By Henry Loh
The tradition of yoga
What exactly does it mean when one practises yoga? In the modern day, this is generally understood as one of the following – a physical practice of asanas (postures), a complementary exercise to a fitness regime, a workout in itself, or a form of stretching – all of which bring great benefits to the physical body.
But is it really all there is to yoga?
Traditionally, learning yoga was no easy feat. Ancient practitioners go to great lengths to seek out a guru (master) to learn from, travelling for years on foot to find that special one, and then offering all they have (literally everything they own), despite no guarantee that they would be accepted. This was because from the perspective of the master, accepting the student also means accepting full responsibility for him or her just like a parent would, until the day the disciple attains enlightenment, or one of them passes on.
The goal of yoga
The best known definition of yoga comes from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which states: ‘yogas chitta vritti nirodhah’ – yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind.
The goal of yoga is described in a less obvious manner in chapter 2, verse 42 of the sutras. Simply put, it states that one should not discriminate between the body and the mind, and that both exist as one. That is definitely easier said than done, for in real life, our mind and body are hardly in unison! For example, we know that eating junk food is bad for us (mind), yet we often give in to our cravings (body). It then becomes an endless cycle of eating junk food and then exercising to rid ourselves of the guilt (and calories).
This is where yoga comes in, as the practice is both an art and a science dedicated to creating union between body and mind. With the body and the breath as mediums, practitioners can foster greater awareness of themselves as individualised beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. In short, yoga is about creating balance and equanimity, so as to live in good health, peace and harmony with the greater world.
Achieving unification beyond asanas
Many modern practitioners begin their yoga journey with asana (physical postures), and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – getting fit and toned are definitely great benefits! However, we may have seen this before – someone who is able to do gravity-defying poses effortlessly in class… only to later shout at their loved ones over trivial matters – this is definitely not practicing the other aspects of yoga off the mat.
A strong asana practice and a fit body is great, but these are not mutually exclusive with other benefits like compassion and kindness. If you want to get fit while developing the mental and spiritual capacities of greater wisdom, compassion and loving kindness, then the Universal Yoga® system is one of the best ways to learn.
Universal Yoga® is a traditional and complete Indian and Tibetan-rooted system codified and popularised by world-renowned yogi and lama, Andrey Lappa, who trained for decades with many legends of the Indian yoga world including B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. His style of yoga combines asana, vinyasa, pranayama, mantra and yantra through multi-dimensional space, and the focus is balanced consciousness on multiple layers – body, mind and energy. The practice seeks to achieve the three main objectives of unification, balance and control, with no limits pased on poses or sequences, and with equal emphasis placed on the different aspects of yoga – not solely asana.
In this modern world, Universal Yoga® is one of the closest links to traditional yoga, and a system we can learn without having to spend years travelling on foot to find a guru to accept you (and giving up all of your material possessions at that)!
Universal Yoga – The Practice of Unification
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