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Living by suggestion

In the Fundamentals of Yoga by Shree Brahmananda Sarasvati, he writes:

Suggestion is the underlying and fundamental cause of all mental phenomena…The whole universe is nothing but suggestion; the world lives by it. The greatest power of nature is the power of suggestion…we are constantly moving every moment by our suggestion. First we think, then we do. First we plan, then we accomplish that plan. The newborn baby is not able to walk like a young child; it gives constant suggestion to its body through the mind and after one or two years’ practice of suggestion and trial it becomes able to walk…

So how does suggestion pertain to the practice of asana and relate to who we are as individuals as well as collectively?

In our asana practice, every thought that enters the mind, from the focus on a slow and steady breath, to our mind suggesting our bodies move in a specific way, to the emotional aspects of having the confidence to practice to our fullest potential, comes from suggestion. The negative thoughts also come from suggestion, fluctuations of our mind constantly trying to send us back into the tailspin of illusion. After all, our perception of the world is based on our understanding of self, or ego, which dies with the mind – it isn’t ‘real’. What we think suggests how others feel when they are around us, and ultimately becomes the negative and positive words and actions we put out into the world. Each individual uses their own power of suggestion to influence the collective whole, setting the energetic vibrations of our total experience.

I have had many students who are relatively new to yoga tell me that they have no control over their breath; they forget to breath and become red in the face before the instinct to survive takes over and they take a deep, gulping breath. Their minds are elsewhere, so busy with trying to ‘hold’ the pose and with the sensations of the physical body being in a position of discomfort that they haven’t yet learned to create space or time for suggestion.

In an open class, it only takes one student’s tension of holding the breath, lack of physical and mental awareness, insecurity, to affect the whole group.

Imagine you are hurriedly preoccupied with moving into the future when you hit a wall. Because you are hurried you don’t take a step back to waste precious time in thinking about ways to go around, or through, the obstacle you’ve hit. A more likely scenario is to crash into it again and again, in the same way as the first time, never getting anywhere. This is how it can feel for the new yoga practitioner to practice asana without a guide to offer up suggestions for alternative ways to use the body to move in and out of postures. However, with practice and patience, one’s perception widens and new ideas are given space to expand. In this way that through the practice of yoga we grow, and in this way we can have a positive impact on the collective whole of which we are a part.

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