EXPLORING YOGA DEEPER
The science of yoga is very ancient, exquisitely subtle, and deeply enriching. The yoga that we know of mostly in the West, is a small component known as “asana’ or posture. These are the physical stretches that are beneficial to the body and in turn calming to the mind. Some of the physical benefits include greater flexibility, better balance, increased strength. Additionally there are benefits such as improved digestion, better endocrine function and a deeper sleep. These physical benefits are enough to justify a regular asana practice.
But there is so much more for the practitioner who chooses to explore the science more deeply. Once you begin to pay attention to the breath, asana practice takes on a whole new meaning. One may start to appreciate that the asana is much more than just a physical posture with physical benefits. The flow on effect to the mind starts to occur. Gradually the mind becomes more calm, more settled and less subject to external annoyances.
More specific breathing practices termed as pranayama helps to still the mind by harnessing the breath. You will have observed that the breath changes when your mind is shocked, anxious or angry. These changes can be measured. In a similar way, changing the breath and the pattern of breathing will create a subsequent effect on the mind.
As the mind comes more into your conscious control, you will the acquire the ability to withdraw from some of the sensory stimuli. You will be less dependent on the excitatory external stimuli of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. You have activated your system to be self sufficient in a way. This takes training and doesn’t happen overnight. Hence the path of the yogi or the monk is long and arduous. It is not a weekend course or measured in terms of hours of accreditation. “Pratyahara” or withdrawal of the senses is both a conscious process as well as a natural progression on the yogic path.
It does not mean that engagement with the senses is relinquished. It just means that the dependence on them has become loosened. Once this happens, the mind naturally prepares itself for an inward flow to deeper explorations of that which lies within. The mind becomes calm and still and reflects back upon itself. It is the like the waves of the ocean becoming calm and the depths of the ocean become apparent. This can not be forced. It happens when mental fluctuations cease and one relaxes fully into oneself. In yogic terms it is known as “ananda” or bliss. Once ananda is tasted and experienced even for a short time, it is difficult for life to be the same.
You know that there is something more than what we can ordinarily experience. You may choose to explore this more and get to know this better, or you may turn away and come back when the time is ripe. The time must be ripe. One who is established in this state, exhibits a strong calm peaceful presence.
The beauty of yoga is that you can practice it in any way that appeals to you. And though yoga literally means union, in may ways it is more like a mirror reflecting back to you, exactly where you are at. All that is required, is some attention and honesty.
In Health and Wellness