“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” – B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Master
What is yoga?
You may have heard many things about yoga in the past.
Yoga is union.
Yoga is flexibility.
Yoga is esoteric.
Yoga is a fad that will go away.
Here is what master B.K.S. Iyengar said about yoga:
“Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day to day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”
I was introduced to yoga many years before. It would be an understatement to say that it was anything less than transformational for me.
In this post, I have used the meaning of yoga as a union of body, mind and spirit. This can happen through transformative practices such as Hatha yoga, Kundalini, meditation, pranayama and many others.
While I mention form and posture, it is not just Hatha yoga that I am talking about. In fact, it is impossible to completely separate Hatha from the other branches and disciplines of yoga.
What are some of the transformational life blessings from Yoga?
Please remember: This post does not assume or require you to take up yoga or meditation. Please feel free to replace with your favorite practice such as your workout or walk in nature or something that takes you into the flow. If you do take up yoga or any other practice, please do so after consultation with your health care provider and take full personal care and responsibility for it.
1. What Does Acceptance Mean To You?
“Yoga is not about self-improvement, it’s about self-acceptance.”- Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Kundalini Yoga Teacher and Master
In the beginning, when I practiced yoga, it was all about the metrics.
Who was doing the best pose?
Could I move into that backbend?
Why was I not flexible with the sitting poses?
Why was my mind dancing around in my meditation time?
Then the wisdom of wise teachers like Gurmukh graced my life. Gradually, I began to learn. I began to accept that I was all right where I was.
That does not mean that we do not reach out to the next thing and the next difficult pose. In contrary, it meant that I was removing the resistance that I had built up for acceptance and change.
“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.”- Sharon Gannon, Yoga Teacher and co-author of Jivamukti Yoga
2. The Yoga Of Change
“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.”— B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Master
When you slowly begin to accept your strengths and weaknesses, you begin to embrace change.
What yoga gently shows you if you are receptive to learning is that change is inevitable. But through this paradoxical fear and conflict of change, you can realize your true still self.
Even with the flux of change and transformation, you begin to discover that you can carry around that stillness. You can take with you some of the flexibility of the practice.
Of course, the practice that I mention can be yoga or your running or even your art practice.
Anything that you do with flow and with passion and with heart.
Any practice that liberates you from the fear of change and allows you to welcome new horizons like they are new adventures is welcome.
“There is always room for change, but you have to be open to that change.”-Kathryn Budig, Yoga Teacher
3. The Power Of Stillness And Slowing Down
“Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind. Then there is abiding in the Seer’s own form.” ― Patañjali, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Yoga is recognized largely its form and asana and movement. But the take home message is the stillness that you can achieve through practice.
- The stillness between your thoughts.
- The gap between the musical notes.
- The pause to truly listen to others.
- The watching of the falling drops of rain with wonder and awe.
Through form and posture, yoga inspires us to transcend the noise of the mind and embrace the power of stillness.
In this description of yoga, it is meditation in form, posture and movement.
4. How to Achieve Alignment?
“When we are aligned, everything can flow, and life and yoga becomes effortless.”- Rebecca Halls, Yoga Teacher
When we begin our practice, we might be misaligned in many of the poses and postures.
As we continue onwards in the journey of yoga and life, small shifts and changes bring us back into alignment.
The practice of yoga can be a metaphor for life that reminds us that we need to be in alignment in body, mind, heart, emotion and spirit.
Being in alignment does not mean being perfect. Nor does it mean that we are in perfect balance. You can look at it more like being in harmony. If we live just in our head or just our heart and neglect the other aspects, we drop out of being in harmony.
Being in alignment and in harmony means an emphasis on all the right notes. It means not neglecting different parts of life.
Yoga teaches us that when we get ready for the practice and show up with our mat in hand, it will get us into alignment. But it is a conscious choice to show up and do the practice.
Are you aligned towards your highest purpose and your goals?
5. And Then There Is More Practice
“Do your practice and all is coming.” – Sri K Patthabi Jois, Yoga Master
When you think that you have practiced enough, there is some more to do.
When you think you are done, there is some other pose or bend that you need to work on. The practice never ceases and that is the magic of life. Cessation of practice means the cessation of enthusiasm.
When you get ready and practice, life becomes one continuous adventure.
“The very heart of the practice of yoga is abhyasa– steady effort in the direction you want to go.”- Sally Kempton, Yoga Teacher
Instead of hypothesizing, you get into the arena of life and practice and test things out for yourself. You know that an ounce of action is better than a pound of wanting and desiring.
“Yoga is 99 percent practice and one percent theory.” – Sri Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Master
6. The Yoga Of Smiles
“Smiling is mouth yoga.”- Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Monk And Meditation Master
If there is anything that yoga teaches us, it is to lighten up and become more flexible.
