The philosophy of yoga states quite clearly that the body and mind are not separate. Whatever happens in the body will be reflected in the mind, whatever happens in the mind will be reflected in the body.
A person who is suffering from an emotionally traumatic experience will quite noticeably and unintentionally alter their physical posture in response to the mental trauma, the upper back will round, the shoulders rotate internally, they become stooped and very protective of the heart area. The physical reaction to emotional trauma blocks the flow of energy around the body, the blockage causes a stagnation in the body and further disease will follow or intensify.
The body and mind permeate with energy which in yogic terms is referred to as prana which translates as life force or life energy. The concept of prana appears in all the body-mind modalities, “ki” as in Reiki and “chi” as in Tai Chi.
Chakras (spinning wheels of energy) or energy centres comprise the model of the energetic and subtle body, this is where the vital life force (prana) gathers. They’re located along the spine from the pelvic floor to the crown of the head, each has a specific colour and spiritual quality and are associated with a corresponding psychological, physical and emotional states necessary for the development of the “whole” person.
The subtle energies of the body flow through the body via channels referred to as nadi’s which connect the chakras and move the energy.
It’s very important to note that the concept of prana, chakras and nadis is subtle, you can’t go to the Doctor and ask to have your chakras X-rayed or scanned, they don’t exist in a physical realm.
Hatha Yoga was developed to circulate, cultivate, control prana and channel energy around the body. It’s much more than a form of exercise, much more than being physically strong or flexible. In the western world the ideals of yoga have been distorted and focus on contortions of very flexible bodies. Asana or yogic movement aims at creating, developing and distributing subtle energy around the body. The physical attributes are a very beneficial adjunct.
The reason a yoga class is sequenced in a particular way, the time a pose is held and counter poses practised is about energy control and movement, there’s a lot more happening rather than stretching muscles, think about the subtle effects – the inner-cise. Challenge your teachers and ask questions about the class structure and how it relates to prana.
Hatha Yoga is a very complex science that draws on thousands of years of practice and philosophy which has enormous health benefits both physically and mentally.
Do you notice when you walk into your yoga space to practice that not every person looks exactly the same as you? Some people may be taller, shorter, thinner, heavier, younger, older!! Some physical attributes may be an advantage in some poses and a detriment in others. It’s quite reasonable to conclude that if you look different physically that you’re not going to look exactly the same in asana. Don’t try to emulate anyone else in the class, be content and celebrate your own uniqueness. Remember the famous line from The Life of Brian “Your all individuals”. Even if you can mirror someone else in class I can guarantee you will be having a completely different experience.
Santosa (contentment) defined in the 8 limbs of yoga of Patanjali. This niyama seems to have a great deal of significance of late. Let’s face it yoga is all about getting over yourself. Be realistic there are certain poses you may never master, there are certain higher states of mind you will never achieve. Physical, mental and emotional restraints can and will hold you back. Don’t give up but be realistic, remember it’s about the journey not the destination. The selfie era has placed a hole lot of pressure on yogis to “perform” don’t get caught up the “kardashianisation” of yoga. It’s a philosophy of non ego and non competition. I teach yoga to people who can perform asana to perfection but they tell me they would do anything to have quiet mind. I teach classes to people with limited mobility but have great focus, all they want to do is to move with freedom. Please challenge yourself, strive to improve but be content.
Yin Yoga @ Peninsula Yoga Centre with Hayley each Friday at 10.30am
Yin Yoga postures are more passive postures, mainly on the floor and the majority of postures equal only about three dozen or so, much less than the more popular yang like practices. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone. While yang-like yoga practices are more superficial, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body. It is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time. The time spent in these postures is much like time spent in meditation, and I often talk students through the postures as if they were trying to meditate. While in a Yin class you might notice similar postures to a yang class except they are called something else, on a basic level this is to help the students mind shift form yang to yin, active to passive.
So what exactly is Yin Yoga? It is a more meditative approach with a physical focus much deeper than Yang like practices. Here the practitioner is trying to access the deeper tissues such as the connective tissue and fascia and many of the postures focus on areas that encompass a joint (hips, sacrum, spine). As one ages flexibility in the joints decreases and Yin yoga is a wonderful way to maintain that flexibility, something that for many don’t seem to be too concerned about until they notice it is gone.
(Credit:- Hope Zvara)