Rita guides you through a most loving and sacred yoga practice. Her gentle nature and lightness allow for the most wonderful unfolding to take place in her class. As a fellow student and teacher I am always appreciative of her gifts and radiant smile she shares with others. ... Aarti Ganesh           Read more...

Yoga and its 3 Aspects

YOGA

Yoga is a way of life to some people. For others it is a way to keep the body free from ailments. For some it involves the practice of Relaxation and Meditation. Yoga can mean different things to different people. However, Yoga is also a way of unfolding our hidden qualities and awakening our dormant faculties. The word Yoga literally means to unite. Some say it is the uniting of individual consciousness with higher consciousness. Others believe it to be a state of realization. However, practically speaking it is a state of unity, balance and equilibrium between body and brain, brain and mind, mind and spirit. When all the aspects of personality are in balance our personality expresses itself in a different way.

AN ALTERED STATE OF MIND

Any change in the normal behavior of the mind can be an altered state. For example when we get angry it is an altered state of consciousness, when we go to sleep it is another altered state and when we express ourselves we create altered states. There are some experiences which bring the mind down towards the gross, instinctive and rational plane, and other experiences that go beyond the instinctive and rational level, which are probably best expressed by the term intuitive states of mind. Yoga helps us with the different situations and experiences with which we are confronted. 

During our whole life from birth till death, our mind fluctuates between two extremes – Happiness and Unhappiness. When we are happy we feel elated but when we are confronted with depressing situations we let them get us down. Because of these fluctuations our energies become unbalanced. Unbalanced does not mean that we lose control over ourselves, that we are unable to harness the potential of our personality, and our mind stays in a state of dissipation, unable to concentrate, unable to become one-pointed or focused. It is at this time that, by practicing Yoga we are able to gain a better control over our intellect, emotion and behavior.

THREE ASPECTS OF YOGA

1. THE PHYSICAL ASPECT OF YOGA

Physical aspect of Yoga is to harmonise the body and become aware of the different types of imbalances within the physical structure which cause various types of stress and tension. We go through many types of physical movements during the day. For example, whenever we sit in a chair; our body is bent. We sit on the bed; our body is bent. Very rarely we make a conscious effort to stretch the body straight or curve the body backward. 

Most of the movements that the body experiences in the hours of our awakened state create a lot of physical tension. We can say that, apart from sleeping flat in bed, most of the time we spend in a forward bend posture. This type of posture creates some type of tension. Due to muscular and physical stress, a state of imbalance occurs which becomes the cause of different aches and pains, psychosomatic and somopsychic disorders, where the harmony of the body is distorted. This imbalance creates a definite distortion in the functioning of the internal organs and systems. The digestive system is affected without doubt, unless we have a very powerful digestive tract.

THE AIM OF THE PHYSICAL ASPECT OF YOGA

The physical aspect of Yoga aims to eliminate this imbalance by prescribing various postures or Asanas. With the help of Asanas we stretch our body, we twist our body in a controlled way without any jerk and we make a conscious effort to curve the body backward. 

Asanas are smooth, controlled movements which are done slowly and with awareness, to provide the maximum stretch to the body in every direction. There is no need to start Yoga with difficult practices like the Headstand but we can start with very simple practices like moving the fingers and toes, the hands, wrists and arms, just to gain a deeper understanding about the state of our body, about our muscular, nervous and skeletal systems. Thus we become aware of where we are stiff, where we are tight and how best we can remove that stiffness and tightness. It is this gradual working with the body that leads to the discovery of the body, which is the main object of the physical aspect of Yoga.

ASANA
Asana a Sanskrit word translated as posture does not literally mean exercise or posture but at ease and relaxed. When we practice Asana by stretching the body in different directions we are also relaxing the muscular structure, tissues, bones and nervous system and massaging the internal organs like the liver, kidneys, intestines and stomach. It is a gentle toning. In this way the whole body is brought into a state of balance. When we feel balanced inside we feel physically free from tension and stress, free from stiffness and tightness, then that physical harmony influences the activity of the brain.

PRANAYAMA

Apart from Asana there are practices of Pranayama. Pranayama is related to the breathing techniques. The breath is intimately related with the states of emotion and intellect. We take our breath for granted and fail to understand that by harmonising the breathing pattern we can also influence and alter the pattern of our emotions, mind and intellect. Whenever you have felt afraid or angry you must have noticed the state of your breath, but when you are relaxed, tension-free, your breath is tranquil, slow and deep. The breath definitely controls certain aspects of the nervous system, the activity of the brain, and emotional and intellectual expression. The practice of Pranayama gives us voluntary control over our intellectual and emotional activities.

2. THE MENTAL ASPECT OF YOGA

Mental aspect of Yoga is possibly the most important area of Yoga. According to Yogic literature we find that Yoga is a form of psychotherapy. The whole process of Yoga eventually deals with knowing, understanding and realizing the mind. Emotional stress and intellectual stress play a very important role in our life. Both types of stress deal with the feeling of security, inhibition, inferiority or superiority complexes and our ability to express ourselves. Many things are involved here and not just one. Through various practices of relaxation and concentration which aim to focus the attention at one point, we are able to overcome the state of emotional stress.

RELAXATION

Relaxation is definitely something which we all require. Sleep is a form of relaxation. But when we go to bed we carry our problems with us. We carry our thoughts, frustrations, anxieties and stress and we pass a very restless night. Yoga says that in order to relax, one should have the ability to disassociate from one's thoughts, feelings, emotions and expressions. It also says that in order to relax totally one should be able to go to bed alone. Before you go to bed put your thoughts aside on your bedside table. Just like you take off your glasses and watch, remove your thoughts and keep them aside. Remove the stress and keep it beside you. Just go to bed by yourself. As you throw off the day in preparation for sleep, become aware of the different parts of the body and acknowledge that they exist. Become aware of the breath. Become aware of the mental activity in terms of thoughts. Just watch what types of thoughts are coming. How are they affecting you. It is a process of being awake to our inner mind, watching the mind, observing the mind. By doing this we become more aware of our mental requirements and of what is needed for proper physical and psychological relaxation.

CONCENTRATION

Concentration is just focusing the dissipated energies of mind and when these dissipated energies are focused, the resulting concentrated awareness becomes willpower. The concentrated mind becomes the experience of self-confidence, and a new vista, a new perspective of life opens up.

3. THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT OF YOGA

The meaning of spirituality in Yoga is defined as experiencing the spirit, the energy. Spirit is not a form of ghost that we find haunting houses and wharfs at night, but the energy, the driving force, the motivation behind every action and experience in life. Some people are aware of it and some are not. But there is a driving force behind our every thought, feeling, attitude and action, and becoming aware of these is the spiritual aspect of Yoga.

CONCLUSION

There are times when we become highly active. There are times when we become highly sensitive, passive or dynamic. Dynamism, vitality, energy is a definite force known as Prana. The fluctuations in our mood, in our experiences, represent low forms of energy that govern and direct the whole of our life. Being passive, analytical, intuitive, aware, having a broad view and vision are the expressions of a different type of energy. 

This second form of energy is known as Chitta. Combining these two energies, Prana and Chitta, the physical aspect and the mental aspect, we are able to experience life in its totality, and that is the ultimate aim of Yoga. Some people may say, "No. Realization is the ultimate aim of Yoga". That is their view, but when we have to live in society and have obligations and commitments to fulfil, Yoga means "unity of the physical and mental energies". The development of the personality is initiated from here.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti