I was recently speaking with one of my friends who is active in the “yoga scene” and something occurred to me afterwards. In my observation (and most spiritualist agree) the yoga scene has tended to be watered down and incomplete, and up until recently i considered that the reason for this muted effect was due to the fact that most “yoga practitioners” skip over the first two branches of astanga yoga (the rules and regulations) and focus on the sitting postures and breathing techniques as a form of physical exercise with the hope of attaining spiritual upliftment.
Although it is true that some of the attendees of yoga classes are exclusively interested in sculpting their physique, the majority of them are looking for some inner peace or at least an escape from the daily stresses of their lives. They seek some sort of transcendence even if they are not sure exactly what lies beyond this realm and although they receive some form of material relief the process is not as effective as one would hope.
Even though my theory makes sense, (how can you expect something to work properly if you do not follow the initial instructions) i think that the bigger problem is actually at the other end of the spectrum of the eight branched yoga process.
During our conversation, my friend told me that most of these yoga enthusiasts are mayavadis (they consider the ultimate goal to be an impersonal energy which we connect with to attain peace). After this revelation, i realized that the actual reason why these aspiring yogis find it difficult to hold on to any real lasting peace is that they haven’t found anything to grab on to that would keep them from falling back into their stressful lives.
The very word “yoga” means “connection”, and the goal of the yoga process is to connect with the spiritual energy. Doing so allows us to leave behind the material energy, which is the cause of stress and various other sufferings. Without understanding what this spiritual energy is and how it works, we have no hope of transcending material nature. Instead we are merely jumping up and away from our troubles only to have gravity pull us right back down to again enjoy or suffer our karmic bounty.
As long as one’s consciousness is material, our attempts at transcendence will always be futile. But when we understand the spiritual energy, we can grab a hold of it. When we firmly hold on to spiritual nature the gravitational effect of the material energy is negated and as such true and lasting peace is attained.But in order to be able to hold tightly to the spiritual energy, we must cultivate knowledge and understanding.
Perhaps the reason so many aspiring yogis skip over the initial rules and regulations of the yogic process is that since they view the goal as an impersonal energy, they have no tangible reason to regulate their lives and give up so many of the things they hold dear. Although they very much wish to escape their stressful lives, they are not ready to give up the activities that they enjoy for a mere chance of peacefulness.
An example of one of the regulations of yoga is to give up intoxication. But since intoxication is a widely accepted and popular method for coping with stress, people are reluctant to give it up just so they can merge with an impersonal energy. They feel that the sitting postures and breathing exercises help them deal with stress in one way and having their bottle of wine helps them deal with stress in another way. For them, they are just increasing their chances at peace... a customized formula, if you will.
But the spiritual energy is not impersonal. On the contrary it is the most blissful and perfect personal relationship that we cannot even possibly fathom. And when we understand this fact and start to learn about the characteristics of the spiritual realm and about the pure sweetness of the relationships that are experienced there, we will gladly give up any other man-made remedy and grab firmly onto the spiritual energy.
Until then we can not expect to give up our self-prescribed medicines before we are given a better alternative.
So instead of trying to force potential yogis to blindly follow some rules and regulations, perhaps it is better to first fully explain the spiritual nature and discuss the various relationships and pastimes that are present in the spiritual world. That way instead of blindly and reluctantly giving things up, they will simply lose their taste for an inferior process and take up the full process of yoga.