Yoga as a Tool to Develop Consciousness
More and more people are now practicing yoga than ever before and this has to do with the fact that yoga deals with the evolution and development of the human personality. The very word ‘yoga’ in Sanskrit means to join together but what are we joining together? Different parts of our self and different parts of our personality. Many yogic texts define yoga as the union of the individual self with the higher self and it is this idea that is extremely important.
What of ‘Consciousness’? Consciousness can see everything but is unable to do anything without the help of energy. Consciousness is static but its frequency is very pure. In order to experience this consciousness or to become conscious, we have to adjust our energy frequency to tune into our consciousness and then we enter a state of greater awareness of Cosmic Consciousness.
Yoga is one of the tools that we can use to adjust our energy frequency. According to Patanjali, the yogic sage who wrote the Yoga Sutras (yoga texts), there are eight limbs which form part of the whole system of yoga. These eight limbs are called ‘Ashtanga Yoga’. Ashta means eight and anga means limb. These eight limbs are:
Yamas - Self Discipline
Niyamas - Social Discipline
Asanas - Physical Postures
Pranayama - Breath Control
Pratyahara - Sense Withdrawal
Dharana - Concentration
Dhyana - Meditation
Samadhi - Ecstacy
In general and for purposes of this article, we are concerned with the third limb. Asana
Asana is defined in the Yoga Sutras as physical postures which are comfortable and still. Our physical stillness and comfort reflect our state of mind in relation to our body. For example, if the body is agitated, the source of that agitation is in the mind. If the body is quiet then the source of that quiet is in the mind. Even though we move our bodies in various ways during asana practice, the aim of our practice is to come to stillness where the movement is irrelevant. Thus we are learning to control the mind or to bring it into alignment with the frequency of consciousness.
We start with the body because we are able to control our body to a certain extent. The yogis (those who devote their lives to the pursuit of spiritual development through the discipline of ashtanga yoga practice) are able to control even the more subtle functions of their body. Even if we are not practicing in a cave in the Himalayas or in an ashram in India, we can start at any point. After a few classes of asana practice or physical posture practice, we begin to feel subtle changes in our body and we become engrossed in the experience of practicing yoga. We can leave it there as a tool to de-stress and calm the mind or we can continue to develop our ability to control our mind for our entire lives and thus tune into the Cosmic Consciousness. The great thing is that nobody is checking in to see how we are doing. Yoga is experiential and we are only able to experience the effects with patient practice.