Suggestions on how yoga leads to holistic development and a harmonious life from practical mystic and yoga guru
Yoga is the science of moderation and integration. Yoga not only helps to develop logical thinking but lateral thinking as well. In fact the aim of yoga is to hone one's thinking process and then rise above identification to thought itself.
A holistic and integrated approach to life is when one can integrate the material with the spiritual, the left brain with the right brain, the villages and cities, art and science, the body and mind as well as integrate science and spirituality.
How do we integrate and think holistically?
The link to integrating the body and the mind is the breath. Similarly to integrate extreme points of view is to take in deep breaths and see life through the middle eye. Not just with a left or right brain point of view. The yogic practices help one activate this middle eye in between the eyebrows also called the third eye. This is the Shiva principle.
Is the third eye something to be scared of?
In many stories people were afraid of Shiva's third eye opening. This was only for those who feared that their old misconceptions and belief systems would be burnt by this fire of awareness that sees beyond time and space.
Shiva's third eye opening is a beautiful metaphor for burning away samskaras (old habit patterns) that keeps us stuck to extremes. However, if we are harmonious or integrated, we can see the validity of both extremes yet execute what works best. Deep mystic and scientific concepts can be taken out of context and reduced to mere superstition if one does not have a holistic understanding of yogic or life principles.
Are there any other ways of integrating?
Living close to the land also helps us tune into the natural intelligence of the earth. This prevents us from becoming robots, getting caught up in the rat race or cultivating a mechanistic view point of life or the universe.
Many say they realise how much TV corrodes their mind, yet they cannot but help be in front of it. This makes them open to being brainwashed by the programmes they are exposed to. Hence it is all the more important to spend time nurturing oneself, the land and others. This helps integrate.
But doesn't more technology mean more progress?
India is now very proudly at the forefront of the technology boom. I have trained many IT professionals and can see technology is good yet they are overdosed and wired by the virtual world. Hence it is important to be integrated by creating enough breathing and green spaces. When IT companies construct their centres in the cities, budgeting for more green spaces will help facilitate balance. One also needs to see that these companies can re-invest in developing rural communities. They can also build their offices out of eco-friendly materials and use renewable resources. All these measures help balance and integrate.
Are there any pointers in the scriptures for holistic thinking and letting go of old ways of being?
The Bhagvad Gita recommends living a moderate and regulated life. It works brilliantly. However I've also seen that whatever life you are used to, moderation is relative to that.
For example for me eating a cake once in a way is being moderate as I don't like refined sugar. In fact even that cake is mostly home baked with unrefined sugar, dates or molasses by my mom or one of my students as they know I prefer eating organic whole foods.
However for someone who is used to drinking four coffees or filling their body with white sugar in the form of colas or sweets just reducing the amount to one coffee seems like moderation.
So I would say find your own moderation and slowly let go of your unhealthy habit if there is a resistance to let go completely.
In the Bhagvad Gita in chapter 6, text 16 and 17, it is said that a yogi is a man who does not sleep too much or sleep too little, one who does not eat too much or eat too little….I would extend that to all areas of life…one who does not talk too much or talk too little. How much is too much is not just dependent on us but who and what we are relating to.
For example I was many times tempted to be in silence with some of my friends but I knew that would be too much for them to handle. So only with a few of them who are ready or willing to understand we have spent hours saying nothing yet sharing a lot.
To be integrated in the world one must see different systems and people and what they are used to or open to. By understanding that, we can help them absorb the yogic path better. That insight I have gained over years of teaching. The technique given here helps develop a more holistic and integrated approach.
Yogacharini Maitreyi is a practical mystic who teaches yoga and creates conscious community around the world. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.arkaya.net
A tool to cultivate a holistic being
Breathing into your being is a practice that can be done to bring more lightness and consciousness into your system. Each cell has a natural cellular intelligence. However due to wrong lifestyle, emotional and mental habits we are out of tune with this natural intelligence.
This full body intelligence can be cultivated by the following practice. It paves the way for holistic development. The breath can also be used to activate one's third eye
Sit in padmasana. If this is the first time you are practising any yoga asana, please start with the basics. Practise jathis where you move your body gently to build body awareness and release toxins. Do not force yourself into padmasana. It could hurt the body, especially your knees, so be kind. You can also sit in sukha asana or vajrasana or even shava asana depending on where your body is at.
Be aware of your deep relaxed breathing and feel every cell in your body awakening. Feel the breath pulsate through your entire body. A simpler way to start off is to go step by step from toe to the top of your head feeling each part of the body tingling and sparkling and becoming more alive. Don't worry if this body awareness is difficult in the beginning. Due to the tamas (density) in the system, this awareness may take time to cultivate or tune into.
Now bring your awareness to the third eye point in between your eyebrows. Your other two eyes are closed. As you breathe in, feel your consciousness expand to encompass the whole universe or as far as you can imagine. As you breathe out, feel your awareness move about half an inch into your forehead where the third eye point is.
I have found that a good way not to get confused is to associate it with the breath. This means as you breathe in your lungs expand and your consciousness also expands and vice versa. With every in and out breath feel yourself expand to encompass everything and then reduced to a point of nothingness.
Open your eyes and carry that relaxed awareness into your daily activities.
Please remember moderation in this practice as well. Start with six rounds and if you can do this consistently for three months, then increase the number of rounds slowly to nine and 12. You will find tremendous shifts in consciousness, where you are more balanced and integrated.