I’ve been meditating for over six years now, and I can say with certainty that the practice has changed my life in so many ways. I’m better at managing stress, I’m less intensely goal oriented, I have cultivated more virtues like patience, compassion, and forgiveness, and I have a better appreciation for everyday life.
But even as someone who has been studying and practicing meditation for about an hour per day with good consistency for over a half dozen years, I am no stranger to sore knees, aching hips, and a stiff back. Like most people who meditate, I can say that uncomfortable sensations are just part and parcel with the whole meditation process. So if you ever say ‘oosh’ after sitting in seiza for an extended period of time, you’re not alone.
That said, I have found yin yoga to be a wonderful complement to my practice of meditation, simply because it has helped me to stretch the connective tissues in my body and thereby allowed me to sit for meditation longer, more comfortably, and with less physical distractions.
Yoga is an ancient system of philosophy and practice that leads to higher knowledge through greater understanding of yourself and the world around you.
Yoga, contrary to popular perception, does not indicate merely physical postures and movements. Postures and movements are just one of the many aspects of yoga designed to help you bring about total transformation in your relationship to yourself and the world around you.
You can imagine your journey through the practice of yoga the way you would your journey hiking up a mountain. The mountain is a great metaphor for the challenges and obstacles we face in the process of our development.
There are many paths up the spiritual mountain. While different paths will give you different techniques and approaches, there is no exclusive way. All the paths lead to the same place, the summit.
Often a well rounded approach that incorporates a combination of techniques and approaches is most appropriate. Although many people are born within contexts that have revolved around particular systems of beliefs that exclude all others, thinking that theirs is the best, authentic spiritual growth requires that you look beyond dogma and acquire a broader view.
So often our cultures and traditions condition us to think that a one size fits all formula is the best approach to our spiritual growth. Yet choosing a yoga practice depends on your preferences, your strengths, and your disposition.
Incorporating one or more of the following traditional paths of yoga will propel you towards the “goal:”
Yoga is more than just physical fitness, yet unfortunately most people think of yoga solely in these terms.
Yoga is an ancient system of spiritual development that includes and transcends the mere physical postures and movements. The ancient system of yoga contains a variety of philosophies and practices that lead to Self-knowledge.
By following these philosophies and practices, you can purify yourself on numerous different levels, such as these…
Like most people who are new to yoga, I started with a very limited view of the practice. When I began, I automatically associated the term “yoga” with just the series of postures that you move through to break a sweat and feel invigorated.
But the more I practiced yoga and the more I read about it — and especially as I began to learn about meditation — the more I came to realize that yoga is a whole lot more than just exercise and that the purpose of the practice is much greater than mere physical fitness.
I came to realize that the “yoga” that most people refer to as yoga is actually just one aspect of a much larger and all-encompassing system that purifies our body, mind, and spirit.
It was only once I encountered The Yoga Sutras, a classic book by the ancient sage, Patanjali, that I understood that the physical yoga exercises we ordinarily do in most yoga studios are just one ‘limb’ or step of the overall yoga system.
So let’s take a brief look at that system, so we can understand how the physical postures and movements relate to the system as a whole.
Patanjali, the ancient sage, articulated the classical system of yoga perhaps more succinctly than anyone. Born before 400 B.C., Patanjali compiled a set of roughly two hundred aphorisms that explained the entire process of yoga from start to finish.
These aphorisms have influenced and inspired generation after generation of genuine seekers, each one of whom must eventually has to grapple with the terse sincerity of these statements.
The Yoga Sutras describe most importantly the process of yoga found within the school of Raja yoga. For a description of the other three traditional schools of yoga — karma yoga, bakti yoga, and jnana yoga — visit my article on them here.
The Yoga Sutras outline the process of yoga as a gradual process of refinement of the body and mind. Patanjali enumerates the process of Yoga into eight steps, often referred to as limbs, which are the following: