Yoga orients us to Nature, which it calls prakriti. It tells us that to know our inner Being (purusha), we must harmonize our outer nature (prakriti), according to which our bodies and minds function. Yoga is closely connected to nature and teaches us to return to natural living as the foundation for the spiritual life. But in the yogic view, nature is not some unconscious force; it is pervaded by the light of consciousness and reflects a deeper wisdom and grace.
In this regard, yoga teaches us that there are three great qualities called gunas that are operative behind all the processes of nature:
• Sattva: intelligence, light, harmony, balance, calmness, devotion
• Rajas: energy, life, movement, change, passion, agitation
• Tamas: matter, inertia, stasis, darkness, dullness, resistance
Yoga practice consists of two stages. The first is developing sattva guna, or harmony and light, in the body and mind. The second is going beyond sattva guna to the purusha, or higher Self, that transcends the outer world of time and space. To develop sattva guna requires that we live a life of honesty, truthfulness, non-violence, compassion and devotion. To go beyond sattva guna means that we must learn to perceive our true Self as the reality and not simply regard virtuous living as an end in itself.
Yoga teaches us to develop sattva guna in our food, behavior, relationships, work and spiritual practices. It teaches us to let go of rajas, or turbulence, aggression and agitation within us. And it helps us to remove tamas, the darkness, inertia, ignorance and confusion we might have.
In the modern world, we are caught up in a culture of doing. This involves traveling, working out, taking programs and seminars, pursuing a variety of entertainments and the many things that have come to fill up our hectic daily lives. If we approach yoga, we usually want to know what yoga can do for us, what yoga practices we can add to our repertoire of activities to make our schedule more complete.
However, real yoga is about being, not simply about doing. Yoga teaches us to know ourselves, which is not a product of outer activity. It teaches us to contact our inner being, which is obscured by outer actions and pursuits. Yoga provides us a great revelation in this regard. We don’t ultimately need to do anything at all to be happy. We need only come to rest within our true nature. This is like returning to the center of the universe that everything else must move around!
Real yoga is about non-doing. Much of our unhappiness and even disease arises from the fact that we are already doing too much. We have no time, not even for ourselves, much less for our loved ones. We are constantly on the go and yet never seem to arrive at any place that we want to stay at very long.
Yoga is about doing less and being more present wherever we are and in whatever we need to do. Yoga is not simply something new, but a better way of using the faculties and resources we already have. Yoga asanas are about moving the body more slowly and ultimately bringing it into state of stillness. Yogic meditation is about slowing down the mind and creating a state of deep calm and unwavering inner peace that does not require any outer entertainment. A yogic lifestyle is about not bringing any harm or interference into the lives of others.
Yoga is not so much a new achievement but a means of letting go and relaxing into the infinite. Yoga philosophy is a philosophy of being. You are all that you need to be. But to discover that, you must move aside the veils of the body, mind and senses and discover the essence of your being.