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Integrating yoga into one's life by Yogasharya Venkatesh

Many people wrongly interpret yoga as "asanas". Some others move a bit further and expand their views up to Pranayama or even to Dhyana (meditation). But unfortunately, almost all practitioners consider yoga as an external practice which can be achieved by spending a few hours a day over it.
The truth is the opposite. Yoga is a study of the self, a study in which you try to stabilise your character and personality.
I observe that most of the yoga practitioners exhibit great extremes in emotion and surpassingly, they are not always aware of it. Yet, a true yoga aspirant should first learn to balance their mind and emotions. They should not be too emotional, least they may loose their senses. Nor should they be too logical. What is needed is balance.
Yoga is not just external. It is a behaviour, a way of life. Until yoga blends with the practitioner's life, yoga practice whether it is asana, pranayama, meditation or anything, is not complete.
This integration of yoga into one's life can only happen through constant and sincere practice. I observe that a lot of yoga aspirants only practice 3 or 4 times a week, and that some teachers hardly practice at all. Many people say they lack the time, yet they can eat, sleep, work, chat and sometimes even quarrel. What they really lack is dedication and determination, not time. Just like iron, body and mind rust if not used. Yes, it is difficult to practice every day, but it is possible if one is determined to do it, and it must be remembered that all great achievements are indeed difficult.

The other extreme I sometimes observe is overpractice. Most of the students who come to the Atma Vikasa centre to develop their practice think that they can compensate for their lack of practice at home by coming here. I must remind them that whatever they can learn here is but an extension of their practice at home. Yoga is not instantaneous. I can teach thousands of things, but this is not important. What you learn is important. Reception is more important than transmission, and what you learn here is determined by your previous practice. Yoga is a process. It cannot be perfected in a day, a month or even a year. It take years, or probably lifetimes. But a consistent and continuous practice is always fruitful. The path you follow to reach the goal is as important as the goal itself. Never try to take a short cut, for there is no such thing in yoga.

An other thing I often observe is lack of discipline. Patanjali reminds us in this yoga sutras that indiscipline leads to lack of concentration, and finally to materialism. Our material requirements must never become our weaknesses, least we fall prey of selfishness and egotism.
Dear yoga practitioners and teachers, do not limit spirituality to books. Start practising it. It is only then that your practice becomes meaningful.
Look into yourself and find the best part of the world there, in the form of love, selflessness and peace. The worst part is also there, in the form of hatred, unhealthy competition, selfishness and various manifestation of egotism. Get rid of these, and you will be a true yogi.
For as Patanjali reminds us, "Yoga Chitta Vritti Niroda", yoga is the control of the activities of the mind.

This is an extract of the speech delivered by Yogasharya Venkatesh, founder and director of the AtmaVikasa centre in Mysore, on the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of the centre.
Atma Vikasa means "Evolution of the soul".