Yoga, union of body and mind.
‘The thousands of journey begin with one step’ – Lao Tze. We often learn one or two ancient philosophy quote as we grow up and this particular one influences me the most because I wouldn’t have accomplish many things in my life if I was unwilling from stepping my first step. Too, I wouldn’t have start practicing yoga, struggle to grow stronger, wiser and finally understand practicing yoga is actually a path of self awakening for seeking truth, health and philosophy of life.
I can still recall how uncoordinated I was when I started yoga, back in my 30s. My body was stiffed, hard to bend and even difficult to breathe, at some points. I refused to give up and kept returning to the class because I have started my first step and I need to complete my journey. Gradually, I was able to stretch, bend deeper and hold the pose longer. After a year or two of constant practice, a question appeared on my mind, ‘what is the ultimate goal of all this?’ I spent some times to search for the answer and following that, I realised I need to look into myself. Because of practicing yoga, I have learned to focus, contemplate and change, not only the fitness of the physical, but also the mind and spirits.
The practice of yoga started in India many centuries ago and it was not until later, a rare enlightened master, the sage Patanjali compiled a collection of sutras on the theory for practice by synthesising and organising the traditional knowledge. The collection of sutras was named as The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The sutras defined Yoga (Yuj) as union, or to unite. The union of the many selves of our own, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Further explained in one of Patanjali’s sutras, to release the mind we need to follow the systematic methodology path, the raja yoga (king of yoga), also known as ashtanga yoga (eight limbs of yoga).
In raja yoga, the first limb is five abstentions or outer observances, Yama. Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, self-restraint and non-possessive. Second limb, five inner observances, Niyama. Pure, happy, discipline, reflective and devotion. Third limb, the physical posture needed for meditation, Asana. Fourth limb, controlled or suspended breath, Pranayama. Fifth limb, withdrawal of the senses, Pratyahara. Sixth limb, single-pointed concentration, Dharana. Seventh limb, meditation, Dhyana. And the eighth limb, liberation, Samadhi.
By understanding how simple a breath will affect the physical movement, how letting go some of the controls will enhance the balance, and how contemplate, adjust, change and concentrate will unite our inner spirits, we will one day able to liberate our mind and achieve infinite calmness.