Tag: Hatha Yoga

YogaTreePose.epsI noticed in the very first hatha yoga class that I took, I was able to focus more easily. I also noticed a remarkable release of energy. I was lucky that, at the time, yoga was not as popular as it is now. I didn’t know what to expect, so this created a more open-minded experience for me.

I struggled, at times, to make hatha yoga practice a regular part of my life. With continued practice over a long period of time, I eventually developed an easier relationship with the positions and how they help to create a healthier connection to my body.

As a yoga teacher, I learned that the new students who benefit most from their hatha yoga classes seem to have certain similar qualities: persistence, willingness to respond to suggestions, openness to the idea that the postures/asanas are explorations of the body/mind/breath systems, not rigid structures to be imposed. Such students also seem to get the importance of the relaxation aspect of the positions.

So I recommend these tips when a student first comes to a yoga class:

  • Do not try to “keep up”
  • Stay as relaxed as possible
  • Understand that the practice takes time to master
  • Do not impose rigid expectations on yourself
  • Notice the negative impact of frustration and impatience
  • Above all, do not overwork the body or be influenced by what other people are doing
  • Do not strive beyond capacity
  • Err on the side of caution, and you will make rapid progress

Then, yoga classes will become a lovely foundation for home practice that does not feel like a struggle or a burden. A sense of ambition and competition in yoga is more of an obstacle than an aid.

 

(By the way, I studied yoga with Sri Satchidananda who founded the Integral Yoga Institute. This is a gentle, breath-focused and meditative yoga. Not all hatha classes have this orientation.)

The Spiritual Journey

Warrior Pose

Except for a small candlelight, darkness
hunkers around me like the pit
into which I could easily fall.

Instead, I stand legs far apart, arms raised,
shoulders released, breath moves up. Pointing at
opposing walls, shooting through my fingers,
I can almost see

the electric charge that awakens my cells,
creating an outrageous lift to reach out against
the downward curve of night.

 
(c) Gudrun Mouw
April 8, 2015

A Poem

LotusCloseupMomI finished the final hatha yoga class of the spring series this morning. We don’t usually go this long into the summer, but there had been unique difficulties with space.

After teaching the class, I sat down to continue my contemplation of a verse from the HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA by Swami Muktibodhananda, sent to me by a fellow yoga teacher as a birthday present. Yesterday, I was puzzled when reading the verse about not “bathing in the morning…,” and I also wish to examine further, in the same verse, the instruction about avoiding “tasks which produce pain in the body…” I have violated both “rules” in the last two days. Today, I study Swamiji’s commentary and am relieved to read how she clarifies the first part of the verse by adding that one should not bathe in the morning with cold water when the weather is wintery. I nod, of course.

The second caution, which I try to practice and often relate to my students, about avoiding tasks which produce pain, is sometimes hard for me to follow when I am doing yard work. Years ago, I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. The health practitioner who told me this also said: “You are the most healed patient with this disorder I have ever seen.” When I heard this, I thought I was home free; but every once in a while I see a recurring symptom, especially, when I push myself without realizing I have gone beyond my capacity to finish some outdoor project such as weeding, fire clearance, planting and watering.

Taking a warm bath before teaching the class this morning, however, is something I instinctively did to counteract the back pain resulting from too much yard work the other day, even before reading the clarification. Today’s study of the HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA verse also reminds me of my guru, a raja yoga master. I heard him say more than once, “Yes, there are various ideas a yoga practitioner may find useful to follow, but you might also have to make an adjustment for the sake of your health.” I am grateful that I have not felt the push to blindly adapt arbitrary belief systems.

What I have always loved about being a student and teacher of raja yoga is the encouragement I get to investigate and decide about the many practices and suggestions for myself. No yoga dogma is the happy result. At the same time, I’m aware there is more for me to learn—I need to work shorter hours; I need to work smarter.

Still, if my goal is to experience peace, love and freedom, how can dogma be helpful? My experience of Raja yoga is that it begins with an ethical foundation, moves me through mindful, physical, mental, emotional and energetic explorations with an eye towards an ultimate goal, whether it be samhadi, satori, freedom from suffering, clarity of mind, ease of body, or other visions about what my ideal human experience might be.

 

Gudrun

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