Since the last twenty years, I’ve been offering the sacred music of India in various – what they call - Yoga festivals, in Europe and outside Europe. What i observe, is that a lot of the focus of the participants and the teachers in these Yoga festivals goes only in the āsanas. What is really the fact is that in the Patañjali’s Yoga sūtras which are a total of one hundred and ninety six, there are very few which are actually focused on āsana, because Yoga is an eight-fold path where āsana is only one dimension – the other seven dimensions are also equally important.
As a matter of fact, āsana simply prepares the practitioner for prānayām and āsana and prānāyam together simply prepares the practitioner eventually for dhyāna (meditation), dhāranā (willpower, concentration or what we call sankalpa) and samādhi (the state of oneness). So then, to have so much focus on āsana and kind of neglecting the other dimensions is a little imbalanced. The actual meaning of Yoga is “to be in a state of union,” so actually one should not say, “let’s do Yoga” because one cannot “do” Yoga. One can do different practices to be simply in the state of Yoga, so ‘Yoga’ as in its fullest potential is a consequence of various practices and also a certain level of intelligence. In combination of all these, the real Yoga simply happens, one cannot ‘do it.’ Having grown up in India, and I was lucky that I was in interaction with various enlightened masters from different paths – those masters are known truly as yogis.
When I go to this Yoga festivals, a lot of people, whether they are teachers or practitioners, they happily claim, “I am a Yogi, I am a Yogini…” let me tell you one fact, which is how it happens in India: there are many, many enlightened people who have existed there; who even exist now, and although some of them may have practiced the path of Yoga, but many of them may have never have gone this path (meaning āsana, prānāyam and all those dimensions) but still, simply because of the fact that they are awakened ones, they are truly known as Yogis. And a true Yogi, will never say that, “I am a Yogi or Yogini.” For him, it is an ultimate fact what he is, and he or she does not need to claim this status – simply their being is enough to generate that vibrance of yogic energy without them saying a single word and claiming about their yogic state of being.
Also, as I’ve understood from these enlightened masters is that Yoga is not really about the body, about making the body fit and flexible – it is much more than that, and it is much more beyond the body. In fact, the ultimate state is to come to a point where one realizes that one is not the body. So all this focus on the ‘physicality’ of the āsana and Yoga actually is distorting the depth of Yoga and one needs to go a little bit beyond that physical aspect of Yoga and go in the deeper dimensions where one can touch the dimensions of dhāranā, dhyāna and samādhi – which is the ultimate state in which one happens to be in the state of Yoga. So as it is understood, āsana is simply a helpful tool to prepare the body for longer durations of meditations; it simply helps the body to stay more ‘un-moving’ and stabilized and in this way create more awareness, more sensitivity, more alertness; which can be carried-forward in the day-to-day life, in the day-to-day actions, in the day-to-day responses to people. So when that awareness enters in our day-to-day life then actually the Yoga is being lived.
It is not just about ‘doing a perfect āsana’ but, does that awareness come in our life and does it get applied in our interaction with people where we act in full consciousness, full awareness, full alertness, full sensitivity? I think that is where the actual application of all the dimensions of Yoga are made, and in that way, a life of excellence is being lived.
So as a conclusion, when these ‘Yoga’ festivals are being organized, the organizers can look into offering the Yoga in its full dimension and not just āsana, then all the aspects of Yoga are covered and the actual wisdom will be transferred to people who are really interested in leading a Yogic life, applying all the aspects, all the limbs of Yoga in their daily lives.