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Why Practice Yoga?

October 7, 2015

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Hmmmm? Good question! Even though I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly two decades now; both as a dedicated student and as a teacher; I still find it a very difficult question to answer. The fact that Yoga is a living tradition that dates back millennia and has enjoyed countless different incarnations gives me heart on why it’s such a tricky definition to pin down.

The origins of yoga are deeply mysterious. As it was known to be an oral tradition well before the first written record came about (around 1500 BCE) one can only speculate its real beginnings. According to Wikipedia, the word yoga has its etymology based in the pre-classical form of Sanskrit that dates back to the early part of the second millennium BCE. Here we find the root word yuj translated as “to add”, “to join”, “to unite” or “to yoke”. The original context was the yoking or harnessing of oxen or horses but the parallel translation was to yoke or join together one’s personal consciousness with the universal consciousness. This union of the Self includes the integration of one’s physical, mental and spiritual energies in which brings about a harmonious state of wellbeing.

Sometimes however, yoga for me is simply a way to reclaim my body and to get things flowing through my limbs and spine after hours of hunching over a computer screen.
If I’ve been totally in my mind in an analytical manner, it can also be a way to shake off the inner dialogue. The inner critic and the to-do-lists can be unrelenting. The ‘could-a should-a would-a’ scenario is so pointless and draining, but yet we all fall into that pattern of incessant over thinking. What’s worse is that we often don’t even know that we are doing it!

A daily practice provides the means in which you can practice Svadyaya or self-study. Self-study is to be aware of these tendencies; the inner dialogue, the words we speak, the habitual thoughts we have.

Ishvara Pranidhana is another term we come up against in the yoga sutras and has been a recent revelation for me into the deeper connection that I have to this sacred discipline. It means to surrender all the fruits of the practice to whatever it is that one conceives to be a greater power beyond one’s self. It is doing the best we can; then relinquishing all attachment to the outcome of our actions. Only by releasing our fears and hopes for the future can we really be in union with the present moment.

Today, for most of us, life is fragmented… absent from the living moment. We find ourselves living a concept of life - not life itself. Guru Singh summed this up so potently in a lecture the other day. “We have developed this life that isn't life; with its food that isn't food; amongst beliefs that aren't to be believed and we are now controlled by feelings that aren't our actual true feelings . . . they are composite drawings of some hopes and anticipations reacting to other fears and doubts. Life has become the anticipation of memory . . .a far cry from an experience of your existence that is intended.”

So I practice to live the best life I can live. To meet my destiny and to experience the wonder and the mystery of that thing that is greater than all of us; that is the essence and the commonality within all of us. To experience this moment, as it is with all of it’s unlimited potential with all of it’s limited bounds. To be in this body, and this mind without the need to change anything, but moment to moment making the choices that are in alignment with the true-self. The heart.


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