What is important in life is to feel fulfilled and from this fullness pour fourth all that you are created to be. This is different from the pursuit of happiness which tends to be all about you and the needs of the separate personal self. Fulfilment is found in union (Yoga) with the True Self.
The importance of Yoga in our daily life, cannot, I think, be overstated. The first essential is to understand the true meaning of the word ‘Yoga’ and the aim of yoga. Unless this word is understood you miss the core invitation that is being presented. You miss your birth right in becoming all you are created to be.
So let me begin by outlining the content of this article that shares the importance of yoga for living your one wild and precious life.
The Importance of Yoga Menu
Part 1 – Understanding the Question
- What does the word Yoga mean?’
- The Poetry of Yoga.
- The Importance of Understanding.
- The Importance of Daily Practice.
- Yoga as the Meaning of Life.
Part 2 – Understanding the Quest.
- Yoga – The Map of the Territory.
- The Stages of Yoga.
- The Paths of Yoga.
- Stepping Along the Yoga Way.
- Following the Signposts along the Way.
Part 3 – Stepping Out on the Quest.
So I hope this article on the importance of yoga in your life, and for your life, will encourage you to claim you birth right. I invite you in the words of the Irish poet W. B. Yeats to Companion YOUR Greatness and realize the fullness of who you are created to become.
So let us begin with understanding the question, “Why is Yoga important,” and why such understanding is so essential to the quest for living your one wild and precious life (The Journey – Mary Oliver) with meaning and purpose in alignment with Divine intention.
What does the Word Yoga Mean
Yoga – A Radical Way of Living and Being
In order to really understand the importance of Yoga in daily life it is really essential to understand what the word ‘Yoga’ means.
However, I have a problem here. The reason is that in reality I can only point to the true meaning of Yoga. Words can never really do justice to the vastness of this invitation.
However, words are what I have as signposts pointing the way into the magnificent of the journey that is on offer.
When the word ‘Yoga’ is used in the West most people understand it to be a practice of physical postures. As the modern Indian mystic Sadhguru shares in the video The True Purpose of Yoga when he was in America, he was told that Yoga had been invented in California. One person claimed that Yoga had been started by the queen of pop music Madonna.
The Purpose of Yoga
Words fail to convey the total value of yoga. It has to be experienced.” – BKS Iyengar
The word yoga means “to yoke.” This I think doesn’t really help. It reminds me of yoking a bullock to a cart. The more invitational and the more essential understanding is from the word “union.” This is a much more beautiful invitation.
So what is to be unified? Here is a short list of what this union means.
- Personal self with the Universal Self.
- Time with the Timeless
- Form with the Form
- Earth with Heaven.
Please note that this is a vital and liberating invitation has to be KNOWN and experienced directly.
This is not more information. It is not an experience of the personal mind or intellect. You can study the Yogic texts all your life and never KNOW what yoga is. The experience of yoga is always given by way of Grace.
The Poetry of Yoga
Poetry speaks the Language of Union
One of the keyways in which I love to promote the Journey of Yoga is through the medium of what I call mystical poetry. Here is a poem by the German poet Goethe that points toward the importance of yoga and what it involves.
The Holy Longing
poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher lovemaking sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth
Translated from the German by Robert Bly
To share with you more pointers toward this direct experience of Yoga and its importance let me share with you quotes from various traditions that capture the essence of this extra-ordinary invitation from the Sages of India.
The first saying is from the Bhagavad Gita.
Yoga is the journey from the self through the self to the Self – Bhagavad Gita.
This is said in a different why by the Western psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung who wrote:-
The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.
Then there is the quote from the mystic poet Rumi who shares the yoga experience when he says:-
The dewdrop is in the Ocean and the Ocean is in the dewdrop – Rumi
Finally there is the quote about the direct experience of Yoga from the Master Jesus Christ when he declares in the mystical Gospel of St. John
I (self) and the Father (Self) are one – John 10:30
The Importance of This Understanding.
Yoga is the Experience of Inner KNOWING
Even if your understanding of the question, “What is the importance of Yoga?” as a direct experience of union of the personal with the Divine is only intellectual this is enough to begin with. The real understanding of Yoga comes by way of insight or insider KNOWING.
