HJ: Yoga is a powerful tool for helping you to achieve your dreams and reach your highest potential. I have experienced its myriad benefits first hand in the 7+ years I have been practicing daily. The skills I have developed as a result of this practice have guided me through the most difficult periods I have ever experienced and continued to propel me forward above and beyond into greater levels of awareness and happiness. Yoga develops a very fine awareness between the intuition, senses, heart and mind that allows one to achieve at levels much higher than is possible in ordinary states of consciousness. Furthermore, it develops will, discipline and flexibility of the mind and body, which allow one to navigate the various challenges that are par for the course in life.
Yoga, in its essence, is a moving meditation and so it expands the mind and helps one to better know themselves through the refinement of focus and awareness. And, beyond that. it makes you feel amazing… rejuvenating for every level of the mind, body and spirit…
Yoga and Human Potential
By Paramahamsa Niranjanananda | Yoga Mag
Talk given to the students of Notre Dame School, Patna 12.4.94
Yoga is a system, a tradition with which we have been involved for a long time. Although you see us seated here dressed in the geru robes of a sannyasin, we are yoga teachers, and we teach yoga for the development of the body, mind, intellect and emotions. Yoga has only one aim to awaken, enhance and increase the potential of human personality, so that we can become better in whatever field we choose in the course of our future life. It is this training that we give through the practices of yoga.
Once upon a time, the king of the jungle was in a very happy and joyous mood. He was walking around the jungle roaring at the other animals and asking them why they were not as big, as strong and as powerful as him. The lion came across a deer, gave a very big roar and said, “You little creature. Why aren’t you as big, as strong and as powerful as me?” The deer did not answer; it simply ran away.
The lion came across a bear and again gave a big roar and said, “Why aren’t you as big, as strong and as powerful as me?” The bear also gave the lion one look and ran away. In this way, every animal in the forest ran away from the lion. Ultimately, the lion came across a tiny mouse which had just come out of its hole in the ground, and asked it the same question. The mouse looked up and replied, “I’m not as big or as strong or as powerful as you because I’ve been sick.”
Many times God also asks us this very simple question and we are unable to give him a proper reply. Our reply is very much like that of the mouse. We tell God that we have been sick, physically, mentally, externally and internally. So, how can anyone expect us to be in command of ourselves? In the course of your life you will come across many different situations and circumstances which will create tension in your mind and different illnesses and diseases in your body. When you have to face these tensions, illnesses and diseases, then you will notice that the qualities, the strengths that are inherent within you do not grow, do not manifest, and it is here that yoga comes to your aid.
You might have seen yoga demonstrated on television or read about yoga in the newspapers, but, ultimately, you will begin to wonder, “What is it?” I will tell you in very simple language. Firstly, yoga is a system of therapy which helps to release different illnesses, diseases, mental problems, frustrations, anxieties and tensions from the body. A lot of work has been done in this field by the medical profession and by scientists who have come to the conclusion that the practices of yoga can cure different illnesses like breathing problems, digestive problems, heart problems, and even the so. called incurable diseases such as cancer and AIDS. So, if we look at yoga from this angle, it is a very comprehensive form of therapy which helps to eliminate the blockages, the diseases from the body and from the mind.
The second aspect of yoga is in psychology or psychotherapy. This is a very important aspect because we all have some kind of mental or psychological deficiency. As students we want to have clear minds, sharp memories, good receptivity and a high level of Concentration. As adults we want to have the ability to manage our mental difficulties, our stress and our emotional problems. It is here that yoga can help to awaken the faculties of mind and give us the ability to correct such states within the mind.
Here is an example of how this aspect of yoga can help students such as yourselves. I have never been to school. I do not know what it feels like to go to school. However, through the practices of yoga, I have been able to pick up many things which have helped me to grow in life, which have helped me to have a clear mind and very intense concentration. In the 1970’s we were contacted by the administrators of a college in France where it was a record if four students passed per year. The administrators said, “You make many claims about yoga being able to improve the personality and mind. We want you to teach yoga in our college to see if you can make the fifth student pass and set a new record.”
