Many of us come to yoga to get fit, to lose weight, to get some tone and shape into our body, or perhaps even to learn how to calm down. These are great reasons that have great results. Others of us come to yoga because we have experienced a great loss. We come to yoga not necessarily to explore the asanas (poses), but to process our emotions or to learn how to be mindful with them. This is a great reason to come to yoga too, with great results. Still others may be swimming in the spirituality fluid side of themselves desiring more commitment and boundaries in their lives, and their yoga practices guide them to establish those parameters. This is another excellent reason to incorporate yoga into your life with, you guessed it, great results.
Yoga in its literal translation means “to yoke,” to bring forth in union. Yoga is a practice that initiates, invokes, and guides us to seek union. But, what are we seeking union with? Does this union transform us? If so, how does it transform us?
A lot of yogic philosophy and philosophy in general is abstract. It is easier to understand if we put it in concrete terms. Models have a powerful way of bringing abstract information into concrete terms and images we can understand. Models make abstract information digestible and make sense.
I am going to introduce you to a model we can use to understand how yoga has the power to transform us on different experiential planes of development. The model is called the Hoffman’s Quadrinity Model. My teacher, Christina Sell, introduced me to the Hoffman’s Quadrinity Model, and I use it in my daily personal and professional life. I trust you will find the Hoffman’s Quadrinity Model as a handy life tool.
Imagine a circle and this circle represents your circle of life, it represents your ultimate wholeness. As many of us have experienced, we do not always feel whole and to a large extent our life endeavors, whether conscious or unconscious, are endeavors directly connected to us seeking wholeness. We have different parts of ourselves that live in the same body, different voices if you will, that compete for attention. When we are out of balance, these internal voices can cause conflict and disharmony. Each voice is important to the making, sustaining, and stability of the whole.
Now, envision the letter “t” encompassing the inside of the circle and now we have four quadrants. These four quadrants represent the voices we hear carrying on conversations inside of us, in harmony and disharmony sometimes. The four quadrants represent the four aspects of ourselves as follows: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
We have these four planes of development operating within us each day. Sometimes the voices from one quadrant are louder than the others, and at other times we do not hear the voice in a quadrant for a long time. It is as if sometimes the voices are covered and go into hibernation. Still at other times our different voices are singing and competing for attention, and it creates cacophony of utter confusion that can stop us in our tracks, leave us feeling inept, lethargic, and depressed. Welcome to how yoga can transform your life.
Yoga is an ancient discipline of connecting the mind with the body, and the body with the heart, and the heart with the spirit. Yoga is union and the practice of yoga guides us to seek union in all we do. Yoga brings us to balance, wholeness, and unity through transformation. Transformation is a process of connection and integration. When we say we are transforming ourselves or we have had a transformative experience, what we are really doing is integrating our different quadrants (our different selves) and in that act of integration there is a feeling of wholeness, balance, and unity.
But, the feeling is intermittent and that is ok. We want it to be. We are always changing and evolving into our next transformative state. That is what humans do.
We keep transforming closer and closer to the circle of wholeness. We cannot get closer to the circle of wholeness without self-awareness. Yoga opens the door into the depths of self-awareness through any and all the quadrants we travel through.
So, now, let us take an adventure through the quadrants to solidify some of this abstract discussion. This example will exemplify how some of us enter yoga and transform ourselves. It is not THE example, it is just one of many examples using Hoffman’s Quadrinity Model to help us bring some of this abstract discussion into concrete understanding.
Remember, there are four quadrants in which we can enter the door of yoga and deepen our self-awareness, which directly affects our transformation and ultimate integration into the circle of wholeness. You may identify with this example and some of you may not. It is just one of four ways in which we enter intro transformation to our highest Self (think integrated wholeness). Perhaps if you do not personally identify with this example you may notice some similarities and differences in your own life experience that help you understand your own transformative process a little more. Ok, now put on your quadrinity lens for the ride.
Many of us enter yoga through the physical quadrant to practice hatha-based yoga. We want to get fit, lose weight, and tone our buns. There is absolutely nothing wrong with entering through the physical door. Yoga is a great way to gain strength and flexibility, and tone muscles. With a committed and sustained practice we get great physical results. It feels awesome to be fit and look fit. When our bodies are healthy we feel really good about it and our self-confidence increases. Our physical quadrant is dominating our life space and we are getting some great benefits from spending time in this area of our life.