Become flexible in body with pose and posture.
Become flexible in mind with perspectives.
Become flexible in spirit by practicing giving and allowing other practices.
Yoga teaches us to lighten up and not to take ourselves so seriously all the time. When you develop an ability to smile at the troubles and challenges of life, you have understood true flexibility.
This does not mean that you are happy all the time. Instead, it means that you do not give yourself such a hard time when you make a mistake.
You give yourself the permission to smile when things go wrong. Instead of beating yourself up, you allow a lighter perspective.
7. The Yoga Of Giving
“What kind of yoga do you want to practice, the yoga of getting or the yoga of giving? One enslaves, the other liberates.”- Nisargadatta Maharaj, Teacher and Spiritual Master
In the practice of life, there are different approaches. One approach many choose to take is the perspective of getting something. They are always concerned with what is in it for them. What does the yoga give them and their appearance?
Instead, the more effective and gentle approach is one of giving. Instead of asking what is in it for you, ask what can you give back to others and to the world. How can your practice enhance gentleness and compassion?
How can yoga and life make you more gentle and kind to yourself and to others?
How can you give?
“Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.”- Sri K Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Master
8. Your Role As a Creator Of Your Reality
“We create the world we live in. If we want to change what we don’t like in the world, we must start by changing what we don’t like about ourselves.”― Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti Yoga Teacher and Master
Everything that we see is a reflection of how we are and how we see the world. If you feel cynical and critical, you will have a preference to see the world in a critical way.
When you begin to heal the parts of you that you have conflict with, the exterior changes to reflect that change of perspective.
Yoga, whether it is posture, mantra or meditation gives a framework of awareness. It gives us a framework to quietly observe the trappings of our current reality.
It gives a context to observe the self and its mechanisms from a new perspective of transformation.
From that new vision, we have the choice to choose a different approach. An approach that might be more compassionate and aligns better to what we really want instead of coming from habit and past belief.
“What we see in the world around us is just a reflection of what is inside of us.”― Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti Yoga Teacher and Master
9. Yoga, the Way To Freedom
“Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice, we can free ourselves from fear, anguish and loneliness.”-Indira Devi, Yoga Teacher
Yoga is a great way to look at all our problems.
The practice allows you to:
- Face fears with openness and love.
- Become aware of deep-seated anguish and give it a release.
- Confront the inherent loneliness of the human condition.
- Get a new perspective on old patterns that do not serve you anymore.
Whether it is posture, breath-work or meditation, you can confront and transcend your deep emotions and patterns. These patterns do not usually have a way to come to the surface in the busy business of life.
Practicing Yoga with true and deep passion and getting into poses that seem difficult can make us confront real life problems. We begin to transcend problems with less effort and more poise and calm.
“Yoga is a process of replacing old patterns with new more appropriate patterns.” – Sri T. Krishnamacharya, Spiritual Master
10. The Art Of Gentleness
“Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall.”- Shang Yen, Buddhist Monk
Yoga teaches you to approach the practice with softness, and with gentleness. If we approach it too fast, we risk overextending ourselves and getting injured.
We are all in the right place where we need to be with the practice. Slow and soft are much better companions than fast and unsteady.
The same is true in life where sometimes we get all excited in a new project but soon we run out of steam. It may be best to approach great change with a gradual and consistent forward motion.
Instead of taking a giant leap and burning out, it is better to take small and gentle steps. It is best to allow change to gradually embrace you.
11. Love Your Body
“Yoga is really trying to liberate us from … shame about our bodies. To love your body is a very important thing — I think the health of your mind depends on your being able to love your body.”- Rodney Yee, Yoga Teacher
Yoga in its true essence teaches us that we are all in the right place and the right time. Whether it is our physical or mental development, we need to love the self as we are.
In the yoga practice, you may confront shame and hesitation because you think that you are not good enough.
- You are not good enough.
- You do not feel good about your body image.
- You are not satisfied with your mind.
- You feel ashamed of the core of who you represent. After all, society places “perfect” people on a pedestal.
As you advance in your yoga practice you realize that it is an opportunity to become aware of your patterns of thinking and acting.
You realize that shame does not help, instead, it stymies your progress. As you sink in that seated pose and hold it, you are slowly encouraged to feel all right about the self.
You do not embrace and take up the practice. The practice embraces you and makes you aware of your inherent light and being.
In that space, you accept yourself with all your flaws and shortcomings.
“True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.” — Aadil Palkhivala, Yoga Teacher
12. Attitude Of Gratitude
“The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.”- Yogi Bhajan, Founder and Master of Kundalini Yoga
As you get deeper into the practice of yoga and meditation, you begin to realize that life is a blessing.
You become grateful for the mat. You become grateful for the time spent in silence.
You are grateful for the awareness developed in your practice.
