Inhale…expand your lungs and exhale, release all tension. Always feel so good when we exhale and let go . What is the significance of yoga to you? For many, it is mainly stretching, strengthening and relaxation. Besides physical benefits, are you aware of how yoga can work on your mind and also change your energy field?
If you have been practising yoga for at least a year regularly, you might want to ask yourself a few questions:
-Are you a calmer person?
(How do you behave when you are in an unexpected and difficult situation?)
-Is your inhalation deeper? (Breathing deeper and slower)
-Have your friends made comments that you looked different recently?
(They felt your positive energy.)
If the above answers are yes, in my perspective, you had deep awareness when you are practising yoga and had subtly changed your energy field. Yoga, we meant oneness – integration of the body, mind and soul.
Honestly, I had been invited by quite a few friends to do Ariel Yoga, Acro Yoga, etc (More new age yoga styles). I will probably try one day to get a good stretch or just explore. However, in my own experience, classical yoga with mindful breathing, is the key to inner peace. Inner peace for me is the answer to life- less fear and courage to take risks, as life is about changes. With this insight, I can truly enjoy life, the way it is, be it up or down. A sense of being grounded and trust in the universe.
In the past week, I had not been grounded as I got busy with my schedule and moving around quite a bit. I am in the midst of creating something new for my work, learning a new language and also in the middle of dance rehearsals. Quite a few new things happening and I was getting excited. Getting “excited” gave a boost to my energy level but the mind was going all over the place, thinking of many things, not able to settle (Monkey Mind). Many of us seek this sensation of excitement or “being high” and do identify this as “I am happy”, but we all know that this is temporary, it’s only a matter of time, we will search for the next “exciting” feeling again. I recognised this feeling and I am observing and reminding myself to slow down, to be centred. As you are going deeper into practice, you are also able to “catch yourself” when you are not calm. You try your best to stop the “monkey mind” before it gets out of control. During this busy period of time, I knew I could not “settle” or “land” when I meditated. What do I mean by “land”?
This brought me back to my time in Plum Village 3 weeks ago. I asked a question about practice and letting go; how we truly touch inner peace, with a senior Monk, Brother Phap Lai. He did not answer me right away, in fact, there was a 5 mins silence, it then arose in me, that the silence was the answer. During the silence, I was in the present moment 100%. I touched inner peace that moment because I could here the rustling of the leaves, chirping of the birds, felt the breeze on my face while being aware that I was sitting there. No past or future thoughts at all. He then shared “calming the mind was like a falling leaf, landing on the water in a pond or lake. The mind and body have to first land …aware that we are in the here and now. The water might not be completely still but that is ok, we accept and continue to return to our breath and aware of our surrounding environment. The mind will slowly calm down eventually when we continuously bring it back to the breath.”
Mindfulness practice allows us to touch inner peace. Nature is a great teacher. We can try sitting by a quiet lake or in a garden, it will be easier for us to first “land”.
In yoga, besides stretching our body, yoga can truly stretch our mind (feeling more space in the head). Everyone wants to declutter his or her mind….but many found it to be very difficult. I recommend practising yoga mindfully with full awareness of your breath and movements. Be reminded not to allow your ego to trick you to do more than you are comfortable or start “mind chatting” with yourself when you look at other students. Eckhart Tolle with his unique sense of humour, commented in one of his videos that he did not like to use the word – “mindfully”, it might suggest to people to use the mind more often, ie, think and analyse more. However, these are just words, mindful practice in all traditions and yoga, in my perspective, are all talking about being in the present moment. Basically, all the gurus are advising us to “STOP” thinking and be in the present moment. However, many of us, are not even aware that we are thinking all the time and out of touch of feeling, and that is feeling our breath, this is the bridge between our mind and body. Of course, this is very difficult for us (laymen) to be mindful 24/7. However, the truth is that more awareness on our breath will definitely give us more peace. This is also the reason why more and more people are practising yoga and meditation. However, the peace you feel can only be short term, if we do not look a little deeper.
Looking a little deeper means that we do not brush away our deep fears or issues that we have, eg, anger, jealousy, loneliness, insecurity, etc. Normally, they are still lurking deep down until we address them. It does not matter how long you practise yoga or meditation. They will surface eventually. We do not need to amplify them but we have to acknowledge them and work through them. One of the method is to cry and let the emotions out. Crying is one of the best release for both men and women. Other methods include looking into your inner child and getting guidance from a spiritual teacher who can help you when you are in these difficult times. However, eventually, you have to decide to let it go and move on.
