"Unify The Body, Heart And Mind"
Yoga, the art of learning to put one's legs behind one's head whilst looking wise! Some people may this impression of yoga: understanding it to be a practice filled with impossible poses that challenges one's flexibility to the limits and beyond.
These days, there are actually many forms of yoga, some focusing on flexibility, some on stilling the mind, some on developing happiness and living well, some on developing endurance and mental strength, and the list goes on. Thus, the goal of yoga will be differ from one type of yoga to another.
But what makes yoga an unique practice that differs from all other forms of exercises is the holding of poses—called Asanas—for a period of time before one moves to the next one. And each type of yoga will have their own sequences of poses for the practitioner to follow.
In this article, we will ways to repurpose yoga so that one can use it to accelerate their journey of Self-Transformation, the journey of creating greater happiness through addressing one's suffering states of mind. We will also be specifically looking at Ashtanga Yoga, which in itself is already a suitable practice to carry one towards Enlightenment.
Ashtanga Yoga In Depth
When translated from Sanskrit, Ashtanga means eight-limbed. And where did this name come from? It's not that the creator of this yoga had eight limbs! But rather, the idea was that if one were to follow the 8 core principles for the practice, for instance, principles for breathing, observing, concentrating etc. one would be able to reach higher states of mind: i.e. states of Self-Realization and Happiness.
But we won't go into the teachings of Ashtanga Yoga in detail here. If one wishes to know more about the philosophies and teachings of Ashtanga Yoga, one can do their own research as there are various articles on the internet.
Just realize that from a Self-Transformative perspective, Ashtanga Yoga is great catalyst for one to address their suffering states of mind and to realize themselves.
However, these days, most of the ancient teachings of Ashtanga on this aspect of the practice has been lost, perhaps preserved only in a few villages and in the minds of a few teachers. So, these days, when one joins an Ashtanga Yoga school in the city, one would most likely be taught the physical poses, and at most, brief talks about the eight parts of the practice.
So in this article, let us explore the ways that one can use Ashtanga yoga to transform their mind. And of course, we will approach Ashtanga Yoga from the perspective of Self-Transformation rather than from the teachings of old traditions. If you prefer to know the latter, then again, there's plenty of articles on the internet.
Path Of Creator
Yoga In Relation To The Path Of Creator
The journey of Self-Transformation is a journey of creating greater happiness through addressing one's suffering states of mind.
How can Ashtanga Yoga help one on this journey?
The deeper meaning of Ashtanga is to unify the Mind, Body And soul.
For one to achieve this state, one must address one's suffering states of mind. Because it's the negativities, the fears, the confusions that are preventing one from reaching unification. Once the Suffering States of mind is addressed, all the parts of The Self will be naturally unified.
So in this sense, the purpose of Ashtanga Yoga and the journey of Self-Transformation share one goal—to kick suffering in the butt!
The transformative effects of yoga can only manifest when one realizes that the greater work is to be done inside rather than outside. So when one practices yoga, instead of focusing so much on how one is holding the poses at the physical level, one can realize that the importance is in how one carries the mind when holding the pose.
Is one's mind calm in the pose?
Is the mind in fear in the pose?
Is the mind reacting to the pain?
Is the mind wandering in thoughts?
As one moves through the pains and pleasures of each pose, stretching, moving, contracting, holding, one will experience different reactions to the experience. This is when Self-Knowing can be developed: through observing the way one is reacting and realizing why one is reacting.
Thus the reactions experienced in yoga are great opportunities to develop Self-Knowing.
When one experiences reactions, one can also use these moments as opportunities to develop even greater Stillness, learning how not to react to one's reactions, learning to pull oneself back into Stillness, to remain calm in the storm of the experience.
The Importance Of Breath
In Ashtanga Yoga, the most important aspect of the practice is to observe the Breath. Observing the breath will give help one to have a place of focus otherwise one can fall into the chaos of one's mind. By focusing one's awareness on the breath, it will help one to be grounded in the Present Moment and learn about what's happening on one's body and in one's mind—helping one to develop Stillness and Self-knowing.
So, when practising Ashtanga, there's no need to focus so much on getting the poses "perfect" or "elegant". The attachment to these desires will only impede one's journey of Self-Transformation. The importance is to focus on the breath so that one does not lose themselves through the journey of poses. The focus is to simply try one's best, learning to forgive oneself, encourage oneself to keep on moving forward until one reaches the end of the sequence.
