I always had a bad stigma against yoga. When I was young, I only saw girls do yoga. I always thought yoga is about acrobatics. It is a feminine art of twisting and contorting your body to weirdly looking postures and poses. My initial thoughts about yoga was that it was not an exercise. You cannot call it an exercise because it was just about bending your body this way and that way.
Throughout the years, I looked at what yoga is. I always saw women do yoga, so I assumed that it was an activity for women, not for guys. Heck, there are pants named after yoga, and they are something that women wear.
So without a clue, I assumed that yoga is just a feminine activity. Only women do yoga because it is about stretching your body and becoming flexible. I assumed that that was the main point of yoga. I was wrong.
Yoga is not about becoming an expert contortionist. Yes, yoga postures and poses can stretch your body and make you flexible, but there is so much more.
Yoga started in ancient India, and it was used as a method, mean, or a technology through which one can transform himself. The physical aspects of yoga, the various postures and poses, were adopted by westerners. However, the deeper dimensions of yoga never caught on.
And as such, I developed a jaded view of yoga. I abhorred it initially, thinking and believing that it will not serve any purpose in my life. I came to a biased conclusion. Thankfully, I opened my mind and experienced new things. Now I practice yoga on a daily basis.
What is Yoga?
In Sanskrit, yoga means ‘union’ or ‘to merge’. What are we trying to merge with? The whole existence.
Now that sounds preposterous and nonsensical, but hear me out. Are we not a part of the world? We live in it. We are born here. If we come from it, then surely when we die, we will become a part of it again, won’t we?
We may believe that we are separate entities in the world. But without the larger forces in play, we cannot exist at all. We are the byproducts of the solar system and we exist in tandem with everything. What we exhale, the plants inhale. What plants exhale, we inhale.
There really is no separate entity because our existence is dependent on so many factors coming together. For example, in our body, the organs cannot exist separately. We cannot exist without the heart pumping blood to all other organs. We cannot exist if the lungs didn’t capture oxygen that is required by the body. We may survive with only one kidney, but essentially everything relies on one another. We are on life support every moment of our existence.
On a larger scale, we exist because the earth is spinning, the moon is revolving around the earth, and the sun is shining. Else we cannot be. Every day, we take in a part of earth as food and we give back a part of us through excretion. How can anyone even deny that we are not a part of the world?
We all came from the planet, and we will become a part of it again. There is physical union there and we cannot deny it because it is within our everyday experience. To truly live, we must experience this union on all levels before we die. If we don’t experience this when we are alive, then when death approaches, we will suffer immensely.
If the only dimension of life that we know of is the physical, then when the time comes to shed the body, it will definitely not be a pleasant experience. So much suffering has come because people are not seeing life for what it is.
Yoga is just the technology to get you to that state of experience where you see reality just the way it is. If you align the geometry of the physical body with the geometry of the universe, then you merge with everything.
You experience everything as one. Intelligently I can see that this is true, but from experience, I don’t have a clue. I know that matter is just energy condensed to a slow vibration. For all I know, we could just be one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. Death may not even exist, and our life is an illusion. It is a dream that we made up because we are nothing more than imaginations of ourselves.
For a short period of time, we develop individuality because of our physical body. Physicality implies limitation. Because I have a body, there is boundary where my sense perceptions are limited within. So the only senses I know of are of this physical body, I don’t sense anything outside of me. This is the main reason why I believe I am a separate entity.
We see everything within our physical body as us and everything outside as not. But what if it is possible to expand our sense perception beyond our body? What if our senses cover the whole universe? What kind of experience would that be?
I don’t know about you, but I really want to experience this boundlessness. I don’t know what it is. I don’t have a single clue as to how to approach it, but I know that within me there is a longing for eternity. There is a longing for the infinite. I know this is true because my desires are endless. I want this and that and it’s never enough.
It seems that whatever I am doing, I am just trying to create an unlimited space with limited entity. Love was the most intense experience I have ever touched because for a moment, I felt so complete. I dissolved into something that was far more important than me.
Yet, the person of my affection was the vehicle I used to induced this feeling. With this limited entity, I tried to grasp the world. Of course, that did not happen, but for a short moment, I felt like I did.
Everything we do is for our well-being. We want to be something more than what we are right now. We want to expand ourselves in some way, isn’t it? To become more of what we already are. To earn more money. To have a family. To do this and that, they are all different ways of expanding ourselves. To be satisfied, to be complete. To be whole. Because deep down there is a certain level of incompleteness. A certain longing for the infinite.
I never knew how to properly address the longing in me for so long. I tried to address it through writings. I tried to address it through various activities that I believe will make me happy and complete. I sing, I dance, I eat amazing food, I connect with wonderful people, I give, I earn, I volunteer, and so much more. Yes, all these activities brought me joy, but none of them are lasting. Every moment of joy was fleeting.
