The concept of “absorption” in Yoga

oḿ ity ekākṣaraḿ brahma
vyāharan mām anusmaran
yaḥ prayāti tyajan dehaḿ
sa yāti paramāḿ gatim (Bhagavad Gita 8.13)

I have a student who is a retired chemistry professor. He also knows a great deal about science in general. One day after class he told me that when you look at the night sky, the stars you see are the light emitted tens of thousands of years ago, and the nanosecond the light hits your eye, it “absorbs” into you. The light becomes you.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I do a great deal of counseling in my profession. I talk to people who have severe depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems. Often times, I am the last person they want to talk to and treat me accordingly. I often hear angry words directed at me. I absorb their angry words.

In recorded talks from Prashant Iyengar, he outlines the basic foundations of Laya and Nada yogas, or the yoga of absorption and the yoga of sound. He relays a major tenet in Vedantic thought, that the universe began with OM, and that the universe will dissolve in OM.

In the talks he says that feelings and emotions can be absorbed in mind, then the mind can be absorbed in Prana, and Prana can be absorbed in Laya. In Nada Yoga, mantras are used to create a vibrational field around the seer which will eventually dissolve in OM.

He talks about the chakras, or energy centers of the body. He says the animalistic tendencies can be absorbed in the Muladhara (root chakra). The ego can be absorbed in the Svadisthana (sacral chakra). The passions and fires of lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride can be absorbed in the Manipuraka (gastric chakra). The sorrows can be absorbed in the Anahata (heart chakra). The bad thoughts and speech and be absorbed in the Vishudda (Throat chakra). And finally, the Ajna (third eye) absorbs OM and dissolves the mind.

As I am maturing in my practice, I am starting to see the value in this concept of absorption. Yoga gives us an opportunity to filter out all the unpleasantries of daily life through our practice. We absorb them, and then dissolve them.

How does this apply to the lay practitioner who only does asanas? My feeling lately is that Yoga is sneaky. While you think you are only doing Asanas, all the other systems are getting worked as well outside of your consciousness.

For example, Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) has a large influence around the Vishudda chakra. The throat region. How are we to know that in addition to the physical benefits of the pose, all of our bad thoughts are getting filtered out through this chakra? The same thing can be said about animalistic tendencies being filtered through standing poses.

Think about how you feel after back bends. You feel charged and sorrowless. Ustrasana, or camel pose expands and lifts your Anahata, or heart region…the region which filters out the sorrows.

And lastly, Savasana, which is said to correspond with akasha or space, makes one feel restored and fresh. It comes at the end our asana practice and absorbs all the practice.

As BKS Iyengar taught, all of the yogic philosophy can be transmitted through asana practice. It is our job as practitioners to be aware of it.

Translation of the above verse:

After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality and quits his body, he will certainly reach the highest spiritual plane.

 

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