On practising yoga

Photo by Christian Sterk on Unsplash

The following thoughts on yoga practice appeared in my Facebook Yoga page during 2017.

Yoga should leave us feeling good

Śrī T Krishnamacharya held the view that ‘Āsana should not be an aṅga bhanga sādhana.’

Aṅga means ‘limb,’ bhanga means ‘to disrupt’ or ‘to be harmful’ and sādhana means ‘practice.’

What this means is that yoga should not be a practice that disrupts the harmony of the body, breath or mind. More broadly, that the practices we undertake should be useful for the whole body and not just for parts of it. Whatever we practise should support us and not do the opposite. It should leave us feeling good, relaxed and alert: sattva.

‘Consequently, using asymmetric āsanas to work on both sides of the body independently was important in his approach.’ Krishnamacharya considered running to be aṅga bhanga sādhana. While running, as an exercise, generally helps heart and lungs and other parts of the body, it can be harmful to ankles, knees and hips. Gary Kraftsow has ‘seen people jogging along the freeway in heavy traffic at midday under the hot sun without a hat.’ Mad dogs and English men, eh?

I am always astonished to hear of friends of friends who have run several marathons in the desert. Extreme sports are quite popular today. It’s a great accomplishment to be sure, but I wonder at what cost to the integrity of the body?

I have heard of cases where a yoga practice included 108 rounds, four times a day, of kapālabhāti – a breathing exercise meant to cleanse the system and involving short and fast breathing done while moving the tummy in and out – that left the practitioner suffering insomnia and anxiety (too much rajas). Essentially, he had applied excessively, a good piece of yoga technology in the wrong way and was paying the price. Why did he do it? Because he had read it in a yoga book.

Unless we can find a competent teacher with whom we can work with regularly, we should consider very carefully the consequences of the choices we make in developing our own practice.

[The quotations are taken from one of Krishnamacharya’s important students, A. G. Mohan’s book, “Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings” (p. 27) & from one of TKV Desikachar’s student’s, Gary Kraftsow’s book Yoga for Wellness (p.133)] [Posted 8 January 2017]

The benefits of practising yoga

Yoga can keep you feeling young.

As a form of exercise that can be enjoyed at any age, the intelligent application of yoga practices help maintain the joints, and muscle tone and control. As we age joints and muscles can degenerate and tighten. Yoga can help to work against this tendency, which is made worse by modern lifestyles that involve using cars, lifts, and sitting for long periods of time.

Yoga can improve the shape of the spine which in turn leads to upright and younger looking postures and gait.

Yoga’s emphasis on good breathing can maintain chest muscles and respiratory health.

Yoga, when established as part of one’s daily routines encourages mental well being.

You get to the point in your practice where eating the wrong foods, smoking and drinking to excess simply become pointless. Yoga practices make you feel good and help you choose healthy foods.

Circulation can improve as can blood pressure.

Positive emotions stay around longer and states of anxiety and depression are less common and less intense. The deeper practices of yoga can make us less fearful of ageing and disease.

Sleep improves. Tiredness, fatigue and lethargy diminish.

Wisdom and contentment develops.

Yoga is not a cure all; it’s not a quick fix. In fact for some, it may not cure a thing.

However, research on those over 60 who have been practising yoga daily for 10 or more years generally have a noticeably better quality of life and a more youthful way of living.

[Posted 2 September 2017]

The personalised yoga practice

Having a personalised yoga practice, one we can do for ourselves each day, is about helping us to become more successful in our personal lives. It is about re-integrating body, vitality, intellect, personality and emotional heart. It’s about optimising our health and happiness.

Over time we become more intergrated and balanced. This natural harmony, even as it is developing, will have a positive influence on those around us. In a way our personal practice becomes a support and benefit for others.

[Posted 12 January 2017]

The power of practising regularly

The mind is undoubtedly fickle and difficult to control … but it can be controlled by abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyām, practise and non-attachment [to the fruits of practising]. [BG VI.35 – see also YS I.12]

I was reading today’s Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram’s FB post – a friend of mine drew my attention to it (thank you Chris!).

Interestingly, their Research Department suggests that 76% of people who practise yoga for therapeutic reasons at least 5 times a week, gain at least 60% relief from symptoms.

In other words, the intelligent application and practice of yoga can improve the quality of life for many people.

[Posted 28 August 2017]

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