YOGA: WHAT FOR?
by Georg Feuerstein
You can practice Yoga for all sorts of reasons: to remain fit; to
stay healthy or recover your health; to balance your nervous system;
to calm your busy mind, and to live in a more meaningful way. All
these goals are worthy of our attention and pursuit.
Yet, traditionally, Yoga has for several millennia been employed as a
pathway to liberation or enlightenment. Long ago, the masters of Yoga
recognized that we can never be completely satisfied with life until
we have found the source of happiness beyond pleasure and pain. Even
when we are completely fit and healthy, enjoy a relatively balanced
nervous system, and live in an apparently meaningful way, deep down
we still feel ill at ease. We just have to dig deep enough to go past
all the layers of limited satisfactionthe kind of satisfaction that
depends on having just the right sort of external circumstance. We
can easily discover whether we are truly content and happy when we
lose our job, have our marriage break up, or have a good friend
suddenly turn against us. In the case of a great Yoga master, these
events will not cause as much as a ripple in his or her mind.
Upon enlightenment, when consciousness is free from all mental
conditioning, neither pleasure nor pain will diminish our inner
freedom. We are pure consciousness and one with the Source of all
things. This is what the Yoga tradition calls "Self-realization." The
Self, or Spirit, is superconscious, immortal, eternally free, and
unspeakably blissful. From a yogic point of view, there is no higher
attainment than this; nor is there a pursuit more worthy than this.
For when we have realized our true nature, as pure consciousness,
whatever we do will be infused with the bliss of Self-realization. We
are all right in any circumstance, and because of our inner freedom
and bliss, we can enrich all situations with wisdom and compassion so
as to benefit other beings.
Whatever your personal reasons for practicing Yoga may be, it is good
to bear Yoga's traditional goal in mind. This will prevent you from
getting stuck with a particular achievement. Yoga seeks to recover
your full potential.