Find Your Stillness
by Nandita Gopala, M.Sc. – Yoga Therapist
All through my student and early working life, I was in a constant rush to do something, get somewhere, be someone. Being born and brought up in Mumbai, one of the fastest paced cities in the world, did not help. It was only when I took a break to start a family that I realized this. I am sure many of us can identify with this situation. From the time we open our eyes in the morning till we drop tired in our beds at night, we are moving at a frenzied pace.
Other than work, where we have deadlines set for us, we spend our lives acting under a wide variety of self-imposed deadlines: lose five pounds in one month, buy a house by 2021, run the next scheduled marathon, etc. To achieve all of this, we fall into a way of thinking that we have to keep moving faster and faster. We are often unable to cope effectively with stressful situations, which takes a toll on our health, manifesting itself in various ailments, both at the physical and mental level.
We must understand that in all the noise that we make in running after our goals, we forget to listen to the silence or to feel the stillness. It is important to our health to slow down our minds. We need to become fully aware of our actions, reactions, of our feelings and emotions, and of everything and everyone around us.
How can we do this? We can only slow down if we completely let go — but how is this possible, when there is so much to do and so much to achieve? Well, letting go does not mean that the effort has to be withheld or withdrawn. In fact, the effort has to be made in all earnestness to achieve the aim, but once we have put in the effort, we have to simply tell our mind to let go.
It is wonderful how we can apply this to every sphere of our life. The best place to start the practice of letting go and embracing stillness is none other than in yoga class. Start by applying this principle to your daily practice of asanas, pranayamas, and meditation. Yoga guru Patanjali has beautifully brought forth this idea in verse 2.47 of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras:
prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam
Loosen the effort and meditate on the infinite.
Make the required effort with all sincerity, but there must come a time when we loosen the effort and focus on the ananta, or the infinite.
The infinite is right here and now, within each and every one of us. When you focus on the infinite, you will immediately feel the stillness. This will first manifest itself in the asana practice. When you hold the pose steady and focus on the breath, your body becomes completely still and steady, yet it is relaxed. You can then carry this experience to your pranayama practice, wherein you focus on the kumbhaka, the state where there is no inhalation or exhalation. Immediately, you will become aware of the stillness of the breath, and consequently, of the silence and the stillness of the mind.
You will only find the stillness if you completely let go. Then there is nothing for you to hold on to, and nothing that holds on to you. This bhava or attitude will then be manifested in various situations in daily life. When you are faced with a challenging situation and you have given what it takes, you will then be able to slow down, look within, let go, and find the stillness and silence. You are no longer worried about the future and are ready to calmly face whatever life has in store for you.
Nandita Gopalan holds an M.Sc. degree in Yoga from India’s S-VYASA University and is currently a yoga therapist, helping people heal through yoga. She is an MBA, Finance, and worked as a banker for several years before quitting finance to pursue her passion in yoga. She has been practicing yoga for over three decades, combining various traditions such as Yogendra, Bihar, BKS Iyengar and Sivananda schools, and is well proficient in various yogic techniques such as Asanas, Pranayamas, Kriyas, Bandhas, Mudras, and meditation She is the founder of VibrantLife, a yoga-based training company established in 2004. She has trained over 1000 participants in corporates and retail space over the last 13 years. She is a meditation guide specializing in Chakra meditation and therapy.