The paths of yoga lead to the heights of self-knowledge

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“The Veda of hymns” Hymn of Munificence (book 10)

People have always been attracted by road and journey. Going on a road opens so many things up. “Following the paths” – is the ancient practice of self-exploration, which was a part of tradition all over the world over many generations. Travelling pilgrims, wanderers, wayfarers, travellers and hikers – we can read about them in all ancient scriptures, including the Vedas. The purpose of these journeys could be various: to make the body stronger or to purify the mind, to overcome oneself, to widen personal borders, to get to know other countries and people, visiting sacred sites; or just travelling without any particular purpose, for the sake of the road and walking along it. The practice “Following the paths” fits into the concept of austerity, as it involves some difficulties on the way.

Why is this practice so effective and what is the use of it? Is it possible to pilgrim in the modern world or is it something old-fashioned? Let’s try to figure it out.

It all starts with the first step

As we know, there are as many types of yoga as there are manifestations of a human being. In other words, we can unleash our potential in the most effective and harmonious way. We are able to move through space — walking, sometimes over long distances. Therefore, we can talk about such kind of yoga as yoga of walking. It is hard to find the right term for this practice, so in yoga the name “Following the paths” is used.

“ A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step” Lao Tzu (VI BCE)

“Take a step and the road will appear by itself” Steve Jobs (1955 -2011)

These quotes by two people, who lived in different centuries and in different countries give us the same message: it all starts with the first step. This volitional impulse comes from a person as manifestation of free will. The first step is always the most difficult.

Microcosm and Macrocosm on the path

On the way, we gradually learn to seize harmony and rhythm. With this ability, we acquire  knowledge and skills, that  have an important influence on our life – we know when to rely  on ourselves and when to trust the Universe. We can encounter many strange things on the way, perhaps even dangerous ones. We should, on the one hand, rely on our strength and knowledge and, on the other, learn to listen to nature. Being attentive to the outside world and to ourselves, we can discover this transition instantly and learn to switch from Microcosm when we rely on ourselves to Macrocosm when we rely on the forces of the Universe.

When the way is the purpose

“Is it fair to blame the traveller for spending so much time on the road, when travelling the path is the main purpose of his journey? Kozma Prutkov

Why does travel give us so much? The practice “Following the paths” or “Yoga paths” includes several types of yoga. So, by travelling, we simultaneously practice several types of yoga and our process of self-exploration accelerates tremendously.

Rita yoga. It is vital to learn how to feel the flow of Rita, that is, harmony, meaning to distinguish when we need to keep going and when we need to stop and have a break, or slow down. When we listen to the universal rhythm, we merge with it in harmony, and this is how we practice Rita yoga.

Kriya yoga. The movement itself, the fact that we walk and navigate through space and time – is Kriya. The pace of our walk helps us to disassociate ourselves from our bodies. Then, if the way is safe and we don’t have to constantly check the direction, we can easily disassociate ourselves from our thoughts and just feel the movement.

Yantra Yoga. When we travel we have the possibility to watch some beautiful natural or architectural forms, objects, colours; our eyes feel joy and rest, absorbing new information. This is yantra yoga – yoga of visual images.

Pranayama. Breathing while we are walking  or when we stop to have a rest, we learn to bring awareness to our breath, to breathe in a smooth and harmonious manner. This is pranayama yoga – managing our life force or prana by working with the breath.

Meditation. On a trip it becomes easy to understand the principle of meditation. For example, it is easy to master meditation by the method of Energy, which unlike the method of Consciousness does not require concentration on one object or phenomenon. In this case we reach the state of meditation by dissolving in our feelings from the surroundings, such as listening to the sounds of our steps on the path, watching the flames of the fire, the fast running water in the river or the clouds draping the mountain.

