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Makarand Salaskar
Mind Muscle Connection
 

There are more than 600 muscles in our body.  The muscles attached to the bones are known as skeletal muscles.  

These Muscles comprise of two parts – the Bulk of the Muscle and the Rope of the muscle, also known as Tendons  Bulk of the muscle is made of Fibres and microfibers known as ‘SARCOMER’  

These microfibers are arranged in filaments just like two combs meshed together. When the muscle contracts these filaments come together .

When the muscle is stretched they are separated.  

 

But how does the muscle work  ?  

The brain controls the muscle. 

The Brain has the map of the body. It decides which muscle should move. 

The muscle moves when it receives the order from the brain.     

Through the motor nerve the brain tells the muscle to contract.  

 

Contraction is an Active function of the muscle.  

When the muscle contracts, length of the muscle decreases and the tendons pull the bone to create movement.  

At the same time, the opposite muscle stretches for the movement to happen.  

Partially contracted state of the muscle is called Muscle Tone.              

Even though the muscle is not active, it remains in partial contraction.  Muscle tone helps to maintain posture.  

Stretching on the other hand is not an active function of the muscle.    

Muscle is relaxed when it is gradually stretched and held at it final position.  

In weight lifters there is over toning of the muscles as the focus is mainly on Contraction. The opposite muscle is not properly stretched.  

Hence they are usually less flexible.  

At the same time, when the muscle tone is less and the muscle is weak , there is  a tremor during lifting weight or holding a posture.  When muscles are weak holding an Asana for a longer duration is not possible.  

Also When the muscles are weak, various wrong muscle groups are engaged to hold the Asana. This is excess and unnecessary effort.  

 Therefore a balance between Muscle Tone and Stretch is necessary.     

 As the muscle tone and Muscle stretch is balanced, the right muscles are used to perform the Asana so that effort is limited and precise.  

 Maharshi Patanjali says: प्रयत्नशैथिल्यानन्त्यसमापत्तिभ्याम्॥  

The mark of progress in an Asana is the lessening of the effort.   

 

 

So is Asana a workout?  or are there any differences between Workout and Asana   

In All Workouts, there is continuous repetitive action, whereas In Asana, there are 3 movements – Entry , Hold & Release.  

In all workouts the heart rate increases. As heart Rate increase, breathing is intensified. 

But in Asana, the heart rate is maintained and breathing is controlled.  

As the Heart Rate increases during a workout, metabolic rate increases and more energy is consumed. Whereas in Asana, metabolic rate is normal and less energy is consumed.  

During Workouts, the awareness is normally turned outwards and focus is externalised. For eg:- listening to music or looking at screens can be incorporated in a workout.  
Whereas in Asana, the awareness is turned inwards and the body and breath is observed. 

After an hour of Workout, one is exhausted and needs rest to recover. Whereas Asana itself is rest and one feels energised.  

     
     

    Both Workout and Asana perform different functions and are equally important 

    • A good workout increases metabolism  
    • It improves digestive capacity  
    • It helps to lose or gain weight depending on personal goals. 
    • It trains the body to spend energy and recover energy 

    When Muscles are regularly stretched during Asana Practice they relax.  

    When the length of the Muscle is increased, blood circulation improves and the muscle is nourished.  

    Toxins are flushed out effectively.  That’s why you feel relaxed and energised after performing Asanas.  

     This means that there is a Relation between the State of Mind and the Muscles 

    The Mind Muscle Connection  

    The Brain which controls the muscles is also influenced by Emotions.  

    Under influence of Emotions, the brain is unable to co-ordinate the Muscles to perform precise action.  

    The muscles can remain stiff, under heavy influence of emotions,  

    Even Professional athletes are sometimes unable to perform under the influence of Emotions and Stress  

    Also, when under stress people are unable to keep still and keep shaking their hands or legs.  

    This is emotional influence of stress on the muscular system.  

    This shows how emotionally disturbed one is.  

