Real Peace comes only to those who control the body and mind with self-discipline
- Swami Vishnudevananda
Yoga is not exercise. Its a way of life. It means harmony between the mind , body and breathe and eventually harmony with one's environment and the planet.
But how many of us are in harmony with our body and mind let alone the world. Our body and our soul speak a subtle language to which we are not attuned . Instead we listen to our mind, which is not ours anymore. It is goverened and molded by external factors.
Our body is a very big part of our existence. We feed, clothe and take care of it in the most basic way. But are we really listenning to its needs or using it to its full capacity? By using our breath and awareness Hatha Yoga is a way of tuning into our body's language and then disciplining and nurturing it.
Once we are truely aware of our body we can love and control it. The next evolutionary step would be control and discipline of the mind. The mind that makes excuses and justifies our unhealthy eating habits, violating mother nature, lack of tolerance and violence against each other.
And above all, our mind that is responsible for all our negative thought patterns. What if the world could hear each and every one of our thoughts as if spoken out loud! Would we be proud of ourselves? Most of us are busy judging each other, living in an imaginary world, covering our fears and insecurities with pride, anger or an image of confidence. Often we hear, we are what we eat. But We are more What or How We Think. If this negative or fearful/angry thinking is how we have lived all our lives, it becomes a very strong part of our identity. This is what creates a disconnect between the mind, body and the soul. This is also the first step to ill health/disease or pain in the body.
Purity of mind is not possible without purity of the body in which it dwells and which it is affected. In order to get control over the mind Hatha Yoga various pranayama or breathing techniques. The Yogi trained in pranayama is able to tune to the infinite source of energy and use this energy for spiritual growth.
In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of healing, it is said, that all diseases first start in our mind/thoughts or in our brain. When we are unable to digest our negative experiences or emotional hurts or stress, they become a pattern or part of our identity. These undigested emotions or negative self image is then manifested or transferred to our body in the form of sickness. Equally important is what we eat and how our body digest this food. Yoga is a way to bring awareness of our breath and body and mind, calm and slow down our thoughts. And hopefully with this awareness we take better decisions in how we think and what we eat.
Yoga philosophy seperates mind according to its three functions
a Subconscious (instinct) - first stage of mental development in the scale of evolution - desires, passions & appetite.
b Conscious (reason) - second stage of the mind- ego/selfor 'I' consciousness -intellect can control or guide the subconscious. Reasoning is the function of the intellect.
c Super-conscious (intuition) this is above the intellect. Its purpose is to achieve intuition & higher consciousness.
Beyond these three levels of the mind is pure consciousness known as Spirit , Cosmic or God which is formless, timeless, changeless and infinite. Herein lies eternal peace and joy. Yoga philosophy guides and helps us evolve through the 3 stages of the mind and eventually union with the Cosmic.
In Hatha Yoga we hold the body in a series of postures/asanas with awareness and by controlling the breath. Thus creating a brief connection between the body and mind and thereby elevating our consciousness. This is also a method for mental peace and good health.
If we practise these postures daily with concentration and with a good teacher we dont need to exhaust ourselves with other energy depleting exercises. It is not mere coincidence that Hatha Yoga exists since 5000 years.
The aim of all yoga practice is to achieve truth, wherein the individual soul identifies itself with the Supreme Spirit or God. Beyond the ever-changingmind and intellect , there is a changeless , formless, Spirit which is unaffected by anything and which is veiled in the individual according to his/her stage of evolution.
The eight limbs of Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras as defined by the sage Patanjali about 5000 years ago are:
(non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, controlling sexual desire, greedlessness or taking only what is necessary)
(cleanliness or purity, contentment, austerity or self-discipline, self-examination, surrender or devotion to God)
Asana: physical practice of yoga postures
Pranayama: breath control exercises
Pratyahara: control of the senses
Samadhi: self realization or absorption