Chakra yoga. During our journey, we feel the surrounding world with all our senses. Each sense has its own chakra. We sense subtle and crude flavours and shades of earth and plants. Especially if we walk in the flowering summer meadow at noon, inhaling the scent of grass and flowers heated by the sun. And how delicious is the most simple food on a trip! If we find some berries or fruits, all these gifts of nature are ready to burst with new incredible sensations in the mouth. Our sense organs are discovering familiar tastes and flavours in a new way. During the trip we can feed all our senses: smell, taste, vision, touch, hearing (yoga also defines intuition as the sixth sense), and feel the new experience of contemplating the Universe.

Nyasa yoga. If it’s possible, we can walk barefoot and concentrate on the feelings in our feet, feel the ground surface, what it is like: hard or soft; feel each little stone and blade of grass. Or how about the wind touching our skin, playing with our hair, or the grass caressing our feet, the tree branches smoothly running over our arms, and we accept the world and the world accepts us. We touch it softly and gently and it responds to our love immediately. The sense of touch is nyasa yoga.

Mantra and Nada yoga. We often feel the desire to sing or to hum a favourite song, or may be a mantra, which goes well with walking. Mantra yoga is when we pronounce different sounds or simulate sound vibrations. When we hear and perceive them – it is Nada yoga. Our ears pick up nature sounds: bees buzzing, river streaming, birds singing, wind rustling in leaves – and we merge with these sounds in harmony.

Jnana yoga. Using our mind is certainly a part of this process. On the way we gather and analyze the information about the world and sometimes we let our thoughts rest. In these moments of silence of the mind, intuitive knowledge comes to us. When we walk our path and know everything without knowing, the knowledge comes from our source – the Higher Self.

As such, while we are walking, we involve all our manifestations. We gather all sorts of our feelings and gain new knowledge about the world order. It comes by itself, naturally and harmoniously.

Working with associative links. Asceticism

When we go for a long walk on our own, for a few days in a savage terrain — it is a real practice of asceticism. It helps us to break irrelevant associative links and accumulate the released life force — prana — and use it in the right way, forming new appropriate associations. By changing our lifestyle temporarily and putting ourselves into quite uncomfortable conditions, we give up old habits and gain new ones. If we practice together with like-minded people, “Yoga paths” becomes a very interesting and useful joint practice.

Taste of freedom and a choice of travel

If we realise our freedom even to the slightest extent, we should realise our responsibility, if we try this practice for the first time. Going on a trip, it is important to ensure the support and guidance of our relatives or friends, otherwise the journey may fail or not happen at all. Then, armed with the Yoga Principles, we can walk up the road with courage and joy. No matter where this road takes us: urban maze or wilderness of nature, we should always remember the two main yoga principles.

Where could a person go in the modern urban life? There is always an option. We can discover our own city, by charting a route through a city street maze. There are peculiarities of the practice in a city: it is impossible to switch off and completely let go. The noise, the transport, the people — all these distractions will be some sort of obstacles on the way.

We can, after looking at the maps, drive to the sparsely populated area and then start walking, or go to the nearest village out of the city. We can walk without any particular purpose and be ready for an adventure.

The practice “Following the paths”, though very ancient, is still relevant. It helps us to get out of familiar places, where we live and work, and to change our lifestyle tremendously for some time. It allows us to look at our life from a different perspective. We can notice something irrelevant and probably would want to replace it with something more appropriate. On the way, we work with all our internal structures — from our gross sense organs to more subtle, which are directly related with some fundamental parts of yoga. The travel becomes by itself a natural deep practice, which can — with harmonious approach and by following the yoga principles — speed up our personal spiritual development on the way to self-knowledge.

Make a step towards the Universe

and it will make a thousand steps towards you!

Author: Nastya Narayani

Picture: Nastya Narayani

Editors: Mariya Gayatri, Alla Ravi, Olga Belous, Eva May, Evgenia Agni

Chief Editor: Mirra

Project curator: Kerigona

Translators: Tatiana Sugrue, Nat Satcitananda, Tatiana Atishaya

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