"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self" The Bhagavad Gita.
Often the question is asked, what is the purpose of practicing yoga? Is it to become more present, more patient, more flexible, more creative, more self-confident, more loving, more mindful - or to be? This is the paradox of practicing yoga. Do I have somewhere to go or is there nowhere to go?
The teachings of YogaRupa Rod Stryker, remind us of the answers is, "Yes. Both. They are not mutually exclusive. They are inclusive. Both are real. Both are true."
A lot of us have discovered when we practice yoga we feel better, act better, think better, etc. It is hard to deny these experiences. I know I feel better. On the other hand, the Tantra teachings of yoga remind us that our Soul is already whole. There is no accomplishment in this life that will make your soul better. The Self already is enough.
Tantric teachings remind us that when we access the innate wisdom of our body and the power of our mind we can see clearly how this life is a great gift. Joy and happiness can be achieved in this lifetime. The tantra teachings remind us that we are already whole. We are born complete. There is nothing more we need to do to improve our Soul.
Practicing the teachings of yoga (i.e. asana, pranayama, meditation) helps us manage our daily stressors and remind us to express, expand, grow, and experience all of these stages through our evolution. Do we label everything as "good or bad?" A child learning to walk falls down over and over again as they learn to stand up and never says that is good or that is bad. Instead, they fall down and try again?
As yogis, we are called to witness and see the situation for what it is. For example, what is the purpose of doing a handstand in the middle of a room? This movement doesn't guarantee in any way you are going to be happier because you have achieved this movement. Sooner or later you will come down. But what was the journey like on the way toward this posture? What were the lessons learned? How does it make you feel? Is it really the asana or posture that brings you more freedom in your mind and body or is it something else?
My practice today is much more than asana. It didn't start this way 20 years ago. I fell in love with the practice of yoga because of the movement and the attention to detail in my body. I loved the challenge and the relief I felt once I made it to savasana. However, over the years, my practice is more than the poses. I have integrated the yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, and meditation practices. This holistic and integrated practice allows me to move toward freedom in my mind and my body and away from suffering.
This is why, maybe now more than ever, we need to practice. Yoga touches something deep within us. We can start with meditation, asana, and pranayama. The movement through the postures does help us feel good. But the core intention of Yoga is neither flexibility nor endurance - it's meditation. Meditation allows us to tune in with yourself and go inward. We can practice having a "witness awareness" as we invite the body and mind to be more receptive allowing our true potential to emerge.
May you remember you are light and you are love.
Here are a few additional articles and a podcast you can listen to understand the teachings of Tantra.
Interview: Interview with Pandit Rajmani Tijunait
Yoga International Course: Foundations of Tantra with Rod Stryker