What is the meaning of yoga for you?
When many of us from the west think about the meaning of yoga, we think of the physical body postures called asanas adopted to increase fitness, flexibility and well- being. However, this is only one aspect of what yoga really is. Let’s go back to the origins of Yoga.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ which means to connect, join or balance. The goal of yoga is union, meaning union between the concept of our limited individual self and our true nature which is divine. The physical practice of yoga asana (postures) is very popular in the west. But this is just one the ‘eight limbs’ of yoga according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, an ancient text on the philosophy of yoga.
Amma says that just like building a house, there are a number of required steps needed to achieve the goal of yoga – the realization of our divine nature. Yoga is a way of life uniting the body, mind and soul. This is the deeper meaning of yoga.
The Elements of Yoga Practice:
The combined practice of the eight limbs of yoga is described in Patanjalis yoga sutras. These include:
- moral disciplines (yama),
- positive observances (niyama),
- physical postures (asana),
- breathing techniques (pranayama),
- sense withdrawal (pratyahara),
- focused concentration (dharana),
- meditative absorption (dhyana) and
- samadhi (self realisation).
All have the same aim – to bring us back to our inherent state of inner peace.
In the text ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’, Swatmarama (the founder of the Hatha system of yoga) introduces his system as a preparatory stage for the physical purification of the body. These are practices for higher states of meditation or yoga. Yoga is a path that leads us to a direct taste of the Divine.
The yogic practices taught in Amrita Yoga take us to a state of unity that leads to a progressively deeper inner journey. We experience better expression of our true essence. Awareness of the breath while practicing the asanas leads us into a state of pure awareness. It is an inside-out approach with the breath and MA OM mantras supporting this process of transformation and unfolding.
The physical postures are a tool that leads us towards increased spiritual awareness. Amrita Yoga uses a heart centered approach with the intention of transcending the physical asana practice.
The Nature of Mind
The mind and senses tend to flow outwards. The mind can be compared to ripples on a lake. We cannot see the bottom of the lake because its surface is covered with ripples. Similarly, the ripples on the lake represent the mind that covers our true nature.
As we purify the inner instruments of the mind, awareness increases. We see that we are not limited by this body. The body will perish but awareness abides. Awareness is the essential nature of all sentient and insentient beings and is eternal.
The connection between the body and the mind is the breath. Awareness of breath deepens awareness of physical posture and deepens the physical posture itself. This increased awareness awakens and enlivens our inner life. It overflows into all the experiences we encounter in our daily lives. We become calm, focused and ready to handle the stresses of everyday life.
Amma’s Yogic Wisdom
“The purpose of Yoga is for our inner well-being. It does not belong to any particular faith or religion. It was passed on to us by the ancient seers for the well-being of humanity. Yoga helps us to reconnect with nature and eventually become one with God. Yoga also creates powerful spiritual vibrations. These vibrations positively affect both us, as well as others. It is like entering a perfume factory. Even after emerging, the sweet fragrance will remain on our body, pleasing both to others and us. When we perform yoga with complete awareness, it purifies each and every cell in our body.“ – Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi
Through regular physical practice, we learn to maintain our peace and calm even amid the ups and downs of life. Yoga does not to eliminate the inevitable challenges of life, but rather equips us to face them with a calm and equanimous mind.
With divine grace, may we all experience the deeper meaning of yoga.
Authors: Gunamayi and Daya
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