Yoga is a path that can lead us to complete personal freedom and unconditional love. But how? Is freedom found in doing some poses or sitting and watching the mind whirl in meditation? And what is freedom really?
free·dom – ˈfrēdəm –noun
- the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
We are influenced in our actions, thoughts and words by a lifetime of conditioning, beliefs, and habits. We act as we are supposed to, think they way we always have, and speak words we think come from us. But as we watch our thoughts and behaviors we realize we are not acting from complete freedom.
Universally, we yearn for so much more, to love without restraint, to speak what is true, to act in accordance with what is best for all, and to have some control over the mind, our greatest ally and fiercest critic.
Bear with me here, I’m going to pull out some scripture. If you wish, you can replace ‘Lord your God’ in this verse with your word for the Divine, the ineffable, the Spirit-that-moves-in-all-things or with anything else you sense you’d like to love more fully.
In Luke 10 verse 27 in the NIV version of the Bible, Jesus states:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”
In order to Love this fully, we need to be free, without hindrance or restraint in action, word, or thought, don’t you agree? Otherwise our love will be something less than ‘with all…‘. But how? What does yoga have to do with this? Is it truly possible to love God, nature, our partner, children, parents, friends with all of our heart and soul and strength and mind?
In the Yoga Sutras, we are given guidelines for yoga practice. Some of them teach us to withdraw the senses into the body, to learn focus our concentration so that we can bring our ‘all‘ to a single effort or feeling or action or yoga pose. There is a sanskrit term, sthira, commonly translated as ‘steady, comfortable’, but also representing the ideas of vigilance, fortitude, staying present with our experience. In the practice of yoga, we are given many opportunities to cultivate steadiness. We practice holding a steady posture, steady breath, steady gaze, and ready smile.
When we keep the body, breath, eyes and expression steady, the mind will also become steady. They are linked. Yoga sometimes is translated ‘to yoke’, and when we yoke our attention to the body and breath, the mind comes into the present. It’s like the mind doesn’t want to be left out, and if the body and breath and eyes are held in the present the mind will come along for the experience, instead of being so quick to rush to other sensations outside the body or thoughts of past or future.
The Yoga Sutras are an ancient practice manual collected around 400 years before Christ. Yoga Sutra 1.13 states: “Effort towards steadiness of mind is practice”. So we show up for our yoga and meditation every day, applying discipline to our efforts. After some time of mindful practice: minutes, days, months, or years; our senses will turn inward. Yoga Sutra 1.29 states: “From this practice, all the obstacles disappear and simultaneously dawns knowledge of the inner self.”
When we practice steadiness of mind, knowledge of the inner self dawns. With knowledge of the inner self we can listen and operate from the path of the heart, from our soul. Then we gain the ability to love with all of us, with complete freedom! Loving our work, our spouse, our God, loving what-is, even if painful, with all of us, becomes possible when we practice yoga and begin to release years of conditioning.
You can start today! Wherever you are, check out any of the thousands of online resources, or come to the Yoga Farm, and learn with us. Or start today, with five minutes a day, every day, of quiet meditation, watching the breath, just being you.