In Yoga Terms
I didn’t realize how much a desk job would take out of me. My dad worked his whole life in construction. When I say whole life I mean it. His father owned a company and so he was right there in the thick of it from a young age on. He had aches and pains. And yet it never occurred to me that I would also ache after work. My legs feel a little fatigued sometimes right after sitting. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a few poses of yoga to help aide in getting the blood flowing going when this happens. But the same can happen if I meditate, too long. It was because for a long time I wasn’t really practicing meditation or yoga. What we westerners call yoga is mere the 3rd step out of the 8 steps in classical yoga — asana or posture. Asanas (physical postures) traditionally is to make the body healthy and stable for meditation, wherein the yogi would have the experiences of the higher states of consciousness and eventually become enlightened. Even though westerners don’t actually believe in enlightenment, they found that the yoga poses – based on the yoga system of body energy – gives excellent results in terms of creating peace and health in the human body. For excample, studies have proven that yoga is more beneficial in reducing anxiety than other forms of exercise. The term yoga has meant union or yoking the individual consciousness with the experience of the entire universe. A yogi was one who had accomplished this union or at the very least was aspiring to it and using a systematic method of accomplishing his aim. A yogi named Paramahansa Yogananda came to the West in 1920 and wrote the Autobiography of a Yogi which became quite well known and inspired the careers of many well known yoga teachers. Classical yoga has spirituality as its base, which many of us are allergic to. I was pretty skeptical myself in the beginning, but through the yoga methods they taught I learned to prove to myself the value of these systems in a step-by-step systematic way. The organization he started explains the classical purpose of yoga here and goes deeper into explaining the eight steps of yoga. A good yoga set will get you closer a meditative state. You can meditate during yoga. But when you practice yoga first, it warms up the spine and quiets the mind. Stillness includes movement and movement includes stillness. The stillness of meditation requires a certain kind of circulation, an ease of body-and-mind. It can be quite difficult to focus on meditation while also doing yoga. I found it took me about 4 months of practice (doing yoga every other day) before I was physically adapted enough to be able to perform the poses without getting flustered, out-of-breath, etc. and I was then able to focus more on ujjayi breathing and drishti and be able to have a good meditation session while doing yoga postures. Classically, yoga is primarily focused on meditation, and asana is just a good preparation for that.