Asana practice is one of many practices found in ancient sun/moon (hatha) yoga. Classical hatha yoga is the branch of yoga that includes asana, including kriyas, bandhas, mudras, pranayama, pratyhara, visualization, dharana (visualization and other concentrations such as mantra), dhyana (meditation), samyama, and other yogic practices. Asana practice was never intended to stand alone separate from these allied processes of self-discovery, purification, activation, and integration. Although asanas are powerful as long as they are practiced non-mechanically (as an awareness practice providing transconceptual deep reconditioning/reprogramming for the neurophysiology, biochemistry, and glandular circuitry); it's potential is released when integrated with the above yogic practices.
Unlike gymnastics, acrobatics, exercise, or sports games, where one uses the body/mind and energy to accomplish a specific result, position, goal, or task; in functional process oriented asana practice, movements are designed to open the body, the energy pathways (nadis), the mind, and melt down the obscuring emotions (kleshas), past negative programming (karma), bad habits (vasana), and past residual traumatic seeds (samskaras). Eventually (through consistent practice) one awakens the innate, but often repressed/latent, energy residing in one's heart/core. That awakening allows the hatha yogi to recognize that same universal heart-core shining forth being reflected in all beings and things.
When one practices asana consistently over time, then the bodymind organism becomes profoundly transformed, revitalized, and aligned with increased cit-prana. An energy shift occurs as the new energy moves into cellular spaces to replace the old stagnant patterns and mechanisms. Dormant energy centers and channels are energized activating the energy light-body or intermediate pain free body. The overall awareness to prana (the innate life force) increases The body/mind becomes sensitized and attuned to the prana inside and out, eventually cognizant of the beginningless primordial creative source (and the source of all). This occurs through the aegis of daily conscious amplification of the Prana Shakti (the energy of divine intelligence, the Cit-Shakti). Increasingly one harmonizes the timeless body, the energy pain free body, and physical body as one undivided body. This is accomplished experientially, through practice.
In the beginning, the mechanism of action involved is now-awareness/listening (paying increased attention) to the breath and energetic mechanism behind the breath residing within the body in various movements that are designed to break up common emotional and energetic blockages. The direct affect of these movements upon the energy body become naturally recognized and sought, because there is a natural affinity between consciousness, the life energy, and the physiology. Then, through deepening that awareness of an increased informed sensitivity to the energy behind the breath and body, the yogi naturally becomes more fully aligned with the innate transpersonal intelligent prana that exists in all beings and things -- in all our relations. The practice becomes naturally devotional. Eventually, it is recognized as an intimate interdependent part of one's own innate mutuality with all beings and things, as a co-evolutionary transpersonal expression throughout beginningless time arising from primordial consciousness manifesting in the present as presence. Such knowledge is transconceptional (nirvikalpa), non-linear, non-dual, and direct; being free from thought contrivances, imputation, artifact, or fabrication processes altogether. Here there is only the intelligent expression of kundalini-shakti expressing herself, leading the practice, and becoming fully embodied.
That is a large statement, but such an awareness-practice spontaneously and effortlessly dawns instantaneously should its possibility be entertained -- should a open loving space be allowed for. With practitioners who tend to grab tightly upon old paradigms and configurations, who are not ready (afraid) to make the shift into new spaces, they will benefit after consistent practice over a longer period of time where trust will manifest quite naturally. To be certain, such is not a cognitive or intellectual belief in an external theory or system, but an empirical subjective discovery based on heightened awareness and direct experience, which self-arises by virtue of a finely tuned functional asana practice. Physically, this experience is based on the integration of the powerful networks associated with the neuro-endocrine and neurophysiological circuits, the afferent (receptive) and efferent (motor cortex) nerve functions, and the relationships between the autonomic and the enteric nervous systems with the central nervous system, the right and left hemispheres of the brain, the sympathetic, and parasympathetic nervous systems, and the evolutionary energy matrix alignments that support not only the body, but all of life and evolution, and are interactive and transpersonal in nature. It is in the development of acknowledging, respecting, and honoring these intelligent relationships that the inner wisdom awakens from a conceptually based system, to a conscious asana practice with clear focused intention upon the kundalini-shakti by the natural impulse of the innate kundalini shakti. By conscious, it does not mean intentional in a mechanical, controlled, limited, or willful sense; but rather, more than simply,in a mindful witness-consciousness respect, but moreover in a feeling heart-felt sense, while being increasingly aware of one's feelings, breath, prana, emotions, and bodily interactions. By feeling, it is not a felt-sense of the physical alone, but an awareness of the energy body becoming activated, blooming, and taking embodies form in an over-all non-dual holographic context. It is said that such an asana practice cannot be taught. That statement is correct in the sense that no ego can teach it; because the innate evolutionary potential (one's Buddhanature) is the teacher; hence, asana practice is a process of getting in touch with the indivisibility of the three bodies -- it being self-directed and self arisen.