Then one day at practice you find yourself in a posture that feels different, maybe even strange and confusing. It is not a new posture. You have experienced the posture many times, but this time it feels different. The experience shakes your whole energetic system a bit (all that stuff we feel on the inside). You just feel different, but you cannot quite put your finger on it. Your body (our physical self) feels great, but something has stirred up inside of you. You go home and throughout the day notice you get really emotional about the smallest things. It is like this reservoir of emotion is swelling inside and is bursting to be released.
So, you keep practicing and your body feels great, but suddenly you find yourself in the emotional quadrant. Now your physical and emotional quadrants are talking within you at the same time. The stirring of these new emotions brings mixed feelings, but you somehow through staying committed in your practice process them and you feel a freedom you have never experienced before. The repressed anger at your partner’s untrustworthiness ten years ago is not there anymore. Your anger somehow turned into forgiveness and compassion. How did this happen? Through the process of our yoga practice we became more self-aware and now you can see your partner’s humanity instead of the fire of anger of what they did to you.
So this adventure is looking pretty awesome right now. Your body feels great from the physical practice of yoga and somehow moving your body in certain ways released negative energy pent up inside of you and your emotions are feeling light as a feather. It is like you are floating on a cloud within and it feels amazing. You had another transformative experience. You just experienced the integration of your physical and emotional selves.
By now you are noticing you are reaping some great benefits. So, you keep practicing, of course. Then one day in practice your instructor says the same cue he has been using for the last thirty classes and it never made sense until now. “Turn your adductors on, your inner thigh muscles,” he says. You might be thinking, “Geeze, I’m standing in this lunge for what feels like eternity, aren’t my adductor whatever muscles turned on!” But, you engage these muscles anyway one day, and click, you feel the difference! You are strong, firm, and stable! No more wobbling in that lunge for you. So you listen to his cues with more discernment and interest and experience a newfound clarity in the pose.
You really loved the way processing that new alignment knowledge made your body feel in the pose and you want to know how to make other areas of your body feel so alive. So you keep processing the teacher’s cues and thinking about them. Suddenly you find yourself in the intellectual quadrant fascinated with the science and technique of yoga. You are experiencing a new level of freedom and understanding. Your brain is turning its wheels and feels ignited. It feels amazing! This was another transformative experience. You just integrated another part of yourself to the greater circle of your life wholeness. You keep coming back to practice because you love this balance in your life.
Then one day while laying in savanna or corpse pose you find yourself deepening into relaxation in a new way. Your heart swells with gratitude and appreciation. Suddenly you hear a voice inside of you that says, “It’s time to follow your dreams.” It tells you to go do that thing that you have always wanted to do and it tells you to stop waiting and to go do it now. And, upon hearing this you feel such profound insight and unconditional love for yourself and the voice that is guiding you to agree to take the step towards your dreams. You are now traveling in the spiritual quadrant.
It feels great. It feels explosive. It feels amazing because you never thought you would be here having a conversation with your spiritual self agreeing to take a step forward to walk the path of your dreams. But, you just did. You made an agreement and it feels like a freedom and a kind of love you have never experienced before, until now. You just had a transformative experience in your spiritual quadrant. Not only do you have a firm and toned bottom half, your emotions feel fluid and light, your brain is surging with creative curiosity, and have new and profound insight and courage to take the path of your dreams.
It feels amazing. Because it is amazing! You just integrated four parts of yourself into a whole. It is not exactly THE wholeness, but you have just transformed yourself in a way that you became more self-aware of your wholeness.
But you soon find out that not every practice feels that amazing. Now you are on a different level of self-awareness that leads us to a different understanding and place in our circle of wholeness. As my teacher, Christina Sell, has said, “Yoga teaches us how to receive the sweetness and retain the fire.” We remember the sweetness of those transformative moments in our lives that give us a taste of what our integrated selves feels like, we get a sense of what union and balance feels like. Those states of being are wonderful.
Yoga also keeps the fire going inside to guide us through the rocky changes to seek another level of the nectar of transformation. When we experience the nectar, the fire continually burns to guide us to seek union in our evolution at different levels of self-awareness. At each transformative stage, we keep trekking through the various quadrants in and around the circle, coming in one quadrant only to find ourselves experiencing life in a different quadrant where the integration of two or more quadrants foster our transformative experience. The nectar is the experience of the transformation. The change, the chaos, the imbalance is the fire that propels us to the next stage of even deeper self-awareness.
In the depths of self-awareness we begin to see and experience our wholeness and our circle of life in profound ways that has us coming back to the mat over and over again. We practice yoga to receive the sweetness and retain the fire, because we have a deep desire and purpose to seek and feel wholeness. We get there through transformation after transformation in our journey through the quadrants of our existence.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea