Yoga as a Lifestyle – Using Awareness of Chakras

Swami Muktibodhananda, Yogacharya, Australia

Swami Niranjananandaji, Swami Satyasanganandaji, I wish to convey my absolute gratitude at being a part of this Golden Jubilee World Yoga Convention, and to be a part of the entire gathering. It is a very special occasion for me to experience this incredible bhava, the feeling, that has been generated. The challenge that we will find is to continue this feeling in our lives.

Sri Swamiji has given me the opportunity to teach the yoga that we all know as Satyananda Yoga or Bihar Yoga, and this is my passion: to be able to imbibe the process of yoga in day-to-day life. How are we going to do this when we return home? Now we are swimming in this blissful experience to the point of overflowing, and the spiritual samskara is being superimposed on other samskaras. Nevertheless, the other samskaras emerge. They emerge due to the impetus, the drive, within our chakras. I would like to convey the importance of this drive within each chakra, and how we respond to life due to this drive, whether we understand it or not. If we are ignorant of our limitations, then we cannot move towards limitlessness. This process of evolving awareness unfolds when we become aware of and cognize how our chakras drive us.

Physiologically, we are basically a brain. The central nervous system is the extension of the brain throughout the different organs and limbs. We are in a body moving around in the world, and as we perceive the world through these organs and limbs, the perceptions travel back through the central nervous system to the brain. That is what is happening at the physiological level.

In the subtle body, the chakras perceive the world and express themselves by connecting into the central nervous system, where those impressions and expressions travel back and forth, to and from the brain. Therefore, if we can understand how those chakras are expressing and sending messages, which enables us to express, to respond, to react, and to think, then we will gain a deeper understanding, and in this way, we will evolve our awareness.

Chakras: key to life choices

I will talk a little bit about what is happening in these chakras. The important thing is to understand that we have a choice of how we wish to respond through our chakras. We need to take responsibility for our choices. However, our first limitation occurs when we don't know that we have a choice. In our yoga practices we chant:

Asatomaa sadgamaya
Tamasomaa jyotirgamaya
Mrityormaamritam gamaya

What we are expressing is that we are moving from a limited state to a limitless state. However, if we don't understand the limitations, how do we understand what limitlessness is?

The driving force in the chakras operates through three forms of shakti: iccha, kriya and jnana. Iccha shakti, desire or will, drives and motivates us through kriya shakti, oraction, and through this action we attain jnana shakti, knowledge and realization. This is occurring within each chakra. The thrust, the drive, of sahasrara chakra is to perceive, to realize, to understand what is divine. Now, that drive is very limited in most people, whereas in Swami Sivanandaji it was maximum, in Sri Swamiji it was maximum. In Swami Niranjananandaji, in Swami Satyasanganandaji it is maximum, but the rest of us can ask ourselves, 'What is the scale of that drive in me?'

It is easy to experience the spiritual drive when we are in this blissful environment. However, when we go back to our daily lives, when we are out in the world where not everyone is driven by that, then the impressions that come to us can pull us down. We can believe the thoughts and actions of everyone around us to be right. In our brains we have 'mirror-neurons'; we start to mirror the people around us. When we are in the ashram and we mirror the divine, then that is what we express. When we are out in the world and we don't see it, then we mirror what we see in the world. So here is a great responsibility to be able to take charge of ourselves and choose to experience and enact that in our lives.

Awakening of ajna chakra: experience of freedom

This can only be possible with the awakening of ajna chakra. The drive from ajna chakra is to experience freedom, self-autonomy. We can choose what we want to experience in sahasrara if ajna chakra is opened. Sri Swamiji has said, "The first chakra that you open is ajna chakra."

I remember when, on my twelfth birthday, I had an experience of someone being behind me and it freaked me out, I was so scared. Wherever I went, it seemed that someone was following me. I ran home from school crying, trying to get away from this someone who was following me. I knew it wasn't a ghost, but I didn't know what it was. No one could tell me what it was. I found out later, when I met Sri Swamiji, what that was. What happened was that I had an awareness of something, but I didn't have an understanding of what it was. It is so important that when we awaken ajna chakra we have a teacher who can explain and guide us in this process.

Here, in this parampara, this tradition, we are so fortunate. As we know, there are so many forms of yoga in the world. There is even something called 'Disco Yoga' in the US. They wear disco shoes and disco pants and they do 'Disco Yoga' to disco music. I don't know how long it would take to awaken ajna chakra through that process, I haven't tried it!

