Has yoga lost its essence in the West? Originally a science of the mind and the spiritual technology of ancient India, it would be difficult not to recognise both the physical and the materialistic drift that yoga has undergone in the last 50 years. Nevertheless, true spiritual seekers always find their way towards Light and Love. Here are few keys to bring your practice back home.
- Start a Self Practice: Independence is key. Yoga is about going in, not going out and this is metaphorically valid for your place of practice. Developing a self practice is paramount. Constantly listening to an instructor does not help you to internalise your senses (Pratyahara).
- Be Dosha Specific: Be specific to the need of your constitution. Yoga works best in accord with its medical system of reference: Ayurveda. Find out your constitution type (dosha) and practice accordingly. For example, if you have a lot of air in your system (vata dosha) and are very mobile, possibly restless, Vinyasa flow is not going to give you the grounding you need for balance. Similarly if you have a lot of fire (pita dosha) avoid practicing in the heat, etc.
- Aim to Know Yourself. Practice self enquiry with any tools available, be it Human Design, Astrology, Enneagram, Myers-Briggs personality test. Do build a thorough understanding of your personality type and constitution (dosha) according to Ayurveda. This will make your practice very efficient and allow you to understand your challenges and stumbling blocks on your road to transformation.
- Manage your Sexual Energy. This is your most powerful and creative energy and is not intended to be wasted. Whether it is to create life or any other miracle, learn how to keep your sexual energy inside your system and channel it towards the most beneficial places, either for healing or for transformation. There is no Yoga without this key point (called Bramacharya in Sanskrit) and mind you, it does not require to be celibate.
- No cakras, no Yoga: Or no Hatha yoga to be accurate. Understand and embody the subtle anatomy and the cakras system. Learn about energy (prana), energy centres (cakra-s) and ducts (nadi-s). Every thing happening in you is a product of how the energy is channeled in your cakras. This will give you not only the keys to your body but also to your emotions, your mind and your connection to the Universal Consciousness.
- Embed Ethics into your life. Practice morality (yama & niyama) with no complacency. Progress on the path to transformation requires purity in all your systems. It would be counterproductive to clean with one hand and pollute with the other. Morality keeps pollution and bad karma away.
- Review your lifestyle and nutrition. Let your food be your medicine. Every effort you make can be annihilated by an inadequate food habit. Learn what serves you and what does not. This is a complex area with a lot of contradictory points of view. If you are starting now, I suggest you look for guidance.
- Practice for the fives bodies. If asana works on the body it is true that their effects ripple far into the subtle realm of our selves. Yet there are other techniques that work more efficiently at the higher levels. Get fit at all levels, energetically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually (pancha Kosha).
- Experience all forms of yoga. Do not stick to the asana alone. The tradition has a wealth of paths to reach your goal and you may want to use your heart and emotions with Bhakti Yoga, or your voice with Mantra Yoga. If your are strong in your third eye and enjoy good natural clarity and concentration, you may want to try Jnana or Raja yoga. If you are action oriented definitely try Karma Yoga.
- Build Emotional Maturity. Being centered in your body means nothing if your mind is constantly moving. Emotions are the main reason we lose our centre, so working at your equanimity almost seems like a prerequisite to your practice. Take full responsibility for your emotions!
- Meditate daily. To separate yoga from meditation is hard to conceive. Yoga has always been a science of the mind before the current drift towards the physical. Mind has power over matter. Working with your mind has powerful effect and is longer lasting than the physical work. Go back to your sitting cushion everyday, relentlessly, and start moving from that place that you open inside of you.
- Bring spirituality into your life. Yoga and Religion literally means the same thing, so if you have deserted main stream religions because you think they have lost their soul, do not throw the baby with the bath water. We can’t be completely fulfilled without our spirit, re-connect with your spiritual essence, surrender to the Divine in you and let that part of you lead your life.
Keep up the practice, Infinite Love