Editor’s Note: Natural Awakenings Atlanta is proud to announce Graham Fowler, yoga teacher trainer and founder of Peachtree Yoga, as our new yoga section editor. If you have not already encountered him in the community, we hope you enjoy meeting Fowler in his introduction to NA readers.
From the way planets move, to the changing of the seasons, to the way plants grow, there is an intelligence that abides as the true essence of everything.
The most important place we can come to know this intelligence is within ourselves.
It lives within us. It is what is conscious within us.
I have been given an opportunity to write monthly articles for Natural Awakenings Atlanta. We will be looking through the perspective of yoga, but fundamentally the subject will always be an investigation into the surface and depth of you, your own being.
We exist within three interrelated fields, from gross to subtle to subtlest, in a continuum. The practices of yoga address them all.
On the gross level is the physical body. Often we will include an Asana Corner in our yoga section, where we’ll break down a yoga pose with physical guidelines for the practice. Because there is no shortage of yoga studios and gyms where you can learn the physical poses, we will discuss the poses from a slightly different perspective: as a way inside, a gateway to a deeper part of our being.
Going deeper on a subtle level is what acupuncturists and martial artists call qi or chi, what massage therapists call energy, and what yogis call the home of chakras. Here also is the home of our thoughts, feelings, emotions — our sense of our own identity.
We exist within three interrelated fields, from gross to subtle to subtlest, in a continuum.
One important bridge from the physical body to the subtle body is the breath, and we will often explore how the breath is our link to all the parts of us. And we will practice svadhyaya, self-study, with questions to ponder and mindfulness exercises to make us more aware of patterns that are often unconscious. Awareness might help us to more consciously choose how we want to be in our lives.
At the subtlest level, we find the transcendent. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali tells us that yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. He’s clearly not talking about just the absence of noise. He goes on to say that when the mind has settled, we are established in our true nature, unbounded consciousness.
The yogis describe it as bliss, ananda. If it’s bliss, it doesn’t have to be conquered. And it shouldn’t require forcing the mind, or concentration. We need only point the mind to the first stage of subtle, and the mind goes, “Yes! Give me more!” We’ll explore the principle of effortlessness as key to the deeper practices of yoga.
In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali provides a map called the “eight limbs.” It is a description both of the practice of yoga and the state of yoga. We could study and become scholarly experts on these eight limbs and still not live yoga. Knowledge is always secondary to experience.
In the coming yoga section articles, there will always be a practice component, a self-study component and a knowledge component. Gradually we will coalesce a complete and progressive set of practices. I am so grateful to share and learn with you. Namaste!
Contact Graham Fowler, founder of Peachtree Yoga, at [email protected]