Hatha Yoga (the yoga of physical movement).

Hatha is the branch of yoga in which we use the physical practices – including postures, breathwork, dietary selection, and other “external” means – to build better control of our thoughts in order to move ultimately toward one-mindedness.

As part of this, we strive to balance the body and mind, with the understanding that they are always in fluctuation.

Goal: To gain freedom through physical discipline.

How to get there: Through practicing the 8 limbs of yoga.

HATHA2

Yamas and Niyamas,

The five yamas are moral directives intended to guide the practitioner’s behavior towards others.

  • Ahimsa: Nonviolence towards others.
  • Satya: Truthfulness.
  • Asteya: Not stealing from others. Though this probably had a literal meaning originally, it has been extended to mean not putting others down to build yourself up.
  • Brahmacharya: Chastity. Whether this means celibacy or simply controlling one’s sexual impulses is open to interpretation.

While the yamas direct one’s behavior towards others, the niyamas describe how to act ethically towards oneself.  The 5 niyamas are:

  • Saucha: Cleanliness. Again, probably a practical meaning originally but has a modern interpretation keeping your intentions pure.
  • Santosa: Contentment with oneself.
  • Tapas: Self discipline. Having the commitment to sustain a practice.
  • Svadhyaya: Self study. Having the courage to look within yourself for answers.
  • Isvara pranidhana: Surrender to a higher power. Whether that is a deity or the acceptance that the world is governed by forces outside of our control is up to you.

Together, these two sets of rules were meant to guide one to a righteous lifestyle.

Asana

The practice of yoga postures, although it should be noted that the word asana means seat.

HATHA1

 

Pranayama

The practice of breathing exercises. Choosing to control the breath for specific effects.

Pratyahara

The withdrawal of the senses, meaning that the exterior world is not a distraction from the interior world within oneself.

Dharana

Concentration, or the ability to focus on something uninterrupted by external or internal distractions. Dharana builds upon pratyahara.

Once you can ignore external stimuli, you can begin to direct your concentration elsewhere.

Dhyana

Meditation. Building upon dharana, your are able to expand your concentration beyond a single thing so that it becomes all encompassing

Samadhi

Bliss. After you have achieved dhyana, the transcendence of the self through meditation can begin. The self merges with the universe, which is sometimes translated as enlightenment.

HATHA3

 

Advertisements

From cell to birth… (a yoga lesson)

The human body (which is made up of about 100 trillion cells) begins as a single, newly fertilized cell.

Cells under microscope -186741116

Nutrients need to get through the cell membrane, and once inside, the cell metabolizes these nutrients and turn them into energy that fuels its life functions. As a result, waste is generated and needs to somehow get back out through the membrane.

Any impairment in the membranes ability to let nutrients in, or waste out, will result in the death of the cell via starvation or toxicity.

The observation that all living things take in nutrients provides a good understanding of Prana, which is what nourishes a living thing. Prana is not only what is brought in as nourishment, but also the action that brings it in.

The yogic concept that complements prana is apana. Apana refers to what is eliminated as well as the action of elimination. Prana and Apana describe the essential activities of life.

In order for a cell to thrive, certain conditions need to exist. The cell needs to be permeable so nutrients and waste can pass in and out of the cell, but it can’t be so permeable that the cell wall loses its integrity.

The yogic term that reflects these opposites are sthira and sukha. All living things need to balance containment and permiability, rigidity and fluidity, persistence and adaptability, space and boundaries, etc…

 

Let’s look at the things that happen at the start of life on earth.

In utero, oxygen is delivered through the umbilical cord (the mother does the breathing), your lungs are sealed off and non functional or mostly collapsed. The circulatory system is largely reversed, with oxygen rich blood flowing through the veins and oxygen depleted blood flowing through the arteries. (I will go into much finer detail of this in another blog post)

8-weeks-human-fetus-300x222

 

Being born means being severed from the umbilical cord, which has sustained you for nine months. Suddenly, and for the first time, you need to engage in actions that will ensure your continued survival.

The first breath causes blood to surge into the lungs; the right and left sides of the heart to separate into two pumps; and the specialized vessels of fetal circulation to shut down and seal off. Your first breath is the most forceful one as it needs to overcome the initial surface tension of your previously collapsed, fluid-filled lungs.