There is no place where this relationship is not, but it is commonly ignored through negative conditioning. A bodymind numbness and desensitivity has become established in many (especially dogmatists and ideologues), that can be effectively dissolved. It is thus best to seek out this direct relationship with prana and its continuity at every move and moment. It is not desired to wait after many years of "correct" consistent asana practice. This type of practice is kinesthetic, energetic, and awareness-based in NOWPRESENCE. It wakes up not only the body and/or the native awareness, but rather more so, our evolutionary/creative highest innate potential (Buddha nature), through removing the residues of past negative conditioning and afflictive emotions that are frozen within the fixated spaces of the body chemistry, cellular memory, and energetic imprints (samskaras), and similar pain based reflexive circuitry. As these circuits become disentangled and flow is reestablished, new circuits and energy flows and circuits are activated. Then a strong life positive imprint becomes established that continues to instruct and inform the practitioner both on and off the yoga mat. Thus, a natural expression of ahimsa (non-violence to self and others) is imbedded deeply as a natural result of practice after an intimate communion with the life force (prana) has become integrated into all facets of one's life. At the same time a higher sensitivity to health and the life force is established informing all one’s relationships (inside and out). Vasana or bad habits (those that are destructive to life and health) and other neurotic compensatory activities eventually are released/abandoned, while new life positive, creative, and healing relationships naturally arise.
Asana, when considered as an awareness practice, eventually facilitates contact with the source of all life, creativity, and evolution, even before life. We do that first not by negating the body and the body of nature, but by accepting it as an integral part of an all inclusive whole. Then, through that awareness we connect with ultimate source non-exclusively. Along the way we will encounter a palpable pulsation (spanda) from source to creation (sat) and back to source (cit), from shiva to shakti, and back again; from crown (sahasrara) chakra to root (muladhara) chakra and back, non-dually, all inclusively, indivisible, and transconceptual. Along the way, one will also become aware of the organs, muscles, glands, and nerves, not as an end in itself, but as intricate parts of the whole of a holistic human life, a planetary co-creative Gaian intelligence, and a living-vibrant universal hologram. Anything short of that, which cuts us off from that heart-felt core communion, will short circuit life, obstruct our innate creative potential, and its full expression, thus manifesting in the many vagaries of neurotic dissatisfaction.
More energy, vigor, natural enthusiasm, focus, creativity, and inspiration for one’s spiritual practice becomes embodied when the practice becomes a full board dedication of devotion and surrender to the living spirit underlying the practice in All Our Relations. In turn, this newly found energy serves to further synergistically activate one’s innate dormant creative/evolutionary circuits and potential, which in turn further potentiates even more efficient life affirmative activities, thus creating a self perpetuating positive acceleration and complementary positive feedback loop fed by one’s self-informed daily practice. The intelligence of other inter-related yogic practices such as the yams/niyams, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, pranayama, mudras, pratyhara, visualization, dharana, dhyana, and so forth will then be naturally understood as various mutually complementary adjuncts -- as different manifestations of the same realization process in diverse activities.