Guiding mooladhara: live with the least

Let us go back down to mooladhara. At mooladhara, the desire is to express and to respond to our need of survival. We all need to survive; we all need food, we all need a roof over our heads, and some people need more than others. At the level of survival, as a sannyasin, as a swami, Sri Swamiji would say, "Two dhotis and two rotis. "Do dhoti aur do roti hona chahiye.

How does that translate into everyday living in the world? It means: live with the least, don't live with more. Sri Swamiji would say, "If the swami next to you wants three dhotis, make sure you have only one." Minimalistic living. And if you need more, be aware of that. If you choose to need less, but you still want more, you need to work with that. You need to accept that and tell yourself, "It's okay. I'm wanting more, but it's okay. Let me see what I can do about wanting less." The important thing is that we are sincere in our practice of implementing the desire to achieve excellence. Excellence comes when we see ourselves, when we cognize ourselves and our needs.

Guiding swadhishthana: learn to laugh

In swadhisthana, our next need is the need to enjoy, to play and have fun. You can still be serious about yoga even while you have fun doing it. Somebody once told me that children laugh four hundred times a day. Adults don't. If you're laughing four hundred times a day, and you might be here, think about your outside life: do you laugh four hundred times a day? I did think about it, and I thought, 'How am I going to get my four hundred laughs in?' I decided to combine it with pranayama – I'd been practising a thousand bhastrikabreaths, and that would take me one hour. So, four hundred laughs should take less than one hour; life is busy. When I practised, combined with bhastrika, it took me twelve minutes.

Laughter improves the immune system; it boosts the T-cells. Even if you're not seriously laughing, just going 'ha-ha-ha-ha', the brain does not know the difference. What you do is you breathe in quickly through your nose and go 'ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha'. It only takes twelve minutes.

When we laugh we also learn. When you have a great teacher at school who is fun and knows how to enthuse you through creativity and joyful learning, then even if you don't like the subject, you can still learn it easily. Or if you are in a class where you love the subject but the teacher is boring, it is really hard to learn. Therefore, having fun and enjoying go along with learning, too.

Guiding manipura: practise self-control

I am going to move up to manipura chakra. Manipura is about self-power and self-control; however, when it is disturbed, it is also about trying to control others. Trying to control others doesn't work. In yoga we learn self-control, but still there may be this element of disharmony whereby outside of the yoga practice we are trying to control the people around us, and it is so important to be aware of that. If we are feeling unhappy in life, it is because one of our needs is not being met. If we are trying to control others and it is not working, it will only work by controlling yourself, and then you will be happy. When it comes to guru, you have to let go of control completely.

Guiding anahata: give and receive

This leads us into anahata.Anahata chakra is about love, belonging, and experiencing love in all its forms. It is about giving love. We need to receive and we need to give, both. If we are only doing one, it doesn't work, and we feel unhappy. If we are trying to have a fulfilling relationship through conditional love, then that doesn't work either. 'I love you because you do what I want you to do. When you don't, I don't love you any more' – this is conditional love, and it makes us unhappy. However, if we realize that this is what we are doing, then we can start to change it. Thus, the evolution of awareness in the chakras enables us to move forward.

Guiding vishuddhi: channel self-expression

We move forward into vishuddhi, which is about self-expression. If we can't express ourselves, we get sick. If we can't express ourselves in the world, if we can't express ourselves spiritually, we get sick. When I was very young, I remember getting tonsillitis all the time and I knew I was being emotional, but I didn't know what to do with it. I was so frustrated. When I came to yoga, it gave me a process where I could channel my energies; and this gave me the ability to express.

I cognized and was aware that I was unable to express, but I didn't know what to do about it until I came to yoga. In the process of yoga as a lifestyle, it is important to look at how you are expressing, to understand where the pain is coming from, and that you have a choice of what to do about it.

Be aware of your choices

I had a lady coming to yoga classes and one day she said to me, "I'm not coming to yoga any more. It makes me angry." First of all, nothing and no one can make us anything, we choose to feel that. When I felt the need to come to India to be with Sri Swamiji, that was my choice to listen to that need and come. Of course, when it comes to guru there is no choice, but how I was going to act next in my life was my choice.

I am saying to you to be aware of what your choices are, and if you are making poor choices, turn them into a good choice, and take that ability to choose with you. Choose to take this spiritual samskara with you and use it to achieve excellence in your life.

—Address, 26 October 2013, Polo Ground, Munger