Hlada :

Pleasure not of the senses

(How the great teachers of ancient times motivated people in their yoga practice)

The great teachers of yoga who lived during ancient times, like the Buddha and Patanjali, knew that humans thirst after pleasure in one form or other and even those who perform auterities or mortifications of their body do so hoping for a higher refined state of pleasure. These teachers knew that the mind oscillated between craving and aversion and hence to settle the mind without causing dependencies on extrinsic objects (which are conditional), they taught their students to cultivate a subtle pleasure that is not of the senses, through yogic techniques like asana, pranayama and most importantly meditation. In Sanskrit, the word used to define pleasure not of the senses, is hlada (ह्लाद). Patanjali describes this in Sutra 2.14. The word, "Prahlada" , also the name of a child in the story of the Narasimha avatar of Vishnu is also derived from the word Hlada

The Buddha talks of the four Jhanas (dhyana in Sanskrit and Jhana in Pali), states of increasingly refined pleasure starting with joy and transforming into rapture, equanimity and a final subtle state that is synonymous with higher powers. Jhana workshops are offered all over the world and one south bay teacher, Shaila Catherine, offers these as well. The well known meditation teacher Gil Fronsdal, talks about this pleasure not of the senses in this eloquent audio Dharma talk (16:25-21:00). He says that by doing these yogic practices, one is filled up from inside and this contentment that bubbles up inside fills one with harmony without the use of sensual aids.

So, next time you step on the mat, try to pay attention to those feelings of pleasure you experience during certain asanas, be it in Shirashasana (head stand), paschimattanasana (forward fold) or a even a simple adhomukha svanasana (downward dog) and linger for a while in those sensations. This is what in the long run will help you go to your mat day after day after day, inspite of all the chaos happening around you.