What is Yoga and Mainstream Misconception.

A Yogi walking in silence as Lord Shiva.

Last night, after leaving an event, I walked by a yoga store and saw a large picture of someone doing Acro Yoga. I kept staring at the picture and then thought on how others will interpret the picture. The posture looked very intimidating for those who are not practicing yoga. Yoga has made a positive impact in my life and this is the reason why I became an Isha Hatha Yoga Teacher (https://bit.ly/2A4DtgJ). I had the opportunity to receive the teachings from a self-realized, yogi, mystic, and visionary of Sadhguru. Under his teachings, I learned more about Yogic science. I also spent a significant amount of time learning the teachings from other Yogi Masters from India and Nepal. After absorbing all of this knowledge, I understand better yoga and what it can do to both the body and mind. Yoga is a way of being in search of union. When I say union, it is the union with the Creator (God). God resides in all of us in the heart but it is dormant among many of us. Thousand of years ago, Yogi Masters created different practices so we can unite with God. For this reason, yoga is a spiritual practice. Those who reach union with God reach the ultimate goal of the human being which is enlightenment. Lord Buddha and Sadhguru achieved enlightenment. But there are others in the western world who have also achieved enlightenment such as Eckhart Tolle (https://bit.ly/2NDIX47). 

In the early days of my transformation, I looked for ways to conquer the body and only focused on the physical. Then one day, just by following the mainstream crowd, I heard that yoga can help bring calmness to the mind and make a stronger physical body. I was curious and began looking at Youtube yoga videos. I found many intro classes for beginners and at that time, I enjoyed it because I thought I could do yoga from my apartment and at my convenience. I saw tutorials on yoga apps and I thought it was amazing that we are bringing technology to yoga to make it more accessible. But just like the many who are first time practitioners, I was a bit intimidated by looking at the postures from the yoga websites. However, somehow, I had a feeling that I wasn’t doing it correctly. After several weeks and reading more about yoga, I left to Asia and wanted to submerge with the Yogi Masters. I don’t regret what I did in the beginning when I tried so many different yoga methods. It was all part of the journey. As I gradually began to enter more inwards, I understood better yoga. Spending time living in the Isha Ashram in Coimbatore, India (https://bit.ly/2v5uK8y), learning Yogic Science opened my eyes to the true nature of yoga. 

Since coming back from Asia when I tell people that I’m an Isha Hatha Yoga Teacher they ask me questions on body aches. Sometimes, it makes it seem like I’m a physical therapist (and I don’t charge! - just a joke). Although I’m certified to teach yoga, I see yoga more from a complete dimension not just the physical.  Unfortunately, mainstream has portrayed yoga from the physical component only. The physical component of yoga is only one dimension. It is true that if you practice yoga, your body will change dramatically and you will have health benefits. And it is meant to have health benefits because everything that you do to unite with God must be pure, therefore, you prepare the body when union comes. There are other components of yoga that the public is not aware. Do you know that you can do yoga without the postures? Yes, you can. When I tell people that they can do yoga without the posture they get confused and are even surprised. If you are a devotee of a God then you are doing Bhakti Yoga. If you are fully involved in any activity whether you running a startup or invest in the market, you do what you have to do without any expectations from your actions - this is Karma Yoga.  But if you do an activity and expect the results to be good or bad, then this is bondage or you create negative karma. It is the karma that keeps you trap and creates suffering. This was taught by Hindu Gods and Lord Buddha. Right now, people are doing manifestation and talking to the Universe for their desires to be fulfilled. Well, this is negative karma and is suffering. Karma yoga is not about being inactive, but rather you are active doing whatever you need to do with full intensity and involvement but without the fruits of the action. If you do this then you are doing Karma Yoga. If you do practices to control the mind then this is Raja Yoga. The main practice for this is Meditation. But there are other practices within Raja Yoga such as fasting, celibacy, austerities, truthfulness, or study of sacred texts. These fall under the 8 limbs of yoga. And then you have Jnana Yoga which is the most difficult because it is here when you put all of your practices together to break your identity and finally you begin to experience true knowledge of wisdom. So as you can see, there are many types of yoga. There are millions of people who are doing yoga without noticing it. If you do social impact work, you are part of the 8 limbs of yoga. If you go to church or read the bible you are doing Bhakti Yoga. 

