“Can the practice of yoga help me in daily life?” New students, looking for practical solutions to their problems, often ask this question. The science of yoga is India’s unique contribution to the upliftment of human consciousness. Not affected by passing time or different cultures, yoga remains a timeless, universal body of teachings available for the benefit of everyone. Yet yoga is more than the specific practices done in the isolation of an ashram or meditation room. It also offers attitudes and practical applications that taken together form an effective, fulfilling approach to life: the yogic lifestyle. Let’s look at three aspects of it.
1. Yoga Means “Union” To succeed at anything in life, or to understand things at their heart, we need to concentrate and become absorbed in them. Whether in artistic expression, scientific inquiry, or any field of endeavor, when we focus and become immersed in what we are doing, something magical takes place: we forget ourselves and experience a sense of expansion that transcends our personal reality. We then can pierce to the heart of any problem before us.
In fact, in the classical teachings of yoga as presented by Patanjali, this process is described as the last three steps of ashtanga yoga, or the eightfold path: dharana, or concentration; dhyana, or absorption; and samadhi, or bliss.
Paramhansa Yogananda said that scientists study the atom, but yogis become the atom. In our daily lives, success and happiness rest on one of the foundation stones of the yogic lifestyle: become one with what you are doing.
2. Yoga Is a Science The scientific method has shown us the value of presenting a theory, and then testing its validity through experimentation. This approach can be applied to our own life. Yoga says that meditation brings peace of mind: Try for yourself and see if this is true. Yoga says that right attitudes such as non-violence, honesty, and generosity bring happiness: Test this out in the cold light of day, and see the results.
Once you’ve experimented and proven to yourself the efficacy of these teachings, no one needs to convince you of their value. The yogic lifestyle embodies a courageous approach to finding truth and self-discovery.
3. Yoga Awakens Us to Our Place in a Greater Reality Through the practices of yoga, fears and anxieties are lifted from our heart, and we can experience a greater reality, of which we are just a small part. Worries begin to fade away and are replaced by a wonderful reassurance that everything in life comes from a benevolent, omnipresent consciousness.
In the beautiful words of my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda: “While millions are thinking they are approaching old age, death, and oblivion, we know we are approaching eternal life, eternal youth, eternal wisdom, and eternal protection.”
Swami Kriyananda has said that the Ananda communities are living laboratories for the benefits of yoga in daily life. Try it for yourself and see.