The sum up the basic underlying principles of Functional Yoga are:
Take responsibility for your daily practice. Responsibility means freedom, not dependence upon books, systems, peers, classes, etc. Responsibility means response-ability -- the ability to respond effectively and consciously. Yoga sadhana is self discipline, not a discipline imposed from outside by an outside authority, teacher, structure, or system. In functional yoga the teacher is innate and every present, both in and outside of time. The teacher is primordial consciousness itself married to Mahashakti (the intelligent co-evolutionary energy), the teacher of even the most ancient of teachers. This teacher is always available to the sadhak at all times as long as it is sought and onepointedly dedicated. This is helped along at first by focusing on the breath as the surrogate teacher, then prana, then cit-prana, flowing through the psychic channels, and Cit-Shakti, then Siva/Shakti.
Link body. mind, breath, energy, and the innate intelligent evolutionary power as one. Focus your movement with one pointed awareness on the movement, the breath, and awareness of the energy, and one's timeless relationship outside time and space as one uninterrupted continuum. Old karmic patterns are to drop away expunged as we move into new transconceptual dimensions which transcend limitation, but rather embrace fearlessly the unknown. Here that which was unconscious and unknown becomes revealed/known. That happens not by further ignorance here the predictability of what "was" known in the past is glommed onto, but rather by wild abandon and surrender -- vairagya and isvara pranidhana accompanied with complete conscious awareness. This way the intelligent life force moves us as we watch. Siva and Shakti remain united. The breath moves deeply of what appears as its own accord, but really it moves in accordance with the implicate order which is innate, natural, and unconstructed by artifice or human .
There is no separate actor (ego) apart from the evolutionary power. As our transconceptual wisdom/awareness grows, the third eye opens which then sees itself in all our relations devoid of an independent reference point apart from everything else. Within that natural buddhaverse functional yoga occurs.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the most often quoted verse relating to asana practice is: II. 46 "sthira sukham asanam", which means that asana should create joy in stability. It should be pain free. Asana should be stabilizing and joyful, joyfully supporting the core, centering the yogi in the core so that one abides there easily, naturally, and reliably. Here sukha means easy and/or joyful. Sthira means stable, centered, rooted, or balanced. When we abide at the foundational heart-core, it is at the same time universal and unlimited, both Here and Everywhere, both Now and Timeless, both Empty and Boundlessly Open. . . Indefinable, yet immediate, direct, and intimately meaningful to the extreme.
Here, if we take sthira to mean stable, centered, and balanced in the ordinary sense, as in maintaining equilibrium, we again come back to the idea behind balance -- a joyful balancing process – or a balancing process that creates happiness, ease, and joy. Here one finds one’s heart-center, not only in the physical body, but in the energy body, emotional center, in one’s relationship with all things/beings throughout beginningless time, the heart-core of creation as the formless/timeless Buddha. In energetic terms this universal foundational base is trans-located and can be perfectly aligned as the all pervading heart-core of the universe all at once, the universal tree of life (Yggdrasil) or axis mundi, which is accessed via the sushumna nadi (central channel) where Siva/shakti are intimately united non-dually at both ends. We will explore this theme further. To be certain this is not theory; rather it is experiential.
A less well known Yoga Sutra of Patanjali’s is : II 48. tato dvandvanabhighatah: "The practice of asana resolves opposition. Asana destroys duality and polarity."
This way the polarities (dvandva) first appear to support each other (creating ascension in the central channel-- holding the spine erect by itself). Here lightness is achieved and gross heaviness and coarseness is replaced with increasingly more subtle qualities of effortlessness until the never-ending absolute is touched.
A literal translation is: "From asana practice which rests in steady joy and relaxed synchronicity (tato) one becomes invulnerable from the assaults (anabhighatah) of duality (dvandva)". This is another characteristic our true stability (sthira) along with steady joy (sukham) and balanced synchronicity. This is our stable, steady, seat of support to be accessed in meditation as well as in everyday life through awareness in movement. Stress, tension, imbalances, and conflict of the body/mind are thus resolved as well. It is also accessed in hatha yoga pranayama, dharana, and dhyana practice as well.
As one moves in asana, we will discover and become aware of some preexisting imbalances, tensions, or conflicts in the body-mind as well as in the neurophysiology and emotions. Inner conflicts and tensions, both emotional and physical will be revealed. Applying non-judgmental pure awareness and light to the situation brings forth remediation by itself.
