From Evolution to Involution


The next section of reading begins to try to help us understand the bridge between the external and internal work of yoga. As we become aware of how our body and mind are working, then what are the actual actions to take to transform or change our consciousness from the distracted, stressed, and fluctuating, to a more tranquil, calm, and peaceful state?

The first thing to know is that this work is not just for hermits in caves. Yoga is meant to be practiced in the world, a practical application of skills to find relief from all that ails us – “to cure what can be cured and endure what cannot be cured” (BKS Iyengar). In order to be successful in our yoga endeavors, we have to develop discrimination – to understand where we trip ourselves up and then go to the very root of the issue to not be disrupted again.

Pratipaksabhavana is a Sanskrit term that is helpful to understand as we begin this task of recognizing a certain habit within ourselves and then taking aim to change it. Paksa means to have one view and pratipaksa is understanding the opposite view. Bhavana can be seen as manifesting or feeling. In developing discrimination about ourselves, we are not just needing an understanding of what we are doing, but also need to find ways to manifest the opposite. After discussing the emotional disturbances in the previous reading, BKS Iyengar is encouraging our pratipaksabhavana through some knowledge of the “healthy vrttis”, the “Healthy and Healing Qualities of Consciousness” (these are also found in Yoga Sutra I.33):

  1. Maitri – cultivation of friendliness toward those who are happy
  2. Karuna – cultivation of compassion toward those who are in sorrow
  3. Mudita – cultivation of joy toward those who are virtuous
  4. Upeksa – cultivation of indifference or neutrality toward those who are full of vices

Pratyahara, drawing of the senses inward, or in Light on Life he translates the term as “to draw toward the opposite”, is a turning point of practice from outward work and sweat to inward awareness and discrimination. We must learn to turn all of our sense organs away from outer acquisition to inner experience. But this should not be seen as a lack or a strict rejection. The mind has to be cultured to be more sensitive in its understanding of all the layers of our Self and its interaction with the world around us. If we are being disturbed by one emotion or experience, then we must develop and manifest the opposite.

Ultimately, each limb of yoga draws us toward this understanding and transformation of mind and consciousness. As Yoga Sutra I.2 reminds us, “yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the consciousness”. And as BKS begins Chapter 4 – “You cannot hope to experience inner peace or freedom without understanding the workings of your mind and of human consciousness in general.”

Understanding our mind comes from knowledge of the workings of the consciousness and how, in particular, yoga views the consciousness. In our next reading section, we will become more familiar with those components. Knowledge of those components might make it easier for us to catch how and when our mind and consciousness works with us or against us to reach our goal of inner peace.

In the meantime, remember that even your practice of Tadasana (mountain pose) is an important step…learn to stand still and even on both feet, with a steady breath and without fluctuation…turn your attention in to experience actual stability, without motion…as a mountain, in peace.

***NOTE : I am changing the reading section a bit here from what is printed – Let’s go ahead and read from “Mind: the Human Computer” all the way through Chapter 4 finish.

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.