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Yoga is an Ancient Indian Science, rich in practical wisdom, that utilizes the subtle energies of the Universe coupled with various physical, mental and spiritual teachings to purify, strengthen and harmonize the physical body, calm and clarify the mind, providing a clear pathway to the soul in order to attain full realization of one’s spiritual potential, life’s purpose and harmony within the Universe.

This profound Art has spread from the East to the West with unsurpassed popularity, curiosity and interest due to the way it so uniquely encompasses every aspect of wellness within our whole being, challenging reality and the very purpose of our existence!

People have been practicing yoga since the beginning of human civilization. Traditionally sacred teachings were shrouded with secrecy and only privy to those who were ready to practice with pure intent, passed orally from teacher to student or transcribed onto fragile palm leaves that could be easily destroyed. Although this has lead to much obscurity and uncertainty as to the history of Yoga, discovery of stone drawings in the Indus Valley, Northern India, clearly show figures performing various yoga postures. These drawings relate back to an Ancient stone age civilization over 5 000 years ago, known as the Vedic Period.

The word ‘Yoga’ is first mentioned in the oldest of sacred texts the ‘Rig Vedas’ from which practices and beliefs were refined over the following centuries and documented into the ‘Upanishads’, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures; the most renown being the Bhagavad-Gita, a valuable study guide for any practitioner.

The Upanishads form the basis of traditional Yoga Philosophy teaching the sacrificing of the ego (individual ‘I’), through self-knowledge, wisdom (Jnana Yoga) and action (Karma Yoga) and devotion (Bhakti Yoga). To which a brief outline is provided below.

Jnana Yoga

The ‘Yoga of Wisdom’ attracts and exercises our intellect.  It is a particularly challenging mental path as it often requires us to release all previous beliefs and concepts, to use discernment and constantly question reality in search of the truths underlying our existence.

Many people consider Sri Ramana Maharishi the greatest Jnana Yoga teacher of the 20th Century. His basic thesis is that the individual self is nothing more than a thought or an idea. He said that this thought, which he called the ‘I’ thought originates from a place called the ‘heart centre’ and rises up to the brain. From here the mind identifies and attaches itself to the ‘I’ by the thought ‘I’ am this body, ‘I’ am doing this, ‘I’ am feeling this, eventually creating the illusion that there is an individual self (the ego) and mind that controls all thought and action.

Sri Ramana maintains that this illusion can be reversed by turning one’s attention inward to the heart centre with self-inquiry.  By holding one’s thought on the ‘I’ and inquiring ‘from where does this ‘I’ thought come from, ‘who am ‘I’. One must quieten the mind long enough to be able to exclude all other thought from which it identifies itself with, eventually the ‘I’ thought will subside to the heart centre. The mind and individual ‘I’ will give way to self-realization, the pure essence of Spirit and Universal Consciousness.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga is known as the ‘Yoga of Devotion’ and just as Jnana Yoga is a yearning ‘to know’. Bhakti is a yearning to express feel pure love.  It supports our innate knowing that there is ‘something more’ to life than the transient, ever changing physical world in which we see through our senses. Its followers may be devoted to a Deity such as God, Buddha or committed to following other religious orders or monasteries of the past. However, the true Bhakti Yogi displays the pure heart essence of Spirit, one of unconditional love, compassion and joy, seeing divinity in all creation, knowing that all the eye can see is a loving expression of Spirit.

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is the ‘Yoga of Action’, to act or to do, to learn by service which implies to giving selfless service, working for the good of others without attachment to the fruits of our labour. It includes doing the menial tasks of washing dishes or scrubbing floors without complaint, all the things that others, or the individual ‘I’ may not like to do, thus letting go of the Ego, showing our Spiritual intent of unity and oneness, whilst not attaching to any work being more rewarding or important than the other but seeing that all is necessary in the big scheme of things.

Karma Yoga encompasses the Universal Law of ‘Cause and Effect’; that for every action there is a reaction. Karma is not a punishment, but a way of learning by doing, we cannot escape our Karma but we can exhaust it through right action.

