Yoga: The Abiding Experience of our Innermost Self

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The experience of the Self is always present and is at the root of our natural state of awareness, yet we are generally unaware of the presence of this expanded awareness as our minds become busy in the details of daily life. Navodita, our Yoga expert, delves into the subject, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

Yoga, as we have been discussing, comes with many benefits for all – the most important being good health, physically, mentally and emotionally. The highest good we seek to experience through Yoga is the abiding experience of our innermost Self. This ‘Self’ is not the limited ‘I’ that we experience as doing, thinking, feeling and sensing. The Self is the abiding, expansive experience of ‘I’ that we have in moments of calm and peace or in moments of mental focus, heartfelt compassion and service, and in the experience of unconditional love. The experience of the Self is always present and is at the root of our natural state of awareness, yet we are generally unaware of the presence of this expanded awareness as our minds become busy in the details of daily life. Our own awareness literally contracts as it adapts to and embraces our finite affairs, and we forget that we can step back and experience the glory and peace of our natural awareness even in the midst of our affairs. Yoga is the practice of ‘recollecting’ and returning to this state again and again until we become once again settled in it as our home.

Yoga thus plays the role of the leveler – in leveling the mind to a state of equanimity whenever it is disturbed or gets uprooted from its original ‘state of being’. This state at its most immediate means to be fully in the present moment as the true and eternal reality. It is at this moment- the ‘Now’- that Consciousness is present in its fullness, undiminished by the mental ideas and impressions of past and future, and fully potent to realise its creative freedom, the swatantrya. The inner state of Yoga is not static; it is a state of being in the flow of the freedom of universal consciousness. There is a lot of quietude and you have to realise and focus on the stillness inside. There has to be stillness in movement and movement in stillness, both are equally important. A yogic asana or a posture, or a yogic breath, a yogic mind or heart, holds the experience of stillness and movement, one inside the other, one constantly transforming into the other.

The experience of being in the flow of grace in your practice of yoga – is the literal meaning of ‘Anusara’ – and is a direct outcome of your own experience rather than some form of bookish knowledge. Yoga thus is an unfolding from your heart, from the fullness of your inner feeling, rather than from your head. It can be an exercise from the heart- from the inspiration to become whole, to participate in the higher energy, awareness, and purpose of life. This is the deepest desire of the heart. Your feeling or highest wish is the true power behind your alignment, expression, and experience of the pose, and your experience of the highest Self through Yoga. In order to realise, experience and express that Divine Self in one’s own life, and to become established in that awareness, now and always, is the fulfillment of the heart.

Anusara Yoga looks to three elements of practice that are distinctive of Yoga, each of which has its own set of principles. Attitude is the element of intent and will that is guided according to the teachings – both ethical and philosophical – of yoga philosophy. Yoga as a practice of self-awareness begins with intention. Intention requires what is known as ‘Sankalpa’. Sankalpa is the purest form of will. It is a pure wish for a positive good. An intention introduces focus, and it should awaken you and open you to the possibility of revelation and surprises. Alignment in the pose refers to the placement of the body in the pose. Instructions regarding alignment express relationships and set the shape of the pose, the vessel within which the alchemy of yogic action takes place.

Yoga, thus, is not just about physical bending, twisting, turning or jumping but also about the meditative practice of each pose to derive the full benefit of the same. You have to focus and think about its different aspects, of alignment, attitude, purity of thought while performing the pose. Hatha Yoga as a science and art of well-being recognizes the power of time, unconscious habit, and environment to wear us down. As strange the poses of Yoga may seem, they work to reestablish the flow of energies and physical processes according to their proper balance, as well as assist the body in its task of cleansing and refreshing the body.

Next time, we will deal with more philosophies of east, south and west India in the field of Yogic practices.

©Navodita Pande

Photo from the internet.

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Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24×7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.