The global renaissance of ‘yoga’ has the potential to become a radical movement — perhaps a quantum leap in human evolution, the proviso however being that one clearly understands what it actually means.While the impression is that there is a universal renewed interest in ‘yoga’, the revival is mostly confined to asanas alone.When jiva or microcosmic consciousness unites with the all-pervading Ishwara or macrocosmic consciousness, this union is known as yoga. It is the state where the mind dissolves in the real Self and all samskaras or seeds of past impressions get burnt in the incandescent fire of Self-realisation. It is the pinnacle of inner evolution succinctly described by Sage Patanjali in his well-known aphorism: yogash chitta vritti nirodhah. Yoga is the ultimate destination of a human being’s evolutionary journey. And there are several paths that one can tread with this intention.
The prevailing, resurgent interest in asanas is just one part of Ashtanga Yoga which is an eight-stepped ladder with the ascending rungs of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and culminating in the highest point of samadhi. And the most celebrated text outlining its precepts is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Yama refers to the five moral codes of conduct whilst interacting with others: satya — truthfulness in thoughts, speech and actions; ahimsa— nonviolence in thought, speech and actions; asteya — nonstealing; aparigraha — nonhoarding and brahmacharya— at the physical level it refers to celibacy and for householders, it means fidelity. Niyama refers to the five self-disciplinary codes: shaucha — cleanliness of body, external environment and mind; santosha — being content with one’s life, accepting everything without discrimination; tapah — austerity; svadhyaya — to be established in the real Self but it also refers to self-learning through scriptural texts and ishwarpranidhana— forsaking one’s ego and being totally surrendered to God’s will. Asana has neither got anything to do with body contortion, acrobatics or gymnastics, nor is it physical exercise. Many people mistakenly think that they don’t need to learn asanas because they are already going to the gym or doing aerobic exercises. See, such exercises stimulate catabolism. So, although you achieve an athletic, sculpted look, your energy gets drained. Then people consume energy enhancing drinks which are laced with harmful chemicals that could harm your vital organs. Asanas, on the other hand, balance your metabolism and thus energise your body with the added beneficial effect on the functioning of all internal organs.
Art Of Asanas
Asana is a science and art in its own right and one requires an in-depth understanding of body, anatomy, physiology and yes, geometry, too. Right posture alone is not asana. It has to be supplemented with poise, proper positioning, right alignment, focus on breathing and crucially, the presence of awareness of every part of your body in the said posture. Asana is moving meditation, for such is the heightened awareness of body and breath. Never forget the objective of mastering asanas — to be able to sit comfortably in a stable posture and thus acquire the eligibility of progressing to the higher stages on the path of yoga. As a byproduct, the body becomes healthier, energetic and one may get cured of some ailments. But asanas are not a panacea for diseases. Strictly speaking, yoga can be taught only by a yogi.You cannot become a yogi just by adopting a certain external appearance. If the person teaches in a scientific way, very attentively, with patience and diligence then know that he is well-versed in the craft.
Once asanas are perfected, the practitioner can move on to pranayama. Again, there are misconceptions galore in this regard. Breathing in and out, shoving the stomach in and out is not pranayama.‘Prana’ refers to cosmic vital energy which is the critical force sustaining life. And giving dimension to this vital life force is pranayama. Prana is the bridge that connects our body with our mind.When prana exits the body, this connection gets severed leading to death of the body. That is why, once prana leaves the body, no matter how much oxygen you pump in as part of the resuscitation, the body cannot be revived. The next stage is pratyahara and this means withdrawal of the five cognitive senses from their respective sense objects and stabilising them in the mind. Maturity of pratyahara results in the state of dharana where only one thought is held in the mind to the exclusion of all others. The fruition of dharana is dhyana or meditation, which is a state of thoughtless, heightened awareness. Meditation cannot be taught; it is a state that occurs as a consequence of matured dharana. Yoga happens in the totally still state of samadhi. All ignorance gets eradicated, and one reaches the pinnacle of human evolution with a remarkably heightened level of consciousness. This is the purpose of human life. The destination and path are clear-cut. What is needed is a disciplined practice under the guidance of an enlightened master.
Via Speakingtree an article by Anandmurti Gurumaa