If we can work through some of these deep fears and start to have more positive thoughts,your body will definitely feel lighter and your energy field will start to change too.
Bruce Lipton, cellular biologist and author of Biology of Belief, mentioned in an interview on how our collective thoughts and intent actually influence the atmosphere and state of the world. He had the science to back his findings on how every being and thing are connected. It is not about your own energy field only. With this, he advised us to feel. Feelings are more powerful than words. How do you feel and not what you have heard? Eg, you feel good walking in the nature versus an advertisement selling you a massage chair to “feel good”. If you do not understand that technical terms in the scientific reports (like myself), he said “Ask your heart more than your rational thinking mind“.
After practising yoga and meditation for about 6 years, I want to share from my own experience that it is a good approach to work on the body first which is the yoga philosophy of Hatha Yoga. The sage, Swami Swatmarama, advised us to control our body first as it is easier. If you do not have the discipline to control your physical health, working on your mind is going to be even more challenging. This is especially important for people who have “busy” mind or physically active. Many times, they are not able to sit still or be in silence (quietening the mind). Practising yoga mindfully can create more space in your body and bring more awareness to your breath more easily
With consistent practice, many students are able to relax for the entire class (leaving their “mind baggages” at the doorstep of the yoga centre). I understand it is hard to drop the “baggages” completely but we can consistently choose to go back to our breath as a form of destination – “like coming back home to your island where you can truly relaxed”.
As we progress in our practice, many practitioners who found peace practising yoga asanas or meditation can also be caught in being “attached” after the initial “letting go” stage. They feel uneasy if they miss a yoga practice (asana or pranayama) and keep chasing to do the next challenging asana or sit longer for meditation. The mind goes back to being irritable when they are back to their normal life or difficult situations. There is nothing wrong to sit longer but if you are putting a little too much effort in your practice, this can cause anxiety and guilt when you miss a practice. Once again, this disturbs your peace as you are not truly free from your desires. To be free from desires, we need to let go and be in the present moment. Adopt a deeper understanding of your yoga and mindfulness practice.
“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Hatha Yoga guides us on working on our physical body first. It is easier to control your body than your mind. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.
When you are truly calm from within, your energy changes. When we breathe in and out with awareness, this is called Mindful Breathing. Normally, this isn’t our way of breathing. Scientists have realised that the electrical currents occurring naturally in the brain can be read in the magnetic “field” outside of our body.
Our thoughts change this magnetic field around us. Example, if you are angry with your colleague over some work issue, you bring this energy (magnetic field) to your dinner with your friends later in the evening. If one of your friends are not aware of his or her own energy, he/she can be affected by you and makes he/she feels irritable too. Vice versa, when you meet someone who is very peaceful from within, you will feel very relaxed when you are close to this person.
Nowadays, I sit and contemplate, I truly connect with Thich Naht Hanh’s words “Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go“. What are we chasing after? When I feel a little anxious about work not done or when there is a dateline, I will repeat this mantra now. This is Not to encourage me to sit back and relax all the time. If we truly look a little deeper, the only thing that matter is NOW. (Many people only realise this truth when they are ill as they are “forced” to stop their routine.) As human, we tend to want to do more or seeking the next best thing, including spiritual practice. Do not put your anxious energy into the current moment. It reminds me to allow things to flow, the past is over and the future yet to come. Breathe now and trust that whatever I can do now will be “Good Enough” to love myself, touch someone and the universe.
The words”Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go” are truly simple but when we can declutter, we will allow space for us to absorb these simple but powerful words. Shifting our mind to being enough from lacking.
We continue to have compassion and kindness for
1) one self
2) our family members and love ones
3) the universe (Understanding of inter-being- the animals, plants, our environment)
*Doing good starts from our family members. We do not always need to travel elsewhere
to do charity work. If you are at peace from within, your family and the people around
you will be able to feel your true presence. This energy can spread and have a positive
impact on our level of consciousness.
I believe that you are truly keen on touching inner peace if you had read this far. I truly appreciate and would like to invite you to drop me a line or two on your experiences. This will also guide me on topics that I can touch on to continue to support each other. Share this with your friends and let the positive energy radiates.
Let’s all practise as a community. The world can change with our collective energy.
Keep breathing and smiling.