In the West, we think of yoga as a workout for the body. From Hot or Power to Yin or Restorative, the focus is usually on the
physical. But the truth beyond the spandex is that yoga practice is a state of mind. It is experienced best when the mind is calm, without distractions. That’s when the real mind-body connection can be made.
And you don’t need to move through a strenuous sequence of poses to get there. But it certainly helps. The poses in yoga are designed to build strength, increase mobility and improve the ease with which your body moves. But there is a huge, often-forgotten component of a yoga practice that requires no movement at all.
Yoga’s ancient text, The Living Gita, presents four distinct paths—Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Ra-ja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Each is described as leading us back to our True Self.
This month we are exploring Jnana Yoga (pronounced gyanna)—the path to wisdom. By learning about various texts in yoga philosophy and building a meditation and personal practice, we can increase our knowledge of self.
Traditionally, at the outset of embarking on this path, we may study under a guru (meaning one who brings you from darkness to light). This is how yoga knowledge was historically passed down. But today you need look no further than the public library for books and various translation of yoga philosophy.
Once you understand the philosophy, you can start building a meditation practice—sitting in silence while focusing on quieting the mind. Don’t be discouraged if you find your mind wandering; it’s called practice for a reason! The more you do it, the better you’ll become.
Take time to reflect on your practice by reading some of your favourite passages or journaling. This is a yoga philosophy that should be discussed and analyzed. What you read and how you interpret it will be a reflection of your past experiences and present circumstances. It is a deeply personal practice.
Jnana Yoga can be quite profound and beyond what you experience in a traditional Yoga class. If you are looking to take your practice deeper, look for new avenues that don’t rely solely on movement or a teacher to guide you. You can be your own guru on the pathway to wisdom.
More Insight: Check out this great article on how to age with resilience.
Author: Lisa Greenbaum, E-RYT 500 and C-IAYT yoga therapist, has worked with many individuals by using yoga to release trauma, find ease from chronic pain and tension and develop a deeper connection to mind, body and spirit. She has over 750 hours of yoga education and logged 4,000+ teaching hours. She is also a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer with canfitpro, and a Women in Fitness Association (WIFA) Global Ambassador.