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Taking Yoga beyond the Mat - My views

Is Perfection in Yoga more than what we can achieve on the mat?

Perfection in yoga is an ongoing process both on and off the mat. As yoga is जीवनपध्दती, अनुशासनशास्र and मानसशास्र it has huge application in our day to day lives and not a mere one-hour practice on mat. In today’s fast paced life people are too much busy with their tight schedules, stressful jobs, and growing careers at the cost of their health and wellbeing. In such times, yoga plays an important role in bringing moderation in lifestyle and maintaining balanced state of body and mind. Hence, more and more people are seeking yoga as a tool and therapy to overcome lifestyle related ailments and to achieve mental peace and happiness. With its worldwide popularity we can see so many yoga centres, studios and schools offering wide range of classes and training programs. We see people are becoming yoga teachers and therapists within few months of training. In most of the yoga classes, the picture is very common where teacher is demonstrating certain yoga poses, some breathing techniques, and last few minutes are spent on relaxation and meditation. Once you are out of the class you are done with yoga and you are simply not aware of its application in rest of your day. I personally feel perfection in yoga starts with a perfect yoga teacher. To be honest no one is perfect but to learn and adopt skilful art and timeless science like Yoga one needs the right teacher who can deliver yoga teachings in right perspective and who could make you experience wide scope of yoga by exploring various yogic principles in every moment of your life. Let us look at some of the yogic principles which can be practiced as a way of life as an extension to our yoga practice on mat.

1. Cleanliness (शौच): As a daily routine we brush our teeth and take bath to clean our body as a part of cleanliness, similarly, try to choose one small area in your house to clean every day. Make it clean and tidy, get rid of things which are unwanted and unnecessary. I think cultivating this habit will surely make us progress towards other yoga principles like contentment (संतोष), non-accumulation (अपरिग्रह), regular practice (अभ्यास) and non-attachment (वैराग्य).

2. Truthfulness (सत्य): In today’s digital world we struggle to see real side of others as well as of our own. In the world of virtual reality, being fake, to pretend something else and to imitate others is part of our life.

We are so much busy coping others that we hardly learn from our own experiences. We receive second-hand knowledge by reading either on internet or some author’s book. Yoga is an experiential science which teaches us to learn from our own experience. When we think, speak or act from our own experiences it becomes very honest, real, and truthful. So, experience it yourself to practice truthfulness.

3. Witness Mode (साक्षीभाव): Due to over stimulation of body, mind, and senses, many a times we overreact or react in a wrong way. This can hurt others, or you get hurt yourself. It can lead to fights, unrest, and relationship problems. To avoid such unpleasant situations, we can develop the art of witnessing. If we can train ourselves to remain in witness mode, we can get the opportunity to look at the thing, person, or situation from a different angle or without involving ourselves. We can get a chance to pause, ponder, and then respond instead of reacting in hassle or without thinking.

4. Self-study (स्वाध्याय): Like morning ritual of pooja we can add evening ritual of Self-Study. Instead of having late night dinner, take it early so that we can spend some time in doing some quality activities. Discussing and sharing certain yoga concepts with family members, reading scriptures, contemplating, and meditating on them will help build a strong foundation to continue to grow, evolve, and make better life for ourselves.

5. Learn and Chant Sanskrit (संस्कृत): As it becomes imperative to learn English as a language of business similarly, one should learn Sanskrit as a language of yoga. Basic understanding of Sanskrit can connect you to the subject matter of yoga and its deeper perspectives. As a yoga practitioner one should add chanting practice of certain prayers, shlokas, stotras or mantras in daily routine. Regular chanting instantly calms you down and helps you vibrate at higher frequency making a conducive ambiance within your body and mind. Feeling a sense of tranquillity, positivity, vitality, clarity, and purity can help to activate Sattva Guna within which is necessary to progress on path of yoga.

6. Karma Yajna (यज्ञ): Yajna is a feeling or internal mental attitude of offering while performing any external action.

ब्रह्मापपणं ब्रह्म हवविः ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम् ।

ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकमपसमाविना ॥

brahmārpaṇaṃ brahma haviḥ brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam ।

brahmaiva tena gantavyaṃ brahmakarmasamādhinā ॥

(Bhagwat Gita 4.24)

Meaning: The instrument, the object, the doer, and the act - of offering are all brahman; (one who considers this) state of brahman alone is the destination worthy of such who is steadfast in selfless deeds.

