"The practice of Yoga is just a reminder of the state and mentality that we have to carry throughout each moment of the day"
Yoga at it's simplest is the practice of doing a sequence of poses which are called Asanas.
It can be said that each asana offers a different challenge to one's body. Thus Yoga can be physically demanding as each pose will ask the practitioner to stretch, extend, twist their body in an uncomfortable way.
From the outside, one may think that Yoga is an exercise which allows the practitioner to develop strength and flexibility in their physical body, but in fact Yoga when practiced with the right intentions will allow one to also develop and gain strength and flexibility within their Mental /Emotional / Spiritual body.
This article will look at the ways in which we can use Yoga as a Catalyst to transform one’s sufferings.
Ashtanga Yoga In Depth
There are various types of Yoga. But in my own opinion, the type of Yoga which has the greatest potential for one to develop the Knowing of The Self and the Transformation of Ones Sufferings is Ashtanga Yoga.
This is because this type of yoga is physically intense which will help with one to ground their mind into the body, and when done together with the breath it allows the practitioner to observe all with Stillness.
Path Of Creator
Yoga In Relation To The Path Of Creator
The goal of the Path is to release and transform our Sufferings.
How can Ashtanga Yoga help to Achieve this?
Most people do not realize that the true goal of Yoga lies in its name which is derived from Sanskrit meaning to Unify the Mind Body and Soul. For Unification to occur requires one to Release and Transform their Sufferings - because it is the Suffering States of the Mind which is the cause for the separations. Such is the pure teaching of Yoga that has been lost thus this side of Yoga has been largely ignored.
These days much emphasis is placed on the “Physical Aspects” i.e. “Proper Alignments” and doing more and more Extreme or Elegant poses.” Although there is nothing wrong and right about this, but when one only focuses on Yoga at the surface level one can become obsessed with getting the poses beautiful and perfect and this can either lead injury or the failure of completing the Self-Transformative goal of the practice.
Thus it is by Knowing how one can Catalyze the Transformation of One’s Sufferings through Yoga that one can reap the full benefits of Yoga.
Meditation As A Catalyst
Before we talk about Ashtanga Yoga let us talk a little bit about the benefits of Meditation. The practice of Meditation can help one to develop Self-Knowing and Self-Transformation.
Meditation types such as Vipassana can help one to learn how to observe Reality as it is. One can also practice the “Creator’s Meditation” because the Creator’s Meditation works in the same way as Ashtanga Yoga with the difference it being a Passive/Still Catalyst rather than an Active/Moving Catalyst. But to just briefly explain how Ashtanga Yoga can be used to Transform one’s Sufferings we can look at the way the Poses are created in Ashtanga Yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga As A Catalyst
The poses in Ashtanga often ask the practitioner to get into uncomfortable positions where their flexibility and strength are asked to be pushed to the limit. When one holds themselves in the position one will begin to experience different sensations in the Physical Body - mostly pain and stress, sometimes pleasant ones too.
Like The Creator’s Meditation, during the practice we will have opportunities to develop Stillness as we observe various physical sensations / negative reactions surfacing and letting them come and go rather than reacting to the reactions we experience. Likewise when we are engaged in the different challenging poses that Ashtanga Yoga offers, we are also given the same Opportunities to develop Stillness towards these different kind of physical sensations.
The challenging poses can also sometimes persuade us to abandon holding the pose and stop the practice altogether. But realise that it is by moving forward and observing the pain and suffering as it is without running away from it that that the potential for Self-knowing and Self-Transformation can happen.
Thus instead of "Reacting" to the poses, simply "Observe" the poses as one would in the practice of meditation. So when it comes to Self-Transformation, there are many similarities between Meditation and Ashtanga. Ashtanga Yoga can actually be said to be a “Moving Body Meditation.”