     Through the Yogic practice of Asana and Pranayama , the limbic system of the brain which is responsible for behavioural and emotional response is calmed.  

    Studies show that Yoga practitioners are less reactive to negative emotions.  

    They manage their energy efficiently by disengaging from negative emotions and focussing their attention on the tasks at hand.  

     As negative emotions are not allowed to interfere, the brain has more free resources.  

    Probably that’s the meaning of the term ‘Free your mind’ 

    Once the mind is free from all negative thoughts, it is ready to focus on whatever you want.   

    It is ready to Concentrate! 


    Read More
    Makarand Salaskar
    Mind Muscle Connection
     

    There are more than 600 muscles in our body.  The muscles attached to the bones are known as skeletal muscles.  

    These Muscles comprise of two parts – the Bulk of the Muscle and the Rope of the muscle, also known as Tendons  Bulk of the muscle is made of Fibres and microfibers known as ‘SARCOMER’  

    These microfibers are arranged in filaments just like two combs meshed together. When the muscle contracts these filaments come together .

    When the muscle is stretched they are separated.  

     

    But how does the muscle work  ?  

    The brain controls the muscle. 

    The Brain has the map of the body. It decides which muscle should move. 

    The muscle moves when it receives the order from the brain.     

    Through the motor nerve the brain tells the muscle to contract.  

     

    Contraction is an Active function of the muscle.  

    When the muscle contracts, length of the muscle decreases and the tendons pull the bone to create movement.  

    At the same time, the opposite muscle stretches for the movement to happen.  

    Partially contracted state of the muscle is called Muscle Tone.              

    Even though the muscle is not active, it remains in partial contraction.  Muscle tone helps to maintain posture.  

    Stretching on the other hand is not an active function of the muscle.    

    Muscle is relaxed when it is gradually stretched and held at it final position.  

    In weight lifters there is over toning of the muscles as the focus is mainly on Contraction. The opposite muscle is not properly stretched.  

    Hence they are usually less flexible.  

    At the same time, when the muscle tone is less and the muscle is weak , there is  a tremor during lifting weight or holding a posture.  When muscles are weak holding an Asana for a longer duration is not possible.  

    Also When the muscles are weak, various wrong muscle groups are engaged to hold the Asana. This is excess and unnecessary effort.  

     Therefore a balance between Muscle Tone and Stretch is necessary.     

     As the muscle tone and Muscle stretch is balanced, the right muscles are used to perform the Asana so that effort is limited and precise.  

     Maharshi Patanjali says: प्रयत्नशैथिल्यानन्त्यसमापत्तिभ्याम्॥  

    The mark of progress in an Asana is the lessening of the effort.   

     

     

    So is Asana a workout?  or are there any differences between Workout and Asana   

    In All Workouts, there is continuous repetitive action, whereas In Asana, there are 3 movements – Entry , Hold & Release.  

    In all workouts the heart rate increases. As heart Rate increase, breathing is intensified. 

    But in Asana, the heart rate is maintained and breathing is controlled.  

    As the Heart Rate increases during a workout, metabolic rate increases and more energy is consumed. Whereas in Asana, metabolic rate is normal and less energy is consumed.  

    During Workouts, the awareness is normally turned outwards and focus is externalised. For eg:- listening to music or looking at screens can be incorporated in a workout.  
    Whereas in Asana, the awareness is turned inwards and the body and breath is observed. 

    After an hour of Workout, one is exhausted and needs rest to recover. Whereas Asana itself is rest and one feels energised.  

       
       

      Both Workout and Asana perform different functions and are equally important 

      • A good workout increases metabolism  
      • It improves digestive capacity  
      • It helps to lose or gain weight depending on personal goals. 
      • It trains the body to spend energy and recover energy 

      When Muscles are regularly stretched during Asana Practice they relax.  

      When the length of the Muscle is increased, blood circulation improves and the muscle is nourished.  

