Yoga – a martial art?
Loosely translated, Yoga means “to yoke or join together” – it is the practice of unifying the individual consciousness or inner Self (jivatman) with with the Universal consciousness. This occurs when the mind is silenced and we merge into the unlimited, boundless and timeless state of Universal consciousness.
Astanga Yoga is the name given to the system of Yoga codified in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is a codified system of personal Self development which ultimate leads to the awakened state of bliss.
In our normal state of consciousness we identify through our egos. This level of identification is limited because the ego is a limited separate entity. It gives us a sense of “I” that is distinct and separate from everything else. As a result, ego level identification leaves us feeling separate – isolated – and small.
The ego focuses our identity onto our physical body, our thoughts, our feelings, our status and our possessions in the outside world. For example, we feel happy when we are in a good mood, when our relationships are going well, when we get promoted or when we buy an new car.
But these external states or objects that the ego identifies with are inherently unstable and must change. For example: the physical body must eventually die, we eventually retire and loose our work status, our possessions age, we can loose our fortune or our relationships. As a result, when we become sick or, when our relationships or work are a problem, we feel contracted and insecure.
Because the ego identifies with the physical body it also lives in constant fear of death – death of the body seems like death of the ego self …. and it is. The ego tries to overcome this fear by increasing it’s power and status in the outside world. But the more it gathers power, status and material property the more it feels insecure. This occurs because the more we have the more there is too loose. The higher our status the further we have to fall.
Yoga provides us with a way out of this ego driven, contracted, isolated and fear driven life. The rewards are a sense of total connection (vs. isolation), a sense of expansiveness (vs. contraction), a sense of peace and security (vs. stress and insecurity), a sense of timelessness (vs. time bound), and sense of love for everything (vs. fear of death).