Pantanjali’s Yoga Sultras

The first systematic presentation of Yoga was formulated some 2000 years ago by the great Sage Pantanjali Marharishi. This single comprehensive system including most of the teachings of Yoga is known as Pantanjali’s Yoga Sultras. The Sultras comprise of eight limbs and form the basis of Raja Yoga (the Yoga of Meditation) referred to as the Path of Kings or the Royal Way.

Today Pantanjali is often referred to as the father of Yoga and the Sultras referred to as the ‘Classical Path’ with its practical wisdom and vast teachings strongly influencing many styles of modern day yoga.

The first limb:-

Yama – refinement of our personality through five moral disciplines referred to as restraints or abstinences:-

1. Ahimsa – practising non-violence in every action, deed and word.

 To show compassion and respect for everything and everyone including plants, animals and non-living things.

 

2. Satya –    living by and speaking your truth.

    Honesty forms the basis of a good relationship with oneself and others, however all communication must be honoured with the compassion and respect of Ahimsa.

  

3. Asteya – non-stealing by action or word from others.

    To not take anything that does not belong to us or is not freely given, including not stealing another’s

    opportunity to speak, or using something whether word or object, for anything other than it was intended.

 

4. Brahmacharya – conservation of energy through non-indulgence.

    This refers to sexual activity however it needn’t necessarily be celibacy but forming a relationship that serves our highest good and using moderation which conserves life-force energy for spiritual growth. Whilst also not using this energy in a way that may cause conflict or harm to another.

      

5. Aparigraha – abstention from greed, attachment and possessiveness.

    To acquire only what is necessary thus letting go of attachment. Whilst also to not take advantage of a situation

    or act with greed in any way shape or form.

                                                                                                                   

         The second limb:-    

Niyama – to purify the mind and encourage self-improvement through five disciplines or observances:-

1.  Saucha –   purity in all aspects, body, mind and living.

    To maintain cleanliness within our living conditions whilst also cultivating a pure physical body and mind to

     which Asana and Pranayama Practices facilitate. Whilst Meditation helps us recognise

     and evolve beyond the negative thoughts and emotions such as jealousy, greed, hatred, delusion and desire.

  

2.  Santosha – contentment; a state of equanimity regardless of outside influences.

     To be happy and content with whom we are and what we have even in times of hardship or loss, knowing there is a purpose for everything. Contentment is cultivated through expressing gratitude and joy for what we do have rather than what we do not.

                         

3.  Tapas - disciplines or destruction of impurity – to burn or cleanse.

     Literally means to heat the body burning up all toxicity. One method is through the combination of Asana and

     Pranayama practice focusing on strong core and breath work until one feels a burning sensation in the belly.

     This is said to literally push toxins into the fire – to burn and rid all internal toxicity. Tapas also refer to daily

     disciplines and cleaning techniques; all things that encourage the burning up of all desires that hinder our

     spiritual growth.

                                   

4.  Svadhyaya - self-study through meditation, study of scriptures etc

     This also includes self examination through observing how we react to certain circumstances, by becoming

      more conscious of who we are and why we react provides us with the opportunity to recognize and release the

     negative aspects of ourselves whilst also helping us to graciously accept our limitations; thus teaching us to be

     non-reactive whilst also letting go of self-destruction. 

      

5. Ishvara-Pranidhana – surrender and devotion to the Divine.

     To recognize and surrender to the one Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient force that exists everywhere,

     contains all-knowledge and all power which is constantly directing and guiding us toward higher levels of

     consciousness. Showing wisdom and devotion by letting go the need to control and consciously serving in each

     and every way we can.

The third limb:-

Asana – physical postures performed to discipline, strengthen and purify the physical body in preparation for meditation.

The fourth limb: -

Pranayama - to control energy through the breath, encompassing techniques that rejuvenate, purify and harmonize whilst clearing distractions from the mind.

The fifth limb:-

Pratyahara – sense withdrawal; letting go of external stimuli which provides deep peace and inner awareness in preparation for meditation.

The sixth limb:-

Dharana is a single one-pointed focus or concentration that trains the mind to be still whilst encouraging full presence at the heart centre.