Something that has gone mainstream as well is the name “yogi.” Yogi is someone who has reached enlightenment and conquered the body and mind. If you haven’t done this, you are in the “making to become a yogi.” But the word yogi is just a label to your practices but I think it has become very fashion just like the yoga mat. In mainstream, it is cool to walk with a yoga mat or call yourself a yogi. With regards to the postures,  Yogi Masters always said that you can master one posture to get you prepare to unite with God. But there are many people who have achieved enlightenment and have never practice yoga postures. 

I noticed the type of clothes the main yoga brands are selling and they have created a uniform for yoga practices and the main color is black, gray, or blue. When you do yoga postures you are moving energy and as you go deeper into the postures your energy vibration is at a higher level. The idea is to begin activating your chakras. The chakras have different colors. Practitioners of yoga and monks wear colors that match the colors of the chakras. For instance, the Muladhara chakra is red and in Buddhism red is considered a color that brings stability. What you wear has an impact on your energy vibration. In Hinduism, monks wear the orange color which symbolizes the Ajna - Shiva (Third Eye). The colors of the chakras radiate expansion and are part of the aura that you carry. Wearing dark colors like black when you practice yoga is not the best way because black is a color that holds you back and is a powerful color for absorption. For instance, if you go to a place where there is positive energy and is strong vibrant then you wear black to absorb all of this energy. Doing yoga with dark clothes is similar to driving a formula car with a speed limit of 25 mph. Black, grey, and blue are sad colors.  I will recommend you to give it a try and wear bright colors and imbibe what the universe has for you. 

At Tergar Ose Ling Monastery hills led by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (https://bit.ly/2mH8M82). Here with my good friend from the Tibetan Kagyu Lineage Rinpoche who spoke to me on the Six Yogas of Naropa and especially Tummo - Tibetan Ancient Yogi Practice. Tummo was the first yoga practice I learned. 

Tibetan Buddhist Nuns and Monks at the Sakya Monastery. 

Millions of people are also misinformed about meditation. I as well was misinformed. In the beginning, when I thought about meditation, the first image that came to me was Buddhism because I had an image of Lord Buddha sitting in Padmasana (Lotus Pose). Hinduism had a strong influence on Buddhism and even Lord Buddha was a Hindu before he renounced to the material world. Meditation is supposed to be simple as with any other spiritual practices. It does take work and perseverance but it is a process. If you want to control your mind and don’t want monkey thoughts, then you must reach enlightenment. Otherwise, there is work to be done. Controlling the mind requires calmness and openness to the process. We used technology to disrupt old ways and can be an addition to make our lives simpler and efficient. I enjoy watching the evolution of technology and even now I’m writing this post on my iPhone which later it will be on the cloud and I can open my MacBook and finish the post - hey this is great and love it!  But in spiritual practice, we must be careful about how we integrate technology. There is a trend now on meditation apps and different types of meditation. When I began practicing meditation on my own, I didn’t want any thoughts and I struggle. I was under the impression that the point of meditation was to be blank and at ease. My legs hurt after sitting for 15 minutes and my body struggle. Similarly to what I did to yoga, I looked for other ways to make meditation easier. I practice by listening to Youtube guidance meditation videos and also downloaded some apps. When I arrived in Asia, I was really impressed by watching the Buddhist and Hindu monks meditating. They will sit, close their eyes calmly, and I just observed their stillness. They didn’t have a meditation app or used a singing bowl to start the meditation. It just looked so simple. They have been practicing for years and it required patience and perseverance. But in mainstream we are accustomed to wanting things to happen fast and somehow we have become a fragile society. We have forgotten that we have a body that can do wonders for us and it just needs a tune-up and that is all. To meditate you just need to sit on the floor and if is not comfortable then you can use a cushion and place it under your thighs, place your palms on your things, relax your arms and shoulders, your head should be slightly upturned looking between the eyebrows where the third eye is located, take a deep breath, visualize yourself in the perfect posture meditating, and gradually slowly close your eyes. And just observed whatever comes to your mind, whatever thought or feeling just observe it and don’t fight it or restraint it. Just let it be. If this is your first time, then meditate for 1 minute and gradually bring it up in increments of 5 minutes. The purpose of meditation is to build your awareness. You can also follow your breath to anchor yourself more into the meditation. Some people like to focus on different parts of the body but I prefer to follow the breath because when I’m not meditating and just going about my business daily, I just follow my breath and this helps calm the mind from becoming restless. Now, many people have asked me how do I get out of my meditation at a specific time. Well, here you will be surprised but you can command your body to inform you of the time when you want to release yourself from the meditation. As you gradually build your awareness, you will be able to control and command your body to your needs. I thought it was impossible but after some practice, yes, it is possible to command the body. And it must be possible because monks and yogis do it and you can too. The idea of meditation is to control the mind and keep it at ease. If you begin to bring technology to your meditation, again is like driving a formula one car with a speed limit of 25 mph. I think we all human beings want to run at the fullest speed to see our potential. This potential is accessible to all of us, it just needs patience and devotion. But it is possible.

