YOGA IN NEXUS
Most people have set images of yoga in terms of flexible postures, yet that is only one aspect of a varied practice. In Nexus, Deborah and Arvind were influenced by different aspects of yoga along with other practices that foster spiritual growth. Our novel explores them through the journey of a group of people looking to overcome pain.
Nexus takes place at a spiritual retreat, where individual transformation of each person is encouraged through the practice of yoga, meditation, visualization, and psychological and spiritual insights. So on Nexus Novel Blog, we will present aspects of these practices in order to foster understanding and personal growth. We hope that our site and book will inspire others.
DEFINITION OF YOGA
Yoga is derived from Proto-Indo-European root yeug meaning “to join” or “to unite.” It allows for the release of energy blocks that impede the free flow of vital energy found in breath, called prana () in India and Chi or Qi in China. Through meditative yoga techniques, the mind becomes easily focused and purified of extraneous thoughts.
Ultimately, yoga looks to unite the mind, body and spirit. Since tension at any level will impede progress in other areas, so whether the focus is on development of the body, mind or spirit, it will still bring holistic benefits.
FORMS OF YOGA
People are attracted to yoga for different reasons. Individuals focused on the body respond to any yoga with a focus on physical postures, while those attuned to introspection respond well to meditative exercises. Due to the variety of motivations for practicing yoga, various forms of yoga have developed over time.
The classical form of yoga found in the aphorisms of the sage Patanjali from around the 2nd century recommends eight practices called ashtanga. They are as follow:
- Yama Five restraints of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual purity and non-possessiveness
- Niyama Five Practices of purity, contentment, introspection, and self-surrender
- Asana Physical postures
- Pranayama Control of the breath
- Pratyahara Withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana Focused attention on a single object
- Dhyana Contemplation
- Samadhi Non-dualistic state of mind
Painting of Patanjali
The yoga outlined by Patanjali is called Ashtanga or Raja (“Royal”) Yoga, since it follows the royal path of first disciplining the mind. The mind controls the body, and so the emphasis in Raja Yoga is on development of the mind.
In contrast to Patanjali’s approach, Yogi Swatmarama, 15 century sage of India, introduced the system of Hatha Yoga through compiling the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This form of yoga is most familiar to Westerners. It starts with a focus on the health of the physical body, which can then lead to the purification of the mind and vital energy (prana).
Hatha Yoga is influenced by Tantra, a group of esoteric traditions that originated in India. Tantric ideas influenced the imagery of rotating energy vortices called Chakras (Sanskrit , “circle” or “spinning wheel”) and the kundalini energy lying dormant at the base of the spine. Even though many forms of yoga have developed over time, classical yoga of Patanjali and Hatha Yoga offers a unique contrast between them.
IMPORTANCE OF SANKHYA PHILOSOPHY
Yoga has roots in Sankhya, which is one of the eight philosophical schools in Hinduism. It regards the universe as comprised of two eternal realities, consciousness called purusha and the source of manifestation called prakriti. The duality between purusha-prakriti becomes an impediment through misidentification of limitless consciousness with only the physical body. Dicriminate knowledge can allow for the eternal and temporal to be differentiated, which is the conscious purusha and unconscious prakriti. The school is often called Sankhya-yoga because of the strong influence of sankhya on yoga.
So next time you associate yoga merely with a posture, recognize yoga is a rich and varied practice that can be multi-faceted.
Note: Deborah has experienced many aspects of yoga in her life experiences as a Certified Yoga Instructor and as a student of Swami Vishnudevanda, from philosophical discussions to physical and mental practice. Arvind has likewise delved into many aspects of yoga through personal study and practice. Through both of their understanding, they bring subtle aspects of yoga into the experience of Nexus.