“In ancient times Hatha Yoga was practiced for many years as a preparation for higher states of consciousness. Now, however, the real purpose of this great science is being altogether forgotten. The Hatha Yoga practices which were designed by the rishis and sages of old, for the evolution of mankind, are now being understood and utilized in a very limited sense. Often we hear people say , “oh, I don’t practice meditation, I only practice physical Yoga, Hatha Yoga”. Now the time has come to correct this view point. Hatha Yoga is a very important science for man today…
The main objective of Hatha Yoga is to create an absolute balance of the interacting 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 force (sushumna nadi) which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness. If Hatha Yoga is not used for this purpose, its true objective is lost. “
– Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1923-2009)
I have come across this very quote in at least 4 different places the past month or so.
The discussion out there on what is yoga and not yoga is roaming stronger than ever, and yes, we in the west seem to fully embrace the asana’s – the physical aspect of the practice of Yoga – as it being a life saver also a pretty hip thing to ”do”.
I won’t get into that very discussion here – I just want to share some thoughts that have been in my mind for quite some time, having evolved out my journey from “yoga will save me” (and it did , as my first teacher was a traditional Hatha Yogi who shone a bright light on the complete yogic path and once I left for a new country and new adventures due to his light I kept searching till I found it again after quite a few “hit and miss” trials at different studios), to where I am now, teaching Yoga, as well as in my daily practice and also closely linked to what I learn and encounter in my work as a nutritionist and an animal communicator & Reiki healer.
Actually, basically those things are just titles and labels – what I am getting at is that as consciousness is changing through this practice of Yoga in all is aspects, the rest of your life evolves with it as all life is consciousness.
And I believe that this all encompassing consciousness is the place we all need to strive for to find, to get us out of not only what we perceive as our personal misery but also this global and environmental crisis and misery we find ourselves in.
If you are practicing “just” the physical asana’s at the moment, and you read the quote from Swami Satyananda Saraswati above just now feeling the step from your tree pose to his statement being too big a step, then start by observing, in your next practice or next class, what comes up in you if you let the name of the postures really roll through your mind;
Vrksasana – Tree pose
Ustrasana – Camel pose
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Dog with head down
Ardha Chandrasana – Half moon
Adho Mukha Vrksasana – Tree with head down (or handstand)
Garudasana – Eagle pose
Uttkatasana – Thunderbolt
Tittibhasana – Firefly
Bakasana – Crane pose
Pincha Mayurasana – Peacock
Dhanurasana – Birds nest
Gomukhasana – Cow’s pose
We can go on and on with the list, but isn’t it remarkable, that so many of the postures are named after animals or elements of nature?
And there are more, some also named after hero’s, or mythical figures if you’d rather call them that, from the scriptures of India – Visvamitrasana, Virabhadrasana (yes, translated as “warrior pose”, so how about learning about Arjuna here from the Bhagavad Gita to find the connection or study the Shaolin monks or old samurai philiosophy or even read the book “Shambhala, The Sacred Path Of The Warrior”), Marichiyasana and more.
Start by going into your asana practice with a clear awareness of these names, stay for a while and “become” this very label – in essence, experience the consciousness of another being.
And after some time, as you go deeper into this practice, stop and see where it has taken you.
Share your questions, answers and experiences with us. Let them sink in during your mediations.
Then decide on the next course to take from the place where your consciousness is at that very moment in time.
I wonder if we all would still treat our planet, our fellow human, animal and nature beings, including ourselves, the way the majority of us are right now if we all practice being a tree, a camel, a birds nest, a cow, a warrior and a mythical hero to name a few with our complete awareness on a regular basis?
Once you practice and let the practice guide you through all the steps of Yoga, which will evolve naturally once you do practice – as, when your consciousness evolves it is natural to follow what Swami Satyananda Saraswati called “the evolution of mankind”, we will become more curious and want to go on and on and on and keep evolving.
Once you are on this path, I wonder if you will still see yourself as separate from the tree, the cow, the dog, the thunderbolt etc and how you will act and live your life, what you will base your decisions and choices on?
I know for myself right now, but that is just for right now – tomorrow it will be different as evolution goes on and the higher states of consciousness are up that ladder, from which you fall off or slide back down a notch more often than not…
All I can tell you, from my perspective right now, is that it is not the ladder with the 30 seconds handstand, 1 minute handstand, 2 minutes handstand and so on. It is feels more like the ladder of 30 seconds upside down Tree, 1 minute upside down Tree, 2 minutes upside down Tree and so on – with the consciousness of the Tree, of the Cow, of the River, of the Warrior, of even my Neighbour not being separate from mine. Of taking this into the meditation and from the meditation into what we call “life”.
And to quote Sri Aurobindo – “all life is Yoga”.
Let me know where it is taking you!