Yoga is a spiritual path, a philosophy, a science and an art-form. Traditionally yoga is a path leading to self-realisation; it is not so concerned with individual health, other than strengthening the body to sit in Lotus pose and creating a body-mind awareness to prepare for meditation; yoga therapy traditionally lies in the arena of Ayurveda, its sister science. However yoga is also evolving and what we make it, today. Asanas are therapeutic and are used to treat various disorders and diseases, not only aligning the muscular and skeletal systems of the body but also working on the health of the whole body and mind. They are also fun and can be joined together in creative sequences and threads which can elevate the mind and open the heart, if practiced with the right attitude….
Principles of Holistic Practice
At the core of any yoga practice, Yin style, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or any practice that wishes to maintain holistic integration of body and mind lies the application of principles which must be adhered to, or the essence of the practice will be distorted.
1) How we practice is just as important as what we practice.
Specific Cork Yoga practices can be designed to treat specific illnesses. However, it should be noted that even though we can employ specific poses to address certain conditions, we also should acknowledge “how” we practice is also as important as “what” we practice. For example, headstand and poses where the arms are raised overhead are not recommended for people with high blood pressure and yet some of these asanas included in a well-balanced practice, with slow movements, calm mind and controlled breathing, can lower blood pressure. If someone with high blood pressure moves too fast, jerky and aggressively on the mat and is not breathing properly, then headstand or no headstand, their blood pressure will rise.
2). Focusing the mind in “witness” consciousness.
We can start this at the beginning of the practice sitting, by finding a place in the mind that can observe the sensations and feeling of the body and the breath. Witness consciousness is a state of mind, beyond ego. It is a state of being that opens the lid to creative potentiality as opposed to creating judgments and limitations of the mind that are superimposed on the body.
3) Controlled breathing.
The breath is a bridge between body and mind. Asana should be practiced with a relaxed breath starting from the respiratory diaphragm. The respiratory diaphragm is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates a relaxed state of mind and calm the tones the nervous system.
4) Moving slowly and with awareness on the mat. This is especially important for people who take on a lot during their day, rush through life and take on too many projects. This results in our “Vata” energy moving out of balance, creating illness. Movements on the yoga mat, should be slow and conscious to ground Vata energy.
5) Being gentle- Ahimsa (non-violence)
One of the key principles of holistic practice is the application of self-care on the mat. This should reflect in how we move our body, carefully placing body parts consciously in space, as opposed to flinging ourselves around the mat without care. It is important to use props when necessary, acknowledge our limitations, hold back and honour our boundaries when necessary. It is also important to listen to our breathing as an indication of whether we are moving too deep into the pose or not. This application of self-care on the mat, can create a deep sense of self respect in the individual, which can create a sense of worth based on minding the little space of this divine universe that was given to us to tend, our bodies.
Even though, yoga is a body-mind practice which brings integration to the whole being, there are always new poses to try and attain, new shapes and forms that we can aspire to. This keeps the practice fresh, fun and playful where a sense of creativity can enter into our practice. However, creative juices flowing can create desire on the mat, where we find ourselves “attaching” to forms and shapes that we wish to attain and the holistic and spiritual elements of the practice can be lost.
I have noticed this in some of my students over the years; screwing up their faces, bellowing the breath, eyes bulging out of their sockets, loosing the essence of the practice, posing the question “can holistic practice dance alongside creative practice? Can we enjoy the new poses, new threads, new forms, advanced poses without succumbing to the controlling ego whose desires will never be fulfilled, and betraying the essence of the practice?”
Happily, the answer is yes. In my opinion, new advanced poses and snazzy vinyasa threads, can potentially breed our ego and lead us astray. These are some of the dangers and pitfalls for practitioners today, over focusing on outer cosmetic aspects of practice, which will wash away eventually leaving emptiness, unless a real sense of worth is restored through connecting with the deeper essence of the practice.
But we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water either….. Fortunately, creative practice, with the snazzy vinyasa threads and advanced forms can draw us deeper into health and wellbeing on all levels, if practiced, with the right attitude. Our creative energy is the flow of our Kundalini in action, latent unconscious sexual energy that can be used in many creative forms, and not just the sexual act. It is the energy of cosmic union; the universe making love through us and the bliss of practice is a higher orgasm if we learn to surrender to it, like we do to a lover. If we practice within surrender, then we can open to the potentiality of creative play.
If we practice from the ego, we practice like possessive lovers, wanting to attain and control, without love. To try and possess someone, control them and treat them as your object and call it love is the biggest insult we can give to anyone. Love cannot breath within this space. Similarly, to practice from the controlling ego without surrender, destroys the opportunity for love and bliss to enter your practice.
“Attaining poses” is not the true essence of creativity. True creativity arises spontaneously on the mat in those moments, where there is no expectation, where the mind is simply at one with the object (the pose) in a playful way, focused without ambition, curious as to what can unfold in the playpen of potentiality… knowing that’s it all good….
Here is some of the health benefits of creativity:
1) Improved well–being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones 2) Improved medical outcomes, trends toward reduced depression 3) Reductions in stress and anxiety; increases in positive emotions 4) Reductions in distress and negative emotions 5) Improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks.
Our creative energy is an expression of our sexual energy. In Ireland, we are taught to be weary of our sexuality, our sexual energy and desire. We are taught to suppress this energy, lest the serpent destroy our lives. It is true the sexual drive is extremely powerful, leading people to aggression and rage, even to murder out of jealousy. And yet suppressing the energy of desire is to kill our life force and our creative flow, until it builds in power and slaps us in the face from another direction.
Desire takes us out of ourselves, into that space of all we are not and do not have, where we are less than. Alternatively, conscious desire without attachment, where the mind enters into the energy of desire as something that can connect us with our creative force, opens us to potentiality, union and bliss. Its ok to enjoy new forms and to “want” a pose that you cannot do. Unfortunately though this wanting puts you in the jar that’s half empty. Pop the lid, jump out of the jar.
Jump into the jar beside it, (they look the same….,) where your practice is a celebration of your being and your efforts are a reflection of your desires that connect and not separate you to the essence of who you are.
- Posted by admin
- On July 18, 2014
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