By Shameem Akhtar
By achieving stillness in a particular yogic pose the practitioner can control the mind, says Shameem Akthar
In advanced yoga, the sign of progress is noticed when you are comfortably still in a pose, breathe evenly, keep the body steady and have the mind focussed. This goal appears easy, especially with deceptively simple poses. But even simple poses can be tremendously challenging to the mind, and the body, when the duration is extended. Only serious practitioners will relate to sage Patanjali’s often misunderstood and misinterpreted verse Sthira Sukham Asanam. I believe, from my own struggle with this aspect of yoga, that this is what he meant. When this state of physical stillness and focus is reached, then only can that restless fluttering mind be corralled into stillness. This may be why the Hatha Yoga Pradipika suggests there is no raja yoga (mind yoga) without hatha yoga (physical yoga) and no hatha yoga without raj yoga. In the stillness of your pose, the wordless messages of yoga will seep in.
Even if you hold a pose for long, but do it with a struggle, this aspect has not been reached. You have to be comfortable in it. Most practitioners still struggling with this aspect will strain at the face, huff-puff loudly, or exhibit some limb shaking. Yet, however disturbing this stage of your progress on the mat may be, if you endure through this, you will reach that state of comfortable stillness in a pose. From here, the mind can be reached, through the body.
You enter a zone where time appears to stop. The mind is watchful, but quietened, fully alert but undisturbed. The sense of the now expands as time recedes. Bihar School of Yoga founder, Swami Satyananda in his book, Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, explains the psychic and spiritual benefits of learning to be still in a pose.
He says, “Holding a pose has subtle powerful effects on the pranic and mental bodies. Apart from gently massaging internal organs, glands, muscles and relaxing the nerves throughout the body, it brings tranquillity to the mind, preparing the practitioner for higher practices such as meditation. Some of them induce the state of pratyahara (sense withdrawal, involution of the mind).”
(Dancing Shiva pose, variation):
Stand with feet about two ft apart. Flare feet slightly out. Inhale, going up on your toes, simultaneously raising hands overhead, drawing palms together as shown. Exhale, lower the hips lightly, ensuring torso remains straight and does not tilt forward. Continue normal breathing. Initially hold for a few seconds, progressively increasing duration to a half a minute or more.
Benefits: Builds mental stamina and focus. Boosts physical stamina. Is centering. Is therapeutic in problems related to the uro-genital system. Boosts mood. Tones legs and hands.
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