Yogic practices are vast and varied. The practices most commonly known are the Asanas (Yogic Postures) and Meditation. Pranayama (Yogic Breathing) and Chanting are then likely to be known by people with at least some general yoga experience. These practices are common to many traditions, and along with rules for self-discpline and social-discipline make up the core practices of the Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga Traditions.
Despite what is commonly understood about Tantra in the west, it is a huge array of yogic techniques that deal with many different aspects of life, teaching the practitioner to experience the Divine in all of life. Tantra is really an umbrella term in a way, which houses all these different techniques. The popular Hatha yoga comes directly out of Tantric Traditions and lives peacefully under that umbrella with so many other techniques and practices.
Just as a doctor only gives a specific medicine to a specific illness, Tantra Yoga prescribes specific practices for specific needs of practitioners based upon his or her state of mind. But one important commonality to all of these practices is Being Present. To bringing the awareness into the present moment and fully surrendering to what is.
As our mind is focused through yogic practice, we stay present to all of life's blessings. And the troubles of life begin to roll through our mind like the images of a movie on the big screen. As soon as the frames containing the pain and suffering have ended, they are no longer in our mind and therefore no longer part of our experience. We are then aware of the next frames of the movie.
Over time, as we stay increasingly more present, we begin to see through our own direct experience that pain and suffering always come to an end and are replaced by pleasure. This rising and falling of states is part of the flow of life. When we begin to acknowledge the impermanence of our experience, of pain and suffering, they begin to lose their hold on us. They are no longer the fearful beast that we took them to be. They no longer have the power to destroy our peace of mind, because we know they will end just as quickly as they arose. That we simply need to patiently wait for the next frames of the movie of our life to roll along.
As fear of suffering and pain slowly vanishes, we begin to more closely pay attention to the nature of reality. The flow of Presence. The stillness and silence between the frames of the film. And our awareness begins to rest there. Rest in that Silence. Rest in that Peace. This is the direction that Yogic Practices can take someone who is truly dedicated and devoted.
Although most of the Yogic Texts come from Eastern cultures, they are not a religion, but rather a scientific exploration of Life, Reality, the Mind and our relationship to those things. Like in the East, Yogic practices can be incorporated into a spiritual practice based upon any religion. And they can also be undertaken by those who have no religious beliefs. The scientific nature of the practices proves itself over time, with or without Spiritual affiliation. It can be undertaken as devotion to God, or as an exploration of the Human Mind. Either way, the path leads to the same experience. An understanding of the Nature of the Self.
Along the way, the path is sometimes clear and sunny, and at other times difficult and full of thorns. Overcoming obstacles and strengthening the desire to continue the exploration is part of the journey. The important thing to know is that with dedication and devotion to practice, you will progress. Your body WILL become healthier and more flexible. Your Mind will become calmer and more peaceful. Your life will begin to transform in unexpected and delightful ways. And for those who press on further, eventually, a deep and profound connection with life will awaken.
The practices and tools that Yoga offers are methods to purify and relax the body and mind, while training the mind to be fully present and experience the depth of Being. But we must remember that the practices are tools and not Yoga itself. The tools teach you to be present, to relax the body and mind and to open to life. Being present to life and present to the journey itself: Pure Awareness of Being. This is Yoga.