Yoga Philosophy

Oneness Of Soul With Action (continued)

In this perfect Utthita Trikonasana (and it should be said that this is a perfection not of form or shape, but of awareness and intention) the whole body is exercised and all the cells are cleansed and fed by the blood, making them pure and healthy (saucha) and therefore in need of nothing else and content (santosha). That health, in turn, can beget a burning desire (tapas) to stay healthy. The more one is able to perform this Utthita Trikonasana with harmoniousness, then one can start to become aware of the deeper and more subtle aspects of the body (svadhyaya or self-study). And lastly in the Niyamas, a more mature intelligence is developed in which one identifies less with the small self and more with the Universal.

On the physiological level, life force (prana) is regulated (yama) in the form of the flow of blood. As applied to the breath, this means not a lot of huffing and puffing and holding of the breath, which puts undue strain on the body, but rather consciously allowing the breath to flow freely and unfettered. And with one’s awareness fully engaged in the performing of the pose there is a withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara).

From here on, the limbs become more difficult to express in the asana. Dharana, concentration, means allowing the awareness to exist in all parts of the body simultaneously and not just the part that is perhaps stiffest or most sore. In any approach to a pose there are two paths, one from the deepest part of the self out to the periphery, which is what happens when we are concerning ourselves with the form or shape of the pose. The other would be from the periphery back to the deepest part of ourselves, when we are using the shape and form of the pose as a vehicle for deeper understanding. When both those directions are in balance, then there is Meditation or Dhyana. The final limb, Samadhi, can then occur when all of the above conditions are met and not only the awareness suffuses the entire body, but the spirit does as well. (To refer again to the lake metaphor, the moon and the reflection of the moon become one and the same.)

All this seems quite an ambitious proposition, and quite daunting to the beginner. Mr. Iyengar has taken this into consideration in his meticulous and methodical approach. One must go from the known to the unknown, from the gross to the refined. This means starting with the physical body, including the arms and legs, with all its stiffnesses and discomforts, with all its aches and pains. This is the primary aim of this book: to provide you with a framework by which you can begin to understand how the body works mechanically in the context of asana so that you can practice on your own in an intelligent fashion and begin to open the body up.

In my yoga journey I have tried a number of different styles, from the fast-moving vinyasa (flow) style that is so dominant in New York, to the softer and more meditative traditional Hatha approach. Though they all have their merits, the combination of deep, meditative attention with the physical rigor of the technique continues to vitalize my practice. There is a reason why this approach is the most practiced around the world. It can be applied to anyone, the young and energetic, the elderly and infirm, as well as those with injuries or particular physical needs. I have seen first hand how those who have either devoted themselves to this approach, or who have incorporated the approach into their preferred style, have transformed their bodies, their minds, even their entire lives.

It all begins with the logic of the body.

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