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Connecting Deeply Within

Last month, we discussed the yogic principle of transformation - how we can enjoy life more by becoming increasingly open to the challenges that life offers us beyond the mat.  Now as we embark upon a new year, it is especially appropriate to consider how to transform so as to make the most of life.  The yoga tradition has a great deal to say about how we can maximize this transformation most fully.  Above all, we make use of the principle of “working at the level of the root” in order to affect all areas of life most completely.  Just as a gardener assists the growth of a plant most efficaciously by providing the right mixture of water, soil, and nutrients at the root level, so too can we as yogins, improve all areas of our life by working at our root level.

So what are our roots and how can we nourish ourselves at the root level?  The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali (one of the most important classical treatises on yoga) spends the better part of its first of four sections discussing the answer to this question.  Our “root” is our consciousness, and we can best nourish our root by setting aside periods of time during which we experience pure consciousness (our deepest self) as directly as possible. 

In so doing, we take a break from the tumult of thoughts and perceptions that normally overtake our attention.  If there is one Sanskrit phrase that you will want to master (other than the name of the pose that you will be doing next in class), it would be the basic prescription of yoga: “citta vritti nirodhaha.”   Transcend (nirodhaha) the hyperactivity (vritti) of the mind (citta).

This transcending of the mind begins to happen whenever we are focusing on one thing, and we begin to feel it during our āsana (physical yoga pose) practice.  By focusing on one thing at a time, our many multi-directed thoughts settle to a single point of awareness – the pose that we are engaged in or the alignment principle we are focusing on.  Similarly in kirtan, we focus on short Sanskrit phrases, and again, our many thoughts coalesce into a simple single activity.  Such practices as these prepare us for the more inward practices of pranayama and meditation, in which we take the breath or a sound or a sensation and rest our awareness on that single point. 

With practice, we become able to transcend this single point and experience the very source of thought – pure consciousness, which has the attributes of timelessness, freedom, expansion, clarity, and bliss.  This practice gives our mind and body deep rest, much deeper than sleep, and brings us great purification and transformation. 

The yoga tradition is very clear that we cannot merely think about such ideas or talk about them; we need to embody them by means of practice.   So as we begin 2013, perhaps we can begin to focus on how we can give ourselves the gift of going deeper within – multitask less, be present more fully in each moment, take more time for our yoga practices, and notice the lightness and joy that this can bring.  The beautiful thing about having a yoga community is that we don’t have to do this all on our own. 

You can join us in going deeper still by participating in our Śraddhā Yoga Advanced Studies and Teacher Training course which begins January 2013!