For many years, what has been drawing western man’s attention to the East for many years is the extraordinary development that has achieved in those countries the knowledge and application of the forces of the soul, the powers of the mind and the gigantic energy of will. Contemporary Western science now begins, with increasing astonishment, to glimpse its extraordinary importance and to accept its obvious reality. The immemorial antiquity, accuracy and extraordinary vitality of the “sacred science” of the sages of ancient Indian civilization is what is known as YOGA.
The word Yoga has two main meanings:
In the first sense, Yoga means all kinds of unions. In India’s philosophical and religious systems it is used in the sense of making the union of the spiritual principle of man (atma) with divinity (Brahma), but it also means the conscious union of the material aspect of man with his spiritual appearance, and of the superficial personality with the deep personality. In other words, it is the state of integration, of conscious unification of the superficial, deep and higher aspects of man.
In the second sense, Yoga is the set of precise and systematic techniques that lead to the development of certain levels of consciousness, not updated in most men, and the integration of such levels into a single unit of total and permanent consciousness.
The definition of Yoga, which speaks of development and unification, shows us that man lacks these qualities to the degree that he might have them. Man lives very limited in multiple aspects of his nature. These limitations can be grouped into three categories:
1- Lack of Development.- Man’s consciousness lives limited, circumscribed, to the mere surface of his being. Inside lies enormous energies and wonderful faculties, which being developed would be enough to completely transform your life. For example, the powers of extrasensory perception (telepathy, remote vision,..) that parapsychology studies; perfect mastery of pain; the mental power capable of materializing in the concrete the most daring projects and possibilities visualized by a healthy creative imagination; artistic intuition, now handled by a few and even uncontrollably; metaphysical intuition, and, in another order of facts, the enormous transfiguring power of spiritual love, access to the supernatural world of Grace.
2- Lack of Unity.- Man lives as a divided kingdom. The various faculties or levels of consciousness act in complete independence from each other, when they do not do so in mutual contrast. The body seeks something different or the opposite of what its will wants; their feelings often react against their ideas and convictions; what you want at one point, stop wanting it in another; Etc. The enormous amount of energy consumed by such stresses, and the decrease in performance that causes zigzagging, sometimes lead to completely sterilizing a life.
It is in this fact that we find the origin of all neurosis and so many disorders of character, such as anxiety, shyness, impulsivity, abulia, etc., that constantly stand in the way of the free and complete expression of man’s possibilities.
3- Lack of Hierarchy.- This refers to the fact that it is not sufficient for the various levels of man (vegetative, affective, rational, intuitive, etc.) to be integrated, but that the inferiors must act in complete subordination to the superiors, in a stable manner, without excessive effort, without great “sacrifices” (for this would show that the unity mentioned above has not been firmly achieved).
Sometimes it happens that, for the moment, man manages to unify his complex structure. But this unification sometimes becomes centered on a higher level, and then man does good in all his meanings, and sometimes it is done around a lower level; in this case man descends, lowers in his human valuation, does evil, man agrees with himself to do what he should not. It thus goes from the predominance of one level to the predominance of the other. His position is unstable and dangerous.
The correct hierarchical order must be: Spirit, Soul, and Body. We understand by Spirit the spiritual aspect of the soul, the aspect of the soul that looks to God. They are the highest faculties of man: spiritual intellect, will, and love. These are the ones that must dominate and govern all others.
We understand by Soul the world of psychological consciousness, where the encounter of the spiritual and the material takes place, the field where the battle of the affirmation of the spiritual being and its existence as such is fought, of its being made and its expressing through and through all levels of existence, from the most elementary to the highest.
We understand by Body our material physical component with all its functions and needs, but also to the subjective aspect of it, that is, the appearance or aspect of the soul that, inserted in matter, allows us to live it consciously.
(Quote: Foundation and Technique of Hatha Yoga by Antonio Blay Fontcuberta)
Yoga means Union, the union of our spiritual, mental and physical being, it provides us with a way to reach this union or Enlightenment.
This path consists of 8 progressive parts:
1- Yamas (universal principles)
a. Ahimsa: Kindness, non-violence, compassion for oneself and for others. Be aware of how we treat ourselves, others, and the environment. You have to relate to everything and in every way with extreme care. We harm ourselves when we treat other people and the environment without respect.
b. Satya: Truth of thought, word and communication. Formulate words before you say them. You have to tell the truth when and only when it’s good for others.
c. Asteya: Do not steal, do not take what is known to be not ours. Theft is the result of believing that we are missing something, which is contrary to the universal law of abundance. First, we must reject the desire to appropriate what is not ours; later on, we must work to change the inner belief that leads to such desire.
d. Brahmacarya: Sexual moderation, energy conservation, abstinence, celibacy. Avoid sexual excesses, which are the fastest way to exhaust vital forces and divert the yogi out of its path. Do not deny sexuality, but not be governed by it. Yoga allows you to free yourself from attachment to sexuality without denying its virtues.
e. Aparigraha: Self-confidence, not treasure, do not hoard, do not covet, generosity in spirit and action. Strictly accept what is needed and reject the rest. Do not expend energy by wanting what others possess (envy). Self-responsibility (understanding that we create our lives at every moment), acting to progress and connect with the inner feeling of totality, are indispensable requirements for the development of aparigraha.
2- Niyamas (individual precepts)
a. Shauca: Cleansing, purity, care of one’s own body and what surrounds it. Our environment reflects and influences our interior. We must accentuate cleanliness and order in everything around us. The more we consider our surroundings as a temple, the closer we get to the Divine.
b. Shantosha: Contentment, willingness to accept what is there, which leads to gratitude. Gratitude and satisfaction connect with the shantosha sense.
c. Tapas: Discipline, burning in one’s own aspirations, fire, use of the power of choice to overcome tamas, inertia, and develop a strong sense of fullness. “Don’t stay too long in a nice situation”.
Svadhyaya: Study of the self, study of texts. Take time at the end of each day to reflect and learn from our actions. Read inspiring works that can assimilate our own consciousness.
e. Ishvarapranidhana: Renounce the fruits of our actions, submission to the Absolute. It’s not the action that counts, it’s the intention behind it. We must find a way to make actions arise from authentic love and offer them to the Divine. This leads to liberation in the face of attachment and illusions of success and failure.
3- Asana or Correct Posture. It refers to the body being able to take a stable position without obstructing circulating energies. In more advanced stages it also means a correct psychic and mental attitude.
4- Pranayama or mastery of respiratory rhythm. Its object is the conscious management of psychic energies.
5- Pratyahara or isolation of the mind from sensory stimuli, keeping it perfectly awake and attentive.
6- Dharana or perfect concentration. Total application of the mind on a point (physical, psychic, mental and spiritual).
7- Dhyana or contemplative meditation. Phase of penetration of the mind at the point indicated in the Dharana.
8- Samadhi or enstasis. Final phase of the ascension of consciousness: unification, integration, total identification of the subject with the object.
Each of these stages is necessary preparation for the next and together they make the development process of all aspects and levels of man. Namaste!