“What is Yoga for Real”?

On International Day of Yoga, June 21st, a day established by the United Nations, I was asked to talk about “What is Yoga for Real”?  For the first time BYSJ participated in this “holiday” with free yoga all day, yoga demonstrations, and yoga talks.  We offered fresh fruits cut up and put out all day, showcasing its’ natural beauty and highlighting a benefit each fruit provides in its God given raw form!  It was a great day, and if you missed it, mark your calendars for June 21st next year!

But back to my talk. I realized how privileged I was to talk from my own experience, although I also realized that such a huge topic – yoga – was way to big to cover in 30 minutes!

Yoga by definition means “union” or “yoke.”  You often hear teachers say: “Yoga is the union between mind and body.”  Simple, yes, easy, no. And these meanings are not the same for everyone as they can and are applied differently for each of us. Your union or your yoke will look and feel different than mine – your own discovery, and my own discovery!

So to explore the “real” meaning of yoga we have to look at some quotes from recognized yogis who came before us:

You must practice, practice, and practice until you feel yourself.  Go deeper and deeper to know yourself.  To self-realize and know the truth takes time.– Bikram Choudhury

Yoga keeps the body full of vitality, immune to diseases even at an old old age. Yogis never die they never get sick.” – Bishnu Charan Ghosh

Never too sick, never too bad and never too old to start from scratch and do yoga once again.” – Bikram Choudhury

The yoga is a journey, a voyage. It helps us live a wonderful life. Our journey is coming to know what is life and what is death.” – Rajashree Choudhury

Man comes here (on Earth) for the sole purpose of learning to break the cords that bind his soul. Disease, failure, negation, greed, jealousy – break these bonds now. You are in a cocoon of your own bad habits, and you must be freed to spread your wings of beautiful divine qualities.” – Paramahansa Yogananda

Roy Eugene Davis, a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda says: “Rest on a single point of purpose and watch how you will begin to ignore that which you don’t want to be involved with.”

And lastly, Bikram tells us that the “point of yoga or the ultimate destination is mental peace.”

Looking at these you can “hear” yoga being described as good for your physical health and overall well-being, and that to become authentic and true we must start from within. You can hear that it’s for everyone and that it’s a journey where we are each free and yet connected as One. These quotes and countless others tell us that yoga relates to everything! It is a healing modality to bring us back to wholeness.

As Bikram quotes countless times: “Yoga is the only subject in the world where the subject and the object are the same!”  In other words, you get to know you through you!

So the yoga becomes THE tool to build that useful mind-body connection. Yoga uses the body, which includes the breath, as a medium to train the mind and to calm the fluctuations of the mind.  For example, in Standing Head to Knee, we ask you to get a good grip, with ten fingers interlaced a couple of inches below the toes. Your mind is directed there to that instruction in that moment and then led to another body part with instructions on how to act. The class is a tapestry of these movements, reinforcing over and over again a mind-body connection, dislodging other thoughts that hinder a present mind set.  With repetition, those commands dismantle filters that sabotage the more free and open mind.

The Mirror

I’m going to go a step deeper into this dismantling with a “path” I think we all take initially! Our mirrors in the room, the only equipment you will see, provide the needed reflection for bouncing the necessary information back and forth to process the mind body connection.  First, you begin to notice.  Noticing breeds awareness, and awareness will breed familiarity.  Familiarity breeds acceptance.  Acceptance breeds understanding and understanding breeds Peace.  This is a big arrival on the path as we are no longer in an act of suffering.  Only then will we begin to change which breeds transformation. Transformation breeds consciousness and this new behavior resulting from this process is what separates the small self from the higher Self, thus enabling us to Self Realize!  Beautiful right?!

Notice -> Awareness -> Familiarity -> Acceptance -> Understanding -> Peace -> Change -> Transformation -> Consciousness -> Self Realization

Ironically, if you ask Bikram to talk about Self Realization he will look at you and either say, “No”, or he’ll ignore you.  But, it’s the very thing he teaches in his classes!

And, it’s available to all as a class – at your own pace.  I think his choice to ignore is really his way of answering sarcastically, because you are drenched in the subject for 90 minutes and if you take him directly, he’ll add more spice to it by saying: “Make your mind your best friend,” “One of the biggest problems in this country is that you underestimate yourself,” “Don’t let anything rattle your peace,” “Having means nothing unless you know how to use it,” ”Your ultimate destination is mental peace,” “We are slaves to the bad habits,” and “You come into the torture chamber to kill yourself.”  “These are all fuel to heal the wounds, or cut the cords” – as Paramahansa Yogananda would say – “that bind the soul.”

One with All

Remember however, that yoga itself IS NOT the end all. All the limbs of yoga, including what we do at Bikram Yoga San Jose, which is both hatha yoga and raja yoga, is a practice that provides comfort when sitting in lotus position. And lotus position serves to open the seven chakras running along your spine and facilitate the passage of energy through them, thus allowing you to contemplate life and join in the enlightenment to all things – generating a blissful essence of being ONE with all, or as some have called it, LOVE, in its purest form.

As I end, let me explain another wonderful phenomenon that I’ve witnessed with a yoga practice. We can safely say after reading this that yoga, plainly, provides for ultimate freedom. It addresses our “suffering” within, enabling each of us to address a very narrow need of “What’s in it for me?” As you practice, the scope of your world widens as consciousness rises and you “see” and care beyond the nose on your face and wake up to the concerns and celebrations of your surroundings, those of your family and community.

Going even further on our yogic journey, I’ve witnessed even still another layer of awakening to a more global perspective that initiates rightful actions in the world in which we live.  At first notice of this, I thought it ended there, but then I began to see that this cycle REPEATS itself in a way that evokes more depth each time, going from me to we to us and back around again! Yoga then becomes a evolving journey of selflessness in the context of deeply caring about oneself!

BYSJ’s mission, as you’ve seen painted on our walls, is empowering self-realization and through that igniting compassion. There is really nothing more important than this practice as this WILL flush out every part of your life to create that best version of you. I’m not at liberty to change anything about this practice for if I was, and did, then you’d be short changed in the rewards it delivers. Yoga is thousand of years old, and when newly discovered is the source that will “yoke” your life! Grab the fortune that it is!