Yoga for Awareness

and Letting Go

Swami Dharmananda

Swami Dharmananda

Assistant Director

Swami Dharmananda is a faculty of the Sivananda Institute of Health (SIHY) and is one of the main teachers of Yoga Philosophy and Meditation at the Ashram. 

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Yoga is not escaping life, but facing life’s difficulties with detachment and fortitude.

Swami Vishnudevananda said, “If you are carrying some heavy luggage on your head and you are crossing a river and the water is now up to your head but you still want to hold the valuable bundle on your head, the more you try to hold it, what will happen? The more you will go underwater. The more you throw it away, the freer you are to swim across and save yourself.”

Yoga shows us how to let go of our luggage, i.e., the useless negative thoughts and emotions that keep us from knowing the peace we truly seek. Too many times the difficulty comes to us and we don’t have the tools to “cross the river”.

We instead try to escape from the situation or deny the situation rather than living our life with open eyes and an open heart.

Swami Dharmananda talks during a Satsang at the Sivananda Yoga Farm.

Often, we act out of long-established stress patterns that find their root in fear, attachment, and desire. The fight/flight response has caught us and suddenly our choices are very limited. 

I can run from this or I can fight through this. Either way, the threat to my well-being seems real and tangible. Under the influence of this perceived threat, we are less able to connect to our own innate wisdom and are more likely to fall prey to negative emotions or extreme thoughts. 

To compensate for these uncomfortable emotional states, we fall back to tried and true habits such as smoking, drinking, eating unhealthy foods, unhealthy relationships, etc.

Yoga teaches us how to “let go” and to detach from these stress patterns and the behaviors that follow them. We learn how to keep calm even when a strong negative emotion such as anger arises. To detach means to witness the anger, understanding that we are not the emotion.

Students meditate overlooking a view of a pond.

Meditation is one Yoga practice that helps to build awareness and detachment from the mind.

We can say, “I see there is anger in my mind,” rather than succumbing to the anger itself.  We remain peaceful even when circumstances seem to go against us or don’t meet our own rigid expectations.

Swami Sivananda says, “Fortitude is a sweet mysterious mixture of courage, calmness, patience, presence of mind and endurance.” Fortitude is our capacity to endure difficult or stressful situations.

It is based in detachment and discrimination, being able to tell what is real from what is not real. It is understanding that karma is to be experienced and lessons are to be learned.

Students practice Yoga asana as the teacher demonstrates.

Daily Yoga is a powerful practice with many benefits, such as more positivity and less stress.

Through daily Yoga practice we gain awareness of negative emotions and thought patterns. Through trial and error we transform the negative to positive, freeing ourselves from expectations, desired outcomes, and disappointments.  

Swami Sivananda adds, “Every failure is a stepping-stone to success. Every difficulty or disappointment is a trial of your faith. Every unpleasant incident or temptation is a test of your inner strength. Therefore, nil desperandum. March forward hero!”


  1. Loraine Prichard

    A rather loose translation of nil desperandum, which actually means do not despair. I think this is even more encouraging than the original comment of March forward hero. It doesn’t seem heroic to pursue one’s personal awareness.

  2. Grace Anglin

    Thank you for your words and reminders. Ironically I was listening to Eckhart Tolle at the gym this morning and the same topic came up in his lecture. Guess I needed to hear the message again.

    • Swami Adi Parashaktiananda

      Thank you for sharing. We are glad to re-affirm this important message for you.


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