So we accepted the challenge and for six months we taught the students simple yoga practices of asanas and pranayamas. In one year the improvement was so great that the students who were drug addicts, the first to commit crimes, and the students who would not study, changed completely. Now it is a record if four people fail in that college.
As a result, in France, Germany, England, Ireland and Canada, yoga has become a compulsory subject in secondary schools, in higher secondary schools, at college level and also in universities. Our job today is not to teach yoga practices to the students, but to teach the teachers who teach their students in a classroom environment. The Education Departments in Europe have accepted that the practice of asana and pranayama can help to increase memory, retention power and the capacity to learn. There have been many students who have completed their high school years in less than one year. In the European education system, the students are tested every month to see if they are ready to move up to the next class. In this way students can complete their entire high school in less than one year with the help of the concentration techniques of yoga.
So in this respect yoga is mind-management. Mind-management helps to provide a sense of discipline, a degree of concentration and awakens the brain and the mind which becomes like a very powerful receptor, like this microphone. You have been attending this school for some years and have been in this hall many times. Without looking around tell me how many fans are in this hall? Thirty-two? Fifteen? You have been in this hall many more times than me. It is my first time here. In fifteen minutes you have looked around many times, you have looked up, down and sideways. You might be very alert in your studies, but your mind is not alert when it comes to being aware of your environment. This is one shortcoming of the mind.
The mind has to become so receptive and so powerful that you should know how many fans, lights, doors and windows there are in the room without looking around. It is not necessary to count – you just know it because the mind becomes like a receptor, like an antenna. This is the aim of yoga psychology; to in-crease the reception of the mind.
The third aspect of yoga is known as the science of life, jeevan vigyam. Why is it known as the science of life? Because it deals with imbibing new samskaras, qualities which help us in our life. There are many qualities which help us in our life, not just one or two. These qualities eventually guide our mentality, our performance in life and our interactions in life.
In order to improve this lifestyle, yoga aims at providing certain qualities which can make you into a superhuman being, not like superman or super-girl, but a superhuman being. In all the comics that we see in the market there are many different super beings, but never one superhuman because one has not yet come forward. There might be a superman, a super girl, a superwoman, but there is nobody who is a superhuman. It is the samskaras which ultimately make you into a different kind of human being with affection, compassion and love for the entire humanity.
Superhuman beings are very rare on this planet. There have been luminaries in the course of history who have shown a path to people, and if you follow this path you can ultimately become a superhuman being, and you can also realise God. Yoga makes an effort, an attempt to provide a person with qualities that can help that person to grow in life. Therefore, the third aspect of yoga is known as jeevan vigyam, the science of life. These are the three aspects of yoga.
How can we begin yoga? We are very much aware of our body. After the body we are aware of the brain, and after the brain we are aware of the mind and after that we become aware of the spirit. So, our awareness begins with something which is physical and material, and it evolves to a spiritual stage.
To begin with the material and physical, yoga teaches certain asanas which are physical postures and certain pranayamas which are techniques to increase the capacity of the brain. First of all, let us begin with an asana, tadasana. In this practice you have to stand upright with your feet together, with the fingers interlocked, the palms facing up and the back of the hands on top of the head. Take a deep breath in and stretch the body up. Try to touch the ceiling. Then breathe out, and again come down, feet fiat on the floor. Practise the asana like this ten times.
Tadasana stretches the entire body which helps to release pain, tension and stiffness from the joints and the body becomes charged with vitality again. So, whenever you feel tired, and you have no energy or stamina practise tadasana ten times and you will see the difference. You will feel very dynamic afterwards which is the effect of the asana.
To increase the power of the brain there is one very simple practice called brahmari pranayama. Close the cars with the fingertips. Close the eyes and take a deep breath in. When you exhale make a humming sound – mmmm. If you do this five times every day before your studies I can assure that in the course of time whatever you study and whatever you read, you will remember and retain in your memory. You should do this particular practice every day if you want to come number one in your studies. If you want to fail, then don’t do it.
This is how the practices of yoga can help people of different types and ages to increase the strength and faculty of body and mind.