We often think of yoga as a set of physical exercises only. But yoga also has a deep spiritual heart, especially found in its meditation practices. When we hear that yoga means union and that the practice of yoga will lead us to experience this union, what is traditionally meant is that the physical practices of yoga are preparations for the inner experience of that union, that deep meditation.
According to yoga philosophy, the entire universe is created and upheld by a unified principle of union and flow. The great yogi Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita that the center, or the source of that flow, that cosmic rasa, is God, or Bhagavan. “Every living entity, every animate and inanimate entity, is dancing according to the flow of that rasa, according to the vibrational expression of that rasa,” writes modern yoga master Shrii Shrii Anandamurti.
When movement is the nature of life, how can yoga be without flow? More to the point, the nature of the whole universe is flowing, dynamic, and pulsating. So, rather than suspending our many mental tendencies, good or bad, the yogi will embrace them, will love them, and then they are all offered as a gift of surrender to the cosmic flow. Thus, a spiritual practice of yoga is to attempt to make all ordinary tendencies sacred and flowing.
Hence, the simple yet profound proclamation: I am That. I am one with That. I am one with God. I am one with Krishna. I am one with my Higher Self. I am one with that transcendent flow that runs and pulsates through and within everything. When that profound idea, that feeling, is available to us while performing an action, then we experience yoga; then we are in the flow of yoga.
Yoga, then, is attraction toward that ultimate flow. Yoga is thus not revulsion from what we do not like, not disgust toward anything, nor suppression of our basic desires. Yoga is much more psychological, much more elegant: yoga does not turn attraction into repulsion by saying NO to life. Rather, yoga says YES to life by seeking and seeing the bright side of everything, by seeing the wisdom, and ultimately by seeing union as an available source of inspiration in everything.
Simply put, yoga is about seeing union, seeing God, consciousness, oneness, sweetness, and love in everything we do. Moreover, yoga is not theory, yoga is practice, yoga is living and being. “It is not enough to know how to do it,” the author of the book Flow Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes, while acknowledging that yoga is an “enormously sophisticated” way to experience flow, “one must do it, consistently, in the same way as athletes or musicians…”
And, so, in that light, yoga is practice, yoga is discipline. And the more sophisticated the practice and the discipline, the deeper the flow, the deeper the state of mind and focus, and the more overwhelmingly meaningful our sense of union with the Other, with That, becomes.
Here are some of the commonalities between the psychology of flow described in Csikszentmihalyi’s book and the spiritual practice of yoga:
- Flow is concentration—as during meditation and asana practice
- Flow is increasing sophistication and challenge—as during the practice of more advanced asana and meditation techniques
- Flow is unself-conscious behavior—as during chanting and dancing in Bhakti Yoga, or during deep meditation, or simply right now
- Flow is being in the present moment—as during mantra/breath recitation while walking, biking, eating
There is another commonality between the yoga of union and Csikszentmihalyi’s flow: the way to happiness lies not in mindlessly following our hedonist desires, but rather in flowing with our call for mindful challenges.
So, what are the signs that we are experiencing yoga in our life?
Bill Walz, a meditation and mindfulness teacher at the University of North Carolina writes: “True spirituality requires experiencing a self-transcending connection with Life and with others, but when we live trapped within this disease of self-absorption, the truly spiritual experience is impossible.” And according to the eminent psychologist Abraham Maslow: “The sacred is in the ordinary…to be looking elsewhere for miracles is a sure sign of ignorance…everything is miraculous.” And when we feel that miraculous feeling, we practice the yoga of flow.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ramesh is the Director of the Prama Wellness Center where lifestyle is considered our best medicine. Ramesh is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He studied yoga therapy in Nepal and India, Ayurveda at California College of Ayurveda and is a certified yoga detox theraphist from the AM Wellness Center in Cebu, Philippines. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of four books, including Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra:The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India).