Yoga is an ancient tradition, dating back thousands of years ago. Practicing yoga helped the monks who wanted to detach from the trappings of the transient world, to quieten their body and mind, with the purpose to reach spiritual enlightenment. Knowing thousands have come before me with their practice is humbling. My first exposure to yoga was when I was nine. My mother woke up every morning at five and practiced yoga in the living room, while I slept. She credits her yoga practice for giving her the energy and health to look after her small daughter and get through her university degree in Cambridge. Since then I dabbled in yoga here and there, but it never stuck until very recently.
These days I practice yoga everyday in the morning alone by myself in my room. Before, I went to yoga classes for purely the physical benefits, and I got them. I had chronic back pain as a kid and practicing yoga healed it completely. Unfortunately, I was disengaged. I was detached from the mental and spiritual aspects of the practice, and therefore couldn't fully engage with yoga and was often bored during the sessions. I realise now, yoga is not something you understand after a few times of practice. Ancient masters spent their whole lives practicing in order to detach from the material world for just a few moments. Yogis spent decades in scholarship in order to understand the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga. No wonder I was disengaged and bored before, I had no knowledge of the vast history and philosophy behind yoga.
Now, I take the word 'practice' in 'yoga practice' seriously. Where the point is to practice in learning to centre my mind, and maybe find calm. I will probably never achieve nirvana and be detached from the transient world, but that's okay. I don't really want to be detached from my material world. I need to be in this world to figure out my problems and solve it, rather than transcend it. While I may not transcend during my practice, it does put things into perspective for me.
I find that learning about yoga, and learning about the universe has a similar effect in my understanding of my place in the world. With yoga I am trying to center my mind to leave a what may be a illusory, and transient material world with the purpose of rising above my small problems and seeing the bigger picture. When I learn about the universe, perspectives are necessary to understand our existence. We humans have been on the earth for such little time compared to the total age of the earth. The earth is tiny in comparison to the rest of the universe. Even within the universe, the things that we understand (the atom based structures like people, animals, tables and chairs) only make up four percent of the universe. The rest is made up of the mysterious dark matter and dark energy. Keeping that perspective, relatively speaking we are pretty small. Although small as I am, I don't feel insignificant. I feel significant and incredibly lucky to be part of the things that consist of atoms and are intelligent, a tiny percentage of this dark and mostly unknown cosmos. Knowing this quitens the chatter in my mind and calms me. With scholarship and practice, my practice now engages me fully in mind, body and soul.
With love, simplicity and scholarship,
P.S. Tomorrow's blog post is going to be about yoga too.