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Inflexible Body. Punishment, turned into blessing

Along with the myths that yogis are religious fanatics, there is also another widespread belief in modern society, as though yogis are so flexible that they can literally tie themselves in knots. And if you can´t put your leg behind your head easily and elegantly; doing this in-between brushing your teeth and taking your morning tea, then you are not even a real yogi.

However, dear friends, yoga is no about putting your leg behind your head, neither about standing on your head. Yoga – is in fact about, what is inside her, what is occurring inside this particular head.

I will share some of my experience. When yoga came into my life and I began practising self- development, my body was literally like wood. Almost none of the asanas was attainable to me. I couldn´t believe that I would ever learn Chaturanga Dandasana or Eka Bhuja Swastikasana, not even dreaming of Bakasana… But gradually, I got interested in the wholesome eating, wholesome lifestyle, in the philosophy of acceptance and compassion, in serving others. Step by step, practice after practice, day by day, I moved forward with very small steps. And in less than one year, I have mastered these ¨frightening¨ asanas, one by one. And today I am so happy, that I still have in front of me, such a long path for the work out with my body.

Why then? After all, many of you will ask “what should I do in yoga with my inflexible body? There are so many images in internet showing those who twist themselves into unbelievable poses and smile with ease on camera. However, remember dear friends that an inflexible body is the biggest blessing for the one who is stepping on the Yoga path and spiritual self-improvement. Let’s understand why it is like that.

To begin with, what is yoga? Yoga is not a physical exercise. Yoga is the worldview, is the way of thinking, is the work with your mind, where these particular thoughts are given birth and are seasoned with our desires and prejudices. In one of the versions, yoga is translated form the ancient Sanskrit language as ¨connection¨. Connection of what with what is being meant? Here is where the answer lies. It means the connection of our mind with our body. If you think for a moment, how can a modern person, who is attacked by tons of informational noise from the outside, control his mind? Such a person lives in an absolute illusionary reality.
One of the contemporary Russian writers has a work where the essence of the modern man is very clearly portrayed. In this composition, people live in a vast space, connected by hallways and elevators at different levels. And that, which kind of seems to be the world around them: streets, houses, nature – determine the view they have outside their windows. It is an artificial 3d image creation. If you are rich and have lunch in a fancy place you will have the London view outside your window, as for instance. And if you don´t have enough money, you will ¨live¨ in slums. There is a very illustrative moment in this book, when the image outside the widows of the main character’s flat is changed from London to a more ¨simple¨ place. As simple as that, you don’t have money and the image is changed. The same principle works in our modern society. We believe that we choose by ourselves how to look at this or that event, what city to choose for living, which music to listen to. But in fact, an illusionary reality is just being created for us, out of this informational noise. We think that our choice is limitless. But in fact, we are just allowed to choose, as for example: one out of three most “prestigious” professions to date. The same happens with movies, music and literature. We do not control the situation but the situation controls us. We do not control our mind but the mind controls us.

Benjamin Franklin – one of the United States founding fathers, therefore a clever man who understands how to manage people, once said: ¨Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure when he is really selling himself a slave to it. ¨ Therefore can you image, how can a modern man control his mind just through the direct work with his mind? It is virtually impossible, as the mind of such a person is contaminated/dirty; it is quite impossible to figure out where is the truth and where is the falsehood, to work out your ideology, to control your mind. Exactly here is when the body comes to help us.

We have been already saying that yoga – is the connection. Consequently, we can also influence upon our mind through our body. What makes our body flexible? It is the clean-up of the body´s toxins and impurities on the physical level as well as the clean-up from greedy and rude energies on the subtle level. Accordingly, the cleaner our body is the clearer and more stable our mind is. It is less receptive to delusion. We begin more or less to clearly distinguish what is what. We stop to follow blindly the imposed will on us and instructions such as: what is black today remains black and suddenly it turns into white tomorrow. We are capable of seeing black always as black and bright as bright. And once our mind becomes clearer, it becomes more flexible. So, what makes our mind flexible? First of all, it is the acceptance of what happens around us and within us; it is the acceptance of ourselves and other people. And acceptance leads to compassion. It is very important not to put on a par: the body flexibility, developed through a wholesome lifestyle, correct behaviour towards the world and the flexibility obtained though sports exercising.

After all, there is nothing linear in our world. Even time is divided into past, present and future only in our perception. It is very often that people who have a very flexible body since their childhood, due to ballet, gymnastics practice, etc., but whose mind is bounded by behavioural stereotypes of the modern society, have large energy holes on their subtle body. Why? Because over the years, they were enduring big asceses, thus creating this flexible body, but they didn’t have an altruistic goal of doing the surrounding world’s life better. They were simply pursuing their personal goals – achieving results in sports for delighting their ambitions and ego. As a rule, if the energy, stored from the work-out of the body’s stiff parts, doesn’t go up and is not converted through the higher chakras, it begins to “bloat” the lower chakras, resulting into hole formations. These holes allow bending the body effectively (but inefficiently), as they are so large that no energy is being retained. In most of the cases, when such people begin their yoga practice and their work-out with their energy and their mind, suddenly find their body - stiff. It happens because the holes begin to decrease gradually.

