If you’re like most people, chances are either you or someone you know has tried yoga. The practice, an ancient spiritual science with its roots in India, has now become a household name in America. In fact, a 2013 ABC News story dubbed yoga the “fastest growing sport” in the nation. Even though the practice is often referred to as a “sport,” and any mention of it conjures images of bending your body into various shapes, it involves much more than physical contortion. However, regardless of people’s limited understanding yoga, 20 million people are currently trying some form of yoga in the United States.
The popularity of yoga in the United States can partly be attributed to the various benefits associated with it. Among these benefits, the most prevalent ones, as noted by the Mayo Clinic are: stress and anxiety reduction and heightened sense of well-being; improved fitness, with an enhancement in flexibility, balance and strength; and the management of chronic physical diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Similarly, an article in Psychology Today notes that yoga can help people reduce fatigue, increase vitality and improve the overall quality of life.
While the Western world has experienced some physical and mental benefits of yoga, their understanding of the practice remains incomplete. Below, we’ve featured an excerpt from one of Sadhguru’s talks, where he addresses what the practice of yoga really involves:
“In the western part of the world, if you utter the word yoga, people think of impossible physical postures. This is a very distorted idea of what yoga is. The word “yoga” literally means “union.” What does union mean? Today it is a scientific fact that the whole existence is just one energy manifesting itself in a million different ways. For ages the religions of the world have been saying, “God is everywhere.” Whether you say “God is everywhere” or “Everything is one energy,” it is not different. Einstein called it energy, you call it God. It is the same thing being expressed in two different ways. But a scientist has only mathematically deduced it. He has not experienced it. A person who just believes it has also not experienced it. Somebody just told him so.
A yogi is someone who is not willing to settle for deductions or belief systems. He wants to know it. If he sits with his eyes closed, there is no him and the universe. He is the universe. If even for a moment, you experience everything around you as yourself, after that, no one needs to tell you to nurture and preserve what is around you. You will anyway do it because there is no conflict with whatever you have known as yourself. There is only absolute unity and a deep sense of involvement.
Yoga is not about bending and twisting your body or holding your breath. It is a mechanism and a technology to get you to that state of experience where you see reality just the way it is.
Is such a thing possible? The individual experience of who you are has its basis on the boundaries of your sensation. Whatever is within these boundaries is you, and whatever is outside is not you – this is your experience of life. For example, once you drink a glass of water, you experience the water as you. Everything that makes up your body right now was somewhere outside as food or water. Once you put this into the boundaries of your sensation, you experience it as “myself.”
At any moment in your life, if you have known an extreme sense of joy or ecstasy, if you had placed your hands about eight or nine inches over your body, you would have felt the sensation of touching the body. Similarly, it is a medical fact that even when a physical leg is amputated, the sensory leg is still intact.
The sensory body has its own presence beyond the physical body. There is a way to enlarge your sensory body.
If you make your life energies very exuberant and ecstatic, your sensory body becomes as large as you want it. Yoga is to expand the boundary of your sensation in such a way that you experience the whole universe as a part of yourself. Everything becomes one. That is union.”
Now that you have a better understanding about yoga, how will it impact your practice? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.