by Brian Serven | May 16, 2020 7:34 pm
What ignites the spark of transformation in yoga?
The simple answer is philosophy.
The transformative effects of yoga are nearly impossible to describe because they are entirely subjective. Each individual comes to the tradition with their own unique needs. In time and with effort and persistence, moments may arise when the practitioner becomes aware of shifts in consciousness. The shift in consciousness is key.
Undoubtedly, yoga poses have taken the spotlight when it comes to people’s perception of what yoga is. That belief though, is lacking depth. Praising the pose for changing your life is like praising the paper, glue and binding of a book for transformation; when really the ideas, wisdom and concepts that challenge your thinking or inspire new horizons is what leads to transformation. The structures of the book and body certainly serve a purpose. The print on paper allows the concepts to be circulated and shared. The body is utilized by the mind to experience nature all around us. But the spark – that is intangible and comes from within.
When it comes to life and its unrelenting torrent of challenges, the importance of the ability to hold the body in a physically difficult position falls far behind the importance of mental clarity, confidence and fortitude. A yoga pose without influence from philosophy or attitudes (bhavas) is like an empty calorie.
It may be beneficial to think of a pose as a conduit. The question though, is what are you directing your energy (or lifeforce) toward? There are speculations for example, that a person prone to anger, who learns to harness the power of prana, may end up stoking the anger instead of quelling it. If that same practitioner focuses the mind on an attitude such as acceptance (a concept of Karma Yoga), then their pose and pranayama practice will energize the antidote to their anger. The result would be experiencing life in a more calm and neutral manner than in a reactionary and combative manner.
A common point of focus for yoga practitioners is balance. But what are students of yoga attempting to align to achieve balance? This is where philosophy comes in. In yoga there is the conceptual view of the Koshas. The model of the Koshas inspires practitioners to recognize the layers that make up the experience of life. We know we have a physical experience. In addition, there is an energetic, emotional, intellectual and a spiritual experience. A seasoned yogi understands that balance isn’t as simple as a steady tree pose; true balance is giving equal attention to the entirety of one’s being. Focusing solely on the body without philosophy often leads to imbalances such as; egoism, vanity, competitiveness, self-centeredness, attachment to permanence of strength, flexibility or health among others.
The true and authentic transformation of consciousness depends upon a shift in view of the innate relationship with the nature within and around. The shift undoubtedly happens within the mind as a result of the incorporation of philosophical concepts in practice.
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