International Day of Yoga

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

In the program for the International Day of Yoga, we are covering the major movements of the body. The whole body is being moved, exercised and revitalized. This selection of practices is for those who want to make yoga a part of their routine and lifestyle. It is not meant for healing purposes or therapy. These practices have far-reaching consequences in the three levels of annamaya, pranamaya and manomaya koshas.

For three koshas

Annamaya, the body, is stretching, extending, twisting, ben­ding. The body is moving in all conceivable ways to release the tightness, pressures, tensions, stresses, blocks, and to allow the free flow of prana shakti. There is a feeling of lightness, stamina and vitality. As a regular sustained practice during the year this sensation, experience and awareness will develop more and more. If today you feel one percent better, by the end of the year you will be feeling one hundred percent every day.

People are practising yoga for relief of some of their disabilities, whether it be physical or psychological. In the state of disability there is a plateau indicating how the body feels

The response of the body during illness becomes the baseline. Therefore, when you do some practice, there is a slight improvement and you feel better. Then you stop practising and again come back to that previous baseline of suffering, pain, stiffness and tiredness. Then again you start and a few days later you say, “Oh I feel better.”

You are not identifying with the optimal health of annamaya kosha, but for the sake of feeling better you identify with your state of lethargical parameter, that is the parameter you have set for yourself.

The reason why these practices are promoted is that a minimum number gives maximum benefit to annamaya kosha. In this way, your graph and the plateau that you create in your graph is always ascending. It is not a flat line, it is a stepping line. Every time you are stepping up and up. That is the effect of these yogasanas on annamaya kosha.

In pranamaya kosha, the benefit is of vitality and energy. With the practice, your body becomes like a rod which attracts lightning, prana shakti, through the environment, the air, felt as distribution and expansion in the body. There is a feeling of stamina. The stamina effect removes you from the state of lethargy: the annamaya lethargy is managed by the pranamaya stamina.

The third level is manomaya kosha, better concentration, focus, attention, attention span, awareness. The dissipations of the mind reduce half a percent in one month, one percent or five percent in two months, depending on how well you are able to apply yourself.

The sustained practices will help you to come to a point of stamina where you can maintain your positive and optimistic plateau for longer periods in life.

Three times happiness

This year we are also introducing one yama and one niyama. The yama is happiness, which will raise you from the binding, limiting and confining self-awareness of ‘my needs’. It is an awareness and field where everyone else is ignored, where there is no understanding, no sympathy, no consideration of the situation and the limitations that other people face.

That self-aggression and projection, that you adopt in life to fulfil your whims and demands, is a clear psychological state of non-acceptance of yourself and the goodness of yourself. To maintain an identity of self and control, you assort to aggressiveness. Self-assertiveness, self-aggression is considered to be a mental disease which psychiatrists and psychoanalysts treat.

You have the label, ‘I am fragile, handle me with care’. That also sets a mental parameter of how you see yourself as a sufferer, and how you see other people as instigators of your suffering. If you become the victim and everyone is victimizing you, that attitude itself indicates a plateau of mind where you are so engrossed in your own insecurity that you begin to perceive the world from that perspective. This is a global phenomenon, in each and every individual in society.

Happiness is the antidote to this awareness of self-debility. It is connecting with a ray of hope rather than getting fidgety in the clouds of gloom. It is a quality that has to be nurtured.

Happiness is not only smiling; that is annamaya happiness. Annamaya happiness is the physical happiness when you show your thirty two teeth.

Pranamaya happiness is optimism. When pranas are active, there is always optimism and hope. There is never despair and hopelessness when pranas are active. Optimism is the pranic happiness. Mental happiness is fulfillment and satisfaction. When you begin to learn to be happy, it is educating yourself, your mind, to express it at different levels.

Connecting with humility

The niyama for this year is namaskara, greeting another person with feeling. Namaskara is to manage the ego. When you seek respect, you are attending to your arrogance and ego. You become the servant and slave of your own arrogance, and there is no humility left in you.

Without humility there is no humanism left in you. You simply become a piece of rock and wood, which is stiff and hard. It simply bashes against any other object it encounters on the way. There is no humanism and no humility left when you are a slave of arrogance and ego. If there is the will to do namaskara, you have to leave your ego beside and just fold your hands: namaskara.

That simple act shows that you are accepting, befriending and supporting the other person. It will create a bond between you. You cannot say, “I’ve tried so much. This is something I just can’t do it.” The moment you think like that, you are telling yourself “I am an unbreakable rock.” That rock will always be alone, nothing will percolate and permeate.

Namaskara is a method to connect with humility, to throw a lifeline to a person and connect. This connection, in spiritual terms is known as vibhu, being interconnected. Interconnection is the experience of spirituality. If this was not the experience of spirituality then Swami Satyananda would not speak of atmabhava, Tulsidas would not say, Siya-Rama maya sab jag jaani. Adi Shankaracharya would not say ‘Everything is Brahman’. No philosophy would state ‘Realize the Self within you’.

The connection with humility connects you with individuals and the cosmos. What is your dharma and kartavya, your role in life for which you have taken birth? Have you taken birth to spend half of your life in anger, strife, hatred and jealousy? Or have you taken birth to learn to connect with harmony by changing yourself, by disconnecting or disassociating from ego when not necessary, and connecting with humility for fulfillment and satisfaction in life?

Live it!

I am explaining the thought behind these practices for the International Day of Yoga. They represent a progression in yoga. Last year we did asana, pranayama and a little bit of dhyana, nothing more than that. This year we are including two more items: one yama and one niyama, so that yoga does not remain a practice, but it becomes part of our behaviour too. If it becomes part of our behaviour it will become part of our lifestyle as well, and the expressions of that lifestyle.

On every International Day of Yoga we will cultivate a component of lifestyle. This focus applies not only to teachers, but also for you. It is for you to live it, not leave it, but live it.

—13 June 2016, Ganga Darshan, Munger