Through the practice of Yoga, normal people, like me and you, have radically changed our lives.
We’ve become strong in mind and body, endurant, healthy, happier and even gained some wisdom along the way. Why? Because Yoga, even if we only focus on asana practice, transforms our consciousness. It gives us freedom from our past conditioning and opens up a world of limitless possibilities by burning away our karmic fate.
“How is this done and how might I make the most of this secret (secret, because little understood) power of Yoga?,” you might ask. Three things will help. One, we can always practice our Yoga with intention. Two, there is a useful exercise called Sushumna Breathing (described below) that can be easily incorporated into our Asana practice, as well as our sitting meditation that follows. Three, we can consider and apply the other seven limbs of Yoga practice.
Yoga, according to the Sutras of Patanjali states that “Yoga (in reference to Samadhi) is the cessations of the fluctuations in consciousness. Then the seer abides in the bliss of its own nature.” Pattabhi Jois, world renowned Ashtanga Yoga Guru has indicated in no uncertain terms that asana postures and breath control are meant only to serve as a vehicle for unlocking our Samadhi or transcendant nature. When we are aware of what we truly are, there is no question of being happy or in the proper flow of circumstances. This all begins with proper intention!
To be intentional simply means that we “do something with a particular purpose.” Before you begin your practice, decide what your intention is. Do you want to become stronger, more beautiful, happier? Do you want to improve your health? Pick one. Then as you practice, hold that intention in your mind. As you move from downward dog, into a lunge, and then into warrior one, be aware of each movement. Feel your consciousness growing stronger and and healthier with each breath. Thoughts may come in to distract you. Emotions may rise that are unpleasant, or negative self-talk may come at you. Ignore it. Bring your focus back to your intention.
Strengthen your intention with attention to every action of your practice. Let the that which you want to let go of dissolve through innattention. I’ve found that dedicating my practice to one ideal over a week or a month is better than changing it daily. This will bring the most profound results into your life.
As you move through each asana, you may have heard your hatha yoga teacher mention that breath is very important. And that by breathing in as you move forward and up and out as you move back is most helpful. It is! What I would like to add to that is a particular technique called Sushumna Breathing. This was made popular as a preliminary technique to the advanced Kriya Yoga Practices by Paramahansa Yogananda. Here is how it works. When you breath in, imagine a cool electrical current moving up your spine from the base. As you breath out, feel/imagine a warm soothing life force current flowing from the crown to the base of the spine.
Swami Sri Yukteswar has said that if a human could live one million years in a perfectly clean environment with a calm mind and good associations, that spontaneous awakening would occur. He went on to say, that by breathing in the way described above, directing the life current up through the spine and back down, what would take a million years could be accomplished in a life time. Each repetition of this type of pranayama is said to be equivalent to exhausting the karma of one year of healthy happy living.
After your hatha yoga routine, consider taking 10-15 minutes to gently breath using Sushumna breathing while sitting up right (cross legged or in a chair) with your head and neck erect. Then sit for an additional 5 minutes simply enjoying the silence generated from the practice. You will find that your life greatly improves in multiple ways as you cleanse consciousness of useless conditioning that’s only been holding you back from “abiding in the bliss of your own nature.” You will be more focused, optimistic, and successful in all your endeavors. As the sage Vasistha would say, “You will be able to live a natural and spontaneous life, contentedly,” which according to him is the intentional purpose of Yoga.
Finally, always remember, that hatha yoga is but one limb of the Royal Eightfold Path. It is good and right to want to strengthen our bodies. That is very helpful, but the reason we are all here is to awaken to our real nature, to know what we really are as a manifestation of infinite consciousness, and to live our immortal lives well and with purpose. Once the body is strong and healthy, the nadis are cleansed, consider spending time daily just sitting in the silence. Meditate to a state of peace, and the inquire about and contemplate the nature of the divine and your relationship to the wholeness of life. By doing this, you will find that a bliss descends on you that is not connected to anything in the external world. It dawns for no reason, and since there is no reason for it, no reasons can take it away. Then our life becomes a continual expression of the fullest meaning of Yoga. A good place to start would be the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It’s all there in those concise 200 aphorisms. We don’t have time to go over all of the 8 limbs in this blog, but for a good jump start, you can listen to a commentary on the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras here:
The above talks were recorded at Asheville Yoga Center in 2009.
By practicing Yoga in this way, you will awaken. Your vehicle (the body) becomes stronger. Your mind becomes illuminated. The karma that has adhered to your consciousness will be cast out and your life becomes free and light. With each breath, each movement, each moment of meditation you transform your once limited personality centered existence into a seamless expression of simple divine living.
Ryan Kurczak is a Vedic Astrologer and ordained teacher in the Kriya Yoga tradition of Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, Paramahansa Yogananda, and Roy Eugene Davis. He has a thriving astrological consultation and teaching practice, and is the director of Center for Spiritual Awareness in Asheville, NC. CSA is a learning center for meditation, raja yoga philosophy and holistic living. To learn more, please visit www.ashevillevedicastrology.com and www.csa-asheville.org. Or contact Ryan directly at Ryan.firstname.lastname@example.org.Share