“Yoga is not something that you do. Yoga is something that you become. It is not an act, it is a quality. If you cultivate your body, mind, emotions and energies to a certain level of maturity, a certain quality arises within you. That is yoga.”
For those wanting to learn yoga, but don’t know where to start, Sadhguru the founder of Isha Foundation and world renowned yogi answers some common questions from “yoga beginners” seeking to understand the path and choose a practice.
1. WHAT IS YOGA AND WHAT IS THE ROLE OF ASANAS IN YOGA? WHAT DO WE SEEK TO ACHIEVE THROUGH YOGA?
Sadhguru: Yoga is not an exercise form as is commonly misunderstood today. “Yoga” literally means union. Modern science proves that the whole existence is just one energy – but you are not experiencing it that way. If you can break this illusion that you are separate, and experience the oneness of existence, that is yoga. To lead you towards this experience, there are various methods. Asanas are one aspect.
There are other dimensions to this, but to put it simply, if you observe yourself, when you are angry, you sit one way. If you are happy, you sit another way. If you are depressed, another way. For every level of consciousness or mental and emotional situation you go through, your body tends to take certain postures. The converse of this is the science of asanas. If you consciously get your body into different postures, you can elevate your consciousness. Understanding the mechanics of the body, creating a certain atmosphere, and using the body to drive your energy in specific directions is what yogasanas are about.
2.I HAVE HEARD YOU SAY THAT YOGA IS THE ULTIMATE EXPRESSION. WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
Sadhguru: When we say “yoga,” for most people it probably means twisting the body into impossible postures. That’s not what yoga is about. Among the Yoga Sutras, which form the bedrock of today’s yoga, only one sutra is dedicated to asanas. All Patanjali said was “Sthiram sukham asanam” – a posture which is comfortable and firm, that is your asana. Asanas are a very preparatory step, but unfortunately they are being propagated as the whole of yoga. Yoga means to be in perfect tune. Your body, mind and spirit and the existence are in absolute harmony. When you fine-tune yourself to a point where everything functions so beautifully within you, the best of your abilities will naturally flow out of you.
Have you noticed, just a little happiness can liberate you from your usual limitations of energy and capability. When you are happy, your energies always function better. You seem to have endless energy. It doesn’t matter even if you do not eat or sleep, you can go on and on. If a little happiness can do this to you, imagine if your body and mind were functioning in a completely different state of relaxation and a certain level of blissfulness. You would be released from so many things that most people suffer from. For example, let’s say you have a nagging headache. Your headache is not a major disease but just that throbbing pain can take all your capability away for the whole day. But with the practice of yoga, your body and mind will be kept at their highest possible peak.
3. THERE ARE MANY INSTITUTIONS OFFERING YOGA CLASSES. HOW CAN ONE IDENTIFY A TRUE YOGA GURU?
Sadhguru: There is no such thing as a true guru and a false guru. It is just that there are “spiritual entrepreneurs”. There used to be a quality control in spiritual movements in the past, but after being an occupied nation for 1000 years, these things are gone today in India. So there are lots of funny things happening, but what you have to do is evaluate whether it works for you or not. What is offered to you, put it into your life – if it works, keep it, if it doesn’t work, throw it and look for something else.
4. THERE IS SO MUCH TALK ABOUT YOGA BUT HOW CAN ONE FOLLOW THE PATH OF YOGA IN ITS TRUE FORM?
Sadhguru: Yoga is not a morning-evening kind of practice. There is a practice but that is not the only aspect. Every aspect of your life, the very way you walk, breathe, interact – everything should become a process of yoga. Nothing is excluded from this.
Yoga is not something that you do. Yoga is something that you become. It is not an act, it is a quality. If you cultivate your body, mind, emotions and energies to a certain level of maturity, a certain quality arises within you. That is yoga. Do the practices bring that quality? Definitely, but we do not teach it as some kind of an act that you do only for a few minutes a day.
If you take care of your garden well, there are flowers. In the same way, if you take care of what you call “myself” well, flowers will bloom. That means, being peaceful, happy or joyful is not determined by anything outside of you, it is determined by you. This is something that every human being must do to himself. Yoga is a subjective tool for this to happen.