If you think yoga can be learned on the mat, you’re wrong! To learn yoga is to learn yourself, your life and the world around you, which happens mostly off the mat.
Since 2000, I study, practice, teach and live yoga – I grow with it from year to year – hence life becomes more interesting and more meaningful from year to year, too. Through all these years, I observe the evolution of yoga in the western culture and see, how (mostly) wrongly, has been interpreted, taught and practiced. Little is known about how to learn yoga – about its practice, its effect and its application. Yoga is all about finding the simplicity and the meaning in the complexity of life.
But when we look around us, it doesn’t seem so simple, even for those who practice it, and for the most who teach it. Everything about yoga begins in its definition from the original yogic scripture Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
And the value for how to learn yoga, is in this article – showing the value of the above definition and how to practice it in the simplest way, effectively and efficiently.
Table of Contents
What is Yoga?
Yoga-Citta-Vrtti-Hirodhah — and its translation is: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations arising within consciousness.
The 195 Sutras, that the original yoga scripture consists of, are written in a strongly compressed manner with the idea to deliver a profound meaning and a lot of space for interpretation. However, the interpreter must be highly serious and competent, otherwise the interpretation will drastically deviate from what the message conveys.
When the definition about yoga is interpreted and applied the right way, it tells us how yoga is to be practiced and explored. To start the right way, we must know the right destination of yoga, which is Kaivalya: The union between you, the other and the world.
Let’s see how to do that:
Beginning with the famous mainstream slogan “Union of Body, Mind and Soul”, brings up the question, “How to reunite the body, mind and soul?”
Your feelings – created by outside stimuli result in the creation of thoughts, hence there’s connection between your body and mind. That’s easy to understand, right?
Now this connection and the thoughts must serve and improve the mind, making it capable to 1) understand the soul and 2) to unite it with the body and mind. That’s where our journey towards the goal of yoga (Samadhi) is interrupted – making the main part of the union not easy to understand, even less so to accomplish.
Yoga is More Spiritual than Physical
This is what makes yoga more spiritual than physical. To put it in numbers, yoga is 97% of psychological, philosophical and spiritual nature and only some 3% of physiological, considering that there are only seven out of 195 Sutras referring physiologically to sitting and breathing, of which I talked in my earlier post on Yoga For men.
But before experiencing any spirituality from yoga, there is the mental (emotional) part that needs to be mastered and that part is to establish a connection between the body and mind. How?
The simple thought and realization that you are conscious of how you feel within your body (cold, warm, relaxed, depressed, anxious, happy and so on), means that you have made the union between your body and mind. (below the step by step exercise for that).
But to establish a connection to your soul – to the finest part of yourself – the Self:
You must find out (through thinking) what is the subtlest thing that drives your body and mind – yourself as an individual and use that driver to go pass beyond your physicality and mentality.
It is right here that you use the definition about yoga and the realization – the moment, where you are not analyzing any thoughts or feelings. This is a state of Yoga – a state of union between body, mind and soul, in which your consciousness has ceased to identify with its fluctuations.
Yoga as Creativity and Expertise of the Individual
In such a case, there is no specific (like beginners, intermediate or advanced) technique for learning yoga. The moment of the state of yoga arises for everyone of us in an individual way as everybody’s physique and mental content are different. You might be very well advanced in performing the most difficult asanas for decades but still unable and incompetent to be in a state of union with your body, mind and soul. Whereas, if you are a beginner and possess the grace and other virtues, than it’s easier and quicker to establish that connection.
As yoga is an inherent part of the human being, firstly, in order to pave the yoga path successfully and effectively, you must understand that yoga is not a technique for performance, but rather a creativity and expertise of yourself.
Your learning process cannot be focused on, nor conditioned by a certain handbook, someone’s instructions or some specific school.
Learning yoga requires your creativity to look within yourself and learn from yourself, become the expert of your feelings, emotions and desires. You, as a beginner might already possess many qualities and prerequisites for creating the union between your body, mind and soul, but your knowledge requires creativity for your growth to reach the state of union and then reap the fruits of that union. Once this happens there is no turning back – you’ll be pulled by the beauty and energy of your on being.
Be Fast Mentally and Slow Physically
As already mentioned, you don’t need to do physical performances like the split or the headstand to be able to immerse in a deep meditation or Samadhi. But you do need enough creativity for your self-inquiry.
