In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the yoga postures discussed all occur seated or lying down. Anyone who has done your conventional Vinyasa class in this day and age will realise that there are several standing postures. It is very likely that we would spend most of our yoga class attempting to balance. It has been suggested that due to our increasing need to be grounded and find stability in a life where most of us are out of touch with reality it has become necessary for us to try to balance. We need to find that stability standing before we can advance to postures that work on different elements that .
Now anyone who has found that their class consists of several balancing postures, or even those who just try to stand on one foot after exercising, will tell you that it is a posture mastered with patience and time. You generally need at least 30 seconds to find your stability, and then a while longer to actually receive the benefits of the postures. By balancing we are able to slow the body & mind down, finding that sense of contentment and relaxation. We are also able to really understand the posture and what our bodies are doing in the postures. One has to wonder then why have we started moving towards this faster way of yoga, should we not attempting to develop understanding in the body, concentration in the mind, and that connection with our energy body. I find that balancing postures have a lovely way of clearing all that nonsense in my head, and preparing it for meditation. Due to some lower back tenderness I ended up doing quite a few ying yoga & hatha classes. As a Vinyasa & Ashtanga yoga practitioner, this was not what I would have called the most exciting class ever, but after doing these significantly slower classes, I have started slowing down all the classes I teach, and realising the benefits of doing so:
- Understanding the body: ne is given the opportunity to find the muscles that yoga teachers often talk about by being stuck in postures that are less than comfortable. Suddenly the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles begin to seem more accessible. Sometimes you just need to be interested enough in your body to really figure out what is being spoken of in a class. By really finding the muscles that need to be worked & engaged, we are able to protect the body sufficiently. Once you know the muscles you are trying to find and engage you can eventually attend faster paced classes knowing that you are less likely to hurt yourself faster.
- Opening the mind: When everything is slowed down drastically, and you are asked to hold postures you don’t want to for times you don’t want to, you begin to discover how childish and spoilt the mind is. It has frequently been shown that we are addicted to information, and the more we feed the mind with information that doesn’t enrich our knowledge, we not only dumb us down, but we weaken the muscle that is our brain. We are incapable of keeping the mind steady and focused when we have no readily available information to keep us focused. We allow the mind to run away and overthink things that are not going to add any value to our lives. However, if one has the discipline to keep the mind in place during a slow yoga practice, we begin to develop the skills of a true yogi, the skill of stillness. We develop a strong mind, grounded in the present not controlled by the past and future.
- Letting go of the ego: When we have been placed in uncomfortable postures, and are told to sit in it for a significant period, we will fail in the posture if we are unable to let go of all the judgements we impose on ourselves or even others in the class. When frustration hits we eventually start to throw the anger and judgement to our teachers. However, eventually if you stay in it for long enough you have no choice but to let it go. It is literally impossible to develop a sense of piece and stillness through yoga if all you are doing is being mean to yourself, those around you, and your teacher. By letting go of the ego you will find that stillness we all seek.
- Learning to Love: We are incapable of being fine with what our body presents to us. We have been programmed to be critical of our bodies and of ourselves constantly. We are always judging what we do, what we look like, what we say and we very rarely just honour ourselves for the divine beings we are. As a result our abilities to be ok with doing a posture badly, or our bodies incapability of being twisted into a pretzel after only a few months of yoga
- Samadhi: The primary reason for serious yogi’s, is to find a sense of absolute surrender, and through complete surrender become enlightened. This is what we seek. So how do you suppose you can manage being in ying postures that are held for three to five minutes? You let go of everything that you are holding onto, you let go of physical tension, you let go of emotional resistance, you let go the ego, you let go of unnecessary thoughts. If you are advanced in your practice and in stilling the mind, you may begin to give up even that which you believe to be yourself. In other words you give up the labels you feel define you and your life. By doing this you achieve – if only for a fleeting moment – true surrender. You achieve samadhi.