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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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

 

Life is __________ (insert your word).

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Tahoe strolling.

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is costly, care for it.
Life is wealth, keep it.
Life is love, enjoy it.
Life is mystery, know it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

-Mother Theresa