The problem, and it is a serious problem in the West, is that Yoga is equated with the practice of physical postures the key purpose of which is health and wellbeing. There is nothing wrong with seeking to be well and healthy in the body but it is not the core invitation from Yoga.
If you miss this core understanding of the importance of yoga then, as the poet Goethe states in the poem Holy Longing, “You will only be a guest on this dark earth.”
The earth will be dark because you have missed the grace opportunity of bringing the Divine into expression through the form of the body (your body). The purpose of Hatha Yoga, which is the practice of postures, (asanas) is to align the energy centres in the body (the chakras) to receive the higher energies of the Divine.
When the higher flows into the lower the lower is transformed by the higher – Meister Eckhart – Christian mystic (1260 -1328)
The higher refers to the three higher energy centres of the 7-chakra system that flow into the three lower chakras through the heart chakra. This is the flow of the Self through the self into the self. (Bhagavad Gita).
This is where the Journey of Yoga, as a way of Being in the world begins.
If your understanding of yoga is limited to learning postures and breath control, as it is for the most part in the West, then you are in no way understanding the real invitation from the power of Yoga.
The Importance of Daily Practice
Yoga – Entering the Temple of the Body
Now that you intellectually know what the word Yoga is inviting you have the choice to begin the journey into this Holy Longing of union with the Divine.
If that longing is not there then you will not have the commitment, discipline and patience to follow the Quest into the revelation you are created to be.
This degree of longing for union (yoga) is very often dependant on your age.
As quoted above from the words of Carl Gustav Jung your first stage of life is to create an ego (personal self) This may at this time be your primary focus. This is a very necessary part of the journey. This stage of life (1st Stage) is from around 18 years to 35 years and more.
To have the commitment to a daily life practice you really do need to have the longing for union.
This usually intensifies as you get older because you experience suffering and disappointment along the way. You cannot fake this longing but you can learn to intensify it.
I saw the Crescent you saw the whole of the Moon – Mike Scott – The Waterboys.
How you practice is part of the Journey along your chosen path.
There are various paths that you might journey and each is related to your personal temperament. The focus on one path will likely to change as you grow and explore the territory.
There will be more about the paths of yoga shared later in this article.
Yoga as the Meaning of Life
The Dewdrop Longing for the Occean
Yoga as the direct experience of the self with the Self, the personal with the Divine is the reason for the creation of life on this planet.
Creation loves to dance through form.
It is in this way that Love knows itself as Love (St. Theresa of Avila). You are created as a unique expression of eternal Love.
This is how magnificent you are. The invitation from Yoga is to KNOW this and be in alignment with Love’s purpose.
When you FEEL yourself to be so aligned then life becomes magical and it flows through you.
You absolutely KNOW the meaning and purpose of Life. You absolutely KNOW the importance of yoga in your life and the importance of yoga in human life as a collective.
This is not wish fulfilment. It is the experience of fulfilment pouring through you.
In the words of the poet W. B. Yeats you can declare:-
I am blessed and can bless – Vacillation IV – W. B. Yeats
The Importance of Yoga – Part II
The Map of the Territory
Yoga for Direction in Life
There are different maps that can guide the one longing for the treasure of union.
The asanas are useful maps to explore yourself, but they are not the territory. – Donna Farhi
In my personal experience the best map of the journey into union is the map of the 7 major chakra system. Taking the quote from the Bhagavad Gita, “Yoga is the journey from the self, through the self to the Self,” I divide this 7-chakra system as follows:-
From the self.
- 1st Chakra – Embodiment – Root.
- 2nd Chakra – Relationship – Sacral.
- 3rd Chakra – Empowerment – Solar Plexus.
Through the Self
- 4th Chakra – Heart Chakra – Transition.
To the Self
- 5th Chakra – Throat
- 6th Chakra – Brow
- 7th Chakra – Crown
In relation to the quote by the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it,” the 1st three chakras relate to the development of the sense of the personal self-called the ego.
Usually at midlife the individual is called to surrender the separate sense of self and allow the truth of who they are to come into alignment with the True Self (Tomas Merton).
In the case of the quote by Rumi, “You are a dewdrop in the Ocean and the Ocean in the dewdrop,” the lower three chakras relate to the experience of the dewdrop. The Higher three chakras relate to the experience of the Ocean. The two meet at the heart centre.
Hatha Yoga which is what is understood as Yoga in the West is the alignment of these centres through the practice of postures or asanas.
