Yoga: Mastery Over Body & Mind
In the crazy race for material pursuits, in the frenzy to hoard more and more, not only has today’s man endangered his health, he has neglected the spiritual dimension almost completely. The fast pace of life has made almost everyone short-tempered and irritable, low on energy and high on stress. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enjoy the divine boon of perfect health, which includes a supple, energetic, well-aligned body as well as the serene stillness of a calm mind. The ancient seers, rishis of India observed and studied nature in depth. In states of deep meditation, they were able to enter into the minutest processes of the body and extract invaluable knowledge which delineated its most detailed functioning. Consequently they devised a systematic approach, based on this irrefutable inner science and formulated it as a series of movements and postures of the human body. These are yogasanas, which not only tone up all major organs and body systems but are designed to have a powerful effect on brain chemistry as well. This legacy was the sacred beginning of the holistic system of supreme health called Yoga.
The term ‘yoga’ evokes a sense of balance, beauty and harmony. It is synonymous with integration of mind, body, intellect and breath. Lord Shiva is said to be the original bestower of this profound knowledge, which he bequeathed to Parvati, his consort and disciple. Shiva is the embodiment of supreme consciousness; Parvati represents supreme knowledge, energy, shakti, kundalini. The merger of these two great energies, one passive, the other dynamic is Yoga.
According to yoga, body and mind are actually one single integrated unity, though we may approach them as two. After even a single yoga session, most people find that the mind has become tranquil, alert and refreshed, in addition to the body becoming more strong, supple and resilient.
The powerful, long-term benefits of yoga holistically stimulate and dramatically alter our attitude to life and living, our relationships as well as our personality and character. The transition from negative to positive is slow, smooth and long-lasting. We are able to view ourselves as well as our goals in a new light. Indecisiveness, poor self-image, lack of courage, distress and emotional instability are transformed into confidence, mental clarity and equipoise, vibrancy and a readiness to face challenge at all levels. ‘Doing’ yoga is akin to exercising but not at all in the conventional sense. There is an underlying grace and elegance in every pose that somehow seems to bring out the perfection inherent in the human body. Just as a dancer is inseparable from the dance, a good yoga practitioner is in perfect synchronicity not only with his or her body and mind but also with the entire cosmos.
Other exercise forms in comparison can over-stretch muscles, bones and ligaments bringing about wear and tear, which in the long run could be very painful. The marvellously precise mechanism of the human body needs to be handled with love, respect and care and yoga is such an ideal practise which awakens awareness and sensitivity. Directly working on the master controller of the body, the hypothalamus gland, its far-reaching benefits work on the mind as well as harness, conserve and increase the energy of the body.
Yoga is now recognized as an alternative therapy for diseases like asthma, blood pressure, diabetes, digestive ailments, arthritis and many more. Thus it is the perfect antidote for the man of today. Unfortunately, these days yoga has become a booming billion-dollar industry, being practiced for everything from stress control to beauty to fitness, although its true purpose, mastery of mind through mastery of body holds true for very few individuals who have the incredible grace of being under the guidance of a realised being. It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to practice yoga under the instruction and guidance of the guru, as only then can the practice unfold smoothly without obstacles.
Another very important aspect of the practice is consistency. Imagine for a moment that you need to boil some water; you fill a pot and turn on the gas, but every few seconds you remove it from the stove – what do you think, will it boil soon or would it take ages? It will boil only when the temperature reaches 100 degrees centigrade, not before that. Similarly a yoga practitioner too needs to be very consistent, very regular in his practice. Yoga practice cannot be an off-and-on affair. One can’t just switch it on and off according to one’s whims and fancies; a casual, haphazard approach simply won’t work. Just as eating, drinking, sleeping, or for that matter urinating are done on a regular basis, yoga too has to become a daily discipline for the practice to unfold. Nature also follows a discipline, a routine, a rhythm – imagine what would happen if the Sun were to say, “I’d rather not shine today, I’m bored,”, or the earth were to say, “Enough of rotation and revolution, today’s my day off!” Thus, it’s important not only to be inspired but to stay inspired as well. Unswerving faith in the guru, consistent as well as dedicated practice and purity of mind are indispensible requisites if one wants to walk this wonderful path - only then is one fit to be called a ‘yogi’ in the true sense of the word.