Yoga and the Mind/body Connection
Yoga is a discipline to create inner order. Yoga postures are tools to order the mind. The goal is to achieve “no-mind” or the ability to watch the mind without identification, which is also called “witnessing” the mind. According to Osho in “Yoga, The Science of the Soul” (2002), true yoga is not doing “asana’s”or postures, it is the experience of inward turning. It is not a religion it is a science. Osho says that Pastanjali is the Einstein of the Science of Yoga and that Pantanjali “has come to deduce absolute laws of the human being, the ultimate working structure of human mind and reality” (Osho, 2002, pg. 9).
The mind is a part of the body (Osho, 2002). “Influence the mind, and the body is affected. The reverse is also true” (Osho, 2002, pg. 31). Mind has the capacity of right knowledge, wrong knowledge, imagination, sleep and memory. When the mind is used properly, you are in control. When the mind is used improperly, the mind controls you. Meditation is a tool to access right knowledge. Intoxicants fulfill the need for the centering experience of knowledge, but it produces a distorted mind because it is actually wrong knowledge.
Imagination will create good or bad depending upon what you put into it. When we get lost in imagination, then imagination becomes dangerous. Sleeping is just the nonfunctioning of the mind. “Natural sleep is good for the health of the body, and if you can become alert in sleep, it can become a spiritual phenomenon” (Osho, 2002, pg. 57). Memory, too, can be used or misused. Right use of memory is to be truly honest and said to be an “arduous effort”; but it is through the right use of memory that one achieves clarity of mind.
It takes conscious effort to overcome the automatic habits of the mind and to access the purity of the true self that lies within. “Conscious effort means, one, searching for the inner source of happiness and, two, witnessing the old pattern of habits” (Osho, 2002, pg. 75). Fighting bad habits will only strengthen them. “Pleasure means glimpses of happiness. And the fallacy is that this pleasure-seeking mind thinks these glimpses and pleasures are coming from somewhere else. It always comes from within” (pg. 69). If the source of happiness comes from somewhere outside of the self, then there is no possibility of transformation because we will remain dependent on the source outside that is false, instead of finding the true and lasting source that comes from within.
Meditation and yoga are practices for silencing the mind in order to find within everything we have been seeking from without. “The eight steps of yoga are self-restraint, fixed observance, posture, breathe regulation, abstraction, concentration, contemplation, and trance” (Osho, 2002, pg. 98). Self-restraint is to give direction to your energy. Fixed observance is to build some type of regularity into your life. Posture is regulation of the body and breath control is power over the mind. Since breathing is an individual phenomenon you have to discover your personal rhythm for breathing. Abstraction is “repentance” or to “return” to your divine self. Concentration is to give direction to your consciousness. Concentration leads on to contemplation which is meditation. Meditation leads to “samadhi” or “trance” and is described as “going beyond”. Each of the steps builds upon and contains the others.
The mind keeps us either in the past or the future so that we never enjoy the here and now. The inward journey requires opposite rules from what we have learned. The way of inner victory is surrender, faith, receptivity and trust. “If doubt helps outside in scientific research, then faith will help inside in spiritual inquiry. If aggressiveness helps outside in the world of power and prestige, then nonaggressiveness will help inside. If a cunning, calculating mind helps outside , than an innocent , noncalculating, childlike mind will help inside” (Osho, 2002, pg. 164).
The modern mind has become the Western mind. The mind that yoga invites us to cannot be attained in a hurry and it cannot be purchased. Materialism blocks a new vision. “A new vision, “sanyas” – the effort to penetrate into the deeper mystery of life, to penetrate deeper into the visible to reach the invisible. To penetrate matter so deeply that matter disappears, and you come to the basic reality, the reality of spiritual energy, the Brahma” (Osho, 2002, pg. 144). Mind is a process; no mind is a jump out of the mind straight into seeing. Drugs and sex are the only ways the modern man knows how to put aside the mind. The mind is meant to be a tool, a structure. We need to learn how to use the mind and not be used by it. Learning to regain the mastery of the mind takes time and patience; training and discipline are needed. Change cannot be forced, it must unfold and reveal itself slowly. Forced change increases the delusions of mind.
