Most people turn to yoga to help with physical ailments or improve their physical health. Few realize the potency of yoga in helping calm the mind. When the mind is at rest, the thinking is clear and focused, but when it is restless, it loses its' clarity. A system of yogic practices for the mind, body and breath-work was developed to help people navigate their way through life, enjoying the world, but with detachment.
According to Sage Patanjali, the primary aim of Yoga was to restrict tendencies of the mind to fluctuate- 'chitta vritti nirodhah’
: referring to managing the mind by stopping mental fluctuations. Many sages speak of yoga as a medium by which creativity is cultivated by managing the external manifestations of the mind that cause grief & discord.
When one learns how to manage emotions, desires, ambitions & passions, the state of equilibrium leads to the state of being just the witness. This state of witness is where one observes the materialistic world through glasses of detachment, rather than giving in to the sensory overhaul.
Managing the body
Regular practice of asanas
(physical postures) and pranayama
(breath-work) helps deepen the awareness of the mind. It helps in ensuring that the physical imbalances are corrected, and the prana shakti
flows freely in the body, and then into the mind.
The ability of the body to sit still for a prolonged period, without getting aches, pains and discomfort is the main aim of hatha yoga. This is what prepares the body for raja yoga.
Managing the mindSwami Nirajanananda Saraswati talks about the role of yoga for mental balance in his book, Yoga in daily life. He discusses the function of mind to take in the material, assimilate and throw out the rest. More often than not, we tend to hold on to the wasted/negative thoughts and wallow in them. Over time, this compromises the mind’s ability to think clearly and act in accordance. This is one major reason that people feel demotivated and anxious, which further leads to other mental & physical complications. Learning how to remove these mental imbalances is the main purpose of raja yoga. Once the body and mind are in harmony, one can go on to practice balancing the raw emotions with bhakti yoga.
Managing the emotions
Emotion management is also as important as managing the mind. Emotional responses are subjective in nature, making it a complex equation. Emotions tend to be uncontrollable energies, where the pranic
(life force) energy either explodes or implodes, and cannot be controlled.
All emotional responses are linked to attachment. They lead to a habit of over consumption, stemming from greed and insecurity. We attach ourselves to people and are literally broken when they go away (either by chance or choice or natural causes like death). We attach ourselves to materialistic possessions that no longer serve us (like clothes and shoes), refusing to donate or part ways with them. We own more than we can use, and this sense of ownership is a fallacy, yet creates and dominates the world of each individual. One can learn how to overcome this with the help of bhakti yoga.
At Ananda, one can learn all these aspects of yoga to improve the mind-body-soul balance and ensure overall harmony. The Dhyana meditation programme covers all aspects of the yogic system, with a focus of deepening the learning of the practitioner.
Based on excerpts from Yoga in Daily Life, by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, Head of Bihar School of Yoga and successor of Satyananda Saraswati