We should remind ourselves again and again about the attitude of Yajna or Offering. As shri Krishna says in Bhagwat Gita that action is inevitable and not for a single moment we can remain without action. If this is the case, then every moment we are creating new Karma Phalas and Karmashaya which keep us binding. To free ourselves from this never-ending cycle we need to change the attitude behind every action. Do every action as if it is assigned by Brahman (you are performing action just as an instrument of God), do it at best of your capacity, look at object of action as Brahman and offer results of actions (enjoyer ship) as Prasadam to Brahman. This will generate less attachments and aversions and help to reduce sense of ego (doer ship). This will further remove layers of ignorance. Hence, we can gradually progress in doing every action in inaction or selfless action and remain non doer (अकताप).

7. Soham with Ujjayi Breath (उज्जायी प्राणायाम): From all the pranayamas Ujjayi Pranayama can be practiced anytime and anywhere. Like while driving, cooking, watching TV, walking, or reading. Ujjayi is very energising as well as relaxing pranayama. During the day if we feel physically exhausted or mentally disturbed to boost our energy and calm down our nerves it acts as an effective breathing technique. It instantly connects us with our own body, breath, and mind especially our natural sound of breath which is Soham and Humso. It develops internal awareness and brings us to present moment which is the very essence of yoga. Our mind keeps fluctuating between past and future leading to repent on certain actions from the past or worry about future. To keep mind focused in present moment, tunning to our breath is an excellent practice.

8. Yogic Sleep (योग निद्रा): Now a days due to increase levels of stress many people are facing sleeping difficulties, sleep deprivation and feeling anxious and getting up tired the next day. It affects their work productivity, personal and professional life, and own wellbeing. Practicing Yogic sleep (योग निद्रा) daily for at least 15-20 minutes either

at home or at work is more effective and restorative compared to conventional sleep. It involves conscious relaxation and rotation of awareness from different parts of the body which aids in redirecting blood and prana or vital energy to various parts giving deep and quality relaxation at muscular, glandular, and nervous levels resulting in rejuvenation of body and mind. It acts as a self-guided meditation connecting us to inner silence which is the source of health, love and happiness and our true nature.

9. Guna’s Management (गुण नियंत्रण): During the day, we go through different states of mind like Kshipta (Disturbed), Vikshipta (Distracted), Mudha (Dull), Ekagra (One-Pointed) and Niruddha (Mastered) due to imbalance of Trigunas. We can experience the dominance of Gunas at different times. For Example, when in office and we are supposed to focus and pay attention in meeting, Tamas dominates leading to dozing off. When meditating, mind is supposed to relax and concentrate, Rajas dominates leading to distractions. When go to bed for good night’s sleep, Rajas dominates, and brain decides not to switch off. This prevents us from functioning at best of our capacity or potential. It impacts on quality of our work and eventually quality of our life. Being a yoga student, one should learn the skill of managing this act of Gunas. According to the need we should be able to activate the required guna to facilitate the action. All 3 Gunas are important in carrying out different functions but we must be aware of their dominance and should be able to activate them at our will according to the situation.

10. Charity (दानम्): Whenever and wherever possible, we should share something with our friends, family, neighbours, and society at large. It can be food, clothes, books, toys or do volunteering (सेवा) for some good cause. Generally, our nature is to accumulate (संग्रह वृत्ती). We keep on taking or receiving from others than giving or sharing. By god’s grace we should be thankful and grateful with what we have and remind ourselves that I have more than enough. Now it is time for me to give, share and donate but, without making a big fuss out of it. Do all your charity silently without disclosing your name. As it is not for getting any fame but returning it back to higher reality.

By following these above principles on regular basis, yoga will enter in every act and walk of our life. Progress on path of yoga starts with purification of our heart and mind. Persistant and uninterrupted practice (अभ्यास) both on and off the mat will make us aware of our shortcomings, limitations, and wrong habits. Last but not the least, Abhyasa will develop complete devotion, open and loving heart towards Ishwara to surrender yourself to the ‘Supreme Being’ (ईश्वर प्रणिधान), because without surrender attaining Moksha or Liberation is quite impossible. As its rightly said by Shri Krishna in last chapter of Bhagwat Gita,

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज |

अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः ||

sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śharaṇaṁ vraja

ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣhayiṣhyāmi mā śhuchaḥ

(Bhagwat Gita 18.66)

Meaning: Abandon all varieties of dharmas and simply surrender unto me alone. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions; do not fear.

Constant application of these principles can bring in true inner transformation to become better human being in the 1st place and one day it can serve in experiencing Divinity within by attaining Perfection in Yoga.

हरि: ॐ तत् सत् ||

Ketki Gokhale

Founder - Atman Yoga Consultancy, UK

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