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Why Yoga

Yoga: “a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.”[1] Yoga: “the means to the realization of one’s true nature.”[2] Yoga: A union, an alignment, a path, freedom, liberation, peace, knowledge, a healing…

With yoga, learn to have a different experience - Robert Boustany

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Why yoga? What is the initial appeal? Does practicing yoga change our perception of it? What does yoga bring to each individual?

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Yoga was my mid-life crisis. I was out of shape, in serious need of a regular physical activity and my body, which had gone through a traumatic accident 20 years earlier, was aching more and more as the years went by. The future was scary. I had to do something!!!

I searched for an activity that would be respectful of my body, challenging, develop my strength, give me flexibility and teach me to relax and manage my stress. I was looking for an activity that would help me heal. And yes, at first my concerns were very physical.
In Ashtanga yoga, I found my initial answer, which evolved with Pralaya yoga.

“At various points in the Upanishads, the great sages agree that asana is the first step in the practice of the limbs of yoga, followed by pranayama”[3]

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My yoga practice helped me very clearly from the beginning. It released my lower back and almost instantly, I started sleeping better and feeling the pain less. That in itself was sufficient to keep me going. But I also got something more.

I started getting glimpses of the time right after my car accident. I was 16 at the time, and it helped me gain a very different perspective on life. It brought me peace and happiness (I was not a very happy teenager), it gave me balance and stability and mostly it gave me faith (not religious) – in the beauty of life, a feeling that it all turns out ok. It made me humble and aware of the greatness of the universe, the power of life. The beauty and amazement of watching my body heal, the connection with nature and being surrounded by life. I was no longer afraid, I was just happy and it all made sense…

It is only now, with the yoga that I see glimpses of these feelings I had after my accident. It is only now, thanks to the yoga, that I feel I can find myself again.

There is a feeling that the dots are connecting. This peaceful eagerness (if that makes sense). Very slowly I feel my body unlocking, very slowly I feel the breath penetrating, and very slowly I feel my mind more at ease. The journey can be long, it doesn’t matter. In fact, I assume it will never end but it does not matter because it just feels good to be on the road back to my “self”.

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“The reasons for our initial involvement may pale and lose importance as we move deeper”[4]

Thanks to yoga, we feel better. We feel stronger. We feel more energized. And then we see the changes around us. We feel more connected and more confident. Our mind is clearer, our stress more manageable. We can go to our center and find our peace, our “self”

So what am I getting out of my yoga practice?

Alignment A way of life A discipline

The limbs of yoga are practiced simultaneously or at different moments, or in various combinations. Our yoga experience evolves and is in constant movement. With every movement comes change. With every deepening of the practice there is a small layer of Avidya that is removed. All because of alignment and the positive repercussions it brings.

So my favorite feeling about yoga is alignment. If I had one word to describe what yoga means to me, it would have to be alignment. At least at this precise moment in time. Alignment of the body. Alignment of the energies. Alignment of my consciousness.

I read the interview of Krishnamurty on the Circus of Man’s Struggle. It is a great interview. It is about how man has divided his entire existence in three levels: The world outside of him, the world within him and the world beyond him (often religion). Why has man divided the world, his existence, in these three categories? When looking at the world, the violence, the disasters, the confusion, the chaos, we do not understand it so we exclude ourselves and look within. But we find the same confusion, fears, problems, chaos within us so we look to God to find answers. But why do we create these divisions? After all, individuals create the outside world, not nature, but society, human relations … we are societies, and we are the world around us. The breakdown comes because we create a division between the inner and outside world, making us turn to a third level to try and find answers (God).

So all this to say that by the end of the article, he concludes that our behaviors are the behaviors of the world, that our individual consciousness is the consciousness of the world and the content of our consciousness is the content of the consciousness of the world and that once we realize this, then whatever change we make within affects the whole consciousness of the world.

Why do I speak about this? Well, to some degree this is what I get from my yoga. It is all about the alignment, first physical, then energetic but also this alignment of consciousness where we are a part of a whole, and as such we, our consciousness, affects the overall.

Yoga is a way of life.

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How we live our lives changes thanks to our practice, and every practice is an invitation to a voyage, an exploration that deepens our senses / awareness / consciousness, and brings us closer to the inner stillness, the peace, the purusa. It reminds me of Charles Baudelaire’s poem: L’Invitation au Voyage: “Là tou n’est qu’ordre et beauté, Luxe, calme, et volupté”. Invite the practice and trust that it will take you where you need to go.

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So where does that leave me? Yoga is my healing practice. Physically and mentally. I find myself needing to understand and integrate certain anatomical principles to my practice. I understand that my body is the only vehicle I have to live this life. It needs nurturing, caring, respect and gentleness. I am no longer afraid of “aging”.

There is a Sanskrit saying “Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho” which basically says that things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude toward them does that.

So the practice only gets more intense as the physical and mental take on new paths… I love that every class is a new experience, that I have so much learning to look forward to, and that with every little layer that I peel off, it feels like a whole world opens up!

“In the beating of his pulse and the rhythm of his respiration, he recognizes the flow of the seasons and the throbbing of universal life”. [5]

[1] B.K.S Iyengar, Light on Yoga, Schoken Books, 1966

[2] Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Mala, North Point Press, 1999

[3] Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Mala, North Point Press, 1999

[4] Erich Schiffmann, Yoga, the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, Pocket Books, 1996

[5] B.K.S Iyengar, Light on Yoga, Schoken Books, 1966

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