With the regular practice of yoga, I have benefited so much – physically, mentally and spiritually. My body has become healthier, stronger and more flexible. I have been able to cure chronic pains in my knees and neck and I have learned how to take care of physical pain or discomfort that may crop up occasionally.
I have also learned that to achieve and maintain a good state of health, I need to practice yoga properly and regularly. But I don’t need to turn and twist my body excessively and in unnatural ways, which unfortunately seems to be the focus in most yoga classes these days. The teaching and practicing of yoga has become a competitive display of flexibility and strength.
Super flexibility and strength are admirable and have their places, but in the context of yoga they have very little or no use. On the contrary, an obsession for them could be a hindrance on the path of yoga.
Some of my favorite scriptures of yoga are the Bhagvat Geeta, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Yogasara Upanishad and Yoga Vasistha. They all define and explain Yoga in great lengths but nowhere in them are words like physical flexibility and strength even mentioned. The Yoga Scriptures are more interested in the well-being of our Mind and Spirit.
Yoga, to me, is taking care of the body with honor but not getting stuck on the body, as it is temporary. It is taking care of the mind but not giving over-importance to it, as all the mental tendencies are also temporary. It is rising above the physical and mental and remaining in touch with the Inner Space we call the Spirit, Self, God, Consciousness, which is non-changing and permanent. The Yoga Scriptures give us the wisdom and secrets to achieve this state.
Just as an accomplished musician becomes one with the music, and just as a greedy businessman becomes one with money, similarly an accomplished yogi functions in the world while remaining one with the Self.
This is the purpose of Yoga.
“Fulfill this purpose with self-effort,” says Yoga Vasistha.
Originally published on experienced yoga teacher Krishan Verma’s blog