18 Mar Shraddha: My Faith in Yoga is Unshakable
śraddhā-vīrya-smṛti samādhi-prajñā-pūrvaka itareṣām
Practice must be pursued with trust, confidence, vigour, keen memory and power of absorption to break this spiritual complacency. Yoga Sutra I-20
The other day someone posted a ‘scientific’ article on Facebook stating that it’s a proven fact that yoga isn’t effective in the treatment of high blood pressure. Feeling rather cheeky, I wrote a comment to the effect that they were probably using yoga as acrobatic or aerobic, rather than in the way it is intended. There then followed a series of comments debating on the subject which caused me to realize how yoga is often misunderstood by the western world.
Yoga is the world’s oldest self-help technique, and, when used correctly, it is a system that empowers us to manage our well-being in many ways, including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of ourselves. Yoga requires courage as it is about transforming our will power, (which is the realm of the ego,) into quality courage. This stems from our higher self and consequently requires us to surrender to a power that is bigger than us.
Ancient yogis talked about the quality of “shraddha” which is a positive energy that comes from within. Shraddha is a Sanskrit word described by T.K.V. Desikashar as an unshakable conviction in our journey and we need this conviction, or shraddha, to strengthen our intent to achieve success. As yogis, we cultivate shraddha whether we are doing regular sadhana, practicing yoga therapy or we are wired up to a machine receiving chemo. Yoga goes way beyond the mat. Shraddha should not be translated as a “simple” faith, as B.K.S Iyengar says, “It also conveys mental and intellectual firmness”.
As yogis we need to let go of our resistance and cultivate humility in front of the will of the divine, and embrace changes with trust and wisdom. No-one can force faith as it is a gift from our divine nature. The essence of faith is love, and love is to let go of any fear within ourselves. We build our “shraddha” by pushing through fear and trusting implicitly in our feelings. Our yogic practice helps strengthen our ability to be patient and to wait for the will of heaven. Yogis trust without reservation because “shraddha” is the divine medicine.
I am always astonished when people are not interested when I tell them how they can lower or raise their blood pressure, heal their back problems and lower their stress levels through yogic practices. I never push them because I know that in order to heal they need to develop “shraddha”, and cultivate an unshakable conviction that it will work. Scientists often refer to the placebo effect, but the reality is that for all healing to work we need to make the first step with gentle action and clear intent “shraddha” and then wait for the will of heaven. We need to hold firm in our intent, and with the right attitude, steadfastness and continual perseverance, we know that the outcome will be in the care of the divine.
As human beings it is now the right time to reclaim our lost trust. It is the time to revive our faith and dedicate our life to a higher purpose, ishvara pranidhana. The time has come to embrace our spiritual and magnificent self. Svaha, so be it