Many people like to do yoga asana exercises, as the yoga exercises, the breathing exercises, and the concentration while performing the yoga exercises can give many physical and mental health and fitness benefits when being done regularly. The body and the mind will feel good and light after the yoga asana and pranayama practice. The vast variations of the yoga exercises also give some sort of challenges and stimulation to the restless mind that craves to be stimulated and kept interested all the time. Or else the mind feels bored, dulled, depressed, meaningless, void or empty. But all these benefits and effects of performing the yoga exercises are impermanent and they are not the end of yoga practice.
Yoga practice is meant to allow the mind to go beyond all the qualities of name and form, to stop chasing after the objects of name and form, to be free from restlessness, to realize the truth of things as they are, and be free from ignorance, egoism, attachment, identification, desires of craving and aversion, and thus be free from suffering.
The benefits and effects derived from the yoga asana practice that consumes lots of time, effort, concentration, patience, determination and perseverance of the body and the mind, can help to interest the mind to be busy doing some physical and mental activities that don’t just benefit oneself physically and mentally, but at the same time one won’t have the free time, free body and mind to be engaging in any unhealthy physical and mental activities that can harm oneself or other beings. It is very good even if one isn’t interested in the complete annihilation of ignorance and egoism.
All these benefits and effects are momentary, and don’t guarantee one freedom from ignorance and suffering, if one doesn’t know how to be free from egoism, attachment, identification, and desires of craving and aversion.
The root cause of suffering is ignorance (not knowing the truth of things). From ignorance, there arise egoism. From egoism, there arise attachment, identification, desires of craving and aversion. From all these attachment, identification, desires of craving and aversion, there arise all sorts of impurities and restlessness. From impurities and restlessness, the mind has no peace and perceives suffering.
Most minds want to be free from suffering and have peace, but not many are interested when come to the yoga practice towards selflessness (the annihilation of egoism, attachment, identification, desires of craving and aversion), attributelessness, namelessness and formlessness.
We can be putting our body in many different yoga asana poses after years and years of repeated practice of all these yoga poses, becoming more skillful and effortless while performing all these yoga poses, but, the mind might still be influenced by egoism and ignorance, it’s not free from attachment, identification, desires of craving and aversion, impurities and restlessness. The mind is constantly being affected, disturbed, influenced and determined by what it perceives through the senses of what it sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches and thinks. There is no real peace which is beyond impermanence, which is not the momentary calmness, peaceful feelings and pleasant sensations that derived from performing some yoga exercises.
There is a common reaction of most minds who love yoga or love to do the yoga exercises – After we manage to perform certain yoga asana poses, the ever restless and dissatisfying nature of the egoistic mind will have this thought about “What next?” and try to do some other more challenging poses or new exercises that it never done before, one after another one. Even after the physical body has come to a point in achieving its highest strength and flexibility, the mind is still wondering “What next?”
By challenging and pushing the body to go beyond its physical limitation, and making the mind feels good doesn’t guarantee one peace and compassion. Peace and compassion has nothing to do with physical conditions and abilities, or the impermanent states of the mind. It is freedom from ignorance and egoism.
The restless mind is never contented with just doing the same few basic yoga poses everyday, which is all that we need to help to balance and calm the mind, preparing the mind for meditation. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what the mind does. It gets bored. It needs new toys, new interests, new stimulation.
Even though the body and mind is busy spending lots of time and effort into practicing yoga asana exercises, years after years, and attaining many benefits of the exercises, but we are not really practicing yoga at all, if we never train the mind to go beyond the qualities of name and form, to free the mind from ignorance, duality, egoism, attachment, identification, intention, expectation, desires, greed, dissatisfaction and restlessness. Instead we keep on trying to satisfy the desires of craving and aversion of the restless mind, keep on feeding and strengthening the egoism of the mind and all its modifications while performing the yoga asana practice.
May all be free, by practicing yoga, not just doing some yoga asana exercises.