Did you ever think ... "there has to be more to yoga," or "how much more do I need to read, spend or attend to discover authentic yoga," or "I am not sure what I am doing is getting me anywhere." Beyond meditation, postures, how yoga works or why yoga works, you desire a personal experience ... a spiritual growth journey that will light up your life.
Well, you are not alone. I spent the last forty years attending yoga classes, workshops, and three distinct yoga teacher certifications looking for clues. I spent thousands of dollars, countless hours of travel and hours reading books on yoga, philosophy, psychology, and medical research.
The good news is that these questions can be answered. Although rarely taught in modern yoga, ancient Indian systems reveal past, present, and future truths concerning self-knowledge. This wisdom is available to anyone who is open minded and willing to do the work of a seeker of truth. You don't have to practice modern yoga poses. The secrets of yoga can bring about a successful spiritual journey and it begins and ends with you; but it takes effort and persistence. There are no shortcuts, and you can't buy or intellectualize your journey; you have to experience it.
In fact, I can attest that what you don't know about yoga history CAN indeed hurt you, hold you back and keep you stuck in a state of stagnation. So let's begin with why you need to learn the basics before you start a productive spiritual quest.
Six essential reasons for understanding the history and evolution of traditional yoga.
Put the physical aspect of yoga, such as postures, into proper perspective. Asana yoga methods were originally intended as a tool to balance the body. Each of us has different chemistries and physical compositions, so the postures look and feel different. Instead of worrying about inflexibility, body shape or perfecting a pose, shift your focus to learning your strengths and weaknesses. That way you can easily adjust or adapt to restore and balance the body. Most yoga taught today is physical poses practiced without the mental skills of discernment. Overlooking the mental disciplines that should accompany physical practice creates a competitive nature that culminates jealousy and negative self-judgment. Although the physical practices of yoga serve a role, without intelligence, it creates an unhealthy preoccupation with the body resulting in stagnation. The product is a person whom becomes a caricature of a narcissistic personality unable to see beyond themselves.
Create an ability to recognize core principles within the vast number of yoga techniques found in today's retail style yoga. Our society prizes potent individuality and ambition as valuable; the yoga industry has followed the same course. As a result, we find ourselves smothered in aggressive styles of yoga practices striving to be exceptional and relevant. Unfortunately, this creates a problem for both teachers and students. On one hand, teachers offer various styles, methods, and techniques. On the other hand, students follow the trends, working to keep up with the hype and demands. Sadly, some teachers have even filed lawsuits or require non-compete clauses in teaching contracts while students end up getting shoulder, hip and spine surgery. Indeed, yoga has become a big business. Once you learn the essence of yoga, no amount of pomp and circumstance will affect your practice or sway your confidence. When you recognize the core principles of yoga, you are beyond and unaffected by retail yoga.
Understand social and cultural influences versus working systems of yoga methods. Yoga has crossed many miles and millennia. Because of this, it has blended with the symbolism of many cultures, religions, and customs. Due to the cultural and language differences, gods, goddesses, and other iconic symbols are used to represent complex ideas and methodology that would otherwise be lost in translation. More of a problem in western society, we sometimes associated these symbols with opposing our religious beliefs. By learning the cultural influences in yoga's evolution, we ease fear or reluctance to consider symbolism and its application in mastering the science of yoga.
Opening minds to the commonality of the world's peaceful religions. Some conditions don't improve with time. Apparently, religious beliefs, non-religious theories, or cultural axioms attached to one's identity is one of those circumstances. Today, as in the past, the human race continues to battle over the lineage to an ultimate divinity and the land associated with their ancestors. History can be both divisive and unifying. Of course, one's perspective can change if given the opportunity. So, educating oneself as to our shared ancestry can overcome prejudice, racism, bigotry, and isolationism.
Once the evolution and influences of yoga are understood we have clarity to recognize proper teachings, which avoids being misled or sidetracked. Ambitious teachers drain funds and zap spiritual energy. Don't get distracted by aggressive marketing strategies, charismatic personalities, and self-empowerment speeches.
Change begins with effort and energy. Even spiritual growth and self-discovery requires desire, will, and action. When you move forward with the positive energy of knowledge and intelligence, you control your spiritual path. Otherwise, you risk remaining in a state of stagnation or falling victim to trends that happen your way.
In conclusion, knowing the prime sources of yoga philosophy and evolution of self-awareness and meditation methods empowers you. You decide the suitable protocol to balance your unique body constitution and frame of mind.
This first step, coupled with the systems that discover your true nature, traits, and genetic inclinations begins a journey of spirit growth, self-discovery, and illumination of purposeful living.
Yoga truly is a primer for a beautiful life.
Sandra Zuidema is the author of the Yoga Affect Series. Yoga Affect: A Primer for a Beautiful Life and it's companion journal, Yoga Affect: A Guided Journal are both available on Amazon.com. To learn more about the series and please visit the website SandZuid.com