One of the classical reasons for the practice of yoga postures is to practice directing the mind into the body, and into the here-and-now; the present moment.
This is meditation. Or I could say this is the beginning of meditation.
Often when we sit down to meditation without first practicing postures, we are distracted by the stiffness and tension in the body, as well as by the common fluctuations in the mind. Practicing postures beforehand soothes and energizes the body and helps to calm and focus the mind. I’m sure you’ve experienced this!
Sitting for meditation is the pathway to, and is representational of, taking an inner journey. The yogis believe that “God is within” and practicing yoga and meditation are taking steps along that Inner path towards “God” or “Union” or “Happiness” or “Dharma” or whatever we call it.
Gurus or true teachers in the yoga tradition use many methods to remind their students of this, and to have them practice methods of internal focusing. Said in a basic way, the Guru is teaching the student to look within, to remember that he or she is divine, and to live form that divinity. Each student’s pathway will look different, and this is a very key concept. J. Krishnamurti, the modern yogic philosopher, took this belief quite literally.
Krishnamurti is one of my favorite modern teachers of yoga philosophy (although it’s important to note that he didn’t call himself a Guru!). He was born in India and brought up between India and Europe, eventually settling in California. He was groomed by the Theosophical Society to essentially be a Guru, or as they called it, a “world leader.” And he did become a spiritual person and a great speaker.
In his mid-twenties he made a very yogic speech - as head of a branch of the Theosophical Society, he disbanded that branch of the Theosophical Society!
For years before making this audacious announcement, he had been “developing his own ultra-spare, individualistic approach to spiritual life, which emphasized the need for everyone to find his or her own path, unencumbered by rules or dogmas.” (M. Goldberg, ‘The Goddess Pose’ pg. 74)
In the famous speech to his followers, “he renounced the entire mystical edifice that the Theosophists had built around him. He said ‘I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect……..’You have the idea that only certain people hold the key to the Kingdom of Happiness. No one holds it. No one has the authority to hold that key. That key is your own self, and in the development and the purification and in the incorruptibility of that self alone is the Kingdom of Eternity.’ He was adamant that he wanted no followers. ” (pg. 79).