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Train the Body and Mind with Yoga
It’s well established that yoga is an effective tool in training the physical body so that it can be flexible, strong and healthy. Less understood, however, is that yoga is also a valuable tool in training the mind. Through yoga, students can learn how to master standing on one leg. But they can also master staying focused on the present, or staying focused on the positive, or staying focused on their goals. Advanced yogis train their minds to stay connected to ideas and situations that move them forward in a positive direction.
By training their minds, advanced yogis do not allow circumstances to dictate the state of their consciousness. They understand that everything outside of themselves is always changing and that resisting or judging or responding negatively to those outside circumstances is futile and non-productive at best.
As a yogi, it is important, therefore, to keep training not only physically during your practice, but also mentally. You can begin by becoming aware of your thoughts during each yoga session. For example, if the thought occurs to you that the class is too hot, or not hot enough, observe that thought and then let it go. Instead of dwelling on the temperature, take your attention back to your breath and doing your best in the asanas.
During savasanas, allow both your body and your mind to relax in stillness. Practice resting in silence with no thoughts or emotions. Again, as thoughts or emotions arise, go back to consciously breathing and relaxing.
Begin to be aware that you are not a victim of a “ping-pong” mind, one that moves back and forth helplessly, perhaps recklessly, without control. By training your mind in yoga, you will realize that the majority of unhappiness, restlessness and dissatisfaction is self-created. In fact, by stilling the mind of its fluctuations, you will discover a deep source of happiness and peace.
Avoid getting “stuck” in the beginning/intermediate stages of yoga where students pay more attention to the physical component of the practice. Set an intention to clear your analytical mind and ignore pesky, ping-ponging thoughts about physical preferences and desires.
By consciously training the mind along with the body in yoga, yogis begin to find that, “When the undulating waves of consciousness are stilled by yoga, the sage beholds in the inner calm the omnipresent Eternal Tranquility,” as Paramahansa Yogananda said.
Someday a fly on the wall at yoga might hear only the sounds of contentment.