Why yoga? The answer is simply because we most likely have not mastered all aspects of our mental, physical and spiritual well-being yet. Yoga not only gives us freedom from the daily bondages of life, but also helps us accomplish what was previously thought as “unattainable.”
It gives us spiritual enlightenment, the power to cure most “dis-ease” and the ability to see from the right perspective. Yoga helps us act without error while it teaches us to come together as one in a state of peaceful union.
Starting or perfecting a yoga practice at this present time will help us keep our sanity and become more centered in the very fast-paced world in which we live.
The ancient yoga masters removed themselves from society and took refuge in mountaintop caves to find their “true-self” or spiritual nature. They contemplated what the underlying issues were that caused human suffering and sadness then brought their understanding and teachings back into the world for all of us to learn and benefit from.
Many masters’ thoughts were organized by Patanjali, considered the father of today’s classical yoga system. He was the first individual to get the yamas (practice of self-discipline) and niyamas (observance of personal vows) extracted from the ancient yoga masters and passed on to future generations. Patanjali did this to help individuals strengthen themselves and to advance society as a whole.
The yamas and niyamas, known as the foundation of the yoga practice, are just one part of the whole yogic system. When the system is practiced diligently, it is not uncommon for the modern aspirant to experience a super-conscious state of being called samadhi. Samadhi is the yoga practitioner’s reward, and euphoric absorption with all beings and energies. With the right game plan, peace at your job, peace in your family, contentment and happiness is attainable.
The Foundation of a Successful Yoga Practice
In his yoga darshan, Patanjali lists five restraints under the yama category.
- Ahimsa: non-violence or dynamic loving for all living beings
- Asteya: non-stealing or honesty
- Aparigraha: the adoption of a simple lifestyle and non-hoarding
- Satya: truth, purity and harmony in one’s thoughts and deeds
- Brahmacharya: celibacy or extreme devotion to a life partner
Under the category of niyama, he lists five important observances.
- Shauca: purity
- Santosha: contentment
- Tapas: austerity or strict economy
- Svadhyaya: study of the self
- Ishvara pranidhana: devotion to God
Without the yamas and niyamas, there is no real understanding of yoga, true happiness or resolution in our lives. If we follow them the best we can, we will personally benefit in countless ways. Practicing yoga along with the yamas and niyamas everyday takes work; however, it ultimately brings us closer to the concept of kaivalya, or a continuous state of samadhi (sustained spiritual bliss).
To avoid the common pitfalls and bumps in the yogic path, find a qualified teacher who has each student’s personal development in the center of their heart. Yoga means union; this path is not meant to be traveled alone.