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The Secret is Out

      Much of the teachings of yoga was meant to be secret.  The analogy is given that if I light a candle in my dark room at night, the candle will light up every corner of the room and I can experience that the candle as having a big effect.  However if I take that same candle outdoors in a large forest or large field under the night sky the candle cannot possibly light up the outdoors like it does in the confines of a room. The teachings of yoga may have a huge impact on a single individual, but to put the teachings out into the whole wide world will have less impact and will be subject to much distortion and dilution. In a way this is what is happening to hatha yoga and yoga in general. Yoga was originally passed from an enlightened guru to student, not in the current form in the West of drop-in yoga classes.  

     Many places that teach yoga attempt to maintain the integrity of “hatha yoga” yet as it becomes more mainstream it loses its potency through misunderstanding.  Much like the game “operator” we played as a kid where we formed a line and the person at the beginning of the line would whisper a message to the next person and then that message would be whispered down the line until it reached the last person.  Inevitably, when the last person revealed the message received, it would be quite distorted from the original message. “Hocus pocus” would turn into something like “Here, smoke this.”  The message of hatha yoga has shifted from it being a preparation for raja yoga to obtain a higher state of consciousness,  and instead has become synonymous with physical movement practice that can strengthen the core, help low back pain, and release tension. Of course, a strong core, a healthy back and a relaxed body are worthy goals, they are just not the complete goal of yoga.  

     Hatha yoga is to work with the energies of the body through postures, breath, mudras, bhandas and purifying techniques to establish equilibrium of body and mental processes. This prepares the practitioner for raja yoga which is to ultimately obtain a higher state of consciousness known as samadhi. It is the experience of this higher state of reality that frees us from the pain and pitfalls of the mundane reality.

     So the secret is out of the bag, or is it?. While yoga is out in the broad public, the actual goal still seems to remain hidden.  “Operator, operator, can you connect me to “hatha yoga,” not “hat and toga?”


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