Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Three Pillars of Yoga by Max Strom

This article is extracted from Max Strom's Find Peace in Your Yoga

Learn to balance power and peace through the three pillars of yoga.

Transformation comes when we make the effort simultaneously in all three pillars: body, mind, and breath (or spirit). As all three harmonize, we begin to experience ourselves more deeply, and we also happen to become stronger, more flexible, and calm. We even sleep peacefully through the night.

Here is a guideline of how to begin achieving a more meaningful practice and peaceful life:

The first thing to do is close your eyes and focus on your intention. In other words, aim at something. Dedicate your practice to a meaningful transition you wish to have in your life. An example here might be Peace, Forgiveness, or Patience. There is an old saying that if you aim at nothing you’re sure to hit it. But when you direct your mind and heart in one direction, it gives your actions great power. Your spirituality, however you define it, can be infused into your body so your body radiates who you are from your soul – and what you stand for in this world.

Face it, one reason we are afraid to breathe deeply is because we know deep down that breath is connected to our emotions. If we are feeling stressed out and not paying much attention to our feelings, breathing deeply may be terrifying. So, we keep our breath small and shallow and erratic, no matter how many times our yoga teacher says, “Breathe deeply.” This can create two kinds of catastrophes. One is disease; unexpressed grief over decades can create diseases like cancer. Two, we can destroy our relationships; we tend to hurt the people we love the most because we are carrying our own emotional wounds that are invisible to the untrained eye. Imagine trying to embrace someone who has open wounds under his clothes that you aren’t aware of. His reaction would be like a wounded animal lashing out. So, when we consciously utilize yoga breathing to heal, we heal these hidden wounds In this way, breathing practices can change our life because it changes our behavior, and that affects all of our relationships.

Practice your asanas (postures) with focus on your breath. Breathe into your heart center, breathe in light – filling the lungs completely, breathe out the past, that which you no longer need. If you have a spiritual practice, use your own visual image of God or name for God. Inhale as if you were inhaling the energy of God; exhale all that is not useful. Breathe into your entire body while in a posture, as you move, or as you hold in stillness. When you begin to feel overwhelmed or fatigued, rather than push, rest a few moments. (Even machines need to rest.) Allow yourself to move into child’s pose at least four times in an hour and half practice. Learn the difference between an all-out state and a rest state. Many overachievers know only the concept of “all or nothing.” Explore the space between zero and ten. Try practicing at level seven, not ten. This will develop sensitivity, patience, and kindness. Move your focus off your outer body and on to your inner body.

When one is inspired by an intent to transform, and from this intention we breathe, when the mind quiets and the energetic heart center begins to open. When this happens grace happens - change happens. The yoga postures and breath are tools to rebuild ourselves. The goal is not to ties ourselves in knots - we’re clearly already tied in knots. The aim is to untie the knots in our heart. The aim is to unite with the ultimate, loving, and peaceful power in the universe.

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