The moment we step on the mat there is a shift inside us. Worldwide, yoga is seen as both a physical and spiritual practice. But what does that really mean? It means changing the lens inside our mind’s eye. It means creating a shift in our physical and mental perception. Yoga asanas (postures) are only the gate into the gifts that yoga can bring. The reason we go to classes or work with an instructor one on one is for guidance far deeper than just stepping a foot forward, lunging or doing down dogs. It’s to create awareness of our present moment that is easily found in the physical body. Our minds can daydream of mavny different places, but pinch yourself and you are instantly brought back to the now.
We step on the mat to leave our daily hustle and bustle, and find peace and quiet. But does this shift occur if the mind is not still or if we are not feeling physically well? The minute we start moving through the poses, our minds let go of the chatter and focuses on the quiet transitions, on the sound and feeling of breath filling our bodies. All this happens gradually over the course of time and with guidance from a qualified instructor. When we reach that place of quiet, an awareness blossoms!
Yoga means to unite, to yoke together, in Sanskrit, an ancient Hindu language. This union is of the mind, the body and the spirit. Awareness lies within this realm of consciousness, removing the veil of ignorance into the self. Many scholars have written about this connection to self through diligent practice of the yoga asanas, through contemplation, studying and meditating, all for the same goal: to reach a state of being cognizant of our thoughts, words and actions.
As famed yogi BKS Iyengar said, “Yoga for me as I understand is to unite the body with the mind, and taking body and mind together to bring it in par with the eternal evergreen state of the self,” meaning that when we practice with steadfastness, focus and good intention, we can all reach a level of awareness equal to spiritual masters. We can all reach that level if we want it!
The changes are evident fairly quickly as we first notice physical benefits of flexibility, strength and endurance. Then others start to pop up. We notice that we are more tolerant, less anxious, able to focus more, not stressed, and more open to change and acceptance. These all are benefits of being aware of how special we truly are as humans and can create change always and whenever. Yoga keeps taking us deeper as we continue examining how the mind works, how we can turn the chatter on and off at will. The mind is merely an action that can be stopped.
Just as we can control our walking, we can stop the thoughts that flood our daily existence. Take a look one day: Sit in silence with yourself and listen to what’s going on inside the mind. Then try to look for the silence behind those thoughts. The physical practice of yoga can train us to create that quiet, to be able to notice the gaps between thought and breath. When the body is healthy and strong, we can focus on making the mind equally as healthy and strong. Some yogis can stop their heartbeats; some can live without food or water for weeks, months. This is all due to mental control and pure awareness of their bodies in connection to mind and self.
The more we practice attentiveness to ourselves, the easier it becomes to notice the beauty in living. We allow the limited time we have to infuse us with inspiration for the betterment of our daily lives and appreciate how they affect others around us. The best part is, anyone can practice yoga.It is a practice designed to improve life one breath at a time, one pose at a time.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.
Namaste (The divine being within me honors, salutes and respects the divine being within you.)
“YOGA FOR ME AS I UNDERSTAND IS TO UNITE THE BODY WITH THE MIND, AND TAKING BODY AND MIND TOGETHER TO BRING IT IN PAR WITH THE ETERNAL EVERGREEN STATE OF THE SELF”-BKS IYENGAR
By Arianne Traverso Yoga Teacher RYT 500