We are generally not aware that much of Yoga is about harmony. We are in a continual state of disharmony due to our karmic programs and desires – these cause our stress and tension which alienate us from our reality.
Much of the yogic techniques seek to re-unify us to some aspect of our nature which has become alienated.
The practice of yoga asanas harmonize our physical nature within itself – the muscles and tendons with the stretched spine, the left and right side of the body, the front and back, dynamic movement with steadiness and so on. As one progresses with the asana practice, one harmonizes the body with the mind. Ultimately, the goal in the physical body is to unite and harmonize the functions of the two sides of our brain –the cooling right brain and the hot left brain.
We seek to harmonize with our life-force through breath practice or pranayama. We generally breathe in some disturbed and incomplete manner due to our stress and emotions – shallow and quick breaths rather than slow and long breaths. By slow and controlled breathing we are able to harmonize the breath, life-force and mind together. We can reduce stress and lengthen our lives through the proper breathing techniques. The ultimate goal is to balance the left cooling energy channel called ida nadi and the hot cooling energy channel called pingala nadi – this is HaTha Yoga.
The tendency of our senses to turn outwards causes another level of disharmony with our basic nature which can be overcome by deliberately turning or withdrawing our senses inwards with the practice of pratyahara – a concentration at some internal point of focus. When we focus our senses outwards, we expend life-force energy and when we focus inwards, we conserve our life-force energy. This practice balances the external and internal energies.
The process of meditation seeks to find harmony within our disparate thoughts and emotions, to understand the rising and disappearing of thoughts, to merge in the space between thoughts and ultimately to regain our innate awareness. Pen-ultimately, we are seeking to balance our rational and our intuitive minds, while ultimately, we seek to harmonize our soul with our spirit.
Although so far, I’ve been outlining what is mostly an inward journey, at the same time, we are continuing our sojourn in the world and engaged in the process of self discovery in which we seek to understand and harmonize the various complementary and conflicting aspects of our personality. It is necessary to maintain a certain façade in order to interact with the external world. However, we find that to the extent that the personality is harmonized with our internal reality rather than some fictional set of karmic, social or cultural patterns, we become more and more harmonized with our external reality as well.
There is finally a continual effort to harmonize with others – in our relationships with people around us. Conflicts are continuously being driven by the breakdown of relationships which in turn are due to opposing needs and desires from the personalities of those involved. To the extent that one is able to achieve an inner harmony and peace within oneself, then to that extent, one is able to maintain a peaceful co-existence with others. True mutual harmony arises only when two beings are both able to achieve self-harmony in their nature first and foremost.
Even just thinking about harmony and moving away from conflict is a first step in the journey of self-discovery towards higher consciousness. Let us reflect on how we can bring more harmony into our lives now.