Yoga to Develop Awareness and to Live with Awareness

Swami Anandananda, Founder and Acharya,
Scuola Di Yoga Satyananda Ashram Italia, Italy

First of all, my deepest thanks and respect to Sri Paramahamsaji in the physical form of Swami Niranjanananda and Swami Satyasangananda.

Awareness the hallmark of Satyananda Yoga

One of the most important subjects or aspects of the Satyananda Yoga tradition, which I recognized in the course of time, is the education of awareness. What makes the Satyananda Yoga tradition special is the fact that it teaches, emphasizes and encourages the use and application of awareness. If we attend a Satyananda Yoga class or seminar, or if we live in an ashram like here at Ganga Darshan or Rikhiapeeth, what we learn, what we practise, what we are stimulated and encouraged to develop is awareness.

All the practices that Swami Satyananda has taught, from asana to pranayama, relaxation, and yoga nidra are all techniques of awareness. If you read the 350 or so books and listen to all the CDs, the yoga nidras and the meditations, you will hear many, many times the word 'awareness'.

If you attend a yoga class, you are asked to be aware from the moment you enter the classroom or the hall. It does not matter what or how you perform, but you must be aware. We are trained in developing and expanding that awareness. However, we do not leave this awareness in the classroom or on our yoga mat after we have finished the practices. We have it the whole time. In the classroom, through the means of asana or breathing, pranayama, the technique of yoga nidra or antar mouna, we are stimulating the awareness. Then we move and continue our daily life, and our awareness is with us. It is always there and we should apply it.

We have heard of breath awareness. In children's education in the classroom or in any field of application of yoga, awareness should be there. 'What am I doing?' That is awareness. That awareness can take place at any moment of our daily life. I recognize that this is the greatest gift and component of the Satyananda Yoga tradition: the emphasis on awareness. What is this awareness?

What is awareness?

I had to discover and explore it a bit more, because by visiting many countries I found that in several languages there is no word for awareness. In some languages, there is only one word for 'mind', 'consciousness' and 'awareness'. So I had to think hard to explain what awareness means. I got the answer by watching a BBC documentary. There were some experiments being done on the awareness of humans living in metropolitan conditions and situations. The final statement of this documentary by eminent researchers is that, "You have the eyes, the eyes are open and you look, but if there is no awareness you do not see." Therefore, awareness is the difference between looking and seeing; awareness is the difference between hearing and listening.

It is an amazing research experiment and if Swamiji allows it, I would like to share it with you. The researchers used some actors at a very busy time of the day, for instance, at the exit of a train station. One actor was dressed as a lost tourist with a camera and map. He stopped one person coming out from the station. He went up to him and said, "Ah, please, some directions." The person stopped to help him out, to give him directions. While they were talking, two other actors dressed as labourers, carrying a big piece of plywood, walked between these two guys. For two seconds, they were covered and they could not see each other.

At that time, the experimenters changed the tourist and put another person there. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the people continued to give explanations and directions as if nothing had happened. They did not know that the person they were talking to – a tall guy with glasses dressed in blue jeans, and the next guy, short, fat guy, no glasses – had changed. The experimenters asked them, "Do you realize that you were speaking to two different people?" They said, "Ah . . . Ohh, maybe, yes, something, you know." However, they did not realize that they were talking to two different people. The experimenters said that this is the condition and state of awareness of people living in metropolitan conditions.

Distraction

Swamiji said something yesterday; there also I learned Latin from Swamiji, the word 'distraction'; 'dis' has come from distance, and 'traction' has the Latin root 'tractus' which means to attract to some other direction. This distraction is not just one. In a metropolitan condition and situation, the number of distractions is enormous, thousands and thousands of distractions. If you walk merely five hundred metres in a city, you will hear so many things, see so many things and be drawn in so many different directions, which affect the condition and the state of awareness. They cause the awareness to be scattered, resulting in stress and so many diseases and ailments.

When we go to a yoga class or to an ashram, we are asked, "Become aware of your feet, become aware of your breath, become aware of your navel, become aware of what you are thinking, become aware what you are doing." We ask ourselves, 'What am I doing?' By that awareness we change our condition from a scattered, dispersive state to a more centred and compact condition and state of being. It is also being proved. I was recently reading an interesting book about the brain and it has been found that when something is done with awareness, the brain and the brain mapping registers it at the proper place in relation to all the other areas of the brain and you will not forget, it will stay there, it will become an experience.

Moving from gross to subtle awareness

This use and application of awareness is what I would say is the main flag of the Satyananda Yoga tradition. Whether it is for health, for children in schools, in prisons, or for inner realization, awareness is what is used. I am so glad and grateful for this tradition that has educated me in awareness.

If you are practising Satyananda Yoga, and especially if you are teaching Satyananda Yoga, put awareness into the practices, include the word 'awareness'. Use the term. Ask the students, the practitioners, to be aware. If you are practising yoga, whether in this tradition or any other tradition, practise with awareness. Ask, 'What am I doing? What am I doing now? What am I experiencing now?' Then that approach and attitude will be useful in: 'Where am I going? Where am I coming from? What is my direction?' It will bring about an awareness of your aim in life, awareness of your dharma, awareness of what is your role, awareness of what is appropriate.

Concluding remarks

I would like to conclude with one instance, something I experienced recently at Ganga Darshan. Ganga Darshan, I tell you, is the most active place where awareness is exercised and that happens at many, many, many levels.

In the bathrooms, next to the mirror, there is a photo of Swami Sivananda, and underneath there is a statement saying: 'Preserve water, every drop of water is precious.' I read it, I said, "Oh. Very nice. Good, good." I opened the tap, quickly washed my hands and closed it, keeping in mind, 'Don't waste water, water is precious.' Then I left the bathroom. After a few hours, I was at the tank getting the filtered drinking water. I put some water in my glass and drank some. I felt a little more thirsty. I got a bit more, and drank two to three sips and some water was left in the glass. Instinctively, I was going to throw out that water, but you know my arm went, 'No.' I brought it back, realizing the statement of saving water is not only true for the bathroom. Why am I throwing this water now? The same happens in the classroom – why should you be aware only in the classroom and then go out and be no longer aware? This incident for me has been a further education in awareness.

I am sure that whoever is here for this time, the Convention and the Golden Jubilee, is being educated in every area, in every aspect. Not only are we being educated, but we are also all scientists. As it was said by other speakers, we are the researcher and the laboratory. We are the students and the scientists.

Thank you very much. Thank you Paramahamsaji, thank you Swami Niranjanananda, thank you Swami Satsangi.

—Address, 25 October 2013, Polo Ground, Munger