When Ed trained in yoga he lived in silence, practice and service. He soon became aware that yoga is far more than just a series of postures or mental exercises, but rather is a way of life that leads to self-realization. He trained at the Bihar School of Yoga in India during the late 1960s, where he became a swami -- a yoga expert. But only when he came back to the west and began to live as a yogi did he see how inclusive and far-reaching yoga really is.
Although it has its roots in Hinduism, yoga transcends the limitations of religion; it stands alone. Yoga means union; it is waking up to the beauty both within ourselves and realizing the sacredness of all life. And it is the expression of love: loving yourself and others, which frees us from a chaotic mind, negativity and neurosis.
In this way we see that true yoga -- the very essence of what yoga means -- is when we find our freedom, when we open our hearts and love beyond ourselves, when we serve and awaken. For only when we open our hearts can we realize the brilliance of who we are.
Many of us are tempted to study the traditional yoga teachings, the texts, sutras and vedas, but in this way we can easily gain an intellectual understanding and miss the direct experience. For none of this, as fantastically wonderful as it is, will ever make us happy or set us free. We learn the greatness of the wise ones but how does it help us? Until we open our heart, look within and rejoice in the love that is our true nature, all the teachings are just words. They can inspire our intellect but can never enlighten us. We can quote the scriptures, we can even become a learned scholar, but we are not true yogis until the intellect is no longer running the show.
In the western world we worship the intellect -- if we have a degree we are highly respected, if we don't we are considered uneducated. But many of the sadhus of old -- the original yoga practitioners -- were poor and uneducated, they couldn't even read or write. Instead, they experienced and realized yoga deep within their hearts and lives, as the truth of yoga is beyond both mind and intellect.
The real experience of yoga is not found through the books or teachings, as helpful and inspirational as they may be. When we are about to die it won't help to know what page we are meant to be on! Yoga can only be known by embodying it within ourselves. We manage in this world through our senses and mind; we rely on them to function in this complexity of life. But only when we enter the heart is the truth revealed.
What is your experience of yoga? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday 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 Jack Kornfield, Jane Fonda, Father Thomas Keating, Marianne Williamson, Ram Dass and many others.
"If there is one book you read about meditation, 'Be The Change' should be the one. Hear about some of the cool people who are doing it and why you should do it too." -- Sharon Gannon, Sting's yoga teacher, founder Jivamukti Yoga
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.