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Positive Health of Mind and Body

by Ruth White(more info)

listed in yoga, originally published in issue 106 - December 2004

His name was Fleming and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog.

There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved. I want to repay you" said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life." "No, I can't accept payment for what I did" the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel. "Is that your son?!" the nobleman asked. "Yes" the farmer replied proudly. "I'll make you a deal. Let me take him and give him a good education. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll grow to a man you can be proud of." And that he did. In time, Farmer Fleming's son graduated from St Mary's hospital Medical School in London and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterwards, the nobleman's son was stricken with Pneumonia. What saved him? Penicillin. The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. Hs son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.

This article illustrates so well the universal natural law that whatever we do in this life will eventually come back in exactly the same proportions. It may not be in the way we expect, but it will come back. I have found this to be so through my own personal practice.

If we practise diligently, the body will change – there is no doubt about this. With this physical change there will also be a change in attitude. It is sometimes easier to see fellow students changing rather than yourself. Whatever passes through the mind will have an effect on the physical body. This effect could be so small that we don't notice it, but it is always there.

Traditionally, Yoga has eight limbs which were compiled by the sage, Patanjali Maharishi (the Father of Yoga – approx 400BC) in the Yoga Sutras. They are a series of disciplines intended to purify the body and mind and lead to a state of enlightenment.

The eight limbs are:

l. YAMAS – The yamas, or restraints (don'ts), are categorized into five moral precepts and are intended to do away with the lower nature.
Ahimsa – non-violence
Satyam – truthfulness
Brahmacharya – moderation in all things, including celibacy
Asetya – non-theft, or an injunction against stealing Aparigraha – non-covetousness.

2. NIYAMAS – The Niyamas or observances (do) are also divided into five moral precepts:
Saucha – purity
Santosha – contentment
Tapas – austerity
Swadhyaya – study of the sacred texts
Ishwara Pranidhana – surrender to God's will, or living with divine awareness.

3. ASANAS – postures;

4. PRANAYAMA – regulation of the breath, or breath control;

5. PRATYAHARA – stilling of the mind through a withdrawal of the senses;

6. DHARANA – concentration;

7. DHYANA – meditation;

8. SAMADHI – experience of non-duality, or oneness in the super-conscious state.

They are not linear. All eight limbs are part of the same body – all here now.

The seventh limb of the Eightfold Limbs of Yoga is of great importance. This limb – meditation – is very much needed in the world today as it has a profoundly quietening effect on the mind. When the mind quietens down, tensions are released and stress decreases.

The body can do nothing without the permission of the mind and, as I have mentioned, everything that goes through our mind will have some effect on the body. So to be experiencing positive health, we need to allow the mind to quieten down. As we begin to observe thoughts going through the mind, we will see that most of them are yesterday's thoughts repeated and will be tomorrow's thoughts. These thoughts, past and future, drain our fine energy. It is only in the recesses of yesterday that fears and attachments dwell. In the light of the present moment, there is only the Now and as Patanjali states in his first Sutra "Now, the teaching of Yoga." This means to live in the present moment is fundamental to Yoga practice. Don't let anything interfere with this. Attend to this moment, listening, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling. Be aware, act as appropriate.

Every negative thought, such as criticism, desire to change the situation to suit you, resistance, anger, jealousy, etc. has a depressing effect in the mind and a weakening effect on the body.

Every positive thought, such as loving, giving, accepting, has an uplifting effect and releases energy. To experience positive health in mind and body, we need to think positively. One student commented that it wasn't working for her. She had a heavy cold which she could not shift and when she spoke, it was all about her cold although she said she had been thinking positively and was surprised the cold was still there. To think positively, we need to envisage the body full of energy and laughter.

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About Ruth White

Ruth White is an established yoga teacher, who was taught by BKS Iyengar. She has two centres for Yoga, one at Fetcham, Leatherhead and the other at Cheem, Surrey. She has produced an entire range of Yoga Videos and DVDs useful for everybody's needs or abilities. Ruth conducts Teacher Training Certificated Courses and Workshops throughout the UK. She can be reached on Tel: 020-8641 7770; info@ruthwhiteyoga.com; www.ruthwhiteyoga.com

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