Where did it come from, this yoga that is going to answer all my questions, tune me to the universe, transform me, body mind, and soul? The historical answer is still a mystery. However, one explanation based on archaeological discoveries is widely accepted. In the 1920’s, ruins of a civilization were discovered along a no longer existent river system in the region that is now Northern India and Pakistan. Three thousand years before the birth of Christ, this civilization had complex urban centers with running water and underground sewage systems. Their language, Sanskrit, is the root of all the Indo-European languages.
Among the ruins were found many statues depicting what we now associate as being yoga postures. Postures are a part of the yoga tradition that asks the practitioner to look within. This yoga tradition believes the universe is mirrored in each of us. Nature has a working set of solutions that is used on ever greater or lesser scales for everything, as our recent appreciation of fractals demonstrates. To understand something on a scale within our perceptual range allows us to imagine solutions to questions above or below that range. The yoga postures, asanas in Sanskrit, are only a part of yoga. Yoga as practiced in the West has placed most of its emphasis on the practice of asanas. Most Westerners think of yoga as a system of physical exercise, but it is much more.
Yoga asks us to look within, to relax into ourselves, to know ourselves. With complete understanding of the self comes complete understanding. This ‘looking within’ is as old as the human ability to wonder. In that sense, our origin is the beginning of our embrace of yoga.
One broad definition of yoga is the art and science of living. Yoga practice allows understanding to unfold. Other people may help by suggesting techniques for self-exploration, or how and where to look, but all the insights come from your observations. All the answers are your answers. You diligently explore your own direct experience. No faith required.
Weight Loss Through Yoga, Jewel in the Lotus Pages 8 —9.
We cannot perceive those beings spiritually advanced beyond us; Causal Being? But knowing nature’s tendency to repeat herself, can we draw broad assumptions? This human ‘father face’ we assign to the Higher Powers is but spiritual shorthand. Mere children spiritually, we use comfortable symbols to express what we intuit. What we consider God, these entities advanced compared to us, are they evolving too? What higher forms constitute their gods? Given what we can see in our small universe, wouldn’t that seem to be the case? One octave flows into another and that into yet another, energy evolving in perpetuity. Creation — ever changing, ever growing, in a joyful dance to the Absolute.
Weight Loss Through Yoga, Jewel in the Lotus page158
Guru simply means teacher. The word has gathered baggage in our culture. We’ve all heard stories of teachers who have, to our perception, taken advantage of their followers; cults providing the leader with expensive cars and harems of devotees. Often these seemingly duped followers are made up of the college-educated middle class, with whom we may identify, making these stories more intriguing, mysterious, and perplexing.
Our culture has given us very little meaningful instruction in that most basic of understandings – what is life all about? There are a lot of very unhappy people. When someone comes along who appears to have the answers, it can be very seductive. There are many insights into the human condition in other cultures that may have been overlooked or forgotten by our contemporary society. A charismatic individual, with an admiring group expressing feelings of improvement, can fuel a dynamic.
In the final analysis, if these are capable adults, shouldn’t they be allowed to make their own choses? The question arises though, with materialism and wanton sexuality experientially such a damper on spirituality, what allure do they provide for a supposed spiritual teacher?
Historically acolytes would spend years learning in the presence of the guru. Teaching was passed down orally and conduct taught through example. Buddha’s immediate followers grouped around him from his enlightenment to his death over forty years later. Normally the apprentice shadowed their mentor until they were kicked out of the nest or their guru died.
With the rebirth in the West of interest in spiritual introspection and efforts toward self-realization, the tendency was to copy the guru/disciple model. With the emerging popularity of yoga it seemed everyone was running around looking for a teacher. Some searchers were able to hookup with a guru and become long-term followers. Most seekers would try a teacher or school, feel disillusioned or a need for more, and move on. A form of sampling developed. Taking what one school would offer, but rather than becoming a lifelong devotee, moving on to another discipline. This is a reflection of our modern world with many sources of information, ideas and concepts coalescing from a wide variety of sources, a synergism. The spiritual transformation going on now is occurring very rapidly. Many old souls need only be reminded of learning that took place in past lives. With the world population so great – how close can we be to having everyone who ever lived incarnate at the same time?
A great shift in consciousness is taking place. We’re just passing a crucial point in human history; a balance so decisive as to decide whether mankind continues or topples. Equilibrium is to be restored through the personal efforts of many individual souls.
