Hatha Yoga consists of 4 disciplines, Asana (postures) , Shatkarma (cleansing techniques) , Pranayama (breathing techniques) , Mudra (gestures) and Meditation.
I got a really good feeling when I arrived at this studio—very simple & clean, and it felt so serene. The instructor and owner of the studio is an Indian gentleman who’s been doing yoga for a couple of decades. He decided to quit his job (Engineer) to pursue his deep interest in yoga.
This class was more like what I was looking for.
We start all classes with “Opening Chants” and in most classes we do “Eye Movement” exercises. This was very interesting to me. I’ve never done this before; we all probably do it on a daily basis but to actually exercise the muscles in your eyes was fascinating to me. I really enjoy it every time we do this.
We then move on to do a series of yoga poses for the bulk of the class. In my years of being physically active I’ve done a couple of them like the Cobra Pose, Bow-Pose, Shoulder Stand, Full Forward Bend etc… and at each class there’s a theme so we usually do the same poses at the beginning of the class but during the second part of the class we do specific poses depending on the theme of the class.
Also, one thing that we always do is Pranayama (breathing techniques) at the beginning and at the end of the class. We practice different ones that I’m still getting familiar with, but the most repetitive ones that we do are the the Kapalabati & Nadi Suddhi.
The move that really completely takes away all stress and thoughts is the Yoga Nidra (Deep Relaxation). After doing almost 1 hr of yoga poses we close the physical poses by doing deep relaxation and it is awesome! I’m not a person that can stay still for a very long time (no more than 5 min if I’m awake) but this move has taught me to completely shut my body and mind off and it has been extremely positive for me. In fact, the overall experience that I’ve had in this yoga studio has been very positive and rewarding.
After our deep relaxation our second to last activity is a final Pranayana (breathing techniques) session and we end all classes with a closing chant that we all “chant” together. I am still learning the words (in Sanskrit) but I try to keep up:
- Asato Ma Sat Gamaya
- Tamaso Ma Jytir Gamaya
- Mrtyor Mamrtam Gamanya
- Shanti Shanti Shanti (this is the only thing I can actually say!)
The following only the instructor says:
- Lead us from unreal to the Real,
- Lead us from Darkness to the Light,
- Lead us from the fear of Death,
- To the knowledge of Immortality.
- Peace, Peace , Peace
One of the things Subhash (Instructor) does while guiding us in the different moves and exercises is that he is teaching us why we are doing them, what benefits each move provides, and he educates us about how each move and practicing yoga can have a positive impact not only on the physical level, but also on the deeper spiritual level if one commits to practicing yoga and becoming a “yogi”.
He suggests that we practice yoga everyday on our own, not only when we go to class and he also strongly suggests that we meditate. I actually got an education on meditation. One of the main reasons to practice yoga is to prepare your body & mind for meditation.
The classical yoga definition is “the ability to control the fluctuations on the mind-field”, it also emphasizes practicing concentration and meditation in order to achieve a calm and peaceful mind; and eventually maintain a steady and comfortable seated posture for meditation for long periods of time. For this to occur, our body needs to be healthy and free of disease, and we must have a mind that is free of worry and fear. Through regular practice of yoga, the body is purified and the energy channels are open for the free flow of vital energy and we eventually achieve a deeper meditation experience.
So, to reiterate, the main focuses of yoga is to prepare your body for meditation; I’m fully committed to improving my mind and body so I decided that I needed to use everything that I have available to accomplish this; so it was pointless to practice yoga and not achieve the objectives of it!
I talked to Subhash to get some guidance on how to start my meditation practice. He suggested that I meditate 10-20 minutes once or twice a day preferably early in the morning. If early in the morning is not the best time for me, he told me to just try to meditate with an empty stomach or give myself at least 3 hours after I eat before I meditate. I’m a very hyperactive individual so I always need to be moving and I’m always thinking of something, so he recommended that I have a “Mantra” when I meditate. A Mantra is a word, a sound, a statement, or a slogan that I continually think of while I’m meditating to help me out so I don’t deviate from the goal.
I’ve started to meditate once a day for 10 minutes. I’ve been doing it for 2 weeks already and it’s great! Morning is the best time for me but a couple of days I’ve had to meditate at night…I overslept a bit on a few days.
I’m planning to increase my meditation time to 15 minutes in the next couple of weeks and eventually do 20 minutes twice a day.
If you guys haven’t giving yoga a try, I truly believe that it can improve your physical and mental well being. Regardless of what type of yoga modality you chose, any type will bring long lasting benefits. I’m feeling them already!