For Yoga Beginners: Operation Lotus
By Kino MacGregor
The experience of your first yoga class feels like embarking on a mysterious adventure in a whole new terrain. As you curiously peer into the incense-filled hallways lined with Ganesh and Shiva, the open-hearted calm beckons you to travel into your own sacred inner realm. The seductive power of yoga is an addictive calling to go deeper into yourself. Once you experience firsthand how magical yoga is, all resistance becomes futile.
Regardless of your intention when you plant the first seeds of your lotus flower, the transformative power of this ancient spiritual science works on a deep level of your being. Many people start yoga for fitness reasons, only to find that yoga changes their lives in ways far beyond the physical. Even if you are not a true believer and only wish to receive the physical health benefits of yoga, merely attending a yoga class regularly will have a lasting impact on your life.
The beauty of physical yoga postures is that you do not actually need to believe in them for the healing power of yoga to work. Hatha yoga approaches the transformation of the human spirit from the body first and then works its way subtly through the mind and soul. The body itself is an avenue to the spiritual that works from the inside out. As you water the seeds of padmasana (yoga pose), the full blooming lotus opens in your mind and soul.
Entering the new world of yoga is the first conscious step to live a more peaceful life. The initiatory phase of yoga is your chance to powerfully create your life, moment to moment, and live your highest potential everyday. As a neophyte, remember that it is natural to feel overwhelmed when you realize just how demanding spiritual discipline really is. Rather than a recreational activity that you can keep separate from your life, yoga asks you to transform your whole life to abide by yogic principles.
If at first you find yourself drawn to the physical display of power in advanced asana, you quickly see that the heart of yoga reaches far deeper than the postures themselves. Indeed the asanas are only used to purify the body, practice meditative states of unified consciousness and prepare the physical form to be a home for divinity in the world of mind and matter. The more advanced asanas are not ends in and of themselves. Instead, the real work of yoga occurs in the inner body and is actually the seed of your own enlightenment beginning to flower.
Like an open invitation to the spiritual path, yoga never places commandments on practitioners from above. When you start practicing yoga the body itself becomes more sensitive and then asks you to live a purer lifestyle. While the moral and ethic codes of a yogic lifestyle ask practitioners to be an instrument of kindness, compassion and healing in the world, the choice to live peacefully is meant to be a sincere feeling that each practitioner feels for themselves before acting upon it. Practicing asana makes the body more sensitive so that you feel more clearly the impact that unhealthy behavior, negative thoughts and destructive emotions have on you. Yoga never tells you what you can and cannot do. It is a path of liberation, not bondage. It is a path of direct knowingness rather than rules and edicts.
The practice of yoga itself opens your body and mind to desire wholly a new way of being, living and interacting with yourself and others. It is the heightening of your own awareness that facilitates the transformation. You change not because your teacher tells you to, but because yoga opens the door to a new way of being that you choose to walk through with joy, ease and grace. The journey into the lotus heart of yoga is a lifelong spiritual practice that bears flowers in this life and beyond.
Faced with the seemingly insurmountable goal of ultimate enlightenment, many new students doubt their ability to ever progress along the arduous path of yoga. They look at their teachers or other accomplished practitioners and wonder how they will ever get from their relative feeling of confusion to the clarity, grace and precision they see in the masterful art form of yoga. Yet small seeds do not doubt whether they will become trees. They trust the natural process of evolution and growth that takes them from seeds to sprouting seedlings to flowering, fruitful trees. With proper nutrients, care and love the flower of your inner lotus is sure to grow to maturity in the fertile soil of your own consciousness.
Every accomplished yogi today has benefitted from the guidance of their teachers and has been nurtured by the yoga community. Every yoga teacher today has also nourished their journey with their own dedication and devotion. If you are a new student of yoga remember that you hold the key to the power of yoga. It is in your own heart that the seed of spiritual investigation must take root, watered by the flow of your own consciousness. Small treasures abound when you attempt challenging postures that at first seem impossible but with time, dedication and guidance, evolve into possibility. When you embark on your own operation lotus, know that this journey is a timeless one that never ends, only deepens.
Kino MacGregor is one of a handful of people around the world to receive the Certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga by its late founder, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, in Mysore, India. She shares the healing power of yoga with as many people as possible everywhere she travels and on her website. The creator of a series of Ashtanga Yoga DVDs, Kino lives in beautiful Miami Beach where she and her husband co-own Miami Life Center, a space for yoga and holistic living.