Yoga - Just Do It
by Shameem Akthar
When you persist with your practice regardless of the blandishments of the mind, the true miracle of yoga reveals itself
When I am flooded with yoga columns to write, I always get the urge to skip practice for that day. After all, my cunning mind tells me, I am doing a greater good by writing about it and enthusing other people to do it; so what if I cannot rustle up time to do it myself! This is the sort of trick-traps the mind plays. Despite being an advanced practitioner familiar with these mind games, I almost succumb to the temptation to skip my practice.
I have also noticed that amongst those who love yoga, there is a great urge to discuss it. I myself try to find outlets for this urge through my writings. So I really appreciate how imperative the need to find a platform to discuss yoga is. This tie neatly with another intriguing aspect of yoga – that even as you advance in practice it becomes that much more difficult to sustain regularity and discipline to do it daily, difficult also to deliberately create the right, meditative mental framework, and provide just the right spurt that maintains the progression of your practice instead of sending it regressing back.
Unfortunately, this is so true of many practitioners. There are always arguments about which school of yoga is better, comments about new innovations, disparaging remarks about somebody else’s perception of yoga. I know this from messages that land on my email box, or through messages littering online sites where I write. My own suspicion is that these are really people who wish they could practise yoga but have not got around to it. Because a regular practice of yoga is a very humbling experience. It completely circumvents your emotions to remain part of your life. Emotions mostly don’t allow us to do what is good for us. They only pretend to. Often, they trip us. So, to be regular in yoga means you must also learn to put aside frivolous emotions. As also ‘noble’ reasoning.
Because as we advance in practice, the mind, ever cunning, seeks very noble reasons to skip practice, as I mentioned above. Earlier in our practice, we managed to be regular due to the enthusiasm of the newness of practice. But the strength of our inner self is revealed only when we can carry something to completion without the prop of enthusiasm. That is what an advanced practice of yoga is ultimately all about.
If you just do, instead of talking, thinking about whether you have the time or inclination to do your yoga practice, you will find the actual miracle of yoga in your body. When the mind is relaxed, unruffled by either enthusiasm or lack of it, the body is at its most supple. I don’t know how or why, but I do know that this is very true from personal experience. This can be achieved as you watch your mind while practising, and noticing its many loops and turns. As you choose to distance from it, the body becomes relaxed. It loses its resistance to a pose. Try it. It is a matter of experience. Then you realise what yoga is really all about. What my Sadguru Swami Sivananda said becomes a matter of experienced reality: “An ounce of practice is worth tonnes of theory.”
Anjali mudra (hand gesture of prayer):
Sit in any meditative posture. Place hands together in a namaste gesture, palms touching. Place them at the chest. Shut eyes. Continue normal breathing. Hold this for five minutes. You can time yourself with a soft timer. When the time is over, sit still for a few more seconds, rub your palms together and place them gently on your eyelids before opening your eyes.
Point to note: Such mudras are difficult to hold simply because to remain physically still, your mind must also be still. It will invent some disturbance (chafing dress, itching, hair irritating the forehead, etc) to somehow make you move out of it. Try to resist this, unless the source of disturbance really warrants it (like an actual insect bite, for instance!).
Extremely calming. Spiritually, powers the heart chakra or anahata. Soothes the breath into a rhythmic flow.