Yoga has changed my life in countless ways. By strengthening my body, it kept my spirits up. Staying “rooted in my spine” and “focusing” on my breathing has calmed my restless mind. My body became more flexible, and so did my beliefs.
Yoga is one of the three best things that ever happened to me. Yoga as a spiritual technique. I am referring to the yoga people practice in spiritual centres, while the yoga teacher is a dedicated yogi who shares with us, practitioners, the wisdom of living, the truth and philosophy of beings and life through this ancient technique. Like a prayer, intentional silence, meditation, or chanting, practicing yoga takes a person to a destination full of peace, tranquillity and various realizations. Once you know and understand the philosophy of yoga, after much dedication and commitment to the practice, it becomes a way of life and the wisdom of living.
Awareness and focus
The first major thing I experienced and realized through yoga was awareness. Being aware of every movement, holding a yoga pose (asana) with awareness, and directing attention to a certain part of the body - that was spirituality in practice for me. Awareness of the moment, pose - they will calm your racing mind, make them stay where they were, but weakened and without influence on your present moment because the mind no longer inclines to experience them. You watch them as if they were appearing on a TV screen, aware that now they have no influence on your emotions and reactions. Your body strengthens, pushes the boundaries of your stamina, just as mental toughness does, because your mind thought that until then you were not able to do that.
Our body is Mother Nature’s perfect creation
When our body exercises with full awareness, when we focus our attention on the part of the body that holds a pose, then prana, i.e. life force, feeds that part of the body. By consciously directing life energy to a certain part of the body, we literally rejuvenate it, strengthen it, refresh it. There may be areas in our body that are blocked both physically and energetically. When we consciously direct the flow of prana to that part of the body, energy, just like water, finds its way into the body and flows into the “dried-up area.” Life force in certain areas of our body may be inert, blocked, clogged. When you boost and release it through dedicated exercise, that results in relief on a physical level, when pain in a sore spot goes away, your head “clears” - then you realize how powerful we are and what blockages in the body, which are actually dictated by our mind, we can eliminate, overcome. I once again learnt to love my body, in a new way. I began to respect it more. I started to express my gratitude to my body over and over again. Both to my body (because it cooperates perfectly) and my ego (because it bows down before my soul) and the soul itself (on intuition and guidance). I realized how the body actually has fantastic communication with us only if we are connected, focused, open to receive the information it sends us. It has a unique intelligence. Our body remembers. It remembers movements and boundaries, communicates with us, responds to our presence. When we are connected to our body, when our attention and movement are one, our body just flows from one movement to another, dances to its own rhythm and pushes the boundaries of its own endurance.
Prana is the food we take by breathing
Although human breathing is almost always an automatically unconscious process, it doesn’t really have to be that way. During yoga classes, special, very intense breathing exercises called pranayama (prana - omnipresent life force and yama - control) are performed, during which we empty our body of stagnant life energy (through exhalation) and fill it with new, fresh prana (by breathing in). This vitalizes our physical body, shines the light on meridians of our energy body, activates the “operation” of both nostrils at the same time. Throughout the day, we breathe only through one nostril. Each nostril takes regular breaks, and this changeover occurs every hour; except from 3 to 6 a.m. when both nostrils are active at the same time, and so is the functioning of both hemispheres of our brain. I have met many Muslims who spend this time of night and morning praying during the last week of Ramadan, and the most dedicated ones pray during this period. In India, this period of the day is called brahmamuhurtha (literally meaning “hours of the Creator”) and people there tend to spend this time in a kind of spiritual practice, and often practice no other than yoga or just meditate. During this period, we are most open for connecting to the Source and, if the intentions are pure, great realizations, reliefs, grace, healings occur. When we control our breath, i.e. prana, we are actually controlling our mind. Our state of awareness depends on the quality and the quantity of prana in our body; it depends on whether we have physical or mental issues or not.
I love practising pranayama! It boosts my concentration, and thus the productivity of my intellectual and creative tasks at work and during the day, in general.
The power of mantra
Mantra is a vibration. It is a unique set of words that, when pronounced correctly, connect us to the Source. Chanting is one of the techniques of connecting with consciousness. People often find meditating difficult because their mind is restless. The nature of the mind is to control. A mantra is a channel that shifts the flow of thoughts. Chanting makes it easier for us to stay on the path of awareness. Most of the mantras are in Sanskrit, the language that has been proven to produce the highest vibration. The most well-known mantra is OM, which closes each yoga class. It consists of the sound “AUM” which echoes through the universe, which can be heard in space, at the bottom of the ocean and in the mother’s womb. OM is a symbol of the whole universe, a symbol of Existence. When we chant the OM mantra, we align with the vibration of the universe, with the harmony of Creation, and our mind, body and soul merge in deep unity. Whenever I felt anxiety in a certain situation, I would withdraw into myself and chant my most favourite mantra. It is something that literally restores peace in my heart and body, almost instantly. I can feel the connection almost on a physical level. Knowing that we are loved and guided in every situation. Priceless.
Yoga Nidra is a kind of deep relaxation that is practiced after yoga exercises. The technique is based on consciousness (not concentration). The light of consciousness is shed on every part of our body, the energy field around our physical body (aura) expands, our biomemory absorbs the effects and changes that occurred during the exercise. During yoga nidra, when our subconscious mind is pure and receptive, and our body is deeply relaxed, the mind is in the state of alpha waves, our positive intentions are released like seeds and enter our subconscious mind. This is also the path to the realization of some of our major, sincere wishes. The promise we make to ourselves to maintain our greatest truth. Just then, because we are centred, open and in perfect harmony with our soul, with the universal consciousness. And then, yoga Nidra comes as the icing on the cake. I learnt I can (and should) address every cell of my body, to express gratitude for the good health of each one of them, to let go of the cells that may be ill, to release them with love and blessings so that they could leave my system and make room for the growth of new, healthy cells, or for ill cells to recover. The intensity of the love and the feeling of unity with my inner body, organs, blood stream and the entire perfect system that operates beneath our skin and skeleton, that connection of my mind with the rest of the system – I have never felt all that more than while practicing yoga Nidra. My gratitude to the Universe which pervades you, the gratitude for my life path just as it is, acceptance of all blessings and challenges that await us on that path, with constant feeling of peace and fulfilment.
I am immensely grateful to my yoga teachers. Through yoga, they have had a huge impact on my everyday life, as well as on the growth and development of my inner being. I would like to thank all yoga masters who gave us this ancient technique and huge thanks to all teachers who maintain and spread this technique through dedication and commitment.
Author: Dejana Vojnović - graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade she has been working as a foreign language teacher for ten years. She completed her psychology training in transactional analysis and at the same time became interested in a more in-depth spiritual search, which continues today. Using her own acquired knowledge and what she has experienced, she has been working as a consultant for several years.