In one of our Wednesday classes, we had some short discussion before class started. One of the students told me that "I have been practicing yoga for 3 years by now, but I feel that my practice is only for physical exercise. I don’t feel my practice is reaching to the spiritual level yet. I do not know when you say 'connect your mind with your body.'. What does it mean? Of course I found that I have some improvements in my practice but I don’t know how to reach the spiritual level of practice. By the time I closed my eyes, my mind goes away."
In Yoga Sutra of Patanjali II.24 said, "tasya hetuh avidya", which translates to "lack of spiritual understanding (avidya) is the cause of the false identification of the seer with the seen."
Again Patanjali said in Sutra II.28, "yoganganusthanat asuddhiksaye jnanadiptih avivekakhyateh", which translates to "by dedicated practice of the various aspects of yoga, impurities are destroyed: the crown of wisdom radiates in glory."
Patanjali is saying that by regular and devoted practice, the impurities of the sadhaka’s body and mind are consumed, the cause of afflictions removed, and the crown of wisdom is acquired. Yoga can cure or lessen our physical, mental, moral and spiritual suffering if one practices with love and whole-hearted dedication.
The progression of the yoga practice is not only on the physical level, but also on the spiritual level. Some people know this but haven't yet experienced this, and some people are just not aware of this aspect of self improvement.
When we practice yoga, we practice from gross to subtle level. We practice from the structure of our body to the details.
For example, when we practice Virabhadrasana 2, the instructions are "Turn right leg out and left leg in. Straight the arms to side, upper body in the centre line. Bend right knee to 90 degree perpendicular to floor. Head looks to the right side."
Then, after regular of practice, your awareness awakens. You realize that your pose is not the same with the instructions given. Your bent leg is not perpendicular with floor. Your right arms is not straight but is sinking downward. Your body is not exactly in the centre line.
At the beginning of practice, only your brain is working to make your body do the job of the instructions. But after years of practice your mind is involved to make sure that your body is in the correct alignment and the mind become observant to look within to feel and watch the body clearly without eyes involved. In this stage of practice your awareness has awakened and you are more aware and conscious about your practice, whether your practice is right or wrong.
At this point the mind is connected with the body. When you do asanas/ poses, your mind has to travel from feet to the top of the body to observed the body. Are they doing the correct actions as per the instructions? In this stage we train our mind to connect to the body by doing asanas. As your mind is quiet and your breathing is smooth in the asanas, then your spiritual practice in yoga has started.
So I share with the student, she needs to practice observing more when doing asanas, and also watch the breathing so that the mind can stay still in the body. And remember to enjoy the practice!