Most of us think of yoga as a healing practice. A veritable silver bullet for all the things that ail us.
Right now, yoga itself needs to be healed.
Far from its original Eastern roots, yoga today is a glossy, filtered photo of someone bending. Or, it’s a pair of expensive stretchy pants. It is time to both bring yoga back to its roots, and to move it forward into a practice that works for us—a practice that actually brings us to the state of yoga.
Yoga, as a state of mind and spirit, is not a far-fetched, esoteric privilege of the Indian holy. Rather, it is totally accessible for everyone…so long as we have the right tools. Yoga as we know it is missing key elements. It’s been skewed from its original state and repackaged in such a way that we often miss the greatest benefit it has to offer:
The word bliss is the translation of ananda, a Sanskrit word that describes our true nature. This is what we experience in elevated states of psychospiritual integration, or enlightenment. Bliss is something that all of us understand. When a piece of art takes our breath away, when we are lost in the eyes of a loved one, or when we find ourselves on a beach paradise, we experience this state…but only for a brief moment. It passes quickly, and we get back to our mundane experiences. The trick is not to find bliss, but rather, to sustain bliss.
We can all do this. We need the right tools. Unfortunately, modern yoga practice has evolved in such a way that focuses so much on the physical practice that it almost entirely overlooks the whole point of yoga; blissful integration. Many of us think that this enlightened state is not for us, or that it is impossible. Neither is true, and, in fact, we are more well equipped today to reach this state if we are willing to move our yoga practice to the deeper reaches of our psyche and soul.
Yoga is spiritual psychology.
It is spiritual because there is a core understanding in yoga philosophy that there is something greater than our small self; something beyond our ego that operates in and through us. And, it is the ego that prevents us from fully connecting to it. Yoga contains psychological practices designed to calm, or crack the ego in order to provide access to what is beyond it. This is where yoga must be improved upon.
Luckily, the book on yoga was not closed 2,000 years ago. New information can be added, and it must be added, for it to become the healing practice we all believe it is. In order to make our yoga practice whole and complete so that it makes us whole and complete, we need to shed light on the power of the unconscious. For the most part, the yoga practice overlooks this vast reservoir within us.
Even meditation, with all of its extraordinary benefits, still does not get to the heart of the matter.
I discovered this years ago after dedicating myself to a consistent meditation practice only to realize I had simply gotten better at meditating over all the hurt and anger. While meditation helps loosen the grip of the ego, it does little to resolve the tender wounds of our psyche that consistently hold us back from thriving, evolving and connecting.
In order to create resolution and healing, we must delve more deeply into ourselves than the current modern yoga practice allows. Many in the spiritual community end up as “spiritual casualties” when they aim for transformation through yoga practices only to fall short of true resolution, recapitulating the hurt over and over on the yoga room floor. To make modern yoga a truly transformative practice, we need to address the spiritual and psychological function of the psyche.
Otherwise, we find ourselves with a god-sized hole.
In order to fill this properly and satisfy all the parts of ourself, we must do practices that create a strong dialogue between conscious and unconscious, between outer and inner self. In the vein of the great alchemical saying, we must realize, “As above, so below.” We do this by making yoga a personal mythology.
A personal mythology is the development of a holistic belief system derived from the symbols and archetypes that are most alive within you; it incorporates personal ritual and a moral code alongside a structure for personal development.
We live in unique time—a time when people deny or question their faith or belief—so yoga needs to be not merely a physical practice, but a valid personal mythology that is capable of restoring a sense of deep connection to our source: yoga is a pathway to personal bliss.
Ritual is one of the most powerful and effective ways to bridge the gap between conscious and unconscious and elevate yoga into our personal mythological practice. When we are ready to usher in a new state of being and release an old one that no longer serves us, we enact a ritual that catalyzes this change on every level possible in a way that is integrated, holistic, and alchemical.
Just as the alchemists of old transformed base metals into gold, we do the same with the contents of our own psyche through the power of yoga.
Just as the alchemists didn’t simply “think” the base metal into gold but had to put it through the fires of transformation, our yoga practices are the crucible by which our own transformation occurs. These practices bring us face to face with what is alive within us—the archetypes of our psyche, the desires of our soul, the wounds of our childhood—in order to bring forth what will ultimately save us. When we ritualize our practices, we make them that much more potent by taking them from a rote activity to a spiritual activity capable of complete healing and connection with ourselves— with our bliss.