Sometimes an imbalance is noticed where one side is tighter, more rigid, or stiffer than the other side. It may be due to an overly tight muscle group, which needs to relax, a nerve, blocked energy, toxins, etc. Thus, a practice is geared toward exploring the coarseness of the physical body to disclose the more subtle energy blockages, and eventually revealing that, which is beyond even the most subtle. Thus as one moves balance, stretching, and relaxing those muscle groups and body areas are thought as possibilities. At other times, a tension, constriction, or energy block may be due to the opposite side, whose weak muscle groups may need to be strengthened. Sometimes it is due to bony anomalies such as scoliosis or asymmetric interior joint shapes. Sometimes it is due to organ weakness, nervous system imbalances, right handed over use, or left hand over use,, imbalanced sitting habits, tight truck clutches, vocational demands, sleeping anomalies, life style situations, joint subluxations, emotional, or other karmic mechanisms. The "why" of it is really not important; but rather it is becoming stabilized and familiar with its release. There are many possible causes that will be revealed once the conscious attention is established upon the balance point. Each one of these will require unique adjustments according to our own body wisdom/awareness and sensitivity.
Thus, we can use movement as an inquiry as to what is happening in all aspects of our life, as it is a sounding board and an informative instruction set to make that constitutes informed therapeutic movement. Being informed by the innate intelligence of the body is a two way street (afferent nerves) informing us, listening in the moment, and then responding (efferent motor nerves) effectively in a truly responsible synchronistic synergy. This can happen instantaneously, continuously, and preemptory if the afferent/efferent (receptive and effective/motor) nervous systems are in synch, finely tuned, and intelligently aligned with all the other nerves, organs, tissues, glands, and light body.
Equilateral poses are, of course the safest, but even there an imbalance can show up between left or right or top and bottom. For example, navasana (boat pose) while on the sit-bones (ischial tuberosities), uttanasana (standing forward fold), downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana),. etc. Equilateral poses reveal balance or imbalances well; while a well rounded self instructed asana practice rings out the whole system.
Often, for males in their early years it is almost always a tight muscle group that require relaxation/release (let-go). Usually it is on both sides, but sometimes just one. So when discovering an imbalance, while one is within an asana, one then could focus on what to relax and release, and if imbalanced investigating the possibility of stretched the tighter side more. This assumes that the joints and bones are equally shaped and balanced, so that the imbalance is in the muscles or fascia. However, as males age they tend to get soft and more flabby, because of body negative habits and or illness. Therefore, asana practice should be modified.
More often the open stretched out side is not necessarily weaker, rather it more stretched out/relaxed. Most often this means that the less flexible side is more tight/tense or contracted. In this case, reciprocal action of the opposing muscle groups (agonist/antagonist movement) can be utilized effectively. Thus activating the stretched out side more (by strengthening it) it can often then help stretch the tight side side.
For example, one may have very tight hamstring muscles. One way to stretch them is to build up their reciprocal (agonist) muscles, the quadriceps, but then one can have overblown quadriceps that way, unless the hamstrings are taught to relax permanently. Likewise, one can strengthen the upper back muscles in order to help pull the scapula down the back toward the sacrum away from the ears, if one tends to hunch their shoulders forward and/or collapse the chest inward. However, this achievement will become dependent upon maintaining the strength of these reciprocal back muscles to keep overpower the overly tight pulling of the chest muscles and arms, until the front of the body is allowed to relax. Obviously strengthening the back would not be necessary if the front was first able to become tension free and open. How does one know? The body knows. The first approach should be to relax/release while stretching. .
As an example of flaccidness (hypo-tonification) in one part of the body, causing hyper-tonification at another location is the classic case of a compensatory practice working with superficial symptoms. Due to lack of abdominal strength or over extension of the belly area, the lower back needs to work harder (contract) in order to hold the body erect (to prevent a forward fold). This can cause lower back compression at the lumbar spine if one is not careful. The remedy is to attack the cause of the bloat in the first place, while maintaining overall balance. Similarly, one becomes aware of the internal organs, tissues, glands, cells, and nerves and learns how to move energy through them by removing/releasing blockages/obstructions of the bodymind. One gets to know the body, the mind, the psychic nerves, and energy circuits within and without.
