Yoga - Pranic Awareness
by Shameem Akthar
Yoga is the only science that not only grows with you but also prods you to new levels.
The more you advance into yoga, the more sensitive you become to it – almost like growing steadily in a beautiful relationship where the partner holds up a mirror to who you are, where you came from and where you are headed.
Therefore, when people ask me about the best form of exercise or physical activity, I tell them that of course, it is yoga. It is the only science which not only grows with you but also prods you to new levels. I discovered I have a long way to go. When the journey itself is the destination, there is a nice tingle of anticipation about the very length of your trip!
While reading Swami Niranjananda’s Yoga Darshan, I was introduced to this exciting concept of maintaining three levels of awareness while executing your asana. First is the body awareness, of the annamaya kosha (body sheath) where you sense how the body is responding to the pose – where the stiffness may be, where you may deliberately relax it, and where there is potential for further advancement. The second level of awareness is of the manomaya kosha (the mind sheath), where you are aware of your emotions while executing the pose. Some of us are struggling with the pose; some of us are struggling with ourselves, pushing to reach deeper into the pose than we did yesterday. Some are distracted by what they have to do after the practice. Others by what they were doing before the practice. Some are competing with their neighbours. Some wish to impress that vague heckler in the mind, which reinvents itself as the teacher, the partner, or somebody who does not matter but who must be impressed nevertheless! Some minds are running wild, without knowing that they may do better with some watching!
The third level of awareness must be centred on the pranamaya kosha, or the sheath of the life force/breath sheath. You can also understand this as breath awareness, since most of us are not advanced or sensitised to the concept of the life force as a separate or greater energy than the breath. To be aware of how the breath is in a pose – is it at ease, are we holding our breath as we are wont to, while focusing on something? Is the inhalation longer or exhalation? Is the breath deep, rising from the belly, or from the chest or shoulder? Can we direct our breath to the area troubling us in a pose? This sort of awareness is in itself an amazing form of meditation in a pose.
You realise as you move through these three levels of awareness how unnecessarily stiff you can be in a pose, how shallow your breath may be, or even how stern or slack your mind may be with your efforts. As you maintain these three levels of awareness continuously in a pose, the other two sheaths – vijnanamayakosha (intellectual sheath) and anandamaya kosha (bliss sheath) also open up. This will happen without effort, we are assured, since the three levels of awareness are keys to the higher sheaths.
Though keeping a scorecard on such experiences is trite, if you must, then you can map your advancement in your yoga by the intensity of such inner focus. How keenly you maintain such inner awareness and meditative bhava (attitude), matters more than the advanced poses. Not surprisingly, tangentially this also affects your physical practices. You will find that your asana practice has been elevated to a new high, though that may not even be your intention. The sense of doing things without too much of a struggle becomes a reality.
Veerasana (philosopher/warrior pose):
Sit on your heels, knees on ground, hips rested on the back of your flared heels, as the big toes touch. Bring out your right leg from below. Now place your right foot on your left thigh. The sole will face upwards, while the back of the right foot rests on the left thigh. Ensure that the right knee is touching the ground. Now raise your hands overhead, place palms together in a namaste gesture, flare elbows out to open chest. Breathe normally. Hold the pose as long as is comfortable. Release and now repeat entire sequence for the left side.
• It calms the mind powerfully
• It balances both the hemispheres
• It prepares you for advanced balancers
• If having knee problems
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