Meditating with Urmila: Beyond yoga postures

The world celebrated “International Yoga Day” on June 21. People all over the world have engaged in yoga asanas (postures). The postural practice of yoga is an important step towards yoga. Yoga is the state of self-realization, the state of samadhi or enlightenment. (Samadhi brings self-realization. There are different levels of samadhi).

According to Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga sutras, asana is the third stage (of his eight prescribed categories of practice towards self-realization), which serves as a preparatory stage leading to samadhi. Asana practices help prepare the body and mind to achieve this ultimate goal. A healthy body helps to progress towards higher spiritual practices; that of meditation, contemplation and realization (dharna, dhayana and samadhi: Patanjali Yoga).

The real practice of yoga begins when you are off the (yoga) mat. Yoga is an experiential practice, it is a practice of being, not doing. It is a daily practice because the advancement towards higher states is a continuous work of an individual conscience.

From outer awareness to inner awareness through asanas

The body tends to stiffen due to energetic blockages, due to the buildup of toxins, while the mind holds blockages in the form of belief systems and conditioning. The practice of asanas (yoga postures) allows prana, the vital energy to flow freely in the body, maintaining the firmness and lightness of the body, preventing illnesses and improving body-mind harmony, and preparing the body-mind complex for meditation. .

The Hatha Yoga school of practice proposes that to attain samadhi the mind must be purified and to purify the mind the body must undergo certain purification processes; this ensures that manas shakti (mind-body energy) and inherent prana shakti (cosmic breath) come together to awaken deep self-awareness. Asanas, the outer practice or bahiranga leads to the inner practice or antaranga (of meditation and contemplation).

While Patanjali Yoga focuses on the mind/spirit aspect in achieving the ultimate goal, the school of Hatha yoga uses the body as the point of intervention with asana practices at the center of it. The Hatha school proposes that once the physical body is prepared through asanas and shatkarma (cleansing of the internal organs), pranayama can be practiced.

Through asanas, the body is trained in stillness and stability to be able to sit for pranayama practices and undertake advanced practices, as well as to enable sitting in meditation for long durations without discomfort.

The purpose of pranayama is to direct prana, the cosmic life force, to control the mind. The mind tends to wander because prana is in constant motion and tends to wander. (‘chale vatte challam chittam, nishchale nishchalam bhavet: Hatha yoga Pradipika- 2:2),’ Once the breath is regulated, the mind can become quiet and still. It is then easy for a practitioner to slip into a meditative state. Pranayama purifies the pranic channels or nadis by removing impurities from the body-mind.

Way to do asanas

Asana practices need not be a painful affair. It is advisable to customize the asanas and pranayama according to age, fitness needs, body limitations as well as taking into account medical conditions. Knowing one’s body structure and levels of functioning is useful to a) adjust practice according to need and ability b) avoid competition c) understand one’s own bodily and breathing demands as practice progresses d) be able to understand the changes that occur in the body and bodily functions at the physical level.

In the journey of self-realization, yoga asanas are tools towards higher consciousness, providing a basis for exploration of body, breath, mind and higher states. It allows you to open your dormant energy potential. There are also alternative preparatory yogic practices such as: karma yoga (suitable for those who are primarily active in nature), gyan yoga (those who are intuitive), bhakti yoga (those who are primarily emotional and devotional in nature) , towards the ultimate goal.

Disclaimer: Urmila Rao is an emotional healer and teacher of forgiveness. All ideas expressed herein are his own, and not professional advice or medical prescription. His website is: Email: [email protected]