Many of my students start working directly with meditation – attending the complexities of the mind, because that’s where the hindrances lie. There, the meditator is able to work on the cessation of identifying with the fluctuations of the consciousness – where intelligence expands, adversity ends and the individual is ready to pass through its physicality and mentality in order to reach the union with the soul.
But if you’re really a beginner and cannot start with that, then you can start enhancing your creativity on the body-mind level. The exercise follows in the next paragraph.
The greater your creativity, the better your expertise about yourself – the deeper your competence to inquire further into the union with your soul. Sure enough that a more pliable and healthy physical body has some advantages and better preconditions for that, but don’t get discouraged because your body-mind union will open up the way.
So here we are, you are at the moment to enhance your creativity upon that union. Please, take this as a very serious part of the practice as it is crucial for learning yoga – for learning yourself.
The Beginner’s Exercise – Creativity upon Body-Mind Union
The first and most important element to learn and practice yoga is of physiological and psychological nature: Stillness:
- Make sure your body is still and comfortable.
- Focus on breathing to initiate observing.
- Observe your body and identify the first feeling that occurs to you.
- Keep identifying feelings and emotions, but without getting involved with them.
- Now create feelings and emotions as you please and let them go.
That’s it! That’s the creativity upon the body-mind union. The validity of this creativity lies in the stillness and observance of that union. In this practice you can learn to understand and catch the moment – the main ingredient of life.
Life is a sequence of moments and knowing that you’re able to manage that sequence is a new level of living life, called dharma – the practical and skillful way of living. An essential character develops as a result of practicing this discipline.
However, be aware that we are still talking about outward elements of yoga – the gross levels (from Yama to Pratyahara) whereas the subtle, inward elements (Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) are yet to be approached, learned and implemented. It is on these subtle levels that you can realize the depth of spirituality and the essence of yoga.
It is remarkable how the science of yoga can take you in such heights and depths of exploring life and being. Little is known about the essence and the right practice of yoga in the west. There is a huge knowledge gap between how yoga should be learned and how it is practiced today in the west. You can bridge this gap by practicing the above exercise.
Know that yoga is of a very subtle nature – operating on a subtle energetic level – the level of your mental energies, your thoughts. That means that it is to be learned at that level and not on any other. A body posture alone cannot take you to that level if you don’t apply your creativity and self-inquiry.
Prerequisite for Yogic Success – Union between You and the Other
Yoga is nothing, if our relationships with others are not managed harmonically.
Learning yoga is also learning connecting with the other – with the stranger who’s not you but carries the same “core”, the same heart as you. We as individuals, possess the inborn feature of Ego – the “I-consciousness” that makes us feel separate from the rest of what makes the wholeness.
This separation is the second of the the five “klesah” afflictions – that stand as major hindrance against the union (Yoga) – called “asmita” or I-am-ness / Egoism (Y.S. II.6.), and has to be cultivated and brought to a level of discernment that will lessen our disturbance that comes out the fragmentation between the “I-am-ness” and the “Other-ness”.
This is a crucial concept in Yoga and it is inevitable to be worked upon this hindrance in order to reach the inner “psychological” freedom or the ultimate liberation “Kaivalya” for which Yoga stands for. But, again, if you are beginner in this part, you want to know how to start dealing with all this. Here is the exercise:
- Practice observance from the first exercise.
- Realize that the structure of your feelings, emotions, etc. is identical with the one of the other individuals.
- Practice witnessing, tolerating and gradually accepting the diversity between yourself and the other individuals.
- Observe for so long with equanimity, until you see the uniformity in that diversity.
This is one of the greatest accomplishments a human being can achieve. To be, means, to be in relationship – internally, as well as externally.
Yogic Lifestyle – Union Between You, The Other and The World
Here comes the last piece of the puzzle – the union – on the highest level of worldly existence – between you, the other and the world. This means that Yoga is also worthless if practiced only on the mat. So when learning yoga, especially when practicing the body-mind union, consider if:
You speak the language of nature and how you’re connected to nature and its basic elements? Do you complicate your existence by thinking that you are in the center of the world and require extra attention and acknowledgement?
Thinking this way interferes with the practice of yoga. And surely, you might wonder, what should be done here in order to create that harmony in union? You’d be amazed to know that there is one important yogic movement that needs to be done. That is:
The action of not doing anything but contemplating! Then yoga happens.
Yes, this goes beyond the physicality and mentality of your being. As our bodies play just a tiny part of the evolution of existence, we must not attach to the world in that sense – clinging to worldly life with that insatiable urge that generates worries and anxiety – but rather grow through life with detachment and the attitude that life has been gifted to us with the purpose to realize that gift and attain the wisdom of life.
