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May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Friday, September 11, 2015

Want to practice yoga? (2)

All kinds of different yoga practices serve the purpose of influencing and purifying the mind preparing the mind for self-inquiry, or contemplation upon the truth of "Who am I?"

To practice yoga is not necessarily that we have to be doing some yoga asana exercises. Yoga asana practice is one type of the many yoga practices. Some people just do Japa and chanting alone. The practice of Japa and chanting generates harmonious vibrations to serve the purpose of influencing and purifying the mind. Some people just perform selfless service to eliminate egoism and attachment. Some just practice living in the present moment as they are. Some spend most of their time on contemplation. Some focus on observing their thoughts and have self-control over their actions and speech at all time. Same as all the other practices. Some people combine a few practices. Some practice all of the practices. But in the end, all the practices are related to one another when being practiced with non-attachment, non-identification, dispassion, right discrimination, desireless and free from craving and aversion. Ultimately is to free the mind from impurities to see the truth of names and forms as it is, and be free from suffering that derived from ignorance.

Yoga asana and pranayama practice is using the physical body and the breath as tools to influence our mind, to balance the mind, to purify the mind, to calm the mind, and eventually allowing the mind to be able to perceive the truth of things as they are under a pure and calm mind, and be free from egoism and ignorance, going beyond the body and mind, to transcend suffering and be at peace.

Yoga asana practice is very different from the commercialized yoga fitness exercise classes. It’s beyond the physical fitness training. It isn’t about training the body to be able to perform complex exercises or challenging the physical body to go beyond its limitation to become super fit, flexible and strong. We don’t have to be physically fit, strong and flexible to perform the yoga asana practice. Naturally, it enhances people's health and fitness level as one of the by-products when it's being practiced regularly. There's nothing wrong when people use the yoga asana exercises as a form of fitness training. Just that enhanced physical health and fitness level have nothing to do with the realization of unconditional love and peace. One can be very healthy and fit physically, but the mind can be not free from egoism, ignorance, impurities and suffering.

There are yoga centres that teach traditional yogic and meditation practices combine with the practice of dispassion, right discrimination, six fold virtues and the yearning for liberation that would gradually lead to the annihilation of egoism and ignorance. But most of the yoga classes we come across everywhere in the world are only about yoga asana and pranayama practice, and many are about using yoga asana practice as a form of fitness training to achieve fitness results, which isn't a bad or wrong thing.

By doing some yoga asana and pranayama exercises regularly without the practice of dispassion, right discrimination, six fold virtues and the yearning for liberation, will bring some physical and mental benefits to the practitioners, but it doesn't lead to the annihilation of egoism and ignorance, or be free from unhappiness and suffering. And thus, although people might have been practicing yoga and pranayama practice regularly, but if they still have strong attachment and identification with the worldly existence of the body and mind and are over-powered by the desires of craving and aversion, and have attachment towards their action and inaction and the fruit of action, then they would still be disturbed and determined by all the perceptions of name and form and have no peace, as the mind is in a state of restlessness being disturbed by ceaseless impurities arising and passing away in the mind due to the constant reactions coming from the ego towards all the perceptions of name and form generating craving and aversion towards what it likes and dislikes, agrees and disagrees with.

It's not about how much good health, good feelings, physical strength and flexibility that we gain from practicing yoga, but whether there are less impurities and restlessness in the mind. There are less anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, ill-will, feelings of hurt, fear and worry. There are more peace and harmony. In the end, there's only unconditional love and peace, be free from egoism, ignorance, desires and suffering.

Traditionally, yoga asana practice is about holding a few different basic postures in stillness and at ease for as long as we are comfortable at. It’s knowing and respecting the limitation of this physical body without generating attachment, identification, craving and aversion towards its impermanent condition and ability. The skill, stamina, strength and flexibility will gradually develop as we practice regularly. In the beginning, when we first put our bodies and minds in certain positions that they aren’t familiar with, there will be certain degrees of discomfort or struggle and we need to exert great effort to perform the yoga asana practice. We need to endure the discomforts and be patient and persevere in our practice until one day the practice becomes steady and we can hold each position effortlessly for a prolong period of time.

There are many different variations of yoga poses that sprung from six basic positions. Yoga asana practice combines with the practice of pranayama serves the purpose of influencing the mind in different ways without using any external influences such like drugs or from another being, but using our own physical body and the breath as the tools. The purpose is mainly to balance and calm the mind so that the mind isn’t being overly elevated or depressed, while purifying the energy centres and channels, and unblocking any blockages, releasing physical, emotional and mental blockages. Instead of exerting energy in strengthening worldly ideas, desires and identifications, yoga practice is channeling the energy for realization of the truth, rendering the mind calm and pure to perceive the truth as it is.

The six basic positions are:-
1.) Inversions like headstand, shoulderstand and plough.
2.) Forward bends like sitting forward bend and standing forward bend.
3.) Backward bends like fish pose, cobra pose, locust pose and bow pose.
4.) Twists like sitting twist, standing twist and lying twist.
5.) Balancing positions like crow pose, peacock pose and tree pose.
6.) Side bends like standing side bend and sitting side bend.

May all be happy, be peaceful, be free.

Om shanti.

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Know thyself. There is no existence of 'I'. Everything is impermanent. Be free, be peaceful, be happy.

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My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia. We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years. Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi. We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.

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