The Careful Construction of a Yoga Practice
From: B.K.S. Iyengar –The Path to Holistic Health
Most people know that the practice of yoga makes the body strong and flexible. It is also well known that yoga improves the functioning of the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and hormonal systems. Yoga also brings emotional stability and clarity of mind, but that is only the beginning of the journey to Samadhi, or self-realization, which is the ultimate aim of yoga.
How can we realize the qualities of Sthira and Sukha _ the steady alertness and the lightness and comfort of being? In order to attain Sthira and sukha , your yoga practice has to be sensible and well structured. When we practice asana there is a starting point where we begin, just the same as for anything in life. The starting point for this practice is the condition of your entire being at that present moment. It therefore helps to know as much as possible about our whole constitution so that we can advance step by step, developing our practice in accordance with our abilities. Newcomers to yoga have to learn that at first asanas are practiced at the level of the anatomical body alone. This beginner’s stage is important and should not be hurried through. It’s more important to start by striving for stability within a pose, this provides strong foundation. Then the student will enter the intermediate stage in which the mind is affected by changes in the body. When you reach this stage , you are practicing the movements correctly, your body is under your control, but you must now push your mind to touch every part of your body with meditative attention. You must become aware of your tissues, organs, skin, and even individual cells. Your mind must flow along with all these parts. The next stage is the most advanced, when your mind brings your body in touch with your intelligence. Once this happens, the mind ceases to be a separate entity, and the intelligence and the body become one. Is the stage of perfection. Once the intelligence feels the oneness between the flesh and the skin , it introduces the atman _ the self or soul. At this stage, asanas become meditative and spiritual, noun as “dynamic meditation”.
It is important to keep practicing until you are completely confortable in the final pose. It is only when you experience the full benefits of the asana (yoga posture). The Sage Patanjali observes in Yoga Sutra 1.47, “Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless, and the infinite being within is reached.”