THE USEFULNESS AND BEAUTY OF YOGA
Yoga definitely can and should be useful in all spheres of life since it is, by definition, an integral and integrative spiritual practice encompassing and addressing the whole of human existence. First, it is very effective in preserving, improving and maintaining good health with a great potential in restoring health when lost. Second, it can significantly increase vitality and so directly contribute to a deeper experience of being alive in the world. Third, it can and it usually does prolong the human life securing more quality time for promoting personal development, social harmony and spiritual freedom. As a time-tested holistic practice, Yoga also regenerates the body, enhances the breath, soothes the mind, expands consciousness, deepens emotions and prepares for a truly intimate relationship with others. But, first and foremost, it deconditiones your conditioned consciousness at all levels by making possible a deep relaxation into your reality, whatever it may be.
However, the greatest usefulness of Yoga lies in the sphere of developing an inner spiritual life. When used skilfully, it can be turned into a perfect tool to practically answer for and by yourself the seminal questions of who you really are, what this world actually is and how to relate to it in a meaningful, fulfilling and creative way. And that is exactly where the inherent beauty of Yoga can be found with a little persistence in the practice; namely, in feeling the infinite depth of the human Heart by which we all live if we summon the courage to face reality as it is and be what we as humans have the potential to become. This transformation from potentiality to actuality of a life fully lived with love and compassion is the primary work of Yoga and its main purpose. So, start walking along this path if you feel attracted to its mysterious powers and have a happy journey into yourself and the fullness of a life lived straight from the Heart, for the Heart.
After deciding to embark on this life-changing adventure, you should know that Yoga can properly be learned only directly from a competent and caring teacher, and not in any other way. It should not be learnt indirectly through any other secondary sources like books and videos, or from incompetent and manipulative instructors. There are many reasons why this is so, one of the most important ones being the fact that Yoga is a very old, very complex and very subtle form of traditional knowledge that was transmitted only orally from teacher to student for centuries in the context of a systematic overall education of the student towards his or her total independence and moral integrity.
Unfortunately, things changed rapidly and drastically in the last one hundred years or so, causing all kinds of problems in the appropriate transmission of Yoga technology and Yoga wisdom. Many teachers became greedy, arrogant and superficial, and many students became impatient, hot-headed and opportunistic. Yoga got fragmented into competitive “styles of yoga” and comodified in the so called “yoga industrial complex”. Also, it got institutionalized, medicalized and popularized in the context of capitalist market economy perverting Yoga into one more commercial product on the “spiritual market” and so it was inevitably turned into a “shoddy bill of goods”. And, undoubtedly, most consumers of it were swindled, plain and simple.
So, be very careful with whom you choose to study Yoga, get properly informed in every way you can and then find an appropriate teacher for you, someone whom you can trust and who respects you as a human being. Books and other sources like the Internet can be useful in finding a good teacher, but the techniques must be learnt in the situation of a personal relationship of friendship, equality and mutual trust between teacher and student. Yoga studios and other institutions where Yoga is taught in a group setting can also be useful as long as you don’t misuse that as a substitute for not having your personalized home practice or avoiding it. Nothing can be a substitute for a personal practice since Yoga must be developed, applied and practiced individually to be fully effective, really safe and deeply enjoyable.
Recent development of teleconference, or video conference meetings, where this new technology is used to disseminate Yoga is a double-edged sword because it can have some negative effects in the proper Yoga transmission in spite of its many positive sides. It is obvious that in this way Yoga has become more readily available to more people all over the world, but this can also have some undesired and unpredictable consequences on the quality of teaching. In short, it should be complemented, if anyhow possible, with live meetings to actually experience the energy and synergy of two people interacting directly and fully in their sincere attempt to learn and grow together. The trend of teaching Yoga mostly or exclusively on-line goes against the very essence of Yoga, which is an intimate, immediate and unmediated human relationship of two concerned individuals meeting each other in the most direct and most tangible way possible.
Otherwise, the sacred relationship between teacher and student, or the primary Yoga of their relationship in which transmission becomes possible, necessarily gets depersonalized and compromised. The main transformative power of Yoga lies in this relationship and so this fact must be properly understood and the relationship responsibly nurtured by both parties involved. And finally, Yoga is something to be done, not only to be talked about. It should be studied, but it must be practiced on a daily basis. Not mechanically, just to do it because for some reason or other you think you should be doing it, but wholeheartedly like you mean it. Otherwise, it is much better not to do it at all. And it must bring you joy, the fundamental pleasure of feeling the livingness that you are.
Life is not just struggle and sorrow. It is also serenity and bliss, and Yoga is your daily reminder of that fact. You simply feel better while doing it and after doing it. In this intricate process of connecting with yourself you naturally learn a lot about life and start appreciating important things that you might have missed or neglected. Then you really love your life and you love all Life, knowing that you are not different from that. You are that. End of story.