Go Beyond Your Physicality and Mentality
Attaining greatness like connecting to the world and to your soul, we must pass beyond the thoughts, feelings and emotions, and the influence they have on us. Hence we want to make the mental fluctuations to cease and let yoga shine its light through this yogic movement:
The stillness and the watching within.
Can yoga be understood and achieved in one single session and then practiced continuously, productively and effectively? Of course it can. Your union within yourself, the other and the world is lot simpler and easier than you think. Practice these simple yogic movements diligently, seriously but also effortlessly and your yoga will be flourishing and fruitful. I salute the spirit in you!
More About Yoga
What is success to you? How to be successful in life?
To some, when they think of success, they imagine wealth; others want power; some just want to make a positive impact on the world.
All of these are perfectly valid, indeed success is a concept that means different things to different people. Though no matter what success is to you, it almost certainly isn’t something will come easily.
There are countless guides and books to being successful, however, as success is personal and unique to each individual. The advice contained in these books can often not be relevant. Therefore following the advice of a single individual can often be unhelpful.
With this in mind, considering the advice of a great many people, people whose ideas of success were different both to each other, and quite possibly, to you can be a good alternative.
What follows is a list of 13 of the best pieces of advice from some of the most successful people who have ever lived. If you want to learn how to be successful, these tips are essential:
1. Think Big
From Michelangelo Buonarroti, Great Renaissance Artist:
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
There are few artists as influential as Michaelangelo. Today centuries after his death, his work still inspires and connects to people. His work is world famous, just think of his statue of David, or the Mural in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
Imagine then, if he decided not to work as an artist.
Being a successful artist has always been extremely difficult, imagine if he decided to give up this ambition in favour of something easier?
Oftentimes, people often decided to put their dreams aside for something more “realistic”. To give up their dream for something easier. This quote teaches us the danger of such a point of view.
Instead be ambitious.
2. Find What You Love to Do and Do It
From Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul:
“You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.”
This is a good quote to remember and think about when you’re at work.
Imagine being as successful as possible in your current job. Ultimately you’ll probably find yourself working extremely hard and this it will take up much of your time.
If it’s a job you hate, then being successful at it might only mean filling your life with something you hate to do. What’s the sense in this?
Instead, why not focus on doing something you love? When you’ve found what you’re passionate about, you get the motivation to keep you moving. Success at this means the fulfilment of your dreams.
Not sure what your passion is yet? You should learn about this Motivation Engine first.
Even if you’re not successful, you still filled your time with something you love to do. Many successful musicians spent years of their lives doing unpaid performances, the only reason they kept playing was because they loved to perform.
3. Learn How to Balance Life
From Phil Knight, CEO of Nike Inc.:
“There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”
All too often, people think that to be successful, they need to make the object of their success their life.
If a person thinks their job will lead them to success, then they may spend countless hours per day, and well into the evening working hard.
However this comes at the cost of rest, your health and having an enjoyable life. Ultimately they may burn out and cease to be successful at their job anyway.
If success comes from having a strong social life and a good group of friends, their job may suffer; meaning that they may lose their job, and then be unable to afford going out with friends.
In these ways, success, as Phil Knight says above, is helped by balance. Think of it as a balance between rest and work, or work and play.
To achieve that balance, this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life can help you.
4. Do Not Be Afraid of Failure
From Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors:
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
There is a story, it’s unconfirmed whether it actually happened, yet the message within is none the less true:
Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb was the result of several hundred failed attempts. In an interview, he was asked “How do you feel after all of your failed attempts?”
His response was great, “I didn’t fail, I learned hundreds of ways not to invent the lightbulb”
He saw each “failure” as a lesson. From that lesson he learned what won’t work, and also might work instead.
Each failed attempt, each rejection, were key steps on his path to success. It is easy to feel like you should give up after a failure. But perhaps in that failure is a lesson.
Pay attention to your failures, study them. Perhaps then you’ll learn how to succeed.
If you find it difficult to fight your fear of failure, here’s a guide for you: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step)
5. Have an Unwavering Resolution to Succeed
From Colonel Sanders, Founder of KFC:
“I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”
This, in many ways relates to the above quote about learning from your failures.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to give up from a failure. The only way to push on is if you have the true burning desire to succeed, to not be moved or dissuaded from your goals.
If you are not truly dedicated towards success, then each failure will hurt more, each set back will slow you down.
Success is hard; without the unwavering desire to succeed, this difficulty may seem insurmountable. With the desire, it is merely an obstacle to go through.
