Yoga is a way to know our true selves.
Knowing truly ourselves is the way for happiness.
Health, well-being and peace are all side effects of a yoga practice – noticeable even just from the physical exercises (asana), as they are known in the West. These benefits clearly meet the growing needs of our modern society, which is one of the reasons why yoga has become so well-known and in demand nowadays. Of course, however, the gifts which this sacred science offers are far greater than that.
Yoga is a sacred and ancient practice which flourished in India thousands of years ago. No one can really tell you how old it truly is! Some say it’s as old as 5 thousand years while others defend that it must be only 2 thousand years old. Ultimately it’s not important how the mind tries to measure yoga, if we believe in our hearts that yoga has been in the core of all humans and nature since the beginning of all time, if not before! So what is yoga, really? The word ‘yoga’ itself has been linked to many different practices throughout the past centuries in India and more recently in the west. The aim of practicing yoga has always been the experience of our trueselves and, as part of it, the end of suffering as Buddhists elegantly put it. In other words, we are working towards ultimate freedom.
Nowadays when we say we are ‘doing yoga’ we usually mean the physical body practice, the asana practice. Surprisingly in its first form yoga is believed to have been mainly meditational techniques: yoga in india is till today mostly associated with meditation and breathing practices. Over time, however, yoga embraced a large variety of techniques that employed body movements alongside breathing patterns as a bridge to tame our minds and re-unite us with silence. This silence is the dwelling place where our true being rests and shines. Yoga is truly a way of living, a way to accept life and a way to be present here and now! It has its own detailed philosophy with lots of options for yoga students to explore so that they too can benefit from a life-changing experience. After all, if you know and fully accept who you are, what do you ever need to prove? If you truly love who you are, what can ever be taken away from you?
Philosophy and techniques in yoga change according to the most suitable way for each different being. There is one form of yoga in India which consists mainly of devotional practices (Bhakti Yoga) and another form which is devoted to the service of others (Raja Yoga). You could even just delight yourself in scriptures which cultivate the “right knowledge” (Jnana Yoga). This is why India is the perfect setting to discover so many layers of yoga: all of them can still be found and appreciated here. As the birthplace of yoga, India is a land where spirituality and devotion exists around every corner and that allows us to enjoy the feeling of yoga everywhere we go too. Still to this day many Indians decide to leave their ‘normal life’ behind, choosing instead to be roaming ascetics and practitioners of spiritual techniques throughout India. In this magical country you find temples everywhere, part of an ancient culture which never denies any perspective of God. All homes have their own altars and it is not uncommon to find Jesus statues standing proudly amongst Krishnas or Ganeshas and a picture of the Dalai Lama, without any conflict or issue. This lets us experience the river of influences from which yoga drank deeply over the years, making it clear how yoga does not have issues with any religion. It is open to the hearts of all people from all different religions and all cultural backgrounds. Yoga is a mystical path, leading us to experience something beyond our usual reality no matter if we are Christian, Hindu or Muslim.
Of course, as any country, India has its paradoxes. Though spirituality and yoga have an inclusive side, not every religious institution or individual has. However, you can count on experiencing a culture that honors God - or Gods - in whichever expression they appear.
Experiencing yoga in India fills our hearts constantly with the right fuel to keep us going – or rather, to be present! We can drink from the endless fountain of this heart-warming culture’s devotional ways, breathing in its astonishing nature and staying dedicated to our yoga practice. The guru T. Krishnamacharya, widely regarded as the Grandfather of modern yoga, once famously said: ‘Do your practice and all is coming.’ In India we are practicing yoga in its very heartland and with every practice we can feel that all is coming to us – peace, health and joy.