Your most frequently asked questions, answered
Yoga is the most comprehensive and effective system of personal growth known to man. In the same way that science has a developed a method for investigating the nature of the physical or “outer” world, yoga has developed a systems of techniques for the investigation of consciousness of the “inner” world. It is a truly holistic approach that integrates the body, mind and higher potentials. It includes physical postures, breathing technique, higher energy control, meditation and a practical way of life.
No, everything you need to know is described by your teacher as you do the class.
The proof that really counts comes from the test of self-experience. It takes only one class with a good teacher for the value of the practice to become apparent.
- At the physical level the effects are an overall improvement of the organ systems of the body, increased muscular strength, flexibility and postural improvement.
- At the mental level there is a decrease in anxiety, improved emotional balance and an improved intellectual functioning.
- The experience of heightened consciousness. For those whose commitment is total, yoga has the power to bring about transformation of consciousness and consequently the ability to bring about that transformation of consciousness in others. It is truly a “path with a heart”.
No, yoga is not a faith, neither is it a philosophy and you are not asked to believe in anything. It is a system of action and practical techniques that gives rise to growth, change and evolution. These experiences are not unnatural states, but are the uncovering of hidden potentials and higher abilities that otherwise remain dormant and unrealised.
The personal motivation for doing yoga is the free choice of each individual. Yoga develops increased strength together with increased flexibility, and so the body comes back into correct alignment in relation to gravity. It is common to see a remarkable transformation in how people look within a few months – the body becomes more relaxed and proportioned, and round shoulders, hump back or sloppy posture begin to improve immediately. Also, remember that you can’t separate the body from the mind. If you have mental tension it reflects in your body language, and if you want to look good, you need to feel good. The holistic approach of yoga – mind and body – is obviously the most effective way to go.
No one has any time in the class to see what anyone else is doing. Also you do not have to be an expert for the therapeutic effect to result – even moving half-way into a posture, if that is all you can do, will do the job. Start where you are and go from there. And remember, the principle of non-competitiveness is vital in yoga.
Although some of the positions look strange, they are completely natural and physiological. By observing the range of movements a body is capable of, we see the degree to which we lose contact with the natural and optimum workings of our body. What is defined as the “normal” stiffness of old age is in fact more commonly the result of misuse, disuse and laziness. Yoga reverses this process and you are able to be fully responsible for your own wellbeing. Also, rather than using apparatus, the yogi uses his own body limbs for leverage. In this way the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles are systematically moved and stretched through all their possible ranges.
The teacher’s approach is not to impose rules. Each individual chooses what he or she needs to learn in order to evolve to the next level, and you are responsible for your own growth. In a lifestyle that is stressful, people often require some specific means to de-stress. Unfortunately our culture does not teach people natural tools for handling anxiety and it is not surprising that drugs and alcohol have taken on that role. Also, people like to get “high” as a natural and perhaps evolutionary desire for heightened experiences. We have found that as one begins to feel good physically and experience natural heightened states in yoga practice, the individual begins automatically to reject detrimental activities and habits – as you grow you will grow out of it.
No, and there is a number of distinctive differences:
- In yoga the musculo-skeletal system is addressed in a total and organised way. The postures are performed in sequences, or chains, that systematically and specifically work on muscle groups, joints, ligaments and tendons. In the classes a complete and different chain is followed each week.
- In yoga there is a major emphasis placed on the flow of energy in the body. This is not the common energy of chemical metabolism, but is “subtle” energy known in yoga as prana that runs in meridians known as nadis. As one advances and becomes more sensitive to subtle physiological states, this energy flow becomes perceptible to the practitioner. The objective existence of this “new” form of energy is now being demonstrated in research laboratories in many countries.
- In yoga the performance of all life activity is seen as a balance of two qualities – determination or willpower (abyasa) and letting-go or surrender (varagya). Determination without letting go makes life a joyless and tense experience, and letting go without willpower can lead to sloppiness and stagnation. The description given in the class by the teacher is that “one moves into the posture as completely as one can without undue strain and, while holding, you relax, using both the mind and the breath to deepen into the posture. It is especially in the holding stage that this application of both determination and surrender is crucial – and the consequent effect is experienced.
- Hatha yoga is mind and body discipline. It is important to understand that you will experience both physical and mental changes as a result of your practice. Yoga affects the whole being.
The word Tantra is derived from the roots “tan” meaning to stretch and “tra” to the fullest. It means simply to bring yourself to your fullest potential. Tantra asserts that any natural activity taken to its fullest potential can be used as a tool for growth and it is this freedom from rigid rules that makes it ideally suited to contemporary Western culture. The method of Tantra yoga and “Standard” yoga are actually the same; the essential difference lies in the approach to the techniques. Whereas yoga stresses willpower and discipline, Tantra stresses an accepting and letting-go relationship to life. In practice both qualities are needed and the artful interaction of willpower (abyasa) balanced by surrender (varagya) is the yoga-Tantra system.
For good results at least two classes a week are recommended. Also, daily home practice modified to suit your time and personal requirements is a good idea. If you want to advance more rapidly, formal classes can be done daily. However, do not make yoga an unpleasant duty. Learn to pace yourself and go with the flow for which you are ready.
Wear whatever is loose and comfortable. Do not overdress but bring something warm to put on at the end for relaxation as the body temperature may drop considerably at this time.