Relaxation & Awareness

by Vidyadevi Stillman & Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

“Become aware of your toes, all ten toes, all at the same time…”

Your Svaroopa® yoga class begins with these words, while you are reclining in Shavasana.  Your teacher guides you progressively through each area of your body in turn. Yet this is not a body inventory.  We are not doing this so that you will count your toes and fingers, checking that you have every body part.  Also, it is not an analysis of how you look to yourself or others.  It is not even about labeling parts of your body as good/bad, painful/not painful, want/don’t want, etc.   Usually when you look at your body you have some of these types of thoughts:  “How do I look?  How am I doing?”

The Guided Awareness is a consciousness practice.  This means it is a training in consciousness, a training in pure awareness.  Unfortunately when you do a body inventory or analysis, you’re mixing thoughts into your awareness.  Such thoughts are like a stream of pollutants, actually making the inherent power of your own awareness less powerful. In addition, most thoughts are toxic.  Think about it. In fact, I dare you to think a non-toxic thought!

Of course there are many non-toxic thoughts you could think, but the point is that you rarely use your mind this way.  Of course, you may have already mastered this and habitually think non-toxic thoughts, almost of the time.  Unfortunately, non-toxic thoughts are more prevalent. Yet, to be “aware” (without thought) is a whole different thing.  The power of pure awareness.

Vidyadevi shares, “Early on, I discovered that if I was watching TV or my mind was busy, the poses didn’t make my body feel better.  I had to be ‘in it’ for it to work.  Being present makes a difference.”

In fact, this is what yoga is all about — about you being present.  Swami Nirmalananda describes it this way, “The practices make you present in your body and breath; they make you present in your life; they make you present within yourself.  And when you’re present, you’ve got you.”

Published in January 2014