Yoga Rockford: The curiosity of yoga

By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio

Curiosity has landed on Mars and is another great example of our human desire to explore the unknown. But so much of our time and energy is in the exploration and experience of our outer universe while our inner space goes mostly unnoticed.

In yoga theory, this disconnect (Avidya, ignorance of the Self) is the exact thing that causes most of the pain and agitation of our lives. Yoga practice can teach us to turn our curiosity inward and connect with our inner experience.Through that connection, we gain a greater understanding of our place in the world, leading us to a more stable and balanced life.

BKS Iyengar teaches yoga as a full exploration of the self from the outside in, and back again. Through his knowledge of yoga, he shares his understanding that the universe held within is just as expansive and amazing as the universe outside of us: “As the microcosm represents the macrocosm, man’s body epitomizes the entire structure of the great universe.” (BKS Iyengar)

Like the myriad processes we explore in the universe, much is going on within us, whether we are aware of it or not. Yoga views the human being as a continuation of the outer universe, made up in layers (koshas) of all the same elements and animated by all the same energy.

Just like our physical sciences, the science of yoga gives us the tools to explore all of our own layers, elements and energies, clearing them of any obstacles and distractions that may hinder our life’s progress.

Just as we need a clean laboratory to do any experiment, yoga begins with the Yamas (moral precepts) and Niyamas (personal observances) to clear our environment and ignite our curiosity for study. If we keep our self and our environment clean, do our best not to harm anyone or create negativity in our self, we light the way for contentment in whatever comes our way, and we support our determination to succeed. From there, we can put on our lab-coat (or yoga bloomers, in this case) to get down to concrete exploration.

We all come to the physical practices of asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath manipulation) with some goal: flexibility, strength, weight control, meditation, relaxation, etc. … but soon we are faced with so much more. Like the galaxies in space, the human being and its koshas are a complex mix of elements: earth (solid bone and flesh), air (in the lungs and organs), fire (body temperature and digestive juices), water (the body is mostly water), and ether (space found between joints and cells). These elements are animated and enlivened by the energies that operate the entire universe.

These energies (called the tri-guna) can have positive and negative effects: rajas (creative/agitative energy), tamas (stable/dull energy), and sattva (balanced and clear energy). With all of these elements and energies mixing together in different ways in each individual, there is much to be discovered.

But any experiment requires a focus, a certain “goal” that may or may not be reached exactly as planned, but which gives direction along the way. The true “goal” of yoga is to quiet the fluctuations of the consciousness.

Iyengar states, “The galaxies of stars stand for galaxies of thought-waves, which, like stars, twinkle, disappear, reappear and shine forth once again.”

As the stars are a beautiful distraction for us on the outside, the thought-waves in the mind are a distraction with a much more negative result. Much of the pain and anguish we experience in life can be traced back to the agitated mind, though most of us find it easier to blame external causes. The physical experimentation of asana and pranayama is meant to draw our senses away from external distraction to internal focus (pratyahara).

The last three aspects of yoga — dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (ultimate freedom) — make up the final frontier of our exploration. Developing awareness in the present moment, without distraction, we diminish worry and anxiety about the future we cannot control and the past we cannot change. We come to a place of balance and stability, a quiet consciousness and peaceful inner space.

As Curiosity roams around on Mars, how can we neglect our own “curiosity” to explore the mysteries of our inner universe? Without a true understanding of our self, we risk missing a deeper and more full understanding of the world that surrounds us. So, light your fire within, and launch yourself into the practice of yoga.

For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit or call (815) 968-9642.

From the Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2012, issue

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