Thus, there exist two extreme approaches which are indirectly relevant to this. One extreme says that to build up strength around a tight and contracted core (hyper-tonified system or hypertonia) will create even more imbalance. That is, in normal movement, it is not wise to strengthen an agonist muscle in an attempt to counteract an already overly tight antagonist muscle (reciprocal muscle action) as that can result in an overly built up or massive reciprocal muscle. So the best approach is to relax the tight resisting muscle (the antagonist muscle (by allowing it to relax and hence open up passively. This can be done by using gravity or the floor. Thus one avoids over compensation by building up extra strength to counteract a chronic antagonist muscle group. Thus in this approach asanas are designed with the idea to RELEASE/RELAX muscle and core tightness first, then activate around a balanced open core.
In general males are more hypertonic than females (many may be hypotonic). Emotionally the former may tend to tighten up, armor, and tense under conflict or stress, while the latter may tend to collapse, cave in, go limp, and/or surrender to conflict/stress. Obviously the healthiest approach to stress stimuli is to stay balanced and centered.
The latter extreme assumes a HYPO-tonic (hypotonia) core (versus a HYPER-tonic core). In this situation where the system may be overly flaccid/soft, then the primary approach is to strengthen/tonify already weak muscle groups through activating the agonist muscles. This approach depends on stretching a tight muscle group through more effort of the reciprocal muscle group (usually the agonist muscle). Here the approach is to strengthen the core, and compact the energy.
So in the above mentioned former passive methods one can use visualization, gravity, the floor, walls, relaxation techniques, or other similar approaches to open and release tightness, tension, stress, clamping, or body armoring while opening a pre-existing contracted/constricted heart/core. After consistent practice then movement around a balanced open core builds a balanced strength naturally. This is likened for a hard or yang male type in finding balance, harmony, and increased functional ease by becoming soft and open. It is a yin approach to an imbalanced overly yang situation.
The second method is more active, willful, left brain, male, and yang where the overly soft, yielding, and flaccid preexisting imbalanced situation becomes tonified, strengthened, and concentrated reestablishing one’s focus and core strength. It is a more yang approach which caters to the inclination/predisposition of Westerners in general where it is generally assumed that more effort will get the desired results; yet the result for most Westerners is anything but balancing. In short Westerners are already imbalanced (left brain, yang, and wound up) and require more yin (right brain, soft, and female) approaches in order to achieve balance. This yielding, yin, and right brain oriented movement around an open core is evidenced by Chinese circus acrobats who do not have great muscle mass, but manifest great agility, flexibility, vitality, and balance.
Here we are dealing of course not just with the muscles, but the entire nervous system, organs, lymph system, emotions, life style, habits, thought patterns, gravity, the tides, mother earth, the moon, stars, energy patterns, and a lot more.
So one has to know oneself -- where is our own synergistic balance and harmony. That is, where a fitting customized and balanced asana practice really resides for our own unique constitution and genetic/karmic situation. We can fine tune this, I am certain, if we use the asana practice itself to inform us at every move.... it reveals through practice.
II 47. prayatna-saithilyananta-samapattibhyam
This profound state of balance and synchronicity (samapattibhyam) is accomplished through progressive and continuous relaxation (prayatna-saithilya) by aligning within the great self existing, self supporting, and self animating (ananta) endless Flow and Intelligence which always awaits the true seeker as the Great Continuum (Infinite Mind).
Yoga asanas thus work in many ways. Asanas work to awaken and empower one’s innate but dormant nervous/psychic systems (often referred to as the nadis, chakras, energy, body, subtle body, etc.) so that even greater conscious integration and realization can occur.
In this sense what appears and manifests as the physical body (annamaya kosha) is a reflection of the energy body (pranamaya kosha), and to an extent the reverse is true; i.e., the state and characteristics of the energy body reflects what is happening in the physical. Both influence the mental/emotional functions (manomaya kosha) and both in turn are influenced by the mental emotional functions.
