A Yoga Primer: Awareness—Body Sensation—Concentration

We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves, otherwise we harden.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Although many practitioners in North America may initially choose yoga as a physical exercise, in its essence it is a spiritual practice meant to awaken us to our true nature. We are not the conditioned thoughts, memories, emotions or desires of our mind. Rather we are the consciousness or spirit witnessing these ever-changing mental states.

Awakening to spirit is a choice. As the ancient seers echoed, it is up to each of us to choose our path to the truth, and for me, yoga lights the way.

There is a point in one’s yoga practice where the joy of exploring the subtle energy pathways in our body overtakes our ego’s need to find results in a perfect pose.

By maintaining your practice, the day will come when your awareness registers delight in the intimate relationship you are nurturing with your body. This shared journey of discovery, between your awareness and the subtle sensations in your body, reveals the truth beneath life’s surface appearances.

For the most part, what appears on the surface is coloured by our human judgments about pain and pleasure. In seeking pleasure, we may find ourselves becoming overly attached to food, money, people, thrills — all of which distract us from the truth. Similarly, in our avoidance of pain, we continually run away or resist rather than explore and resolve what could teach us new skills. Fortunately, yoga provides us with ample opportunity to practice acceptance through releasing attachment and aversion. Using your awareness to ‘listen’ to the sensations in your body allows you to accept what arises without judgment. If you can accept your bodily sensations as a voice of loving kindness guiding you to “right” action, your focus on these emerging sensations frees you from patterned responses such as — “I want to get my hand to the floor in Triangle Pose rather than use a block for support.” “I hate backbends because I am not very flexible.” “I love Hand Stand because I am good at it.”

In asana (postural) practice, as well as meditation, our single-pointed awareness or concentration on an object (sensation, body part, candle flame, deity, etc.) is the beginning experience of Samadhi — purity and truth. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we learn that concentration on a single object allows us the potential to pass through four stages of Samadhi — examination, discrimination, joyful peace and simple awareness of individuality. In other words, through the act of concentration, we penetrate the outer appearance of a person or thing and come to know its true inner nature. From this state of Samadhi, where the veil of appearance has been lifted, we see the truth and easily engage in “right” action rather than conditioned reaction.

Herein lies the journey into the joy of yoga. Seed your awareness with single pointed concentration on physical sensation, and with each action experience moment-by-moment awakening to your true nature.

Creating Space

One puzzle piece away from solving great mystery,
from decoding a unique strand of DNA,
from complex questions to simple answers.

One stepping stone unturned hides glimpses
needed to inspire imagination and refine creation.

Simple but not easy, this life of creating space
for radical transformation,
for opening to eternal truths.

                                           Helen Maupin ©

For more on awareness of body sensation and concentration, click here.