Teacher's corner

There is so much to learn and explore. A lifetime is not enough. This is just a start and tribute to all my teachers whether it is my family, gurus or friends. An attempt to share my experiences with my students. One of many articles that will follow.

Namaste!

Mindful Asana Practice

- Himani Limaye (RYT 500)

Yog is derived from the Sanskrut word ‘Yuj’ which means to unite. Yog is the union of body, mind, emotions and intellect. But what does it really mean?

There are days when you are practicing yog for an hour but still don’t ‘feel’ it. The reason being that the mind is not present with the body. You are physically present in the room where you practice and your mind can be somewhere else.

Practicing yog is a spiritual journey and not just physical. Our physical body is what we can see, touch and feel. What better way can there be to connect to our own self? We can experience the asana through our body. With regular practice we can focus more and connect the mind with our actions better. If we want to be on the spiritual journey, we cannot forget our body, and to attain that spiritual goal, the body must be kept active.

Yog demands that we develop not only strength in the body but attention and awareness in mind. We must do ‘asana’ not as a physical exercise but as a means to understand and integrate our body with our breath, with our mind, with our intelligence.” [1]

Patanjal yogsutra 2.16

हेयं दु:खम् अनागतम् |

Heyam dukkham anagatam|

“Pain that has not yet come is avoidable”

We seek doctor’s help when we are ill or have pain in the body. We feel healthy if we don’t have any illness or pain.

Most people are not aware of the imbalances that exist in their bodies and minds that ultimately will lead to disease. Yog has a threefold impact on health. It keeps healthy people healthy, it inhibits the development of diseases and it aids recovery from illness.” [1]

That means we should just keep on practicing. Just keep on practicing regularly without focusing on the end result yog will have on the body. Each time you do, your body will teach you something new to explore and practice the asana even better the next time. Mental health is equally important. We need sound bodies so we can develop sound minds.

Yog teaches us how to infuse our movements with intelligence, transforming them into action. Yog happens when you initiate an action in asana, and somewhere else in the body something else moves without your permission." [1]

To experience this equal and opposite action and reaction you have to stay in the pose longer. The more time you give to the pose, the body will know how to align itself better. The longer you stay, the body will know what action needs relaxation on what other part of the body so that you can enjoy the pose longer. Once you can stay longer in the pose, it will become more stable. To attain this stability, the mind is already working with the body. It is difficult to achieve this connection if the mind is not present with the body. Even a simple action of lifting the arm overhead, if done mindfully, has a great impact. You feel more connected with your own body.

Once you are able to feel this connection, you will see the asana becoming more meaningful. The body starts to see the alignment from within. It can adjust the pose on its own. One can stay calm in the pose, can breathe more easily; the pose is happy. In such an aligned pose, the fluctuations of the mind decrease. This is what the Patanjal yogsutra 2.46 tells us.

स्थिर सुखं आसनम् ।

Sthira sukham asanam|

Sthira means firm, fixed, calm and composed. Sukha means delight, comfort and bliss. Asanam is pose.” [1]

“The sensitive awareness of the body and the intelligence of the brain and heart should be in harmony. The brain may instruct the body to do a posture but the heart has to feel it too. The head is the seat of intelligence and the heart is the seat of emotion.” [1]

Once your body and mind are in harmony, each pose will become a meditative asana. You don’t have to sit in sukhasan or padmasan to do meditation. Every pose will in itself be meditative. When you start practicing this way, it feels good for the whole day, whole week and so on.

Feeling good for no reason is just a side effect of practicing Yog. Keep on practicing!

Namaste.

References

[1] BKS Iyengar, Light on life.