In introducing the International Festival of Yoga in Haridwar, India this week, speaker Pranav Pandya talked how yoga, culture and spiritualism not only enrich an individual’s life but also contribute richly to a nation as a whole.
Despite yoga focusing on the individual, it is not a ‘selfish’ or ‘egocentric’ activity. If we want to bring about any change in our lives we have to make those changes ourselves. Yoga helps us make changes that are truly going to benefit us. As we develop through childhood and beyond we respond to things – avoiding them if we don’t like them, seeking more if we do. This can create patterns of behaviour that aren’t always helpful, especially if they hide the effects of that behaviour.
Habits can be useful to enable us to do things easily without having to keep our attention there. However, it can lead to our mind following a numerous range of thoughts (Vritti in Sanskrit). When we truly attend to what we are doing we may notice that a sense of calm descends and in that calm a better awareness of how we move and feel and through this awareness we can make subtle changes that help us to be healthier in body and/or mind.
When changes are made within, they are reflected outwardly; in our reaction to events, people, experiences. We may find we behave differently because we have a better sense of ourselves, what we need, what we realistically can or cannot do. If we have freed ourselves from unhelpful habits we release energy that enables us to use it to help others, improve our relationships or help our community. The effects ripple outwards to all around us.