Hatha Yoga describes the Shatkarma in the second chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Shat is Sanskrit for 6 and Karma is the word for Action. The ancient Yogis believed that in order to understand the universe you needed to first clear out the impurities, toxins and distractions of humanity. To do so you had to begin by cleaning out your body.
The Encyclopaedia of Traditional Asanas describes hundreds of seats; various ways in which to move the body in an effort to eliminate the limitations that result in discomfort. The Sanskrit word "as" means "to sit." Asana can also be interpreted as "establishment in the original state." The postures were designed to create heat (Tapas) allowing us to eliminate toxins and impurities in the physical body so that we could move into svabhava (introversion). The practice of Asana eventually provides us with steadiness and inner awareness of our True Self.
Breath and movement are the keys to Yoga. Every breath directs and deepens movement. Directed breath or kripalu.org/resources/why-do-pranayama Pranayama specifically directs your body, mind and internal energy. Proper practice of Pranayama can lead to the creation of body heat, spiritual experiences and energetic shifts. The formal practices described by Hatha Yoga are done so with a specific intended use and course.
By today's standards some of the practices described by Hatha Yoga are downright disgusting. Swallowing a milk soaked rag (Dhuati Karma) doesn't sound like something I want to do. However, there are many practices that we continue to apply today in order to keep our bodies clean.
Neti: Nasal cleaning involved the use of a string threaded up the nostrils and through the sinus passage. Today we use neti pots, sprays and tissues.
Dhauti: Cleansing of the digestive tract included milk soaked rags and forced vomitting. Modern science has helped us to identify foods that can clean our system.
Bhasti: Thank goodness for modern science and doctors who help us to keep our colons healthy.
Trataka: Blinkless gazing was used to clean the eyes. Many of us practice this just because the view is so beautiful. Eye drops assist us when we are ill or require a little help on a dry day.
Consider that which you do to keep your body healthy and clean. Many of our current practices and habits have roots in those of the ancient Yogis. What practices can you add to you life to clear away the toxins from the world around you, eliminate that which you do not need and create a bit more space for internal focus?
You are out of Balance
You night not notice it, but you have become so comfortable with how things are that you just accept that this is how you are supposed to feel. When was the last time you checked in with yourself? When was the last time you tried something new? When was the last time you felt uncomfortable? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes of time to allow your thoughts to run wild? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes to quiet those thoughts?
How well do you know your Self?
In the movie Anger Management, the main character is asked to explain who he is. Can you do this? Without describing yourself as what you do, who you know, where you live, what you enjoy? Can you describe your Self?
Try this: write down that which you do, where you live, what you enjoy, who you know, who you are in relation to others, etc. Now, describe what you look like, what you love and what you dislike about yourself.
Now, read what you have written. Is this you?
You are not your self.
Through the practice of yoga asana we develop an understanding of our habits. We learn that we have, over time, developed practices that protect us, that compensate, that hide the imabalances.
When we direct our breath, we identify the limitations we place upon ourselves and the ways in which we cheat ourselves from accepting who we are and what we need.
When we sit or rest in silence we learn to listen to the chattering within us. We begin to hear our body and breath. We notice the useless thoughts buzzing around in our heads.
Movement, breath and silence help us to identify all of the imbalances to which we are blind; it sheds light upon that which we have allowed to hide in the darkness.
You are your Self
We are not here to direct you through a workout or fix your ailments. We are here to help you to identify your imbalances. We are here to guide you through asana sequences that address physical and energetic change. We are here to guide you through breathing practices that shift your awareness and spark emotion. We are here to encourage you to be silent so that you can hear the chatter of your mind.
It's time to show up. To be here. It's time to seek synchronicity.
Yoga's sister science, Auyrveda, brings balance to our body, breath and mindful practices. By evaluating our lifestyle, eating, sleeping and working habits, we begin to paint a picture of who we are. We begin to see the difference between the self and the Self! We become whole only by breaking apart the pieces of our own individual puzzling selves. Each of us is like a puzzle that appears to be put together, but when you look closely, you see that there are pieces added or misplaced. As we practice, as we shed light upon the darkness, we begin to identify the pieces that need to be removed or replaced.
Book a Synchronicity Session today.
Identify imbalances. Learn how to return to your true nature. Return to synchronicity through specified practices.
Four ways to shed toxins and feel healthier through Yoga
We've learned that Hatha Yoga or Union through Effort focuses on cleansing the physical body first. Unlike the practice of Raja Yoga which focuses upon the Yamas & Niyamas as the beginning of our practice, Hatha Yoga focuses on controlling the body.
If we can understand how our body works, then not only can we control it but we can respect it. Cleansing isn't necessarily about using a neti or swallowing a milk-soaked rag. It's about thinking about what you're putting into your body, how you use your body and what you do to your body. When we understand our bodies, we understand ourselves and we are better able to look upon ourselves with honesty.
Have you ever viewed yourself with honesty? Without denying the aspects that you dislike or fear to admit to? The saying "you can't make others happy unless you are happy yourself" is about how you view yourself not about how much money you make, the car you drive or the clothes you wear. Know yourself and you'll learn that these things are not you. Know your body and you will find out who you really are.
