The true gift of yoga
I first fell in love with yoga and Ayurveda after travelling to India in my early twenties. During this trip, I read several books on these ancient sciences and experienced traditional Ayurvedic treatment firsthand.
I was amazed by this yoga and “Ayurveda”, an ancient healing system, and their depth and wisdom. Admittedly, I didn’t really understand them at the time, but they made enough sense, and they spoke to me. I appreciated the way in which the masters explained the dynamic play between the body, mind and consciousness, and how they worked holistically through means of dietary intervention, lifestyle modification and spiritual practice.
Ayurveda translates directly as "life knowledge". Whilst yoga tends to mean different things to different people, the true meaning of the word is “union”.
For many people in the West, their experience of yoga is focused exclusively on the various asanas, or physical postures, in an effort to relax the body and mind and improve flexibility. However, this is only a small part of yoga. Yoga is a vast science and intended to work on many levels of experience. Through various means, most importantly meditation and self-enquiry, it works to gradually dissolve the felt sense of individuality, the ego, the “I”, eventually resulting in self-realisation, and seeing clearly who and what we really are.
So, the true gift of yoga is not so much the physical practices themselves, but the wisdom and truth that they guide us towards. The yogi often begins their journey believing that they need to “practice”, to control or modify themselves, to modify life. This effort stems from the desire to find a form of lasting peace, happiness and fulfilment, which they may have tasted momentarily during their practice. Next, the yogi may begin to sense that this “lasting fulfilment” comes about as the result of them coming into yoga or union with a “higher self” or “the ultimate self”.
The true gift of yoga is not so much the physical practices themselves, but the wisdom and truth that they guide us towards.
In good time, through the gradual eradication of the ego, the conditioning and the associated sense of individuality, the yogi comes to realise that what they have been looking for all this time has, in fact, always been here, all along. The truth is here in plain sight, yet overlooked. They have always been in union—never apart, isolated, individualised or incomplete.
With this wisdom, the yogi now lives open and free, in union with all. The gift of yoga has been received.
Regardless of why you are drawn to yoga, or how you practice yoga initially, you will benefit from yoga. How much you benefit from it depends greatly on your sincerity and the depth of your investigation.