As an individual, be with the guru within. Listen to your inner understanding as part of the wisdom directing all creation. Hear the voice of that understanding expressed all around you. When attending a yoga class, don’t hold on to the ways you have performed in the past. Give yourself up to the teacher. You already know what you know. Through trust, dare to be fully alive and try other ways. Listen. Listen to the teacher and the world around you – the words of a child, lyrics of a song, the wind rustling the leaves. The Divine is in everything. Living now in each moment, pay attention to all and learn. This is part of awareness. Be aware.
“Be one with the guru, both inner and outer,” and understand one of many attempts to describe the indescribable – Samadhi.
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN VII
MANOMAYA KOSHA (Mental Body)
The sheath of the mind, the Manomaya Kosha is often called the mental body. It is the tool consciousness uses to perceive the world. The mind uses the brain to process information and performs at every level of the body. It utilizes the sense organs to gather stimulus and the mind stores and sorts information drawing conclusions.
The intellect’s sense of self, the ‘I” that is the ego (composed of memory, everything you’ve been taught about the world and about yourself) is also within this sheath. The Manomaya Kosha is also the seat of the emotions. The Manomaya Kosha must be tamed to allow you to be at home in the more subtle koshas.
‘Beyond Vanity’ artist Kate Clark
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN III
Yoga technique allows direct personal experience of complete SELF. We exist as physical enigma. What animates our chemical and mineral composition into a living being? What intelligence organizes the multitudinous balanced relationships vital to a single cell? A sentient being?
All spiritual traditions assume that the physical body isn’t the only vehicle in which consciousness can express itself or in which the Self or Spirit manifests itself.
In yoga, five sheaths (the five koshas ) are recognized as occluding the pure light of the transcendental SELF.
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN VI
PRANAMAYA KOSHA (Energy Body)
The sheath of energy (life force) animates the physical and mental bodies. The Pranamaya Kosha energizes the minerals and chemicals composing the physical body into a living being; supplying energy to all components. The air element, or pranic force, creates vibration and life. Prana rides the breath. It allows our True Self to animate in the physical universe. It initiates life. The Old Testament tells of God breathing life into Adam.
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN V
ANNAMAYA KOSHA (Physical Body)
The outermost of the koshas is the physical body (the Annamaya Kosha). ‘Anna’, in Sanskrit means food, and this is the body formed by the ingestion of food. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘gross body’, the least subtle of the koshas. The physical body is the temple of the soul. It houses organs that make it possible for consciousness to exist on this physical plane. It deserves care and respect. The reasons for being on the physical plane are the lessons that can only be learned in this material form. If the physical body is not properly maintained, it can be more difficult to advance spiritually.
Another paradox: the Annamaya Kosha is the most gross and dense of the koshas, but it is the most malleable. It is actually a manifestation of the unseen, more subtle koshas, and balanced sincere effort toward spiritual awareness echoes throughout the body and is reflected in the physical form.
If the earth were a little closer or further away from the sun, if the moon wasn’t balanced in orbit acting as a stabilizer, the planet wouldn’t have been able to foster consciousness in this human form. An intricate balance of hot and cold gasses, liquids and solids form this womb, Mother Earth.
BALANCE IN BODY, MIND, AND SPIRIT weight loss through yoga, jewel in the lotus
The human body is a finely balanced vessel for awareness. Multitudes of balanced chemical and functional relationships are requisite for our being. Just as the earth revolves in its perfect orbit without the coaching of our minds, so our infinitely complicated bodies draw upon a higher order. Our bodies are always woking to maintain a proper relationship among the gases, liquids and solids animated by the life force into a living organism. This sacrosanct coalesce is constantly going on without direction from our thinking mind.
Weight Loss Through Yoga, Jewel in the Lotus Page 44
After doing yoga and meditating for a while — getting more acquainted with your complete self — many things are going to start to become clear. Living fully in all of your koshas will facilitate a new form of understanding. The Knowledge Body Kosha knows beyond sensory perception. What existed as concepts or murky theories suddenly becomes obvious.
A Higher Form of Thought — INTUITION — courtesy of Weight Loss Through Yoga, Jewel in the Lotus
To the yogi, the highest form of thought is ‘intuitive’, but beyond the way the word is commonly used to describe having a ‘hunch’. In this context, intuition is an absolute understanding that just is. Suddenly it is so obvious, you wonder how you didn’t always have this understanding. Then you realize, of course, a part of you (your higher self) always did understand, but you didn’t consciously inhabit that part of the self. Now your increased awareness through yoga, simply sees and knows.