Preparing to lose your mind:
One point which is absolutely clear in all the Sanskrit discussions on yoga is the sense that the yogi prepares himself for a very, very difficult journey to undo the influence and habits of the mind. To do this he must subject himself to a very intense form of personal trauma by stripping away all the things that make life familiar and understandable to him. Basically, you’re stripping away your identity and the constructs of the false ego. What we’re talking about here is losing your mind and your sense of self as you’ve come to know it.
To prepare for that kind of journey you have to be willing to go through very intense and often difficult emotional experiences in order to overcome the influence of your own dualistic mind which we have described as being constantly in the mode of accepting and rejecting; accepting comfort and rejecting discomfort.
This dualism must be replaced with the willingness to go through very difficult and trying emotional experiences in order to transform yourself. This doesn’t mean that transformation is only painful and horrible.The end goal is to develop love and compassion and joy but the journey to this goalis going to be for most people, punctuated by some difficulty because you have to let go of what you know.
The scary place of the Unknown:
Andrew Geed a famous writer/philosopher once said that, “the difficult part of crossing the ocean is letting go of the sight of one coast before you get to see the other.” This is the scary part of the personal journey of transformation because before you understand who you are going to be, you have to lose sight of who you were and that moment in the middle is very disconcerting.
So the process of transformation is very challenging, sometimes lonely and often you can become overwhelmed with a deep form of grief or anger, perhaps questioning…“why did I get myself into this situation?”. This is why it is of unbelievable importance to develop the ability to endure the difficulties on the path of transformation which asks you let go of everything you once were to become the pure and unconditioned soul you want to be.
In sanskrit this willingness to experience and to feel the good and the bad equally is called Titiksava. Titiksava means that the yogi tolerates the highs and the lows that come with existence here in this material realm; where sometimes experiences are sweet and amazing and exciting and sometimes sad and painful. The yogi simply is willing to feel everything. He is the Experiential observer.
Himalayan yoga trains you to endure willingly:
So how does Himlayan yoga figure into this Titiksava? Himalayan yoga is a form of yoga that uses your body as a training ground to develop the willingness to feel anything and everything.
Now we all know it’s easy to feel fun and happy things. What we have to work to the willingness to feel the uncomfortable things. It is resistance to pain and discomfort that creates most of the problems we have in everyday life. Resistance means pushing back, pushing against something instead of flowing. What we want in life is to flow. We want resilience; to be like water that can move around problems and difficulties and adapt.
Eliminating resistance is a very important step in personal transformation. And the only way to eliminate resistance is to be willing to feel the discomfort that is on the other side of resistance. One of the first forms of real freedom that you can experience in human life is when you become unafraid of pain. We know that the fear of pain is sometimes worse than the pain itself and it is the resistance to possible pain that disempowers you.
A lot of the control that the world and other people have over you is based on your fear of pain. If you lose your fear of pain and death then you become and unstoppable force.
How to do it?
When we teach Himalayan yoga we combine pose and breath and an unwavering determination to feel discomfort. These three things are really all that is involved. There are no fixed sets because you can use any pose and modify it for yourself to generate discomfort. There is always a point in any pose where your body feels discomfort and resistance.
The point to Himalayan yoga is that you take your body in a pose to that point of intense discomfort and resistance, just before actual pain and injury and then you just stay there, feeling that discomfort. Don’t try to meditate your way through it or try to get to the other side of the discomfort. Instead, feel it. This choice that you make to willingly feel the discomfort is the aim of Himalayan yoga.
In this practice, the breath is very important. The moment your body begins to feel something uncomfortable, the sympathetic part of your nervous system becomes engaged and tries to get you to stop to avoid the discomfort. During Himalayan yoga however, you must over ride your nervous system by signalling through your breathing that everything is ok. By breathing in a specifically controlled manner, ie. slowing down your exhalation and making it at least twice as long as your inhalation, you will override your nervous system. Slowing down the exhalation sends a signal to the nervous system that what you are doing is ok and that you are meant to be in this uncomfortable experience and that you want to do this.
Himalayan yoga is very extreme. The poses are held for a long time and the experience is super intense because you are literally training your mind to learn to be present during discomfort. This choice to not run away from discomfort but to stay and feel it will develop Endurance and Resilience – Titiksava.