Yoga has lost its essence, its core meaning, from what it was originally meant to be. It is wonderful that what is popularly known as yoga has reached millions of people, as the physical practices are brilliant in promoting health and well-being, but this is a bit like having a tiny slice of delicious pie and thinking you have the whole pie. There is so much more pie to go, as the vastness of yoga takes us into deepening our understanding of the whole of ourselves.
Unfortunately, yoga's very popularity has led to the loss of the key ingredient: love. Without love, yoga is dry, a physical and mental exercise that doesn't truly touch our inner being. It lacks what yoga is authentically meant to be about, which is a direct way to realize our full potential, our creative nature, our pure understanding and transcendence. We can read all the books and know the teachings, such as the vedas, yoga sutras, and specifically the Bhagavad Gita, but these just point the way and are not enough to awaken.
With love, yoga comes alive, opening the heart wide with compassion, awakening kindness, joy, generosity, caring and laughter. The real joy, the heart of yoga, is love. Love reveals the way for us to live in truth.
If you are doing it to look better or lose weight then it may be good, but it isn't yoga. If it is a physical exercise class or a social event to have fun, then it isn't yoga. But if it is touching your heart, if it is reaching deep into your being and revealing the goodness of who you are, if it is giving you a glimpse into what is possible, then you are tasting the beauty of yoga. If you feel joy and peace beyond understanding, that is yoga!
Rather than struggling to perfect awkward-looking postures, we learn to transform our minds and emotions and to connect deeply with our inner selves. Ultimately, this leads to awakening, the discovery of who we really are, free from obsessive ego identification. En route to awakening is the heart.
Opening our heart as wide as the universe is one of life's most powerful experiences. The heart is the core of our being, the place we point to when we refer to ourselves. And it is the center of love. The purpose of yoga is to realize our authentic true self rather than focusing on the egoistic and superficial self we relate to daily. To do this we have to be in love -- we have to be in the heart.
We do not have to go in search of this love, or fear giving away so much that we have none left. We can never lose love; we can only lose sight of it. Love could not happen if it was not already an integral part of who we are. How can we lose what is our nature? How can we be left with nothing when love is the source of all life? This is the fearless embracing of ourselves and all others, enemy and friend alike.
"When we complete the journey to our own heart, we will find ourselves in the hearts of everyone else."
--Father Thomas Keating, from our book, "Be The Change"
This is seen in the following Native American story of a child learning the lessons of life from his father. "There are two wolves that are fighting each other in my heart," his father says. "The first wolf is angry, jealous, dishonest, bitter and hateful. The second wolf is kind, caring, compassionate, generous and honest." The child asks which of the wolves will win the fight. His father replies, "The one I chose to feed."
We recently led the Sunday morning service at our local Unity Church. At the end of our talk, over the loud speakers, came the Beatles' famous song: "All You Need Is Love." The only way out of political madness, confusion and world suffering is love. Yes, what the world needs now is love!
"When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world -- no matter how imperfect -- becomes rich and beautiful, for it consists solely of opportunities for love."
How do you do yoga -- from your head, or your heart? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Tuesday by checking Become a Fan at the top.
See our award-winning book: "BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World," forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Jack Kornfield, Marianne Williamson, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and many others.
Our three meditation CDs: Metta -- Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi -- Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra -- Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com.
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