You must be wondering, what do I mean by saying - “Yoga – your past, present, and future”. If you carefully look at your yoga practice - the practice of Asana connects you to your physical body, Pranayama to your breath and mind, and Dhyana helps you to transcend your mind.
In summary as per Yogic wisdom, practicing “Asana” primarily affects your relationship to your past, “Pranayama” affects your relationship to the present and “Dhyana or Meditation” primarily affects your relationship to your future. How? Let’s dive into it…
Asana – Your Past: From the day you are born until now, your body is storing your past every moment. Whatever you do, think, eat gradually manifests in your body. If you do proper exercise on regular basis, you can stay fit and in shape, if you neglect it starts to show up in the body in different forms of ailment. Thus, your lifestyle, food, environment, how you think and choose to act on it, has the direct impact on your stress level, emotionally, physically and psychologically. Thus, body collects these stresses and you experience it as resistance during asana practice. However, there are times of love, gratefulness, success, and ease; you feel that your body is more open, and you experience less resistance in asana practice. Asana or poses feel more accessible or easier to you. Thus, a regular practice of yoga asana principally transforms your body’s response to past experience.
But keep in mind that asana is not necessarily yoga. There are several styles of yoga available today with fancy names for different reasons. Technically speaking, if you are practicing asana as physical fitness only or without breath awareness, it is NOT Yoga.
Pranayama – Your Present: Have you ever observed your mind, it always vacillates between past and future, hardly stays in the present moment. Either you are regretting about your past or getting anxious about future. More the mind vacillates, more you experience stress in your nervous system. But happiness is only experienced in the present moment. So how to bring your mind in the present moment?
Your body has the direct connection with your mind through breath. It is difficult to stop the patterns of mind without the help of breath. Breath is like a thread of a flying kite to the mind. Your breath is the reflection of how you think. It also reflects your emotional state, if you are angry, you breathe faster, if you are calm, you breathe slower. Every emotion has its corresponding breathing pattern. These patterns are unconsciously shaped. However, when you consciously shape your breath, your conscious mind has to engage and change. The mind must be in the present moment to maintain the selected pattern. This is called Pranayama. On the deeper level, this new breathing practice gradually shapes your unconscious mental pattern and changes the state of mind. Thus, the conscious breathing through Pranayama brings you to the present moment.
Dhyana - Your Future: Dhyana or Meditation is the most subtle and powerful among the three. When you meditate, you start to begin at first stage, it is called Dharana or concentration; you primarily aim to move from distraction to concentration, distractions from past experiences coming into the present and continue to stay one-pointed. This process is very gentle so that you allow your mind to come to it rather force it. Because if you will try to force, the mind will rebel or bounce back with more force.
In the beginning, you may stay in the first stage for some time but gradually as you continue practicing regularly, your mind will automatically take you to the second stage called Dhyana or Meditation, that gives rise to a deeper, more profound level of perception. In this stage mind becomes free from agitation, becomes calm and serene and at peace, and inner healing begins. As you further continue, you may dive into the third stage called - Samadhi or transcendence; this is the highest level of clear perceiving. In this stage, you experience going beyond your self-identity - you are not male or female, young or old, black or white. You get in touch with the highest truth. As you continue to practice and dive into such state, gradually the transformation starts to begin from inside out, you start to make decisions from this clear state of self-knowing instead of conditional identity. You start to change on your own, start to change your habits or act or react differently. Thus, you start to alter your future.
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Note: In my personal practice and while teaching workshops, my intention is to always bring at least these main components of yoga together for the deeper experience. Though most of the modern or popular yoga classes today mainly focus on the physical practice by giving a feel-good experience to the body, it is more beneficial when you move beyond the body, move beyond the past, come into the present and then taste the transcendence. I am grateful to my teachers for their training, guidance, and support especially my current teacher Yogarupa Rod Stryker, for providing so many tool and technique along with supported ancient wisdom, to help me grow as a yoga practitioner – a student and a teacher.