Smt. Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani remarked that the first thing that one must 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, 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, that’s true, but the awareness to function at this level is really just a ‘gross consciousness’. It would indeed be quite a stretch of the term ‘awareness’ according to the yogis.

One of the primary functions of many of the practices of yoga is the cultivation of a more subtle awareness. Having that is a necessity for the observance of yama and niyama. In order to adjust our behaviors, 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 perception is the cornerstone of an evolved life.

This starts on the gross level, resulting from the simple biological fact that the eyes are physically open and certain sounds register through the auditory canals of the ears, and so on and so forth. This is being aware in a crude sense, which is a fundamental, inherent characteristic of the animal species — mechanisms for receiving the signals from the surrounding physical environment.

From those signals, the animal brain reacts with pre-programmed instincts: fight or flee; pain or pleasure; eat or drink; sleep or take shelter; or whatever other immediate biological necessity exists.

But mankind possesses in its additional anatomy of the pre-frontal lobes or neo-cortex (‘new brain’), a capacity that animals do not — that which allows it to cognize; to comprehend; to understand. In this way, the human being has the capability to become aware on levels above the gross, instinctual.

As humans, we are no longer merely aware of sensory input, but now we can also be aware of ‘how things work’. This is the first stage of what the yogis would refer to as ‘evolutionary consciousness’.

Yoga teaches us four levels of awareness:

  1. awareness of BODY
  2. of EMOTIONS
  3. of MIND
  4. and of AWARENESS itself

Awareness of Body

Health of the body is a functional necessity in life. In order to gain health, we must first be aware of what brings it and, conversely, what destroys it. The degree of ignorance that most people have today about their physical body is quite alarming. Many have not an inkling of what this biological ‘machine’ of ours, this vehicle that we must move through life within, is made of and how it actually works.

Many people continually gorge themselves on junk foods, drink alcohol and ingest all manner of stimulants, chemical drugs and medications on a regular basis, seemingly without a clue or care in the least for the effects that these things have on their health.

Knowledge of right diet, right habits, right exercise, right rest, right environment, and all of the right actions for the support of good physical health — what is harmful as well as what is good for us — is the first stage of awareness.

This first stage also involves a true perception of what the body is doing. What is your posture like? Do you slump in front of the computer for hours? Or do you slouch in a chair while you read the newspaper? Or stand ‘off-kilter’ with your hips to one side and your shoulders hunched?

In this same way, many people are surprised to discover all the painful and sore spots in their body when someone starts to massage them — tension and stiffness otherwise unnoticed during daily activities.

Yoga brings us many tools for creating awareness of our every ‘gross’ action. You may be surprised to discover …

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