Benefits of Yoga

A forgetful mind

If you consider energizing arm balances, invigorating back-bends, convoluting twists or terrifying but uplifting inversions are the climax of your yoga practiceSavasana is the grand finale.  It is the finishing of a physical practice, but also the beginning of the exploration of the psyche.   I always feel the permeation of a calming sensation and lightness when I am in Savasana.  The agni (fire) generated in the practice seems to have transformed into some kind of surreal energy that flows over my skin, allowing every single cell of the body to rest effortlessly on the earth.  This layer of energy goes through the central channel from the crown of the head to the tip of the little toes, imbuing the internal organs and blood streams with fuel and the potential for consciousness to evolve. The wonderful feeling of being totally in harmony with the earth is a gift from a daily yoga practice, which is neither obtainable from a fidgety mind nor lasting in a forgetful mind.   It requires a certain level of comprehension of sthira and sukha: effort in steadiness and ease with joy respectively.  They juxtapose with each other in our practice to reach a healthy balance in every thought and action.  In manifestation, try to think about performing tree pose, vrksasana and lotus pose, padmasana. If you can be struggle-free in these poses and stabilize your mind while holding, you then start to realise the meaning of yoga – union – where all is unified as oneness.

I often conclude my yoga class with a gentle prayer:  May we bring this pure sensation of peace off the mat and live with this experience in our everyday life. But the reality is, how many of us can actually embrace peace throughout?  Occasionally, I would lose the connection in the sanctuary as the day goes by, resulting in the ‘come-back’ of the disturbance and destructive emotions which contaminate my thought patterns again.  I would have a raging, edgy fit that seems to be playing devil’s advocate. Dedicated yoga practitioners realise the importance of practice – the practice of meditation on calmness, happiness and all virtuous qualities – just like athletes practise on the field everyday in order to win the medal. In Raja yoga, it is called remembrance.  Remembrance of God.  God is commonly perceived as a religious figure, the Creator, in our society.  In such a way that if you are to believe in God, you must be a follower of a religion, be it Catholicism, Christianity, Islam, etc.  It is indeed a paradigm that continues to draw intellectual attention among religious scholars and scientists.  Within the spectrum of spirituality or yoga psychotherapy, God takes form as a completely non-religious figure that is essentially the omnipresent guru, the bestowal of light in each and everyone of us, he/she is our wisdom, our deepest Self that has yet to be discovered.  The daily practice of yoga has extraordinary effects on both the sensual part of the body and the brain in particular, being the guidance of our senses and reminder of our habitual mind.  Non-material contentment and pure joy without the subjectivity or the influence of objective scenarios are the virtues of spiritual dedication and divine attitudes.  However, they are easily forgotten if one allows them to drift away from one’s sanity.  Their sporadic presence, mainly ensues right after our yoga practice or guided meditation is due to the intervention of thoughts and worldly behaviours, i.e. karma.  We all have the intelligence to cultivate and discern these positive energies but we do not have the mental stamina to put them into good use and accentuate their quality because our mind is preconditioned by default sufferings, from the present, possibly the past and even the future.  It is because we are all forgetful, one way or the other.  When we forget those virtues and allow fragility of the mind to grow, it is time that we allowed ourselves to engage even one minute of meditation so as to come closer to the finding of ‘God’, the inner beauty of the Self.

It occurs to me that contemplating how to win over an argument, how to prove we are right and they are wrong, why do we grieve and so on, are the true representations of our smaskaras (habits, patterns, often repetitive and unconscious). The reason behind all these achetetypal deeds is the overuse or misuse of our mind.  In the vastness of yoga study, we are taught to be a witness of our acts.  A witness is one who can discriminate between righteousness and egotism, compassion and afflictions, permanent and temporary, love and lust, etc.  She/he has the discriminating ability to detach or withdraw from those samskaras and thus deepen consciousness and awareness among all theatrics in life.  A witness exists in the higher levels of the five koshas or sheaths of a sentient being.  As we progress in our practice, we understand that the physical body is the survival layer which we have to take care of before advancing into the subtle body where intelligence and wisdom of the mind inhabit.  Being in and out of practice, we find ourselves in the process of shifting between the role of a witness or a restricted, self-indulged individual.  Remembrance is the key to remain in control of being a witness at all time.  It is the instrument to calibrate the mind so that one can avoid being under the influence of sufferings and resist the bewilderment of recurrent dramas in our daily life.

For we forget the precious gift of a human life and the possibility or fortune to practice spirituality which leads to the jewel of happiness and bliss, this integral virtue has been undermined.  The concept of ‘whatever needed is and will be provided’ may draw some controversies among some of us, especially those who constantly complain that life is unfair and that misery seems to naturally fall on their feet.  When one encounters predicament, he/she intuitively sheds the responsibility to someone or something that causes those unbearable circumstances. This is a lack of self-realisation and deep consciousness within oneself.  Do we know what is needed in life?  The practice of remembrance allows us to define ‘need’ and ‘want’ and therefore teaches the mind to fight against desires and treasure the gifts of life.  Followed by this is the effort to gain control of the spiraling, unruly mind.  One of the very nature of samskaras is attachment.  Because we are overly attached with people, materialistic possessions and human functioning, it is almost incomprehensible to visualize a state of sheer bliss in total emptiness.  It takes more than a life time to be eventually liberated from all predispositions but mankind who are all inherently entrusted to enlightenment must engage in day-to-day practice in order to free himself/herself from the entanglement of emotional intrigues.  It is in a sense analogous to pressing the reset button that eradicates all conflicting interventions and fragmentations of a machine.

The idea of going out for a coffee or enjoying a movie in the cinema is preferred to sitting at home in meditation.  It is an addiction of immediate release of foes and woes by a sublimation of the unconscious, egotistic behaviours. We find instant, conceivable sensory pleasure from the first option whereas the fruition from meditation is by large unseen or unfelt due to ignorance.  When we widen our vision on the true nature of life and its purposes by transcending our limitations and revisit the inner processes of mindfulness, at times we can see beyond the images of so-called realities which are in fact illusions.  Meditation and remembrance are the gateways to transform pain into the purest form of happiness that is in sync with the psyche.   Next time when you find yourself being hijacked by a plethora of sufferings, practice self-observation and align the mind with the consciousness at the witness level.  In other words, avoid samskaras and resume the skills of yoga in every piece of your physical and mental fabric.

Author:  Dorothy Watts. (can be contacted at: strad_loh@hotmail.com )

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