It’s all about you. That’s the good news and the bad news.
Let’s start with the good news. Yoga is all about you. The practices of yoga are for the purpose of discovering who you truly are. Who are you? You might answer that question with any, or all, of the following:
Profession – I am what I do. “I am a doctor. I am an engineer. I am a yoga teacher.”
Relationships – I am who I know. “I am a son. I am an aunt. I am a friend.”
Location – I am my location. “I am a Pennsylvanian. I grew up in Kansas.”
While these are all true, there is even more to you. Yoga asks: who is the one being you while you do these things? Who is the one in these relationships and living in these places? And when these life circumstances change, do you become a different person? Yoga says, “No.” While your external circumstances change, and even as you adapt to then, there is an unchanging you. When you get a new job, who is the one who did your old job? It is the same you who is doing your new job. Who is that you?
Who are you, really? The answer is found inside. Yoga specializes in turning your attention inward and discovering who you truly are. That could be surprising, given the popularity of yoga poses. Yet the original purpose of the poses is to prepare your body to sit for meditation. It is in the practice of meditation that you turn your attention inward and explore who you truly are.
Who do you find when you turn your awareness inside? The yoga sage Shankaracharya described it this way:
Chid-aananda-roopah shivo’ham shivo’ham.
My nature is the bliss of pure consciousness. I am Shiva. I am Shiva.
Yoga has many names for your inherent “you-ness.” Shankaracharya uses the name Shiva for your you-ness. Around 800 CE in India, he composed the Atma Shatkam, his poem of bliss and Consciousness. His refrain “Shivo’ham Shivo’ham” follows each verse. Thus he repeats, “I am Shiva, I am Shiva.” He knew that we need the repetition. That’s because we don’t yet know who we are. And that’s the bad news.
When you don’t know your inherent nature as bliss — as Shiva — you think you are something less. You think you are your profession, your relationships and locations. You work hard at getting the right job, having perfect relationships and living in a beautiful location. Your mind keeps you busy with worries and anxieties. “What do I need to do? What do they think about me? Where do I want to live?” It’s all about you. Unfortunately, it’s all about a small sense of you.
The problem is that you are focused on who you are on the outside. You are simply focused on the wrong you. Yoga says to turn your attention inside. There you find your inherent you-ness. Then you will live in the pure bliss of Consciousness.
When I first learned these teachings, I got distracted by the pure bliss of Consciousness. Can you really blame me? This promise was such a radical change from my day-to-day experience. Yoga was promising me not merely joy but bliss. Without realizing it, I assumed that I had to change who I was to achieve it. I was missing the key part of this teaching. Bliss is my nature. I already am the bliss of Consciousness. The Svaroopa® yoga practices have opened me up to my inherent nature. When I am settled into bliss — my own Divine Essence, I feel that I’ve come home. I describe it as, “I am me.”
That’s the good news. You are you. You don’t need to do anything to become you. Your nature is the bliss of pure Consciousness. Inherently, you are bliss itself. It is the fundamental quality that makes you “you.” This “you” has been the same, from childhood through adolescence and into your adulthood. If you took bliss away, then you wouldn’t be you. It’s like if you took water and tried to make it not wet. You can’t. Water is inherently wet. You are inherently the bliss of Consciousness. This is the good news. Yoga is all about discovering who you are. And you discover that your true essence is bliss.
You simply need to focus on your true Divine Essence. Yoga’s practices are designed to get you beyond your external sense of who you are to a deeper sense within. So it’s all about you. Which “you” are you going to focus on?