I wonder if you have read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. It was one of the books that excited me about yoga when I was just learning about the subject 40 years ago. I would still give the book the highest recommendation.
What intrigued me most in what I read were the psychic powers described by this remarkable yogi. Yogananda explains the subtle but definite laws behind both the ordinary events of everyday life and extraordinary events that we might call miracles.
That was then, and now? I won’t say I’m older and wiser, but I will say I’ve been mightily influenced by 20 years of living with Daniel, my skeptical husband.
Yoga practitioners and teachers are not always known for questioning dogma and beliefs. For instance, as a new yogi, you might take in unreservedly all that your teacher says in class, even though it may be somewhat esoteric to you. A commonly repeated phrase is “do your poses with effortless effort”. What can that possibly mean to someone who has perhaps spent their youth vying for high test scores and then in adulthood competing for jobs and promotions?
Or, how about when your teacher bandies around Sanskrit concepts, like aparigraha or vairagrya, in class? Not to mention, when you’re in a pose, describing minute movements of skin, muscles, or even internal organs that you should be connecting with.
My husband has been happily attending classes with me for 19 years. Since he is not the only one of a skeptical bent among my students, I try to be as un-mystical as possible in how I teach, while still conveying the spiritual heart of yoga. No mean achievement.
For the next part of my sharing about Patanjali’s Sutra, Chapter III, I’m hoping I can understand the aphorisms and keep an open-mind as this section is called Vibhutipadah – meaning ‘exceptional faculties’.
I wouldn’t want an attitude of skepticism to become a filter over being open and receptive. Receptivity, it seems to me, is a way for a yogi to be in the world and still enjoy life’s mysteries.
“Surely we cannot take an open question like the supernatural and shut it with a bang, turning the key of the madhouse on all the mystics of history. You cannot take the region of the unknown and calmly say that, though you know nothing about it, you know all the gates are locked. We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable.”
― G.K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936 Writer, Poet, Journalist, Philosopher)