Monday, October 25, 2010

the amazing process of Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is the beginning of yoga. The practice of hatha yoga techniques purify, prepare and transform the mind & body for the deeper spiritual journey to enlightenment.
These practices are physical and spiritual, but not religious. They are universal and meant to serve all people, everywhere on their path to manifesting their highest and deepest potential as human beings.
It is said that it takes 12 years of very regular hatha yoga practice to fully cleanse, balance & prepare the mind and body for deeper meditation and a vast expansion of the awareness.
Scientists say that we use 10% of our brains. The other 90% remains dormant. It is alongs these lines that we refer to as "reaching our highest potential", awakening & utilizing the 90% of our mind that lies dormant.
The practice of yoga asanas (poses) is the most common hatha technique taught and practiced outside of India. Other important practices are shatkarmas (cleansing actions), pranayama (breathing techniques to control prana or lifeforce), bandhas (muscular locks or contractions) and mudras (gestures).
Hatha yoga is not like taking an aerobics class, where it has little to nothing to do with the rest of your life. Hatha yoga is a lifestyle practice. It is a conscious journey through life. There is a goal, but each moment is equally important. The journey itself is the goal.
Since to practice hatha yoga is a cleansing process, it is prescribed that one that takes spiritual progress seriously must eat only a pure diet. The way that is interpreted in natural yoga is as a whole food, herbiverous diet. Traditionally it is a simple, plain vegetarian diet that includes dairy. It is important in our times to omit all animal product. Literally billions of animals suffer, and 1X billion are killed every year for American consumption. Egg laying hens & dairy cows in factory farms suffer egregiously, and their male offspring suffer particularly heinous treatment. Supporting that suffering with patronage and ingesting the products from that evil industry creates negative energy, bad karma, and adds more toxins to the body. It inhibits spiritual progress.
Besides a cleansing diet, shatkarmas, or cleansing exercises are recommended. Particulary, jala neti & kapalabhati are well-suited to Americans, and are recomended as part of natural yoga.
Jala neti is becoming more mainstream nowadays. It is an ancient practice of nasal irrigation with salt water. A small ceramic (or plastic) pot, called a neti pot, is used. These can be found at most healthfood stores & some pharmacies.
Kapalabhati is one of the shatkarmas, but it is also a breathing technique for the control of energy (pranayama). It is a cleansing, stimulating breathing technique. It uses alternating rounds of breath retention and forceful exhalation. It is one of the breathing techniques regularly offered in natural yoga.
Other pranayamas exist, in fact there are numerous yogic breathing techniques. Most used in natural yoga are alternate nostril breathing (anuloma viloma & nadi shodhana) and kapalabhati. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, deep rhythmic diaphramic breathing is utilized throughout classes. The slow & even inhalations & exhalations are harmonizing, and physiologically relaxing.
Asana practice at the right exertion is crucial. It cleanses, harmonizes, strengthens, and makes the body flexible. It tones muscles, organs and glands, increasing health. It helps to calm the mind as well, by relaxing the body. Some people are very tense & active and thus need very gentle releasing practices. Some people are very active and need to exert themselves deeply before they can relax. Moderate practice serves both active and placid people. All of the various poses have individual and sequential benefits.
A daily full practice of an hour is most beneficial, although any practice is better than none. Doing one to two classes each week is highly recommended, and adding 15-90 minute home practices on the other days is ideal. Asanas are amazing for really calming the mind while bringing the body into a state of deep wellness. They uncover inner peace and help the yogi to reflect it outwardly.
Bandhas, or locks, are used to direct & hold energy. We mainly emphasize uddhiyana bandha, the drawing of the navel inward towards he spine. It is crucial in stabilizing and realigning the spine and to increase vital energy.
Mudras are used in natural yoga classes less so, but in a few key places. The palms together (anjali mudra/prayer position) symbolizes yoga (union), equanimity. Whenever we bring the thumb & index fingertips together, it symbolizes the union of our individual energy with the whole of the universe. We are never seperate from the universe, but we tend to act like we are, causing ourself & others to suffer. Jnana mudra reminds us of that powerful truth.
It is quite a comitment to embrace a true hatha yoga practice. Yet the transformative & inspirational results are amazing. It is said that a yogi should keep his or her realizations & experiences secret. That is because they are deep and personal peak experiences to which words can do no justice. Yoga truly does unlock a level of awareness in us that frees us to go deeper & deeper into each moment in life.

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