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What is Yoga?!

The simple answer to this question is that everything is yoga. Yoga is not something we do on a mat to become more flexible and to wear really cool clothes, it is a deep and powerful experience of life itself. Regardless if you know it or not, You are a Yogi!

Yoga means the “Union with the Divine”. I guess that says it all, right? Isn't that what we are searching for, to elevate ourselves out of this human existence and rise to the divine? Much easier said than done, but what's the hurry?

The Bhagavan in Hinduism represents the abstract concept of a universal God. Hindus believe in spirituality as well as religion but do not worship a specific deity.

The union with Bhagavan cannot be achieved through personal efforts alone, it happens only with God’s grace. All that there is is God, and everything that exists is because of God. Nothing can be separated from this, regardless of a belief or not, all is one. We are only players in God’s divine play. The blessed beings that have attained liberation from the never-ending cycle of Samsara have only been able to do that as a gift from the Bhagavan. All is God’s to give or not to give.

It has been written as well as you have heard me say many times, that there are only two yogic paths. There are many names for these paths but traditionally they are called Margas (the lawful way) in which the yogi with discipline brings them to their goal. The other path is Pushti Marga (the graceful way), where the yogi surrenders to God’s will.

Both of these paths will only bring the Yogi to the doorway of liberation, which is a very prestigious place to have attained. It is the Bhagavan who eventually brings the practitioner to their final destination. You can not do Yoga, you must be Yoga! Yoga can not be attained through effort alone. It will arise gracefully and grace can only arise after the mind has been cleansed through discipline. You can do your best, then let God do the rest.

In the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras, Pantanjali begins with the Samadhi Pada, which means that Yoga only happens effortlessly when the mind has become purified and concentrated; yogas chitta-vritti-norodah. When you stop identifying with your thoughts, and the fluctuations of the mind, then there is Yoga.

Nirodhah means “to be absorbed in God”, Pantanjali gives his one-step method to attain Yoga in his second chapter as Isvara-pranidhanad, which means to give your life and identity to God. You attain the identity of God, meaning, and you then come to know God. There are some beings that because of past Karmic lives, can follow a path of total surrender. By letting go and letting God through grace, one can live a life of devotion, Bhakti Yoga.

This path may not feel feasible for most, so when we move into the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras we begin to discuss practice! Pantajali gives us ways to get started…. They just so happen to be the Astanga 8 Limbs.

Tapah svadhyayesvara-pranidhanani kriya-yogah - He says that practical means of purifying and concentrating the mind so that nirodah is possible for those who cannot surrender everything to the lord, yet. Some feel that they must do something, anything. Their minds are naturally restless, doubtful, and easily distracted. Sadhana Pada will help with this There is compassion for all souls that are suffering, and there are also many chapters dedicated to those that can not surrender to divine grace alone. This chapter begins by suggesting that not only is effort essential, but it must be a relentless kind of effort.

Tapas means “to burn”. We must have a passionate desire to undergo whatever discipline is necessary in order to purify our thoughts, words, and deeds. To concentrate on Svadhyaya we need to let go of self-cherishing, ego-driven, or selfish desires, then we can concentrate on Svadhyaya, the study of the self! Sadhyaya means to focus upon the Supreme Self in all circumstances without any distractions. Unwavering attention. These two Kriyas will purify and help us surrender to God, which is known as Kriya Yoga. To learn more about Kriya yoga you may like The Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda.

These steps seem fairly easy in their written word, but very often they are much more difficult to contemplate and to grow in their vision.

The first stage of Ashtanga eight limbs is as follows…..

The Yamas are a series of 5 spiritual laws….

A. Ahimsa - Non-violence in thought and action toward yourself and others.

B. Satya - Truthfulness

C. Astray - Non- Stealing

D. Bramacharya - Conservation of vital life force energy.

E. Aparigraha - Non-hoarding, non-wanting.

The Niyamas are the second of the 8-limbed system. They are five practices directed toward our personnel world. They are made up of:

  1. Sauca (cleanliness)

  2. Santosa (contentment)

  3. Tapas (discipline)

  4. Svadhyaya (study of the Self)

  5. Ssvara-pranidhana to see God in all beings.

Pantanjali says that our relationship to the Earth should be mutually beneficial, it should be steady and joyful.

The third limb talks of the physical practice of yoga, this practice should be done with with the Yamas and Niyamas in mind. Creating stillness within movement.

The fourth limb focuses on the life force, prāṇa—that invisible force that permeates all of life. To learn how to direct the flow of prāṇa in our own body is to learn how to control our own mind and then it begins to free our mind of whatever may be restricting it from divine ecstasy.

The fifth limb, pratyāhāra, deals with the discipline involved in drawing the senses away from physical existence and redirecting our attention inward, toward independence, toward being dependent on the divine Self.

Through these practices, the content of our mind becomes more and more purified preparing us for the more inward-oriented, subtle, esoteric, meditative practices that comprise the final three steps and the hardest to attain which are Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (Freedom from Illusion).

Eventually, your effort within this practice will help you, the aspirant separate from the Bhagavan and then eternally dissolve itself into grace.

Life is difficult, fighting it is harder.

Let Go and Let God!!

Hari Om Tat Sat

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