CREATING RIGHT CONDITIONS FOR YOGA
Yoga is about discovering your real inner self, about re-inventing or re-designing yourself. To achieve that, right conditions for Yoga have to be there. Yoga means you are moving towards expanding your consciousness, towards connecting yourself with the Super Consciousness or Super Intelligence. You have to create the necessary atmosphere to let this happen. When you were created the first time, it was not your choice – it happened from memory stored in inherited DNA! But now that you are reinventing yourself through Yoga, you can choose to go step-by-step, moving towards how you want yourself to be.
You expand your consciousness through Yoga. I’ve been asked many times how to do that – well, you don’t have to be explained when you are ready! This is something to be experienced. When you connect with the source of creation, you practically connect with a huge source of intelligence, the kind of intelligence that you won’t think is possible, which we mortals perceive as genius. To allow this to happen, there should be no obstacles. Some of the common obstacles can be removed easily. The Yoga teachings and methodology provided here have been perfected over thousands of years not only to optimize the benefits, but also to reduce any dangers and risks associated with awakening Kundalini Shakti prematurely. This approach helps avoid many of the difficulties involved with the premature awakening of Kundalini that one sometimes comes across. Please follow the following advice and feel the difference.
Cold Water Bath
Before beginning your practice, especially in the morning, it is better to take a bath with cold water which is about five degree Celsius lower than room temperature. This will open up the pores of your skin. This is important for practicing yoga because we want the cellular and energetic structure of the body to be charged with a different dimension. Also, it washes away the physical and emotional negativity accumulated over the preceding time. Why one person seems to be far more alive than the other is essentially because of energy. Once you are charged with energy, youthfulness stays for a very long time.
Yoga is generally practiced barefoot. Clothing should generally be loose and comfortable. It is advisable to keep the shoulders and spine covered, so practicing without any covering the upper body is not recommended. This has to do with the awakening, flow and distribution of Kundalini via the 3 main energy channels (ida, pingala and sushumna) that lie in and along the spinal cord.
A blanket can be used to cover the body after Yoga, especially after meditation, during the relaxation period. Keep the body covered and warm. Most Kriyas are followed by a period of relaxation that is usually done in corpse pose (shav-asana) and during this time the body temperature tends to drop, so a blanket can be used to keep the body warm and comfortable.
Yoga With Full Awareness
Keep your full focus on what you are doing. Try to be as aware as possible of every posture and movement you are making during your practice. Check throughout your yoga session where your mind is; if it has wandered, gently bring it back and focus again on the poses and the breathing. This is the most essential requirement of yoga, regardless of whether you are a beginner or a master. In addition, if certain feelings or energies awaken within you, bring your attention to them and just observe them taking their course as you progress through your practice.
There is no Yoga without Pranayama! Yoga significantly relies on the Science of Pranayama (breathing exercises). Unless specified otherwise, all breathing should be done through the nose.
Jal Neti (washing the nostrils with saline water) is recommended for cleaning the nasal passageways to help maximize the benefits of pranayama.
Some Yoga Kriyas can be quite challenging and it is recommended to always do warm-ups first before doing these tough sets and asanas. There are several good easy kriyas and sets, which work very well as warm-ups to the tough kriyas. It is especially important to do spinal warm-ups as charging the cerebrospinal fluid within the spinal cord and brain assists in the flow of awakened Kundalini Shakti. Don’t overdo it. Try to walk the middle road. This goes for both – your overall practice and also for each kriya and asana you do. In other words, each exercise you do should not be too easy and not too hard, and your overall practice should be equally balanced, between being ridiculously ambitious or excessively easy. With regard to your practice, try to establish a steady, long-term daily practice, rather than doing 10 hours a day for 2 weeks and then nothing after that.
Use common sense. For the difficult asanas and exercises, ease off a little if you feel you are risking injury. Also, feel free to increase the relaxation time between exercises or reduce the time suggested for doing a particular exercise to suit your pace. Yoga practice is all about you and only you. It is not a competition. So, listen to your body and let your inner voice guide and direct you.
It is immensely important to initially learn Yoga from a knowledgeable and experienced teacher, the Guru, who can ensure that the understanding is accurately disseminated. Safety is a big concern. If possible you should at least try to attend a few live yoga classes so that you can get a feel of the asanas and pranayamas. Guru is very important. Later on, in absence of Guru, the Guru within is always available to guide you.
Good literature and websites can also provide some guidance for practicing yoga.
When to Practice Yoga
In general Yoga should be practiced in the early morning hours. Early morning is called Brahma-Muhurta in Sanskrit. It literally means ‘The Divine Time’. This is the time of the day when the spiritual energy on our planet is at its highest. The air at that time is fresh and contains the greatest amount of prana (cosmic life force). The mind is also fresh and unburdened with the worries of everyday life. This will help in the practice of concentration and meditation. This is the time of day when you are least likely to be distracted by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The stomach is empty, which is necessary before practicing many of the Yoga asanas and pranayamas.
