We all are very familiar with Yogic tools like āsana. But not so many of us, we know that Yātrā, pilgrimage, is a very powerful tool of Yoga. It consist to visit some specials places or people. Undertaking a Yātrā is undertaking a travel with some spiritual destination with great humility and sincere devotion. There is always a kind of an effort to make in a Yātrā to arrive at the right destination. There is often a large part of the travel condition left to the fortune.
A Yātrā has to be undertaken with a lot of open-mindness, to be open that the journey may not fulfil our egoistic expectations. This is the first part of why a Yātrā is working. This makes us to reflect on our attitude during this trip. Many things can happen and operates the changes in our expectation. This is why it is a work against the ego (asmitā). The pilgrim has to find his own psychological, energetical and emotional ressources from a deeper place inside himself rather than from the shallow and rigid force of ego. Our ego is usually very strong and drives us very often to judge everything which is not in the path that we imagined or planned before, because we think we know. Undertaking a pilgrimage with humility will slowly change this habit and the pilgrim will start to reflect on why he usually thinks like this or why he usually get trapped into the same kind of problems. By travelling in that way, having to change his plan, having to wait, having to adapt to go to the toilet, to adapt to the other pilgrims attitude, to the weather, food, etc, he slowly begins a very intense work on its own saṁskāra (internal habits). Then he slowly realizes that his way of thinking can be responsible for his suffering and can begins a deep self-enquiry (svādhyāya) which is actually held by the travel and the group.
One of our student went to Santiago de Compostelle with his familly. They walked two weeks in different forecast conditions with the intention to heal the familly from some dysfunctionnal behavior. When you speak with him now, he says how much this Yātrā has helped them and the functionning of the whole familly has changed for the best. Deep emotions and vāsana (impressions from the past) that are driven us, often unconsciously, are slowly coming out when the usual pattern of our lifestyle is broken by a pilgrimage. Then we can slowly heal it. That is why a pilgrimage is a deep meditation as it helps us to crack the egoistic armour that we have put in place in order to manage our daily life with some internal and conscious ressources.
The other beautiful aspect of a Yātrā is faith. There is not one place where everybody has to go for a Yātrā. Such a travel has to be chosen accordingly to the belief system of the pilgrim. For some people it will be going to a special temple for nārāyāṇa (vishnu) as for other it may be for śiva, Jesus, or some beautiful and natural places like a special forest or some mountains. This is the deep link between the pilgrim and the place that will help to transcend the limitation of our ego to adapt. That is why a Yātrā has to be done only with humility. The attitude behind is far different from a tourist attitude and if you undertake such a travel, conditions will remind you this by changing your expectation. Humility and faith are the chore of a Yātrā, not ego or entitlement. Having gone deep inside to reach the place, your faith will heal you.
Dr. Kausthub Desikachar
Viniyoga® Teachers @ Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation