Esoteric yoga - everyday life is the yoga class
Esoteric yoga - everyday life is the yoga class
As a child looking at the sky it always seemed as if the Sun was moving; going up, across and then down. And then all over again. Even having learned at school that the Earth was round and its rotation caused the day and night cycle, the perception remained that the Sun would be the one that moved across the sky. The words sunrise and sunset reinforced this illusion.
By the time I had become an adult I had found many of those perceptions that don’t represent the whole truth as it is. Our skin colour for example, gives us the notion that we are different beings – we have words for that too: the different races. Our differences in physical shape give us the perception that we are all different and divided beings: a perception so often conveyed – for aeons – that it appears to be our normal, our accepted truth. Since I knew from the sun example how easily our mind gets fooled, I was open to consider an alternative to our western accepted truth when I first heard about Yoga.
Yoga is said to be the remedy to all illusionary perceptions. Yoga, meaning ‘Union’ or ‘Oneness’, is a Science about living life free of the illusion.
But isn’t it a bold claim to make – that we are all one? After all, there is more than enough scientific proof that every human being is a precisely delineated individual! If my neighbour breaks his leg, he has the pain, not me. That clearly shows we are separate. And thank God I don’t have to suffer the pain of another’s broken leg.
So what does it mean, this Yoga = Union / Oneness? More specifically, what does it mean for us in the 21st century where humanity seems to be as divided as never before?
Or is this just our perception, again?
Around the year 2000 as a student at University I had access to free Hatha Yoga classes; I quickly became an astute student of Hatha Yoga, visiting 4 classes a week, practising asana (body posture) and meditation sometimes twice a day. I also studied Yoga philosophy and read about famous ancient Indian sages such as Patanjali.
My friends used to call me a Yogi because my whole life was orchestrated around Yoga exercises: there had been dietary adjustments, my body had become fitter and extremely flexible and in my mind I was reciting mantras (usually Sanskrit syllables representing certain aspects of a Hindu deity) during most of my day’s activities, be it on my bike, doing the dishes, brushing teeth, etc.
But despite of all this effort there was no sensation of Oneness or Unity, neither in my body nor with others. Emotions like sadness, anger, frustration and feeling hurt were part of my every day. I didn’t feel at one with anybody around me, and I had arguments with my partner regularly. No ‘Shanti’ (Peace) although I was chanting it a lot. I also experienced lots of jealousy from other Yoga students because of my dedication and success in performing Hatha Yoga. All this confirmed my perception that humans were definitively divided and not One Soul. Maybe this Yoga business wasn’t true after all? Was the concept of Oneness maybe just a clever marketing strategy?
To find out more I deepened my dedication… maybe I still wasn’t trying hard enough. So I moved to live with a Guru in a Hatha Yoga Ashram (like a Hindu monastery) for a while and studied to become a Hatha Yoga teacher.
After practising and eventually teaching Hatha Yoga for more than a decade there was still no sensation of Unity or Oneness in my everyday life. This clearly didn’t come from lack of commitment on my part – I knew this for sure now. At this point I assumed there might be something wrong with our current approach to Yoga.
When I read Patanjali’s Sutras (you could call it the bible of a Yogi), it all seemed to be so much simpler than what the complex varieties of Yoga schools proclaim Yoga to be in today’s western and eastern societies.
I had tried different forms of Yoga by this point, only to find out that they all varied in rules, but not in essence, and because I hadn’t found a true alternative I stopped practising Yoga.
So, when I eventually got to know Esoteric Yoga, I hadn’t practiced asana or meditation for a while.
In my first 60-minute beginners’ class I was so bored that I even got frustrated with the teacher. Just making a few gentle movements? That’s what I paid for?
But how surprised was I as the class went on. With no effort, no strain at all, I felt more settled, rejuvenated and vital than after any Yoga session I had ever had. The key difference for me was – the focus was not on the outcome but on the quality of the movement and posture that I was choosing. I was simply asked to feel my body and move it in a way that I felt was honouring my body and my being.
That was groundbreaking.
As a Hatha Yoga teacher I had been trained to instruct participants how and when to breathe and how and when to move their body. In this Esoteric Yoga class the teacher gave me permission to move and breathe how I felt was true for me. After only 5 -10 minutes I felt a Union – a Union within me and between me and my body.
Our body is one unit. We normally just don’t move the body as such, we move it compartmentalised and usually unconsciously. At times we only move thoughts inside our heads. It’s such a reduction of who we are!
Through the simple way in which the Esoteric Yoga teacher talked us through the session, I felt how all my body parts were sensibly joined, hence a very simple sensation of Union flooding my cells. That was literally sensational. The Union I had read books and books about was felt throughout my body only 5 -10 minutes into the class.
Because of the effortlessness of Esoteric Yoga, I was immediately able to implement this into my everyday life very simply by shifting the focus on the quality of how my body felt in each moment and in what quality I wanted to move it, rather than by just focussing on outcomes.
It was more than 6 months before I took my next Esoteric Yoga class, but because its principle was so simple I had been able to change the way I’d move my body.
Before Esoteric Yoga I used to be able to watch 3 movies in a row, which was pleasant, but no real fun in the end because I didn’t get things done afterwards and thus created stress and fatigue. Focussing on how my body feels, this was not possible anymore. After 2 movies my back would hurt a little, my eyes were itchy, my legs felt heavy and at the same time restless.
Being aware of this my TV consumption faded little by little, and this is just one example of my life that profoundly changed just by applying this one principle of my first Esoteric Yoga class: to feel what my body was communicating.
In the following years I booked a couple of 6-week Esoteric Yoga classes. As you can see, not many classes were needed, such is the simplicity of it. That very much resonated with the feeling I had always had with Patanjali’s Sutras.
I understood that the actual Esoteric Yoga session is in truth not the session itself – everyday life is! My focus was not on the class or meditation itself, but more so on the details of moving through the day. I hadn’t been aware that there is a sensation in my fingertips when I hold the banister walking down the stairways. Esoteric Yoga had ignited that awareness, just by being consciously present, feeling the body while it is moving.
The first feeling of unity came from this simple experience. My body felt at one, moving in such awareness. Before, my body had been one of those walking heads. Walking down the stairs had only been to get from A to B. Never had I enjoyed the way. Most of the times I wouldn’t even remember how I got from A to B, or I had forgotten what I wanted to do and had to go back to try and remember.
With Esoteric Yoga, life became a whole-body experience and this was no less spectacular than being born again.
I knew I had found what I had always been looking for. And the magic had just started to unfold. It was like a chain reaction, where the ripple effects slowly but continually spread from aspect to aspect of my life. Being aware in my body lead to more acts of true self-love and self-nurturing which lead to being less hectic, to a more equanimous flow from chore to chore, to being more relaxed around my partner, colleagues and friends, to being more settled in difficult situations, to eventually being so settled that I would rarely react to people and situations anymore.
It was then that I started to understand, from my body, that humans are One, actually. My perception of division had stemmed from me reacting to people, so from something I did. The division wasn’t an outer fact. It was only truly happening in my body.
Being disconnected causes reactions. In reaction the One Space that we all occupy gets polluted and makes it appear as if there is division. There is indeed a discontinuity of Space when I react, but it’s a self-created reality that immediately ceases when I return to move in conscious presence.
Yes, we all occupy different bodies, but we share the same space, and without my reaction the emphasis moves from the physical division towards the space that’s the same in my body, around me and in all others.
That’s my experience of Yoga now. Being and Moving in One Space. The One Space that’s holding us all impulses a quality of movement in every human being that can be felt in conscious presence. Moving the body in accord to this impulse cuts through the lies of division and restores true Yoga, being One, as our everyday life.