You are grateful for the time that you have as your own personal time.
You are grateful for being you.
You become grateful for the others or the sangha who practice with you and encourage you.
You take come of the gratitude developed during your time in the practice into the outer world.
You are grateful for the little things in life.
You realize that gratitude is not a part of the path but the way itself. Gratitude is an essential part of being alive and a vital part of thriving in this world.
13. Getting Into The Flow
“Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”― B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Master
When you begin to practice, you discover that yoga transforms into a conductor or the maestro.
It breathes vitality into the orchestra that is you and the wonderful instruments that are your mind, body and spirit.
When in the practice, the following harmonize:
The breath or the reed instrument,…
The body or the bass….
The mind or the musical blueprint…
And the spirit that strings it all together…
Your life turns into musical art.
Together your practice and you create the symphony of life. Often the symphony may need some fine tuning or some additional practice.
But that is what yoga teaches us.
Life needs to be played like a beautiful musical piece and the different elements need to come together like an orchestra.
“Understanding without practice is better than practice without understanding. Understanding with practice is better than understanding without practice. Residing in your true nature is better than understanding or practice.” – Upanishads
14. Embracing Imperfection And Developing Compassion
“These days, my practice is teaching me to embrace imperfection: to have compassion for all the ways things haven’t turned out as I planned, in my body and in my life – for the ways things keep falling apart, and failing, and breaking down. It’s less about fixing things, and more about learning to be present for exactly what is.”- Anne Cushman, Yoga Teacher
If there is one thin that yoga has taught me, it is to embrace myself, imperfections and all.
Yoga is union with all the different aspects of life. It is embracing your perfection and coming to peace with your imperfections.
It is appreciating your strengths and being all right with your vulnerabilities.
It is showing up even when things are falling apart. It is the knowledge and understanding things do not always turn out as planned and that is all right.
It is the capacity to hold compassion for the seemingly weakest parts and aspects of your being.
The essence of yoga is to embrace all parts of yourself so that you can be the awareness that causes transformation and allows change.
“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”- B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Master
15. Beyond Comparison
“There will always be people who can do it better than you, but that’s a good thing! Start to see competition as inspiration — without envy.” — Kathryn Budig, Yoga Teacher
One if the important messages on the mat and in a meditation practice is that there will always be someone more advanced than you.
The yoga practice is a metaphor for life and teaches us that comparison, envy and competition with others is counter productive.
While comparing to others as social proof and healthy competition can be a source of inspiration, it can often get out of control.
Yoga in its essence teaches us humility to become more flexible. It allows us to be compassionate with the self.
Yoga teaches us that everyone else is in a different stage and pose in life. And it is best to see others as a source of inspiration and not as a source of unfavorable comparison.
While humans have the discerning and the comparing mind, yoga teaches us to let go and allow being yourself without comparing to others.
Let you be you and others be others and see the magic of letting go and transformation.
16. Awareness, the next frontier
“Doing anything with attention to how you feel is doing yoga”-Jean Couch
Becoming aware of your deep feelings that come to the surface.
Looking at things as they are.
Yoga or any conscious practice makes you become aware of the “sleepwalking” that we may have all been engaging in. Sleepwalking happens when our attention is somewhere else and not in the present moment.
“When I started doing asana, the yoga postures, I had a very strong feeling of many unnecessary things dropping away – especially tension and inadequacy.”-Patricia Sullivan, Yoga Master Teacher
“The ultimate goal of yoga is to always observe things accurately, and therefore never act in a way that will make us regret our actions later.- T.K.V. Desikachar, Yoga Master
17. Small artful steps
“One of the fundamental principles of yoga: a small action done repeatedly can make an enormous difference.” Dr Timothy McCall, Yoga Teacher
Small steps are not only encouraged, but they are cherished in the practice of yoga. Yoga makes small and invisible changes in us over time.
Yoga makes an art of:
Small artful movements.
Sinking into the correct form after being in misalignment.
“To perform every action artfully is yoga.” –Swami Kripalu
18. The power of Breath, the gateway into consciousness
“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Another powerful message from yoga is the correct pranayama or breathing technique. So many of us are stressed out become shallow breathers.
But the practice begins and ends with deep and conscious breath work. Perhaps that is the reason why yoga is so powerfully transformative. There is a continual emphasis on the correct breathing techniques.
In Sanskrit, prana means life. This is similar to the Chinese chi or life energy. When we engage in deep belly breathing, breath becomes a gateway into higher levels of awareness and consciousness.
Just breathe and feel the vitality of life all around you.
“Healthy plants and trees yield abundant flowers and fruits. Similarly, from a healthy person, smiles and happiness shine forth like the rays of the sun.” – B.K. S Iyengar, Yoga Master
This is the end of this post. Please let me know if this post resonated with you.