      Toxins are flushed out effectively.  That’s why you feel relaxed and energised after performing Asanas.  

       This means that there is a Relation between the State of Mind and the Muscles 

      The Mind Muscle Connection  

      The Brain which controls the muscles is also influenced by Emotions.  

      Under influence of Emotions, the brain is unable to co-ordinate the Muscles to perform precise action.  

      The muscles can remain stiff, under heavy influence of emotions,  

      Even Professional athletes are sometimes unable to perform under the influence of Emotions and Stress  

      Also, when under stress people are unable to keep still and keep shaking their hands or legs.  

      This is emotional influence of stress on the muscular system.  

      This shows how emotionally disturbed one is.  

       Through the Yogic practice of Asana and Pranayama , the limbic system of the brain which is responsible for behavioural and emotional response is calmed.  

      Studies show that Yoga practitioners are less reactive to negative emotions.  

      They manage their energy efficiently by disengaging from negative emotions and focussing their attention on the tasks at hand.  

       As negative emotions are not allowed to interfere, the brain has more free resources.  

      Probably that’s the meaning of the term ‘Free your mind’ 

      Once the mind is free from all negative thoughts, it is ready to focus on whatever you want.   

      It is ready to Concentrate! 


      Read More
      Makarand Salaskar
      Mind Control through Abhyasa & Vairagya

      Mind is the problem, Mind is the solution. 

      Nothing affects us more than our minds and hence, every one of us tries to control it. Seldom have we achieved success in our endeavor which makes us curious about this art. The reason behind calling it an art is its subjective nature.

      A and B suppose are painters and both see a flower, inspired by it they decide to paint it on a canvas. The flower is same, the way of expression is same, but the manifestation will be different. Similarly, the mind control too is a mixture of conscious (technique), subconscious and unconscious which makes it very much subjective.

      Mind-Control is a fascinating game. It takes a lot of practice and patience to win. This game takes skillfulness, awareness, sense of humor, integrity, strategic planning and a heroic aptitude to keep going and not get discouraged in the face of failure.

      In the Gita, Shri Krishna explains Arjuna how to attain supreme state of Yoga. After listening to him Arjuna says in bewilderment:

      योऽयं योगस्त्वया प्रोक्त: साम्येन मधुसूदन |
      एतस्याहं पश्यामि चञ्चलत्वात्स्थितिं स्थिराम् || 33||
      चञ्चलं हि मन: कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम् |
      तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् || 34||

      O Krishna, The system of Yog that you have described, O Madhusudan, appears impractical and unattainable to me, due to the restless mind.1

      The mind, O Krishna, is restless, turbulent, powerful and obstinate. It seems to me, that it is more difficult to control than the wind.2

      Hearing this grievance of Arjuna, Krishna gives a timeless reply:

      असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |
      अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण गृह्यते || 35||

      Undoubtedly, O Arjuna, the mind is restless and hard to control. But by practice (Abhyasa) and dispassion (Vairagya) it can be controlled.3

      Abhyasa and Vairagya

      Abhyasa and Vairagya are the foundational precepts of Yoga Practice. Patanjali Yogasutra have a categorical emphasis on Abhyasa and Vairagya. Through Abhyasa & Vairagya (Practice & Detachment) the association of the mind with the thought modifications (vrittis) can be stopped and a state of Concentration can be reached.  

      To further understand ‘Abhyasa ’ in detail let us go through a dialogue between Sri Ramakrishna and a devotee, where Guru Ramakrishna call attention to a point which everyone needs to remember:

      Sri Ramakrishna: ‘Don’t sit idle simply because your spiritual consciousness had been awakened a little. Go forward. Beyond the forest of sandal-wood there are other and more valuable things- silver mines, gold mines and so on.’

      Priya: ‘Sir, our legs are in chains. We cannot go forward.’

      Sri Ramakrishna: ‘What if the legs are chained? The important thing is mind. Bondage is of mind, and freedom is also of mind.’

