Q: Does the practice of yoga ever come to an end? Or is it a never-ending process?
A: The goal of yoga is self-transformation, and self-transformation is a never-ending process. So yes, the practice of yoga is a process that has no end. However, the nature of yoga practice changes, becoming more refined as we grow and transform.
The goal of yoga is self-transformation.
Often in the beginning stages, a significant amount of energy is consumed in addressing our physical complaints. In that stage, the purpose of yoga seems to be overcoming these complaints. We learn to pay attention to our diet and begin working with yoga postures. We practice techniques for establishing healthy breathing patterns and train ourselves to go to bed on time and get up on time.
As our health improves and physical complaints are no longer our most pressing concern, the focus of yoga practice shifts from the body to the mind. As we work with our mind, we discover layers of problems and complaints that need to be addressed. The first layers usually involve day-to-day matters, like how to improve our family life, how to handle our working life, how to skillfully deal with our colleagues, and how to be successful without creating tension and anxiety in ourselves and those around us. Yoga offers a variety of techniques for working with our mind and emotions, and gives us confidence that practicing these techniques will lead to rewarding relationships and success in worldly affairs.
As we gain a degree of mastery over our mind and emotions, we see that our life seems to be moving along quite comfortably—our health is good, our family life is pleasant, we have no mental problems, no financial problems, no conflicts with colleagues and neighbors. Yet deep down we find ourselves disturbed by a current of inner restlessness. We also have a number of pressing questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? When I die, what will happen to me? What is the purpose of life?
This is when a deeper and more refined level of yoga practice begins: We start to examine ourselves and reflect on our internal states. Our interest in the philosophical underpinnings of yoga awakens and leads us to read and contemplate scriptures that show the path to ultimate freedom. We commit ourselves to a well-structured meditation practice and begin to open ourselves to the unconditional love and guidance of our inner guide and eternal companion.
There is no limit to the degree to which we can transform ourselves—it is infinite.
As the inner journey continues to deepen, it leads to ever subtler and more intuitive levels of realization. Now we begin to see that yoga practice is endless, and the results that we achieve from it are equally endless. There is no limit to the degree to which we can transform ourselves—it is anantam, infinite. The more we know and the longer we practice, the more we realize there is infinitely more to be known about ourselves and the absolute truth. We find great joy in realizing our relationship with the Infinite is equally infinite. The joy hidden in this knowledge is also infinite. This never-ending process of self-realization has become a source of never-ending delight.