Sri Sri Ravi Shankar lovingly called as Guruji, the founder of Art of Living Foundation through which He relieves the stress at individual levels, thus reducing violence, sufferings and conflicts and spreading the love, harmony, peace throughout the world in various societies.
Today, the knowledge of Yoga and its practices has been successful in bringing about a great transformation in the lives of thousands and thousands of people everywhere. Yoga is not just a theoretical principle, it is a practical and holistic approach that surely brings a positive transformation by regular sincere practice. One needs to practice it regularly. One of the sayings in Sanskrit is, “Yoga chitta-vritti nirodhaha” (Meaning: Yoga helps to arrest and remove the modulations or distortions of the mind). Now how can Yoga help to transform the mind? Through Abhyasa (regular practice) and Vairagya (cultivating dispassion). Both are necessary. Regular practice of Yoga helps to cleanse and uplift the inner self. In simpler words, I would say - Yoga brings harmony in our environment. It is the alignment of individual with the Universal Spirit.
If you observe your breath you will find there is a lot of unsteadiness in the breath. You may ask me how and why is this so. The breath has an impact on the mind, and the mind has an impact on the breath. Actually, the breath is the connecting link between the body and the mind. Every emotion has a corresponding rhythm in the breath, and an impact on the body as well. A quiver-free breath is the sign of enlightenment; it is a sign of a calm and pleasant state of mind. A disease-free body, a violence-free society, a confusion-free mind, a inhibition-free intellect, a trauma-free memory, a sorrow-free soul and a quiver-free breath is the impact that Yoga can make on your life.
Yoga makes your emotions softer and more peaceful, and you blossom in your emotions. It brings freedom in your expression and your thought patterns.
If you claim that you are a Yogi, then you should have an undying smile on your face. I would say, that is the sign of a Yogi. Yoga makes your emotions softer and more peaceful, and you blossom in your emotions. It brings freedom in your expression and your thought patterns. These are the real signs of Yoga. It is not just to do with the flexibility of the body. Of course, that too is a part of Yoga. The body becomes flexible, and the mind grows in faith and conviction. If all this happens, know that it is the gift of Yoga, and consider yourself as a Yogi.
You may have observed that a child from time of birth to three years of age is able to perform all the Yogasanas very comfortably. At that age, the child is able to do Pranayamas also, and does everything in a meditative state, even walking. If you carefully observe a child from the time it is three months old, till it grows to three years of age, I tell you, you need not search for another Yoga teacher anywhere. Children can teach you Yoga so perfectly. In fact, we all have grown up doing Yoga. When we stop doing Yoga, the mind stops blossoming and goes through different distortions. So to free the mind from negativity and distortion, we need to take the refuge of Yoga. To rid our society of social ills, we need to take the help of Yoga; be it addiction, intoxication, etc.
Many of our youth are struggling from the problems of addiction. I tell you, if they choose to take up the path of Yoga instead, a different intoxication and energy surges from within that uplifts and takes them to a higher place. I often tell the youth that once you come to me, I shall provide you with the highest intoxicant before which every other intoxicant will fail. Yoga is a kind of intoxication too, but it is one that uplifts you and elevates you to greater progress. It prevents your downfall into ignorance and negativity. It brings a wave of harmony and belongingness throughout society. Such is the greatness of Yoga.
I would once again say that Yoga does not simply mean doing physical exercises. Without the practices of Pranayama and meditation, the experience of Yoga is incomplete. Yoga has two approaches: Anuloma and Viloma. Anuloma means the practices of Yogasanas, Pranayama, meditation, Yama (restraint through self-control), Niyama (discipline), Dharana (to steady the mind’s attention for meditation) and Samadhi (state of non-duality and oneness with consciousness). Another approach is when you first get a glimpse of Samadhi and a slight experience of it, then having Dharana, meditation, Yama and Niyama follows naturally and effortlessly.
We have often seen that when people who have violent tendencies or engage in violence meditate for some time, then they drop those violent tendencies and do more Asanas and Pranayama.
Meditation enhances your intuition and innovative ability. It increases your energy level and makes you more intelligent.
Many people think of the eight limbs of Yoga as a step-wise process to go level by level. They think that one has to strive to become proficient in one level before ascending to the next. This is not really so. I would say that all these eight limbs or aspects of Yoga are woven together and happen simultaneously. When a child is conceived in the womb, then all its organs are formed together. It is not that first the feet are formed and then the arms take shape. No, it is not so. All the limbs and organs develop together. This is why we must take all these eight aspects or limbs of Yoga together at every step. Only then can we experience the fullness and totality of Yoga, and can bring about an extraordinary transformation and experience in our life.
I will take a few more minutes to tell you some more things. See, movement stretched is a dance. When you stretch your body in rhythm, then there is a dance, isn’t it? Sound stretched is music. If we stretch the 'aa-' sound, then it becomes musical. Mind stretched is meditation. Life stretched is celebration. When you think of your life in a limited way and only worry about few people like, 'Oh! What about my family?' or 'What about my things?', then life is not stretched. But when life is stretched and you include your family, friends, entire community and nation then life becomes a celebration. That is what service is all about. Do you get what I am saying?
See, when you do Yoga, just keep everything aside – whether it is your small problems, big issues, politics, social status, rich or poor, etc. Just keep everything aside. I would say, Yoga is one such area which should not be politicized or brought under the realm of politics. Do not drag something as universal as Yoga into caste, religion, race or geographical boundaries. Yoga is above religion and community, it is above social status.In the dimension of Yoga everyone is equal and the same: whether they are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. So can we not keep this one field (Yoga) away from every prejudice and influence?
Now, there are three golden rules for meditation. The first is to be Achaah – meaning that during meditation, have this feeling that 'I do not want or desire anything. For the next 10-15 minutes while I meditate, I do not want anything'. Can you all say this? After 10-15 minutes of meditation, you can surely get back to what you were doing. So this is the first rule for meditation.
We have often seen that when people who have violent tendencies or engage in violence meditate for some time, then they drop those violent tendencies.
The second rule is to be Aprayatna – meaning that for the next 10-15 minutes, just think that 'I shall do nothing, not make any effort'. You need not chant, you need not concentrate or strain the mind to focus on something. You have to do absolutely nothing.
The third rule for meditation is Akinchana – that is to realize that 'I am nothing'. Drop everything, do not think 'I am very knowledgeable, I am a Yogi; I am a sinner, or I am a very noble person; I am very great, or I am very insignificant; I am very intelligent, or I am a third-rated fool', etc. Having either of the two Dharanas will be detrimental for Yoga and meditation. If we just bear these three principles in mind for the next 10-15 minutes for meditation, then we will be able to go deep into meditation. Will you all do this?
I feel tempted to tell you more about meditation. Meditation is the journey from movement to stillness; from sound to silence. Meditation enhances your intuition and innovative ability. It increases your energy level and makes you more intelligent. Got it? No one here would say that 'I do not want to be intelligent', or, 'I do not want to be intuitive or innovative', right? So, all these qualities blossom within you when you meditate. Even the latest scientific findings agree with these facts. Actually it is not the latest. One year ago, scientists in New York declared that if someone meditates for 20 minutes a day for eight weeks regularly, the very structure of the brain changes. The grey matter in the brain increases. This is really something phenomenal. We knew this and have experienced this since the ages. We have seen that by meditation, people’s mind-set changes. They feel very fresh at any time of the day. Now Science too has approved this.
It is said, “Vismayo Yoga Bhumika”. The preface for Yoga is Vismaya or wonderment. When we get into a state of wonder by looking at things around us, then that is when Yoga begins to unfold.