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Yoga (and to a greater extent yoga teacher training) is, at its very core, meditation. It is a profound type of meditation that utilizes the union of mind and body to take the student out of their “self” and completely into the present moment. In our society, disconnect and detachment are endemic.
Regardless if you live in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Halifax or Montreal, St John’s, the stress of unachievable ideals being sold to us as the standard by capitalism keep most Westerners on the verge of total burnout. This is, in my opinion, why yoga has become so prevalent today.
While we have been taught that peace and happiness will come when we reach a certain level of achievement, a level which always seems to raise itself once we think we are about to grasp it, yoga teaches us that both have existed within us this whole time. We learn through yoga that we can access this peace and happiness if we devote ourselves to the practice and lifestyle of yoga.
In his foreword to “Core of the Yoga Sutras”, the Dalai Lama states: “What we need is a good heart, a disciplined mind and a healthy body.
We will not transform ourselves merely by making wishes, but through working hard over a long period of time.” (Iyengar, front matter).
He also draws parallels between Yoga and Buddhism, noting that yoga is a term used in Buddhism to refer to “the utilization of physical energy as part of the meditation practice, recognizing that the movement of the mind and the body are intricately connected.” (Ibid).
When one reads through the various definitions of yoga, as I have discussed above, one may notice that these definitions lie heavily within the dialectic between mind and body.
This dialectic is why I take great interest in the discipline of hatha yoga. As Iyengar himself puts it in another of his works, The Tree of Yoga, “‘Ha’ means sun, which is the sun of your body, that is to say your soul, and ‘tha’ means moon, which is your consciousness.”
He goes on to detail that the consciousness, like the moon, waxes and wanes. It is only when one brings the mind and the body into union that the consciousness becomes still with the body, the soul can pervade the entirety of our being. (Ibid).
This sun and moon metaphor created by the word “hatha” also evokes the most important, to me, benefit of the practice of yoga: curating a state and practice of mindfulness in our lives.
I find that too many practitioners speak to yoga moving us out of darkness.
This is putting it too simply and ignores the inevitability of times of darkness. Becoming mindful through yoga does help us to be present and sit calmly within the darkest moments of our lives, knowing that like a storm, these clouds will pass across the sky of our being. It also allows us to be present and sit calmly among the times of light.
It helps us to see through the excess and find what really matters and to find the balance between the light and the dark of our lives with more ease.