First, let me thank those that attended our Beloved Yoga Workshop yesterday. They committed the full day to a deepening sense of self and an exploration of prayer through body movement and breath. We had exquisite organic and nutritious food from Sue Leblanc of Chester Organics who reminded us how important it is to honor our bodies with the abundance of the earth. Thanks again.
Yoga has an extremely broad body of work with many different styles with different practices. Nearly every style of yoga that you may have heard of in the West all relate to one type of yoga...Hatha Yoga. Whether it goes by the name Ashtanga, Anasura, Sivananda, Bikram, Kundalini, and on and on they are all concentrated on physical movement, alignment and breath. These all fall under the category of Hatha Yoga. HA means "sun" and relates to the right side of the body, the masculine principle and THA means "moon" and relates to the left side of the body, the feminine principle. The union of the two is HATHA yoga. This union is a function of the physical practices and breathing exercises that serve to cleanse the body-mind system and prepare one for the activation of Kundalini (spiritual energy) that rises up the central channel along the spine resulting in an enlightened state of awareness where we may directly perceive the interconnectedness of life.
In addition to HATHA yoga there are four other main disciplines of yoga (and many, many more) all with ultimately the same outcome. Yoga is not a religion. It means "union" and is both the practice and the result of practice that lead us to a deepening awareness of life.
KARMA YOGA is the path of selfless service where, through this path of action, we realize the person we are caring for is none other than our very own reflection. A tremendous amount of energy is released upon this realization. Service may be the best way, in this current time, to cultivate humility and conquer pride. Every faith-based tradition encourages service to community for this reason.
JNANA YOGA is the path of knowledge and encourages study of scriptures and self-enquiry as methods to strengthen our connection to the Divine. Again, every faith-based tradition has some form of scripture that can deepen one's awareness and connection with Source with study and contemplation.
BHAKTI YOGA is the path of devotion and is the simplest and most accessible of all the paths. This path requires nothing more than an ever-deepening love and surrender to your Beloved in any form that is uplifting to your spirit. Practices include all forms of prayer, adoration, singing, chanting, contemplation and meditation.
RAJA YOGA is the path of meditation and pure awareness. It may be the most demanding of all paths but is also the most direct. It requires absolute concentration on the present moment with the vehicle of the breath. There is no isolated practice for raja yoga but rather life immediately becomes a moving meditation where the role of the observer or the witness is emphasized above all else. This is known as the Royal path.
My first teacher, Master Sivananda suggested we follow a path that is a synthesis of all of these and that we find balance through service, knowledge, devotion and meditation. It is interesting to note these four practices integrate into any faith-based tradition. Yoga is not opposed to any religion but rather provides valuable insight into how we may actually "practice" our tradition. I wish you vigilance on your path.
Tonight we will gather to honor our bodies and breath and to PRACTICE our individual path.