Encompassing Yoga - An open body, a quiet mind
Yoga is many things to many people and has different emphasis in different Yoga Traditions, In the Hatha (Sun and Moon or Forceful) tradition we begin in the body and breath. Lengthening, strengthening, purifying and aligning the body and our energy. It should be noted that all types of yoga that use the body and breath are considered Hatha Yoga.
In the asana or poses we create attention and horn this attention into deep concentration and awareness. This is a relationship of mind, body, breath and ultimately our true nature.
Working through a series of asana, we use the mediums of body sensation, emotions, attitude, gaze (internal and external) and breath to bring clarity and sensitivity to the pose. From the gross feeling of the body to the fine tuning of muscles and nerves, to the skin and organs. Creating cellular changes allowing the attention and breath to merge with the physical. Working these layers time and time again, being in the moment and not letting the mind drift off. By bringing awareness be our practice we create freedom and we can let go of physical and mental stress. As the energy opens and flows freely, stillness and silence become our companions and we begin to open ourselves to clarity of being. Yoga teachers call this patterning or re-patterning of the physical-psycho-energetic being. This rewiring of our physical nature achieves this stillness and the plasticity of the brain. Our practice is one of transforming at a deeper level, then once again transforming before remerging, as layer after layer peels away.
With this internal (truthful) relationship we naturally find our relationship with the world around us changing.
Yoga is like music, The rhythm of the body
The melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul
Create a symphony of life
An open mind and a quiet heart are both the consequences and prerequisites of yoga practice. Practice in the body alone, the mind should remain passive watchful and alert
The rhythm of the practice is the rhythm of the breath. The breath is free from strain, soft and smooth, it has our attention. We ride the breath and bring co-ordination or synchronization to our body movements, even when sitting and still in the asana there is the subtle movement of breath and attention. At times we may try to deepen the pose and at others rest and be with what is arising. With this attention we learn more about attitudes and ourselves. The inhalation has a natural up ward lifting function and the exhalation has a grounding nature. The nature of the breath determines the asana.
When we practice our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale the air goes into the outer world. The inner world is limitless the outer world is limitless. We say the inner world or the outer world but actually there is only one world.
''Zen mind beginners mind'' Shunryu Suzuki
Asana is holistic as it incorporates all parts of the body in its movements. This allows for balance in our body, stimulating the organs, creating neural stimulation, establishing correct body patterning.
A few points to consider
- Align and engage is the first stage of any asana, here we minimise the possibility of injury. Alignment creates an even uniformed weight and balanced load on joint complexes while muscular engagement integrates muscle tissue creating strength and reliance during the load.
- One of the benefits of our asana is that we apply pressure on parts of the body and its systems, much like acupressure. Stimulating energy points (Marma) and nerve plexus resulting in chemical changes in the system.
- Asana is controlled or engaged with breath and body awareness (mindfulness) as this allows the muscle spindle trigger points to re-set without engaging reflex mechanisms.
- Breath allows the asana to be steady and aware (intelligent) integrating the body- mind and allows for feedback
- Form (alignment) is an important ingredient of asana. The loss of form normally means muscle fatigue and can create stress on ligaments and tendons impeding their ability to support joints and cause injury.
- Ideally, we should have symmetry in the body with all sides having equal bone, limb and tissue balance but due to life styles, accidents and birth defects this is rarely if at all true. The best way of correcting body imbalances is asymmetrical poses, working slowly with attention to each side, repeating the problem side twice. Symmetrical pose can result in the asymmetry remaining as both sides.
- No force or aggression is ever used; always accepting the limits of the body for this is perfect in the moment (relax face, forehead and mind)
- Trauma is stored in the body. Body work and yoga can help to release this trauma but when we do an asana in a bad manner and particularly if we damage or cause pain to the body we create Trauma
- Energy can move inward or outward depending on our focus
- The digestive system (Agni) is important as it is the processing plant of energy and good health. In Ayurveda (traditional Indian Medicine) it consists of the stomach, small intestine, pancreas and liver all located in the abdominal cavity and protected by the pelvis, obliques, back muscles and rectus abdominals. As we breath the abdominal muscles and diaphragm undulate the abdominal viscera in a way giving them a gentle massage and aid in waste movement. This area must be strong and flexible (as all the body). Doing asana that aids this area is important, cobra, locus and bow for the front and seated forward bend and plough for the back muscles. Twists for the side muscles. Doing Nauli, Agni sari and Uddiyana will also assist digestion.
- The importance of drishti (gaze): the eyes are connected to a cranial nerve which is connected to the Para sympathetic system. The gaze should always be soft and open in practice
- All asana (pose) have a function, standing poses awaken the bodies somatic intelligence and strengthen the legs. Forward bends lengthen the spine while backbends open the chest and heart, twists assist in detoxification of the surrounding organs. Inversions allows the blood to drain out of the extremities and rest the respiratory muscles.