By Dave Teitler
How to understand the real purpose of practicing yoga:
After practicing and teaching karate and tai chi for many years, I was drawn to yoga in my quest for a spiritual connection. First it was from books, then from videos and finally I started visiting local yoga studios in search of a teacher. In the beginning of my practice I was concentrating on the physical practice, and was not sure where I was going with it. I just loved the feeling of stretching and twisting my body into various postures. Soon I was addicted to the quest for perfect postures. At that point I found my teacher Alan Finger and my emphasis began to change. I realized that the physical practice was primarily meant for developing the strength of mind and body necessary to sit in meditation for at least 20 minutes and that the side effects of the physical practice like discipline, flexibility calmness and strength were secondary.
Ancient civilizations realized this and developed the Eighth Fold Path of yoga consisting of Yamas, (rules to live your life by) Niyamas, (methods of purifying the body) Pranayamas (breathing exercises for energy cultivation) Asana (physical postures) Pratyhara (withdrawal of the senses) and the three stages of meditation consisting of concentration, merging of the meditator with the object of concentration and Samadhi (realization of the true self). Real yoga was the practice of all eight paths. Just paying attention to the asana wont give you a clear picture of where your practice is going. The true test of your whole development takes place in your daily activities. Yoga aims at achieving a human beings highest state of development.
It is said by a Taoist that upon birth ones soul splits apart. Half going to the heart chakra and half going to heaven. Our lives, if we are in touch with ourselves, are based on our innate desire to bring the two halves of the soul together. In order to do that we need a modality such as yoga to open us up to our possibilities. Our lives begin to change and we slowly change the way we navigate our daily activities. This is purpose of yoga. Anyone who has natural flexibility can do yoga postures, however it takes someone who feels the calling of the soul to transcend the limited world we live in and live a life of ethics, morality, love and compassion, being thankful of each new day.