Bhavana – Intension
The practice of yoga, as a whole, is a profound science of internal purification which leads the practitioner very gradually to the realization that “all is one”.
For this to occur, a proper intention and direction of energies needs to be established from the outset of practice, in Sanskrit this is known as bhavana. Bhu, at its simplest form, means “to be” or “to become”, thus if one is to become, then the right bhavana must be wholeheartedly embraced and placed in the mind.
Pattabhi Jois says that without bhavana the outcome of practice will not bear the fruit that yoga promises.
Asana practice is very powerful; it can stir up a lot of energy (as can any exercise). Students who are not taught to make a conscious effort to direct energy upward may fall into a trap. They may let all the power manifest in their bodies and personalities and become highly charismatic; however they will increase the good energy with the bad and may also become aggressive, jealous, selfish, or angry. Or a student may “fall to pieces” destroyed emotionally by the opening process of the practice.
Here are some intentions that work to direct our energies to greater paths:
- Remove resistance from my body and mind
- Detoxify my body and mind
- Have greater compassion
- Develop more awareness or understanding
- To connect body mind spirit
- To connect to a higher consciousness
- To heal physically or emotionally
- Improve your re-action to a situation currently in your life
Throughout your practice, when your mind drifts (as it will), bring it back to your Intension. And when you leave the studio, when your mind starts to worry and wonder, bring it back to your Intension.
To help with Bhavana Pattaabhi Jois teaches of a Sanskrit sloka that goes with the Sun Salute to help the mind with intention. This sloka should be held in the back of the mind during sun salute practice, when this is done it will assist the practitioner with mental and physical strength and therefore will help you achieve what it is you have set out to do in this life. This sloka is from the Aruna Prasna and is in the Krishna Yajur Veda (aruna denotes the time of day when the sun rises in the east). The translation:
- I beseech the sun god to bestow upon me a mind that only allows good things to be heard; may only good things fall upon my ears
- For the opportunity to see only good things; not evil ones
- Please make my body strong and firm so that I may have power to speak only auspicious and divine things, and make my words unwavering in their value
- Give me a long life that I may extol your virtues forever.
This is only the beginning of the mantra, it goes on to ask for longevity, a disease-free body, stillness of mind, powers of concentration, the ability to think profound thoughts and be unwavering at all times, and the capacity to maintain a perfect equilibrium between body and mind.)
Each phrase is synchronized with a sun salute (there are 10 phrases in all), you are not to recite these mantras verbally as that will alter your breathing rhythm, instead you are only required to remember the mantra in the back of your mind. Thus the practice is more Dhyana than recitation.
Bhadram karnebhih srnuyama devah
Bhadram pasyemaksabhir yajatrah
Sthirairangais tustuvagumsas tanubhih
Vyasema devahitam yadayuh
Svasti na indro vrddhasravah
Svasti nah pusa visva vedah
Svasti nas tarksyo aristanemih
Svasti no brhaspatir dadatu
As energy is directed to your intention, you need to be aware of your thoughts because they closely intertwine with your intention. Your thoughts can be distributed into 2 categories; Negative thoughts of desire, ill will and harmfulness and positive thoughts of renunciation, good will and harmlessness. These thoughts are like the polar ends of a magnet. When you notice thoughts of the first kind, negative thoughts, understand that these lead to harm for oneself and others, obstruct wisdom and lead away from samadhi (bliss). These thoughts must be expelled and bought to an end. When thoughts of the second kind arise, understand these thoughts to be beneficial conducive to the growth of wisdom and aids to samadhi (bliss). Therefore, you want to strengthen these thoughts and bring them to completion. Because these are polar thoughts, you can not hold both in your mind at the same time. Intension is not your thoughts. It is the contemplation of thought combined with the choice to take action.
There are times when we need a daily intention to help us with daily life, however we want to have a lifelong intention–one that we repeat to ourselves the same way every time. In Yoga Nidra this is known as Sankalpa or resolve. This should NOT be an affirmation, ex. “I will quit smoking in 6 mos” or “I am going to eat better”, these are statements of will. Your lifelong intention goes much deeper, for example part of mine is “to remain open hearted and go with the flow of life”, or the Serenity Prayer is a good resolve, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
If you are unsure of your lifelong intension, it is OK not to have a sankalpa–that may be your sankalpa. But direct your attention and energy there, most likely one will come, and when it does—you will know.