Maybe you overdid it this weekend. Perhaps you really like cheese. Somehow an entire cheesecake disappeared and you think it might be in your belly. Regardless of how the toxins got into you, your task is to now get rid of them. Yoga can help!
1) Kriya: Cleansing
One of the most important practices described in Hatha Yoga is purification. In fact, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika explains that you cannot move toward Raja (mindfulness) until you have purified yourself completely. Hatha Yoga describes the practices of Satkarma which include cleansing of the eyes, sinuses, digestive system and areas of elimination.
We must keep in mind that Yoga and the practices described in the ancient texts were identified and the practice began around 5000 years ago. I don’t recommend practicing some of the satkarma described, today, as they may not create the intended results.
Spend 5 minutes gazing upon a singular object or point of focus. Try to soften your gaze and avoid blinking. Allow your eyes to tear.
2) Parvartate: Revolve
After using a towel or sponge to soak something up, what do you do with it? I typically wring it out to squeeze out that which was soaked up. We can do the same with our bodies. Twisting, rotating or revolving in our bodies can help to move things within us. Gentle twists can massage your internal organs and change the relationship between our bones, joints and muscles.
“Reclining Waist Pose”
Lay on your right side and extend your legs and arms at a 90° angles from your torso (reach them forward). Keep your legs stacked. Lift your left arm toward the ceiling and then reach it away to the left. Turn your head to face your left hand. Breathe deeply for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
3) Viparita Karani: Inverted Process
We spend most of our lives upright. Like the plants that reach for the sun, we stand upon our two feet with our heads above our hearts. Yoga Asana, or postures, are categorized based upon the primary movement that occurs in our bodies when we do them. Inversions are described as a position in which your heart is above your head. When we invert our bodies we change the way in which we see things, the way blood flows, the way fluids in our bodies move and the way gravity affects our bodies. Gentle inversions create a shift in experience and perception of the world. I like to imagine that inverting my body is like turning a container upside-down. Everything on top dumps out and everything on the bottom is revealed. Shake things up and you might discover toxins that you didn’t know you had stored away.
Beside your sofa or bed lay a pillow. Rest your hips on the pillow and put your calves on the bed or sofa. Stretch your arms out to the sides. Rest with your eyes closed for 40 breaths.
4) Cultivate Opposites
Yoga is a practice of cultivating opposites. In order to remove the toxins that result from habits, we have to identify them. If you spend most of your day sitting, you should create opportunities for walking. If your job includes managing people you should step back and let someone else take the lead in other situations. If you really like strongly flavored foods, you should include bland foods on every dish as a compliment.
Make a list of your favorite activities and foods. Then, beside each item on the list, write down something that is opposite or complementary. Seek out opportunities to cultivate the opposite.
If you would like to learn more or receive individualized guidance in any of these techniques I would be happy to schedule a session. As with any new activity begin gently and seek out guidance from a qualified teacher.
Do Not Force. Do Allow.
Kriya Yoga is a practice that incorporates Tapas (discipline), Svadhyaya (self study) and Isvarapranidhana (dedication). Our lineage at Lake Tahoe Yoga is Rajahatha. Each class incorporates movement, self study and mindfulness in an effort to induce Kirya or cleansing.
Every posture clears away impurities and toxins in the form of sweat. While moving, you are guided to focus upon various aspects of the postures as well as your own body's experience. The more consistently you show up for the practice, the more you will feel the effects of Asana (poses).
During your next Yoga class notice in which postures you can feel the heat resulting from movement or stability within the pose. Become aware of the moment when your body begins to express that which you do not need.
Balance Effort & Release
Kriya is one of the most difficult aspects of Yoga because it requires that we release our grasp and detach from expectation. Our habit is to hold, grasp, clench and grip. More difficult is relaxation; to let go and to allow change to occur. Svadhyaya is the practice of observing, witnessing and then identifying the places in which we grasp or hold. Once we become aware of what we are doing, when, we can begin to release and detach.
The next time you are practicing Yoga Asana try shifting your focus and become a witness to your movements. Observe in each posture the places where you are gripping or clenching. For most of us, this happens in our jaws, hands and shoulders.
It's Not About You
Back bending is often referred to as Heart Opening in the Yoga world. We tend to find fear, frustration and agitation as we bend in reverse. Our bodies are tight and unwilling to open. We are fearful of what might present itself as we open our hearts. We are so used to hiding, stuffing away and repressing things that are hurtful or cause us sadness that when we are confronted with releasing these things we become tense as we are outside of our comfort zone.
Physically, as we work through the practice of cleansing (Kriya) you may notice that your posture changes, your attitude toward yourself and others may shift and you may find yourself more willing to receive and let go.
During your next practice establish Sankalpa (intention) bring to mind someone, somewhere or something that could use the benefits that the practice brings. Dedicate your practice to whatever it is you bring to mind. Let go of your desire to keep that which you create.