Namaste! I am a yoga enthusiast. I have learned yoga and pranayama from the Guru Shishya Parampara through traditional oral wisdom.
My purpose is to spread awareness among people about holistic living and the correct methods of doing pranayama and yoga in the traditional way, which can transform lives – as it has certainly transformed mine.
What is yoga?
When we read or hear about the word ‘yoga’, what comes to our mind immediately? Isn’t it mainly exotic poses, which we see on various social media and always wonder with awe how can they do it? We then quickly conclude that ‘it’s not my cup of tea’.
Yoga is much more than exotic poses; it is a term with a wide meaning. The literal meaning of yoga in Sanskrit is ‘yuj’ which means union. It is often defined as the union of mind, body, and soul. The mind and body are very closely interconnected; whatever happens in our mind, influences our body too. For example, if we have to go for an interview or we are awaiting for some sort of results, we experience butterflies in our stomach. Similarly, if something goes wrong with our body, like a body ache, headache, etc, our mind focuses only on that. This shows that the mind and body are already correlated.
Yoga is also about finding oneself through self-discovery.
Now, we may wonder, with questions like:
- How can we unite somethings that are already connected?
- What is the union of mind, body and soul? Will I be able to do it?
- I already know who I am, what more is there to find?
Yoga: practice for self-discovery
The truth is that, while the mind and body connect and an understanding of oneself are all there in the background, we aren’t really being fully aware of these and taking advantage of them.
Practicising yoga enables us to become fully aware of the internal connects and our own self.
Let me therefore try to explain it with an example: you may have heard of pearl hunting. It is the activity of recovering pearls from wild molluscs, usually oysters or mussels in the sea or fresh water.
Before the beginning of the 20th century, the only means of obtaining pearls was by manually gathering a very large number of pearl oysters or mussels from the ocean floor or the river bottom. More than a ton would be searched in order to find at least 3–4 quality beads. In this journey, the divers were exposed to unpredictable struggles and hurdles before reaching to it. They faced disappointment as well because not every oyster was pearl bearing.
Self-discovery is similar to finding that pearl, whereby we will face a lot of obstacles and disappointments; but remember, disappointments come from setting wrong expectations. The key is therefore to keep moving, until we reach our goal.
What is pranayama?
Pranayama is the practice of breathing that enables us to bring focus on the body and mind. It is very important for any Yoga practitioner who is trying to achieve the state of yoga.
The higher aspects of yoga are not possible unless the mind is controlled. If we can control our breath, then we can control our mind too. Pranayama, along with the mudras, traditional yoga asanas, and meditations are the tools of yoga, to reach our destination of self discovery.
Starting the yoga journey
Thus Yoga actually is about finding oneself and then connecting with a higher consciousness. For instance, imagine the higher consciousness as a light, which is spread all over the universe but you are wearing glasses which are dirty and foggy.
Will you be able to see the light clearly unless you clean your glasses? Here your glasses are nothing but your mind (chit), which is full of impurities, mental affliction, thoughts and impressions (sanskara).
All these are acting as pollutants, not allowing you to see the light. But when you start cleaning the glasses by practicing pranayama, mudras, asanas and meditation, you will start getting a clear vision, which will allow your inner consciousness to connect with the higher consciousness.
It is very rightly mentioned in Bhagwad Gita: ‘Yoga is a journey from the self, through the self, to the self.’
Self-discovery through yoga is a long journey, so begin right away with the help of some tools.
An earlier version of this article was published on Infinum Growth.
Neelu Kalra is the host of the YouTube channel ‘Yoga – The Journey Within‘, where you will find various videos (tools) explaining the importance of different kind of mudras, chakras, correct way of breathing, pranayama, among others.