
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses, retreating inward
- Dharana – concentration, single-pointed focus, cultivating awareness
- Dhyana – sustained Dharana, staying in awareness
- Samadi – an uncaused happiness that comes from remembering and living as the true Self
One possible outcome of a spiritual practice is transformation. A change is any process by which the original is modified but still present. However, upon ‘transformation’ no trace of the original remains.
In Yoga, change is permanent and lasting. This is because the process causes a remembering, a returning to your most natural state. Once this realization is made within the body, it is so comforting and peaceful that it becomes the new way of being. With extended practice, a permanent awareness arises that cannot be shaken.
A true yoga practice is one that incorporates all 8 limbs with the guidance of a true teacher who gently leads you back to the path each time you stray. The right teacher is one who offers you tools to balance your weaknesses with strength. It is the one who inspires dedication and brings ferocity to your practice.
Yoga, Qigong, and Meditation
Yoga was developed in India, and Qigong was born in China. The history of the early relationship of these practices is lost to time, yet when one studies them, great commonalities and compliments are found.
The physical practice of Yoga asanas range from gentle to powerful. Whereas Qigong is generally softer and more circular in nature. We will choose the movement and practice that is best for you.
Both Yoga and Qigong movement unblock pathways or meridians in the body thereby restoring the natural flow of nourishment to all the systems in the body. Strength and flexibility are a natural benefit as well. Coordination and balance are vastly improved, which is very important as our bodies age.
Meditation is a key component of both practices. In the ancient Yoga Sutras by Pantajali, considered the primary instruction on yoga, out of 193 Sutras, only three mention movement. The other 190 are about the mind. This demonstrates the importance of meditation as a key tool for transformation.
For the modern mind, it is extremely valuable to study philosophy and texts which are known as Jnana yoga (wisdom yoga). Meditation becomes easier when one can let go of the traps of the modern world. Wisdom is the tool we use to do that.