Now Begins the Practice of Yoga
Published on July 29, 2008
Yoga Sutra 1: With humility (an open heart and mind) we embrace the sacred study of Yoga.
–translation: Nischala Joy Devi
For those of you unfamiliar with the Yoga Sutras, it is an ancient spiritual guide and text which offers wisdom, tools, and insights into discovering one’s Divine nature. Most Westerners first learn of Yoga through the asanas, or poses/positions. But Hatha Yoga, which is the physical study that we are all so familiar with, is only one limb on the tree of Yoga. The true essence of Yoga is spiritual, and this journey inward is mapped out in The Yoga Sutras.
The Yoga Sutras is not a bible, religious text, or even a philosophy. It is simply a guide or map to attaining inner peace. The Yoga Sutras do not ask you to believe in anyone or anything other than the true nature of yourself. The Yoga Sutras do not expect you to give up your religious beliefs, adopt another culture’s traditions, or start speaking fluent sanskrit.
There are millions of reasons for coming to Yoga. Most, I believe, are based on our physical being. But, once a person experiences Yoga, they soon learn that something more is at play here then just stretching and strengthening the muscles. Yoga’s spiritual aspect has a way of sneaking up on you without an invitation. In my years of Yoga, occasionally I have gone to a busy, ego-bouncing gym with a friend of mine to take her Yoga class, and experienced in this room of competitive athletes, a sense of peace and calmness that takes over the atmosphere once the practice begins.
I came to Yoga for the first time when I was nine years old. My Dad, who I idolized at the time, gave me an old, beat-up, 1970’s paperback book on Yoga. Inside were photos of both men and women wearing tight leotards twisting and bending their body into various positions. I will admit, at that tender age, I was pretty creeped out by the photos. But since my Dad gave it to me, I would regularly open it up in the privacy of my bedroom and do my best to copy the poses I found in there. I loved that many of them were named after nature, and my favorite asana was the fish. When I visited with my Dad, I would tell him that I practiced the book he gave me, and he always seemed proud, even though I had no clue what benefits or purposes those goofy exercises had anyways.
I started to sincerely spark an interest for Yoga in my first year of college. I took classes at the local university from a man that actually knew and was friends with the models from my old paperback Yoga book. I interpreted this as an oracle in my life, and started to explore these poses and this practice more in depth. My first book I read on Yoga was The American Yoga Association Beginner’s Manual which solidified my decision to become Vegetarian.
Truth be told, my college years were filled of great excess, extremes, experiments, and escapades of the heart. So in those early years of my practice, Yoga and I would dance and flirt madly with each other, but never commit to a real relationship. Until my life spun out of control around the age 25 did I find myself heartbroken, lonely, scared, and living in a great cloud of uncertainty. It was then that Yoga became a soft place to rest, a lifeline to my heart, and a way for me to become a warrior and fight through the darkness I was living in. I started going to Yoga class daily at a local Yoga school. Eventually I even started taking the introduction classes for becoming a Yoga teacher. I was surrounded by positive people ,chanting, vegetarian food, and daily wisdom offered by the Yoga Sutras. Yoga turned my life around almost instantaneously!!! I could breathe, I could move, I could love, I could live!!!
That is how my journey into the sacred study of Yoga began. Today, Yoga is my lifestyle and no longer a dancing partner or a shoulder to cry on. Yes, I have so much still to learn, so much more to experience, so many beautiful secrets to discover on this path, but that is why I study the Yoga Sutras. That is why I love Yoga.
Peace & Love.