Why practice yoga?
We come into a world of endless possibilities like instruments without instructions. Our mechanisms are so advanced that it takes years to know how to implement them and a lifetime to refine them. Yoga is the instruction.
In yoga we begin with the body to organize ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. The first task is to get to know ourselves.
The body is the material we start with. It is touchable and concrete and we can identify with it. This is where we have the maximum opportunity for self examination.
The modern system of yoga is described in a text written about 18 centuries ago. It’s known as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In the simplest explanation it is a guide to self inquiry that results in liberation from distractions and a sense of freedom from the tedium of a restless mind. It is entirely self serving. Older systems of yoga speak to service in a different light. When the student is steady in the foundation of yoga she may find a purpose and skill in service.
The student is given guidelines to behavior. When these guidelines are applied to the physical practice of postures, the student can experience how the concepts of disallowing harm, arrogance, greediness, jealousy and gluttony feel in the body. Then the student has the choice to adjust his/her attitude toward herself in the posture. The body becomes a vehicle for reflection.
Beyond the body, these restraints not only free the student from a guilty conscience but lead to equanimity. This allows for emotional space. Then the student may become contemplative which results in a desire for further knowledge. It also leads to joy as the student sees herself as bigger than her body.
Another way to look at this is in terms of relationship. The experience of yoga is the experience of relationship between the student and herself. On a physical level it is the experience of muscle to bone, bone to bone, breath to bone and mind to breath. This will indirectly affect the relationships of the student to others as the student becomes more insightful.
Posture is practiced with vigor tempered with compassion so that effort is balanced with ease. Steady effort in yoga is done with modesty rather than bravura. It is intended to create the sensation of good space in strong bodies.
Born a survival/gratification machine, we first learn to move toward pleasure and security. Then we are instructed. We are taught to use the manual of morality. We are trained to use our minds and regulate our emotions. Our eyes are turned inward only so much as to direct them outward according to a boss.
We continue toward self awareness via the teaching of yoga. Beginning with the body, we endeavor to stop the noise of our minds so that we may come to know ourselves without bias.