 

The seventh limb:

Dhyana - a state of meditation, heightened consciousness, rich in spiritual awareness.

 

The eighth limb:

Samahdi – a super consciousness in which the soul and Universe are one, known as Enlightenment and described as pure bliss.

 

Although the above paths of Yoga express different ways to reach Self-realization and each person will be drawn to a particular path according to their individual personality, all paths intertwine and are interdependent for one to reach the full spiritual awareness of ‘Samahdi’ or Universal Consciousness.

The Three Gunas

The Three Gunas or ‘Three states of Nature’ as they are often referred to are qualities present in all existence, although in varying degrees.

 This interesting concept originates from another ancient Indian Philosophy called ‘Sankhya’ also from the Vedic Era. Its teachings have also had a strong influence in the foundation of Yoga Philosophies.

 

Sankhya states that the Universe is made up of two separate aspects – known in Sanskrit as Pursha and Prakriti.

Pursha is Pure Consciousness; represented as our pure essence of Spirit within, which is eternal and indestructible.

Prakriti – represents our physical body and all other material existence; all life and form as we know it. It is also eternal and indestructible and therefore it in itself is not produced, but its primal nature is to produce, thus we see an ever changing existence of all form and life.

The Three Gunas are present in all Prakriti however; there existence is strongly evident in weather patterns, our emotions and types of food.

The first principal Sattva displays the qualities of lightness, purity, equilibrium and wisdom. A Sattvic influence in weather presents moderately warm days, clear blue skies and gentle breezes. Days like this inspire us; they nourish the soul, helping one recognize the perfection within ourselves, others and life itself.

Raja is the second principal that is represented as action, energy and movement. When Raja is present in our emotions the mind is full of turmoil and busyness which creates imbalance both within the mind and body.

Tama the third principal represents the gross existence of inertia and heaviness. Tama is evident in foods that are lifeless, heavy and over processed. These foods that provide no nutritional value deplete the body’s energy, dull the senses and weaken the immune system.

Sankhya Philosophy maintains that Creation is manifested through the uniting of both principals - Pursha and Prakriti.

Sattvic Lifestyle

 All three Gunas make up our whole physical existence; for example - to sleep or rest is a Tamasic State and Raja is necessary to propel us into action however, Yogic Philosophy encourages us to pursue the qualities of Sattva:-

Lightness refers to being of simple means, only obtaining what is necessary, which helps us focus on spiritual growth rather than material attachment and desire. To also lighten one’s food intake whilst steering toward Sattva food choices which are full of life-force, such as fresh organic bio-dynamic fruit and vegetables and pure water. Sattvic foods assist the immune system, enliven the senses and keep us in tune with our environment. 

Equilibrium refers to how we react to life’s circumstances; by keeping an even-keeledness, for example, by neither experiencing dramatic lows nor great highs we retain a mental balance of equanimity.

Purity cultivates wisdom; purity of both body and mind encourages physiological and psychological harmony which is essential for spiritual growth.

 

The Illusions of the mind

Yoga philosophy teaches us that we are ‘Spiritual beings having a human experience’ and that all the answers we are searching for, as to the mysteries of the Universe, our part and purpose within it are already within us. However it is often not until we see beyond the illusions of the mind and the ego that the inner search is initiated.

 Every human being is seeking Joy, Happiness and Fulfilment yet each individual is searching in a different place. Where one person may feel great joy and happiness in owning a bright red Ferari another may feel joyous and happy by wearing the latest designer shoes. But if Joy were to be found in either of these material objects then surely we would all desire them. No, this is not so, Joy is an expression from within, placed on these objects because of what we think they will do for us (or for our ego).

 Yoga Philosophy acknowledges that through the gift of many lifetimes we will learn, grow in love and wisdom eventually realising the fruitlessness in attaching joy and fulfilment to the short term pleasures of the material world. When the search for the truths is initiated and embraced with pure intent for the good of all the amazing powers of the Universe will provide all the teachers, circumstances and situations necessary to propel each person into higher levels of spiritual awareness.