 

Another first time experience that occurs at birth is the weight of the body in space. Inside the womb, you are in a weightless, fluid filled environment. At birth, your universe expands and you can move freely in space, your limbs and head can move freely in relation to your body and you must be supported in gravity.

 

Right away, you have to start DOING something, you have to find nourishment, which involves a complex action of simultaneously breathing, sucking and swallowing. All the muscles involved in the act of survival create your first postural skill – supporting the weight of your head.

Postural development continues from the head downward, until you begin walking, with the completion of your lumbar spine at about 10yrs old.

 

To summarize: At birth you are confronted by two forces that were not present in utero: breath and gravity. The practice of yoga can be seen as a way to consciously explore the relationship of breath and posture.

 

In the language of yoga: Life on this planet requires an integrated relationship between breath )prana/apana) and posture (sthira/sukha). When things go wrong with one, they go wrong with the other.

 

Content from Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff

 

Bandhas.

The Word Bandha means to hold, tighten or bind. These locks have an effect on the flow of prana where various muscles are contracted and controlled in the physical body that retain the circulation of prana in the subtle body.

*Practicing bandhas should be done with the supervision of an experienced teacher.  bandha all The Neck Lock (Jalandhara Bandha)

Jala means a net, a web, a lattice or a mesh. This lock releases energy blocked within the upper chest. It creates space in the upper spine and aids in releasing tension which builds up as a result of mental activity.

1. Sit in an upright position with the palms of your hands resting on your knees.

2. Inhales deeply and hold your breathe.

3. Bend your head forward and draw your chin to your chest  as you contract the throat.

4.Retain the breathe comfortably. Exhale and release the lock. jalandhara bandha

Jalandhara bandha regulates the flow of blood and prana to the heart, the glands in the neck and the head, together with the brain.

If pranayama is not practiced with Jalandhara Bandha, then pressure is felt on the heart, behind the eyes and inside the ear cavity, resulting in light headedness or dizziness.

The Diaphram Lock (Uddiyana Bandha)

This lock stimulates the solar plexus chakra (Manipura). As this is the distribution center for prana throughout the body, this lock improves the flow of prana throughout the body. A gentle Uddiyana Bandha engagement provides powerful structural support for the abdomen, waist and low back. bandha uddiyana bandha 1. Sit upright with your hands on your knees, palms facing down.

2. Exhale deeply, emptying your abdomen and chest.

3. Lift your diaphragm, pulling the organs of the upper abdomen up and back towards the spine. (Imagine the feeling of taking in breathe (Inhaling), but without the actual inhale.

4. Lock the posture and hold while it is comfortable. Release and inhale.

Uddiyana means flying up. The process of this lock is to lift the diaphragm high up into the thorax and to pull the abdominal organs against the back towards the spine. It is said that through this lock, the great bird of prana is forced to fly upward through susumna (the main channel for energy flow inside the spinal column)

It is important to note that this should only be performed at the end of an exhale when breathing is suspended. The cavity created by the lift of the diaphragm gives a gentle massage to the muscles of heart, thereby toning it. This lock exercises the diaphragm and abdominal organs.

* Never attempt this bind on an inhale or at the end of an inhalation: This will put strain on the heart, diaphragm and eyes.

The Root Lock (Mulabandha)

This is the most complex of the locks. It has a powerful effect on the energies at the base of the spine . If the body is viewed as a container with energy both entering and leaving, then the amount of energy can be increased by closing the bottom of the container through Mulabandha. This bandha strengthens the abdominal floor, providing support for the reproductive organs.

mula_bandha

1. Sit up straight with hands facing down on your knees.

2. Inhale deeply. Contract the muscles at your perineum and draw them upwards.

3. Draw the lower abdomen towards the spine.

4. Hold the lock while comfortable. Release and exhale.

Mula means root, source, origin or foundation. Mula bandha is the region between the anus and genitalia.  By contracting this region, Apana Vayu (the prana in the lower abdomen which moves downward), is made to flow in an upward direction to unite with Prana Vayu (the prana in the region of the chest, which moves upward)

First attempt this lock after inhalation, where the entire region of the lower abdomen (between the naval and the anus) is contracted toward the spine and drawn up toward the diaphragm.

*Note: Uddiyana Bandha is the upper abdomen lifting up and the Mulabandha is the lower abdomen lifting up.

The practice of contracting Asvini Mudra (in the diagram above it is spelled Ashwini), helps one to master Mulabandha.