Are you ready for Yoga?

by Dr. Kausthub Desikachar

It is an era when everyone is into Yoga. Well... almost everyone. When I was growing up I thought I was a freak, as only my parents and grand parents were into it. But today almost everyone I meet has either tried, or is maintaining a regular practice of this timeless discipline. "I do Yoga" has indeed become a fashionable statement - be it for my neighbour, my octogenarian family doctor, my photography buddy, my barber or even my favourite waiter at the restaurant. 

It is definitely a positive sign that more people are embracing this discipline each day. If you are reading this article, it is highly likely that you are one of those who is hooked on to Yoga. But a question the ancient Yogi-s would ask you is:  "Are you ready for Yoga?"

A closer look at various classical texts of Yoga highlights that certain important pre-requisites were necessary to begin the practice of Yoga. For example the Hahayogapradīpikā lists six parameters as necessary qualities to progress favourably in Yoga practice. These six qualities are utsāha (motivation), sāhasa (zeal or perseverance), dhairya (courage), tattvajñāna (clarity of reality), niścaya (steady unwavering mind) and janasaga parityāga (shying away from distracting company). 

Some of these requirements are easy to understand while some others definitely seem intriguing, and worth reflecting on. If we considered all of these pre-requisites to be in place prior to beginning its practice, Yoga would lose its current popularity pretty soon. 

If Yoga is indeed universal, and as beneficial as the Yogi-s claim, then why were so many pre-requisites suggested to begin its practice? Should not a discipline that supposedly confers so many benefits be accessible to everyone? 

When we consider a few things that are fundamental to Yoga philosophy and practice, the answer to this question emerges clearly. 

Firstly, Yoga is a discipline that understands very clearly that each human being is not a simple being, but rather a complex multi-dimensional holistic entity made of many different aspects that are inter-connected. So an influence on one layer does not just affect this layer, but also has an influence on the other domains. This integrative approach is what makes Yoga both unique and highly potent in aiding its practitioners in the path of healing or transformation. 

Secondly, Yoga also understands very clearly that not all of these aspects are always apparent to our cognition. It identifies and defines certain aspects called vāsana-s (subliminal impressions) and svabhāva (pre-dispositions). These often invisible aspects are not only an integral part of our construct, but also influence our perception, behaviour and even the state of wellbeing. 

Finally, Yoga is also a powerful tool in facilitating transformation. When a practitioner is steady and focused in its practice, it offers the opportunity for change. These changes can happen either at the gross or the subtle levels of our complex construct. Herein lies the key to why the Yogi-s insisted on the pre-requisites. 

The effort and sincerity with which you "do" Yoga, reaps consequences in equal measure, if not more. "Yoga does you" in return. Meaning the greater energy you give the practice of Yoga in an appropriate manner, the greater the potential for personal and spiritual transformation. 

This is a key issue. Owing to the intricately connected dimensions within us, some of which are hidden, it is not easy to predict in which layer or manner we will change. Nor can it be predicted that these changes will be easy and comfortable. If Yoga touches our sub-conscious or unconscious layers, it can not only surprise us, but also cause us great discomfort. This could be even more complicated when some aspects change hold impressions associated with suffering. 

Unfortunately in this process of transformation it may not always be possible to be selective about which aspects we can change, and which not. So a practitioner must be ready to embrace the whole package, rather than only parts of it. This requires not only strength, but also other enduring qualities in the practitioner such as faith, vitality, discipline and detachment.

This is precisely why the ancient Yogi-s suggested such pre-requisites prior to commencing the practice of Yoga. Because as much as you would like to do Yoga, you must be open to let Yoga do you. Are you ready for Yoga?