“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”

~BKS Iyengar

The body is the access point through which most practitioners find the deeper dimensions of yoga. It’s through the explorations of our outer strength and flexibility that we gain access to internal awareness, mindfulness and inner peace. That means that there are several layers to the goals in the physical part of yoga. I call them the ABC’s of Yoga (Asana, Breath, Concentration). All methods, techniques and disciplines on the yoga path can be boiled down to these three main threads of practice: body, breath and mind. These are the steps:

Asana

Sthira & Sukha

(The Asana – what we do with the body)

Breath

Pranayama (The Breath –

Bridging the Gap from Body to Mind)

Concentration

Pratyhara & Dharana (The Concentration –

Shifting the Mind to the Internal)

Sthira & Sukha (The Asana – What We Do With the Body)

The goal of any asana is to feel the body as steady (sthira) and comfortably sweet (sukha) the yoga postures. It’s all about balancing our stability with our flexibility. Not just in the body, but also in the mind. It is through the demands of putting the body into lots of crazy circumstances (the asanas) that we train the breath and the mind to be fluid, steady and under conscious control.

Pranayama (The Breath – Bridge from Body to Mind)

Once the body is in the circumstance (the posture/asana), it is important to breathe deeply. Pranayama is the sanskrit word for “control of the breath”. The deeper the breath, the deeper the posture and the more successful your practice. Any posture done with a steady breath and a focused mind is an advanced posture, no matter how simple the pose. Any posture done with shallow breathing and scattered thinking, is a beginner’s posture, no matter how complicated it appears.

Pratyhara & Dharana (The Concentration – Shifting the Mind to the Internal)

Mastery of the senses (pratyhara) and concentration of the mind (dharana) will transform any physical practice into a spiritual one. Spiritual practice being the process of giving meaning to life by connecting to the ease of the soul. It’s an important piece of the yoga practice-puzzle – to get beyond the active-thinking mind. Allowing mind to be an empty vessel once in a while helps us all ease into a profound sense of harmony.

Vairagya (Detachment – The Process of Untangling)

Untangling Oneself from a Restless Body and Mind is paramount for progress.  You are not your body, nor your restless thoughts any more than you are your car or your house. The body is a vehicle and the mind can be a shelter only if they are each wisely maintained and periodically cleaned.

“Your body is a rental unit” – (an affirmation from Marayogini)

Diving inside the breath and mind is a critical phase of physical practice, without which one’s attachment to the physical only grows. This is where yoga truly begins. The gains you make in your consciousness (mastery of your senses, focus of thought and healthy detachment from restlessness), are the gains you keep. The body and the breath have to be given back at the end of a life, but internal awarenesses and any realizations that come from practice are conserved for the next incarnation.