Friday, September 24, 2010

What is Hatha Yoga? Hatha Yoga and the Gunas

Ever been in a class where you swirl and curl to pounding disco music?  It feels like there's endless push ups, the music makes you feel like you're at a night club, and it's just one pose after another with the focus on the physical only.  They have Thievery Corporation bumping so loud you can't hear the mantra you are trying to repeat as you practice.

Or the flip side, you spend an hour and a half rolling around on the ground making noises.  You're not really sure when a traditional asana will be performed if ever.  You yawn again, and hope you can stay awake for the duration of the class.

I honestly can't remember the last time I had a teacher in the USA, besides the Yogacharyas I have studied with, teach Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha, Dharana, or anything outside of Asana.  Most teachers don't use Sanskrit, much less chant at the beginning of a class.  My Guruji has stressed the importance of chanting as part of a traditional sadhana, and as an easy way to balance out the mind, body, and gunas.

There is such a wide range of teachings in the West.  Some I consider very traditional and Yogic even if I don't necessarily appreciate the style and school of Yoga.  Others seem questionable at best, and then there's the classes I can't even call Yoga, it just seems so far from what I know it to be.  These are the classes where you leave feeling either lethargic, or so scattered that you can't think properly.  If you swirl and curl in your body your mind will swirl and curl as well!

Here's my standard for Hatha Yoga, my students in P-town will recognize the quote.

"The main objective of Hatha Yoga is to create an absolute balance of the integrating activities and processes of the physical body, mind, and energy.  When this balance is created the impulses generated give a call of awakening to the central channel (sushumna nadi) which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness.  If Hatha Yoga is not used for this purpose, it's true objective is lost."

Swami Muktibodhananda

Now, apply this with your understanding of the Gunas!

Lots of movement and loud music- Rajasic practice that will lead to pain and suffering.
Little movement and effort- Tamasic practice that leads to cloudiness and lack of clarity.

A Sattwic practice is a balance of the two, and this will be different for every person relative to their Doshas and Gunas.  It's why I love to do my own practice every morning, and why I encourage my students to do more than classes.  We should all learn how to cultivate a balanced home practice that will help us to reach the true objective of Hatha Yoga.

Our Hatha practice should leave us in a state of equanimity, the goal of the practice is to cultivate Sattwa and evolve our human consciousness.

Jay Shiv Shakti

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