Mokṣa, pronounced “moke-sha”, is the Sanskrit word which means liberation from ignorance: serious self-realization and self-knowledge. This is the goal of Yoga. Not the Yoga butt, not the most complicated asana (pose) or the fashionable pants. It means digging deep down, rising up like the sun, and laboring until the work is done. Poses, breathing, meditation, focusing, and not relenting in the pursuit of wringing out the stuff that doesn’t belong inside or hinders us in our life mission. That is a tall order to spell out in any Yoga studio. Thank you very much, some would just rather pop over to 24-Hour fitness, do a stairmaster and watch the tele. Going within is tough stuff.
One fundamental practice besides doing the asanas in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia is the 80+ degree heat with 85% humidity, is to ignore your body and all distractions around you, and settle into controlled breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dhāraṇā). At home I can practice in my studio with AC, no worry of mosquitoes that may carry Dengue Fever and if my bug lotion sweating off, and have the relative comfort of a controlled and comfortable environment. But the true test of a Yogi/Yogini is to immerse yourself in a space outside your comfort zone to see if you still have that skill-set. This is pratyahara: sense restraint or withdrawal. It is one of the limbs of Yoga and a precursor to any further work you do. With a slight bit of resistance in the beginning, I can say I have that now. But then again, this is my second time around, albeit a little more difficult heat-wise here on this beautiful island. I have learned the delicate art of surrender, of relinquishing and knowing it will only last so long: everything is temporal. Every pleasure and every pain is limited. Yoga teaches you how to deal with and manage those moments both good and bad. The wheel of life keeps on spinning and you need to hold on for the ride. But the expectation is that one hones one’s own tools to make the most out of it.
As a Yogini away, I have made a personal commitment to avoiding American news outlets, on tv or online, and Facebook (with the exception of posting for Soul Spark Yoga). This sensory withdrawal, the release from the toxic election coverage and Facebook ramble, has freed my senses. I also attend to emails when I feel like it, and not as soon as they come in. This is a necessary sensory break so my mind can focus on greater things. This time of pratyahara is a delicious break.
Mokṣa takes work and dedicated practice. It takes carving out time to ensure you are diving deeper than just a simple workout, which is what most Western society interprets Yoga to be. Some forward-folds, downdog, savasana, done. If you want true freedom, true liberation from stress in your life, the bondage of work commitments, illness, etc….one has to work for it. And Yoga provides the tools if one is willing to sweat internally and strive. You might stretch your hamstrings, but that was never the ultimate goal of Yoga. Of course I would like my students to be more stretchy-bendy, but more importantly flexible in many more ways as well. Mokṣa was always the goal and will always be in a traditional Yoga practice.
I can’t wait to return in late November to help my students at Soul Spark Yoga further with their goal of Mokṣa. May it be our goal to awaken, grow, and illuminate like a sunrise and begin anew again with that striving that says: let us be liberated, let our self-knowledge grow. We will be strong and we will be strengthened. As Yoga’s aim is to calm the fluctuations for the mind, Yoga nirodha chitta vritti, may it also bring you to a steadiness of purpose and free you.