In the West hemisphere yoga has become a very popular form of physical exercise and it is easy to think that yoga is only about twisting and stretching the body, breathing practices and a little chanting here and there. However, these are simply tools to assist us on our path to eventually stilling the mind.
The ancient sage Pantanjali said:
Yoga citta vrtti nirodhaha
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga
This quote tells us that practices of asana, pranayama, chanting, kriyas (cleansing techniques) are ultimately stepping stones for reaching a point where we can control our mind-stuff, our thoughts. That is the ultimate goal of practicing yoga. It is very beneficial for us to become physically and mentally stronger, more flexible and of clearer thought, but if the mind is still constantly busy and unsettled, there is still work to do.
For the last twenty years yoga and traditions rooted in spirituality have always been of interest to me. I always felt there must be more to life and I just couldn’t buy into the idea of a ‘set life plan and then you die’ idea, it just didn’t make sense to me. I knew there was another path for me. I had always enjoyed regular exercise and loved the high it gave me as I often found I felt the most relaxed mentally during my long distance running or cycling sessions. I would find the chatter of my mind would start to finally become quite and I felt totally inspired and happy, but several injuries soon made me realize that this path was not sustainable on a long term basis.
I had already enjoyed one of my first yoga books, ‘Moving into Stillness’ by Erich Schiffman, when I started to attend Iyengar Yoga classes. I found the classes very challenging and so I was totally engaged mentally. Over the first two years of regular Iyengar yoga practice all my injuries healed themselves and my body became pain free. I was a yoga convert!
At that time I was reading a lot of texts by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of the Krishna Consciousness Yoga System. The more I read the more I realized that I began to understand the philosophy of yoga and it was thanks to such texts and The Yoga Sutras that I finally discovered what yoga was actually all about; it is a journey through the Eight Limbs, a yoga system that gives us tools to keep climbing the yogic ladder and allows us to deal with whatever is thrown at us in a more effectively. The result of this being the fluctuations of our mental stillness gradually become less and less as we become less re-active.
It is when mental stillness is attained that yoga really starts to filter through to our thought, word and deed, and we start to really embrace the yoga philosophy. We start to see The Eight Limbs with new eyes and our journey into yoga starts to come to life, as it reaches all corners of our life.
And so with this in mind I feel The Yoga Healing Bible is an invaluable guide to your journey into yoga. The asanas have been carefully compiled into an order that will gradually strengthen and open the body and balance the nervous system. There is emphasis on correct breathing and relaxation which are paramount to an effective yoga practice. All these elements lead to a well rounded yoga practice and are as important as one another, and are greater than their sum.
The practice of yoga makes your world shine a little more, and you begin to treat yourself and others with more kindness, you are more at ease in your body and the continuous chatter of your thoughts starts to, little by little, become more quiet. I hope you enjoy your journey into stillness.