Goals of Yoga, Don’t Just Practice, Practice to Mastery

 

The goals of Yoga might be an easy question to answer but with the many forms of yoga we have today it might be tougher to answer.  Truly it all depends on what you want to achieve.  In the pursuit of mastery, personal growth, health and wellness and even enlightenment anything you do can be considered a yogic practice.  You may hate me for saying that because it adds so many other arts to the already long list of variations, approaches and pathways that are possible with Yoga.  I say this because I want to expand your perspective horizons of what yoga is and can be.  By doing this you can add more possibilities to reaching your goals.

You may ask, why not put yoga into any other categories?  Well a lot of other arts are very specialized and although somewhat similar, don’t have the wide range of possibilities refined over thousands of years that yoga has.  To be straight forward the main goal of yoga is enlightenment and meditation is necessary to achieve that.  There are so many aspects of yoga because we are complicated beings and only one approach is not enough especially when dealing with cultivating the body, mind and spirit.  Everyone is different, living different lives with different experiences and with different bodies, so the same yoga is not the best for everyone.  So how do you know what to practice?  Lucky for you that is easy, your body and your life are your guides.  You are your own guru, following your heart and intuition to know what to practice next.

Using your body as a guide to practice is a process of getting in touch with your body and figuring out what you need to do to get to a place of centeredness, proper alignment, opening the body, increasing strength and flexibility.  These are all goals to work towards on a physical level.  Standing is a great way to see what is out of balance in your body and what is impeding you from holding a relaxed, balanced and comfortable stance; this is a form of standing meditation -an important foundation for yoga and internal martial arts.  This is the first step of letting your body guide you.  Then as you progress into other poses and stretches you find other muscles and areas that either need stretching or strengthening.  In order to lengthen muscles and open areas you may need to use alternative methods other than yoga.  Massage is very helpful; it increases circulation and expedites the time it takes to stretch a muscle.  And there is movement, movement also increases circulation and strengthens on a greater range of motion than yoga.  I prefer to use dance for my movements.

As for mental goals for yoga, this is simple.  You want to create a strong and focused mind that is clear of chatter; peaceful.  This is one of the benefits of mediation and that alone can change your life and your body.  A relaxed mind is a relaxed body.  Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean sitting meditation.  Meditation is simply the practice of concentrating the mind on a task to increase mental strength and focus.  I find that the best beginning meditations are focusing on relaxation and the breath, eventually one becomes both.  These you can do anytime or while you practice yoga, this is incredibly beneficial, I can’t stress that enough.  The more relaxed you are the faster your muscles can release and the faster your progress.  Before you start to practice anything you want to be relaxed, breathing, centered, the whatever you do will be easier and you will learn incredibly fast.

Spiritual goals, well, usually this means practicing to be a good person.  I like to uphold love and truth as my pillars of practicing wisdom to gain wisdom.  But when I think of a spiritual practice I think of it in a more literal sense, actually practicing spirit.  Once you can feel and practice Chi/Prana and understand its relationship to the mind then you are truly practicing your spirit for they are connected.  You the observer use the mind to control Chi with imagination and visualization.  It is really that simple, if you can think you are moving spirit.  So be careful what you think about and how often.  When using it in and on the body or to move the body or to heal the body, then you are practicing mind, body and spirit as one.  This is a spiritual goal.  To make this into your every move and every moment, is a great achievement of mastery.

Remember this, the mind and spirit are one.  They are made of the same material.  Your mind whatever you think becomes your meditation, your practice; so be careful what you think about and how often. If you think angry thoughts it will be detrimental.  Think good thoughts and feel good.  This because the mind affects your body and your life.

Chi can easily be used to expedite your path to your center, proper alignment and the opening of the body.  When focusing on using your Chi with visualization to affect change in the body you are meditating.  What better meditation than to focus on cultivating spirit and healing yourself.

First goal of yoga, get centered, build awareness in the body, work towards proper alignment and strengthening it until it becomes relaxed and natural.  When it comes to mastering anything, there are techniques to practice to proficiency and parfection before moving on.  Start simple and build upon and gently pushing the boundaries of your limits.

Today we mostly just practice yoga and sometimes some breathing exercises (pranayamas) are incorporated or a gimmicky concept.  There is no real progression, starting simple and working towards more difficult techniques.  Take note, just because you learned a difficult technique doesn’t mean it is bringing you closer to mastery.  The thing is that there are a lot of techniques and they all have specific purposes, make sure that the techniques you learn are something that you need for your evolving practice.  As you progress you may not need certain techniques and new ones will come along.

For example, a lot of yoga schools teach fancy pranayamas that seem cool and make you feel like you are practicing yoga but what is it really doing for you in the moment and the long term.  Always start simple and build upon that, like mastering the yogi complete breath and yogi rhythmic breathing before jumping into more advanced breathing techniques.  Also working to get the breath to become natural on a simple level will help you greatly in feeling more relaxed and alert throughout your life when you are not on the mat and in everything you practice.

So don’t just practice yoga, work towards your ultimate self, centered and aligned, focused and relaxed, mind body spirit connected.  Then you can move on to deepen your yoga practice or practice and master other arts or live a good long healthy life.  Get in touch with your body, figure out what it needs, figure out what you want and practice.

 

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