For starters when I talk of yoga, don’t confuse me talking about the foreign-return-big-booming-business of a physical exercise marketed for mental peace and sorts. That’s one thing yoga is not and the writer found it necessary to clear the same before building the picture into the essence of this four-lettered-word. Truth be told, no one person (however enlightened) can define yoga and claim that to be the end of the conversation. You would have come across the story of five blind men describing the experience of touching an elephant, each of them came up with their own description of what an elephant was like on the basis of what part of its body they touched. The anecdote can be applied to the path of yoga as well. One may describe it as an art and science of creating an utmost balance between mental, physical, spiritual and pranic forces. Another approach may be derived from its literal meaning ‘to join’, a realization of the communion between individual stream of consciousness and the ocean it is sourced from. I could go on with numerous interpretations and understandings of what yoga is but that would keep me from talking about the magic of it all on the human and its being.
So, what does yoga entail? If not the various bodily postures and breathing exercises we generally associate it with. Its easier to grasp a yogic practice when you understand what is your need to get into it at the first place. Reasons to take a dive into the layers of yoga can be manifold and totally unrelated to the main aim of yoga. That’s alright, I’ve seen people take on this journey to attain one thing and what they get out is something so very unrelated but equally beneficial.
The practices, guidelines, postures, breath work and meditative techniques play an integral role in bringing about multidimensional transformation upon the practitioner.
Imagine the body-mind complex of a regular inhabitant of the earth as a blackboard filled with scribbles, if one is to write something new on it wouldn’t they have to erase what was written on it first? Though it isn’t as easy as it sounds, the process is workable through various techniques of yoga.
Shatkarma, one of the initiatory practices of yoga aims at literally washing out impurities and waste from our bodies. Often overlooked this process helps in making space for good things to enter the body and to gain utmost benefit out of successive practices. Mindful eating and living habits help sustain the state of clarity. Chanting Om with a strong intent also helps in revitalizing and cleansing one’s auric field.
A cleaner body is less prone to get distracted by disease. What this creates is a space for the elements in our body to dwell in peace, unobstructed in function and ultimately working towards removing blocks in energy flow within the chakras. You would notice ease in the chirping nature of the mind when your body dwells in clarity.
Each asana in the subject of yoga is created in such a way that it mirrors a physical trait of an object of nature. Consistent practice of sitting in these asana opens blockages in the relevant energy portal and massages the organs internally. Adding to that a certain amount of pressure is induced on the glands leading to optimal secretion of hormones.
While perfecting the asanas, a cycle of pain and release is induced which helps the body and mind get accustomed to a similar cycle in our lives. Pranayama is the extension of life force or pranic energy within one’s self, it is done through various breathing techniques. Each of them having their own function. This coupled with mantra chanting helps immensely in transformation of brain patterns and attitudes. Mantras work like affirmations which rewire our brain subconsciously.
A strong mind with a weak body is equivalent to a weak mind with a strong body. Strength correlates strongly with energy as strength is the capacity to retain the energy. When the body and mind are worked upon through asana, pranayama and other practices, it generates energy within and adapts the body to contain higher energy levels. Moreover, gained flexibility through asanas makes it easier for energy to move through and vitalize each cell. With that comes the ability to have more control over one’s muscles and movement, it’s as if you learn to understand the language of your body parts.
One learns to optimally transmute the abundance of life force dancing around us into the fuel of existence, more specifically charging and aligning one to their highest possible journey on this planet.
The grounding principles of hatha yoga lay upon attaining balance between the mental and pranic forces that work through our body. These streams of energies pass through their respective channels (also known as nadis) present towards the left and the right of the spinal cord. Ida towards the left works with the mental forces while pingala towards the right works with the pranic forces. Between them lies another nadi called the sushumna which activates upon coherence between ida and pingala. When energy in these three nadismoves upwards together they unify at agya chakra (third-eye chakra), this unification presents an influx of energy and awakening. One realizes their connection to their own divinity; the process is taken further to the sahasrara(crown chakra) through techniques of Raja Yoga. Yoga here becomes a tool for transformation from mundane to the divine. One which bears its fruits through sheer efforts of dedication and will power which is present in all of us.
To end this chat with you, embrace the yoga in your life each passing day for you’re one with yourself already.
A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya, Swami SatyanandaSaraswati.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Muktibodhananda.