Yoga poses and Practice

Yoga is an ancient systematic technology. The techniques of yoga are methods of purifying the nervous system, allowing us a greater degree of consciousness and to be an increasingly positive force in the world. If the techniques are correctly practiced, the whole nervous system is revitalized. Yoga itself is a catalyst that allows us to grow in whichever direction is natural and life-supporting. Its methods work on the physical seat of consciousness through physical action – practicing poses, breath work, concentration/meditation, etc. The nervous system obeys the same laws that govern the operations of mind and body. Whoever practices yoga is enlivened in their own way.

Asana practice becomes an experiential process of learning and growth. We have three important tools available to us: breath, spine and gravity. We have two operating systems working together, to facilitate release of tension and develop balance and strength:

Nervous system – consisting of two sub-systems: sympathetic or energizing and parasympathetic or relaxing.

Respiratory system – consisting of inhalation, activating the sympathetic nervous system, and exhalation, activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

The breath is the essential tool utilized in building a yoga pose, with its given contributory attributes. Attention to the breath and the present moment, lends itself to "becoming the pose”.

Perhaps the most important principle of Yoga is cultivating relaxation throughout the entire practice. When we truly relax, the physiology shifts, welcoming physical change, and in turn, our structure shifts with lovely, calming and strength-building results.

Relaxation occurs in a cycle of layers. It begins with breath and continues with awareness. We may start a yoga practice with breathing, either in a sitting, standing, or reclining position. As the breathing rate, depth, and ease are observed, the beginning stages of relaxation are induced and the parasympathetic nervous system response is turned on. As awareness develops, we perceive either tension or freedom in the muscles, connective tissue or joints. If tension is perceived, we use breath to release it.

By bringing complete attention to the relationship between the breath, movement and spine; by tying our awareness to the move, initiated from spine through breath, rather then focusing on external form of posture, we are able to feel from inside, how the body responds to movement.

To achieve this unbounded freedom that Yoga Asana offers, we must first ground ourselves in a myriad of details. I’m frequently asked, "Why are there so many details to attend to in each pose? Why should I make conscious effort to straighten my legs, rotate my hips, or lift the inner arches of my feet? Why not switch off my brain, relax and feel?”

Attention to details teaches us, and actually deepens the ability to feel, making it possible to receive the specific energetic gifts of the pose. Details can be overwhelming, but on a basic level, they protect against injury during practice

For energy to flow correctly, precise alignment is required. Without alignment, energy drains away and the pose collapses.

How do Yoga poses help?

Balance building – We find more natural human rhythm. We listen to ourselves. It forms discipline of peace in surroundings where we feel out of control. A discipline of more becomes a discipline of less. The old proverb: Less is more, applies.

Energy development – We find depleted energy by allowing the cells, senses and nerves to quiet down. It is important to make space for energy to flow within the body and open the heart. We can do all kinds of restorative poses, but if we see the poses as a way to "fix” the body rather then a way to take us to a state of compassionate acceptance, it’s difficult to receive the healing Yoga can bring.

Consciousness development – We’ve been conditioned to use intellectual knowledge rather then inner knowledge, to give us answers. With Yoga, we hear our own answers to questions – why am I unhappy, unhealthy, tired, have a problem? etc.

We reach our inner wisdom, the inner teacher. It triggers our intuition.