This is where the profound science of Yoga becomes an invaluable tool, by providing us with the awareness to both recognize and embrace growth, where through courage and wisdom we let go our fears and limitations that are manifestations of the ego and enthusiastically explore every opportunity. However growth is presented in many different ways, if it be given in the form of loss or suffering Yoga provides us with the inner strength and clarity to see divine order and necessity within each situation where we accept and even value the times of hardship for the growth it presents.

Styles of Yoga

Tantra and Hatha Yoga are but two of many styles that evolved some centuries after Pantanjali, often referred to as the Post Classical Period.

Tantra places specific emphasis on awakening and transcending Spiritual Forces through the bodies main energy centres (called Chakras).

Hatha focuses on the combination of Asana (physical postures) and Pranayama (breath control) Practices.

There are many types and schools of yoga today that include the practices of Hatha Yoga, but the difference is in their individual style and approach. Some schools focus more on movement and continuous flow whilst others emphasize correct alignment.

A yoga class can be energetic and physically demanding, or more meditative and restorative, depending on the poses practised and the speed at which they are performed, and the length of time for which the poses are held.

It is interesting to note that both B.S.K Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois were taught by the one Indian Master Sri Krishnamacharya, and yet each has a very different emphasis on how Yoga is performed.

B.K.S. Iyengar is the founder of Iyengar Yoga, whose style incorporates the use of props which include straps, chairs, belts, bolsters and blocks; firstly introduced to support the injured or ill, however today they are used into all classes. Iyengar’s focus is on structural alignment of the body and these props are used to help one achieve this. An emphasis is also placed on creating a strong foundation through standing postures and holding at length to enable the body to master the position.

Pattabhi Jois is the founder of Ashtanga Yoga often described as ‘Power Yoga’ with strength, stamina and sweat traditionally being its unique aspects. Ashtanga consists of a dynamic, flowing sequence of set poses that are linked with the breath; the intent being to purify the body and keep the mind focused through an intensive workout. The beginner may find Ashtanga quite challenging.

Yoga’s profound teachings and wisdom has also been adopted and integrated into other cultures as expressed in Oki Yoga.

Founded by Master Masahiro Oki, although born in Korea, his vast travels and studies of many cultures reflect in Oki Yoga’s combined teaching of Hatha Yoga, Japanese Zen and Chinese Taoism, which includes chanting, shiatsu massage, meditation, laughter and natural nutrition. Emphasis is placed on corrective exercises and stimulating ‘Ki’ energy (life-force) within the body through purification and strengthening of the Hara – the belly, with strong core and breath work. However, Oki’s mouth breathing techniques differ from the traditional style of Hatha Yoga which emphasises and promotes the benefits of breathing in and out through the nose.

Hatha Yoga

Traditionally  Hatha Yoga has restorative and nurturing approach to Asana practice ensuring that each student move at their own pace with an intuitive attitude; learning, listening and understanding their own body. Emphasis is placed on conditioning, strengthening and purifying the physical body, firstly, to ensure it is a good conductor for the healing and rejuvenating benefits of Prana to be cultivated and utilized and secondly, to discipline the body and mind so that one can comfortably maintain alignment, focus and stillness imperative for meditation. Whilst there may be times when we feel lethargic and need the Dynamic flow of movement to inspire us, it is in the stillness of a static posture, when combined with Pranayama breathing techniques that the true benefits of Hatha are received.

 Hatha explores the interconnection of mind and body, maintaining the idea that psychological harmony has a profound effect on our physical wellbeing and one cannot be addressed without the other if optimum health, harmony and wellbeing are to be sustained.

A strong emphasis is placed on cultivating and directing (Prana) life-force energy throughout both body and mind to achieve and maintain this state of equilibrium.

Prana is known in Sanskrit as the ‘Absolute Energy’ that permeates the whole Universe, supporting all form as we know it (expressed and known in other traditions as ‘Ki’, ‘Chi’ or Life-force). These traditions agree with the Yogic Philosophy that this active principal provides the vital essence of all motion, force and energy whether it be manifested as electricity, the rotation of our solar system, or subtle  movements such as a butterfly hatching from a cacoon or a thought coming to mind. All are supported by the underlying principal of Prana.

