Any person who is not lethargic can practice yoga, be he young, old very old, sick or weak. One who is intent on practice will obtain yoga, not one who is idle. Yoga is not obtained by the reading Scriptures, nor by wearing the dress of a yogini, nor by talking about it. Practice alone is the course of success.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 2nd chapter
This Kriya Yoga or yoga of action is the key-point of Sadhana (practice). It is a master key, which is applied in every step of practice from the base to the zenith as the aspirant climbs up on the path of yoga
Aastadala Yogamala, Vol I, p. 171
Tapas is the quality of application, focus and effort. It is the heat we apply to go forward, to experience. Tapas is cleansing and purifying. It requires that we overcome obstacles within ourselves.
What is Tapas? Tapas is usually translated as austerity, but its meaning is better expressed as burning desire. It is a burning desire to cleanse every cell of the body and every cell of our senses, so that the senses and the body may be made permanently pure and healthy and leave no room for impurities to enter into our systemThe Tree of Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar
“Tapas means tremendous discipline, tremendous cleanliness to purge the weaknesses in every human being…Aastadala Yogamala, Vol IV, p. 110
In Tapas we experience directly. In doing so we burn off past impressions which limit us, and our ideas of what we are capable of changing. Through action (tapas) we can refine our consciousness -change and grow.
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Svadhyaya is checking oneself to see if the principles of yoga are followed. In order to follow these principles, one has first to decide whether one’s own pattern of behavior is aligned with them or not. If not, one has to prepare one’s thoughts and actions in accordance with them, and remove those faults which hinder one’s SadhanaLight on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Then Patanjali speaks of Svadhyaya. After disciplining ourselves by certain actions to get ourselves purified, he makes us understand ourselves from body to the self as self-study. He leads us to know ourselves through our behavior with neighbors. By this we understand the modes and moods of our mind… Studying ourselves and the ways and movements of body and mind would form a book. How am I behaving with my neighbors? How is my neighbor behaving with me? Should I react? What is the way to come together in a communion?
Aastadala Yogamala, Vol IV, p. 110
In the practice, self-study is the quality that allows us to put aside judgments in our moment-to-moment performance of asana and pranayama to observe our interaction with the pose. In this way, it is a much more flexible quality than tapas – more watchful and forgiving. It is only when you are in the experience of asana, rather than the instruction, and you experience the doing and your interaction with the doing, that time disappears.
Ishvara Pranidhana is a deep recognition of the one that sustains us and gives meaning to every level of our lives. It is a kind of inner belief in the sense of where we place our hearts – the recognition that God exists in everyone, in everything, and in every situation. It is the recognition of the wondrous mystery of all existence and deep gratitude for the very existence of our lives, for all the great abundance we were born into, for being able to live, breathe and feel. All these are not self-evident.
Beyond that, there is a need for trust and to devote oneself to the yogic path. What is devotion? Devotion is an action devoid of calculation, an action that isn’t done out of thought on loss or gain. It is an action done wholeheartedly, an action performed out of love and not in order to glorify our ego. When we devote ourselves to the path, we are willing to walk it for the very act of walking and not for tangible material fruits. That is the component of Isvarapranidhanani.
Svadhyaya is the study, it defines the domain of the yogic inquiry. Tapas is how to study, study by action, by doing and observing at the same time. Ishvara Pranidhana is accepting what is being our control.
The lives of human beings are made up of work, study and love – the three elements will turn into yoga, into kriya yoga, once the work is performed as a service or offering; the study is done for the sake of internal inquiry and the love is to open up our hearts to all living beings without calculating gain and loss.
Once the work turns into selfless service, the study is done for the purpose of liberation and the love is unconditional, then we become Yogis!
There is a saying:
Yoga helps cure what can be cured, bear what can’t be cured and distinguish between the two
Curing what is incurable through Tapas, bearing what is incurable – that is Isvarapranidhanani, and the wisdom to distinguish between the two is acquired through Svadhyaya.
Kriya Yoga in Practice
- The Choice of the sequence of practice – the practice should be balanced according to these 3 components.
- In the Asana – in every asana, there should be these 3 components.
We can do the asana for Work, for Study, or to be Absorbed and surrender.
Adjustments –Observing & Reflecting – Surrounding