Emotional healing with Yoga30/04/2020, Ananda in the Himalayas
Most people turn to yoga to help with physical ailments or improve their physical health. Few realize the potency of yoga in helping calm the mind. When the mind is at rest, the thinking is clear and focused, but when it is restless, it loses its' clarity. A system of yogic practices for the mind, body and breath-work was developed to help people live a harmonious and balanced life.
At Ananda, we follow the traditional Raja yoga according to which, the primary aim of Yoga was to restrict tendencies of the mind to fluctuate- 'chitta vritti nirodhah’: meaning to control and managing the fluctuations mind called ‘vritti’. Many sages speak of yoga as a medium by which one can learn how to manage the external manifestations of the mind that cause grief & discord. And when the mind is clear of grief, it becomes more creative in nature. And it is when one learns how to manage emotions, desires, ambitions & passions, the state of equilibrium leads to the state of being just the witness. This state of witness is where one observes the materialistic world through glasses of detachment, rather than giving in to the sensory overhaul.
To manage the mind, a holistic approach is required. Sandeep Agarwalla, Head of Yoga, Ananda in the Himalayas says
“Balance in cosmos in not achieved with one action. The balance comes when every element is in its ideal state of being. Hence for emotional wellbeing, the body, mind and emotions need to be balanced and in sync with each other”
Managing The Body
Regular practice of asanas (physical postures) and pranayama (breath-work) helps deepen the awareness of the mind. It helps in ensuring that the physical imbalances are corrected, and the energy flows freely in the body, and then into the mind.
The ability of the body to sit still for a prolonged period, without getting aches, pains and discomfort is the main aim of hatha yoga. This is what prepares the body for the next stage of meditation, a part of raja yoga.
Managing The Mind
Swami Nirajanananda Saraswati talks about the role of yoga for mental balance in his book, Yoga in Daily Life. He discusses the function of mind to take in the material, assimilate and throw out the rest. More often than not, we tend to hold on to the wasted/negative thoughts and wallow in them.
Over time, this compromises the mind’s ability to think clearly and act in accordance. This is one major reason that people feel demotivated and anxious, which further leads to other mental & physical complications. Learning how to remove these mental imbalances is the main purpose of raja yoga.
Sandeep explains that the real purpose of yoga is harmony. Once the body and mind are in harmony, one can go on to practice balancing the raw emotions with a better understanding of our attachments, expectations, ambitions and desires. This makes the practice of Antar Mouna an ideal daily practice.
Antar Mouna literally means ‘inner silence.’ It’s a process of nonattached observation (passive observation) of the sensations, stimulations at the physical, mental or emotional levels. Antar Mouna is the complete practice to enhance the mindfulness of the body, breath and the mind. It’s a systematic process to work on the mental level on our attitudes, liking and disliking, internal complexes and conflicts. And it brings about harmony and tranquillity within.
The main aim is to see the workings of the mind and also passively observe/witness our associations with the senses, thoughts or ideas and also to observe reactions in the mind in relation to the external and internal environments. Regular practice also helps to develop inner understanding and releases the intensity from the disturbing thoughts and feelings through the process of dissociation.
Preparation: Awareness of external sensory perceptions
To internalize the awareness and relax the mind.
To initiate this, we start with sensory perceptions of external stimuli. This allows us to acknowledge and accept the sounds, smell, and sensations of touch around us. The actual purpose of this stage is to reduce the influence of the outside impressions on our perception. The conscious and intentional perception of the outside world over time automatically leads to disinterest. It helps the mind to become detached and unaffected by the external stimuli. This practice leads us to the stage of pratyahara, i.e. dissociation of the senses from the outside world, which prepares us to go inside for the second stage.
Awareness of Spontaneous thought
To allow the spontaneous thoughts to manifest at the conscious level and observe one’s own associations with them.
This stage starts with consciously watching the flow of spontaneous thoughts in the mind. The mind is able to not get affected by external stimuli and focuses on internal thoughts. There should be no force or criticism of the thoughts that come up. The mind accepts the thoughts, however uncomfortable, and notices the feelings associated with it.
Over time, the quantum of thoughts reduces. One may experience drowsiness, but this is not a time to sleep. Sleeping during Antar Mouna means that the mind is suppressing deep thoughts. The aim is to reach this stage and continue probing until no thoughts arise. As one completes this stage, we may come to see different sides of our personality, some good, some bad. We need to accept ourselves fully and see us as we really are, not necessarily as how we would want to be.
Creation and Disposal of thoughts at will
The mind is at a level where thoughts are created and evaluated comprehensively.
This stage brings rigid thoughts to the surface. The aim is to reach the deep thoughts in the subconscious level and bring them up. This practice eventually heals the psycho-neural blockages, thereby healing the mind and clearing the subconscious. This is a long and challenging process. Negative and repressed thoughts could also be from past life issues. One needs patience and care to go through this stage, to be able to grow and expand the mind eventually.
The final stages of the Antar Mouna become more advanced, leading the mind to be in a state of thoughtlessness and move on towards Dhyana…
Antar Mouna is designed specifically to reduce, process and remove mental noise, inducing a state of peace and calmness in the mind. It is a progressive practice to expand mental awareness and eventual mental stillness.
Managing The Emotions
Emotion management is also as important as managing the mind. Emotional responses are subjective in nature, making it a complex equation. Emotions tend to be uncontrollable energies, where the pranic (life force) energy either explodes or implodes and cannot be controlled.
All emotional responses are linked to attachment. They lead to a habit of overconsumption, stemming from greed and insecurity. We attach ourselves to people and are literally broken when they go away (either by chance or choice or natural causes like death). We attach ourselves to materialistic possessions that no longer serve us (like clothes and shoes), refusing to donate or part ways with them. We own more than we can use, and this sense of ownership is a fallacy, yet creates and dominates the world of each individual.
It is important to learn how to manage our emotions so as to avoid diseases. We usually blame our lifestyle for common day diseases. But a large part of that incorrect lifestyle is also the incorrect management of our reactions and emotions. All illnesses, be it cancer, diabetes, hypertension, hormonal imbalances or psychosomatic illnesses start from the repression of thoughts and inability to deal with negative thoughts.
Yoga is a lifelong journey, lifestyle and an intensive process that helps us learn how to live better, and free from disease. Buts, as they say, the right teacher only appears when the student is ready.
Based on excerpts from Yoga in Daily Life, by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, Head of Bihar School of Yoga and successor of Satyananda Saraswati