Yoga - One pointed awareness
by Shameem Akthar
When you practice in a state of absolute focus and sense withdrawal, you are not concerned if the neighbour is chatting or gawking or mocking
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Contrary to popular impression, yoga retreats can end up becoming spots where exaggerated distractions can stump your practice.
The same goes for yoga classes.
The distractions can be many: irritating or chatty yoga mat neighbours, somebody hitting on you or somebody hitting on somebody else (this can be even more distracting!).
I believe true yoga makes you immune to all that. When you practice in a state of absolute focus and sense withdrawal, you are not concerned if the neighbour is chatting or gawking or mocking. Like the tortoise which withdraws into its shell, you are withdrawn from a challenging world. No wonder the tortoise pose or kurmasana is regarded a highly spiritual pose. This difficult pose defines that state of mind in which you are required to do yoga.
Yoga texts like Hatha Yoga Pradipika, by Rishi Swatmarama, says that one of the signs of success in yoga is the reduced need for the company of others. When poses are held for long and meditatively, a certain intimacy results between the body and mind, a depth of mental involution which can be deeply satisfying. This inner sense of companionship with oneself nips the need for approval from others. (The meaning of the name Swatmarama means one whose soul plays with itself). Then, there is no need for desperate antics on the mat to seek the approval of others, especially of the other sex, signalling a paucity of self-esteem. The latter is what a good yoga practice is supposed to do for you!
While initially you may sign up for a yoga class for the interesting distractions it offers, the value of your practice is demeaned for sure, if that becomes the central reason for why you visit the class or do yoga! Also, if the distractions continue to consume you, perhaps your yoga practice is not successful at all! At the end of the day, pure yoga is where you use the body to reject the mind or ego. Your practice cannot allow the ego to overrun yoga!
(Spread-legged angle pose)
Sit with legs apart as far wide as is comfortable. In this pose you cannot push over the pain, so keep the legs only in the comfort zone. Ensure toes are curled inwards, knees pressed down, back straight. For a beginner all this may be extremely difficult. Most people, including the very flexible, may find it surprising that their backs refuse to remain upright in this pose. Place hands on the ground behind the hips, fingers pointed out. You can also place them on the thighs. Hold for a few seconds initially. Slowly increase time in it for long over a few weeks.
This is the first stage of the kurmasana pose.
Benefits: Boosts blood to the uro-genital system, promoting flow of feel-good hormones. Improves breathing. Rectifies postural defects. Promotes meditation, and also may be used as a pose to meditate in.