Monthly Message

Traditional Integrative HolisticYoga
Brian Afton
YogaBetsy Discourse Number 21

   The yoga taught in most parts of the country today is Gym Yoga. This is certainly no worse than any good exercise program, but it is a pale reflection of the original article which is now called Integrative Yoga by the media.

  Integrative yoga always derives from an authentic tradition rooted someplace in the ancient India. Yoga and all of the martial arts had their origins in India. All of them are based on three foundations: body, mind and spirit or energy. These elements are crucial to all of these studies. Without them their real purpose cannot be fulfilled.

  One of the most seemingly perverse laws of nature is that you must be strong in order to relax. This tends to be counterintuitive; nevertheless, it is a fact.

  The early mystics quickly discovered they could not meditate unless they were able to relax and yoga developed out of a need to acquire the requisite strength and mind control. The real point and purpose of the yoga postures is, and always was, as a method to enable people to meditate. Along the way it was discovered that breathing could be used to control the flow of energy in the body.

  Breath is more important than it seems. It connects body and mind. It is responsible for half your energy supply and discharging three quarters of the body's waste products. Breath can also be used to control the flow of energy through our bodies and an energy system which has, so far, largely baffled and escaped the notice and serious study of western science.

  Mediation itself is part of a process for getting in touch with yourself. During yoga our bodies are subjected to stress which we learn to process and control with our breathing and concentration. This is the first step in learning to control our minds which is the real point of yoga.

  In yoga it is axiomatic that there is mind and intelligence in every single cell in our bodies. Moreover, we have two minds, a conscious mind and what is called a subconscious mind by western science.

  As it happens, one of these minds, the subconscious one, is a hell of a lot stronger than the other one and over 99% of the time most of us do not have the slightest idea what the stronger one is doing.

  This is very important because practically everything we do is executed by the subconscious mind. We may decide to pick up a pencil using our so-called voluntary muscles but the reality is that much of that task is done or facilitated by the subconscious mind and the so-called autonomic nervous system along with a million other vital activities we never think about.

  What your subconscious mind does, at its simplest, is to take instructions from you and execute them. As children we were not born knowing how to talk or walk or a lot of other things. We had to learn how. Our conscious minds may have directed a lot of that process but the subconscious mind literally built each one of those things into our bodies as a habit. As adults we do not think about walking, swimming or driving a car anymore. Each of those behaviors is now a habit. They are all done automatically with little or no conscious effort on our part.

  The conversion of our conscious decisions into the very structure of our body and automatic behaviors we do not need to concern ourselves with is pretty convenient and generally serves us very well. However, our subconscious minds will execute a bad command just as readily as a good one and this can have profound consequences, especially if we don't know it is doing this.

  Either we can learn to control our thoughts, or they can control us. Most people pay no attention to what they are thinking about. For such people the world is composed of about 60 thousand thoughts each day and the sad fact is that they are basically the same thoughts repeated over and over again. They are no longer thinking at all. Their response to a stimulus is always the same because their thinking has degenerated to little more than habitual chatter that won't stop.

  Typically these individuals have all of their attention and energy invested either in the past or in the future. This is very important because we have no power in the past. We cannot change it but we can invest all of our energy re-living and re-thinking it until there is no longer enough power left for us to deal with the demands of the present. The same situation can develop for people who invest all of their energy in the future because we have no power there either.

  It is important to stay in the now but even those of us who can stay invested in the present will still be at the mercy of circumstances or the whims of other people if we cannot control our own thinking. The antidote for this is the simple asana, the lowly yoga pose, whose real purpose is not to get a gold medal in the Olympics but to bring us back in touch with ourselves in such a way as to enable us to gain control of our bodies, minds and energy flow.

  In the martial arts this energy is called Chi; in yoga it is called Prana. This rides into your body on the air you breath and may be directed in such a way as to facilitate feats of strength and levels of consciousness undreamed of by most people.

  These are the higher teachings of traditional Integrative Yoga. It is not what you are doing with your body that will prove to be the key element in your life. It is where you are keeping your mind.


© Copyright 2012 Brian Afton 109 South 6th St Olean, NY 14760