How do the Vedas help my Yoga practice?
Often when we think of the Vedas, we visualize ancient Indian people sitting around a fire, performing mystical rituals with little connection to what we know and learn as Yoga. Why are these texts the source of Yoga? What is in the Vedas that is relevant to my yoga practice?
These are great questions, which we will address here. The Vedas are the records of multiple experiences of yogī-s or seers (those with a vision of the truth) of the early ages. They speak of a systematic spiritual ascent of humans in order to live a harmonious life. These wise seers had, through their yoga, acquired a deeply assimilated understanding of the functioning of the universe. Therefore, they were able to live intelligently, in harmony with their communities as well as with nature.
The knowledge in the Vedas is exactly this wisdom, that will help us in our personal growth to become useful contributors in any context.
The very first hymn in the Vedas is about developing will-power. These ancient seers were very clever yogī-s. They understood that without the power of will, nothing could happen. We need to have the cooperation of our will to do anything at all. Anyone who has tried to make new healthy habits work, or tried to learn a musical instrument or language, knows how much internal resistance we face!
A well-developed power of the will is crucial to accomplish any level of success in any activity.
Conviction is another attitude that helps us stay focused in life. Imagine having absolute clarity in what endeavours merit our complete investment and knowing with certainty that it would be the right path. This is considered another basic qualification in the Vedas that can be developed by systematic practice. This is the same conviction that you read about in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. This attitude is praised like a goddess in the Vedas. Imagine the self-confidence possible by having this goddess of truth on your team in life.
Yoga teaches us that a contemplative mind is conducive to our yogic development. This is why we practice postures, so we can eventually be comfortable with stillness. But we need a lot more than mastery of physical postures to reach the goals of yoga. We need to learn and practice other aspects of yoga – including healthy attitudes to ourselves and those around us, an understanding and acceptance of life, clarity of mind, dropping of pretences, personal growth without harming anyone else. Even better, personal growth that is of service to everyone around us.
The mantras of the Vedas have the entire truth, practice and message of yoga and well-being embedded in its clever, metrical, beautiful, soulful poetry. Each time we learn a mantra, we can map its relevance to our everyday life as well as our growth in Yoga. A roadmap of Yoga beyond the mat!
As for the rituals, they also hold deeply symbolic messages of interacting with the forces of nature, but that’s for another discussion!
Mantra to develop Will-Power. I kid you not, this group learnt this mantra in a Sunday workshop. Yes, in one day!!! Many beginners here!!