      Priya: ‘But the mind is not under my control.’

      Sri Ramakrishna: ‘How is that? There is such thing named Abhyasa , yoga through practice.  Keep up the practice and you will find that your mind will follow in whatever direction you lead it. The mind is like a white cloth just returned from the laundry. It will be red if you dip it in red dye and blue if you dip it in blue. It will have whatever color you dip it in.’4




      Practice and dispassion are no doubt two keywords to control the mind but how to imply it in real life is the question. The armaments we need to bring it in life stream are:

      • Strong will
      • Desire and Aptitude to comprehend the nature of the mind

      The will to control the mind can be strengthened when we deliberately surrender pleasure as the sole objective of our life. It is like having a servant who knows you are dependent on him. Servant has become the master.

      Pleasure is not Happiness

      Pleasure must not be confused for joy or bliss. There is much difference between pleasure and joy. Pleasure means enjoyment of sense pleasures or the gratification of ‘unripe ego’. Both of which are obstacles in the path of attainment of joy or bliss. The desire of joy or bliss is integral to us, our real nature being Existence- Knowledge-Bliss. (Sat – Chitt - Ananda)

      No doubt, there will be obstacles and failures on this path causing frustration and hopelessness, but at such time one should remember controlling the mind was never easy for even the men of noble stature like Arjuna.

      Shri Krishna says in Gita:
      यततो ह्यपि कौन्तेय पुरुषस्य विपश्चित: |
      इन्द्रियाणि प्रमाथीनि हरन्ति प्रसभं मन: || 60||

      इन्द्रियाणां हि चरतां यन्मनोऽनुविधीयते |
      तदस्य हरति प्रज्ञां वायुर्नावमिवाम्भसि || 67||

      The turbulent senses, O Arjuna, do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man, striving after perfection.

      Just as a strong wind sweeps a boat off its chartered course on the water, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can lead the intellect astray.

      The Buddha teaches:

      Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself. 6

      From the above opined we can understand that how difficult it is to control the mind. It is in fact a heroic task and desiring it itself is a symbol of noble mind. Hence failures should not be taken seriously as no success is achieved without it. Instead, failures should be considered as spurs to more determined, sustained and intelligent efforts.  We should always believe and never doubt that the perfect mind control is possible. All thoughts to the contrary must be eschewed like poison.

      References :

      Bhagavad Gita

      1VI. 33.

      2VI.34.

      3VI.35.

      5II. 60 and 67

       4‘M’ The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, tr. By Swami Nikhilananda, (Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1964), p.499

      6Dhammapada, verse 103.


      Read More
      Makarand Salaskar
      Mind Control through Abhyasa & Vairagya

      Mind is the problem, Mind is the solution. 

      Nothing affects us more than our minds and hence, every one of us tries to control it. Seldom have we achieved success in our endeavor which makes us curious about this art. The reason behind calling it an art is its subjective nature.

      A and B suppose are painters and both see a flower, inspired by it they decide to paint it on a canvas. The flower is same, the way of expression is same, but the manifestation will be different. Similarly, the mind control too is a mixture of conscious (technique), subconscious and unconscious which makes it very much subjective.

      Mind-Control is a fascinating game. It takes a lot of practice and patience to win. This game takes skillfulness, awareness, sense of humor, integrity, strategic planning and a heroic aptitude to keep going and not get discouraged in the face of failure.

