MYndful Musings | 13th May 2020

The Value of Challenge & the Veil of Maya


– Sri Dharma Mittra


Whilst writing this I am reminded of a trip to London in 2017 when I spent a weekend at Lords with hundreds of yogis & New York based teacher Dharma Mittra. This teacher is now 80 years young and is truly inspiring. Whilst everything he said was said with lightness & fun there was simple and pure wisdom in his words. A rare thing.


Working on challenging postures* can be really fun, and that alone is a great reason to do it! To be playful and fearless is to be youthful. And if you have a youthful mindset then this will affect every cell in your body and shine out from within you. Perhaps this is why some teachers say things like ‘this pose will reverse signs of aging’. Obviously though, we must be mindful in these endeavours and take care not to over-attach to a farcical outcome of a pose (handstand does not = enlightenment and all that) and it is vital to build a foundation of strength and healthy mobility to ensure we can thrive physically and express creativity through freedom of movement.. Many of you know by now that this is my passion! <<Cue Movement Mapping classes coming soon – eek excited>>

“Move your joints every day. You have to find your own tricks. Bury your mind deep in your heart, and watch the body move by itself”

– Sri Dharma Mittra

But I believe there is so much more to it. Why is meeting challenge on the yoga mat so powerful?

Facing challenge forces you to dig deep for inner strength. And the discovery of that inner strength is a path which ultimately increases self-worth. It helps you build a better relationship with your body,  seeing it’s value you feel driven to take good care of it. Move it enough to prevent stiffness, keep it strong, feed it more natural nourishing foods which give you zest & energy, and avoid ones which lead to heaviness or sluggishness.

And because yoga is a ‘mindful’ practice, when we meet challenge within it we begin to learn things about ourselves by inward looking. Not by being fed the information by someone else. By being intuitive; ‘in-tune’ with our own consciousness. Awareness of each individual system is heightened- digestion, nervous, even the subtle ‘energy body’ known as Pranamaya Kosha (Breath & life-force energy). As we learn to listen, connect & discover these deeper layers of our being we discover our innate wisdom. The deeper layers of the self. This can help us live free from unnecessary stress & suffering.

To offer an alternative perspective; In terms of Chakra theory the lowest 3 chakras deal with the ‘self’, the ego, the attachment to material things. As you begin to develop self-enquiry, the emphasis you place on these ‘self based’ things changes and your perspective shifts to allow you to live a more heart-centred life from a place of intuition (these things relate to the higher chakras), the result of this is contentment & less suffering. Instead of focus being on what you ‘lack’ it starts to be gratitude and feeling abundance in life. Perhaps even ‘bliss’ known as Ananda or Samadhi.

This journey is natural, all that is required is an interest in the true nature of yourself & time dedicated to self enquiry (yoga & meditation are often the vehicles for this). Just keep showing up for yourself, sanctify time to go within & switch off from outside stimulation.

It is the gentle-unravelling-realisation that whilst health coaches, doctors & therapists all have a very valuable vital place, the only person who can truly heal you and help you thrive is you! You alone can know the precise details of what you need for holistic health of mind, body & heart. When you start to find quiet to listen, all the information is there.

The Veil of Maya

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear as it is: infinite” – William Blake

The Yoga Sutras teach that it is the beliefs and opinions we carry that keep us from knowing our higher self (inner wisdom & intuition) and prevent us fro knowing the abundance & bliss of living this way.

There are four qualities of Maya which cloud our perception. These are our beliefs, judgements, desires and aversions. Consider, is it possible to experience without the influence of these things? With true equanimity? Moment-to-moment awareness is where you can find this, in those tiny moments of true presence in the practice! I believe somewhere in that lies the truth of our interconnection to all other life. The oneness & unity which many of us awakened souls are feeling is lacking in the current world.

Click here to link to a further read about the Koshas as a toolkit to lift the veil



*Food for thought– In the Asana, what do you class as an ‘advanced pose’? .. Consider that whilst there is certainly varying levels of demand in different postures, there is no list of such type. We all come to the mat with a very unique combination of body, experiences & lifestyles. Therefore what challenges you might be very different to what challenges the person next to you on the mat. This is a great reason never to compare yourself with anyone else in a yoga studio.

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