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Where's Your Awareness?
It's the Difference Between Yoga and Plain Old Exercise

There are dozens upon dozens of different Yoga styles. Each teacher has his or her own approach. No two Yoga enthusiasts practice in quite the same way. But there's one constant and without this you are not doing Yoga. You may be getting more fit and flexible, you may even be calming your mind somewhat, but it is not Yoga unless it includes this one specific quality: awareness. No awareness, no Yoga, period. But what exactly is awareness? It's about as difficult to describe, really, as enlightenment is. You need to have been there to understand. You've undoubtedly had flashes of awareness in your life. Hopefully this article will deepen your comprehension, and hence your capacity to experience awareness.

(Article continued below.)

As you've probably already gathered, awareness is - you can't "do" awareness. Awareness involves living in the present moment, but it's also more than that. It's also about comprehending your place in the now. It is possible to be in the present moment and do something negative such as smoke a cigarette. You certainly can observe all the sensations of smoking as you are doing it (and those whose lungs are accustomed to smoking find many of these sensations pleasant ones). It is impossible, however, to smoke a cigarette in a state of awareness. The habit of smoking requires a certain amount of self-hatred and disdain for your surroundings - perhaps they're subconscious, but those feelings are still there. When you are living in awareness, the desire to smoke goes away - it just doesn't make sense. If you crave a cigarette to begin with, you are not being aware. Craving is the antithesis of living in the now and inner comprehension - it's all about expectations and ego needs. There is no place for ego in awareness.

Awareness also precludes daydreams and fantasies, which sap you of your energy to remain in the now. If you are truly aware, you have no need for daydreams - the present is just too interesting to miss! When you're on an emotional roller coaster, you've entered another type of fantasy world. Extremes of emotion cause you to forget your center and you lose the present - you go somewhere that has nothing to do with reality. When you're aware, everything that is happening around you makes sense, even when events are not pleasant. Awareness and serenity go hand in hand.

The quality of your Yoga practice relies on the quality of your awareness. You're aware of your body, and how it is accomplishing the pose. You are aware of your limitations without judging them. You sense how your breathing ties in with the pose. The confines of the mind fall away and you find a place of inner calm. Imagine being aware enough so that when you're in the most challenging pose you can see beyond your emotional and physical reactions - there's insight waiting to happen. These moments are what Yoga is really all about.

Yoga is the perfect venue in which to discover awareness. Then you can also take that sense of inner calm, knowing, and being in the now into your everyday life. You will find beauty in the mundane and truth in the commonplace. Nothing will ever seem prosaic or drab. Feeling at one with your surroundings helps you to see the wholeness, the holiness of it all. In case you haven't figured it out, the state of awareness at its deepest level is nothing less than enlightenment - the ultimate goal on Yoga's Eightfold Path.

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