There’s a lot of confusion about yoga these days. For many, it’s just a brand to market their products, or a tool used in social media as a way to get thousands of likes and followers. However, yoga is not only about a perfect headstand pose, or holding your leg behind your neck. The asana (poses) practice is a very important part of this whole technology; it helps you be in a good physical condition, prevents you from loosing the right function of your body, helps you detox and restore your system from all the negative impact of the environment but is not definitely the only aspect of it.
When I became interested in yoga, I had no idea what I was doing, in fact, I had many misconceptions about it, like yoga is for women, yoga is for flexible people, yoga is religion and so on. Anyways I went for classes every week until I fell in love with it. Fortunately, thanks to this first approach to yoga and meditation, in a few months my life changed completely in the four areas: personal, social, professional, mental. I could witness my body and mind changing, while my heart started to open little by little allowing me to connect with my intuition, self-love, and compassion.
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root YUJ, which means “to unite”. And the ultimate goal of it is liberation, also known as Samadhi, through the union of the individual self with the universal soul. According to the old scriptures, yoga began with the universal sound OM, the powerful cosmic vibration that lies in the bottom of all atomic energies, the word of creation.
For me, one of the most important aspects of engaging into a yoga lifestyle is to have the right reasons; you need to be one hundred percent committed to your daily practice Sadhana if you are to have success in maintaining it. Your “why” should be more important to you than the reasons and excuses for not doing it. So, before you start any yoga practice, you want to create a Sankalpa or a personal intention, formed by the heart and the mind, which serves as your personal resolution.
If you are wondering where to start, here are simple steps for a yogi path:
1) Moral discipline
As human beings, we have the ability to choose between the right and wrong. This can be considered as a very important practice for training our thoughts, speech, and actions in relation to the external world. Remember, we are not alone, we depend on others not only to survive but to build pure and lasting relationships, either you practice yoga or not.
2) Positive duties
This is a practice for healthy living concerned with ourselves and bringing an impact to the outside world as well. Some of these duties include purifying our body and mind, cultivating an attitude of contentment, self-discipline, self-study or inner exploration, and if you are deep into spirituality, you may consider surrendering to your spiritual source.
According to Patanjali, the physical aspect of yoga is the third step on the path of freedom. Asana means “seat” (for the practice of meditation), the posture should be steady and comfortable. Instead of focusing on only one posture that we can hold comfortable and motionlessness, we should be able to attain many poses really comfortable and steady.
In this article, I am taking the risk of stepping out of the Indian tradition and honoring the Tibetan Lamas with these Five Rites to activate and stimulate the seven main Chakras (wheels of spinning energy). According to Peter Kelder “performing the Five Rites stimulates the circulation of essential life energy throughout the body”.
4) Breathing techniques
In sánskrit it is called Pranayama, the yogic practice of regulating and channelling one’s breath. Another path translates it as “freedom of breath”. The goal is to change our state of being so that we become more focused on what is to be the focus especially to meditate without distractions. My two favorite practices are:
Chandra Bhedana: our left nostril is energetically associated with the moon, our body’s cooling energy.
Surya Bedhana: our right nostril represented by the sun, carries our body’s healing energy.
So far we reviewed the moral aspect of the being, the physical body and the breath as a source of balancing the energies. Now I am reaching one of my favorite aspects of yoga which is understanding the nature of the mind. We have two parts: the body and the mind, like the hardware and the software. The software controls the hardware, so the software needs to be optimized and clean in order for the hardware to work properly. The same way we need to keep the mind clean and optimized; keep it positive all the time, rest and let go of everything that no longer serves us. Meditation is a very effective tool to control the mind, desires, thoughts, speech and finally our actions. Research shows that regular meditation helps improve concentration skills, clarity, and emotional positivity.
I recommend you to start with a guided meditation.
6) Yogi eating
The type of food we eat plays an important role in our lifestyle, the energy levels and the deepening of the meditation and asana practice. It is our responsibility to fulfil all the requirements for the body, be aware of the quality of the food, and make it simple.
Avoid intoxicants like alcohol, drugs, smoking. This keeps you stimulated, and your ability to perceive and feel changes. The level of clarity gets limited, and you may make wrong decisions. Another advice is to make 40% of your diet plant-based, with fruits and veggies. Animals carry memory and information that your body absorbs and make it part of itself. As evolving beings, we no longer need to eat large quantities of meat. And, of course, if you are willing to spread love and kindness to all beings, think about all the sacrificed animals that die in order to satisfy your old habits and cravings.
7) Heal yourself
Emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually, we all have something to heal, in fact, I truly believe that the only reason we are born is to know who we really are. We carry deep fears, self-judgments, imposed beliefs, that are hard to face and can only be eradicated with the willpower and courage to recognize when something is wrong. Since my first contact with yoga, I notice a change in my consciousness and a deep desire to develop my life, cultivate my inner desires and dreams only by listening to the heart and getting away from all the possible distractions of the matrix.
As the Dalai Lama says: “Be free to experience on your own what works for you or not.”
These paragraphs that I’m sharing with you are not the ultimate truth but all of the tips mentioned have been used for thousands of years in many traditions and cultures. Too often, I keep repeating to myself that everything happens for a reason, and thanks to yoga I can understand myself better and spread the words of well-being around me. I believe in changes, and one by one we can all change the situations, mindset, and misperceptions that keep us away from being happy and at peace.