Yoga is a growing field and hot topic of interest.
Many people have concepts about what it is, is not and might be. But regardless of popular opinion about yoga, it is clearly defined in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This ancient book clearly explains in its second sutra that Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodaha, which translates that yoga is ceasing the modifications of the mind, or stopping the identifications of the mind or being liberated from the cycles of mental action. But how do we do this ?
When on the yoga mat, the attitudes, perceptions, beliefs, resistances and attractions that appear are the very same feelings and emotions that arise when not on the yoga mat, in our day to day life. The practice of yoga gives us the opportunity to see the patterns that drive us and the layers of existence that comprise the whole human being, and then unlearn them. The mind, and its cycles of identifications, are simply one part of our being. But to be able to transcend the simplistic structures of beliefs and book knowledge, practical and scientific experimention and experiential techniques are necessary.
Hatha yoga, the physical practice of postures, is a foundation for observation.
Swadhaya, or self-observation, is a technique in yoga where one learns to observe their body, mind, emotions and all that changes. But anytime we look at ourself, there are inevitable emotions that arise, the self-negations and judgments, the ideal that our body should or should not be the way it is, and the frustration of not being able to touch our toes or being as flexible as the person next to us. These are the very identifications of mind that we must transcend to discover the state of consciousness called yoga.
Transcending the mind is to also set aside the beliefs about what mind is and is not.
Unfortunately, a common belief in the yoga community is that ego is bad and must be destroyed in order to be awakened or enlightened. However, ego is necessary to function in the world, and to destroy our ego would be very harmful. The concept that ego must be removed is a very damaging idea in the first place. Fortunately, ego doesn’t need to be annihilated, it just needs to be educated in its proper role and function within our being. The actions of trying to stop the mind are the actions of mind, so a different, non-mental approach is required.
When practicing yoga, to quiet the ego-mind, bring keen awareness to the senses.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjalis says in Sutra 1:35: Visayavati Va Pravrttir Utpanna Manasah Sthiti Nibandhani, and translates as meaning that the concentration on subtle sense perceptions can cause steadiness of mind. Sense perceptions are the five senses: scent, sight, hearing, taste and sensation, and as we direct awareness to them, the subtleties within each sense is made available.
The reason that senses calm the mind is that they relate directly to reality. What arises after sensory input remains the modifications of mind. How one person responds and believes to touch, or the taste of chocolate, differs from other people. But the sensory input is pretty much identical.
To relate to pure sensory input is difficult, because we all have emotions about the feeling and sensory data.
And to begin to reprogram and quiet these beliefs is the purpose on the yoga mat, because once the mind is quiet, then yoga reveals itself. By being present, and relinquishing the goal-orientation of doing, all the benefits of yoga arise naturally. And of all the senses that are most active on a yoga mat, sensation is the strongest and easiest to access.
To feel the sensations while breathing or in asana, brings natural meditation.
In my classes I encourage people to feel their heartbeat in between asana. So many people are disconnected from their body to such a degree that this vital, life-sustaining organ cannot be felt. The layers of self-judgment and mental activity have interfered with the body-mind relationship, and the result is stress and sickness. To begin to regain equilibrium within, sensation within postures is a grounding foundation.
It is true that a yoga posture that is painful needs to be adjusted, but the posture that is merely difficult because of tight muscles or laziness has the opportunity for self-awareness and discovery of deeper depths. This is where breath, and feeling the posture, allows for releasing the held tensions, and relinquishing the resistances in the body. And as a result, the mind is also released and allowed spaciousness.
While feeling the sensations, observe the passing mental tendencies.
The mind is tricky, and no matter how keen we are at concentrating on the body senses, thoughts will intrude. Rather than do something about thoughts, simply shift awareness back to the senses. This diminishes the driving power of doing, the cyclical power of ego-mind that causes the issues that need to be resolved. The natural state of non-doing begins to unfold.
And at some point, one will find that they have stopped doing yoga, and have discovered yoga.
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Assistant Editor: Tifany Lee/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum