The first thing we teach you when you come to yoga is that you are not the body. That’s the first thing. It is not the last thing. It is the first thing. We teach you that you need to take care of the body but you are not the body. That is the principle underlying in the asanas, because you cannot really do the asanas if you are not mastering the body, if you are not able to tell the body to do what you need it to do. When you do the asanas you have to be able to tell the body “I want you to hold this for three seconds”, “I want you to move to the right”, “I want you to switch to the left”, “I want you to put your back this way or that way”.
So first you start to give orders to the body. Then the body screams and says oh no more, “I want to do this instead”. What do you say to the body at that time? You say, breath, relax. I understand that you have some pain, but still just hold it, breath and relax. It is good for you, because you straighten yourself out. So you go through the different movements, the 12 basic postures. Somebody has to tell you what to do. It is a strange thing, to re-learn that your body is not you and you are the master of the body, somebody has to tell you what to do, and yet you are using the body all the time. You start to rediscover your body with yoga.
Why is it that you are using your body all the time, every single day, and you have to come to yoga class and somebody will tell you turn right, turn left, and you rediscover your body? What is different in it? Can somebody tell me? You use your body all day long for 30 years, and your mom tells you to come to yoga, and you come to yoga, and then somebody tells you turn left, turn right, leg up, leg down, and something is different about it. Why?
Student:You are making connection, being conscious of the movements.
Swami Sita: You become conscious of your Self, and you bring back the mastery of your body. The simple movements, right, left, do this, do that. The body listens to you. You become the controller, you get back into the driver’s seat, you become the driver, and you are the one that becomes conscious of yourself. Isn’t it beautiful? Just a simple thing.
So you can use your body all day long and yet you are not conscious, you lose yourself. What is the body for?
Swami Sita: Movement? Movement to do what? To do anything in this life? You just move everywhere and do anything? The body is like a car. Like you drive a car, fine and good. The car is used to go anywhere that you like. If it is in good condition it can go anywhere that you like, but can the car go anywhere and do anything?
Swami Sita: No, you don’t do that. You don’t get in the car and go anywhere unless you are completely losing your mind and are very bored and completely don’t know what to do with your life. Do you get in your car and go from one parking lot to another parking lot, go to the highway, and you go here, you go there, you have not idea? Yes or not? Usually you get in the car to?
Student: To go somewhere.
Swami Sita: To go somewhere, is it not? Because you have the intention to go somewhere to do something. So the body is not just to do movements and to do anything, it is only a vehicle.
So the first think you learn you are not the body, the body is only your vehicle. When I say the word ‘body’ you need to understand ‘vehicle’. That is your first lesson in yoga. The moment we say the word body you equate it vehicle. Do you understand? All the words that you always related to your body, tall, fat, beautiful, blonde, etc. you have to drop them. All those things that you relate to the body drop them and replace them with the word vehicle. “The body is my vehicle.”
Now the second thing, the body is a vehicle and the vehicle comes with what? It is a body that you drive, the red Mustang, beautiful shiny, comes just with the body? It comes with? (Student says with an engine). The body comes with an engine. The engine of the body is the mind. In general we say it is the astral body, but for the inner instrument we use the word ‘the mind’. The body comes with the mind.
So lets say that you drive the body as your vehicle. So the vehicle is made out of two components. The external thing called the body, physical, and the internal thing called the mind. So when you sit in the drivers seat in that body and mind vehicle to go somewhere, because you are not going to sit in the car, which is a vehicle, to sleep, sometimes you do, but it is not really the meaning of it. It is not the use of it. It is not the purpose of it. The purpose of the car is not to sleep in. It is to bring you somewhere.
So the body comes with the mind, the body and mind vehicle. The mind is also a vehicle. Mind is engine and vehicle. Do you understand what it means by mind is a vehicle? (Swamiji asks one of the students what it means) (He says, it means that the mind drives the body to do what you want to do) And the mind is a vehicle for? (The student is unsure of the answer). When you say it is a vehicle it means a tool, an instrument. So when we say that the mind is a vehicle it is implying that the mind is . . . ? (The students does not know what to say). Are you your car? (Student says no). Are you worth ten thousand dollars? So, you say no, this is my car it is not? (Students says it is not me). Thank you. So, when we say that the mind is a vehicle we are saying that the mind is not? (Student says It is not me). Thank you.
So the mind is not me, I am using the vehicle. The mind is not me, the body is not me. The body and the mind are vehicles, and I am using the vehicles. So everything is in order. You are using the vehicle; the vehicle is not using you. Even though you drive the car all the time, but the car is not driving you. You drive the vehicle. Who is the boss here? (Student says, I am). Thank you.
You are the boss of the vehicle, of the body and the mind. And you can be remembering this all the time. Otherwise what will happen to the body and the mind, the vehicles? (Student says we will act without thinking). That’s is correct. And in the case of the car what would happen to it, if the driver were sleepy and unconscious? (Student says it crashes in the lake). It crashes in the lake, thank you. So it is very important. Yoga teaches you the first lesson that you need to be conscious, otherwise your body and your mind will crash in the lake. You need to be conscious.
And what makes us become unconscious? What does it mean being unconscious? (Student says, taking action without thinking about it). So what kind of action you can take without thinking about? (Students say walking, work, speaking, jobs, driving). Everything all day long you are driving the vehicle and you can be completely on automatic pilot. You are unconscious about it. Lets say you put the car in cruise control. You are on the highway. On the highway you know all the conditions, you know the speed, you are on the right lane, you know you are on the right highway, and you know that you want to take a short break, and you put the car in cruise control, but you cannot fall sleep, right? You still consciously put the car in cruise control, and the moment that you push the bottom and get out of the cruise control you have to take control of the car, otherwise you will get killed. So even that you have set the cruise control you are still the master of the car. So from time to time you use this body and mind in automatic pilot.
There are certain things you don’t have to be completely all the time aware. Like you don’t need to be aware to walk from here to there without falling. Your mind has already learned all of these, so it is on automatic pilot. The functions you go trough during the day, but you are still the master, and you can take that back at will anytime. What do you do during the yoga class? (Student says take control). You completely take control.
During the yoga class even simple movements you are completely in control, because you are re-learning to . . . ? (Student says, to be conscious), to be conscious of your self and you are really re-learning that you are not the body and the mind, because sometimes you forget, you lose the automatic button, you fall sleep, you lose the mastership of it and the car is about to go into the lake, then you go to the yoga farm and you do yoga, so you can become connected and conscious again of the Self. That means of who am I, of the “I Am”.
Yoga practices are things that we do in order for us to change consciousness, to switch consciousness from the consciousness of being in automatic pilot, which means be unconscious doing things without knowing. Driving the car but not direction. The car is driving you because you lose the control you forgot yourself. Yoga practices are things that we do repeatedly that has been giving to us by the ancients in order for us to practice, in order for us to change consciousness and to recover or to remember our true Self, to remember our Self.
The purpose of yoga is to recover, to remember your Self, your beautiful Self, your happy Self and your fulfilled Self, and to recognize when you are not, and to be able to do those things in order to switch when you are not into who you are. And when you do that practice again and again and again for a long time, very long time, what happens? Then you don’t make mistakes again.
~ Om Tat Sat ~
by Swami Sitaramananda
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm
Grass Valley, CA 7.20.2010
© Swami Sitaramananda 2014 No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.