An article by BKS Iyengar.

Why Do We Do Yoga?

BKS Iyengar*

We begin to do yoga with a motive. That motive may be for health, or for making a career, or enjoyment of worldly pleasures, or for emancipation. It is only after we continue practicing yoga that it dawns on us that we do not do yoga for health, or for enjoyment, or for emancipation. Then, why do we do yoga?

In his treatise, the Yoga Sutras , Patanjali explains in the very beginning that mind, intelligence, consciousness, and the very core of our being get involved with thought waves making us forget for that moment the true element of nature. This conjunction of mind, intelligence, and consciousness, with the thoughts of the objects seen, perceived or conceived create desires. These desires makes one to act at once without using the discriminative faculty (the extra sense given to man) and one becomes a victim of his own thoughts and deeds.

Lord Krishna says in the Bhagvad Gita that each one o us remains unmanifest in the beginning, gets manifested and at the end dissolves into the unmanifested state. The cycle of our life is in these three forms; from the unmanifested form towards manifestation, and from manifestation to unite back in to the unmanifested state. Along with this cycle, our wheel of desires, fulfilments and frustrations gets recycled as subliminal impressions.

These subliminal impressions act as seeds in our lives. These subliminal impressions, which are formed on account of our actions and accumulated merits and demerits of our past lives, become the cause of pleasures and pains of this life. The cultivation of modes and moods of this life becomes a springboard for the next life. Hence, Patanjali's expositions come handy to minimise these impressions so that the practitioner of yoga can build up free will and make his own destiny. He resolves to face and accept the fruits of his past actions and passively undergoes the merits and demerits without being caught in that web.

Life is eternal like nature, which is eternal. As nature revolves as past, present, and future, so life too revolves between birth, death, and rebirth.

Uninterrupted practice of Yoga done with devotion, as propounded by Patanjali or Svatmarama, keeps the practitioner free from motivation, desire, and reward, and he develops discriminative intelligence. This discriminative intelligence, which develops in the practitioner of Yoga keeps his mind free from the contact of the tempting objects and yokes it to the soul, which is unmoving, unrotating, but ever in the state of present.

Yoking the mind, intelligence, and consciousness to the Soul or the Self is possible only through the Yogic disciplines, which keep the body firm and pure, mind stable, and intelligence clear.

Precisely this is what the practice of Yoga does. Patanjali does emphatically say in Sutra II.28 that, ‘Through reverential practice of Yoga, the fire which emanates fro the practice burns our the impurities of the body, mind, and intelligence, and bestows the consciousness with the crown of wisdom for it rests on the lap of the Self.' From then on, the never-changing, intuitive light of the Self radiates and frees the practitioner from the actions which are filled with afflictions.

Therefore practice of Yoga is meant only to eradicate such actions which may not afflict the practitioner. Then emancipation is in his hands.

Like the nine planets of the zodiac, which as the servants of God maintain a rhythmic universal order, we have nine gates in our body – two eyes, ears, nostrils, and a mouth, anus, and generative organ. By the regular practice of Yoga, these nine gates, which cause nine afflictions (disease, sluggishness, doubt, carelessness, idleness, sense of gratification, living in the world of illusion, not being able to hold on to what has been undertaken, and inability to maintain the progress achieved) are controlled and then the energy is channelled towards self-realisation.

As one installs a device in the form of a metallic rod on the top of the house to absorb the impact of lightening and prevent it from striking the building, practice of Yoga protects the practitioner by minimising the effects of the past and present actions and frees him from bondage.

Thus, the main reason for us to stick to yoga is to free ourselves from the fluctuations and afflictions. The practice of yoga guards the doer from the recurrence of mixed sorrows and pleasures, and thus dualities are minimised.

That is why I continue with my practice daily. My advice to all of you is to practice with intensity daily, so that one can reach that state of emancipation that is free from the afflictions of sorrows.

That is why Yoga is done!


Reprinted with kind permission of Yoga Rahasya .

* Our Guruji reached the age of 85 last December. He is a beacon of light and his daily practice is an inspiration to us all. Thankyou Guruji.