There is a paradox that establishing an awareness of emptiness results in a greater sense of abundance. What takes our breath away when looking at the majestic empty space of a natural vista? Yoga has a way of making us cognizant of natural vastness and of our connection to it. In removing noise from the mind, yoga practice makes us sensitive to the simple, boundless beauty of the world.
We cleanse and beautify the mind through pranayama – i do, because the mind easily gets cluttered with judgment or envy or things that depress me, and soon enough i look around and everything is ugly. What I do is love the prana. It is the easiest means to beautify the mind instantly.
The Shiva Sutra declares “Prayatnah sadhaka” (2:2) : A seeker is one who makes an effort. The effort is about learning to extract enlightenment from the heart of each circumstance. We learn a repertoire of physical and mental alignments that tap into the uplifting current of positive energy, and we learn the skill of releasing the maladjusted positions that block or inhibit it.
The gist of the Bhagavad Gita is contained in that saying of Jesus in the Gospel of Mathew: “Take my yoke upon you, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Love is the easy yoke, the discipline which removes every burden. Please dont do yoga practices without love. Love is so easy; one moment of immersion in pure love dissolves all burdens.
In facing the truth, the hard realities here on earth, it takes effort to resist the downward force, that negative gravitational pull, but there is something about the life force itself which arises. We see this everywhere in nature. There is an apt aphorism from the Shiva Sutra: Udhyamo Bhairava meaning, “God is arising.” One effect of hatha yoga is to sensitize us to the flow of ‘uddiyana’ prana, the aspect of prana which continuously flows upward and outward. We can actually feel the brilliant, enthusiastic life force flowing up through us. This constantly emerging prana is called nityodita, meaning, eternally arising.
Peace is the consort of Joy, and there are more and more exquisite layers of peace that can be experienced. But we have to make our awareness exquisite in order to perceive them – this is why in hatha yoga we do these things with our breath and our nervous system: to sharpen and hone our perception so we can extract a delicate thread of bliss from our daily experiences.
Lack of contentment, the habitual failure to appreciate, is a kind of poverty that no money or material can alleviate. It takes courage to be satisfied.
Hatha yoga is a means to assist us in assimilating the highest spiritual teachings. When we do hatha yoga we are feeding our body the food of the knowledge of unity.
A tantric story we all know is the story of the Three Bears: Papa Bear’s chair is too hard, Mama Bear’s chair is too soft, but Baby Bear’s chair is “just right.” Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis. When we put our bodies into yoga postures we are acting out this statement about the nature of reality. The poses are done to express the body’s bilateral symmetry, and in doing this a somatic sense of the perfect interior point of balance, where two opposites are exquisitely united, is magnified.
In hatha yoga practice, enacting a series of postures named for animals is a way of awakening the reptilian and limbic (mammalian) aspects of the brain, and of yoking those elemental drives to our ultimate purposes.
“The Self has to be seized in the body by means of the syllable Om”
– Shvetashvatara Upanishad
Chanting Om or listening acutely to it’s delicately pervasive reverberations sends the luminosity of non-dual consciousness, which is the true bread of life, into the cells of the body and brain.