Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yoga and the Mind

Yoga is inextricably linked to the mind - this is not a surprise; in fact Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (the earliest known treatise on Yoga) begins with this aspect. "Yogah chittavrtti nirodhah" or "Yoga is that which restrains the operation or conduct of the chitta" (chitta encompasses the mind, intellect and conscious sense of self that seems to drive us each moment). Why is it then that we are so surprised when we see this in action, especially while doing the asanas (postures)?

Perhaps it is because when one begins to learn Yoga, it is steeped in movement, and often, in discomfort and pain. One forgets about the mind though at the end of the practice, you feel better and more at ease in a general sort of way. Once the movements become easier, it is possible to dissect out the effect of various parts of the Yoga practice on one's mind and feelings. This has been my experience, as I try and focus more on my internal state while doing each movement.

I find I am affected in different but specific ways while practicing the asanas (postures) and the pranayama (breathing techniques). This sounds horribly complicated already! I will just focus on my experiences with the asanas in this article.

In the asanas, my feelings and thoughts change over time; there are two stages - when I am involved in attaining the final position and after I release the final position.

In the forward bends, I find my mind calms down a great deal while moving into the posture and as I remain in the asana, I am often aware of things stirring below the surface - feelings and emotions that I was not aware I had sometimes slowly rise to the conscious mind. I often emerge with new thoughts and ideas (though I am trying not to think too much at this time!)

While doing the back bends, all thoughts are removed from the mind because it takes so much energy just to get those movements done! But once I finish, I feel a kind of exhilaration, a wonderful sense of satisfaction.

The inverted poses just make me feel good; while doing them, I am looking at the world from a different angle and once I have finished, I feel relaxed and recharged - ready for the world!

After all this, I end with padmasana - the lotus pose, a very good posture for beginning pranayama or meditation or just for keeping the spine straight and relaxing completely. And life feels good...

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