Here at Zuna Yoga, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about authenticity. So what exactly is authenticity, and why is it so important? And what does any of this have to do with yoga?
For those of you who are just joining us, Zuna is a sanskrit word meaning to grow and prosper. Zuna Yoga is a modern scientific view of traditional yoga and Tantra whose aim to is develop our capacity to thrive led by the authenticity that lives within us all.
Yoga in its most profound sense is and has always been a science of living that carries in its promise the realization of both spiritual and worldly fulfillment. It does this by endowing its followers with the wisdom, perseverance and capacity to live boldly and authentically.
Each one of us has visions of a beautiful life of fulfillment and accomplishment. We often experience great challenge bringing these visions to the canvas of our lives. The teachings of Vedic and Tantric traditions tell us these challenges are largely a product of visions not born from or supported by our true authenticity. In other words, we’re wishing for the wrong things. These traditions also state that once we have created a relationship with this authentic self and enlist its wisdom, the obstacles to our achievements are tremendously depreciated, if not completely eliminated.
So let’s investigate one of Yoga's most important and relevant texts in support of this life science.
About 2000 years ago, Patanjali created his philosophical masterpiece known as the Yoga Sutras, 196 very concise verses with which every yogi or yogini should be well acquainted. Patanjali clearly defines what yoga is, the obstacles to its attainment, the road signs of its achievement, and what we get from it when we do achieve it. The foundation of this understanding can be seen in Pantanjali's first four sutras.
In fact, these four verses are considered by many scholars throughout history to be the most concise definition of yoga ever written.
Let’s take a look at these four sutras:
1. Atha yoga anushasanam - Be prepared, as the truest lesson of yoga follows.
2. Yogas chitta vritti Nirodah - “Yoga is the restraint (control, mastery, cessation) of mental modifications”
This sutra is considered the most fundamental of all. In fact, this definition has become unilaterally accepted by nearly every yoga tradition. He's saying that yoga is literally shutting down the thinking mind. This is key: Patanjali defines yoga as an experience, rather than an intellectual understanding.
3. Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam - Then the seer abides (or rests) in its own true essence
Patanjali is now defining what happens when we have experienced yoga. The part of you witnessing or observing this moment is the true or authentic self. Again, when the thinking mind is no longer active, what remains is our pure and unadulterated authenticity. Experience is free from any modifications or misconceptions of the mind. You reside in the the purity of your own consciousness. In the Tantric tradition, this experience is beautifully referred to as self remembrance and is called smarana. Smarana is a key element of Zuna Yoga.
4. Vritti sarupyam itaratra: or, the seer identifies with (or is lost in) the modifications (thought-forms) of the mind field.
When we are not residing in the state of our authentic self, we are either lost or under the control of the modifications the mind creates of reality and are unconscious of our true self. Furthermore, when consciousness is not aware of itself, it is subject to illusion, even delusion. It even takes on the form of its own deceptive creations and mistakenly believes itself to be something other than what it is.
This is why the question:"Who am I?" plays such an important role in the journey towards Self Realization. Once we solve the riddle of who we are by realizing it within, we are capable of creating a powerfully authentic masterpiece of life. It is connecting to this authenticity and attempting to give it an opportunity to reveal a glimpse of its wisdom that is our goal when we practice yoga. That may sound like a tall order to fill, but its not as difficult as you might think. We can learn to allow the conscious, thinking mind to just step aside, even if just for a brief moment.
So again, in what is considered one of the most import scriptures of yogic tradition, Patanjali clearly spells out that yoga is a systematic science that delivers us powerfully into a state of authenticity. When we do not live in this authentic expression, we are enslaved or lost in the fluctuating field of the mind and its obsessions. It is also very important to understand that Patanjali's yoga was devoted entirely to the sciences of meditation and psychology. It contained very little reference to asana, the postures of yoga. Not that postural proficiency is unimportant, but that harnessing the power of the mind is significantly more important, as it is fundamental in how we create relationships and maneuver through our reality in a manner that is not only successful but fulfilling.
When we practice, we embody the intention to connect with this authenticity. We tap into our true self to create a beautiful, empowered life. That is the promise and the purpose of yoga.