We all want to experience freedom. Each one of us have our own interpretation and understanding of this word in relation to the life that we are living.
As I sit here on the beach in India writing this article, I am sharing what I have experienced freedom to mean and how Yoga represents this freedom.
Firstly the word Yoga means Union, whole or oneness. Yoga is only 10% the physical aspect that the asanas provide. It is a spiritual practice, not a religion. It is connection with your breath, mind, body and soul combined. This results in connection with your inner/higher self, God or whatever you may call it. When you connect with yourself internally on a higher level this is one aspect of experiencing freedom.
Before moving onto the meaning of freedom, if you are like me and you automatically associate Yoga to a typical Yoga class, I have learned that it is so much more than that. I have been practicing the 4 paths of Yoga for several years without even realizing it.
These 4 paths of Yoga are known as :-
1. Raja Yoga is what we typically think of when we think of Yoga – exercise for mind and body. Some being yoga poses, swimming, bike rides, walking, running etc. Example : You do these to feel healthy in your body and to release stress in your mind. This is freedom, you are choosing to move your body in whatever form you desire.
2. Karma Yoga is selfless action. Doing things for others without expecting anything in return. You are not doing it to be praised or validated. You are simply doing it out of love. Example : Volunteering without expecting praise or thanks. This is freedom, you are choosing on your own behalf to do an act of selfless service. Giving without expecting to receive from the fruit of your action.
3. Jnana Yoga is Yoga of wisdom or knowledge. This is collecting inspiring knowledge or wisdom and then applying it to your life. Example : reading inspiring, self development books and continuing to grow and evolve. Watching Ted Talks, sharing an motivating Facebook post. This is freedom, investing time into the expansion of your being.
4. Bhakti Yoga is one of my favourites. This means Yoga of devotion. My Bhakti yoga is my adoration for the sun. Everyday I look up at the sun (it is always there, even if it is behind the clouds or rain.) I send so much love to the sun on a daily basis. I affirm to the sun “the love and light in you reflects the love and light in me.” Bhakti Yoga is devotion to anything. A God, many Gods, the Universe, your family, yourself. It is sharing the love within with intention, compassion and authenticity. This is freedom, freedom to devote yourself to anything.
As you can see Yoga is a lot more than the physical workout the majority of us in the Western World perceive it to be. You are more than likely practicing many forms of Yoga on a daily basis, unconsciously.
The key is to now become consciously aware of this practice. As often as I can, which is very frequently now (having made it a habit) I set intentions to do each action with awareness and love. When I am watering flowers I internally sing to them and send the nourishing energy. While brushing my teeth I affirm how grateful I am to have such beautiful teeth that smile to the World. While exercising I think “wow I am so lucky to be fit, healthy and have the freedom to move my body”. Become aware and practice this and soon it will become second nature to you.
Now, how is Yoga freedom?
Well it even starts in the word itself. FreedOM. Om is what we chant before and after our Yoga sessions. What I have learned here at Green Yoga India is that om is a universal healing sound of stillness and peace.
This inner peace is what I have experienced freedom to be. Along with freedom from negative, self sabotaging thoughts and words.
I have proven to myself and many clients that freedom begins in the mind. I, known to some as “itchy feet O’Neill” have often felt the need to be free. I love to explore, travel and I dance to the beat of my own drum. I would get to one place, stay for awhile, feel trapped and take off again. I have learned through my own experience, my study as a life coach and through practicing Yoga that freedom is a state of mind. You don’t have to go anywhere to feel free. Everywhere you go you take yourself there. When you feel freedom within your mind you experience pure freedom wherever you are, whatever you are doing and whomever you are with. Now, I travel and move around because I love to experience many cultures and all they have to offer. Not because I am looking for freedom but because I feel free from within.
How do we experience freedom and what has that to do with Yoga?
We feel it through the practice of meditation. Meditation is awareness. Awareness of your thoughts, your words, your breath and your self. Awareness that you are more than just this body you inhabit. It is connection to the thoughts and words you are speaking internally and externally.
Become aware of the thoughts and words you are thinking and speaking throughout the day, as these represent how you are feeling. Observe them, do not attach yourself to, judge or label them just observe them.
“I feel so trapped in this job.”
“My body is so heavy, I need to lose weight.”
Stating these thoughts/words keeps you trapped in a negative mindset.
The opposite to the feeling of liberation and freedom.
“I feel confident in my job role and the tasks I am doing.”
“I accept my body as it is right now. I am feeling lighter as I nourish it with love and kindness.”
Yoga means being at one with yourself and freedom is a state of mind. Together, connecting with your mind through the practice of Jnana Yoga, Meditation and implementing empowering positive affirmations into your daily life (“I am as free as I choose to be right now.”) You can and will experience this feeling of FREED’OM’ now.
The power lies within our mind and soul, beyond our physical body.
This has been true in my experience.