So at one point in asana practice we bring conscious energy awareness to bear in utilizing breath awareness to open up the energy body as well as the physical body, as well as the mental/emotional body as a wholistic system so that such a conscious integrity is established in what is called the wisdom body (vijnanamaya kosha).
All this happens simultaneously in functional and authentic asana practice. As a result the energy and subtle bodies are capable of holding more of a charge (like a battery) and the foundational but previously dormant circuitry (nadis) become activated thus animating all four bodies. This is a palpable situation and can happen spontaneously as well as can be practiced/perfected. With increased awareness it can be repeated consciously – reversed engineered.
For example once one experiences this unity/harmony through practice, we have am imbedded memory of it or imprint which can be recalled later. Then we can scan the four bodies and become aware/conscious whether or not that the energy has become distracted/dissipated or distorted or on the other hand if it is freely flowing/bubbling. This way functional and natural self regulation becomes integrated at the core. If disharmony exists then we can consciously open the pathways, untangle the knots, and charge up the system using asana, pranayama, bandha, mudra, pratyahara, visualization, focusing, meditation, or other yogic methods.
In asana, there are many basic ways to move, stretch, become fluid, and open up to our evolutionary creative potential. Here the physical body being the coarse/gross representative of the energy/subtle bodies it is an excellent starting place for sensitivity training. All the tensions, distortions, traumas, samskaras, kleshas, fears, etc., of the manomaya kosha are stored in the physical body via the neurophysiology and hence can be accessed as well. This storage imposes a serious drain, imposition, and obfuscation upon the energy body. So here on a very elementary but powerful level we can release these dysfunctional holding patterns via asana with in many cases immediate positive effects. Eventually this can remove the dysfunctional mechanism, habit, vasana, imprint, samskara, trauma, and so forth while bringing in new energy and awareness.
So we start asana practice off with the gross physical body (sthula sharira) at the annamaya kosha (sheath), revealing the more subtle as progress unfolds over time naturally. The physical body is an objective coarse lever into the more subtle layers of existence. One begins over time to learn about the relationship between the breath and the body. Then the energy behind the breath enters into conscious awareness. Here one begins to consciously utilize the energy (prana) to energize the pose, to effect healing, to deeply, relax and release tension, and to work deeply within the organ, tissues, cells, neurophysiology. mental and emotional bodies, and eventually recognize these energetic interrelationships in all of living creation.
Thus an energetic balance within (in the inner ecology) with the energetic matrices outside in the physical cosmos or universe becomes attuned to aligned, and synchronized. One becomes harmonized with the Buddhaverse, body, mind, breath, nature/cosmos through the developing awareness or consciousness (cit-prana or prana shakti) of the energy body or envelope which intervenes between the two (inner and outer ecologies). On a profound level one works on the microcosmic and macrocosmic levels simultaneously.
The traditional medium for this work in traditional yoga parlance are the five koshas (sheaths) and three bodies (sharira): the pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, and jnanamaya koshas (sheaths or layers) which include the subtle body (suksmah sharira), energy body, astral body, vajra body, rainbow-light body, or illusory body or Buddha's bliss bodies (sambhogakaya). Eventually the pathways beyond even the most subtle forms (the formless realm) or causal body (karana sharira) is integrated a the timeless Beginningless realm - the heart of hearts (hridayam) depicted as the inner most axis or core anandamaya kosha or dharmakaya realm of the primordial Buddha.
There exist many hatha yoga procedures/practices that are designed to establish this profound synergistic balance through asana, mudra, bandha, pranayama, and visualization, but the basic components are always the same; i.e., the balanced manipulation of the left (ida or lalana) psychic nerve (nadi) with the right (pingala or rasana) psychic nerve (pingala), so that they are balanced and synchronized. When that profound synchronicity is realized, then the left/right polarization, imbalances, duality, and conflict all cease. Here the core energy is activated through the foundational root (muladhara) center (chakra). This energy then enters the central core (sushumna or avadhuti) psychic nerve (nadi) where the body/mind now is organized around. This is the activated core which occurs when the chakras (energy centers) are balanced , harmonized, and open forming the living components of the self instructing evolutionary/creative energy called mother kundalini. Here one realizes the non-dual union of spirit and nature, pure objectivity with pure subjectivity, consciousness with embodiment/beingness, creator/creation, male/female, yang/yin, samantabhadra/Samantabhadri, shiva/shakti, rasana/lalana, pingala/ida, ha/tha, which is transconceptional, all encompassing, and beyond words to describe.
