Yoga: a Friendly Acquaintance

Lakshmi Kannan, Calcutta

It happened one evening at Satyananda Ashram, Calcutta. From being a theoretical conversation piece, yoga became a reality, and what a difference it made to our sensibility! What began as an acquaintance with yoga, soon became an acquaintance with our own body and mind, for we suddenly became aware of all the surprising idiosyncrasies and clumsiness of our physical frame, became aware of the mind which played leapfrog as soon as we sought to rest it. A swami was always within our range to guide us in assuming kaya sthairyam (steadiness). He explained that in order to make the body steady, one has to become acutely aware of its unsteadiness by visualising one's body with the eyes closed, by watching every move of this shadow body. He helped us interpret our thoughts and reactions perceptively.

In a century that looks upon any sign of introversion as almost a psychological aberration, we learned the importance of looking inward, of shrinking the audio-visual receptions to the circumscribed pale of our own self. We were finally left with the inward rhythm of our own quiet breathing, which was somehow faintly exciting as we concentrated on it. In this discipline of inner silence, we began to marvel at the untiring, rhythmic simplicity of human breathing, as it continues unaided, as if by some occult force. All the sounds of urban life in a metropolis, retreated and faded away into a remote exterior. It was then that we were asked to watch our own passing and incoming thoughts with detachment and without any emotion. This was a lesson in self-realization. Even as our mind tired of doing this, we found ourselves staring into the black space of chidakash within our eyelids. The walls of the room gradually dissolved; the personally realised blackness merged and blended with the stark and vast blackness outside.

When it came to learning the asanas, both the dynamic and static variety, we had to unlearn a lot. They were not gymnastics or physical exercises. Beyond the physicality of it all was a ruling aspiration to do all the asanas gracefully, to become aware of the chemistry of our own body. One sought to harmonise the limbs with the rest of the body, to command a disobedient body and to coax it to resemble, as much (or as little) as it could, the original, pristine beauty of the human body - The Human Body. We have an inadequate sample of this beauty sanctioned to us - but we aspire to see what the ideal could be and move towards the direction. It is the direction that counts.

There were classes, regular hours, instructions, discussions and so on. But beyond all this, yoga as a concept or a style of living began to grow on us subtly. It caught up with us at all moments of our day to day activities. We were lucky to have a Swami with a vibrant voice who enriched our lessons with his resonant singing of slokas in the mother of languages- Sanskrit. His voice, his words, and the mantras he chanted still haunt us, catching up with us in our least guarded moments as we are at work, bent over the desk, or as we wake up in the morning, or we are eating or on a round of routine shopping. The Guru Stotram vibrated quietly in the ears, telling us that there is an area beyond these irritations, there is a place...... Is this place within us or beyond?

We concluded with a lesson on yoga nidra, where the consciousness is awake and vigilant. In this nidra our physical, intellectual, emotional and mental personality sleep, while the consciousness, Mother Chaitanya, remains awake. As we put the four aspects of our personality to sleep, 'Is there anything left of us?' we wondered. What is psychic personality? What is kundalini shakti, the dormant potentiality of man that yoga may revive in a good sadhaka? We don't have the answers yet. We only know the direction that yoga has shown us. We will go towards that direction. We shall wait.