In the preceding topic we explained the necessity of developing awareness. Every thing done in yoga should be done with as much awareness as possible so that we can develop the potential of awareness to the maximum. All yogic practices, whether they are asanas or prana-yama etc., help to progressively increase one's awareness if done in the right way with regular practice and over a period of time. The following technique is very simple and will make you more able to observe and feel the different parts of the body. In a way it is similar to shavasana and can be used to induce relaxation in the same way, just as shavasana is an excellent technique for developing awareness1. The practice we will now describe and shavasana can also really be regarded as meditational techniques. There is no hard and fast division between relaxation techniques, techniques to develop awareness and medita-tional techniques. They all basically aim at the same thing and are interchangeable.
This practice is intended to make you aware of your body. Your awareness will be directed to different parts. You have to feel the accompanying sensations and try to create a mental picture of that part of the body. Ifyou can't do this don't worry, only try. Remember, the aim is to be an observer, a spectator of the different parts of the body. Try not to lose yourself in the thinking process. Try to be aware.
In many practices that we will introduce you to in the future one has to be aware of different parts of the body. Without the ability to be aware of these different parts the techniques lose much of their effectiveness. As such the following method can be considered as a preliminary to higher yogic practices. Also this technique will help one to be more aware during asana practice.
Place a blanket on the floor. Lie flat on your back in the same way as described for shava-sana1. Fully adjust yourself so that there is no discomfort.
If you feel any need to move your body or think you might want to during the practice, move it now instead of disturbing yourself later.
In fact it is better to move your body now even ifyou don't think you need to; this will preclude any tendency to move the body during the practice.
Your palms should be open and facing upwards or in any position that you find comfortable. Relax the whole body as much as possible (if necessary do shavasana immediately before this practice).
Close your eyes. Be aware of your body. Try to mentally create a picture of your body and feel your body.
Be a witness. Be aware. Try to become aware of the sense perceptions.
For a short time try to observe as many sensations as you can throughout the entire body.
Then after about a minute be aware of the skin sensations of the right foot. Be aware, though this will be difficult at first. Is your foot cold, warm, tight or whatever? Feel it. Then slowly move your awareness to the calves and thighs, all the time being aware of skin sensations. Feel that they are affecting your body, not your perception. Try to feel these sensations in the body: nowhere else.
Repeat the same thing with the left leg, starting with the foot.
Then be aware of the fingertips of the right hand. Create a mental picture and at the same time feel the sensations. Again feel whether they are hot, cold or whatever. Slowly move your awareness along the palm, the wrist, the forearm and the upper arm to the shoulders, all the time being aware of the mental picture and feelings. Repeat the same thing with the left arm. Be aware.
Now feel the sensations of your cheeks; this is a very sensitive part of the body and should be easy for most people to feel its sensations. Try to create a mental picture. Do your cheeks feel warm, sensitive, cold or what? Be aware for a minute or so.
Then repeat the same thing with the lips. Are they dry or moist? Then be aware of the tongue. Feel the saliva in which it bathes, or does it feel dry?
Be aware of your ears. What sounds do you hear? Be aware of the sounds entering the ears and feel that they are not affecting your being; you are only watching them. Be aware of the eyes. Roll the eyes keeping the evelids closed and feel any sensations that occur. See the different patterns that occur in front of your closed eyes. Be a witness; this should be much easier.
Now be aware of the framework of the body. Create a mental picture of your skeletal structure. Feel that your whole body is supported and held in shape by your bones. Be aware.
Feel the rigidity of the bone connecting the knee to the foot of the right leg. Create a mental image and feel it; be aware. Then be aware of the thigh bone. Do this for one minute. Then repeat the same thing with the left leg.
Then be aware of the bone that gives structure to the right arm. See it as something separate from yourself. Be aware of the bone that holds the right biceps firmly in place. Repeat the same thing with the left arm. Then feel and see a mental picture of the boxLike structure of the chest closed off at the top by the shoulders. Be aware of the whole spinal column from top to bottom. Start from the base and slowly try to be aware of the different parts as you progressively move your awareness towards the top of the spine. This is a little difficult but with practice you will clearly feel and mentally see the spine. Do this for a minute or so, if necessary moving your awareness up and down a number of times. try to feel the whole body again. If possible see a mental image of your body. Be aware of as many body processes as you can. Feel the contact points of the body with the floor. Do this for a minute or so. Slowly move your body. Open your eyes. This is the end of the practice.
This practice is intended to develop your ability to visualize the different parts of the body as well as the processes of awareness. Try to be a witness as far as you are able throughout the practice. If your attention wanders from the practice don't worry but try to be aware of the mental processes that occur. This is the most difficult part for we tend to lose ourselves in our thoughts. Don't become tense if you suddenly realize that your attention was located elsewhere. Accept this as a natural tendency of the mind. Once you are aware that your attention was elsewhere, continue the practice from the point at which you were sidetracked.
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