But if you can’t do your practice at that time, it is acceptable to practice at other times of the day as well. Choice and intensity of Yoga postures is better optimized to the designated time.
Where to Practice Yoga
It is important for the place where you practice Yoga to be neat, spacious and clean, but more importantly, it should be well ventilated. You can also use a fan to keep the air fresh, but make sure it is not pointed directly at you. Practicing outdoors is even better, although direct sunlight should be avoided.
Try not to eat at least 3 hours before doing your Yoga practice. While practicing yoga asanas, you should not only be on an empty stomach, your bowels should also be empty. Anything that is not the body should be out of the body if you want to move your energies beneficially. Though they act on the physical body, or the annamaya kosha, as well, Yoga practices are not mere physical exercises; they act at the energy bodies as well. To achieve that, nothing should be there other than your body. So, the food you put in or the waste you produced, both these things should be out.
Given that Yoga uses many different bandhas (body locks), pranayamas (breathing exercises), asanas and vigorous movement, you could be quite uncomfortable if your stomach or bowels are still full.
Although Yoga in general recommends a Sattvic diet (foods that promote calmness and clarity), and not Rajasic foods (energetic foods that promote activity) or Tamasic foods (foods that promote heaviness and dull the mind), due to the nature of Yoga, including some Rajasic foods in your diet is permissible. Still it is recommended that the bulk of your diet be Sattvic. Sattvic foods are generally fresh and sweet such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey etc. Rajasic foods are generally spicy and stimulating, such as onions, garlic, eggs, fish, tea etc. Tamasic foods are fatty foods, stale food, meat, etc.
Yoga Kriyas are designed to force the organs, tissues, nerves and vessels to expel buried toxins out into the elimination systems of the body. So some time after any Kriyas or tough yoga set, one should drink plenty of water to help cleanse the body of the toxins and waste that have been released.
Keep Your Eyes Closed
Just closing eyes reduces 75% of alpha wave activity in brain. So, for us humans, shutting down the visual apparatus is quite important to quieten the mind. You see this world with your eyes, and you hold a lot of energy in your eyes. When eyes are closed, the outer world disappears. The eyes naturally close for any internal experience because the visual apparatus connects us with the outward. If you just close them, you can still hear, smell and feel, but much of the world is shut out. So, focus on internal experience happens best when your eyes are closed. When you’re doing Yoga, you want to internalize everything. So, keep your eyes closed during yoga.
Not talking during the asana should not be just a norm in Yoga classes, it should be a rule! Asanas are dynamic meditation – because you are not yet capable of staying still, you’re doing something else to become meditative, that which is absolutely comfortable and stable is your asana. When your body is at ease, your mind is at ease and your energies flow freely, in complete vibrancy and balance. If you sit still, you are naturally meditative. To come to a state of natural meditation, the preparatory step is asana.
If you speak, many disturbances happen physiologically and energetically. You must never speak in postures because your focus, breath and what happens to your energy system are most important; otherwise you will disturb the system. If you have to speak, come out of asana and then do it.
Using Mirrors/Listening to Music
Ideally, there should never be a mirror or music when you practice Hatha Yoga. This culture of using mirrors has come from body-building and gymnasia because, there, people want to admire their physical bodies. In yoga, that is not recommended at all. If you look at yogis, their physical structure is not like that of an athlete – they are quite ordinary; some are even plump! For Yogis, the only thing important to them is their consciousness which must grow. If you want to get the involvement of that which is the source of creation within you, your body, mind, and energy must be absolutely involved and aligned. And your mental focus is most important while practicing asanas.
Classical yoga demands aligning your body, mind and energy, and the innermost core. You have to give your one hundred percent for the source of creation, which we usually refer to as the divine, to yield. If you hold back or deviate a little, it will not be there for you.
Frequency of Practice
The Yoga Sutra says – sthira sukham asanam – an asana should be comfortable and stable. The goal of asana practice is to achieve a state where your asana is comfortable and stable; even if you remain in a posture for hours, it should stay the same, without eliciting any disturbances internally. That is when your perception starts expanding.
The intention of Hatha Yoga practice is to knead the body in such a way that we can remold it. So, whatever time you want to devote, should be done with one hundred percent involvement. In true spirit of Yoga, doing yoga every day or twice a week – that doesn’t really matter!
Human body is clay. Karma, or the established memory, makes it rigid. . It is because of this memory that the physical, physiological and psychological aspects becomes rigid. Through Yoga, we try to undo that. Then, you can shape it whichever way you want because the energies become fluid.
Dr Jitender K Sahdev
p style=”text-align: center;”>President and Director of Teaching
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