Sunday, October 31, 2010

My journey to yoga

When I started to learn about yoga a few years ago, my understanding of yoga was still very limited. I thought yoga was only about exercising of our body, which is as same as any other sports such as doing aerobic, jogging, Pilates etc. So, it’s only a kind of body movement from one asana (posture) to another asana and intended to stretch all part of my body. I thought it’s just need a discipline to be able to do yoga and to master all of the asana (s). But, when I did yoga in this way, I felt it’s just a static movement. I let my mind led me to move from one asana to another asana. Even sometimes when I did some asana(s), my mind was still wandering around thinking about something else. So often I felt proud when I was able to do some of the difficult asana(s). But, I was doing these asana (s) with coercion, trying to push the capacity of my body into the limit. Sometimes my body followed my mind, so that they can perform the asana(s) as I want. But, sometimes my body was so stubborn, so that I found it’s really difficult to perform only one asana correctly. In this way, I still saw yoga as a piece of picture. I treated my mind and body as the different entities which have no connection in doing yoga. That’s why what I got from yoga was only exercising and there was no difference with any other exercises. At the end of my yoga practice, what I got was only sweating. I could not get the optimum benefit of doing yoga.

In the middle of my journey to learn about yoga, especially after I learnt about meditation and how to do the correct breathing, my understanding of yoga was improved. I started to understand that when we applied the correct breathing in doing an asana, the effectiveness of this asana was improved. Because the key of doing an asana is not on forcing the capacity of our body, but on letting the breath leading our body to perform an asana. That’s why the first thing to do before doing yoga is breathing, trying to calm down our mind and our physical body, in order to get the right tone before entering to the real orchestra. So, when I practiced to do yoga in this way, I combined the asana (s) and the correct breathing. Breathing helps me to get some energy to perform the correct asana. Breathing also helps me to get some space to move between asana. Furthermore, breathing helps me to control my emotions, my mind, and my body. When I breathe in a hurry, my mind gets restless and uncontrollable. As a result, all of the movement and asana become static and unstructured. On the other hand, when I breathe slowly and gently, my mind becomes more relax, and my emotion gets calm down, so my body becomes more cooperative to follow the tone of my breath. Having done yoga in this way, the effectiveness of each asana is improved because it’s energized and strengthened by every breath that I take. Of course, my health condition also improved significantly. For instances, my blood circulation became more fluently, my digestion system became stronger and therefore, my immunity system also improved. However, in overall, I still feel incompleteness, because what I got was only some improvement of my health condition, but I still felt there was no spiritual progress that I achieved in this way. I still easily get stress and being impatience in life. I felt that I only practiced yoga, without really understanding the true meaning of doing yoga.

Later on, when my meditation practice was improved, my understanding of the whole life got better and became more complete. I was able to be more focus not only in doing one activity, but also in my whole life. As a result, my understanding of yoga was also increased. I see yoga is not as a piece of puzzles anymore but as the whole picture. I found that yoga is not only a static movement anymore. It’s the way to unite our mind, body, and soul through breathing and doing the asana(s). Yoga has an important role because it’s a preparation to the higher union with the ONE through meditation. It’s the beginning of a spiritual journey which is advanced through meditation.

Through yoga, our body is prepared to be more relax and our mind to be more calm, so that they will be ready to move to the next step - meditation. Therefore, it’s really challenging for doing yoga in a right way, because it needs a total focus of our mind, body and soul. Through yoga I learn to develop the ability to listen and to communicate with my body. Through yoga I learn to develop cooperation with my body instead of coercion. Through yoga I learn to develop trust with my body instead of order.

Arriving at this point, my purpose of doing the asana was changing. In the beginning I learned yoga; I used to do as many asana (s) as I can. But now, I focus on my attention and my breath in doing each asana correctly. So, I focus on the quality instead of the quantity. Through these ways, I learn to listen when my body talks. I learn to feel when my body moves. I learn to focus on capturing the signing of my body. When my body needs rest, I follow my body to rest. When my body is ready to move to the next stage, I give a chance to move to the next stage. My body is not just a vehicle of my soul which is controlled by my mind anymore, but I develop a very intimate cooperation with my body so that it flows synergistically with my mind and my soul.

To be able to do all of those things correctly, of course I have to develop not only the discipline of doing yoga, but also I have to make some correction of my characters. The most important thing that I learn from yoga is I learn to be more patience. It is because the signing from our body is so subtle, therefore it’s difficult to be caught without paying a full attention to it. It’s not a kind of voice which can be easily heard through our ears or seen through our eyes. My mind, my feeling, my attention, and my breath have to be in harmony and fully focus to be able to hear the signing of my body. If I become impatience, what I hear is nothing. My body doesn’t want to speak to me if I become restless. Therefore, I have to be more patience in listening and searching the voice of my body. But once I find the right tone to come in, my body will automatically dance in harmony and recognize the right time to move from one into another stage.

The second thing that I learnt from yoga is it helps me to raise my consciousness. Yoga helps me to be in the state of mindfulness. It’s because to be able to hear all of those signing from the bone, muscles, neurons, etc, I have to be totally present and focus on each breath and asana. I have to do the conscious breathing and also to be really aware for any subtle voice or sign which appears, such as the beat of my heart, the flow of my blood, the stretch of my muscles. My mind could not wander around anymore, because I have to focus of my attention. In this way, I can optimize my feeling to capture the subtle voice from each part of my body. Thus, yoga helps me to develop the sensitivity of my feeling. In addition, when I do the conscious breathing and focus my attention to feel each part of my body, all of the emotional state that I had during that time (whether it’s good feeling or bad emotion) is suddenly disappeared and becomes unimportant anymore. That’s because I focus my mind and my feeling on the present time, the present moment, which is the yoga itself.

To conclude, based on my progress and experience of practicing yoga and meditation, I found there is a link between an understanding of spirituality, the quality of practicing yoga and meditation and the quality of our life. Therefore, if we want to get the optimum benefits of yoga, it’s not enough if we just only practice yoga as the way to exercise every day. The most important thing in practicing yoga is we have to be totally present and focus. Do yoga with our heart, not our mind. Try to understand our body and give some space to our body to speak. We don’t have to force our body to master all of the asana at once time. But rather, do each asana correctly and continuously. Our body will send the right signal whenever it is ready to move to the next stage. Conscious breathing will help us to improve the quality of our asana. If we are able to practice yoga in this way, we will find not only our physical and emotional health will improve, but also our spiritual progress will be developed through the improvement of our characters and our ways to see the life.  

Enjoy your journey to yoga and I wish you discover your meaningful moments !!

Written by Ati Paramita