Consciousness is a higher state of being. Where does consciousness exist? Is it in our mind? No, it is everywhere. For example, our body has its own intelligence to keep every organ functioning. Every cell works in fantastic cohesion to keep this entire organism up and running. Giving the body the right kind of food only enhances the ability of the cells to perform at their best. Exposing the body to sunlight and other elements of nature brings a certain liveliness to the system. So this intelligence is inbuilt and we just have to know how to use it. That is the beauty of creation. Taking it one step further, by performing certain asanas, one becomes aware of how the body feels and therefore how the mind functions as a result. There is an intricate connection between the body and the mind. Whenever the body takes certain postures, so also does the mind respond. For example, just by watching the way a person holds their body, we can know how that person is feeling and/or thinking. When a person is depressed, that person sits, stands or sleeps in a certain way. When the person is happy, the person’s body takes on a different posture altogether. Similarly, a person can alter the way they think and feel just by shifting their posture.
In yoga there is something called “conversely asana” meaning taking on certain physical postures consciously and experiencing the way the body and mind respond to that particular posture. By taking on certain postures or asana, the consciousness of a person can be elevated to a higher dimension. After all, what we perceive is always through the lenses of our thought, feeling and the intensity of our energies. Taking the energies to higher level of intensity through the vehicle of the asana, affects our physiological and psychological patterns, thus enabling us to perceive life at a higher level of vibrancy.
Working on one’s body to elevate consciousness is called “hatha yoga”. Through the practice of hatha yoga one can strengthen the spinal column, which is the ladder to higher dimensions of consciousness. Awareness of the various physical postures and the corresponding mental states, empowers the hatha yogi to tune the body to enhance consciousness.
Working on one’s emotions to make them sweet and joyful is called “bhakti yoga” or the yoga of devotion. In this practice, the emotions turn sweet, joyful and loving due to devotion to a certain object. That could be a deity, or a certain person, a prayer, or chant. Through an all encompassing devotion a person can rise to higher states of consciousness.
Working on one’s energy to elevate consciousness is called “kriya yoga”. The practice of kriya yoga involves breathing practices that directs the energy through established pathways activating the flow of energy in a way that will elevate consciousness. Strengthening the energy body has a powerful impact on the mind and body as well.
Working on the mind and staying aware of one’s thought and feeling can be done through “dhyana” or meditation. In the west, mindfulness and meditation are used interchangeably. Mindfulness is a technique of bringing awareness to one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations, as an observer, without judgment. Over time, one can become perceptive of one’s own thought patterns and can consciously bring a change in the way one responds to any situation.
Essentially, elevating human consciousness can be done by working on the body, mind, emotion and energy. Each path has its merits. All schools of yoga transmit techniques from one of the paths or use a potent combination from all paths. Each individual is unique and can choose whichever technique or path appeals best to them. Whichever path one chooses, it is very important that they stay on that path. Just like with any diet and exercise program that yield sudden weight loss followed by long periods of plateauing, when the body stubbornly refuses to shed the weight; that is not time to change the exercise regimen or diet. On the consciousness path, one can expect similar upward and plateauing trends. Changing paths midway during periods of plateau only adds confusion and entails long stabilization periods, which is like taking 2 steps backwards. Because each of these methods works differently, it might even undo the gains from the previously practiced path and set the individual back to ground zero. So it is important to do the needed research, to gauge what appeals to your being and then make a choice. Once the choice is made, sticking to the chosen path is key, for it will yield big benefits in the end.
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