Being is a tricky concept for human beings. And the ancient Yogis knew that being human, incarnate in a human mindbody is difficult for the spirit, that part of the soul (and the communal soul) which experiences this human life. They intuitively understood that as humans we have a deep and all pervading need to constantly unify opposites . . . our humanity and our Divinity, being conscious with Consciousness, our fleeting human life and our eternal nature. So they gave us Yoga as the way to unification, to be joined with our eternal source.
Yoga’s roots are deep in the Vedic culture of Indo-Europeans who settled in India circa 3,000 bce. (Long before the Hindu religion began adopting Yoga for it’s independence of spiritual experience). The Vedic people were settled, living in a fertile and rich agricultural society with their survival needs met, with the space, time and environment which supported a new age of wisdom and enlightenment.
So, 2,000 to 4,000 years ago in the Age of Aries the Ram, Yoga became the practice of independence in man’s relationships (and dominated by male authority). Prior it had apparently been a cultural practice, led by the women in community groups. So, in the age of enlightenment and wisdom, the Age of Aries, the ancient Vedic people started exploring their relationships . . . first they controlled or conquered the physical body with Yogasanas, then they turned to the emotions and controlling them with control of the mind in Pranayama practices . . . then they explored man’s relationship with the Divine with Meditation.
Through these practices they had an understanding of energies bigger than ourselves – transpersonal energies, or archetypes – the wisdom energies of the Divine that we all possess in the higher parts of our minds and beings, that are deep within our beings (and if you think that sounds familiar, yes Carl Jung is known to have studied Yoga).
And through this exploration and self-study, they experienced, practiced and codified (wrote down) for posterity, values . . . qualities of Divinity inherent in us as human beings with valuable experiences of life for the period of time we are incarnate in our human bodies. Yoga was what evolved as the gift which makes our mindbody a more comfortable place for the spirit to dwell.
Ultimately, these ancestors of ours endeavoured, through Yoga, passionately and sincerely to understand man’s relationship with Consciousness – our eternal nature …. exploring bliss being, pure being, eternal being.
Yoga’s eternal gifts are the gifts of the eternal nature of our soul. Your soul is always watching you, and in Yoga practice when we get to the stillpoint within, we come to the moments in our eternal experience of existence when we can look within into our inner world with the eyes of the soul.
So, Yoga’s gifts are: stillness; an intimate relationship with the cycles of birth, life, death and transformation on the soul’s sacred and mysterious journey through eternity, reminding us of our real purpose here and now, which is evolution; spiritual liberation and life-freedom; experiencing (however fleetingly) the state of pure bliss and one-ness with Divinity or Consciousness . . . and here are 3 receptive poses for daily practice which bring us into awareness of our eternal nature.
1. Ancestral Worship
This is the extended version of Pose of the Child, with arms outstretched in front of the body, palms down to the ground, buttocks over heels and upper body supported by the lower body. It is the pose of surrender, allowing ourself to be supported by the Universe and in this extended form it is a pose of homage: paying homage and respect to the ancesters who have gone before us and who cared so deeply that the Universe evolved to support and care for us.
For me personally in practice, the surrender in this posture comes with the letting go of mental control and a relaxation in the back of the brain. Of course intellectually we know that as human beings the apparent control we attempt to have in our thinking minds over our lives is an illusion: but the letting go is hard and it takes constant practice. The surrender comes in practice with reminding ourselves that we are safe and supported: the Universe is in our (humanity’s) communal soul, and at our highest level we are evolving the Universe. The inner peace which allows us to rest deeply and be receptive to the gifts of eternal being comes with the realization of our soul’s power in the Divine scheme: we are powerful beyond our human imagination.
Yoga’s gift IS our never ending quest of the soul on its journey to evolve the Universe.
From Ancestral Worship, we stretch out full length, prone and tuck the elbows in tight to the sides of the body, resting on the forearms and palms and grounded by the pelvis and bony tops of the feet: shoulders are raised, chest is open, crown of the head lifted to the sky, visualising the crown opening energetically, and our gaze is a horizon gaze ….. we gaze out into the horizon as if we were the Sphinx in Egypt forever gazing out into the sands of time, gazing to the Eastern Horizon.
We know now, of course, that the Sphinx in Egypt was built on the Giza plateaux at such an angle as to watch over the daily ritual of the rising of the sun, as the sun was a god to be worshipped as the bringer of life to the ancients.
It is a posture of stillness, and which with practice brings us to the stillpoint within from where we observe life with the eyes of the soul.
This posture reminds us that we are eternal beings, momentarily grounded in the here and now of this existence and constantly experiencing the daily renewal of life which brings a rhythm to the chaos of change, which ultimately we endure in the peace that comes at the stillpoint within.
Yoga’s eternal gift is in the realization that harmonising with the Universe means harmonising with constant change.
We prepare for deep relaxation, following practice in Yoga, Pranayama or Meditation, by finding our relaxation posture lying down in Savasana. So we settle down on the ground, body settling down into relaxation, or Corpse posture, mind settling down into the body, our practice settling into mind and body.
It takes a little bit of awareness in the practice of letting go in Savasana to understand that this process of letting go in the Corpse, relaxation posture, or Savasana, ultimately allows us to peel away, like peeling away the skins of an onion, all the clinging on to who we think we are: to get to the core of ourself, that part that will continue when we die and when our body is no more.
In this practice we’re in a profound, deep state of relaxation, unlike anything you experience in normal day-to-day life – because you’re relaxed yet conscious and still “there” in your attention – so, in the conscious sleep of the Yogis.
But in the Corpse posture, Savasana, we’re practising not conscious living, but conscious dying . . . the letting go of all that causes us pain in life: a process very like that which we will go thro when we die, when all worries, fears, problems, likes and dislikes just slip away.
And this I know personally from my own experience of being so close to death that I experienced the bliss of eternity: my mind was one with the Ultimate Mind.
Ultimately, the rest in this practice is resting in the self of the bliss body, bliss nature: all negativity, anxiety, worry and fear will have melted away when we go to our true home . . . and our rest is that rest, that of the self dwelling in ultimate peace.
At the end of our practice, we roll over to the right to rest on our sides into a foetal position: and this symbolises that as the embryo in life, we can begin each day anew without the weight of our attachments dragging us down into mundanity . . . forever new, forever fresh, forever young.
Yoga’s eternal gift is the messsage: there is life after life.
It is love and it is the lover
that are enduring for time without end;
don’t put anything except this upon your heart,
since it isn’t but something borrowed.
Susan Ni Rahilly is a twice published author and founder of SuZenYoga: spirituality, understanding, zen, energy and nutrition thro dedication to Yoga practice.