This natural evolutionary energy is the true healer and instructor. The ancient yogis (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, etc) would abide in sublime communion of total integration (samadhi) through meditation and contemplation techniques (sahaj samadhi), and thus the entire organism's energy system would automatically self regulate as above in synchrony. When the natural evolutionary energy entered the central channel (sushumna), these yogis would undergo various spontaneous ecstatic dances, movements, kriyas, songs, sounds, gazes, breathing (pranayama), and/or gestures (mudras) which were observed and written down. They were moved by their direct experience. Thus yogic pranayama, hatha yoga asana practice, bandhas, mudra practice, tratak, and prana vidya practices began as a method of reverse engineering this state of harmony, integration, and profound synergistic balance/symmetry. At the same time, yogis realized that these practices opened up the nadis, enhanced the pranic flow, stimulated greater awareness of cit-shakti, provided more balance, harmony, integration, and meditational stability. In short, the science of hatha yoga began to flourish working from the coarse body to the more subtle, to that which was beyond even the most subtle (formless realm). As the mind affects the body's physiology, so too does the physiology affect the mind.
That intermediate alchemical vessel, which is to be activated and expressed -- where integration is achieved can be described as the vessel of the energy light body or illusory body (the pain free body of the Buddha or sambhogakaya).
There are teachers who teach yoga as a method of opening up the heart and clearing out the afflictive emotions (kleshas). This is part of how I teach as well. Fear is definitely one of the kleshas. Contrary to current beliefs in cognitive behavior theory, identifying the cause of the fear matters little, for therapy to occur. One can know the causes, but the mechanism can still negatively affect one. Sometimes delving deeper and deeper into the causal trauma actually can cause a re-traumatization as well as a negative fixation that reinforces pain and suffering.
In yoga therapy, what is most excellent is that the practitioner recognizes fear or other afflictive emotions (kleshas) when they arise, when one is doing an asana. That supplies a somatic hook (through titration -- through slowly allowing in new cit-prana into the area) releasing/clearing the emotional obscuration for good. This is also how body psychotherapy and somatics work to clear post traumatic stress syndromes. Hence one discovers an old unresolved emotion trapped (walled off) non-verbally inside the body. Not focusing on the cause of the fear, but rather focusing on releasing it through movement, breath, and energy work. The cause could be when one was in the womb all cramped up, or trapped in the crib with tight covers, or the fear or pain you experienced when you fell at age 4, or shame when felt at age 7, karmic (peri-natal), or even precognitive/anticipatory, etc. Therapeutically it simply doesn't matter.
The gift here is that through asana practice one has consciously recognized an emotion that is triggered when one visits that region or mechanism. So simply by slowly entering into that space (called titrating) one can adjust the intensity and consciously investigate the emotions and energetics involved. This handle affords the practitioner to clear out the energy blockage consciously by at first moving into it with the body and breath at their own pace s l o w l y and gradually and “safely”.
Here one “checks in” consciously with the breath, back off when needed, but then when one has recovered go back into it again until the mechanism is cleared/released. Eventually it will release and when it does a cloud will lift emotionally and energetically regardless if one has a conscious memory of the causal factors or not. Here one moves into joy and openness, rather than further into the suffering and pain body.
I heard this story from a fellow yogi who described going into a pose which had always eluded him one day. On this day he went into this same troublesome pose with heightened awareness and curiosity, and his knees and body started to shake uncontrollably. In an instant he recalled a childhood memory when he was attacked by a group of bullies and he contracted all over in an attempt to protect himself. That part of his body that the asana was provoking was one part that never let go – it had never recovered from the trauma and left a lasting imprint inside both his emotional body (as fear) and his physical body as well. That time he was able to let it go completely effecting an energetic change.