The Stages of Yoga
The Transformation from self to Self
When I write about the stages of Yoga in this website, I am referring to the above three stages that are referenced in different ways.
These three stages of yoga are as follows:-
- Personal Development (self with small s)
- Transition Period – (letting go of the small self)
- Unity with the Universal (Self with large S)
The above three stages are not absolutely linear but are very much related to age. These stages can be viewed in a different way.
- The 1st Half of Life.
- The Midlife Crisis.
- The 2nd Half of Life.
In order to experience Yoga or Union you need to have very clear ego boundaries. It takes the first stage of life, up until around the age of 35-40 years, to establish such boundaries.
You can only surrender that which you have. This is why you do not spend your time trying to get rid of the ego. The ego is needed.
For some, but not all, there comes that period called the mid-life crisis. This is where you question the meaning of why you are here and for what purpose. If you are fortunate you begin to feel your life purpose merge with the Purpose of Love.
The 2nd half of life is the work of allowing the Presence of the Divine to be freely expressed through you. Your joy is in allowing the Ocean to fulfil the dewdrop. Out of this experience your joy is to pour away all the gifts of wisdom, compassion and true prosperity that come through you.
The Choice of Yoga Path
Yoga – The Road Less Travelled By
Traditionally speaking there are four paths of Yoga that you can follow. This is largely dependent on temperament.
In my personal experience the path can change. In my youth I was much more drawn to the path of Jnana Yoga. -the yoga of the intellect. Today I am more drawn to the path of Bhakti – the yoga of devotion.
The four traditional Paths of Yoga are:-
- Karma Yoga – The Path of Action.
- Bhakti Yoga – The Path of Devotion.
- Jnana Yoga – The Path of Wisdom and Knowledge.
- Raja Yoga – The Royal Path through meditation.
Your choice of path tends not to be an intellectual choice.
Neither do you have to choose only one path. You might be teaching the practice of Hatha Yoga which is part of Raja Yoga while at the same time be engaged with teaching meditation at a prison which would be the practice of Karma Yoga.
The real issue is whether or not you make the choice to commit to living a Yoga Lifestyle or not. This is symbolised in the poem by Robert Frost entitled A Road Not Taken.
The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
To be committed, disciplined and patience is to take the road less travelled by which is the path of journey into direct experience of the Divine – Yoga.
Once you make it your intention to walk one of these paths along the path less taken you begin by taking steps. These steps relate to the practices you engage in related to the path you are drawn to take.
You may not consciously choose one of the four paths to begin with. Simply allow yourself to be drawn by what you love.
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. ― Rumi
Stepping Along the Yoga Path
Yoga – Stepping into a Brighter Future
The steps along your chosen path are the daily practices that you engage with. These practices will be dependant on various aspects of the way in which you approach yoga.
The practices you adopt will be influenced by the following:-
- The Style of Yoga.
- The Stage of Yoga.
- The Stage of Life.
- The Path of Yoga.
In The Way of Yoga, how you step out on this journey, is really unique to you. Do not get too rigid about what you might consider the, “right way.”
As the poet Antonio Machado says:-
Traveller there is no road. The road is made by walking _ Antonio Machado
It is helpful to begin with to follow a recognised tradition that you feel drawn to explore.
Tradition can help provide the initial boundaries for beginning the path. Do not however, become so rigid that you follow the dictates of that tradition even when it goes against the promptings of your heart.
Toward the end of the Journey into the direct experience of Yoga all your ideas and attachments to the practices of any given tradition will have to be surrendered to the moment to moment experience of Presence.
Travelling the Way of Yoga is by way of practice.
This journey is experiential and not intellectual. It invites you to experience yourself in a way that is beyond belief. It takes you into a way of KNOWING that is beyond knowledge and mere information.
You are in essence learning the paradoxical practice of letting go.
Yoga is really an experience of subtraction until that point where there is NO-THING left. This sounds not at all inviting. However, within the experience of NO-THING you live from the potential of everything.
Signposts Along the Way
Beyond Right Doing and Wrong Doing is a Field – Rumi
Those who have travelled The Way of Yoga are the mystics of all traditions and none. These are the seekers who have become the KNOWERS. They are not the believers who think they know but who in reality are clinging to the signposts pointing the way rather than following the path.
