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June 9, 2012

Have you ever wondered how people can balance in ways that seem impossible during yoga classes? Do you think that your thoughts and your emotions are related to the way your body holds itself in a pose?

When we practice yoga, we're not only working on our physical body. We're also working on our energy and our mind. As we grow in our yoga practice, we can see the results of all this work in our life: we feel more comfortable in our bodies, we have more energy, our emotions become more stable and our minds more focused.

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The most important aspect of yoga is that it will help you still your mind. As you practice asanas (poses), your focus should always be inward: feeling your body in the pose, noticing what different poses do to different parts of your body, how your breath changes through the practice. As you draw your attention inward, you practice one of the 8 limbs of yoga called Pratyahara. Disconnecting from your surroundings is the first step that will lead you into concentration (focusing your mind on one thing at a time). This will slow down the impulses of your mind and will bring you closer to meditation, which is the complete stillness of the mind.

The reason why this is the most important aspect of yoga is that the mind is the source of our reality. If we learn to still our minds, we can be free from any limiting thoughts that bring negativity into our lives. If we can still our minds, we can relax deeply and allow our bodies to rejuvenate. If we can still our minds, we can connect to our intuition and make wiser decisions in our lives. The balancing of the mind will have a positive impact on the balance of the emotional/energetic body and the physical body.

The balancing of the energetic body happens as we release energy where we have an excess and we increase energy where we have a deficiency. Luckily, you don't need to understand what this means for it to work :) Basically, during your yoga practice you will clean your body from any negative energy (anxiety, anger, stress) and as you eliminate these energies you will make space for new positive energy to replace it.

The combination of strengthening poses and stretching poses will have an impact in your nervous system, allowing you to release deeper than you would with other kinds of exercises. We hold emotional stress in different parts of the body and as the physical body releases during the stretches, we also release emotions that we were holding onto. Each part of the body relates energetically to one of our chakras and to a particular emotion.

The balance in the physical body is closely related to the other two. Although there is a physical aspect of strength and flexibility required for the body to hold itself in a pose (which yoga will definitely help you improve), there is only so much that the strength and flexibility can do in a pose if your energy and your mind are not in balance.

It is important that when you try to balance, you keep your eyes still in one spot (Drishti is the name for your point of focus in a pose). As you still your eyes, you should bring your attention inward (Pratyahara) and keep your mind still as you feel your body in the pose. The less you think about it, the more you allow your body to do what it needs to do! It's always good to focus on whichever part of your body is touching the floor and feel the strength of your body pushing the floor away.

As a beginner, you might need to focus more on the physical aspect of the pose: where each body part has to go, which muscles you should be engaging, connecting with your Bandhas. Once you understand and feel the physical part, then you can add the energetic and mental aspects and go deeper into the pose, evolving in the whole experience of what each pose represents to you.

The more you evolve in the balancing of these three aspects during your yoga practice, the more you will see the benefits of this practice in your life. The REAL yoga will happen when you can use these benefits to improve the way you deal with situations in your life, causing a positive effect on the people around you and the whole world. That is how powerful your yoga practice can be!

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