Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ashtanga yoga and enlightenment

Ashtanga yoga and enlightenment: This combination is not my invention because I like to exercise my mind and because I love to be creative on my asana free day. No, this connection exists already. Enlightenment is point no 8 on the 8-folded path. Some call it liberation, realization, ecstasy.

A short repetition what Ashtanga yoga (eight-folded path) means might be useful for the following analysis: 
1. Yamas describe how to handle others and our environment
2. Niyamas can be interpreted as self-observance, being content, inner and outer cleanliness
3. Asana means exercising the body.
4. Pranayama, exercising breathing.
5. Pratyahara means handling the senses.
6. Dharana means exercising concentration (focusing on the breath i.e.)
7. Dhyana means meditation.
8. Samadhi means inner liberation, enlightenment, ecstasy

All this goes back to the 2nd till 4th century after the birth of Jesus Christ when Patanjali has written down the yoga sutras. So old is the idea of yoga already. What is so fascinating is the simplicity of the system and that we can apply the rules in our daily lives centuries later. 

During all the centuries and translations a lot of interpretations are available of course. 

Behind these basic rules stand the questions:
How shall I live?
Who am I?
How to be happy?
How to handle all the issues that we all encounter in life?

No 1 through no 7 help us to live a better life. It gives recommendations for all the adversities that we all experience. 
- The rules show us asanas to stay healthy. 
- They show us how to focus when the mind is distracted and worrying. 
- Be content, we learn. 
- They must have find out already that it's nicer to live in a clean environment. Having a clean body is recommended, too........and so on. 

(The yoga system doesn't promise a good life after death. Yoga is not a religion.)

For all life situations are simple rules given and all these rules make life better. The final goal to be happy all the time cannot be achieved when following rules no1 through no7. All the practices improve our lives for sure. Our prison becomes more comfortable, but it remains a prison.

There must have been the experience that a few people have left this prison, that a few people have found a deeper constant equilibrium. All the yoga practices didn't help. But the experience must have been made that there is still something else. To find peace on earth is a mercy was the conclusion. One can do not much for it. But a totally different approach to life exists: No 8, the mercy. Ecstacy for the few.  

The difference between the yoga system and other life-improvement activities indeed is that one speaks of enlightenment. But, I repeat, to gain this status or understanding nothing can be done. This is only one reason why most people are not interested in that topic. This is even understandable. If nothing can be done, what to do, why being interested at all? 

Forgetting point no 8 can give the impression that yoga is nothing else but acrobatic combined with a breathing technique. But no 8 exists.

Also when a yogini can do lotus pose while in handstand, this is no guarantee to wake up. No better place in heaven is guaranteed either. 

Some yogis/yoginis think they can gain a higher consciousness when practicing yoga, when practicing asanas. I wonder what they mean by this. Either I'm conscious or I'm not. This has nothing to do with yoga. Higher, better, more......???????

No 1 through no 7 has the concept that we can control our body, our thoughts, our feelings or breath. Advanced yogis even went so far that they controlled their heart beat. 
No 8 says the opposite. Nothing can be controlled. Things happen or they don't happen. 
This is an interesting difference. No 8 is about Advaita. 

Some called Ashtanga yoga power yoga. This created a lot of troubles in the community. Is the Ashtanga yoga system misunderstood when calling it power yoga? My personal view? Yes, it is. I learned in a workshop from someone who has called her book "Power yoga" that the reason why it was  called so decades ago was because a book called Ashtanga yoga wouldn't have been sold. Money was the reason. Please, I don't judge. I understand this. It was a strategy to sell something good with a name that does not fit. It led to a lot of misunderstanding.
All these controlling exercises might give the impression that we gain power when practicing yoga. It's a wrong impression.
The name "power yoga" also tells me that no 8 was neglected. Perhaps it was not even realized that there is this tiny modest point no 8. 
No, I don't go to power yoga classes.

Writing about No 8 is worth another chapter. It is. This post as preparation was necessary. 
No 8 is part of the system even though nothing can be done for it. No 8 makes the difference. 

