Children, Yoga is the ideal discipline for supporting our physical and mental wellbeing as well as our spiritual growth. Yoga, which increases the efficiency and subtlety of our body, mind and intellect, is a great blessing for those treading the path of spiritual discipline. It influences every aspect of life, encouraging creativity and practical skill.
The word “yoga” means “unifying” or “connecting.” But, what are we connected to now? Only to people, objects and situations of the external world. We have yet to be able to establish a connection with our True Self—God. Without that connection, we will fail to experience true peace. Yoga is the process of establishing this internal connection. If we succeed, our connection with the world will also improve. The more we connect with nature, the more we become alive. The reality of our existence lies within us. By establishing contact with our true self, we are, in fact, coming into contact with nature and above all God.
Most people today own a smartphone. There are many useful apps on these smartphones. However, in order to connect with the world, we have to insert a SIM card. Moreover, the phone should be within the range of a cell-phone tower. Otherwise, the phone will not work. Our life is also like this. Even if we have the apps of food, clothing, shelter, wealth, a good family, friends and a good education, we still need the SIM card of a purified mind to establish a connection with God. Only then, can we experience lasting peace and happiness. We all know that cell-tower range is not the same everywhere, and some areas have poor connection. However, the range of God is all-pervading, all the time. There is no place where God has limited range. The root cause of all of our problems is that the SIM card of our mind is not working properly. Yoga is the process by which the mind is made to work properly and to connect us to God.
Yoga helps us find the true source of peace and happiness, which is within us. At present, we are searching for this peace and happiness in the external world. Living life mechanically, getting married, having children, going to work and so on eventually gives rise to dissatisfaction. To relieve this dissatisfaction, we rely on small pleasures, such as going for movies, going out to eat and so on. These are also needed. However, the happiness from such things last only a week or two. Then, if these activities are not repeated, it only leads to more unhappiness.
Yoga is not simply learning and mastering different stretching postures. Real yoga is exercising control over our mind and thoughts, which currently are actually controlling us. Yoga should lead us to meditation, and meditation will align us with nature and ultimately with God—the True Self, pure undivided consciousness—which is the substratum of the entire universe. Unfortunately, today, people associate yoga only with physical exercises. This results in our losing out on the real wealth that this illustrious science can impart. It is like using an expensive cell phone just for its flashlight.
Practising many different yoga positions and being able to bend the body in all possible ways is not the only purpose of yoga. We should not only be able to bring the physical body under our control, but also the mind with its likes and dislikes. This will help us to accept every adverse situation with equanimity. This is what Lord Krishna indicates in the Bhagavad-Gita when he says: samatvam yoga ucyate—“Equanimity is yoga.”
Once in an ashram, there lived a man who had practised yoga for many years and was incredibly flexible and had tremendous body control. He was also quite proud. Every morning, he would practice yoga at a particular place. One day, when he arrived for his morning practice, someone else had taken his spot. “Who does you think you are?” he fumed. “Where do you get the nerve to take my spot and do yoga here? You are many years my junior!” He began shouting more and more.
Hearing the ruckus, the guru of the ashram came down. He told the yogi, “Even after so many years with me, you have failed to understand the basic principles of yoga. Your body has become very flexible, but your mind and ego have become as rigid and hard as a tree trunk.”
One does not become a yogi simply by being able to touch one’s toes. To become a yogi, one has to be able to touch and know one’s true self. We should be able to touch people around us with our love and compassion. It is only then that one becomes a true yogi.
Some people ask Amma if there are age limits in when it comes to starting yoga. One can start learning yoga at any age. However, children should be taught only a few age-appropriate postures. This is because their bones and body are still growing. Some postures, such as the Surya Namaskara, can be taught even at a young age. Complex postures should be taught only after the child is 14 or even 18.
In fact, every action should be transformed into yoga. Our every movement should be done with awareness. When you move a cup, you should be aware of watching it being moved. When you move a pen, be aware of the action as though you are watching it being moved. You should have the same awareness as if you were standing near a fire. We will be very careful near an open fire. Yoga is doing every action with such heightened awareness.
Initially, most people show great enthusiasm to attend classes and learn yoga. But very soon, they drop the practice. Take care to continue your practice without letting your enthusiasm wane. Just as you wash your plate after every meal, yoga should become a routine part of our life. When we stop our spiritual disciplines, the mind can become beset with many unwanted thoughts. Such spiritual practices purify the mind. If we leave freshly tilled soil without planting seeds in it, weeds will soon sprout up. Similarly, unwanted thoughts will grow unchecked in such a mind with even greater strength than before. Thus, it is important to awaken and sustain the interest and alertness to continue our spiritual practices.
We call all the different paths as yoga: karma-yoga [the path of action], jnana-yoga [the path of knowledge] and bhakti-yoga [the path of devotion]. The means everything should culminate in yoga—“coming together” or “union.” If we practice yoga with an understanding of the underlying scriptural principles, it will certainly lead us to grasp the truths proclaimed in the scriptures: tat tvam asi [“You are That”] and aham brahmasmi [“I am Brahman”]. For this, however, it is necessary to study the scriptures; that is when it becomes real yoga.
No matter how hard we may put forth effort, it is grace that ultimately brings the light. May this light of grace shine on my children, internally and externally. May grace bless my darling children.