These five secrets of yoga are hidden for many, but once accessed their power is transformational.
1. Asana has very little to do with it. Patanjali is known as the guy who sat down and recorded the yoga sutras—an important text containing sutras, or threads, that link together to share vital teachings of yoga. In Patanjali’s 8-limbed yoga system, asana (yoga postures) come after the five Yamas and five Niyamas. Containing teachings of non-violence, not stealing, truthfulness, sensory control and non-attachment, I sum up the Yamas this way: inner practices for liberation. The Niyamas—with their teachings of cleanliness, contentment, discipline, sacred- and self-study, and surrender—I call outer practices for liberation. In Patanjali’s sutras, these teachings come before asana. Here’s why I love this: it frees us from trying to arrange our bodies to look the way we see the most advanced asana practitioners looking. It frees us from feeling we’re not ‘advanced’ yogis if we never want to do a headstand. And it empowers us with living techniques that free us from inner and outer influences that get in the way of our connection to our strong, free, joyful essential self.
2. The definition of a yogi is one who lives a balanced life. These words are straight from one of my teachers, Swami Maheshananda Saraswati—and he’s a full-on yogi, dedicated to living it, wears the orange robes, did the 12 years in the ashram, was on the faculty at the first yoga university in India, and on and on…He has more fun in a day than anyone else I know. Throughout his non-stop worldwide travelling and teaching schedule, he is always tapping into and creating joy—whether that’s through a mid-day power nap with the help of yoga nidra, a chocolate from Purdy’s chocolates, or a spontaneous road trip.
3. Yoga doesn’t constrain your life, it frees your life. So there are eight limbs in Patanjali’s system. And branches within each of them. So they talk about recommendations for how to live and how to be. None of these practices constrain you. Ultimately, all of them are designed to free you. They’ll free you from self-doubt, from situations, people and places that make you feel like you’re wearing chains, and liberate you from thoughts that don’t strengthen who and what you really are.
4. You can dance. Since yoga is all about unity, samadhi, joy, and bliss, dancing can be your yoga. For lots of people, really, truly shaking their booty is a perfect way to free their mind, find inner focus/pratyahara, single-pointed concentration/dharana, fall into deep meditation/dhayana, and maybe, just maybe feel samadhi—absorbed in the infinite.
5. Happiness is everything. The teachings of yoga—and most other spiritual practices that I know of—are all about happiness and joy. When we strip away the shackles of our attachment to our thoughts, our objects, our ego-based outcomes, lies we tell ourselves, actions that don’t honour other people, and practice contentment and surrender we reach a deep and unique happiness. Living yoga is about living from a space of love instead of fear. And it’s from that place that we create lives that reflect who we really are and want to be.
[Editor’s note: This article is by Lindsey Lewis, yoga teacher, life coach, and founder of www.libreliving.com.]