Yoga - Transcend time
by Shameem Akthar
Steadiness in a pose helps the practitioner to transcend the duality of time and experience heightened awareness, says Shameem Akhtar
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
When I started reading voraciously, as a newcomer to yoga, I stumbled serendipitously upon The Yoga of Time Travel: how the mind can defeat time, by Fred Alan Wolf. It married the magic of quantum science to the ethereal yoga experience. Wolf had argued how much of Indian philosophy was actually quantum science. It was a powerful reiteration of all the subtle, transformative experiences yoga gifts to its serious practitioners. To enter this zone, you need to go to where Rishi Patanjali writes, in his second terse verse: Sthira sukham asanam (Being comfortably steady in a pose). I believe he was talking of the comfort with which one could steadily direct the mind within a state of constant awareness. This could be the most difficult thing: The brain’s focus on an object wavers every four seconds as a biological necessity for preserving the organism. If you manage to enter this state of heightened and relaxed awareness (when the brain's electrical pattern switches into the alpha mode, with cycles of 8-12 hertz), suddenly time acquires a stillness. Its speed appears reined. It settles into a continuum of the now, which switches easily between the past and the future but still remains current.
As the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says, “There is no hatha/physical yoga without raja yoga and no raja yoga/mind yoga without hatha yoga. To enter a quantum experience of yoga, you do need to go through the Newtonian experience of the ordinary world, which begins with the body.
When you hold the pose, observing minutely the experiences of the body, suddenly you wake up to the inner chatter of your mind. This is a premeditative state. Interestingly, this inner chatter is not just psycho-babble, but has a biological spot in your nervous system. It comes from what is called the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC), a recent finding in the study of evolution of the nervous system. So, holding a pose with meditative awareness awakens us to this part of our nervous system. Then the pose helps to work on it, towards a transcendental experience of time, where we know it in its stillness, expansion and completeness. This may explain why mythology talks of the Lord of Yoga, Shiva, as one who is also kaalatitaa (one who has conquered time).
(The weighing scale pose)
Sit in the lotus pose (padmasana), with the legs crossed at the ankles. Tilt the knees up, as shown. Place hands in chin mudra (tips of index finger in contact with the tip of the thumb, for each hand). Place them on either knee, as shown. Shut eyes. You can hold this pose as long as you wish, with the focus on staying balanced. Those who cannot do the lotus pose, may sit with the legs crossed, use one hand to hold either of the foot in the locked pose, and tilt the knees up. The other hand may be held in the mudra, or just hold the knee. This latter variation is clearly not the ideal way, but is just a suggestion for those who have not yet learned to do the lotus pose
Benefits: It is deeply calming, centering. It tones the legs, redirects the blood flow from legs to the digestive system and the brain, calming two of the most restless parts of our organism, and which feel stress the most.
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