First we try to control everything till we finally realize (what a mercy) that everything is out of control: what a cosmic joke. 

I cannot name Ashtanga yoga practitioners who experienced the mercy of no 8. I can name others who have experienced the mercy of no 8. 
Enough now, enough. 

Comments are welcomed to such a difficult topic. 
- Is Advaita  a topic for you?
- Are points no 1 through no 7 helpful tips for your life?

PS: the different scripture is a happening, all out of control, lol. 
I don't correct it, my kitchen has priority now. 


Filipa said...

Ursula, this is what I call a post about yoga. The best one I read from you. yes, advaita is a topic for me, it gave sense to my practice and to my life. I don't care about developing special "esoteric" skills or power. I dond't care about kundalini. That's the easy part. I want self-knowledge, I want peace with myself, with others and with the planet (shanti). That is yoga. the rest is entertainment for the mind and mind is such a precious instrument that we ought to deal with it with special care.

Ursula said...

Thanks Filipa,
I'm glad now that I haven't deleted it.
It's difficult to write about this topic.

ionut said...

Filipa, what you are regarding as "yoga" is not's stretching combined with better ethics mixed with some green peace ideas ... you could start playing basketball my dear and maybe you'll have the same or if not better results!
Ursula , your post can be interpreted in so many ways ... i must read it again ... i am impressed , it was like a force demonstration!

Ursula said...

Oh, I feel like defensing Filipa. You both say almost the same.
And the same like I do.

Exactly if it's basketball that is improving your life, play basketball or soccer, if this fit's better to your personality.

Everything can be interpreted in so many ways. You view the world differently than I do. Always. How we see the world is not the world as it is. It's like a map, but not the world. Even our senses "betray" us. A dog smells much more than we human beings can smell, i.e. Consciousness is all there is, is such a classic sentence. Life is a dream, a story, a fantasy. What else can it be. This thought has a lot potential, meditate about it for 30 min.....:)

ionut said...

Now i and readers of this blog might learn something from Filipa if she tells us more on her point of view regarding advaita ...this is why we are here , to share thoughts and learn from the others!
p.s.I am sure Filipa,like me,treasures a lot the freedom of speech and understands my comment was just an personal opinion !

Filipa said...

ionut, thanks for your comment. well, I just expressed some remarks on ursula's post. I don't intend to say what yoga is or should be, but I am glad that you do it. I can only tell you that I play, once in a while, basketball with some German colleagues when we have work meetings and I can asure you that it doesn't change my life. Yoga did. That is what matters to me: the discovery and knowledge process, the feelings, the inner work, using ásanas as different situations to work the mind and tune the body, the self-improvement work,etc. If you want to label it as ethics, green peace ideas, it's ok with me. But labels is definitely not something that I relate to yoga. As Ursula said, counsciousness and the "self" within the whole is all there is (and it is so much). I don't want to make a case out of advaita, I just answered Ursula's question saying that it is a topic that frames my refelction on my yoga practice. It's not an academic discussion. Thanks, once again, for your comments.

ionut said...

My dear Filipa , i am sure u have not read my comment well enough because if you did you would have noticed i haven't said what yoga is but what yoga isn't.Yoga is also about attention , right?!
p.s.Filipa , in Yoga there are so many schools and so many different opinions and so many currents ... I believe Ursula was right , we are both true , in fact i see in you my other side who is posting here on the blog just to show me i am not real! are you?! :))

ionut said...

Filipa , i am sorry! i apologise !

Filipa said...

There's nothing to apologise for. I didn't reply because I don't have a reply to you. In addition, I visit this blog because of Ursula, as I admire her and her commitment to yoga and as a beginner in ashtanga I learn a lot with her. Therefore, the few times I post comments is to try to encourage her and just thank her for sharing her thoughts. I don't want to use her blog to argue about schools or styles of yoga. It's useless for me. As Sinatra sang: "I do it my way" learning with what fits me. But feel free to contact me if you want to express your point of view on yoga. I am always grateful to learn new things. Best.

ionut said...

Thank you Filipa!