Knowing Your Stress

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

An influential negative experience recorded in the brain will change the mental, emotional and conscious planes, and, depending on the cause, give the person a headache, depression, anxiety, worry, tension or anger. If the situation continues, then the breakdown in mental and emotional patterns may even be the cause of psychological or unconscious reactions and problems. If any of the sensory cells or motor cells are not stimulated or working properly, then the output of that cell will consist of sparse and uneven impulses. This will create tension in the central nervous system, causing a delay in the normal process and affecting the functions of the brain, as the input and output of the stimuli will be uneven, and this may cause different physical, muscular and mental tensions.

If this state continues in a person over a period of time, then the state of consciousness will change, energy resistance will be lowered, mental and emotional states will be uncoordinated, and another stress will be added to this chain reaction process.

Beyond relaxation

Self-awareness is perception or knowledge of one’s own conditions or states, and of changes in the body or the mind. A trained and alert yogi is completely conscious of the subconscious activities of the body and brain, and is able to control the autonomic nervous system by concentration. A yogi knows that the autonomic nervous system, which controls and regulates the involuntary functions of the body, is controlled by the subconscious mind. Up to a certain point, the subconscious mind can be directed by the conscious mind.

Through yoga nidra, antar mouna, mantra yoga, nada yoga and trataka, a yogi can coordinate and increase the relaxation of the muscular and nervous systems, thus avoiding the stress chain-reaction process. A yogi can gain relief from low emotional and low energy feelings and encourage the brain to develop its responsibilities for maintaining the harmony between the internal and external environments.

He can expand the receptivity of consciousness, allowing it to intermingle with the subconscious and unconscious parts of mind to become aware of those unseen activities that are constantly changing and forming the human personality. A simple practice of developing breath awareness, and trying to develop a rhythm in the breath, will allow one to watch exactly how the muscles and nervous activities are coordinated, how incoming and outgoing impulses are channelled, and how introversion of mind takes place.

The same practice, if developed and practised properly, will en able the aspirant to transcend the sensual states of personality and adopt the attitude of a seer. This opens one’s insight into the surrounding atmosphere in society, and helps in taking protective measures to defend the personality from the influx of negative reactions.

Published in YOGA Vol. 18, Issue 11 (November 1980)