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Disclaimer: The ideas and practices explained below are for educational purposes only. They were not added by a licenced medical doctor. Claims of there healing capacity should not be taken as law, and can be a health risk unless consulting a Medical Doctor beforehand. Your doctor can tell you if you have any contra-indications to these practices. For your own health-sake, be reasonable; practice Non-Violence with yourself and consult with a physician beforehand. The author will take no responsibility.
The stereotypical description of what people associate 'Yoga' with is:
A physical practice that is undertaken by hippies/cult-followers/movie-stars/athletic-junkies/religious-ascetics who twist themselves into pretzels.
As you will read on you will learn how far that perception is from truth. First, the practice of the Asanas (physical postures) is called Hatha. Second, the Asanas are just a fraction of the totality which is Yogic Science or Raja Yoga also known as 'The Royal Path'. Yoga has more aspects to it then just toning and conditioning the physical body -- which it does in a very intelligent way -- and if done often enough, in a balanced way of course, will show results not just in physique but in health, mood, and vitality. The other aspects of yoga will partially be discussed throughout the page and other wiki pages. Other aspects will not be mentioned due to them being outside the authors current scope of knowledge.
Chances are that you will not learn a big portion of what is written here in an average yoga class. Due to the way a Hatha class is structured and the way it is taught (it really depends of the teacher, of course). That is OK, it is good to let things unfold in their own time. By no means do I mean to disturb ones own unfolding education process. If you just feel great doing hatha already and don't want to bother with technical terms and esoteric concepts, then please, there is no need for you to continue reading this.
My intention in writing this page is to inform and perpetuate the Yogic science meme as well as explain the technical parts and misunderstood esoteric concepts of this practice. By understanding something deeper, the practice becomes enhanced, more comprehensive, and profound. So if and when one does delve deeper into this ancient science and encounter adversity one can take solace by thinking about the "bigger picture".
Hatha - is from the sanskrit:
- 'Ha' (translated as 'Sun')
- 'Tha' (translated as 'Moon')
The correct pronunciation is "Ha'Ta", an expirated 'Ta' sound with your tongue tip touching the top of your pallete.
Similar, it seems, to most intelligently designed systems which have many facets depending on what the beholder's perpective is; the name "Hatha" is a multi-faceted description of such a system. On one level it addresses the 'pair of opposites' that exist in the body which make up the body on many levels, left and right, up and down, in and out, male aspect and female aspects. On another level, it works the different systems of the body in tandem. For example: anatomically it moves the skeletal system while at the same time, intentionally, stimulating the endocrine and galandular systems. And yet a whole other level, it addresses more profound aspects of existance, like Active and Passive subtle energies - of which the ancients have mapped - flowing through the body. More about these aspects are beyond the scope of this authors knowledge.
Hatha Yoga is part of the vast Yogic Science that gives one the option to pursue and achieve a deeper experience of realization of our full human organism potential in time/space (in other words 'the here and now'). On approach it uses, in a most practical way, is through mastery of the most physical, tangible medium we know: the physical body.
According to the ancients, the physical body is one layer (or Kosha, which translates to Sheath) of a 5 layered layer model called the Koshic Model. The physical body is the grossest (defined here as 'dense' or 'thick') manifestation of Energy (or Prana) that we can physically perceive with our 5 Senses. The physical body, the 5th layer, called the Anamayakosha translates to 'Sheath (or covering) comprised of 'Food' and which is animated by Prana.
By slowly learning to manipulate the external world we slowly are granted access to a profound and deeply rich internal reality. By toning, honing, tweeking and mastering the sensibilities of the physical we start to develop a masterful familiarity with the tools of which we percieve reality with. And then go deeper to learn what animates them.
As a physical science, Hatha Yoga, deals with:
- Asanas - Postures
- Pranayama - Breath Exercises
- Bandhas - Special poses that bind Prana in the body, these techniques stoke, reverse the natural direction & bind this energy into the body.
- Mudras - Gestures that promote and redirect circulation of Prana in the body ("circuits" that are toggled open and close like electrical switches,create pathways for that energy to circulate in).
- Nadis - Energy pathways, similiar to Traditional Chinese Medicine's Meridians.
This science incorporates the observer into the experiment, which western science is just now wrapping its brain around with Quantum Physics. The experiment being techniques that function to tone and shift the myriad of systems within the body, with the goal to master them, to prepare the practitioner for meditation.
All this knowledge comes from ancient Vedic scriptures. Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are refferences that concentrates the many "scattered" refferences from the Vedic scriptures about Hatha Yoga into a practical, codified system.
There are many forms of physical yoga (hatha) practiced these days, due to different teachers teaching students who go on to put their own little twist on it. It is important to remember that they are all correct to a certain extent because they are based on Patanjali and his 8 limbs of yoga.
List of some known ones:
- Jiva Mukti
- Power Yoga
Hatha yoga is just one form of many practices in the Yogic Science.
A few tips I wish i was told when I started practicing:
- Not all teachers of Yoga reflect the practice itself, remember this.
- Breath Breath Breath Breath Breath Breath..in other words, breathing is huge (it is one way to get more pranic energy in the body). Since breath is connected to the nervous system it will also help to fasciliate calmness and deeper flexibility.
- Do the pose, don't let the pose do you. Its not about being a contortionist but more like placing your physical body into a position where one can comfortablly and steadily open themselves in a way they usually wouldn't to flow of breath/prana and release of toxins that get trapped in different parts of our body.
- Listen to your body, not the Ego. Most injuries occur because of Ego related issues. Showing off an advanced pose at a party or to some potential mate (especially without warming-up the body beforehand) is a recipe for disaster. The body will let you know if there is something wrong. Watch for sharp pains and/or complaints from different parts (especially knees) during or after class. Ask your teacher for advice and guidance.
- Use your own weight(gravity), breath, and calm mind to go into a pose. Remember balance is strength, grace, and steadyness all in one.
- The Hatha Yoga Pradipika from Wikisource
- Free Hatha Yoga Pradipika (10% of the text in .pdf format)
- Ebooks (offers Bhagavad Gita, Katha Upanishad, Samkhya Karika and Yoga Sutras)
Guru has a negative connontation in the west. Stepping into an anthropologist's shoes and going beyond sterotypes, the guru/disciple relationship is a description of a complex social interaction that happends between 2 people. Master and devoted student, Teacher and Apprentice. Now there is all kinds of people and all kinds of relationships that occur. What is the intention behind this interaction? This, in my opinion, is what needs to be determined.
- Sivanada audio &