Through the journey, so many reactions can occur at the level of the body and mind, which can make the practice mentally, emotionally and physically challenging as one not only have to maintain calmness in the world outside but also inside. And the deeper one grounds themselves in the practice, the deeper the Unstillness and Reactions will come, bringing deep unresolved pains onto the surface.
It's important to note that the moments of "wanting to give up" can present the greatest opportunities for one to transform oneselves. These difficult moments are opportunities for one to develop the ability to be Still in times of Chaos; to develop trust and courage, that instead of believing that you "cannot" do it, believe that you "can" instead; to develop control over the mind, that instead of letting it run wild, using the opportunity to tame it more; to develop Self-knowing as why one cannot simply accept the experience.
By transforming the way one faces their challenging moments in the practice of yoga, it will transform the way one faces suffering in one's life. Realize that the wise habits you cultivate in the practice will flow into your life, so that you can be in a yogic state throughout your day. Merging the practice and life together as One is important because Life will always be the bigger practice.
The Power Of Intention
Carrying the intention to transform and know oneself is what will set one apart from simply practising yoga as a physical form of exercise and using it as a spiritual tool for enlightenment. Always remember that what you will learn from any practice you do in life will always be based on what your intentions are. So, if you practice Ashtanga Yoga with the intention to learn how to hold a "perfect pose" so it looks great on Instagram, then you will become really good at doing just that!
So before you practice Yoga, a good question to ask is— "What do I want to achieve? "
So, Ashtanga Yoga isn't the only form of yoga one can use for Self-Transformation. If one carries the right intentions, all forms of yoga can be used for Self-Knowing and Self-Transformation. Actually, even other exercises can be used like lifting weights or running, sports, and so forth, though they may not be suitable because it will be extremely difficult to maintain a Still mind with all the excess movements and mental thinking. Ashtanga Yoga is just a perfect practice out of the box due to its natural design to liberate one from their sufferings. That is why the poses were designed to be more mentally challenging and painful than other forms of yoga so that one's deeper reactions can be drawn out through the poses.
Incorporating Yoga Into One's Life
To bring out the potential of Ashtanga Yoga to transform one's suffering states of mind, one can make a schedule to practice it every week, perhaps 3-5 times a week or more if one's physically capable. When persistence is added into the practice, deeper Sufferings of the mind can surface and be released!
Practising yoga in the morning is best because then one can carry a yogic mind throughout the rest of the day to develop even greater insight into oneself.
And on your journey of Yoga, you will slowly realize who you are because how you react in yoga will always represent how you react to similar situations in life. For instance, how you face painful and suffering situations. how you face situations when nothing is happening, how you face impatience and anger, and so forth.
So, through yoga, you will become more Self-Knowing, more aware of your habits, especially of those that need to be transformed and released for you to experience greater happiness in life.
The destination of yoga thus is not to become a master at doing it on a physical level. In fact, it may be a good idea to avoid more difficult ones that can lead to injury especially if one is of older age. But again, one will become wiser from one's experiences. After sustaining an injury, one will naturally realize that one has been pushing oneself too hard!
Thus, the destination of yoga is to become a master of the practice at the level of the mind.
Active and Passive Practices
The Self-Transformative potential of Ashtanga and Meditation is increased exponentially if one brings both practices into their life.
These practices are like the yin and yang of each other. Ashtanga is an active form of meditation; Meditation, a passive form of yoga.
Practising meditation can help one to learn what the state of observation is. Often, this can be difficult to learn when one is only practising Ashtanga yoga because one can find it difficult to still the mind when so much is happening in the practice: moving into the poses, the reactions happening in the mind, the pains on the body, etc.
Practising Ashtanga yoga can help one to go deeper into oneself in meditation as practising yoga daily will help one to more accepting of the pains, allowing one to let them go so they can go further to meet deeper pains.
Develop Experienced Knowledge
Try Ashtanga Today!
If you don't want to go to an Ashtanga school to learn, you can learn it at home!. You can learn from David Swenson's Primary Series of Ashtanga here.
The Creator's Meditation / VipassanaLink here
Incorporating meditation into your yoga practice will help you to go deeper into the practice!
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.