I have now switched over to Part Three in Tree of Yoga…wanted to get this in before Marla arrives…hope to see many of you at the Yoga Summer Camp this week…so excited!!
Part Three is about “Yoga and Health” and in the first few chapters BKS Iyengar is making sure that we understand what “health” means according to yoga – it is not just physical health, because “Where there is mind, there is body; where there is body, there is soul; where there is soul, there is mind.” (pg 81), so our health must be looked at holistically.
This term “holistic” is trendy and I think we all have a certain idea of what it means, but he makes the point that it means “the whole” and it also means “holy”. We must move toward an integration of our whole being, including our soul and spirit to be truly healthy.
“Yoga is a science for liberating the soul by bringing the consciousness, the mind and the body to a stage of integration.” (pg 86)
But this all does not mean that the health of the body in unimportant and approaching yoga from the level of the body is somehow less effective. As he states, all the levels of our being ARE connected whether you notice, realize, or aware of that fact…yoga is just a great tool to come to the full realization and also understanding of the WHOLE and HOLY self.
“Though the aim and culmination of yoga is the sight of the soul, it has lots of beneficial side effects, among which are health, happiness, peace, and poise.” (pg 86)
We have to take full advantage and use of this tool of yoga, so the more information about our own self and what makes us unhealthy can be important. The “cosmology” of yoga and even the most basic knowledge of what Ayurveda (the medical aspect of yoga) is can be helpful to empower yourself and your health.
When yoga looks at illness it is the result of some imbalance within the self. This can happen on many different levels – mind, body, soul – and through many different avenues – elements (earth, water, air, fire, ether), gunas (energies), dosas (qualities of our nature explained on pg 90 and 91). As I mentioned in my Wednesday night “Beyond the Asana” class the other evening, it is not that you even need to know every detail of all these elements and ideas, but just to know the concept exists and that these levels and layers of the self all hold keys to our health or disease can be quite helpful…expands the consciousness through information.
But as Patanjali (also described a bit more in detail in the “Health and Wholeness chapter) in The Yoga Sutras warns us so many times not to become complacent in practice, in the last paragraph on pg 92 reminds us that the Niyamas (personal observances) and the three part of Kriya Yoga (the yoga of action) do not end with just sauca (cleanliness), santosa (contentment), and tapas (discipline).
Yoga also fully involves svadhyaya (self study) and Isvara-pranidhana (a surrender to a higher power or source). Without these last two, we miss the deepest forms of health and happiness that the soul can experience.