I am often asked how doing asanas and pranayama bring me happiness and peace. A pertinent question, it also presupposes that there is a state of dissatisfaction or sorrow in the current moment and therefore, the quest for happiness. But how does one know what happiness feels like and to long for it?
Happiness actually is our true nature. A block of ice will return to its closest natural form, water, when placed at room temperature. Similarly, like all things, we too tend to move towards our natural, inherent state, which is of happiness and peace.
When we experience dissatisfaction, we are living disconnected from our true nature. Asanas are helpful in improving the body conditioning and pranayams are a great way to boost the immunity system.
But if physical health solely equals happiness, then reconditioning the neuro-muscular and glandular systems are great ways for fitness. Yoga therapy, however, focuses on holistic wellness and that includes mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health as well. These together help one to experience happiness.
We are spiritual beings with emotions living in this physical body. Happiness is a state of being. It can’t be located in the body; it can’t be beckoned with an external emotion. It has to be discovered within, removing the layers of ignorance that covers the true self.
In the sage Patanjali’s treatise of Yoga Sutra, asanas and pranayam find place after the mention of certain codes of principled living or cultivation of virtues. These are yam and niyam, precursors to asanas and pranayam. They emphasise on establishing the correct mental attitude in relation to self and society.
The practices of yam (restraint) and niyam (discipline) are self-work. They must be practised not through forceful imposition but by understanding the beauty and its richness. One can’t say: “I will perfect my postures and then stop hating or resenting that person.” Negative emotions arise out of ignorance, which warrants purification through development of correct attitude. Yam and niyams are guidelines of living.
Yam and niyam
The five yams include practising:
Ahinsa or non-violence (non-injury at physical, mental and intellectual level): Perpetrating violence on others even at thought/mental level is an impurity. This harms self as well.
Practising satya or truth: When there is a discrepancy between what one believes, says, thinks and acts, one is not true to self. This causes friction between the mind and body.
Asteya or non-stealing: A deceitful or unfair claim on someone else’s ownership is stealing.
Brahmcharya or celibacy: Self-control in matters of sexual conduct, thoughts and having a balanced outlook regarding success and failure in life.
Aparigrah or non-greed. Greed and the tendency to hoard material objects or negative thoughts. Let go of thoughts that are not benefiting you.
Practising positive thoughts
Working on the purification of thoughts prepares one for holistic wellness. When thoughts are impure, they won’t allow you to concentrate; the constant scheming nature has the tendency to manipulate one at the body and breath level also. These chitt vrittis or the waves of the mind, need to be overcome, so that the mind remains stable to focus on asanas and breath. This is possible only through constant practice of sattvick (pure) thoughts to bring rajasic (active) or tamasic (mean) tendencies in control. Further to five yam are five niyam (personal discipline). These include:
Cleanliness: This means cleanliness at physical, mental and intellectual levels.
Contentment: Cultivating the feeling of satisfaction as opposed to being excessive desirous to the point of feeling weighed down.
Austerity: Good physical conduct and intellectual discrimination between what is good in the long run and what gives temporary pleasure.
Self-study: Study of spiritual texts. This reinforces the innate goodness of the self.
Surrender to the Divine: This is gratitude. Surrender is living with an attitude that is above complain and feeling of victimisation. Surrender is internal strength. When one rises above dualistic nature of living, peace dawns and happiness is experienced.
Disclaimer: Urmila Rao is a chakra balancing meditation coach, Theta Healer and a sound therapist. All the ideas expressed herein are her own and not professional advice or medical prescription. She can be reached at: email@example.com.