I received another newsletter today from Sivananda devotee Swami Sitaramananda, and have reposted below. Swamiji’s messages usually coincide with what I’m thinking about on a given day. (This morning I was reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda. . . ) It looks like Swami Sitaramananda is also having yoga retreats in Vietnam.
The Three Levels of Stress and Relaxation (from a Yogic Perspective) by Swami Sitaramanda
Yoga declares that we are three-dimensional beings: the physical, the astral (or mental), and the causal (or inner spirit). When we are stressed, we experience it on many levels. The most beautiful teaching of Yoga is the teaching about relaxation — relaxation of our body-mind-spirit to remain in our True Nature as already Perfect and Blissful beings.
For physical stress, due to bad postures and constant activities, we need to practice sarvasana, or the corpse pose. It is difficult to become relaxed and especially right after being so agitated and active. This is why Yoga advises you to regulate the movements with the breath first and be able to maintain the poses in a relaxed manner first. After the body and the energy in the body and mind become harmonized and regulated by a session of Yoga asana practice coupled with pranayama, we are most ready to be still and to go deep inside ourselves. Relaxation gives us the possibility to let go of all our self concerns and to tap into the inner resource of peace and joy. The practice of Yoga is non-competitive and helps us withdraw inside and renew the connections with ourselves.
Mental stress comes from worries, negative thinking and feeling, and also a distracted mind. We are running externally trying to solve our problems externally and also looking for happiness outside (as in ourselves, not the outside of nature). But the more we do, the more we feel empty and meanwhile we spend an enormous amount of our own prana (vital energy) externally and still are not able to find peace after fulfillment of our desires. Yoga advises us to look for answers within, by calming and concentrating the mind. Stress comes with too many demands and external pressures and not enough prana to deal with them. By concentrating and simplifying the mind, the Yogis increase prana and satisfaction and are able to deal with whatever external karmic situations are aggravating their situation. Meditation is the best remedy to stress as it recharges the body and mind and helps us to access the universal energy and wisdom.
Spiritual stress is the most important source of stress as it is brought about by such existential questions as: Who am I? Why I am here? Where I am going? What happens after death? Why are things constantly changing? What is my relationship with the Divine? Why are there wars, insecurities, cruelties, etc.? This fear of the unknown and the uncertainty about ourselves are the main source of stress. Yoga provides these answers experimentally when we find our inner silence. Also Yoga promotes satsanga, spiritual company, the positive and peaceful company of Yogis and like-minded people. This helps one to slowly realize the Truth about oneself and the world. The more we find the answers, the more we find relaxation and joy.