|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 191 ]
Smt. Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani remarked that, when doing yoga, the first thing that one must be become aware of is "just how unaware they are!"
Most people may assume that because they are cognisant of some of the movements and physical activity around them, because they can carry on a conversation with another person, because they get good grades in school, because they can dress themselves, hold down a job and otherwise function on a day to day basis without dying, that they must be in possession of the faculty of awareness.
Yes, there is some gross awareness required to achieve these things, but the notion that this is awareness would be a stretch of the term according to the yogis.
But how do we become aware of how unaware we are? It sounds like a real paradox! Our ancient Rishis were well aware of this dilemma. The system of yoga that they created is the way to overcome it -- a step by step process that enables the unfolding of greater and greater levels of awareness.
As we have already begun to understand, this science of yoga is a means for conscious evolution—for speeding up the natural process of the 'many returning to the one' -- of the jiva, the eternal soul, cycling through its innumerable incarnations on its journey back to the Divine state of oneness with the Supreme.
Awareness is fundamental to a conscious effort toward evolution. We can't perform any task successfully if we are not truly aware of what we are doing. Having awareness is a necessity for the observance of yama and niyama. In order to adjust our behaviours, we must be aware of not only what they are, by 'why' they are.
Mastery of yama and niyama is paramount to the higher life, therefore the cultivation of awareness, and development of subtler and subtler degrees of awareness is the cornerstone of evolution -- that upon which the stability of the entire structure of the spiritual life rests.
Yoga teaches us four stages, or four levels of awareness which are essential to our ability to practice yama and niyama, and to follow specifically what Sage Patanjali refers to as kriya yoga -- the last three niyamas: tapasya, swadyaya, and ishwara pranidhana...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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