6. Be a Person of Action
From Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Genius:
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Though it was said hundreds of years ago, it works just as much today as it ever had. It applies to literally any successful person.
Think about it, picture someone like William Shakespeare:
When we think of the time he lived in, we think of the time in a way shaped by him. When we think of Renaissance era Italy, we think of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Or think about the present day, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Our current way of life would simply be incomparably different if they didn’t accomplish what they did.
You’re probably reading this article on a device by a company that they either founded or companies influenced by them.
All these figures were proactive, they saw ways to do things differently and did them. If they let the world shape them, then they’d simply fit into the background. Instead they shaped the world.
Applying this to you?
Don’t be afraid of going outside the norm. If you can think of a better way to do something, do it that way. If you fail, try again.
7. Cultivate Positive Relationships
From Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of America: “
The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
The best leaders and some of the most influential people (and Theodore Roosevelt is one of the best leaders and one of the most influential people to have lived) were not those who caused commotions, who fought with people or disregarded people; but were people who were friendly to those around them.
People liked them. They wanted them to do well.
This is key to good leadership.
It’s logical. If someone likes you, they want to help you; if you give them a suggestion, they’ll gladly follow through with it.
But if someone doesn’t like you, they may either refuse to help or actively get in your way.
What’s more, it’s always a good idea to cultivate good relationships. You can never tell who will prove to become someone who’ll be able to help you in a big way, or even be a good and supportive friend.
As such, help people and they may help you; and be good to people, and they my be good to you.
8. Don’t Be Afraid of Introducing New Ideas
From Mark Twain, Famed Author:
“A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”
It is an unfortunate truth that those with the boldest ideas are often disregarded.
Most of us are taught from an early age to think and do things similarly to everyone else. This can be great to fill an existing role. But to truly do things differently (and all successful people did things differently), you need to think differently.
If you have a new idea, don’t throw it away because it’s new and different; instead, celebrate it. Your strange new idea might one day be the one that leads you to success.
9. Believe in Your Capacity to Succeed
From Walter Disney, Founder of Walt Disney Company:
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Success has to be something you can imagine yourself achieving.
It is possible that you will come across those who doubt you and your ability to succeed. You must not become one of these people because the moment you cease believing and dreaming is the moment these dreams fall away.
10. Always Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude
From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of America:
“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”
Like the above quote says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. This is the only way to cultivate the right mindset.
Replace negative thoughts with the positive ones. You need to approach problems, not as obstacles stopping you, but merely tasks that need to be completed for you to keep going.
If you stay positive and think like this, setbacks won’t affect you so much, people’s doubts won’t impact you and even the biggest obstacles will seem like minor problems.
However with the wrong mindset of doubt, you’ll be much easier to stop.
11. Don’t Let Discouragement Stop You from Pressing On
From Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of America:
“Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.”
It is an unfortunate fact of human nature — all of us in some way, doubt ourselves. This can be made far worse if others doubt us too.
When surrounded by doubts, giving up can actually seem like a good idea. Don’t pay attention to the doubts. If you are discouraged, ignore it.
Watch this video and learn what to do even when others don’t believe that you’ll succeed:
If this discouragement moves into your mind and you begin to doubt yourself. It is important to ignore this too. This is How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Overcome It
12. Be Willing to Work Hard
From JC Penny, Founder of JC Penney Inc.:
“Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”
You might have heard the quote that “success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” or you may have heard about the 10,000 hours idea.
Whichever way you frame it, they say one thing:
True success comes from work.
You’ll never become successful if you don’t work towards your goal in life and keep working towards it.
Check out this article and you’ll understand Why Hard Work Beats Talent.
13. Be Brave Enough to Follow Your Intuition
From Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple Inc.:
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
In ancient Greece, there was a group of Oracles who lived in Delphi. Everyone who needed advice or to know their future visited them, from the poorest of society to kings. Above the doorway of the temple were the words “know thyself”.
If you strongly believe and desire something, chances are that you already have an idea how to get there. If not, you may naturally know what things will help you and what things will slow you down.
It’s like how your body can detect danger even when things seem safe.
Ultimately then, you need to trust your own instincts.
What you might have noticed is that many of the above lessons are similar — most are about developing the right state of mind. This clearly suggests that the key to achieving success, in whatever you wish, comes down to the way you approach it mentally.
Moreover, no matter what stage of life you’re at now, you can still make a difference and pursue success. You can make resetting your life possible when you do this: How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late