So, yesterday morning a rare thing happened, no kids, no obligations, no expected phone calls, a chance to practice Bikram yoga - uninterrupted 90 minutes of bliss... and as I drove home, through the green mountains, my mind light and relieved - so grateful for my morning, I just had to agree - yes, every day is an opportunity (and a necessity) to practice Bikram yoga.
We often think of yoga as a practice of the body, to get physically healthy, strong, thin, svelte... This morning although that was true, the mental clarity and healing of the mind is what I noticed the most - as with every class, although the postures are the same your practice is ever changing, your class never boring.
A lecture long ago that I heard Bikram give rang true to what I wanted to share... The five aspects of the mind. Yet another reminder of the power of the yoga, why we need to get to class, and take advantage of this amazing practice. BIKRAM YOGA ROCKS........and so do you! read on -
Five Aspects of the Mind
Hatha yoga, this thousands of years old practice, has been called “the yoga of willpower.” Just doing it strengthens our will, an attribute of mind. When we have the positive experience of being able to do more than we expected, our confidence and self-esteem get a boost, fostering a more positive mind. We begin including positive thoughts about ourselves, and allow negative self-talk to fade away. Our practice strengthens our mind.
According to Bikram, the mind has five aspects which as they develop, bring equanimity to the mind. These are: Faith, Self-control, Determination, Concentration, and Patience. Each of these five develop by practicing Bikram’s Yoga. When we’re forced to do something that is against our own nature, our soul is unhappy, there is no peace. When the soul is unhappy, pain begins to trouble the body as well. Rather than change your ways to conform with the world, you must eventually find a way to express your truth from your heart regardless of the world.
FaithThe roots of Vedanta philosophy ask us to believe in ourselves and believe in God. Karma yoga, the yoga of action, is knowing your gift and using it. No one can force you to do what's not for you. In the Bhagvad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, "It is better to follow your own calling imperfectly than follow anthers perfectly. If death should come while following your own path, this is surely better than living with the fear and anguish of following a false path." (3:35) When we're forced to do something that is against our own nature, our soul is unhappy, there is no peace. When the soul is unhappy, pain begins to trouble the body as well. Rather than change your ways to conform with the world, you must eventually find a way to express your truth from your heart regardless of the world.
What makes your soul happy? What is your goal? Since the rest of the world doesn't care what your soul wants, it is up to you to find out. If you are struggling with these issues, engage in hatha yoga practice ( or come to one of our retreats!) , and in the context of your practice--asana, meditation--you will soon find the Faith--your foundation or roots--to go in any direction in your life. As Bikram says, "If you believe it, it will work better. If you don't believe it, it will happen anyway. The longer something takes to work, the longer it lasts." Bikram yoga is not about the perfection of a posture, it is a practice of the postures, a practice....
Self ControlWhen we are lacking in self-control, materialistic attachments, will divert your attention from your path. Yoga practice, by developing a sound body, helps us develop a sound mind which is more conducive to positive thoughts. When we have positive thoughts, we are more likely to be grateful, generous, and loyal. According to Bikram, loyalty and gratitude are two of the most important inner attitudes to have. They help us keep our priorities straight--helping us to be supremely sensitive to others.
What is the connection between Bikram yoga and our emotions? When we have receive messages from our environment, they are conveyed through the nervous system via biochemical reactions to all our cells. When we have no self-control, we will be at the mercy of our biochemistry--good news stimulates "be happy" and bad news stimulates "be depressed" reactions. However, through asana practice, we begin to develop self-control, and whether the news is good or bad, a kind of stability is established in our biochemistry that enables us to not overreact to external events. We become able to "keep our cool," and keeping things in perspective, we can develop an effective, appropriate response.
DeterminationBikram's talk about determination emphasizes "stick with it." First, you have to know what your goal or destination is. Then you have to keep working towards your goal until you achieve it, without giving up. Yes, there will be bad or difficult times. Life is like waves in the ocean--up and down. If you wait long enough, the good comes. It's a matter of finding skillful means to deal with the challenges.
If you lose your self respect, you're losing yourself. Bikram recommends: never make yourself cheap or expendable. Don't go "to the basement." Don't invite negative people into your life. Ask yourself, "Who am I? Why have I come to this earth as a human being?" and stay concentrated on the activity that arises from your questions.
ConcentrationConcentration is an important precursor to meditation. It is difficult for many of us to sit still, it is even more difficult to keep our mind on just one thing for even 10-12 seconds. Without hatha yoga, we normally use only 3-5% of our bodies. With hatha yoga, we re energize, revitalize and reorganize the body and become able to use 100% of the body.
The ancients created hatha yoga to prepare the body to sit still so the mind could be still. They modeled the postures after animals, and endowed the postures with supernatural powers. For example, the cobra posture was modeled after the animal with the strongest spine in the world, therefore in performing the posture, you develop a strong spine. The camel posture creates space in the throat so that like a camel, you don't need as much water. The tortoise posture brings the body close and compact so the heart doesn't have to pump as hard as normal, which relaxes the heart. In fact, if you breathe like a tortoise--2 minutes for each inhale, 2 minutes for each exhale, the tortoise endows you with long life. (Work your way up to this.)
The word "Ha Tha" conveys balance of opposites: Sun and Moon, right and left, male and female, warm and cool. Without the sun, there is no prana or life force. Without the moon to cool, there is too much energy and the object burns up. Once body/mind is in balance, it becomes easier to sit still, concentrate and enter meditation. These capabilities develop out of hatha yoga practice, particularly Bikram's series, in which concentration is aroused from deep within your most internal self to perform the postures.