Yoga as a spiritual tool – For a student longing for spiritual attainment, the path of traditional, authentic yoga may be a perfect fit, including all of the many aspects that it may encompass. However, when an authentic seeker of spiritual truths starts to explore the landscape of paths, yoga is commonly not pursued as a spiritual tool because "everybody knows" (actually they assume – and incorrectly) that yoga is merely a physical exercise program.
Of course it’s not true that yoga is a merely physical fitness program, although it appears that way to the majority of people who are reminded of the postures (asanas). Because of these erroneous appearances, many sincere seekers are not finding authentic yoga, which embodies some of the highest teachings and practices known to humanity.
Yoga focuses on the spiritual, right from the very beginning.
By following the path of authentic yoga the student/aspirant not only approaches the attainment of spiritual realization, but also benefits from a host of side-effects which might include physical health, the elimination or reduction of some diseases, and/or promotion of a state of health and well-being. The intent of yoga is to focus on the spiritual, right from the very beginning of practice. By engaging such an authentic orientation of yoga, many fruits will come, including the physical benefits.
The sincere student needs to re-affirm the true nature of authentic yoga. This is not a matter of changing the path of those who practice various “adaptations” of yoga, or small, isolated parts of yoga. They have a perfect right to do as they wish. However, by clearly re-affirming the true nature of authentic yoga and making this available to all true seekers, in a wide array of venues, people are more likely to be attracted. It is fortunate that at least a small percentage of teachers are trying to do this.
The journey of yoga to yoga is a Sacred Pilgrimage.
Imagine taking a sacred pilgrimage (Yatra) to a sacred place high in the Himalayas. During your journey you might fly on an airplane, ride in a car, and do lots of walking. The entire journey is one of a pilgrimage as long as you maintain a heartfelt conviction for the destination you are seeking.
The key that makes all the aspects of your journey; the airplane, the car, and the walking a Yatra is the intentionality in your heart for the destination being sought. It is this intentionality for the goal called yoga that makes the process leading there also called yoga, not merely the actions themselves.
The fact that you move your body this way or that, or do some breathing practices, doesn’t unto itself, constitute yoga. Yoga is the journey (Yatra) towards yoga, which is the union being sought.
If you are not working with relationships in the external world, with your personality, with your body, with your breath, or the levels of your mind with this intentionality towards the destination called yoga, then the process along the way is simply not yoga.
It is not hard to find practitioners and workshop leaders who provide breath training for health reasons, and do so without using the word yoga or making any mention of attaining or realizing the higher union that is at the core of yoga. These trainers are to be admired for not calling their work yoga, even though breath training is a part of yoga. This is as it should be.
So we must call into question those others who teach work with body, breath and mind and call their practices yoga, while completely ignoring the goal or destination of authentic yoga?
The destination of yoga is yoga, period. Any other use of the practices is simply not yoga.
Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 13).” This next blog article will continue this discussion about yoga and its use (and/or abuse) as a spiritual tool.
Rae Indigo is ERYT 500