There are various signposts along the way that indicate that you are headed in the direction of alignment with Universal intention. Here are a few of these signposts.
- Opening to Synchronicity.
- The Experience of Flow.
- Becoming a Practiced Manifestor.
- Growing in REAL Confidence.
Lets look at what these respective signposts look like and were appropriate FEEL like.
This is where events happen in your life that appear at first glance to be mere co-incidence. Usually such co-incidences happen quite quickly and in threes. These co-incidences are related.
Such co-incidences do not tell you what to do. They are pointers to where you should go. More often than not most people ignore them or rationalize them as mere co-incidence. There is also the issue or resistance because these events might point you in a way your soul desires you to go but that your personal mind resist.
Synchronicity is an indication that the Universe is communicating with you and that at one level you are prepared to listen.
Don’t dismiss the synchronicity of what is happening right now finding its way to your life at just this moment. There are no coincidences in the universe, only convergences of Will, Intent, and Experience. – Neale Donald Walsch
Real Flow Yoga
The more that the personal self is in alignment with the True Self the more that you will experience your life as flow rather than struggle.
You are learning how to allow the Dance of Life that created you to dance through you to finally have its way with you. It KNOWS how to dance you better than you do. You are dancing with the Lord of the Dance and the dancer and the dance are becoming as one.
The primary reason for this is because you have learned to get out of the Cave of the Skull which is your overthinking personal mind. You are beginning to trust the paradoxical power of silence and NO-THING-NESS.
I equate ego with trying to figure everything out instead of going with the flow. That closes your heart and your mind to the person or situation that’s right in front of you, and you miss so much. Pema Chodron
Manifestation – From Light into Form
Manifestation is not getting your stuff via the Cosmic Ordering idea mad popular by such programs as The Secret. This promotes the practice of what is called The Law of Attraction.
The real Law of Attraction is whereby you are a servant of the Cosmos so that you allow it to create through you what it created you to have create through you. You are in alignment with your Dharma, your destiny and your purpose.
You are not dictating to the Cosmos what you think you want from a focus on lack. You are pouring forth into form what is designed to be fulfilled through you. There is not so much doing as being done through.
You become an expression of Love in form.
Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment. Morihei Ueshiba
The Yoga of Confidence in Self
When you are in alignment with the silent power of the Cosmos your confidence grows. This is because your sense of self is moving from the personal self to a FEELING experience of connection to the TRUE Self.
The word confidence is really a combination of:-
- Con – meaning “with.”
- Fid – meaning “faith” or “fidelity.”
- Ence – “ meaning “process.”
Thus, you as one who understands the importance of yoga in daily life, are engaged with the process of being faith filled.
Faith is not to be confused with belief which is always an idea of the separate personal self. It is usually conceptual and not based in direct personal experience of KNOWING, insight or revelation.
As my teacher and transmittor of revelation, Jeddu Krishnamurti, said to a journalist who asked him the question, “Sir, what it is you believe in?” replied, “Why the need to believe when you KNOW.”
Faith is the willingness to be open to the unknown but not the UNKNOWABLE and to that which is beyond belief. Belief is where you, metaphorically speaking, cling to signposts (Eckhart Tolle) rather than the practice of faith were you walk the path into the mystery. You follow the direction of heart KNOWING into becoming a mystic.
A mystic is someone who is a KNOWER of the Divine rather than a believer in God or the Divine.
They are able to speak from direct revelation. The religions of the world are, for the most part, interested in your being a believer rather than a KNOWER. If you become a knower of union they are out of a job.
In your silence, when there are no words, no language, nobody else is present, you are getting in tune with existence – Osho
When you are getting in tune with existence then you begin to KNOW what true SELF confidence feels like.
Stepping Out on the Quest
The Quest for Yoga
So you are now invited to explore stepping into the glorious mystery that is the journey of Yoga/Union. So let me invite you to take some steps. These are:-
These are steps you practice each day.
Maybe you do not begin this way but if you really allow yourself to be drawn by the silence power of what you love then it will not be practice for practice sake.
In the beginning, however, it does feel like practice for practice sake. There tends to be resistance from the established patterns.