Our body is constantly replenishing itself through breathing air, which is charged with Prana, as well as through sunlight, water and living foods. However, the breath provides the most abundant supply and easiest method of absorption.

Once absorbed, Prana is channelled throughout the body via a multitude of non-physical energy pathways, called ‘Nadis’ (also recognized and referred to as Meridians in Chinese Medicine). Where these Nadis intersect a large volume of Prana is compounded, likened to a ’spinning vortex of energy’, this is called a Chakra. The main energy pathways (Nadis) and Chakras run parallel with the vertebrae.

According to the Ancient teachings of the Upanishads this vital Prana also divides itself into 5 different ‘Airs’ or directions within the body:- Prana – the primary air; Samana - balances inward, taking prana to the tissues; Vyana - balances outward, circulating Prana throughout the body and Udana the ascending force of Prana and Apana the descending force. Each Air provides the life-force energy for specific bodily functions which include; nerve impulses, the movement of all fluids such as the blood, lymphatic fluid and bile etc, metabolic processes, energy exchanges, removal of wastes and distribution of nutrients.

Therefore our whole physical existence relies on Prana; without it the limbs could not move, the blood could not flow, the lungs could not function and the heart could not beat!

Pranayama Practices increase the volume of Prana that we extract from the air which restores and maintains the natural flow and quality of each sub- prana throughout the body and mind.  

Asana Practice compliments Pranayama by providing a strong resilient vehicle for the increased prana to permeate, heal and transform:-

Through the rotational, bending and twisting motion of Asana Practice the major joints of the body are lubricated by synovial fluids; the skeletal structure is re-aligned, strengthen and toned. Muscular flexibility and suppleness is also received, which is paramount in providing support, good movement and alignment to the skeletal system, avoiding injury. The Asanas work in such a way that even the deep core muscles, Traverse Abdominis and Major Hip Flexor, the Psoas Muscles are challenged toned and strengthened.

A major benefit of asana practice is the good alignment and postural habits that naturally develop.

Good alignment and posture coupled with the deep breathing techniques of Pranayama ensures that the main   energy pathways and Chakras situated along the spine receive a good supply of Prana to facilitate health and harmony. Whilst also the whole respiratory system is revitalized; firstly, the full expansion of the chest tones and strengthens all airways and intercostal muscles.  Secondly, through engaging full movement of the diaphragm the abdominal organs receive a gentle massage which stimulates function, whilst the core muscles are also toned and strengthened.

A strong healthy respiratory system encourages good circulatory function, enlivening the whole body through an increased circulation of fresh oxygenated and nutrient rich blood; which also promotes a strong healthy heart.

The Lymphatic system works somewhat as a secondary circulatory system by removing foreign substances from the cells, however it relies on skeletal muscle contraction to function. The bending, rotation and stretching   movements of Asana Practice provides constant muscle stimulation ensuring lymph fluids are propelled throughout the cells removing all toxins which also support the immune system.

As we learnt earlier the nervous system is governed by Prana, therefore it benefits greatly when the Asana postures are coupled with deep pranic breathing. Its system is just as extensive as the energy system and simular in the way it has Nerve Plexus that combine the spinal nerves and support a specific area of the body, likened to the Nadis and Chakras. Every nerve impulse, whether it be a thought, a movement or internal bodily function is manifested through the expression of prana. Therefore our supply of prana is constantly being depleted, especially in times of high stress through constant physical activity, or even more so through mental stress, that creates constant chatter and turmoil in the mind. 

There are five major nerve plexus; the Cervical, Brachial, Chest, Solar, Sacral and Lumbar, each one feeding life-force energy to support all bodily movement, and the functioning of localized organs and glands. Whilst the spine is being strengthened and toned by Asana Practice, the spinal nerves relay the benefits to each Nerve Plexus where the abundant flow of vital Prana is both, refined facilitating increased organ function health and vigour; and stored for times of high demand.

A major benefit achieved through the purification of the Nervous System is psychological harmony; where   refinement of the nerve pathways to the brain has a soothing clarifying effect within both the mind and emotions.

