Yoga - Silence on the mat
by Shameem Akthar
If physical silence is so difficult to invite in a class then think how much tougher to
discuss the silence of the mind
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Some yoga schools naturally encourage their students and followers to be silent on the mat. However, as a yoga instructor, it has been my sad experience that often this can be quite an effort. This has nothing to do with age either, but rather with the lack of life-long exposure to stillness and silence as an elevating experience.
Often even the very old, introduced suddenly to the liberating experience of yoga, can become rather garrulous
and excited. Similarly, some yoga instructors can start inquiring rather more into a pose than the session demands, treating the class as an instructor’s course rather than a practice session, thus jarring other participants’ experience of stillness. If physical silence is so difficult to invite in a class then think how much tougher to discuss the silence of the mind, even more essential to yoga practice.
The mind’s restlessness can be gauged by the need to compete on the mat – thereby shifting focus from your practice to someone else’s, comparing and hoping to do better. Even my best students occasionally lapse in this fashion, by insisting on doing something in a particular fashion. Or trying a variation where you can shine instead of trying what the rest of the class is doing. Everywhere the ego pops up, pretending to come in as a right effort, and silence goes for a toss.
Where yoga is done without silence it is not yoga and has none of its therapeutic value. For instance, while training to be an instructor I was with a very popular yoga school down south where there was a continuous chatter happening: and despite the strenuous work-out of some three dozen poses over three hours, for the few months I was there I did not see any woman lose weight! I also know of classes where the final silent meditation is dumped. As the Bible said, “Be still and know that I am God.” On the yoga mat, that is the only way to connect with the Divine. But if that can seem remote, at least we should use silence to connect with the body. A continuous chatter gets in the way between the mind and the body, already such strangers thanks to our lack of inner silence.
Antarmouna (Inner silence)
Antarmouna (inner silence) meditation powers our personality’s witnessing or logical self. Sit still, eyes shut. Mentally watch your thoughts churning. Don’t try to shut them out, an impossibility. Consciously allow each of the five sense organs to identify a stimulation. Example, pick out a sound. Remind yourself that though you experience the sound you are not the sound itself. Repeat for each sense organ. Now let spontaneous thought flow for sometime. Then consciously create a thought, evolving it fully. Visualise destroying it, like crumbling a paper. Do this a few times. Now watch thoughts flow again as a witness before opening eyes.
Benefits: It makes you take a step back, become objective about your urges. This can be the most powerful tool in controlling all addictive behaviour.
See more articles on Yoga at