What it Really Means to Practice Yoga
I recently had the privilege of vacationing in Central America. It was blissful and rejuvenating—no schedule, no alarms, no traffic, no anxiety, and no responsibilities.
When I returned home to Vancouver, I expected a couple of things: Firstly, I expected to be perfectly bronzed and salt-water exfoliated, glowing with a Caribbean halo that oozed rest and youth. Secondly, I expected to bring the flow of peace and calm back home with me, and have it translate to my workplace and relationships.
Alas, my dry, flaking skin and post-travel day dark circles weren’t the only things that didn’t meet my expectations. I felt as though I had no tolerance for anyone or anything. I felt irritated by clients, work, traffic, text messages from friends and family. Occurrences that had previously been met with patience and mindfulness—case notes, lineups, emails—were now met with resentment and annoyance, followed by frustration and dismay that I had so quickly lost my “Zen” state that had seemed to come so easily in Nicaragua.
And then I was reminded, this is why it’s called practice.
Just as we lose our physical flexibility and strength when we have not been stretching our muscles regularly, we lose our emotional and cognitive flexibility and strength when we have not been “tested” or stepped out of those comfort zones.
If we aren’t mindfully practicing refraining, patience, non-reactivity, and compassion, as we do in yoga, we risk being “out of practice” and lacking such skills when tested. If yoga is the primary place we choose to do this, a hiatus from practice might not just affect your physical flexibility and strength –we also might lose our focus, or our calm, or our compassion. Fortunately, once learned, we are able to access these skills more quickly than we would have before learning them (think muscle-memory), as we’ve created the neural pathways; we just need to strengthen them (“neurons that fire together wire together”).
This doesn’t mean you can’t holiday, or that you must keep up a militantly regular practice all the time. The flow of life will make it so you are sometimes faced with excellent opportunities to practice and sometimes not. But, you can do this whenever you experience a difficult feeling in your daily life. Whenever I’m feeling bored, or angry, or frustrated, or impatient, or sad, or rejected, I remind myself it’s excellent practice in tolerating (insert difficult feeling here), and it contributes to me reacting to that feeling in more helpful ways. Still, know that it’s a continual process that does not end. We don’t become experts or acquire these skills without having to train them mindfully. However, just as you likely believe the time, effort, and physical discomfort you experience in the asana is worth the physical benefit, you will likely find the same goes for your cognitive and emotional practice. And, your colleagues, clients, family, and friends will probably agree. I know mine do.
The Secret of Namaste
Namaste: I honor, respect, recognize and bow to the light in you and me.
This sacred gesture, used in many yoga practices, meditations and prayers, holds a secret wisdom. When the mind and senses bow to the Heart Chakra, the union between body and soul is achieved. The key, however, is to go deep into the Heart Chakra where the soul glows its life-giving presence, bringing breath and heartbeat to your body.
The Heart Chakra
Why does one need to go deep into the Heart Chakra, and how does one achieve this process? The reason for going deep into the Heart Chakra is to guide the senses that are controlled by the mind and also control the mind, into the Heart.
When the senses are only aware of the life around your body, the senses cannot be fully aware of your soul in the Heart Chakra. The senses must be withdrawn; in Yoga this is called “Pratyahara.”
By withdrawing the senses, your mind’s awareness turns inward. To withdraw the senses and still be in the mind is not pratyahara.
True pratyahara is withdrawing the senses from the outer story of separateness, into the inner Truth of oneness that glows in your heart.
Essence of Oneness
The experience of oneness is held in the Heart Chakra, not the mind. The feeling that reveals you are in oneness is pure love. Love not based on the material world image, but the pure true love between body and soul, creation and creator.
When the mind and its minion senses are gathered together and guided inward, the gifts of the senses are now in a different reality. This reality is called oneness, innerworld, intuition, soul, spirit, Divine, union, source, etc. The more focused the mind is in its ability to gather the senses, the deeper purity and truth of the experience of oneness — love. When the senses finally enter the Heart Chakra, the senses become calmer and more in your control.
The secret to this whole process of pratyahara, and going into the Heart Chakra requires humility. Humility is when the mind and the personality it created through senses (known as ego) have reached a willingness to change. The aspiration to transform and discover a new perspective of oneself and life is also the feeling of humility.
So how does one achieve pratyahara, humility and a focused mind, in order to discover what is inside the Heart Chakra?
New Technique for Accessing the Heart Chakra
A very special technique came to me in my mid-20s when I had reached a direction in my life where I was humbled and willing to change. This humility came forth due to the death of my parents in an aviation crash when I was a teenager and my sister’s murder shortly thereafter, resulting in my many illnesses and losing my will to live.
With these techniques, by bowing into the heart, I discovered the purpose for life and found self-love. The process of this technique begins with a beautiful feeling such as love. The ability to feel this feeling build in us is the presence of the Soul.
Remember, light is the image of love.
Mental Centering™ Technique by Savitri
Centering Mental Energy (1 ½ minutes)
Sit erect with your eyes closed. With the middle finger of each hand touching the front of each armpit, trace a horizontal line to the center of your chest. With the middle finger of your right hand touching your skin, you will feel a sensitive area on your sternum. Massage gently for a few minutes. This is your Heart Chakra, the doorway to your soul. Imagine light glowing lovingly in the Heart Chakra.
- With your eyes closed, place your hands with your fingers together, slightly cupped, on the right and left sides of your head, facing your ears. Your hands should be approximately 3 inches away from your head.
- Exhaling, move your hands together in Namaste, not more than 1 inch away from your face, with the tips of your thumbs at the same level as your eyebrows.
- Inhale. On the next exhalation move your hands down slowly to your Heart Chakra. As you do this, imagine your mind following a straight line in the center of your body and offer your mind to your heart.
- Say inwardly, “I offer my mind and senses to my loving soul within.”
- Do this technique 3 or more times and breathe slowly and peacefully.
Increases the power of Namaste, intuition, self-love, respect, and conscience bringing calmness to the mind and body as they discover the soul’s presence.
Notice at the end of this technique the hands end up in Namaste. This is the exact energetics of what happens to us when we say Namaste or bring our hands in prayer. The mind withdraws its ego perception of another and bows inside the Heart Chakra to the true perception the Soul-Light holds.
The mind now is awakened to the love and light that is in your body; this always recognizes the love and light in anyone or anything.
The first level of enlightenment is to keep this connection consistent. Namaste is the energetics and action of self respect and respect for others. Respect is one of the keys to the teachings of yoga. This union of self-respect between mind, body and soul, and respect for others, is the feeling of love. And through this love the soul can shine freely through your body and to others.
Let the secret gift of Namaste bless your yoga journey on and off the mat. Namaste.
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