I do encourage you to give the whole dimension of yoga a try. By all means, if you want to practice postures, you can do so, but always remember that yoga is not only the physical component. If you take yoga from the physical, then you will not see the full benefits. Now, there are so many practices out there in mainstream but I will recommend you to do simple yoga postures. I’m concern about some yoga practices that are taught such as Beer Yoga, Naked Yoga, Flying Yoga, or even Acro Yoga. Because yoga is a spiritual practice, it means that you are moving energy. Whatever is good for you, it can also be harmful to you. I will not recommend drinking any alcoholic beverage before/after you practice because you are damaging your body organs and bringing imbalance to your system. The idea of yoga is to have a complete balance of body, mind, and energy. If you are doing a posture and touching another body, then you energy flow gets imbalanced. If you are imbalanced, then everything you do in life appears difficult and you bring imbalance to your surroundings as well. 

A Sadhu or holy men in Hinduism. A Sadhu is considered someone who has renounced to the material world. A Sadhu is someone who either has already reach enlightenment or is in the path. They are yogis who work the body and mind intensively. Getting a blessing from a Sadhu is pure because their intent is to help the common beings. They cover their body with ashes. One of the significance to cover your body and especially the face with ashes is to show that you are no longer the person before your renounced to society. Renouncing to society means they are renouncing to their identity - family, friends, jobs, etc. Similar to a Sadhu, Lord Buddha also renounced to the material world when he decided to be in the path to enlightenment. So the ashes cover this identity that no longer serves them. The ashes also allow positive energy to be in consistent flow wherever they go. Sadhus go through different austerities. Some of them renounced to food and water for the rest of their lives; others, they put chains in their bodies and walk with chains which signify they have conquered the body once and for all. For a Sadhu the body and mind are limitations. Some of them also attained Yogi Powers. I really admired the Sadhus because I have read stories on what they go through to destroyed their karma which requires extremely hard work and devotion. Working the body is not that bad but working the mind, requires massive dedication and I can confirm this because this is what I'm currently working as well. It can be done and Sadhus have proved it. So next time, you are in India or Nepal and you see a Sadhu, don't be intimidated by the looks. It is all spiritual work to reach God. You just bow to them and get a blessing. You will feel a tremendous impact by being with them. 

Remember yoga is a way of being and is spiritual. Give yourself a chance to go truly inwards and make a robust beautiful transformation. With yoga’s whole dimension, you will find your true inner greatness. You will realize that the body and mind are just limitations. When you pass the body and mind, you are no longer trapped. You begin to experience life from a different dimension. A dimension of serenity, calmness, and true happiness. You are the maker of your life, thus, you can decide how is it going to be. Don’t let the body and mind make that determination. You can purify the body and when keeping the mind in the heart, where is its true origin, then you are just the ultimate being.