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    “Yoga isn’t just a form of exercise, as is popularly believed; it is an integrated, wholesome way of life that also incorporates techniques for developing concentration and calming the mind, moral precepts, [and] self-study…”

                                                  ~ Kathryn Arnold, editorial director of Yoga Journal

          More than simply working to create balance, strength, flexibility and focus while on your mat, yoga takes these qualities into your day-to-day world.  Yoga becomes a way of looking at your life and turning it into an extended process of discovery and expression of your authentic Self.  Many schools of yoga have very little to do with the practice of physical postures, asanas;  they focus primarily on the steps that take your awareness deep within so as to come to the essence of your identity as a spiritual being living a human existence.    This “bigger picture” approach, or Raja Yoga, incorporates mindfulness practices such as meditation as the foundation  for achieving inner peace and harmony.  I hold that there are many ways to approach finding happiness, both integrating the physical body and studying the more esoteric aspects of our being. This holistic path starts by first studying what we are most intimate with – our physical form.  Then one  sequentially  moves into awareness of the qualities of mind, the energetic self, basic and higher intelligence, and  then spirit.  Ultimately, when we see ourselves as being spirit beings temporarily housed in human form, we can make better sense out of our challenging experiences and move into learning the deeper lessons of life.

        Working with the body is a wonderful place to start the process of Self-awareness and learning.  It is tangible, simple in its function and visceral in its response to pleasure and pain.  Both on the mat and off, the body gives us signals that we can tune into that relate its state of being.  Through the wide-spread spectrum of  pleasure and pain we can tune-in to its sensations and explore our responses.  By sensitizing ourselves to how the body feels we may discover that some sensations can be modified – say through alignment adjustments – and some simply are to be acknowledged and accepted.  The result of this mindfulness is the strengthening of a sense of being present in the moment.  The body awareness has the potential for becoming a foundational springboard that propels one into new directions of exploration and discovery.  By starting with the basics we can move on to ever-expansive awareness of who we are on a grander scale.

       Body awareness promotes attunement to feelings and the intangible qualities of emotional and mental states of being. A strong yoga posture can foster self-assuredness and inner strength while a softer restorative pose can create a safe place for the mind to rest in a place of contentment and equanimity. Pushing oneself to the edge of their personal physical limitations, while still remaining calm and attentive to the qualities of the mind, can be a powerful tool for training the mind to be still and aware under any circumstance that may arise throughout their day-to-day life.  When one can remain present and observant in a challenging pose they have created the energetic setting for mastering all of life’s challenges.

       Off the mat we are constantly faced with choices and decisions that define who we are “being.”  We have the potential to achieve contentment and inner peace by being aware that life is a field of limitless potentiality and we have a major role in directing its outcome.  As we become more clear of our core essence and values our authentic self takes on a larger persona and governs our thoughts and actions. Without this sense of being bigger than their circumstances many individuals spend little time in pursuit of self-awareness; consequentially they tend to suffer a disconnect from their authentic self.  They  frequently are in a state of inner turmoil for they miss that the source of lasting happiness is not to be found in the ever-changing realms of exterior environments, but within their core essence which is the divine.  Journeying into the inner world of self-exploration leads one into discovery of what brings  joy and fulfillment.

        When we connect to the multiple facets of our being it leads to integration and a deepened awareness that produces an  authenticity on a holistic level.  We become more than just one aspect of our being; we become open to living integrally connected on multiple plains of existence–body, mind, spirit–each helping to shift our personal point of reference towards our innate divinity.  This awareness of unity, or yoga, facilitates contemplative living and choices that reflect an understanding of what we really desire for ourselves and what serves our greater purpose. Unity consciousness helps us understand that at the highest level our purpose for being is the formation of an awareness that we are an aspect of Absolute Consciousness finding delight in our differentiated identity figuratively finding its way back home.

        Whether one takes the journey of connecting the dots from the inside out solely by themselves, or they undertake it with the guidance of one more practiced in the art of “creating union,” the journey is a process that we all share.  The good news is that we do not have to work in isolation for the path to self-awareness is as ancient as humanity itself.  While the actual practice of discovery is unique to the individual on the path the terrain has been well traveled and charted for others to follow.  We may not see the path for our inexperience, yet to the well tuned eye there is a time-tested way to plot a stable and sustainable course.  Look around, explore, share ideas, try out teachers and guides.  There is a saying, “All rivers lead to the sea.”  These are exciting times and many teachings are arising that offer insight and guidance.  Follow your heart and find a practice that brings vibrancy and fulfillment to your life.  Consciousness is on the move so pick a wave and ride it out!  The sea will welcome you hom

Will Doran

Yoga Certified Yoga Instructor

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