Practicing yoga does not only mean correctly performing positions, knowing how to do many, or knowing how to do inversions or all those acrobatic and difficult poses.
Measuring yourself based on how many positions you can do or let your mood be conditioned by the success of a certain position is the most wrong you can do in this path, because it makes us get trapped in the materialism of everyday life and makes us lose of view the true goal of yoga.
It is very difficult to detach from this vision, and I know it well because I also feel frustrated when a position does not succeed as I would like… what matters in yoga, what is really YOGA, is the path, the journey beyond the positions themselves. What really matters spiritually, for your own person, is not being able to make an inversion by holding onto your arms, but it is what happens inside you while you do it, or while you commit yourself to be able to do it one day.
Yoga is a spiritual path that values us based on our state of material existence.
It is learning how to be a good person and having a good day regardless of the success or failure of the positions during your daily practice.
To get rid of the materialistic impulse to pursue positions, the mind must become calm so that it can focus within its own interior space and discover the true self that is hidden within us.
The choice between spiritual and material is an epic battle that occurs every day in the yogi’s heart. This battle is also narrated in the Bhagavad Gita.
Calm, the quiet of the mind, is the path to listening and inner awareness. It is the essential quality for the aspiring yogi.
Yoga can be defined as a descending path inwards, towards the true self that is found inside, in depth. Redirecting the organs of the five senses from the outside world to the inner realms is the first step in experiencing the calm of the mind.
We can compare the mind to a vast ocean of awareness: what is seen on the surface is only the beginning, the true power of the ocean is revealed in its depths, only when the waters reach a point of calm then it is possible to look further depth. After a long period of calm, it will probably be possible to see to the bottom of the ocean.
Likewise, calmness of mind is the point of access to direct perception of the true inner self.
This is what we must aim for during yoga practice.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states that yoga is to calm the mind. The normal activity of daily life stimulates the mind and brings our attention outside, to the outside world. Whenever we interact with the world, waves called Vritti affect the ocean surface of the mind.
A vritti is like a wave, a vortex, which disturbs and disrupts the calm of the mind and can become part of our habitual and unconscious behavior if we are not sufficiently aware to interrupt it. More vritti means more emotions and thoughts, likes and dislikes, which obstruct the natural state of clarity of the mind.
The more we are drawn into the cycle of actions and reactions based on the external world, the more the waves and storms of emotions will hit the sea of our awareness, of our calm, preventing us from seeing in depth.
The alternative to these vortices is the state of calm, or nirodah. By redirecting the mind to the inner experience we become able to calm the waters of the mind and to perceive the depth of the inner self. The trained mind, skilled in the state of nirodah, recognizes the true nature of the inner self and is stable in facing any difficulty that may arise during the journey in the ocean of life.
Suddenly one realizes that one is not one’s body, one’s thoughts, one’s job, or one’s home. You see yourself through the eyes of the spirit, calm is the access point to this inner world.
Yoga is a tool that teaches how to dig deep to glimpse the eternal, a tool that provides the strength to face your deeply rooted emotions and feel your way up to the deep resolution and acceptance that is calm.
What is yoga for you and what prompted you to approach this practice? Let me know in the comments!