In the west, Yoga has taken over the fitness industry as a form of exercise. But it is important to note that Yoga is not just about physically challenging poses but also involves meditation and mindfulness. Not to mention its true nature, which is quite subtle.
And while some Yoga does definitely have fitness benefits, it is actually more accurately described as a form of formlessness. Meditation is also only a part of Yog.
In this article, we will explore the truth about Yoga- what it is, and what it is not. We will also discuss the importance of both meditation and exercise in Yoga, and how they work together to create a balanced practice.
Keep reading to digest the truth about Yoga for yourself.
Yoga Is Not Meditation & Yoga Is Not Exercise
First and foremost, it's important to establish that Yoga is not a form of either meditation or exercise. Rather, it's a holistic practice that involves both elements in various forms. In fact, some forms of Yoga don't involve any movement at all!
Moreover, it's essential to understand that the purpose of Yoga is not simply to exercise or meditate. Instead, it's about maintaining balance and harmony in both the body and the mind. This means that when you practice Yoga, you should focus on connecting your body, mind, and breath to create a state of inner peace.
Yog simply is. Yog means union. It is a practice of uniting the body, mind and spirit. In greater detail, this means that the body is used to access and cultivate energy, while the mind focuses on that energy, and the heart is utilized to open up to the highest truth.
But outside of the limitations of the two, Yog exists regardless of the physical human vessel that contains it. Yog is more than physical movements and the practice of mindful living.
The Benefits Of Meditation & Exercise In Yoga
Meditation plays a vital role in Yoga, as it helps to clear the mind and reduce stress. By focusing on breath work and awareness of one's thoughts, meditating can help to restore balance and harmony throughout the body.
On the other hand, exercise is also beneficial for those practising yoga. This is because exercise helps to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, which are both necessary components when performing various poses or postures.
Moreover, regular physical activity can also improve cardiovascular health, increase energy levels, better sleep patterns, improved concentration skills, and more.
In addition, exercise also helps to improve balance and coordination, which are essential for performing many Yoga poses.
The Meditation Element in Yoga
With the development of Yog, meditation has been an irreplaceable aspect of the Yogic journey. It is believed that the practice of meditation can help to clear the mind, increase focus and attention, and bring about a state of peace and tranquillity.
Meditation can also be used as an effective tool for relaxation, stress relief, and mindfulness.
While there are many different forms of Meditation in Yoga, some popular ones include Pranayama breathing exercises, Visualization meditations, Mantra chanting, Guided imagery meditations, and Yoga Nidra (Yogic Sleep).
Furthermore, on a more subtle note, Meditation also helps to develop a deeper understanding of the self and to cultivate a sense of love and compassion towards all living beings - something that is particularly important in this day and age.
The Exercise Element in Yoga
Although many people view yoga as primarily a form of exercise or physical activity, it's important to remember that this is only one element of this holistic practice. However, exercise is still essential for improving strength, flexibility and balance.
Yoga postures and poses can help to sculpt the body, improve posture, strengthen muscles, increase endurance and flexibility, as well as promote overall wellbeing. Additionally, physical activity helps to reduce stress levels and boost endorphin levels – something that is especially important during these times of uncertainty.
The development of Asans in Yoga has come from the branches of Hatha Yoga, while Asans themselves have evolved over time. Common asanas (yoga poses) include sun salutations, warriors, cobras, downward dogs and many more.
So the Body Is Not An Obstacle On the Spiritual Journey?
Ultimately, the purpose of Yog is to bring about balance and health in both body and mind. While physical exercise is an important part of this practice, it should not be viewed as a limitation on the spiritual journey.
Rather, physical exercises should aid in strengthening the mind and helping to open up to higher levels of consciousness.
Yog does not only involve physical postures or meditation - although both play an integral role in this holistic practice - but also serves as a tool for self-inquiry, transformation, and mindfulness. This means that by using Yog as a vehicle for personal growth, we can open up to our inner potential and lead healthier lives.
Many traditions envision the body as a primary obstacle to spirituality, but this can be quite problematic as it can lead to a dichotomy between body and mind. Instead, the practice of Yog helps us to view our bodies as an instrument for spiritual exploration, allowing us to cultivate balance and harmony within ourselves.
A nice metaphor for this is the idea of Yoga being like a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds. As we practice asanas and meditate, our mind opens up to new possibilities and we become aware of our inner power.
With this understanding, we can learn to live life in balance and harmony while also enjoying all of the benefits that come along with it.
Thus, while it's true that Yog does involve exercise and meditation, these elements should be seen as complementary aspects rather than the only things that make up this ancient practice.
The Science of Yogic Practices Over the Ages
To the surprise of many, Yoga is quite a refined science with a lot of literary backing going back centuries. This is one of the reasons why a lot of gurus and practitioners alike view yoga as more than just physical exercise or meditation.
Yoga has been around for centuries, with many ancient texts discussing the importance of its practice to maintain balance and harmony in both body and mind. From the Yoga Sutras written by Patanjali to The Hatha Yoga Pradipika written by Svatmarama, numerous books discuss various aspects of Yogic philosophy, techniques and practices.
These works are in-depth assessments of the quantifiable means of attaining physical, mental and spiritual well-being. From the Tantric lineages, there is not enough material left in legible format for the Western world, as most of the works remain in their original tongues and are significantly less translated.
Other Spiritual Traditions That Lead to Yog But Through Other Means
Numerous other spiritual paths borrow or are similar to yogic practices but through slightly different means such as Tantric traditions, Shamanic rituals and Ayurveda (the science of life).
In the world, religious traditions and spiritual paths exceed the number of schools of yoga, and many of them involve rituals, breathing techniques and meditation for the same end goal - becoming aware of one's true self.
In fact, there are over 10000 distinct spiritual paths in the world with each one offering a unique perspective on life and its purpose. I personally believe that during our lifetime, we have a certain inclination towards a certain path, but all of them can assist us in our search for self-knowledge.
It's just some approaches and technologies are better suited to our nature and the period of time in which we live.
Is It Necessary to Have A Spiritual Teacher?
In my opinion, it is not necessary to have a spiritual teacher in order to practice yoga. One can certainly start and go far without assistance from anyone else. However, having a teacher or mentor can help us tremendously in our search for self-discovery.
A teacher will be there to answer questions and provide guidance when we need it most. They can also provide a safe space for students to express their thoughts and feelings, as well as offer feedback on their progress in the form of constructive criticism.
Ultimately, a teacher is invaluable if one wishes to learn about yogic philosophies and practices more deeply. Life is the ultimate teacher, given that you are willing to listen. And Life that is God is good, and all that is Good is Life.
Even when you are not searching for spiritual teaching, there is an underlying spiritual fabric to all existence that holds some form of teaching for us all. It is just a matter of learning to listen and observe closely,
The Nature of Union Awaits You
Yoga is a holistic practice involving meditation and exercise in various forms.
While the purpose of Yoga is to maintain balance and harmony in both the body and the mind, it’s important to remember that each element has its own set of benefits.
Meditation can help to clear the mind and reduce stress levels, while exercise helps to improve strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health.
Ultimately though, no matter what form of yoga you practice – be it at home or in a studio – always remember to be kind and gentle towards yourself