Connection between body and mind is there all the time. In fact, according to the Yoga philosophy, first there is mind, then there is body. First comes thought and that thought has influence on the body. The mind comprises all the things that we desire and all the things we dislike; all our fears about not having enough and not being able to fulfil our desires. This is constantly at work even when we are asleep, through our dreams. The mind is its own entity and we cannot perceive how much influence it has on us.
First let us look into what the mind actually is and what effect the mind has on the body. Over fifty years ago Western society realised that all the malfunctions of the body were indeed related to the mind. This wisdom existed long ago but was popularised by Western philosophers or psychologists. The refusal of this fact is largely based on the desire to sell pharmaceuticals. If the mind is pacified and taken away from its wrong movements it no longer requires medical intervention. Anyone who meditates knows that thoughts produce certain sensations in the body. This is the basis of Vipassana meditation. Most of the time we are unable to watch our sensations because we are over stimulated. When we meditate we are able to see the rise of certain thought patterns and all the sensations that go with it. Other teachers such as BKS Iyengar, Ekhart Tolle and Krishnamurti - all supported these views in their work. The author Louise Hay cured herself of cancer by exploring how thought patterns affect physical health and which specific thought patterns create specific illnesses. This whole knowledge is what Yoga is about; the understanding that as long as the mind is the peace is not.
The most common places that get affected by wrong alignment of the mind are the neck, back and knees. Straight away anyone with skills of perception will question why on certain days one wakes up with more tension. Of course, there are physical factors - food, temperature, etc. Most of the time, however, the main cause is the mind. Every day we see these phenomena in students who come to class. We get used to living in a certain degree of tension. Whenever there is fear then tension arises in the body. When these tensions affect the internal organs then disease comes about - jaundice, weak liver, acidity, constipation. All occur from tension, from holding on. Only a small percentage of illness occurs from accidents due to external circumstances. The rest occurs internally. When you watch the nature of reality within you are bound to discover this.
Why in relaxation practice do we firstly relax the face? Strong mental pathways - mental states which have become strong are rooted in emotion interfere with the muscles of the face: the eyes, forehead, jaws, lips. All these features reveal the mental states an individual goes through. Just like one can read a palm to see where someone has been and where they are going, you can read a face. Our present mental state is all revealed from the eyes. You can pinpoint exactly what the person is thinking. Maybe not about who or what specifically but whether they are thinking about something they like our dislike. What to call it? Faceology?!
There is a subject I love called body reading. By reading the body one can deduce what mental states someone experiences. Thoughts manifest as physical tensions in the body which you can read like a book. When the person starts to walk you are sure of what is occurring inside. When you become adept in this practice you don’t even need to scan the body. You can read it through the clothes. The body emits an energy - you could call it ‘aura’ - and from this energy certain blockages, certain dark spots, are revealed. By reading the face, the body, the walk, everything is visible and you don’t need any doctor’s reports.
There was one old Ayurvedic doctor in Pune. I didn’t know anything about Ayurveda but I was recommended to take a friend of mine who was sick. I was so taken with the doctor’s report. Not one thing was out of line. So, I asked for a report also. It was incredible. He told me about my birth, my life and about what will happen if I don’t make certain changes. It was like he was telling my biography. He didn’t tell me about the states of my body but the states of my mind. Is the body related to the mind? I have absolutely not an inkling of a doubt.
Patanjali is often referred to as the grandfather of Yoga but I am not sure about this. Traditionally Shiva is the one from whom Yoga originated. He destroyed all disturbances of the mind. It is said that Patanjali studied Yoga from Shiva. Everything that causes disturbance should be destroyed to find peace. This is written in the first three Sutras by Patanjali. This must be destroyed at the source so it does not come back. According to Patanjali the storehouse from which all disturbances come is not just from this birth but from many preceding births. There is something called collective consciousness. Bluetooth! Or should we call it the internet? Whether or not we are tuned in it emits a signal. As soon as minds emits signals by putting itself out into the world it affects the consciousness of others. Collective consciousness also causes mental disturbances to arise. This is why those looking for the truth have been recommended to go somewhere quiet and remote. Just like when you remove yourself from internet signal you are less easily affected or conditioned by mass media. It is conditioning which takes away peace and creates fear within us. Just look at the news. It is full of things to make us fearful. In a state of fear, we are more easily influenced and controlled. What should one do when one experiences these waves of influence? You watch, you put it aside and again you watch and you put it aside. If you become attached then this influence embeds itself and creates pathways in your mind. That is why Patanjali says we must first become quiet. When we are quiet then the individual sees the true nature of the Self, which is pure and pristine. When our body is dirty we have a shower - quietening the mind is like washing the mind of influences from the past.
When a negative thought comes - the ‘pain body’ as Ekhart Toller calls it, which is drawn to negativity - laps it up. We have to watch the negative thoughts and hold back from giving them importance. Like neglecting a plant, when the roots aren’t fed the plant slowly dies. When you are relaxed you can take a step back and more easily watch the movements of the mind. When you are disturbed you get caught up in the whirlwind of the mind. How do you stay relaxed? Through regular practice. This has to be done over a long period of time for it to become effective. Otherwise we constantly lose ourselves. Yoga, which is non-competitive with others or yourself, anchors us in peace. The Yoga which is effective is the one that grounds you so that you can be centred when the storm comes.
Finally, what do we do with positive thoughts? Be happy and feel lucky when they are there. Follow the path of Yoga. Follow the Niyama ‘santosa', to feel content/grateful every day. When positive thoughts come - share them. In India when you are a guest you receive sweets. Whenever you have sweet thoughts share them!
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Master Yoga Teacher Sharat Arora
Yoga Teachers Training Course, Dharamsala, April 2018