How Much Yoga?

by Gurudevi Nirmalananda Saraswati

When you decide how much yoga you are going to do, you are deciding two things:  (1) what to do with some available time (a simple thing), and (2) what your goal in life is (a really big deal!).  You are really choosing —do you want to be happy or do you want to be bliss-full?  These are very different things.  Are you using yoga to help you pursue success, to improve yourself or to delve into consciousness?

In the name of success, you try to manage the people and things in your life, or you try to acquire more of both.  Whether you are handling a car repair or maneuvering to buy a new car, you are achieving a goal.  When you are handling the relationship with your spouse or child, or maybe trying to acquire one of each, your pursuit of success is through relationship.  Success happens when other people are doing what you want, and the things in your life match your current list of desires.  If you are able to manage everything, then you can finally be happy. 

You run into a few hurdles.  This is because other people have their own agendas.  Cars, children, gardens and other things all have their own process of growth or decay.  Happiness through attaining success is possible, but just barely.  Along the way, it is very stressful.  You can do yoga just to recover from the strain; it balances out the rest of your life.

Patanjali explains this:

mrdu-madhy-aadhimaatratvaat tato’pi visheshah. —Yoga Sutras 1.22

Your rate of progress is affected by the amount of practice you do:

mild, medium or intense. 

Mild practice is described above:  to balance out the stress that comes from your pursuit of the perfect life.  Your weekly yoga class clears tensions from your muscles and stress hormones from your blood, so you can go back to the endeavors that will create success in the more significant parts of your life.

To live in the inner peace that arises from doing yoga, you need to do more practice — a medium amount.  You also need to include meditation in your practice.  Your practices keep you progressing into more inner openness or you will find that you are backsliding into fixity.  Using yoga to create personal transformation is a beautiful and powerful practice. 

Yet yoga is for the purpose of transcending your idea of who you are, not merely transforming it.  You know this from the best Shavasana, from even a few moments of sitting perfectly still in a seated pose, or after a twist.  The vastness of your own inner essence becomes undeniable. 

If this is your goal, meditation is your most important practice.  If the inner experience is your priority, meditation becomes the cornerstone of your daily practice.  Each time your mind is imprinted by the Self, your mind becomes more and more clear — so you can see through it to the Self.  Your entire life becomes the conduit of consciousness.  For this goal, Patanjali recommends intense practice.  Your maximum is three hours per day — as long as you have your work and your relationships, this maximum will work well for you. At this point, you might be thinking that three hours of yoga and meditation a day is pure craziness, while others are thinking that anyone who tries to get by on once a week is crazy.  The important part is your goal.  If your priority is success, then you should not do three hours of yoga a day — you will be supported in achieving success by doing a weekly class.  If you want transformation or if you want to know consciousness, you have to make a different choice.  You do decide, every day, how much yoga you will do and what your goal is.  Even if you decide not to decide, you have made a choice.  For my choice – I always say, “Do more yoga!”

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