The Yoga Place Blog

Raising Global Consciousness

How to turn the word NO into a positive

Our Intention at The Yoga Place is to look for the positive and good in life and encourage you to do the same.

Let me start this with a question. Which word sounds more positive and life affirming to you - YES or NO?

If someone asked me this question and I hadn't thought about it deeply or studied the principles of yoga I would go with YES. And even after thinking deeply and studying yoga philosophy, and more importantly actually practising yoga I would go with YES.

But with this choice of YES as more life affirming and positive I would make the qualification that an YES that was not preceded by a NO would potentially be less life affirming.

Why is this so?

How do we find out who we are? I suggest that we experiment either consciously or unconsciously. And the way we experiment is that we take action - we try out something. If we don't try something how will we ever "know" if it is something that is something that works for us or not?

So we try something and we get results or fruits from that action. Maybe we try it for a while to see if the results are consistent. At some point we make an assessment about whether it is something that works for us - is it something that fits who we are and makes life better or does it make life worse? If it is good we keep doing it (and hopefully give it up if it turns out negative down the track) and if it is negative we discard it. In the act of discarding it we are saying NO.

In yoga this process is called Neti-Neti. In translation it means "not this - not that". It implies that we discover who we are by finding out and discarding who we are not. This means saying NO but is a NO that is based on first saying YES and trying things out.

When we "kNOW" who we are by saying NO to who we are NOT we form a boundary that allows us to contain our energy and direct it, saying YES for who we are.

And if we don't learn to say NO we will find our energy dispersed in all directions, pulled by what ever either holds our attraction or we are fearful of in the moment.

The capacity to be fully open to all possibilities in the moment is the basis of creativity and is the primal YES of life and the source of all growth. In yoga we start each new posture by assuming this position of openness to all possibilities. This pause before you initiate action provides you with the opportunity to arrive where you already are - in the present moment. It allows you to accept where you are and relax into this reality. It allows you to connect to the pulse of your breath and feel the energy of your breath move your body from the inside. Finally it allows you to re-establish your Attitude and Intention in your practice.

From this position of intention you bring your awareness to your foundation and your focal point and engage integrative muscle energy. You contract your muscles from your periphery to the mid-lines of the posture and into your focal point. This connects all the different parts of your body and aligns then into a single unified point. It also creates an outer boundary to contain the energy of your breath. This is the essential NO that allows to focus your energy back outwards as a positive and aligned expression of your integrated inner self.

As your draw your energy and breath inwards from your periphery to your focal point, and hug into the mid-line of the posture, your muscles create spiral movements in your limbs which expand the back of your body. Your inhalation expands your body from the inside and the constraint your created, that defines your boundaries and connects to your centre, allows you to feel the energy of your breath as expansive inner support in the back of your body.

From this position of inner support and integration you engage outer spiral as you extend your energy and awareness organically from your focal point, back to your periphery and foundation. This movement from your focal point outwards is an act of Self expression, a way of saying Yes that expresses your intention from the inside out. It is an act of differentiation where each part of you gets the space to express its own individual uniqueness while remaining connected and integrated to the centre.

When the integrative supporting action of muscle energy, which moves inwards from your periphery to your core, is balanced with the outward moving, differentiating, self expressive organic energy, which flows from your core back to your periphery, the two opposing steams become one. This collapse of dualism and expansion into oneness is called asmita or samadhi and it is accompanied by a radical feeling of ananda, or bliss. This feeling of bliss and expansion is the same bliss and sense of expansion that you experience in true love when you collapse your individual ago boundary and merge it with another.

This is Yoga from the heart. This is action that is aligned and balanced to your own internal Nature and also aligned with the larger Nature of the Universe. It is the balance of action and the energy that supports that action - the balance of space/freedom and stability. At a purely mechanical level it is the balance of flexibility and strength. This is meditation in action. When the asana is practised with a heart based feeling we become one with this feeling. In Neuroscience the saying is that “what fires together wires together”. This is brain plasticity in action. By practising yoga with the 3 A’s of Attitude, Alignment and Action you can slowly transform your life for the positive.

YES and NO are really only two sides of the same single coin. This is the power of yoga to transcend dualism and opposites. This creates freedom and expansion. The opposites of SUCCESS and FAILURE are transcended by turning life into an EXPERIMENT that only has RESULTS. This is living at the edge of chaos - the transformation point between stasis and chaos or muscle energy/stability and organic energy/change. This is the point of maximum “fitness” in complex adaptive systems theory. The leading edge of science is finally catching up to yoga.