Yoga All Day

Swami Ahimsadhara Saraswati (Australia)

Somehow the idea came to you that you would like to do yoga. The phone book, or a poster, or a friend, told you about the Satyananda Yoga Centre. So, you phoned up and enquired about classes. A nice person enrolled you in a beginner’s course with a teacher whose name you can’t pronounce or spell, let alone remember. Wearing floppy clothes and knowing that it’s a long time since you touched your toes, you bravely entered the gentle, hushed halls of the centre.

Two terms later you are still ‘going to yoga’. Your toes are getting closer. Your clothes are getting floppier. Now when you enter the hushed halls, you feel the tensions of life drop away. Your mind and body know that the next one and a half hours will be different to all other experiences. That for this brief time you will glimpse a stillness and a beauty of being that seem to slip away all too easily in the hectic rush of life. The teacher encourages you to upgrade to Progressive Beginners, and your yoga class is over for the week.

Walking away from the centre, you are aware of a harmony that you want to hold on to. You now know that you can feel this way, that you can feel this good, and that yoga is more than reconnecting your fingers with your toes. If only you could feel this way all the time. But you can’t do yoga all day.

Or can you? Progressing in yoga means more than upgrading to the next level class. The classes and practices are important, as they are a training ground and a focus point for the harmonising of the body, the mind, the emotions and the spirit. However, the real upgrade happens when you begin to take what you have learned in class into daily life. And it is much harder than touching your toes.

To help with this process, the Satyananda tradition encourages finding balance through the yoga of head, heart and hands. The head is the mind, the heart is the emotions and the hands represent our actions. By bringing a yogic attitude into these aspects of life, we can start to do yoga all day, and experience the harmonising effects, just as we do after class.

But how is this possible? How can we take the class experience into daily life, where it is noisy, and there are endless pressures and demands? It is not easy, and like touching your toes after years of looking down at them, it takes time and practice.

Start by recalling the words your teacher says again and again – ‘be aware of the effects of the practice’, ‘observe how you are feeling now’, ‘notice the sounds without involvement’, ‘focus on your breath’, ‘if your mind wanders, bring it back to the practice’. Translate these instructions into daily life and what do you have – be aware of the effects of your thoughts, your emotions, your actions; observe how you are thinking, feeling and acting now; notice the world around you without involvement; focus on your breath; if your mind wanders, bring it back to the moment, bring it back to the task.

Awareness, and detached observation or witnessing, are the first steps in practising yoga all day. That is all. If you can do that at least some of the time, the effects will start to become apparent, as you start to see your reactions and responses to situations differently. That process alone leads to change, just as when you are finally able to touch your toes, it means that your spine has loosened up, your muscles have let go of tension, your hips are more flexible. The changes and benefits of this one practice happen throughout your body. In the same way, if you are able to bring the practices of awareness and witnessing into your daily life, you will glimpse the harmony that can be enjoyed by practising yoga all day.