Aligning body and mind with yoga

We all have those times when we’re too lazy to hit the yoga mat. Whether it’s the common affliction of being unable to pry ourselves away from our beds in the morning or the natural reluctance to drag ourselves onto the yoga mat at the end of a tiring day. Well it’s at times like these that perhaps reminding ourselves of one of the core benefits of yoga (referring to yoga-asanas here) and seeking inspiration from Parmahansa Yogananda may help!

If you’ve been following the Living-Wise Project, then you know very well by now that yoga is not merely a fitness regime. It is a system for preparing one’s body for higher spiritual possibilities. (You can read more about that here: ‘What yoga is really about’)

As I’ve progressed in my yoga practice, I have come to appreciate one of the most vital aspects of yoga-asana practice – the aligning of body and mind.

Yoga is, as I can readily believe, the perfect and appropriate method of fusing body and mind together so that they form a unity which is scarcely to be questioned. This unity creates a psychological disposition which makes possible intuitions that transcend consciousness.  

– Parmahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi)

What does aligning the body and mind even mean? you may ask. Well, you can try a little experiment: at random moments in the day, ask yourself, Where is my mind at right now? Chances are, it’s not where your body is, even when you’re doing something physical! For instance, you may be taking a walk and your mind may be planning what to do over the weekend. Or you may be shopping for groceries and your mind may be worrying about the leaking pipe in your bathroom. The point is that you’ll find that most of the time, your mind is in another place than it should be. Extreme examples include crossing the street while texting on your phone (yes, I admit, I’ve been guilty of that)!

The body is literally manufactured and sustained by mind.

– Parmahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi)

yoga (2)Yoga offers a chance for you to make it up to your body by being present with it. It gives you a chance to deliberately carve some time out of your day to correct the alignment between body and mind. When you are doing yoga-asanas, although it is totally possible that your mind can be elsewhere again, the chances are less, especially if you have learnt yoga from a good teacher who encourages you to pay attention to your breath and small details about how your body behaves in poses. When your mind wanders, you’re supposed to guide it back to your breath and body. Staying steady in an asana can be viewed as a metaphor of how to be in life – unmoved and stable.

Why is all this important? Well it’s not if you’re not interested in anything but health and fitness (although I will still say that being conscious of your body and its behaviour is very conducive to both good mental and physical health). But if you’re interested in yoga as a spiritual practice, then your aim should be to align your body, mind, emotion and life energies in one direction. For most regular folk, each of these four is doing its own sweet thing during the course of the day. Bringing them consciously in alignment is part of what real yoga is about. So just like you take your car to the garage to check its alignment, you can check yourself into a yoga studio for some body-mind alignment.

Write in to us about how you motivate yourself for your yoga practice!

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Shruti Bakshi
Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai. Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel 'From Dior to Dharma' was released in May 2017. International link: From Dior to Dharma
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