August 26, 2015

A Changed Mind: A Man’s Journey into Yoga Practice.

courtesy of author, daniel donachie

I have met many truly remarkable men along my path into yoga and will navigate my journey with them as signposts.

Let’s give the first word to Patanjaliwho says that yoga is “the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind” (citta vritti nirodahah).

So yoga is the state when all of our thoughts have ceased. What has modern day yoga got to do with this process I wonder?

Come back 10 years with me, to when I was standing in the shala of Pattabhi Jois observing with awe 300 supreme athletes twisting themselves inside out.

I was inspired and full of wonder. How did this old Indian man attract so many dedicated practitioners from around the world, and more importantly, had their thoughts ceased?

Having practiced for well over 10 years to the letter of instruction, I can tell you that my thoughts had not stopped, however my practice did offer me a level of stability in my life and as a physical practice I could not wish for more.

Fast forward five years and I find myself in a small hut in the middle of Wales with a teacher who only accepts certain students based upon their birth chart. Yogi Manmoyanand is openly scathing about modern yoga and teaches an ancient system from his Himalayan ashram. For two years I religiously performed breathing exercises four times daily (including a midnight wake up call) awaiting the news that I had become purified.

The call never came, but I did have a profound experience along the way.

His system of asanas (yoga poses) include the practice of holding the breath in postures. This is powerful. During a concentration exercise, I experienced my heart in a way that changed the way I see the world and myself. It seems apparent that my thoughts did in fact cease for a short period and this was truly blissful.

However, it did not last.

A few years ago I had the great fortune to meet Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudevwho teaches the spiritual aspects of yoga. As luck would have it, he is a great football (soccer) fan and he agreed to come in and speak to the players of Everton FC, whom I was working with at the time. A group of players the night before their biggest game of the season would probably be the hardest audience you can imagine.

He walked in draped in flowing Indian robes and gracefully captivated the players for an hour. A sense of deep relaxation pervaded the room. I could feel the players responding to his presence. We won that game with ease and the players reported feeling more relaxed than ever before.

During an intense course lead by Sadhguru, I again experienced a cessation of thought. This time, it was a different sensation and I felt that all of my boundaries to the outside world simply melted away, allowing a different experience of life. He does offer postures and other modern practices, but the root of his system is kriya, which is the combination of meditation, breath work and mudra (specific energetic hand positions).

This man has a presence that influences everyone he comes into contact with and I felt that he was fully present with me. He seems to embody the essence of Patanjali’s opening statement.

Despite these glimpses, my thoughts have not stopped for a longer period of time and yet I practice every day. My practice is now a combination of all of the experiences I have met. My asana practice is slow and my focus is on being fully in the body. Every subtle sensation is observed and this leads to a deep relaxation. Practice of these energizing and awareness refining asana, I simply sit and observe consciousness at play within my being. This awareness seeps into my daily life much of it remains deeply rooted in the subtle sensations of the body. The body has become my trusted advisor and it often provides insights for my coaching clients.

Osho writes that consciousness explodes if it can be fixed on a single point within the body for a period of time. My experience seems to point in the same direction, and in a society that is craving deeper connection and meaning, yoga shows the way.

I have learned something from the remarkable men I have met. A yoga class might just set your heart on fire and begin the inward journey for you and a meeting with a remarkable human might just do the same.


Relephant Read:

Discovering the Yoga Smile: My Unexpected Yoga Journey.

Relephant Bonus:


Author: Daniel Donachie 

Apprentice Editor: Lindsay Carricart / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Flickr/Andreas Ivaarson


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