By Kimaya Singh
In commercialized and consumer-oriented cultures, the trendy exercise version of yoga that fills gyms and provides yoga instructors with a profession has changed quite a bit from the original version practiced in ancient India. Then, people practiced yogic principles and passed it down to students through oral tradition, and people incorporated many of the principles into a lifestyle. A sage named Patanjali wrote a book around the first or second century B.C. called the Yoga Sutra, a treatise on classical yogic life. In Patanjali’s time, practicing yoga was about developing inner balance and perception, becoming fully self-aware in order to connect more fully with the universal consciousness.
Now, many people treat yoga as their daily work out. The endorphins released through the hard work their bodies do during asana practice make them happier, and they depend on the breathing techniques and meditative practices to calm their spirits and free their cluttered minds of stressful problems during their time on the mat. Afterwards, they hope their more-relaxed state will help them stay calm enough to get them through the rest of the day.
This version of yogic life, practiced around the world, glosses over the more traditional form of mental and physical discipline the ancient yogis engaged in.
Yoga is designed to foster a mind-body connection that allows the human being to fully experience the inner spaces within that being. Americans, who do lead very busy and cluttered lives, are drawn to this idea of wide-open, peaceful spaces within themselves. Unfortunately, the distractions and difficulties of daily life in a world filled with work and empty entertainments can also inhibit many people from practicing the sort of mental discipline required for enhancing inner perception.
In short, we are used to instant gratification and that translates poorly in our meditative practices.
Inner perception is supposed to connect us with ourselves and in doing so, should point us outward to the universal consciousness, otherwise referred to as the universal mind or soul or energy. In fact, since yoga views the individual soul as a part of the universal one, then our inner spaces should reflect the realities of the outer spaces, or the world we live in.
This takes time, discipline and practice. I can’t tell you how often during meditation and breathing that my mind wanders to all the things I have to get done or into reliving a bad conversation or situation, but I must consciously train my mind to focus on my chants or inner focal point. I need to do this often, or my mind will revert to old habits more easily.
So yoga students must be patient in order to enhance inner perception. Mental self-discipline can be frustrating and difficult, but is worth the wait.
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