Nature Life

How to Use Yoga Props Effectively

Nature Life News Reporter - 2018/05/08

Yoga is a complex subject with this very simple definition: yogah cittavrtti nirodhah (the Yoga Sutra, I.2), which translated means, "Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness," according to B.K.S. Iyengar in his book Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yogis divide consciousness (citta) into three parts: mind, ego, and intelligence. In his book, Light on Life, Iyengar compares these constituent parts to layers. The outermost layer is the mind. It is responsible for sifting through all of the information it receives through the five senses, as in "I'm hungry" or "I'm cold." Because the mind constantly generates thoughts and images, Iyengar likens it to a computer that can't stop itself from processing, or drawing distinctions, or making considered choices.
The ego is the innermost layer of consciousness. It is what gives us the sense of our separateness, or "I-ness," and the feeling that we are at the center of everything, says Yoga Journal. The ego is valuable because it is important to know that you are not the stranger sitting next to you on the bus or the tree in your front yard. But the ego has earned a negative reputation because it also holds on to all desires, achievements, prejudices, and opinions and identifies itself as being the sum total of any successes, worries, possessions, jobs, and whatever else that one has amassed. The ego clings to life and often lives in its glorious past or in the fearful future.
In between the mind and the ego lies the middle layer, intelligence. The distinguishing characteristics of intelligence are its capacity to perceive itself and its ability to choose to do something it hasn't done before. In other words, intelligence is the part of our consciousness that enables us to objectively observe ourselves (including the mind and ego) and initiate change. Iyengar describes intelligence as "the revolutionary of our consciousness."
Iyengar says that when one layer of consciousness is active, it expands, causing the other layers to retract. So when we activate our intelligence, we force the overactive mind and clinging ego to recede, giving us the experience of stillness that is yoga.
The Importance of Yoga Props
Most of us think the physical brain is the only place where intelligence and perception occur. But Iyengar says that view devalues the innate intelligence of the body—the yogi's vehicle on the path to stilling the consciousness. He insists that intelligence can be cultivated in every cell of the body. One of the methods he has developed for expanding intelligence is to use props while practicing asana.
The skin is our first layer of intelligence, and the nerves in the skin feed information to the mind, Iyengar says. Since an average square inch of skin contains more than a thousand nerve endings, when a prop touches the skin, our consciousness is awakened and enlivened. Intelligence is developed not because we feel something but because we can observe where the prop touches us and where it doesn't, and in what way the prop teaches us something new. "Every prop must make an imprint on the body," Iyengar says, so that intelligence can be cultivated. There is no purpose to using a prop if we don't learn something from it.

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