Stay with Yoga
Now-a-days, yoga is part of curriculum in many schools. Even the corporate world is taking it on board by including it in their employee welfare programmes. Also, one can see a yoga school at every nook and corner of Indian cities and towns. Then naturally, one tends to believe that a significant percentage of the population is hooked to yoga by now. If you too are under this impression, try to dig deeper; you will see this is far, very far, from the truth.
It is likely that you come across many people who have learned yoga in the past; some of them even practiced it for some duration. But only a negligible percentage of people is found to have made yoga an integral part of their life. What could be the reason for this indifference among Indians towards their ‘own’ wellness system? Is it a case of the proverbial ‘the plant in the backyard is not a medicine’? Is there no novelty factor in it as people grow up encountering the word all around, day in, day out?
It seems, it is all in the approach, with which one treats yoga. For many people it is just a form of physical exercise. They limit their objective of practicing it to rectify some physical problems. Such people mainly do asanas. Even if they take up pranayama and meditation, that is again to address specific problems such as breathing difficulties or stress. Such kind of pigeonholing truly keeps yoga as either a physical or a mental activity. In such activities, there would not be any attempt to unite the body and the mind. Yoga, etymologically, means the unification of two aspects of our being. At the grossest level, it is uniting the mind with the body. If this unification does not happen even at the grossest level, the practice becomes mechanical. This will result in abandoning it, sooner or later.
Then, change the approach. Do not specify your objectives in taking up yoga. If you enter the garden to see only some flowers you will not enjoy the beauty of the entire garden. Enter yoga with an open mind, and involve it in every movement during the practice. Even asanas, which many people see as physical, are equally mental. The practitioner needs to exercise her mind in the form paying attention to her breath in order to synchronize it with the bodily movements. Also, she needs to sense the pressure points that are generated in various parts of the body during the practice. In fact, one’s inner journey should start at this point.
Asana is the most popular part of yoga that is being practiced today. But it is just one limb or one part of Ashtanga Yoga, or the eight-limbed yoga system, propounded by sage Patanjali, thousands of years ago. The fourth limb, Pranayama, a breath regulating mechanism, also involves a highly attentive mind. The other six limbs, Yama, Niyama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, are almost mental. In fact, Patanjali defines yoga as योगः चित्त वृत्ति निरोधः।, which means it is something that curbs the natural tendency of the mind. He puts forward the system basically for culturing the mind in order to reach the original state of one’s being. Physical benefits accrued in the process are just incidental.
In fact, being aware of all the happenings in the mind-body framework is a basic requirement in yoga, even while doing asana or pranayama. Many new practitioners, however, fail to cultivate such awareness. When an activity is carried out without awareness, it becomes mechanical. And naturally, the interest and enthusiasm, with which one begins her yoga practice, are bound to fade away.
If you, however, change the approach by considering yoga as more mental than physical, you will perform every move with full awareness. Then, you will open yourself for a transformation. The ever outgoing mind will start turning inward. Even asana will not remain just physical any longer; instead it will become the gateway for inner explorations. You will go on practicing the same asana day after day, month after month and year after year; but the novelty factor never fades out. At the same time, you will be eager to progress further and further in yoga, working through all the limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. In other words, you will be hooked to yoga for the rest of your life
-By Susheela Hegde