PATANJALI SAYS “YOGA IS…”

Back in 2007, as part of my assignment to complete my yoga teacher training course, I started to approach my first batch of yoga students to teach 3 yoga classes as my pre-graduation training. I could still remember quite clearly that during the interview session, the personnel in charge had specifically requested me to tell the group during their yoga session on “why they need to practice yoga? and where will the practice of yoga lead them?”.

When I was undergoing my yoga teacher training course, while most of the effort is spent on perfecting yoga postures, it never occurred to me that I have to get prepared to teach the spiritual aspect of yoga during my first time teaching experience. I was quick to revert to the origin of Yoga Sutra by Patanjali who taught that “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”.

All these while, I have been equipped with detailed training on how to work with my body but the part on the mind is certainly rather less focused. I’ve seen yogis who are so perfect with their ability to perform complex poses and after some time, I began to wonder “are they really happy with their life?” and “are that (complex postures) what the ultimate aim of yoga is all about”? While many yoga practitioners do have better health and younger complexion in comparison with the non practitioner, but their personal spiritual growth may be what I am more interested in.

How will the modern practice of yoga lead to the attainment of the highest state of Samadhi, the 8th limb in Yoga Sutra which I think is the permanent experience of “Oneness” with the nature? Instead of striving to perform perfect handstand, my dissatisfaction with modern yoga practice lead me to search for something more.

I could recall my experience during an intensive 10 days meditation course I attended before. At some moments, I was experiencing something that I never knew or understood, that’s the beauty and blissfulness of living in the present moment awareness. It doesn’t last very long for me but it was enough for me to have a glance of such beautiful insight.

It was during this retreat that I also had the glimpse of living outside from my own mind and became the witness of my own experience and what I could describe as “just knowing” experience. And because I was so still I could experience a glance of real peace. And I view this should very well be the essence of yoga practice when Patanjali says “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind” in the permanent sense.

For me, practicing yoga should be for the pursue of ultimate state of Oneness i.e. Enlightenment and the next challenge for me is “how?”. Just like any other goal in life, often the strongest obstacle comes from us, our state of mind which doesn’t accept that enlightenment is either possible or desirable. It may sound dramatic and unrealistic even in the yoga community nowadays.

However, given the fact that books such as “Power of Now” and “The New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle are listed most popular on the major bookshop in town and film such as “What the Bleep Do We Know” are so well viewed, why do people still think that enlightenment is impossible? Just like all great spiritual master claimed, enlightenment is accessible to all as it is only a journey towards our true nature. It only requires right method, effort and commitment.

Though there are many useful practices with the aim of familiarization of awareness, to me, I’ve found that the most efficient way is through awareness of body movements. The real spice to the practice of Yoga, for me, is through the moment of just feeling and noticing each and every flowing movement sequences of the body. A simple mode of paying attention to those movements in itself awaken the space of stillness within. Then slowly, as you becoming more familiar resting in awareness during your yoga practice, you are able to extend awareness to every bodily movement during your daily life as you walk and move throughout the days.

The truth is that we are all capable of becoming aware at any moment every time when we remember, as we have in essence the Enlightenment nature in us.

See that in that moment of pure awareness, you are not thinking. Thinking has no part in the mind with the present of awareness and during that unit of time of pure awareness, there is a moment of cessation of the fluctuating mind. Every time when we remember to rest in awareness, we bring ourselves one step closer to experiencing our permanent true nature.

Walking this path doesn’t mean that life has to be tasteless and boring. My daily practice towards cultivating awareness is always without effort and often very enjoyable. Joyful practice always comes with an attitude and behavior of harmlessness towards yourself in that you watch your movement or any other object of awareness with kindness. Making peace, be kind and be gentle in welcoming your every movement as they arise. When you are not forceful and not violent towards your mind, after a while, your mind naturally love to rest in awareness without much effort.

Perhaps you are doubtful, you do not need to believe, just try practicing and starting “here and now”.