“On any day, if you are able to stretch the boundary of your consciousness with evenness, beyond what you have done before, you are blessed.” ~~ Birjoo Mehta
He taught us just that during the conference and convention in San Diego this past month. Below are excerpts from the article by Birjoo. He generously provided answers to questions coming from teachers at our Center.
You’re a family man, an engineer, a Yoga practitioner and teacher, along with other roles. What guidance can you offer on how to develop and keep an active yoga practice amidst a busy family and professional life? How have you balanced these?
I am not sure that I am qualified to answer this question as I do not see myself as an ideal example of having balanced all the aspects. I have my challenges and shortcomings. I would certainly like to see myself devoting more to yoga practice than I actually do. If there is a semblance of balance, it is more because I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who support me rather than my having to actively contribute to the situation. Also, potentially conflicting situations between these activities have often miraculously been resolved on their own, which I can only credit to the blessings of Guruji. So I am not necessarily the right person to guide.
Yoga is what balances other aspects of my life. One can get obsessed with career paths at the cost of all else. Small issues can break relationships. Yoga is a gift that brings moderation. Yoga brings tolerance. Yoga brings empathy. Thus yoga is what balances other aspects of life.
However, if our practice of yoga is done at the expense of our other responsibilities, then I do not think the practice will be sustainable.
What guidance can you give to us to practice virtuously?
Virtuosity in practice comes through implementation and not just by intentions. Let me use modern management terminology. The vision (vision = what our end goal looks like) of yoga is tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam (the seer dwelling in its own splendor) and the mission (mission = what we should do) is chittavritti nirodhah (cessation of movements in the consciousness) and the values (values = behavior that is acceptable i.e virtuous) are the yamas and niyamas.
To be able to cease the movement of consciousness, we should first be able to observe the consciousness. When we do any action repetitively, we do it in a subconscious fashion. The consciousness is not fully manifested and thus cannot be observed. Only when the experience is something new, the mind invokes the intelligence and all the aspects of consciousness are fully alert and consciousness manifests.
So in our practice of yoga we need to use the impressions of our previous practices to quickly move into the pose. Then we should start to explore through observation. What is it that we had not experienced previously that is being felt now? If we do discover something, how can we enhance the feeling and what causes the feeling to diminish? If we are feeling something on one side, then consider what is felt on the other side. By bringing the feeling on the other side also, does that make you more alert, dull or agitated? If this makes you sharper and alert, this is a right action. If this makes you dull or agitated, undo the action and also try to do whatever diminishes the feeling on the first side. In this manner, invoke the consciousness so that you feel evenness and alertness throughout the embodiment. Maintaining the alertness uniformly over time is asana. All other activities are just getting into or out of the asana. Being in asana is a virtuous practice.
It just so happens that when we have the evenness of alertness throughout the body, when the consciousness is fully manifested in all parts of the body, at that point we are also perfectly aligned at that point. So alignment becomes a strategy. The physical calibrated adjustment becomes a tactic.
With continued virtuous practice, we start to have our consciousness reach the frontiers of our embodiment on the outside and the core of the body inside. On any day, if you are able to stretch the boundary of your consciousness with evenness beyond what you had done before, you are blessed.
Birjoo H. Mehta is one of the very senior teachers from Mumbai, India. He started learning yoga directly under B.K.S. Iyengar in 1974 and has traveled extensively with him on his tours. Birjoo has been invited to lead national conventions throughout the west and east. Most recently, while Mr Iyengar taught the morning sessions at the China Summit, Birjoo led the evening sessions.