Thursday, October 21, 2010

The 5th Limb - Pratyahara - Withdrawal of Senses

After pranayam, breath regulation is pratyahar, abstraction. Pratyahar is returning back, coming back -- coming in, turning inwards, returning home. Pratyahar works as a bridge between the four, the yoga of the outside, and the last three, the yoga of the inside. The process of return is when the energy is no longer moving outwardly. It is turning inwards. Ordinarily, the energy is moving outward. We waste so much of precious energy in useless things like gossip, worry, random thoughts etc. Now in pratyahar the energy is to be conserved and build up as we will need it in the last 3 limbs. Energy is sapped because we have given the senses too much power over mind. Do not waste the precious energy in senseless situations at any cost,  as in the end you will regret it.

This has to be deeply understood: that senses by themselves are impotent -- unless you cooperate. That's the whole art of yoga. If you don't cooperate senses close. If you don't cooperate conversion starts. If you don't cooperate pratyahar comes in. That's what people who are sitting silently for hours, for years, are doing -- they are trying to drop the cooperation between themselves and their senses. When the energy is not obsessed to see, to hear, to touch; the energy starts moving inwards. That is pratyahar: movement towards the source, movement towards the place from where you have come, movement to the center. Now you are no longer moving to the periphery.

C ya

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The 4th Limb - Pranayama - Regulated Breathing

Regulated breathing -- is pranayam. Breath is a very important tool all of us have but it is the most under utilized of all. Every rhythm of the breath has a corresponding emotion in the mind when we are angry there is a diff rhythm, when anxious the pattern is different etc. And the opposite is true too. That is, whenever the mind changes, the rhythm of the breath immediately changes. Therefore, if -- if you change that rhythm of the breath -- the mind has to change immediately.
It is always a nice idea to learn the technique properly as incorrect method may be harmful for the body. Pranayam is one of the greatest discoveries that has ever happened. Pranayam is an inner journey. And pranayam is the fourth step on the yogic path -- and there are only eight steps. Half the journey is completed on pranayam. Pranayam never means breath control. It simply means the expansion of the vital energy. Prana-ayam: prana means the vital energy hidden in breathe, and ayam means infinite expansion. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

The 3rd Limb - Asana/Posture

The third limb is posture. Asan/Posture means a relaxed posture i.e. so restful, that there is no need to move the body at all. Do not confuse with the extreme Yoga postures that people do.  True asana/posture is when one learns the grace of the body. The body is just like a guitar. It has to be rightly tuned; only then will the correct music arise out of it. If the very instrument is somehow not in right shape and order, then in no way can great harmony arise out of it? Patanjali says "STHIR SUKHAM ASANAM" -- the posture should be steady and should be very, very blissful, comfortable. So never try to distort the body, and never try to achieve postures that are uncomfortable. If you can be steady and comfortable in a chair, it is perfectly okay -- no need to try a lotus posture and force your body unnecessarily. A posture should be such that one can forget the body.
How to attain to this posture? How to attain this steadiness? Look at the comfort. If body is exactly in deep comfort, in deep rest, feeling good, that should be the criterion with which to judge.

Good Night

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The 2nd Limb - Fixed Observance

Niyam, fixed observance: a life that has a discipline, a life that has regularity about it. Because unless there is regularity in life, a discipline, we will be a slave of our instincts. That is not freedom. Only a person who has regularity about him can become the master someday.

Now the various subcomponents of Niyam.

First is "purity," shauch. Means purity on 3 fronts - food, body and mind One has to watch one's food. Whatsoever you eat, it is no ordinary matter. You should be careful because your body is constituted of whatsoever you have eaten in the past. Be careful what you eat, be careful what you drink -- be careful how you keep and care for your body. Small things do matter. For an ordinary man they don't matter because he is not going anywhere. Once you start on the spiritual path, everything matters; even the slightest disturbance matters. It is like if you are driving a car to work vis a vis driving on an F-1 track. On the F- 1 track everything matters   -J. Food – vegetarian food that is light on the system and fresh.  Body can be purified by drinking lots of water, eating healthy and exercising regularly. And mind can be purified through meditation.

The second step of niyam is "contentment," santosh. Contentment means: whatsoever is, is beautiful, the feeling that whatsoever is, is the best that can be. A feeling of deep acceptance is santosh, contentment, a feeling of saying yes to the whole existence -- as it is.  Or in other words not being cynical of things, not being negative and stop complaining all the time. Remember that contentment is not consolation. When we console ourselves we are not contented. In fact, there is a very deep discontent inside -- but seeing that discontent creates worry, seeing that discontent creates anxiety, seeing that discontent leads nowhere, so logically, we persuade ourselves that "this is not the way."  Finding that you cannot reach, do not rationalize that the goal is not worth reaching. Contentment is a positive state of being; consolation is suppression.

After contentment, is "austerity," tapa. One can be austere before contentment but then the austerity will be through desire. When a person is content then austerity is not a means; it is just a simple, beautiful way of living. Then it is not a question of having a few things or more -- that is not the problem then. Austerity is simplicity: to live a simple life. What is a simple life? It is like that of a child -- enjoy everything, but don't cling. As LDV said “"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

And then comes "self-study," swadhyaya. A man who has attained to purity, contentment, austerity, only he can study self because now all the garbage is thrown. If there is too much garbage (judgments, prejudices, grudges etc) in the person self cannot be studied, as it will not be self-study, because first all that rubbish will have to be studied. These are very logical steps. After austerity, when you have become very simple, no rubbish accumulates, when you have become so contented, when you have become so innocent and pure, you have become like fragrance, weightless, on the wings, in the air, riding on the air -- then self-study. Now, you can study the self.

The last step in the second stage i.e. surrender to Divine." When you have studied the self, only then can you surrender. Because what will you surrender otherwise? The self is to be surrendered. If you know it well, only then you can surrender. Otherwise how will you surrender?

"Purity, contentment, austerity, self-study, and surrender are the laws to be observed." These are laws for growth. They do not prohibit; they help. They are not restrictive; they are creative.