The skin, referred to as the largest organ of the body also relies on vital prana, particularly to function as a major sensory apparatus where various skin receptors relay messages through nerve fibres. It also plays a major part in detoxifying the body through continual cell renewal and release; casting off toxicity through the outer layer of dead skin cells. The stretching, lengthening and twisting action of Asana practice provides good skin tone and elasticity, whilst the increase in prana encourages good sensory function and blood circulation increasing cell renewal and release.

The endocrine system is also positively affected through Asana Practice. Its system comprises of several ductless glands that regulate physical and emotional processes by the secretion of hormones into various associated areas. The Pituitary and Pineal glands are centred in the brain and therefore also have an input in the control and   regulation of all other glands. The Pituitary Gland is known to promote a feeling of wellbeing when stimulated, therefore it responds positively to smiling and laughter. Stories have been told of the daily ritual of Ancient Monks who laugh on waking each morning to promote joy and wellbeing.

The Pineal gland is responsible for the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which enables it to function as our biological timekeeper. Several Asanas focus on the stimulation of this area, the most well known, referred to as the King of Asana Practice, is The Headstand.

The Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands are centred in the throat; the thyroid regulates our metabolic rate through the secretion of thyroxine, under stimulation can lead to poor metabolism and obesity whilst over stimulation can lead to anxiety, nervousness and of loss of weight. The Parathyroid regulates the absorption levels of calcium to the heart and muscles; sustaining a strong healthy heart, good bone structure and growth rate. Asanas such as The Shoulderstand, known as the Queen of Asana Practice positively affect these glands.

The twisting, rotational and forward bending actions of many Asanas provide good stimulation to the Adrenal Glands and Pancreas that are situated at The Solar Plexus area. The Adrenal glands secrete steroid hormones via the kidneys necessary for healthy fluid and electrolyte balance. Also Adrenaline, that prepares the body for action in times of danger, stress or when extra effort is needed, by increasing the heart rate, raising blood pressure, stimulating respiration and increasing blood supply to the muscles.

The pancreas secrets digestive enzymes enabling us to assimilate our food and hormones that balance our blood sugar levels.

 Asana practice also targets the Sacral Centre positively balancing the glands that secrete Testosterone, Estrogens and Proestrogen. These hormones not only influence our sex drive and reproduction but also have a major influence on our emotional stability.

Hatha Yoga positively benefits all systems, increases strength, flexibility, balance and tone, mental alacrity, stress control and spiritual awareness. The vast knowledge and wisdom invested in developing this profound science ensures that each Asana benefits several areas of the body at the same time, whilst also each aspect of the Practice whether it be a back bend, twist, balance, forward bend, inverted or lateral extension all provide unique physiological and psychological benefits when synchronization of both Asana and Pranayama is utilized.

Let us take a look at one aspect of Practice: - Pascimottanasana – Seated Forward Bend.

The position of the Asana provides a deep stretch to the hamstring, calf muscles and lower back. It also opens the shoulder joints and increases spinal flexibility which creates spaciousness within the spine and tones the spinal nerves. The organs and glands of the upper and lower abdomen, the stomach, liver, kidneys, spleen, intestines and reproductive organs receive a gentle stimulating massage from the forward motion of the Asana which increases digestion, immune function, purification and elimination. Holding this forward motion also stimulates and balances the endocrine glands within the Solar and Sacral Centres.

 Whilst in the stillness of the pose, one focuses on deep Pranic breathing which increases effectiveness of the circulatory system encouraging enriched, oxygenated blood to permeate the spaciousness of the spine nourishing the spinal discs; whilst also congregating at the abdomen to nourish the organs and glands.

This extra abundance of Prana allows us to move deeper into the Asana as it permeates the whole body through the multitude of energy pathways (Nadis), where muscle tightness is released; relieving tension and improving flexibility and tone whilst restoring vitality and rejuvenation to the organs and glands. But this is not all the increased prana is also deeply purifying the spinal nerves which calms the whole nervous system resulting in the stilling of the mind and emotions.

