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The Deeper Teachings of Yoga
by Pamela Joy Swift

     Yoga is a Hindu word originating from an ancient language called Sanskrit, and it literally means “to yoke” or “union”.  The essential meaning of the word yoga is “returning to wholeness”. More specifically, the purpose of yoga practices is to develop a conscious awareness of all our perceived levels of experience: physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual, so that we may develop a state of consciousness that perceives these levels of experience as only one experience. In yoga teachings, that is often referred to as “the oneness consciousness”.

     The deeper teachings of yoga show us that this misunderstanding of reality, this belief that there is a “you” and there is a “me” separate from each other, is what keeps us from experiencing happiness and wholeness. In Sanskrit this happiness and wholeness is expressed as sat chit ananda. Translated literally, it means truth, bliss, and consciousness. It is the ego and its judging mind that continually misunderstands and misrepresents the truth of reality. The judging mind and its created illusionary reality obstruct us from seeing the divine truth. In authentic yoga practices we are guided to let go of this misperception of duality, and move the focus of our mind away from the misperceived separateness. The deeper teachings of yoga begin with instruction on how to become more keenly aware of our physical bodies and the life force flowing in and out of us as the breath. Then, it guides the student to an awareness of the energy moving through us as emotions and thoughts. From that state of awareness, the student simply lets go of all doing, and flows into the “oneness consciousness”.

     In short, Yoga is a science of self-awareness that seeks the realization of the unity of our humanity with our divinity. Many yoga practices strive only to develop a physically and mentally healthy being. It is only when yoga instruction includes the deeper teachings of “oneness consciousness” that yoga students experience the truth and bliss the ancient yogis discovered and wrote about thousands of years ago.

     There are many forms of Yoga. They all are intended to lead to the awareness of the union of the individual self with the divine Self. The main categories of yogic teachings include Hatha Yoga (postures and breath), Jnana Yoga (study of the scriptures), Bhakti Yoga (devotion and selfless love), Karma Yoga (service in action), Mantra Yoga (sound and vibration), and Raja Yoga (control of the mind). Each with their own discipline designed to guide the yoga student from a misperceived view of the world as separate from themselves, to an experience of the “oneness consciousness”.

     Although yoga practices and its spiritual teachings were developed about 5,000 years ago in the Vedic culture of India, it didn’t come to America until Swami Vivekenanda addressed the World Parliament of religions in Chicago in 1893. It became more widely known in the western world in 1946 through the work of Parahmansa Yogananda, with his book Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda taught the deeper teachings of yoga to the western world in California until his death in 1952. Since then, many teachers and styles of yoga have made their way to America. Some of the more popular Hatha Yoga styles practiced here in the West are Iyangar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Anasura Yoga, and Kripalu Yoga, to name just a few.

     My personal yoga practice, and the style I have taught for almost 30 years now, is Kripalu Yoga. Kripalu Yoga first came to America when Yogi Amrit Desai arrived in 1960 to study art at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1970 he had a profound yoga experience that led him to adapt his guru’s traditional yoga teachings into a format that suited the needs of active Westerners. He named this style of yoga: Kripalu Yoga, after his guru, Swami Kripaluvanandji. 

     Kripalu Yoga teachings begin with a focus on prana, the life force that is coming and going with the breath, and deepen with learning to harness the life force for healing and spiritual growth. It has been called “Meditation in Motion” because it emphasizes the breath moving the body in a meditative state, rather than contrived or systematic posture sequences. Kripalu Yoga is presented in three main stages. Initially, body and breath awareness is taught, then, holding the posture and attuning to prana is encouraged, and finally, developing into the experience of meditation in motion, as the body moves effortlessly through a spontaneous yoga flow. 

   The underlying message of Kripalu yoga is to develop a healthy and strong body, an open and caring heart, and a peaceful and clear mind. Through the ongoing practice of Kripalu Yoga you will come to know your divine Self, and you will witness your life, and the world around you, not as separate, but as the “oneness consciousness”.

In loving service,
Jai Bhagwan,
Pamela Joy Swift


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