In the dark, cold days of winter the attraction to warmth along with the longing for more light are in most peoples thoughts.
In the winter we spend more time inside more often, plan next year’s holiday and light candles. According to Chinese medicine the winter months are a time of recoiling and being introverted, possibly to reflect on what we have been doing and to consider what we would like to do in the future months when light and warmth are more plentiful.
In nature there is also a tendency to recoil, to conserve energy in preparation for the spring time, when an abundance of light provides explosive growth which emanates from the depths of the earth. On the level of consciousness light is essential for insight and deeper understanding. In English there is the expression "to shed light" on something, whereby we are able to see things that were not conscious of before. As we only use 10% of our brain consciously, it could be a reasonable deduction that we go through life as if walking through a darkened room holding a match and trying to see!
Yoga seeks to raise vital energy in the body to such an extent that the now dormant parts of the brain are stimulated and become conscious. The physical postures in yoga also "shed light" on feelings as well as the ability to communicate with the body and to let go of tensions.
Expansion of awareness leads to more insight and understanding and this is one of the major aims of Yoga. Yoga is a science and not a religion, therefore Yoga seeks to reduce ignorance by "shedding more light" and understanding in relation to who we are, why are we on the planet and for what purpose.
In Yoga notions of "good" and "bad" are not used, but rather what is beneficial and what is detrimental. I often hear people saying that they have a "bad" part of their body (often the feet). Surely we ought to give these parts of the body more love and support, rather than calling them bad or terrible ? There is an increasing divide in feeling and communication between our relationship to the head, compared to the rest of the body, also between the right and left sides of the body and between the needs of the heart and of the mind. The latter is often a battlefield where conflicts are fought.
Yoga seeks to heal this fragmented state of being, re-creating a feeling of wholeness and balance. Situations in life can be very confronting, yet they give us more awareness, whereupon we can make correct decisions advancing the learning process.
My experience is that situations make me aware of the lessons I can learn from. I have noticed that situations are repeated, until such a time that I have fully understood and learnt from them, after which it seems as if situations lose their "magnetic property" of attraction and are no longer repeated. Having understood and become more deeply aware, my attitude and reaction to situations changes, and they are no longer perceived as confronting.
Is what I am stating familiar to you also? What I am describing is the process of evolution, in which we are all inherently embroiled, whether we like it or not !
So when we begin yoga, our physical awareness is expanded and we may become aware of mental or emotional reactions, all of which constantly change as we evolve. After some time we may begin to become aware of more subtle experiences of feeling energy flowing through different parts of the body.
In time we may become aware that the entity that is watching the thoughts, emotions and reactions cannot possibly be the mind, as the mind cannot watch itself. Then the question arises "who or what is the entity that is able to observe the manifestation of thoughts, emotions and reactions, without being affected by them in any way"? When we discover that this entity, which is part of us, is totally neutral and even knows what we have dreamt, the way we view thoughts, emotions and situations is radically altered. This is another example of the expansion of our awareness, of "shedding more light" on things, which is again part of the evolutionary process.
For the benefit of the those who have not yet experienced a Holistic Yoga class, this is what has been happening in the last 4 months:
"In winter we experience our energy as lower than in other seasons. In preparation for meditation, techniques have slowly been introduced which create a meditative state of mind. From January we will be becoming familiar with the benefits of the series of 12 postures called the Salutation to the Sun, or its Sanskrit name Surya Namaskar."
Later we will be learning and adding three different sets of mantra during the practice of the 12 postures. Firstly the Bija mantra’s, or "seed" mantra’s connected to the chakra’s in the body will be learnt and then added, then the 12 Surya mantra’s and finally to learning and adding the Gayatri mantra to the practice. Of course we will not be doing the practice using all these mantra’s at the same time ! The Gayatri mantra stimulates the parts of the brain connected to learning, is related to intuitive knowledge and what is called the "third eye", which is often experienced as luminosity.
Of course the practices of yoga are not only to gain physical strength and flexibility, but also to be able to gain control of the mental fluctuations, which seem to keep more and more people awake at night. Yoga is designed to help you stay calm in confronting situations, avoiding stress reactions and on top of creating more emotional balance, Yoga aims to have you standing, firmly on your own two feet, no matter what happens to you in life.
Through evolutionary experience Yoga has identified two major kinds of consciousness, that of ‘individual consciousness, called ‘Chitta’ and secondly of "cosmic consciousness", also known as super consciousness. Individual consciousness is necessary in your life, but is nonetheless limited consciousness. Only when the individual consciousness fuses totally with cosmic consciousness can we experience unlimited consciousness, the forerunner of the internet ! – which we call enlightenment.
Note that the word "light" is present in this word. This is often compared to a bottle which has sunk to the bottom of the sea. The water inside the bottle represents individual consciousness and is contained or limited by the walls of the bottle. The vast sea outside the bottle represents "cosmic consciousness". When the bottle is broken, the contents of the bottle are totally fused with the vast sea of cosmic consciousness, giving an experience of unlimited consciousness.
This is the main aim of Yoga, to prepare and to purify us so that we can deal with all that life throws at us, and later on experience the increased "light" that comes from attaining the unlimited benefits of cosmic consciousness.
So why be satisfied with the limitations of individual consciousness when there is a chance to experience "the bigger picture"? Why walk around holding a match, when you can give yourself much more light ?