(One may also choose to focus with deep pranic breathing on one specific area that may be holding resistance or feeling discomfort, this will provide an extra boost of healing life-force energy.)

Finally, the surrendered position of the Asana, with the head lower than the heart, encourages the mind to give way to the higher self, or in the least, provides an opportunity to turn ones attention inward, observing Patanjali’s fifth limb, Pratyahara.

 The combined benefits of Asana practice, Pranayama and Pratyahara ensure that the physical body is purified and relaxed, the mind and emotions calmed and the senses quelled inspiring one to experience the true intent of Hatha Yoga; to reunite with the soul through Dhyana (Meditation) Patanjali’s seventh limb.

 

Meditation

Meditation is a deeply fulfilling experience that enhances and enriches one’s life beyond measure. As one learns how to control and quieten the mind and senses full attention is able to be held on the present moment. Through being totally in the present moment any anxieties and fears that are manifested through the ego’s constant attachment to the past and future subside.    

This provides deep release and relaxation where phenomenal healing takes place both physically and psychologically; the blood pressure and heart rate drop, stress hormones reduce and metabolism slows cultivating many benefits including heightened energy, physical rejuvenation and longevity, mental clarity, good concentration skills and increased memory power. 

When Meditation is practiced regularly one becomes more and more at peace, slowing down and enjoying life moment by moment. Stress and anxiety levels decrease as the need to control life diminishes and everyday dramas have less impact on our wellbeing.        

As the pure channels of Spirit open, intuition and creativity flow, providing more fulfilment and enthusiasm in daily life. The heart essence of compassion, love and joy increases ones tolerance and understanding where eventually we come to realise that we are all inter-related and here to serve and help each other learn, grow and evolve into higher levels of consciousness, ultimately transcending to Samahdi, Patanjali’s eight limb.

 

 

Living life through Hatha Yoga

As it is said ‘when the student is ready the teacher will appear’ Hatha Yoga is the most amazing teacher.

Asana practice provides the most valuable lessons as our capacity for stillness and focus grows, the skills learnt on the mat emerge into daily life and a whole new level of consciousness evolves.

 Whilst holding an Asana we observe that it is in the letting go of judgment and resistance within the mind that allows the life-force of prana to flow, release tension and heal. This skill is then adopted in our daily lives where interaction with others becomes much less judgmental and we meet life circumstances with less resistance. Eventually through regular practice we start to see perfection within our own limitations, those of others and our life circumstances.

Discipline is also cultivated which is often the driving force behind getting things done on a daily basis, particularly the necessary mundane chores, whilst also maintaining the daily activities and observances that enhance spiritual growth provided in the Yamas and Niyamas of Patanjali’s Yoga Sultras. Most importantly daily meditation and also the pursuance of right action; by observing the way we react to certain people we become aware of the mirror image that is there within others, helping us recognise and honour our positive aspects whilst releasing the negative.

It also presents quite a challenge to stay in the stillness of a posture when the mind wishes to race on to the next. Here many benefits are manifested as we utilize the universal energies, breathe deeply, meet the challenge and move further into the posture. This inspires such inner strength and courage that as life presents its challenges we are equipped to approach them with calm and wisdom.

When practice is initiated with intention we also gain direction in life. By maintaining focus and steadiness in both breath and posture we maintain focus and steadiness in our approach to life, where we are less likely to be swayed into directions that will not serve as well but choose to stay on our own path, conserving energy and inner strength.

Hatha Yoga is so much more than a study of the physical body and mind, it is a way of life that will inspire, fulfil and direct anyone, no matter what shape, profession or age, courageously and lovingly along the path of life. 

 

 

It has been instrumental in providing so much awareness, purpose and enthusiasm in every area of my life. Yet its profound wisdom also teaches me that what I have already learnt is but a drop in the ocean, and there is so much more deep within my heart, as in all of us, awaiting our own ‘self-awakening’.

As the great Sage Pantanjali states ‘only by our own efforts can we attain our own liberation’.

 

Namaste

Vickie Gerken

 

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  • Email: vickie@yogaoftheheart.com.au
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