B. K. S. Iyengar in his book “The Tree of Yoga” (1988) delineates several branches of yoga. There is Raja-yoga, which is the science of mind; Jnana-yoga, the science of intelligence; Karma-yoga, the science of duty; and Hatha-yoga, the science of will. Iyengar explains concentration as a one-point focus and meditation as awareness that integrates all points. Concentration and meditation are utilized interchangeably throughout a yoga session. Yoga postures produce some of the benefits of massage, but it is more than massage, acting as auto-adjustment to the body which massage cannot produce. The auto-adjustment of yoga produces permanent change in the body because one learns subjectively the processes of theses changes. Yoga teaches the body to relax through extension. Mind analysis and body experimentation go together. Is there new feeling, can I extend this feeling, and if I can’t, why?
As performance improves the degree of physical effort decreases and relaxation increases. Iyengar (1988) defines performance improvement as allowing wisdom and wise action from within to bring direction. When wise action comes, effort is no longer felt as effort; effort can even become joyful and pleasurable. Meditation is for bringing awareness of the self/spirit to each part of the body. We are to learn union with body, brain, mind, intelligence, consciousness and soul. Meditation produces communication between organs of perception and organs of action, which brings integration and wholeness. When pain and fluctuations of the mind have been conquered, the yoga practitioner acquires mastery. Body energies and consciousness are said to be in constant contact with each other. By learning through experiences with the mind/body connection, one is able to direct and remain in charge of moods, emotions, thought, intellect and will.
A Christian “variation to the approach to Yoga is to simply take the posture which conveys the way you are feeling right now before God, whatever it is, from humble and withdrawn to open and joyful, from needy and beseeching to relaxed and accepting. Find your own way of praying with the body in speaking to God, listening to God, and waiting upon God” (Ryan, 1995, pg. 152). Yoga can be a way of facilitating a balance in the pursuit of harmoniously living the common life with the whole body spirit and soul. States of consciousness may coincide with the degrees of experiencing union with God.
The Christian pursuit of the transformation of consciousness includes adding deeper and deeper orientations and understanding of love, through the applications of faith. Sometimes Christian’s contact with non-Biblical scriptures, literature, and practices lead to deeper discoveries of certain aspects of the divine mystery that are practical for their own strengthening of faith. Compassion may be extended and enhanced through the deeper discoveries of God’s love and salvation for all mankind as expressed in the many and various ways God has spoken to all peoples. These types of experiences have the potential to transform, enrich and fulfill Christianity, giving the church a future shape quite different from the one we know today (Ryan, 1995). We need not usurp the place Jesus Christ occupies in Christianity. No other religion attributes such a unique place to its founder. For Islam, Muhammad is the depository of the divine message, the prophet through whom God speaks. For Buddhism, Guatma is the great teacher, the Enlightened One, showing the way. For Yoga, Pantanjali is the Einstein of Yoga. Only in Christianity, however, does its founder, Jesus, claim equality with God.
The similarities among world religions are part of a universal spiritual culture of humankind and has been called the “perennial philosophy” (Ryan, 1995, pg. 21). Eastern ways have much to teach us of including the intuitive in our Western rational ways of knowing and learning. Technology and global communications have never before presented us with the multiple avenues of opportunities and possibilities of integrated learning. Western thinking and Western medical practices have the opportunity to incorporate cultural healing wisdom of all peoples. All religions including Christianity, Buddhism, Zen and Hinduism provide a wealth of literature concerning the psychological, physiological, philosophical, metaphysical, theological and sociological implications of the spiritual life (St. Romain, 1991). Scientific studies which attest to the reality and benefit of such things as chakras, kundalini energy and yoga are available. Terminology and agreement regarding the precise reasoning of these processes are still in the infancy stage of dialogue. “Nevertheless, it is also very real. . . Human nature is most mysterious, if we can drop our attachment to the familiar” (St. Romain, pg. 45-46). There is enough scientific data and sophistication of scientific tools for verification and accuracy to rule out the strictly superstitious or magical accounting of the holistic approach to successful living. For many years it has been scientifically proclaimed that there are still many human potentialities lying dormant within.
Iyengar, B. K. S. (1988). The tree of yoga. Boston, MA: Shamballa Publications, Inc.
Osho (2002). Yoga, the science of the soul. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.
Ryan, Thomas (1995). Prayer of heart and body: meditation and yoga as christian spiritual practice. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
St. Romain, Philip (1991). Kundalini energy and christian spirituality. NewYork, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company.