What does it mean to say that yoga is your past, present and future? Yogic wisdom teaches that 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 in…
Asana – Your Past: From the day you are born until now, your body begins storing every moment of your past. Whatever you do, think, eat gradually manifests itself in your body. If you perform proper exercise on regular basis, you will stay in shape. If you neglect your body, it may start to show in different forms of ailments. Your lifestyle, food, environment, how you think and choose to act, has a direct impact on your stress levels emotionally, physically and psychologically. The body collects these stresses and you experience it as resistance during asana practice. However, after a regular practice of yoga asana, you will find there times of love, gratefulness, success, and ease, you will feel the body open up and experience less resistance. This is because asana transforms your body’s response to past experiences.
Keep in mind, asana is not all there is to yoga. Technically speaking, if you are practicing asana as physical fitness ONLY without breath awareness, it is NOT Yoga.
Pranayama – Your Present: Have you ever observed your mind? You may find it to vacillate between past and future, and rarely find it in the present moment. When the mind is focused on the past you may feel regret. When your mind is focused on the future you may feel anxious or nervous. The more the mind vacillates between these two states, the more you experience stress in your nervous system. Happiness is experienced in the present moment. So how to bring your mind in the present moment?
Have you ever observed your mind? You may find it to vacillate between past and future, and rarely find it in the present moment. When the mind is focused on the past you may feel regret. When your mind is focused on the future you may feel anxious or nervous. The more the mind vacillates between these two states, the more you experience stress in your nervous system. Happiness is experienced in the present moment. So how to bring your mind in the present moment?
Dhyana - Your Future: Dhyana or meditation is the most subtle and powerful among the three. The first stage of meditation is called Dharana or concentration. In this stage, you aim to move from distraction to concentration. This process is very gentle, you allow your mind to come to concentration on its own through stillness rather than through forced effort. If you try to force the mind into concentration you will find the mind will rebel and resist.
You may stay in the first stage for a long time but gradually, after continued, regular practice, your mind will naturally and automatically bring you to the second stage: Dhyana. Dhyana is the meditation that gives rise to a deeper, more profound level of perception. In this stage mind becomes free from agitation, it becomes calm, serene and at peace. Inner healing begins at this stage.
As your practice continues, you may arrive at the third stage called - Samadhi or transcendence; this is the highest level of clear perception. In this stage, you have experiences beyond your self-identity: you are not male or female, young or old, black or white. At this stage, you become in touch with the highest truth. As you continue to practice and dive into such a state, gradually the transformation starts from inside out. You will begin to make decisions from a clear state of self-knowing instead of conditional identity. You will change your own 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, my intention is to bring these main components of yoga together for a deeper experience. Most of the modern or popular yoga classes today focus on the physical practice of yoga offering a feel-good experience to the body. However, I believe it is more beneficial to attempt to move beyond the body, move beyond the past, come into the present and taste the transcendence. I am grateful to my teachers for their training, guidance, and support especially my current teacher Yogarupa Rod Stryker, for providing me with many tool and technique supported by ancient wisdom, to help me grow as a yoga practitioner – a student and a teacher.