“Yoga is a gateway into the ‘self’ and through meditation, breath awareness, asana practice, physical observation and its 4000+ year old philosophical teachings, yoga has helped countless lives. Positive transformation and the evolution of humanity, individual by individual, is at the heart of yoga's purpose. In the practice of Yoga, change occurs through a deepening awareness of oneself in relation to all things.”
-Elissa Cobb, The Forgotten Body
Through yoga, our bodies become our vehicles for transformation. With yoga asanas, breath practice and conscious awareness we are able to turn inwards and make incredible changes in our bodies, energy, breath, thoughts, emotions, and spirits. The changes may occur subtly at first, but eventually, the changes begin to affect our very innate nature and character. It transforms our bodies, our attitudes and our energy level and can be seen by everyone around us from the more relaxed expression on our faces to a more positive attitude, the glow in our skin and shape of our body. The physical postures of yoga can literally transform our being from the inside out.
Hatha yoga is considered to be the foundation of all higher yogas because Hatha yoga is not only a physical practice but a very mental and spiritual one. It helps us understand and embrace a process of cellular transmutation from gross to subtle to divine that is available to all of us.
The Vedantic teachings of sages such as Patanjali and Shankaracharya, direct us in behavioral transformation. Through the ethical codes of yoga called the Yamas and Niyamas, we learn to treat ourselves with more loving kindness, live in truthfulness and practice detachment, which enables us to enjoy the abundance of life without identifying our true selves with the 'things' in our physical world. These codes teach us to take only what is ours, to strive for purity within and around us, and to live in a place of contentment, regardless of the struggles of life. They help us to develop self-discipline, self-awareness and a stronger connection to our inner guidance system that is the voice of higher reason and wisdom, and to act from that place, not our ego-driven selves.
Yogic transformation can be identified through six features.
Awareness: through the consistent practice of our yoga we bring deep awareness and mindfulness to our breath, body, thoughts, emotions, energy, spirit. We learn to put our complete awareness on what is happening in the present moment, which is really the only moment that exists. This awareness begins to flow with us off the mat into our daily lives, enabling us to gain more control over our actions, our health and how we are being in the world.
Intention: Called a Sankalpa in Sanskrit. At the beginning of every yoga class you can create an intention or Sankalpa and ask yourself, why am I here? What do I most want to receive from this practice today? By being clear about your purpose, motivation, hopes and objectives for practice you are setting the wheels of transformation in motion.
Willingness: There must be a willingness to open to truth in your practice and to realize that by being adaptable and non judgmental, you can evolve into a higher and higher being. You can welcome transformation into your life and acknowledge your process with loving kindness, willingly breathing life into our inevitable metamorphosis through yoga.
Action: Practicing some form of yoga daily, whether it be a short meditation, a 15 minute asana practice, 10 minutes of pranayama, or a full 90 minute yoga class, will help you see the incredible effect that a regular yoga practice can have. Any yoga will create transformation, though. To experience the benefits of your yoga practice, it is kind of like taking a shower, you should do something, even 10 minutes, every day, but if you can't every day, don't let this stop you. Practice when you can, and when you do, be there fully.
Arriving: At that end of every practice take a moment to ask yourself, what stood out? How am I different from this? Notice what transformation has taken place in your body, breath, thoughts, emotions, energy, and spirit. Acknowledge that you have arrived somewhere different even if it's a small change. Baby steps will eventually move mountains!
Integration: Yoga enables you to take your new way of being off your mat and into your life, transforming how you are with yourself and in relationship with others. Yoga will help you be more compassionate, it will increase your patience and help you remain more detached from events so that you can react from a place of self reflection and wisdom rather than fear and anger. You will be more in control of your mind and be able to change negative thinking patterns or Samskaras to more positive ones. You will develop a more intimate relationship with your body that will direct you in eating a more healthy diet, relax when you should, and respect the signals that your body gives you if there's something wrong. You will feel more connected to your spirit, your divine essence, giving you strength and balance in this crazy world.
Yoga as a transformative practice supports us on a path of self-discovery through which our body is a source of wisdom and guidance. I have heard countless stories of how yoga has transformed people’s lives. I know it's transformed mine! I have witnessed yogis find strength to leave unhealthy relationships, cure themselves of mental and physical disease, quit addictions, and have a better quality of life. Today’s practice is dedicated to all the people who have been touched by the transformative power of yoga. What area of your life or practice do you most wish to transform? Form an intention for your practice today and live your yoga!
With love and positive transformation,