Pose Into Stillness

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

by Shahrean Merican

Have you ever wondered why after months or even years of practicing Yoga, you still don’t feel the mental serenity that every Yoga instructor / DVD / book promises? You are still stressed, feeling negative, unable to focus and mentally drained. If this is how you feel, then it’s time to re-assess your Yoga practice.

I have recently noticed an increase in students who struggle to hold an Asana (posture) for a minute, sit through Pranayama (breathing) or
even lay for 5 minutes in Shavasana (relaxation). We have become a highly strung society governed by our adrenalin that taking the time to sit and be present with the moment is an arduous task. We want a class that will match our fast paced lifestyle by getting our heart rate up and exerting maximum energy. As a result, there is a growing trend of Yoga developed as an exercise routine that stretches and tones the body. While this way of practice increases flexibility and suppleness of the body, the lack of breath and body-mind awareness leads to a further disconnection from the self. It will not raise us above our current mental state.

If we were to take a look back at traditional Yoga teachings, the purpose of postures are very different from the reasons we practice Yoga today. Patanjali defines Yoga postures in the Yoga sutras as Stira Sukha Asanam which means Steady Comfortable Posture. Postures are to be held at ease with minimal movement and released in a smooth manner focusing on the breath. This is in preparation for higher aspects of Yoga such as contemplation and meditation that will help strengthen the mind and release negativity. However, Yoga postures are commonly practiced below our level of consciousness with a series of continuous thoughts and released in a quick and often jerky manner.

How does awareness of practice help change our mental outlook?

Practicing Yoga postures with attentiveness will reduce mental stress to a great extent by cultivating stillness of the body and mind. Stillness leads to calmness which in turn helps to release physical, emotional and psychological tension stored in the body. We begin to experience our body from within and develop a deep understanding of the ‘self’. We become more in tune with our body and mind and start nurturing them in a positive way. As a result, we strengthen our internal and external system; creating a harmoniously integrated unit of body, mind and spirit. This is the true purpose of Asana in Yoga.

So the next time you practice Yoga, pause for a moment, take a breath and be still. You will experience the peace and serenity that can only come when you consciously connect with your body, breath and mind!


Jasmin said...

I can relate to this quite well and after more than 1 year practising yoga I find it hard to hold the postures for a long time. Thank you for a good explanation and will try out what you have suggested in my next yoga class - tomorrow!

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