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Why Yoga is Important for Life : Sage Patanjali

In accordance with its nature atman is completely spiritual, hence spiritual culture is natural to it. However, due to the results of previous actions performed in ignorance of their consequences, the atman remains incarcerated in the physical body and its energy, consciousness becomes shrouded in the darkness of ignorance, life after life. Ignorance causes us to forget our true identity as spiritual beings and hence makes us attached to temporary, non-essential matter. This results in the psyche coming in the grip of an intrusive type of fear that is never far away and always ready to attack. Thus the aim of yoga is to situate the atman in its original, constitutional position, i.e. freedom from false identification with the transitory physical body and mind. When this occurs the mind becomes free from fear, anxiety, suffering and delusion. Just as the fish cannot remain longer than a few minutes outside water, the atman, the spirit soul cannot remain happy in this transient mundane abode, not its natural habitat.

The spirit soul is immortal, so it is constantly searching for an eternal abode full of bliss. Sage Patanjali directs the beginner's attention to another important point to be considered. Every individual is unique, possessing her/his unique nature and character shaped by the individual's karma, results of previous actions. This personal nature must be taken into account when engaging in yoga practice. The intrinsic nature of every individual's spiritual soul is all the same. The nature every individual is born with varies, even if sometimes only slightly. Specific practices may not suit certain individuals. Time required to accomplish a task will indeed vary from individual to individual. Which aspect of a certain practice requires more attention and which less or where are the mental blocks etc.

The reason for such advice is that going against the grain of ones nature will result in inner conflict and frustration. Thus we are advised in the scriptures not to perform the duties of a person of a different nature and occupation, even if we can execute it well. It is far better to perform ones own duties according to ones nature and occupation even if not performed well. For example, a student with a sharp memory learns just by hearing and does not require long study-hours after school. If other students try to imitate him, most will probably fail in the exam. So, the yoga novice must try to find out his/her nature and character and only then proceed. Practice of yoga to attain a degree of perfection may require a better part of a life or even the entire life. Half way through the practice to detect that one has not taken the right decisions on what to practice will indeed lead to immense disappointment. It means to plan the right strategy of conducting life by integrating yoga.

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