      In the Gita, Shri Krishna explains Arjuna how to attain supreme state of Yoga. After listening to him Arjuna says in bewilderment:

      योऽयं योगस्त्वया प्रोक्त: साम्येन मधुसूदन |
      एतस्याहं पश्यामि चञ्चलत्वात्स्थितिं स्थिराम् || 33||
      चञ्चलं हि मन: कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम् |
      तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् || 34||

      O Krishna, The system of Yog that you have described, O Madhusudan, appears impractical and unattainable to me, due to the restless mind.1

      The mind, O Krishna, is restless, turbulent, powerful and obstinate. It seems to me, that it is more difficult to control than the wind.2

      Hearing this grievance of Arjuna, Krishna gives a timeless reply:

      असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |
      अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण गृह्यते || 35||

      Undoubtedly, O Arjuna, the mind is restless and hard to control. But by practice (Abhyasa) and dispassion (Vairagya) it can be controlled.3

      Abhyasa and Vairagya

      Abhyasa and Vairagya are the foundational precepts of Yoga Practice. Patanjali Yogasutra have a categorical emphasis on Abhyasa and Vairagya. Through Abhyasa & Vairagya (Practice & Detachment) the association of the mind with the thought modifications (vrittis) can be stopped and a state of Concentration can be reached.  

      To further understand ‘Abhyasa ’ in detail let us go through a dialogue between Sri Ramakrishna and a devotee, where Guru Ramakrishna call attention to a point which everyone needs to remember:

      Sri Ramakrishna: ‘Don’t sit idle simply because your spiritual consciousness had been awakened a little. Go forward. Beyond the forest of sandal-wood there are other and more valuable things- silver mines, gold mines and so on.’

      Priya: ‘Sir, our legs are in chains. We cannot go forward.’

      Sri Ramakrishna: ‘What if the legs are chained? The important thing is mind. Bondage is of mind, and freedom is also of mind.’

      Priya: ‘But the mind is not under my control.’

      Sri Ramakrishna: ‘How is that? There is such thing named Abhyasa , yoga through practice.  Keep up the practice and you will find that your mind will follow in whatever direction you lead it. The mind is like a white cloth just returned from the laundry. It will be red if you dip it in red dye and blue if you dip it in blue. It will have whatever color you dip it in.’4




      Practice and dispassion are no doubt two keywords to control the mind but how to imply it in real life is the question. The armaments we need to bring it in life stream are:

      • Strong will
      • Desire and Aptitude to comprehend the nature of the mind

      The will to control the mind can be strengthened when we deliberately surrender pleasure as the sole objective of our life. It is like having a servant who knows you are dependent on him. Servant has become the master.

      Pleasure is not Happiness

      Pleasure must not be confused for joy or bliss. There is much difference between pleasure and joy. Pleasure means enjoyment of sense pleasures or the gratification of ‘unripe ego’. Both of which are obstacles in the path of attainment of joy or bliss. The desire of joy or bliss is integral to us, our real nature being Existence- Knowledge-Bliss. (Sat – Chitt - Ananda)

      No doubt, there will be obstacles and failures on this path causing frustration and hopelessness, but at such time one should remember controlling the mind was never easy for even the men of noble stature like Arjuna.

      Shri Krishna says in Gita:
      यततो ह्यपि कौन्तेय पुरुषस्य विपश्चित: |
      इन्द्रियाणि प्रमाथीनि हरन्ति प्रसभं मन: || 60||

      इन्द्रियाणां हि चरतां यन्मनोऽनुविधीयते |
      तदस्य हरति प्रज्ञां वायुर्नावमिवाम्भसि || 67||

      The turbulent senses, O Arjuna, do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man, striving after perfection.

      Just as a strong wind sweeps a boat off its chartered course on the water, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can lead the intellect astray.

      The Buddha teaches:

      Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself. 6

      From the above opined we can understand that how difficult it is to control the mind. It is in fact a heroic task and desiring it itself is a symbol of noble mind. Hence failures should not be taken seriously as no success is achieved without it. Instead, failures should be considered as spurs to more determined, sustained and intelligent efforts.  We should always believe and never doubt that the perfect mind control is possible. All thoughts to the contrary must be eschewed like poison.

      References :

      Bhagavad Gita

      1VI. 33.

      2VI.34.

      3VI.35.

      5II. 60 and 67

       4‘M’ The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, tr. By Swami Nikhilananda, (Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1964), p.499

      6Dhammapada, verse 103.


      Read More