Step 1 – Setting Your Intention
Nothing happens without intention. So your 1st step on the quest might be to explore the question posed by the poet Mary Oliver in her poem The Summer Day. She asks:-
Tell me, what it is you plan to to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Or Rumi suggests this quest in another way:-
Let the beauty that you are be the work that you do. – Rumi
Rumi is nearer the truth of Yoga in that he invites you to live from the beauty of Being and not from the focus on doing.
This kind of question will not be answered overnight. It will not be answered by thinking alone. It will be unfolded over time through practice leading to insight and revelation. You will have to be willing to go into the unknown.
The key pointers are your level of excitement and/or anxiety.
Speaking personally these two dynamics very often go together. This happens when I am sharing the workshop Companioning YOUR Greatness. It happens when I am on stage giving concerts.
I used to avoid this silently being drawn by the power of what I love for a long time. I was afraid to be seen for who I was. I was afraid I would be judged. Mostly I judged myself.
I still do but now I simply witness the judgements and I don’t give them energy or beat myself up.
I set my intention first thing every morning through the daily practice of Yoga Nidra and the invocation of my Sankalpa – statement of true heart’s desire.
Step 2 – Learning the Language
Yoga as the Language of Love
The 2nd step on the road to Yoga is to mind your language. This is the voice in your head that NOT so silently draws you into identification with the personal mind. This is the root cause of most all individual and collective suffering in this world of time and space.
A key aspect of the Yoga journey is the practice of stilling the mind. Yoga is a paradoxical experience of emptiness from which you find fulfilment. This fulness is really not available while your focus is on listening too and being driven by what the singer songwriter Mike Scott of the Waterboys refers to as, The Madman in the Cave of Your Skull (World Party).
The stilling of the voice of the Madman is the stilling of the separate sense of self. Through this stillness, through the power of no thought, you get to be thought through. You are not so driven. You flow from the intelligence of the Still Small Voice Within. This is your true inner guidance and your inner KNOWING.
Calming the mind is Yoga. Not just standing on the head – Swami Ramananda
This stilling of the mind can be done by way of meditation, prayer or contemplation. Prayer, as it is understood here, is not what is normally understood as prayer were there is the practice of petitioning some higher Source outside of yourself that is a kind of Sky God (Zeus).
This stilling of the mind can also be practiced through devotion (Bhakti Yoga) and/or selfless service (Karma Yoga).
Step 3 – Choosing the Path
Let Yourself be Silently Drawn
This is were you consider your temperament and take the path that most suits you. This could be:-
- The Path of Karma Yoga – For the man or woman of Action.
- The Path of Bhakti Yoga – For the individual who love devotion.
- The Path of Jnana Yoga – For those who love philosophy and wisdom.
- The Path of Raja Yoga – For those who are drawn to meditation/contemplation.
You can mix any of these as you are drawn to do so. You can change thes as you journey along the path of Yoga.
Again remember the wisdom of Rumi in regard to your choice of yoga path.
Let yourself be silently drawn by what it is you love – Rumi
Notice the key words ‘silent’ and ‘drawn.’ The voice in your head – the Madman in the Cave of Your Skull – is anything but silent. It does not draw you but drives you. It drives you to distraction.
What is the Importance of Yoga?
You Are Meant to Shine
Why yoga is important in everyday living is because you are created for union (Yoga). Yoga/union is the purpose of your being here on this planet.
You are, and forever are, a child of the Universe. You are here to be versed in unity. You are created to be an outpouring of creativity and blessing.
In committing to the Journey of Yoga you bless not only yourself but each of us. You contribute to the alleviation of suffering on this planet in ways that your intellectual mind cannot understand.
Yoga really does allow you to be the change that you wish to see in the world provided that change is toward greater peace, harmony and integrity.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – From A Return to Love – Marianne Williamson.
Yoga is the map par excellence for raising the consciousness of the planet. Yoga is the path to the Return to Love. This is the Love you are and forever are.
This has been, and always will be, the real way in which you can find true fulfilment. The reason is because you are then in alignment with the intention of the Cosmos.
So to finish.
Recognise that you are here to gift your unique self to the world through alignment with the Self – who you truly are.
You are a chance in 10 billion. Celebrate that invitation. Commit to Companioning YOUR Greatness each and every day. Don’t just read ABOUT yoga. Become a yogi. Become a yogini.
Begin to KNOW what you intend to do with your one wild and precious life (A Summer Day – Mary Oliver).
Let it be so for you. Let it be so for all.