And all that low-quality energy, which was hurtling through the holes, without causing any stiffness/tightness, now is being felt in the body, especially in the legs. Of course, I am talking now about yoga as of a spiritual self-development system and not as of a mindless asanas’ performance, which by the way doesn’t really differentiate from various types of sports requiring flexibility.

And now in more detail, on how exactly the work-out with our body influences our mind and allows us to control it. The work-out with our body is the work with our subtle emotions, primarily with our pranic body (being the first one in the subtle bodies). Prana is the universal cosmic energy, which fills the world around us and ourselves as well. By cleansing our energetic channels, we direct our energy towards higher centers, thus gaining understanding, compassion, clairvoyance (second sight) and clairaudience. You may ask yourself; from what should we cleanse our energetic channels? The thing is that prana, the life-giving force, located within the human body, has its antagonist – apana.

Apana-Vayu (its full name in Sanskrit) – is the heaviest energy in the human body. It lies in our body, below our navel - in the area of our intestine, genital organs and legs; hence it is connected with our excretory and reproductive systems. Apana Vayu always drags our consciousness downwards, stimulates our most low-based affections such as food dependence, sexual desire which don’t let the energy go up. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, the energy of an average member of our society is being drained through the lower centers, located at the level of genital and excretory organs. This is caused by the imposed lifestyle of a ‘consumer’ and the ‘king’ of nature.

Thus, it is absolutely logically that apana vayu instantly increases and burdens our consciousness. It can be vividly imagined in form of a man with two barely lifting weights attached to his feet. And so, being in shackles, we are shambling (on subtle level) throughout the life. Now, let’s think for a moment, where do most of the problems occur on the first stage of yoga practice? Of course, they occur in our legs. Muscles of the thighs are locked up and not stretched enough; the pelvis is distorted and not “open”. Not many of those who can perform at least one of the meditative asanas. The most of what we can do, is sitting crossed-legged “Turkish style” (which by the way, isn’t related to meditative asanas at all). And so step by step, working our feet, releasing our pelvis, stretching our muscles, we begin to decrease our apana vayu meticulously and delicately. Certainly, this energy will be always present in a human’s body, which is the point of its value. We can take and transform it from a negative state into a positive one, by simply redirecting it upwards, thus forcing it to work for us. The apana vayu decreases, consequently our prana increases. The subtle body is expanding; we literally begin feeling this world. We feel it not on the mind level but on the energy level. And suddenly the mind realizes that he doesn’t know many things and isn´t able to explain them. And he begins to listen to prana, as to an obviously more authoritative character. The mind calms down, the mind “freezes”, the mind broadens. It goes away from its own stipulated restrictions.

And now imagine that you don’t have such an influence tool on your mind as your body. And you have to reach your mind only through the mind itself. Prana doesn’t help you out in this case and the mind doesn’t feel that there is someone wiser than him. And as the mind is cunning and wily, when sensing danger (when you suddenly decide to pacify him), it will eventually lead you to ¨impassable jungles¨. Here is where the so called demagogues appear, trying to explain everything only through their logic. They are stubbornly beating their heads against the wall, in an attempt to squeeze the boundless into the boundaries of their own understanding. They use the mind opportunities to analyse and draw conclusions not for their spirit evolution but just for their intelligence progress and for a waning part of their logic, which is available to such a “not-evolving” human. And when they fail to understand or explain something with their mind, they discard this material as the one which hasn’t passed the critique testing of the same mind. Objectively, the evolution of such people will end up with degradation, as the world is full of things which aren’t under the control of our mind. The denial of this fact leads to full loss of our consciousness harmony and of the feeling of oneself being part of the Universe life laws.

So, finally we came to the main conclusion: leg behind the head – is not yoga, leg behind the head – is just yoga’s side effect and not more than that. From year to year, practitioners are working out their body. And the already mastered asanas do not always bring the desired effect from the work with their mind. Therefore such body positions were invented, wherein advanced practitioners can feel the energy work. And when we look at the pictures of famous practitioners, we wonder about how but most importantly about why is it possible to twist oneself in such positions. And there is only one purpose for all this – bringing your body to such a state where it can stay motionless in padmasana (lotus posture) many hours in a raw, keeping the spine straight. That’s when the access to the universal consciousness level is possible, which lies beyond the bounds of our tiny-tiny individual world.

Let’s frame the moral of the whole article: if you have a poorly worked-out, inflexible body, don’t neglect the practice of your asanas under no circumstances. Your spiritual progress will move, maybe even faster than the progress of people with flexible bodies; your experience will be more intense and more meaningful; your mind will obey faster.

And for those who decided to begin their practice, having a flexible body but a rigid, messy mind (like anyone, modern consumers), I would like to wish them patience and strength. Perhaps, it will be harder for you but the gained victory will be more stable.

Dear friends, practice regularly with the faith in Good, regardless of your situation. Remember that everyone has its own path, and there is only one way out – walking along this precise path, and not someone else’s path.

I would like to finish this article with a quote of Swami Satyananda Saraswati: “No matter what happens externally - rain, hail or shine, - your practice must be done regularly. Whether you are afflicted with material losses or you acquire valuable possessions, whether there are visible signs of progress in your practice or not, you must continue with your efforts.”

With gratitude towards all the Masters of the Past, Present and Future, who left us the knowledge on self-development and Yoga! Om!