It is also important to remember to be aware of your breath as you practice Ashtanga. This is the key to remaining Grounded / Still / Present. Being aware of the Breath will help you to ground yourself in times when the mind wants to escape the practice, especially in times when you are experiencing pain, boredom or impatience. Holding awareness of the different “Locks” on the body whilst doing Ashtanga can also facilitate the grounding of the Mind. Instructing the Mind to focus and to be aware of these different parts of the body can be said as a means to develop control over the Mind.
And as you continue to practice Yoga every day, observing and staying with all Physical Sensations experienced throughout your journey with a Calm and Still Mind, what you will realize is the great effect it will have on your everyday life. You will find yourself more in control of your mind, to be more Still and Calm in stressful and painful moments that can happen throughout the day.
What you will eventually realize is that how we react in yoga is simply a representation of how we react in life when we encounter similar situations. Often when we encounter something difficult or painful in life, the pain can make us run away from the problem rather than facing it and simply observing the negative reactions happening from within. And the more we practice moving forward through the painful poses in yoga with a Still Mind the more we are transforming the habit of always reacting and running away from the challenges in life.
And the more you become Still and simply observe the Pain the more you will develop the Knowing of the Cause. Like this, by carrying the state of Stillness throughout life you will also be able to develop the wisdom through seeing the lessons through your life experiences.
The destination of yoga thus is not to become a master at doing it on a physical level but rather it is in becoming a master at Observing all there is with a Still Mind so we can penetrate into Reality and Develop the Knowing of The Self deeper and deeper in every moment.
And with Knowing will come Great Transformation.
Uniting Active and Passive Practices
When Ashtanga yoga and vipassana meditations such as The Creator’s Meditation are practiced together it will greatly benefit the practitioner as it brings an active practice and passive practice together into a balance like Ying and Yang.
However one note of Caution is that as Ashtanga Yoga is a physically intensive exercise, It is not such a suitable Catalyst for those who are older if one were to do the entire series of sequence because of the demands it can have on our joints. For those who are older, the suggestion is to skip the poses which are too demanding on the body especially the neck, knee and back areas. Taking proper rests rather than doing it every day will also greatly help with mitigating potential injuries from the practice. Proper nutrition is important especially if one is on a diet without much proteins i.e vegetarians and vegans
Always know the limits of your body when practising Ashtanga Yoga.
Realize that the traditional 6 days of non-stop practice of Ashtanga Yoga was possible in the days when there was less stress on the mind from all the work and entertainment around us. 6 days of practice is possible is only when the body and mind is allowed enough rest each day. This is quite difficult to do in this day of age where we are constantly pushed by others and ourselves to do more and more in less time.
Thus look into the state of your lifestyle and adjust your practice accordingly. One will also have to adjust the practice accordingly as one ages because the way the rate in which the body builds and repairs muscles will be different than when one was at a younger age.
Always ensure that enough protein is taken in order to practice yoga. When an inadequate amount of nutrition is taken then no muscles will grow thus no strength will grow. Although mental strength will grow, sufficient muscles / weight is necessary for one to go deeper into the practice safely.
A good idea is to first study the basics of nutrition and do some weight training to develop muscle strength to complement the practice.
Develop Experienced Knowledge
The most Catalyzing time to do Ashtanga Yoga is when one has experienced Confusion or Suffering.
But unfortunately during this time there will be a great inner resistance to do Yoga or meditation. Or when one does Yoga there will be a great desire to want to analyze all thoughts that come in Mind rather than to simply observe the breath and be Still.
Whatever the case, simply be determined to keep the yoga practice within the framework of the Physical Body rather than Wandering away in your Mind. This will help greatly with developing Stillness and Knowing.
The Creator's Meditation / VipassanaLink here
Realize that as you go throughout the body Journey, by simply Observing each part with a Still and Calm Mind, the experience will be fundamentally the same as going through each Asanas by observing each Pose with a Still and Calm Mind.
Know and Transform The Self!
Try the 22 Days Creators Meditation Course to develop Self-Knowing of who you are, of your deepest fears and desires so you can transform them and create greater happiness in life. Vipassana is the passive form of Yoga - to Unify the body and mind.