If you are sitting in front of a computer or reading this on your phone, chances are that a life of yoga and meditation in an ashram feels far removed from where you're at right now. And in some ways, it is. But on a deeper level, at the very core of the yoga practice, you're perfectly situated to be in practice, every day -- and to receive the potential benefits. It’s a confusing concept, certainly - but Vishnu Panigrahi, the founder and teacher at Samadhi Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh, India - has an explanation.
He believes we are all perfectly situated to practice the yogic lifestyle. With a little study, we're already in the perfect training grounds.
“Yoga is not Asana only,” Panigrahi says. “Asana and the physical postures are very small, tiny parts of yoga. Yoga is a complete living style, starting from the time you get up, you practice yoga, how to get up, how to bring and consume your energy, how to make yourself peaceful and balanced.”
At the Samadhi Yoga Ashram, Vishnu Panigrahi and his staff offer yoga teacher training, as well as retreats and long-term stays for yogis and spiritual seekers. At the core of everything offered in the ashram, he emphasizes that the yogic lifestyle has the power to bring peace into the world.
“When I teach my students, I tell them that [the] yoga teaching course is not a training in the techniques of yoga, but of love and compassion,” he shares. First, love and compassion for oneself on the path to awareness and second, love and compassion as a yogi walks in the world.
It seems that this is one of the foundational teachings of yoga that often gets missed. Westernization has led yogis to focus on fancy postures and gimmicky classes. “There is goat yoga, have you heard of it?” Vishnu Panigrahi asks. “It started in America. It’s when you do yoga and small goats will walk on your body. And then there is beer yoga.”
All love to the goats, but in some cases, this comes at the cost of the truth of what yoga is: The path towards realization of consciousness.
This concept can be difficult to grasp: if consciousness has no body, then how can we understand it through the vehicle of this mindset? Vishnu Panigrahi gives a little Yoga 101 and explains the concept simply.
“Our true nature is conscious, truth and bliss… In the yoga and Sanskrit philosophy, we believe in the Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha means consciousness and Prakriti is nature. Consciousness has no form, no name, and the Prakriti has form and names. Yet Prakriti, or nature, or matter can only be experienced through consciousness.”
Okay, so currently you're experiencing these words through your consciousness, existing on the plane of the material, or the Prakriti. So where does this become an issue requiring us to practice yoga and yogic living daily?
He explains, “When I think I am the physical body, my consciousness is associated with the physical body. And when the physical body gets pain or stress, then I think that I am stressful. If I’m eating, I feel that I am eating. But consciousness is not involved with any activities, consciousness is only awareness.”
There’s the rub. In every moment, our consciousness gets tempted to identify with the experience of Prakriti even though consciousness isn't identifiable in those terms. With training, the yogi practices stepping back and seeing the truth of what is happening.
“So, when we are aware, when we become more conscious and focus then we can see the whole world is moving like a drama. Any kind of distraction happening outside will not touch us because we are this superconsciousness. We are the consciousness which cannot be touched by the material world. And that is always peace, always love, always truth, always blissful,” Vishnu Panigrahi explains.
But this doesn’t just happen during a yogi’s time in the ashram. We can’t all just leave our daily lives and spend the rest of our days in meditation and practice. Fortunately, that isn't required to progress along the yogic path.
“A yogi becomes like a child, a yogi becomes a purer soul. He/she has not so many ups and downs in the society and is in a state of equilibrium. Yoga brings equilibrium. We practice meditation and yoga inside the ashram or in our daily life in every moment, but we practice it in the society. That is our training ground.”
So whether you can spend only four days at Samadhi Yoga Ashram, you can dive in for teacher training, or you buy a one-way ticket, rest assured: with the tools of the yogic lifestyle, your everyday life won’t be a hindrance to your realization of consciousness, but just the training ground you need.
Yogi Vishnu travels to many destinations to teach on the topic of spirituality, meditation, yoga, and inner-faith. He is dedicated to guiding disciples at Samadhi Yoga Ashram to help others on their path of self-awakening. Visit Yogi Vishnu's teacher profile to learn more.