Yoga From My Experience

Cynthia Gran began to study yoga in 1978. She lives with her kalyanamitra in Evanston where she loves to cook, garden, and continuously pursue personal development. Reposted by permission of the author.

Yoga From My ExperienceSomeone recently asked me if I do yoga every day. Yes, I do, but perhaps not as you think. In our modern world, yoga has come to signify different things to different people. I do not do 90 minutes of hatha yoga asanas daily, as you might in a yoga class. While I do some stretches every day, I focus more on the yoga of the mind.

The Sanskrit word yoga is probably the origin of the English word to yoke, suggesting a harness to bring together disparate portions of our selves. Which parts separate? Simply put, the answer is that the mind and the body are separate. Do I hunger for their reunion?

The definition of yoga the discipline, given in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is the cessation of unhelpful thought patterns. Here, when the mind is off somewhere, rather than in the present moment and in the body, there is a separation. This is an opportunity for the unsavory to take hold of our mind if we are not careful.

There are many texts that are associated with the field of yoga, such as the Hathayogapradipika, the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita and more. And there are many ancient texts complementary to the science of yoga. For example, in Vedic astrology, jyotish, the planets are known as grahas. This is also the word to grasp. The planets and your karmas can grasp us. Through yoga, we can learn to release their hold on us. It is a conscious journey to freedom from the suffering of this world.

However, the Yoga Sutras deserves the place of honor. It is the treatise that is most widely accepted and taught as the written source of what the understanding of the field was meant to deliver. It teaches in detail how to harness the mind, emotions, thoughts, actions and speech, in order that we may move closer to the eternal truth and away from creating unnecessary burdens or karmas.

According to yoga, the breath links the body and the mind. Breath awareness becomes a part of the yoking, part of bringing the mind back into the body. One learns to slow the body, breath and mind, bringing them in harmony. In order to do this one needs to be aware of each simultaneously, not an easy task. Consciously combine the deep, slow breathing with movement of the body. This is yoga.

Often this leads the body to respond to inner energy. Until then, the mind and breath reeducate movement of the body. This is what we hope most people glean from yoga class.

These are the questions I wondered after my friend's question arose:

  • Am I breathing slowly and deeply?
  • Sitting up rather than slouching, with my spine straight?
  • Am I consistently looking for the truth?
  • Am I releasing the old habits and the suffering, which caused distress in years gone by?
  • Am I practicing kindness toward myself and toward others? This is huge and very difficult. Being kind means not reacting, among other things. For me, I have to listen more carefully, spend a brief moment culling and then respond otherwise I may say something in haste, which I will then regret. Working on the old habit and replacing it with a new one is the ever-present goal.
  • Am I doing all that I can for other people and still caring for myself?
  • Am I watching my mind, hunting out harmful thoughts?
  • Am I relaxing unnecessary tension in the body such as the forehead and shoulders when I become aware of them?

If the answer is yes, then I do practice yoga every day.

Then I do justice to all the time spent in all the classes and all the teachers that have offered wisdom.

Randall

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