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April 27, 2015
Yoga - Its Philosophy and Practice
By Sally Janssen
Yoga is a path of self discipline. Beyond the personal physical and psychological benefits we aspire to becoming aware of our spiritual nature and our full human potential. This vital goal is shared with a profound love and respect for the natural world and the Universal Life that flows through all.
Basically we begin Yogic practices with purification of body through hygiene, diet and respiration. As we aim to cleanse the inner physical body so we work to cleanse the psyche by eliminating bad psychological habits of all kinds. We practise relaxation in order to help the nervous system, and the mind to become free of stress.
Once we have achieved a degree of success we are likely to benefit from our efforts in building health of mind and body. This involves building good physical health, muscular development and control; disciplining our emotions to express kindliness and positive feelings; and developing a strong and clear mind and character. This we achieve through self discipline known as Sadhana and through the aid of our desired self image that guides us patiently towards self improvement and the human ideal.
To assist in keeping our body flexible we also learn of the 84 classic Yoga asanas known to assist in health and control of the body. With the realization that our attitude to life is as important as our physical posture, we are encouraged to refer to or create a structure of our own philosophy based upon values of respect and appreciation of natural laws and actions that comply with moral and ethical standards. Then it is considered that we are ready to learn to increase our vitality and how to direct energy through respiration as we practise of several important breathing exercises.
When we have some degree of self control, it is appropriate that we study our psychological nature in detail and recognize the difference between physical senses and emotional feelings and aim to balance all aspects of sensitivity before further training that can sometimes lead to extended awareness known or extra sensory perception.. The senses must be controlled before it is safe to develop all the mental faculties - the most difficult sphere.
Through mind training exercises, concentration gradually improves as does memory.We patiently work upon our powers of imagination and our mental image as a prelude to further mental creativity if we are inspired to do so. Our intellect is stimulated by our practices and we begin to acknowledge greater self-confidence in our own worth and talents.
In addition to what we value in western life by demonstrating our physical control through active sports, we must also prove our control over the body by and ability to be still. As beginners we may sit immobile for short periods in order to practice concentration and simple mental relaxation. Later training leads to the ability to sit comfortably for much longer duration as our muscles gradually learn to cooperate. This stillness of body is conducive for meditation when our consciousness withdraws from the outer world and retires into our centre, where our soul self resides.
Always, as we make contact with our deeper nature or soul, there is a positive and pleasant experience. We find a certain refreshment, whether it is a renewed sense of purpose, increased feelings of devotion or love, increased sense of faith as well as personal power, or an expanded understanding or realization of life.
Meditations are rarely experienced but as unique and very personal moments of inner satisfaction and spiritual upliftment. Ultimately we experience not only a feeling of peace and harmony or at-one-ment with others around us, but with life itself through an intimate awareness of the great One Creative energy that animates us all.
Sally Janssen is a writer, and Yoga teacher well known both in Australia and abroad for her skill in demonstration of the Hatha Yoga practices and her wisdom in applying the principles of Raja Yoga -the study of the mind and consciousness. More details at https://www.essence-of-yoga.net Her book "Mental Fitness: A Complete Self-help Guide" explains the principles of mental fitness that can be applied by us all. The book may be found here: https://www.mentalhealthandfitness.com/blog.
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