The teachings can also expand and enrich your physical yoga practice.
Yoga isn’t a religion. It can be learned and practiced by anyone having any religious faith, or having no faith at all. It is a path that can help you find answers when you are frustrated or confused about life.
Yoga teachings are “how to live” teachings. They provide a map you can use to introspect, which is a big part of yoga. Yogis learn the yoga concepts, and then introspect—comparing their own internal beliefs, attitudes, habits, and actions, to those learned through the teachings.
Where there are discrepancies, yogis work to right them. This advances them along the yoga path and frees them from previous ways of thinking, believing, and acting that have not worked.
Yoga changes your perceptions
One of the first things I learned when sitting at the feet of my first guru (and I was happy to consider it because I was ready) was that we don’t know as much as we think we know. In fact, the way he put it, “You don’t know anything.”
Our society is so sophisticated, so advanced, that we think we either have the answers to life or we can get the answers readily when we need them.
For example, some of us don’t question our practice of working to make more money—to become wealthier—in pursuit of security and happiness in the form of material things. We continue to pursue this goal no matter what it takes, no matter how much it stresses us, no matter what we have to sacrifice. Our:
- time we could spend loving our families or developing other areas of our lives
- relationships with others who we perceive as being different from us
- morals, etc.
At its worst, we forget who we are in the pursuit of money.
If we become disillusioned by this quest and turn to yoga, we will quickly be faced with the idea that material things are far from the answer to a happy life. After all, we can’t take the material things with us when we exit this life, can we? And we have no idea when our lives will end.
Further, we don’t really know where we came from, or where we’re going after we die. With all the changes that occur in our lives and on this planet, we can’t even be sure tomorrow will be the same as today.
In reality, the wealth we amass only belongs to us temporarily. And its pursuit has occupied so much of our time and energy that we have become unbalanced. We discovered that money failed to make us happy and secure, as initially intended.
Yoga gives us permanent goals to pursue to replace the temporary ones—goals such as inner wisdom, love, compassion, cooperation, soul connection, balance, joy, positivity, brother/sisterhood, and peace. It even teaches us how to pursue God if that is what we want. As we focus on achieving the permanent goals, our lives fall into place.
Yoga doesn’t advise you to drop your material possessions or your goals to achieve a comfortable life. It helps you to prioritize your life and to place meaning on what is most important.
Inner versus outer connection
By studying yoga, you will soon realize that you can pursue many external things—and many lifestyles—to attempt to find happiness, yet none of them will be successful. Happiness cannot be found outside of ourselves. When we do find it, it will only be temporary.
There’s a song, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Or you may have heard people say, “You need to learn to love yourself first before you can love someone else.” These are truths that yoga teaches.
Happiness must be found within. To achieve lasting happiness, we must be able to sustain feelings of happiness whether our outer circumstances are good, bad, or indifferent. That is the meaning of balance. It is one supreme goal of all yogis.
What is yoga good for? Simplify your life
Yoga teachings cause us to reflect deeply. Some of the teachings seem profound, but at their basis, after we strip away every false idea we have constructed to achieve our goals, they are very simple.
Simplicity is another tenet of yoga. Society leads us to build complex lives that we need to work hard to support. We end up so far from where we started that we no longer recognize ourselves.
Yoga helps us to simplify everything, so we can live our lives in peace.