Yoga Is Conscious Union
By Stephanie Kristal, M.A., C.H.
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Yoga has become a household word. It has been incorporated into
television shows such as Dharma and Greg as well as commercial
advertising. Yoga has been so popularized in the West that in many
instances the essence of yoga has been sacrificed in its becoming
the latest fad. Most people who practice yoga are aware of the
numerous health benefits.
Some of the health benefits are:
strength, tone, flexibility and stamina
increased lung capacity
stimulation of the flow of lymphatic fluid
enhanced functioning of all of the systems of the body
balance of the endocrine system
decrease in depression and anxiety
increased concentration and focus
balance of emotions
increase in self-confidence, self esteem and body image
experience of balance, integration and wholeness
Hatha Yoga is the type of yoga that is most widely
practiced in the United States. In this type of practice the focus
is on doing postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama)
and guided relaxation. Hatha Yoga is a part of Classical Yoga (Raja
Yoga- the royal path). It is a vital part of the journey but not
Maharishi Patanjali wrote the classical yoga text the Yoga Sutras
around 200BC. This text describes an eight-limbed path (ashtanga)
that is a systematic approach to Self-Realization. The eight limbs
1. Yama: moral precepts - truthfulness, non-violence, non-stealing,
2. Niyama: qualities to nourish - purity, contentment, austerity,
3. Asana: a calm, steady stance (posture) in relation to life and
4. Pranayama: control of breath and life force energy
5. Pratyhara: withdrawal of the senses
6. Dharana: concentration
7. Dhyana: meditation
8. Samadhi: ecstatic union
The yoga Sutras 2 and 3 as follows describe the true goal or aim
Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify
itself with its vacillating waves of perception.
When this happens, the Seer is revealed resting in its own essential
The above interpretation of the sutras is
from Mukunda Stiles, creator of Structural Yoga Therapy. Mukunda
goes on to say, "The
goal of yoga is to merge the mind into the True Self, and thus
to be true to your Self in all thoughts, words and deeds."
Hatha Yoga represents stages 3 and 4 of the eight-limbed path.
Hatha Yoga brings about the Unity of the mind, body and spirit.
Through this practice, the body is toned, strengthened and healed
so that a transformation in consciousness can occur.
Through hatha yoga, we begin the practice of moving into stillness
in both body and mind. As we move into, hold and move out of the
postures as a form of dynamic meditation, our awareness increases
and we become a witness to our experience in a loving and non-judgmental
way. In doing so, we strengthen our capacity be fully present in
our bodies and in our lives.
As we hold the intention to simply be present, our hearts open
more fully and we become aware of the vast spaciousness of our
heart. We begin to understand that our heart has the capacity to
embrace with compassion and love the full range of our life's experience
- the joy, pain, bliss, sadness, confusion, and clarity.
As we learn to keep coming back to the breath as a way back into
our bodies and as an anchor to the present moment, we feel our
minds moving into stillness. This does not mean that we stop all
thoughts or feelings but rather we acknowledge their presence in
the field of our awareness. We hold an intention to not react to
every thought but rather to see thoughts and feelings arising and
dissolving as waves or clouds drifting by. We learn to not buy
into our thoughts and we begin to divest them of their emotional
charge. We can then see that out thoughts are separate from who
we really are- that we are not our thoughts.
Just as a lake reflects the clouds and trees on a calm, still
day, so to our minds can reflect our true Self when it is undisturbed.
As we drop deeper into stillness, we begin to move through the
layers of our being (koshas) from the most dense - our physical
body to the most subtle – the bliss body. It is as if we are peeling
an onion and as we move through these various layers, the mind
stops identifying itself with all of the mental constructs that
have defined us for so long. We are not our bodies, we are not
our thoughts, we are not our ego, personality, roles we play, and
identities we have taken on. When we dive deeper inside we feel
the mind, body and spirit in balance and we experience unity consciousness
– the “harmony and at-onement”* that we are. Our true nature reveals
itself and we realize we are luminous, radiant, eternal, blissful
energy beings. We feel how the Divine energy within us connects
us to all other beings and with all that is. All separation between
self and other fades away and we experience the conscious union
that is yoga.
* Gerald Jampolsky's description in Love Is Letting Go Of Fear
Kristal is is a Hypnotherapist and Integrative Yoga
Therapist with a private practice working with individuals
and couples in Woodstock and Kingston, New York. Stephanie's
work is creating safe and sacred space in which she guides
people in accessing their own inner wisdom and insight for
healing and developing inner and outer resources for self-empowerment
and to support their journey. Stephanie has been a practitioner
of yoga and mindfulness for over 30 years and these disciplines
inform both her personal and professional life. She also
teaches workshops for girls and young women on developing
positive body image, self-esteem and taking a critical look
at the negative impact of media and advertising related to
these issues. Stephanie is also the author of numerous articles
and a contributor to the book Help Me To Heal by Bernie Siegel
and Yosaif August. Stephanie resides in upstate New York
with her soulmate John, two beautiful daughters and various
animal friends. You can e-mail Stephanie at [email protected].