Some traumas are entirely physical. Some are mostly emotional where the body stores the emotional pain in specific representational/symbolic physical areas. Many traumas have both components, For example there are emotions around falling down, being beaten up, attacked, etc. that have strong emotional as well as physical trauma. Other strong emotional experiences may have been primarily emotional like shame, guilt, intimidation, anger, hatred, fear, but then one transfers the energy to the body such as the gut, the shoulders, the jaw, tongue, forehead, groin, or any other part of the body. Today neurophysiologists know that every thought and emotion has a biochemical and neurophysiological correspondence in the body, some of which severely affect future response to specific stimuli in a negative and habitual way unless the mechanism is reprogrammed. Most people's chronic problems are based on unresolved traumatic or intense past emotional experiences. They are emotionally based and such are stored in cellular reactive memory, but of which, they have little or no conscious memory.
A powerful aspect of hatha yoga is that it allows us to be our own therapists to -- reprogram/recondition the body/mind, to open up not just the body, not just the emotions and the mind, not just the blocked energy body and nadis, but to open, activate, and embody the heart of hearts.
Hatha yoga has a rather large healing side to it, of course. It always did, but it has to be wisely practiced as an awareness practice – as a practice that brings liberation through consciousness. It is not an external system, but is only effective when it is suited to our condition, past programming, and unique constitution. When such is remediated, then the universal life force is revealed in all one’s relationships.
For example, I may tend to be a bit kapha and tamasic. Thus, I may benefit from a fiery practice, if that is what I need that day. That means, that in our own home personal practice, we necessarily should titrate (measure it out slowly and mindfully according to need) by customizing the practice to our specific situation. On another day, I may need a cooling or relaxing practice. When we simply follow the direction of the prana (the life force/energy), the inner wisdom/inner-knowing guides us, and deep changes occur. Awakening this natural innate wisdom is a large benefit of a spirited hatha yoga practice. This way, we can turn around many illnesses. Wisdom (as self knowledge) allows us to learn through awareness and joy! Through consistent intelligent long term practice, the yogi finds that there is corrective yoga regimen for any imbalance or injury. The pity is that sometimes it may take a long time to recognize it.
More natural wisdom, insight, and vitality can be beneficially integrated into all facets of our life. For example, a wise diet (nutritionally, emotionally, and energetically) that is suitable can be critical for one who is on the borderline of an illness. It is usually best, not to eat anything more than hot lightly sweetened lemon water or light tea immediately after practice. It is best to surround oneself in a pleasant natural environment with friends of light, if possible. Perhaps do some chanting, service, devotional activity from the heart, maintaining, affirming and sharing the love by generating the bodhicitta. Attempt integration in all means.
Later, if physical nourishment seems right, take some light food such as fresh fruit juice or fruit or other easily digested food. If one imagines that they need more nourishment, then test that by your newly developed pranic-meter, by ascertaining whether it is emotional, energetic, or physical. Be guided by the awareness of the life force in all your relations! Be aware of the nadis and maintain flow interactively in all situations. That's the related synergistic practice off the yoga rug and meditation cushion.
When asana practice is focused on being present, attentive presence in context of love while honoring and respecting the life force in all our relations, then our own heart consciousness becomes activated in all aspects of life more continuously. Thus what we do in this life is spontaneously and simultaneously nurturing to self and others, wise, and loving. Our common interdependent bond and transpersonal loving identity as part of creation – as kin, as All Our Relations, is celebrated naturally and joyfully at every juncture.
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Rainbowbody Articles Index Page
Hatha Yoga Asana Practice: An Energy Body Approach
The Timeless Body of Infinite Life: the Divine Body
A Chakra Purification Meditation
Introduction to Chakra and Energy Healing
The Variety of Yoga Teachings and Teachers: How to Contact Your Inner Teacher (a large document)
Hatha Yoga Purification Page Index
Bandhas in Hatha Yoga Practice
HeartMind Links Page containing links to many hatha yoga classical texts