Did you know that postures were not originally included in the practice of Yoga?
Raja Yoga is the oldest form of Yoga and included mindfulness practices. Later, kriya (purification) techniques were added. Later, still, asana was added.
According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika Yoga is the union of prana and mind with the Self. Getting there isn't so easy. For you cannot control the mind with the mind. Thus, Hatha Yoga and the practice of asana is done to initiate the process of physical awareness so we can become better aware of the more subtle aspects of ourselves.
Hatha Yoga is the process of establishing prefect physical, mental, emotional and psychic equilibrium by manipulating the energies of the body.
We don't do Yoga poses to look good. We do them to feel well. The better we become at doing poses with awareness, intention, steadiness, and balance, the better we feel. If we become skilled at moving through poses with grace and they become a part of our daily lives we have developed equilibrium.
Strength can be weakness. I was recently reminded of this as my left trapezius muscle tightened up into a large marble. I had been repeatedly turning my head to the left without rotating the rest of my body. I know better, but wasn't consciously moving. The result was neck pain and an inability to turn left (I was stuck like Zoolander :D). Awareness, rest and heat were the only cures for the damage I had caused. The strength of my muscle had become a weakness.
Every pose has aspects of strength and mobility. We may be steadying ourselves with our legs while attempting to open our arms and chests. In every sequence of postures we should be moving our bodies in all directions so as to awaken areas that have become rigid and engage the parts that are overly mobile. Practice observing your bodies strengths. Where can you become more mobile? Where can you actively engage?
The main objective of Hatha Yoga is to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind, and energy. This is perfection.
Nothing is flawless or perfectly symmetrical. All things are always transforming, transmuting, and metamorphizing. We practice Yoga asana to change our bodies, pranayama to shift our breathing, pratyahara to become more aware of our energy and emotions, and mindful focus to develop self control. Continuous practice results in continual change. All of the systems of body, mind, and energy interact and effect each other. They are in a constant state of transformation. Rather than remaining stagnant, still, and stuck, practice Yoga and become perfect at change.
When you have a small light in a room at night, the whole room is illuminated. Sadhana is your practice; your light. Like a seed, you must protect it, feed it, and nurture it.
If you talk about, demonstrate, and boast your attainments it develops your sense of ego or "I-ness." You have probably heard me say, "It's not a Yoga show." When guiding a practice my demonstration of the postures is not to a performance, it is a visual aid intended to help you see the intended result. My personal asana practice is done privately. My sadhana is my lifestyle. The pictures I post of myself in postures are intended to enthuse you to try, to join in, to continue to practice, and to engage in your own sadhana.
Keep practicing; keep shining your light. Allow the seed of Yoga to be protected and nourished so that it, and you, may access equilibrium.
To join a scheduled class or book a private session visit our website. Learn more about the practices of Hatha and Raja Yoga through the other articles on our blog. We look forward to sharing the practice with you.