By Shameem Akthar
Shameem Akhtar explains how yoga helps you fight the demons within you, and grow spiritually.
|Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with |
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
There is a lot of confusion about what yoga must actually do. I stick to my tradition of the Sivananda yoga to define it. Yoga is the best weapon to use to train yourself as a spiritual warrior, adept in the battle waged between your ego and higher intelligence. The reason this is so is because practice of yoga helps you cultivate a strong mind.
If health or longevity is also imparted, it is because they are essential for you to achieve this inner conquest. However, these are inevitable side-effects to a solid, disciplined, and stringent practice. To have a loose or vapid practice, defies the goal.
How do you do such a spiritualised, focussed, and strong practice? Regularity is the first requirement, calling for a military-level discipline. Also important is to constantly grow from strength to strength. Interestingly, every pose has an emotional impact, helping you cultivate emotional strengths. The backbends make you fearless, the forward bends make you humble and accepting, while the standing poses ground and help you balance yourself. Therefore, using the body to grow in the mind should be the fulcrum of the practice.
Awareness is the most important ingredient in becoming a spiritual warrior. Here the meditative state comes not from switching off when you hold a pose, but tuning in to everything that is happening within the body. Often this may be experienced when you enter a pose with strength, stay in it with grace, and settle down into a duration that can challenge the muscles to exquisite effort. Interestingly, this can happen even with simple poses, held with meditative focus, to challenging lengths of time, where the body squeals, but the mind kicks in to help you hold. In addition, in the stepping back from pain, something falls in place, that is courageous, strong, and pure. It is the yoga zone. A state of heightened awareness that is supremely calm. Not switching off, but tuning in. Then the spiritual aspect of yoga falls in place, and with it, what it must do to you.
Lie on your back. Inhale, raising the right leg up. Exhale to lift chest up, simultaneously lifting hands alongside right leg, and lift the left leg off the ground. The raised leg should be at right angle to the torso. The bottom leg should not be too high, but about 20 degrees off the ground. Hold initially for ten to 15 seconds. You may increase the duration in the final pose over weeks, to a minute or more. Continue normal breathing while in the final pose.
To finish the pose, inhale, and while exhaling drop the legs and chest back to the ground. Press the chin between collar bones, to release any contraction at the neck. Push the lower back curve into the ground, to relax the back. Repeat for the other leg.
Avoid, if having lower back or neck problem. It is a very demanding pose, and must be initiated only after a regular practice of yoga is already in place
Improves stamina. Tones abdominal muscles, and the entire spine. Tones and shapes the legs. It is used to fight insomnia.
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