I finally learned that there is nothing for me to do. I just need to establish myself in yoga.
Be in Yoga
There is no need to travel the path of yoga. You don’t have to dedicate your life to being a yogi. You can do whatever you want, but whatever you do, take yoga with you.
Why? Because it will make the path and journey beautiful. Yoga means union. If you do things with a great sense of involvement and attention, your activity frees you. You are doing yoga.
Initially, it may seem that yoga is just about bending the body and becoming flexible. It can be used for stress relief and exercise, but there’s more. What we are familiar with in yoga are the various hatha yoga postures. They are known as asanas.
These asanas are used to shape the body the way you want. You start by making the body flexible, then slowly the mind becomes flexible. Only when you have a stable and flexible base can you truly handle anything in life with a sense of ease.
Our spine is the center of our experience. It is the main gateway where our neurons and senses flow through. When we do yoga, we bend the spine and lengthen it in many ways. We stretch this way and that way because we are shaping the body and expanding our senses outwards.
Becoming flexible in every aspect of your life is important. Being flexible in the body, mind, emotion and energy allows you to slowly gain control over them. If you are flexible, then you are not stuck this way or that way. You can be whatever you want to be. That’s the main point.
Yoga allows you to slowly take charge of your body, mind, emotion, and energy bit by bit. This small incremental change can have a large impact on your life, because it is only when you take charge of yourself, can you determine the nature of your life.
You will see that certain compulsions will lessen, and your ability to perceive will enhance. Suddenly things would look different to you and you will see things in greater details than ever before.
A simple example that I can give is choosing the thoughts you want to think about. It may sound like a no-brainer, but most people’s thoughts are just reactions to situations around them. If you take charge of your mind, you can generate the kind of thoughts you want. If you generate beautiful thoughts then you can easily ramp up your emotions the way you want.
In my yoga and meditation practices, sometimes I envision the person of my affection. Yes, it may seem like I am still using an outside catalyst, but everything is happening internally. I envision the scenarios I want. I create the illusions the way that I want, and the next thing I know, I am ecstatic beyond reason.
It may seem like I am doing the same thing of creating unnecessary illusions, but there is a fundamental difference. Initially, I was creating these thoughts unconsciously. I wasn’t aware that I was the one creating them. Now, I am doing them consciously. I am aware that I am in an illusionary state, but I allow it. I create these lovey dovey thoughts, and I enjoy them for a short period of time. There is no attachment because I know the very nature of these thoughts. There is a distance from my mind and body because I no longer identify myself in them. This distance allows me to use my mind the way I want. I can go into a trance whenever I want and pull my mind back into reality.
If you use your mind the way you want, you can play it the way you want. The same goes with your body, your emotion, and your life energies. When you gain mastery over your own faculties, then you can determine the nature of your experience. No matter what it is that you are doing, if you can determine the context of how you experience it, isn’t that the best?
And if you have total control over the nature of your experience, how would you want to experience life? What state would you create and keep yourself in? These are the important questions to ask, but they are also obvious questions.
For sure you will keep yourself in the most pleasant experience possible. And this is the essence of yoga that when you gain control over your faculties, you have a choice. You can still be miserable, but at least make this a conscious choice.
I want you to know that everything we do is an expression of who we are. It doesn’t matter if you are singing, dancing, drawing, running, working, studying or anything else. They are all different ways for you to express yourself.
And we know that people express themselves in many ways. For me, I express myself through writings. I know people who express themselves through fitness and hard work. I also know others who express themselves through accumulation of wealth and fame. And so on and so forth.
Everything we do is an expression of who we are, but it cannot determine the nature of who we are. If you found full expression from any particular activity, it can leave you somewhat transformed. If you sing with all your heart, love with all your heart, or do anything with absolute attention, then some transformation may happen. However, it is not guaranteed.
Only if you do the right things, do right things happen to you. If you water a plant, it doesn’t matter if you do it begrudgingly or happily, flowers will bloom. The same logic is with this one.
I know that I have been very impatient when it comes to the life process. I have always looked for quick solutions to my problems. I realized that I spend over a decade of time in primary and secondary schools learning the ‘ABCs’. I learned to combine alphabets to form words, sentences, paragraphs, and so much more. I learned grammars and writing styles and I kept practicing and practicing. That was how I got good with writing.
To know this life in its entirety will take much more than learning how to read and write. To explore all dimensions of life that this one contains will take a long time. So it is only fair that I invest my time and energy into it. I don’t have to hastily come to any conclusions. I can seek for the rest of my life. I can be in yoga and steadily create myself the way that I want.
Whatever happens on the outside, whatever unexpected situations occur, I know that I want to decide the nature of my existence. If not always, then at least this very moment, every moment.