What's in the ancient teachings for the every day man?

Many of u know by now that asana, or postural practice, is not all yoga has to offer. Meditation has made its way into the mainstream and, thanks to yoga festivals and community centres around the world, other branches of yoga are starting to surface as well. But what if you are not into 'new age', you don't feel any alignment with any form of spiritual or religious practice and you can't be bothered finding time for sadhana (regular practice). Then what does yoga offer you?

Most Westerners have some affiliation with or sympathy for philosophy and science. Believe it or not, yoga is actually both. To keep it simple though let's come back to our question: what use could the vast and unfathomable body of knowledge that lies in the tantra shastras, the upanishads, the yoga sutras, and so forth, have for someone who is not looking for another subculture or a change of lifestyle. I like to call it; the change in perspective.

In reality anything in life is 'yoga', everything is practice and offers an opportunity for growing awareness. We like to throw the word 'mindful' around but even that may be a step too far. So let's take it back even more. What if all you change about yourself is the realization that you could change something? Good enough already. If you are willing to take it a bit further, please keep reading.

The most systematic approach to yoga is possibly the raja yoga path as explained in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Lets be honest, we don't really get much further than stage 5 in the 8 fold path, but still, we like the idea of a road with stations we can reach, it works for a thinking mind, which we all deal with. The idea is simple; in life you can enhance towards liberation by systematically working on your software and hardware until it runs the cleanest and most advanced programs.

So what does Patanjali teach 'us', as in literally everyone ? In essence we can see the theory of yoga as a sort of reversed social psychology. In anthropological studies we distinguish the body/mind complex in its context of the body's looks, the immediate social surroundings, the larger social surroundings and so forth. Yoga works from the body inwards; from the flesh to the mind to the spirit.

Why would we wanna get there? Because it is omnipotent and has all layers of consciousness, so infinite phantasy and pleasure basically, bliss. Is this a believe still? Yes... but let's say that most people have some intuitive experience that backs up this little bit of a priori info to make the application of yoga useful. Even if you don't believe in the use of meditation, or a way to move inward, even then the sutra's are useful.

The how to as derived from the sutras in many direct translations and comments, often sounds almost like a doctrine on an uber disciplined lifestyle and practice. But if you sorta squint your eyes and look at it with more contemporary light, raja yoga basically teaches us the following lessons, which each can use as a non religious base for an evolution of happiness.

- If you want peace of mind (which is what makes you 'happy') first make sure you don't do stuff you don't feel ok with, sounds logical right. There are many sins you will and won't commit. Be consistent, be you, be truthful, even in a sense 'be moral', not by societies standard but by your own, this will open you up for every other aspect of life (and meditation) and grant access to feelings of happiness.

- If you feel like you have that positive relation with your social surroundings, you are not in constant drama because of your own patterns anymore, then make good friends with yourself; find inner joy, inner peace, self worth, the limits of knowledge and wisdom, and most of all acceptance of what 'is' and surrender to live, aka, you are not in control or to blame.

- When you are friend with yourself you gonna want to live in your body, move that vessel, get into its corners, you can lean to grab something, stretch to reach something, bend to move out of the way of something and so forth. You are as dynamic and flexible in life as you are in your body. No you don't have to do headstands and contortionist backbends, but yes you will be more 'you' if you use your tissues and cells.

- When you can move or stay still as desired by yourself, boy what a bliss, then the impact of the world around you will be able to fall away and disappear. The world itself will still be there but no longer will your mood and stream of thoughts be a constant reaction to outward stuff (that you don't control anyway).

- Once the shit storm outside doesn't drip through your umbrella, you can focus on what matters to you. Wether it be your creative expression, your inner state, your life, your family, … you will find your focal point and be able to stick with it.

- Once your focus is there, you will reach anything because it will give you energy to keep going because it is not wasted by distraction. This energy is no longer your effort, just a consequence of an intense but easy focus.

- Once this energy is there, you can go beyond. What that means to you is what you will experience, your bliss is yours.

Now that's a contemporary read of the eight limbs of yoga that apply to you, even if you don't own a polyester mat or pants, burn incense or sit crosslegged twice a day. Yoga is for everyone, believe it or not.

Op November 4, 2020