Yoga - Yoga for awareness
by Shameem Akthar
Great insights and greater awareness can be achieved by focussing on breath and stablising the body in a particular yogic posture, says Shameem Akthar
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Intensifying one's practice by deepening the pose works as a powerful raja yoga practice (mind control yoga).
The question is, how does one intensify one's awareness merely by holding on to a pose?
Even a simple pose like the tadasana (palm tree pose) can be used to explain that. As you go up in it with regular practice, you may stay in that pose for about 30 seconds without discomfort. But to take the same pose to a meditative one, you require increasing the time by a minute over a few days. While doing that you will realise after sometime that the body is beginning to respond to the drag of gravity. The next step is to shift your awareness to those parts of the body which are slackening due to the resistance to gravity. This may be the calf muscles, the ankles, the spine and also the hands. When you switch from each of these body parts and strengthen them to hold on, this is where a pose becomes meditative. In fact, when done in this fashion, the movement of time is not felt, and the tiredness goes. Tiredness comes from a scattered mind. When the mind has something to focus on, tiredness will vanish in a pose. This is a very exciting aspect of doing yoga in the meditative fashion. So, a simple pose can help us deal with two things that constantly crush us during the day – the sense of fatigue and the rush of time.
Once this aspect of the pose is dealt with, awareness is shifted to one's breath. Inevitably, the steadiness of our breath depends on the steadiness of our mind. So, when the mind becomes stable in a pose like this, often you will find that the breath also complements it by becoming steady. Focussing the mind on the breath is another way of toning the mind even in a simple pose.
Similarly, there are several layers of awareness we can bring into a pose. When this comes into your practice, the yoga mat becomes an adventure spot where the philosophy of yoga unravels itself, and helps reach concepts into the mind, using the body as its tool.
(Downward facing one-legged pose):
This involves balance, flexibility and co-ordination. So though the final pose as demonstrated may be difficult, you may try the basic one. Stand up straight, feet together. Bend the right leg at the knee, placing both hands on either side of the right foot. Raise the left leg high behind, as shown, simultaneously beginning to straighten the right leg. Then move the head as close as you can to the right leg. Hold on for as long as is comfortable. Release to repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Boosts focus, mental stamina and co-ordination. Removes postural defects. Replicates the impact of the headstand, against gravity. Legs becomes strong and toned. Makes the spinal column flexible and supple, toning the nerves.
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