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.
One Thing at a Time
You may think that you are getting a lot done if you are doing many things at once. However, studies have proven that you actually complete less in the short-term when you multitask. Yoga provides us with the tools to expand our focus over time by offering guidance in the form of one practice at a time. To begin we address that which is most accessible; the body.
Discipline in Practice
Discipline is learned. Embedded within the eight limbs of Yoga are practices that are ineffective unless done with discipline. As we practice, consistently, we develop focus, control, awareness, discernment and more.
Consider the practice of Satya: non-lying or truthfulness. You may think, “I am not a liar.” According to Yoga; Satya is as much about what you say as what you do not say. It is a practice of consideration of your thoughts and words before they leave you; a practice of considering if what you are about to say will help or hurt yourself and others. Often, we will not realize we are lying until the words have left our mouths. Yoga teaches us to become observers of our behavior at all times. This discipline of observation helps us to become aware of habits that are rooted in self preservation. As we continue to practice, we refine our vision and begin to see more clearly.
The Resulting Heat
Have you ever made custard from scratch? In order to do so you must heat is slowly, over a period of time, while stirring constantly. The effect of the slow heat, time and consistent movement can result in a perfectly prepared custard. A lack of discipline and focus could lead to higher heat, shorter time and reduced movement resulting in an unconcealed liquid or a thick, gelatinous mess.
Tapas has many translations: heat, cook, purify, detoxify, zeal of practice, discipline, austerity. Tapas is both the means and the end. Through discipline in movement, breath, mindful focus, time, awareness, observation, effort, restoration, etc. we create heat, purification, detoxification, clarity, transparency, awareness of the Self. Our practice of creating Tapas results in Tapas. Our discipline results in discipline. Our focus begets focus.
The heat/intensity/discipline/passion of our practice cooks impurities out of us and refines us to our base - the Self.
More Than Poses
If you are ready to remove that which you do not need, lighten the load you carry daily, purify and clear away the impurities that poison you so that you spend each day feeling healthier, happier, more joy and ease in your life then you are ready to begin the practice of Yoga.
Chose wisely, for not every practice is guided equally. According to Hatha Yoga a Vinyasa (Flow) Practice is for the advanced practitioner. Would you begin running and start with 10 miles? Would you join a gym and on your first day and lift 100lbs? Approach Yoga in the same way. Begin with a practice that aligns with your current knowledge, strength, flexibility and ability levels. Begin here to develop the discipline and, as you create Tapas, you will know how to progress.
When you're consumed with a busy work-life schedule, wellness is not a priority and often forgotten. We are too preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of life's demands. Opting for what's better is not an option. We prefer to do things that are convenient, easy, and fast. We're eating fast food, skipping exercise, and drinking numerous amounts of coffee. When you do have the spare time to work out, you're exhausted and the only thing you want to do is relax. Since you're seated comfortably on the sofa, why not zone out in front of the TV? Don't feel guilty. We've all done that. So the question remains, how is it even possible to be consistent with your wellness? It takes discipline, dedication, and perseverance with all aspects of your work-life schedule.
One of the most critical details to pay attention to is how you manage your time. Organize your time using a calendar app and a virtual assistant. It will clear some clouds from the chaos in your life. Set a schedule to plan not only work, but also your meals, exercise, and free time. A little can go a long way with wellness. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, enter it in your calendar. Set it on repeat to keep you on track. Be wise and realistic with your time allocation. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself not accomplishing tasks and goals. Inadvertently affecting your overall wellness to a negative state.
Prepare Healthy Meals
If you find yourself eating on the go most of the time, you’re likely eating highly processed fast food items that are loaded with fat, salt, carbohydrates, and sugar. Avoid that at all cost by preparing healthy meals. It’s possible to prepare healthy meals within the same amount of time as getting fast food. Based on The Statistics Portal study in July 2017, a fast food drive-thru service wait time is approximately 4 minutes. This study is based on the quickest fast food drive-thru services. This means that the wait time can be longer. You can prepare a healthy meal in 5-minutes! With meal preparation, it gives you full control to create healthy meals in no-time and done on a regular basis.
Exercise at Work
If you don’t have time to exercise at home, exercise at work. There are many exercises that you can do at your workplace. Stretch and do chair exercises every hour. You’ll forget to do this. This is when an hourly reminder set on your smartphone comes to your rescue. During a break, go for a brisk walk. If you work at a building with stairs, climb up and down the stairwell after lunch to burn off those calories. Don’t sit in traffic. Instead, go to an exercise class or the gym right after work. To make it more interesting, work out with a fellow associate. Having a workout partner will keep you motivated. However you see fit, do something that sparks your interest. You’ll look forward to doing your exercise regimen more often.
Get Plenty of Rest
Without getting enough sleep, you’ll be lethargic and unmotivated. On top of it, you’ll be jeopardizing your wellness and work performance. Make sure you sleep at a reasonable time and no less than 8 hours. Set a reminder during the weekdays if you have too. Save the partying on the weekends and on special occasions. Recharge yourself during the day with power naps from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Any later, it will disrupt your bedtime schedule. A 6, 30, or 60-minute nap will serve you best.
Wellness doesn’t only mean being physically fit and eating right. You can be in the best shape of your life and love your veggies, but if there’s a dark cloud above your head, what good will that do? When you keep a positive outlook in life, it will help you immensely. Start with practicing mindfulness and light meditation daily. You don’t need to be chanting a mantra while seated in a cross-legged position. You can do this anytime and sit however you like anywhere quietly for a few minutes. Then close your eyes, clear your mind, and take deep breaths. Try focusing on your daily affirmations. Believe in yourself and take action each day to accomplish your goals.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a few days or if you want to treat yourself. It’s okay. Consider it a break, but don’t wait too long or overdo it. Stay positive and think about the importance of your wellness. Then jump back into your daily wellness routines. After all, you’re not adopting new habits. You have a calendar. You eat and sleep daily. It’s a matter of being wiser with your time to incorporate work, life, and wellness altogether. In time, it’ll feel natural and you won’t have to struggle with your wellness again.