The Foundation and Roots of Himalayan Hatha Yoga
16 September 2013,12:18:32 BST
My first encounter with my teacher Yogi Ashokananda was at the London Yoga Studio Alchemy, when I joined my first ever meditation class and then later got introduced to his Himalayan Hatha Yoga to which I connected immediately as it was so different from any yoga class I took before.
His teaching is so much more profound than any other yoga teaching I came across so far.
And this is no wonder – he grew up in India and was in touch with yoga from his early childhood when he observed his grandfather practicing yoga and found more and more interest in it until one day his grandfather started teaching him. From then on he never left the practice of yoga, meditation and pranayama as it became part of his life, the system of his life. Later on he studied with many other masters in India and whenever he is telling us about how he was taught back then, I can see and feel the authenticity of real and pure yoga teaching behind.
For many of us – especially in the western world – yoga is a physical form of exercise. Here yoga is extrem, fanatic and very different compared to how it is in India. This is mainly due to the commercial aspect as yoga became a brand but also because we lost our deep connection to nature, the connection to ourself, to the truth within.
In India yoga is a vital part of life, fully integrated and Indians don't even realise that they do it. They blend it into life, it's part of their life.
Through Yogi Ashokananda I learnt to understand what the purpose of yoga is and that it's not just about asanas but yoga as a whole lifestyle, a system, once entered you don't want to leave.
Important is how we approach it. We have to try to keep authenticity alive, we have to try to integrate it into our lifestyle. Yoga affects not only the physical body but also the mental and the subtle bodies. It works on the nervous system and on the different organs.
Yoga means unity and although you first have to experience complete separation from body and mind, it eventually leads to unity. Yoga is peace, yoga is love, yoga is knowledge, yoga is patience, yoga is bliss, yoga is health, yoga is god, yoga is finding your true nature... Yoga is everything and should never be a competition or comparison, you do it for yourself! Validation or recognition is not important, it's the self-awareness and the balance to stay in the centre.
Through his teaching he lives and integrates the old ancient Asian practices into the modern Western world. In the modern world we shift from energetic to burn-out life-situations and then are in search for yoga and meditation to get back energy only that we can go out and fully burn-out our body and soul again. We are trapped in this circle and are living a very unhealthy life and are not aware that this is never leading to a balanced life full of happiness. Yoga should be all about finding this balance and then keeping it by living it. That's why yoga is not only a physical practice but a full lifestyle, a way how we look at things, our behaviour and our compassion and self-love.
The real purpose of teaching Hatha Yoga should be to help your students to improve the physical as well as the mental health but we should not forget to help them also to grow on their spiritual path too. Through Himalayan Hatha Yoga I found more strength in my whole body, especially my back, shoulders and neck which were always my weak parts and caused me years of headache and migraines. Thanks to the practice of yoga this is all gone. Furthermore I felt deep guidance on my spiritual path, I learnt and am still learning a lot from my teacher and by reading books.
Through his many years of experience and the knowledge he received from his masters in India, he started to create his own different yoga styles:
Himalayan Hatha Yoga
It is a strong form of yoga working on the whole body and mind with special sequencing. He also puts emphasis on the counterposes which should immediately follow a pose. Furthermore he focuses not only on the muscles you use for a certain asana but also which organs, glands and systems it influences in your body.
His other speciality is the use of counterforce which is different from a counterpose! By applying the counterforce, the energy and strength is going into opposite directions. Properly applied, this enables you to hold the strength and weight of this asana in more than one part of the body which means you can stay longer and more comfortably in the asana. It prevents injuries, exhaustion, overuse of joints, misalignment and it brings full body awareness. It connects you with your physical and subtle body and it helps you to find the centre of strength in your body.
By the teaching of counterforces his students understand the interaction of their mind, body (muscles, joints, bones) much better while going into an asana. Only through applying full breath and awareness of your body you can go deep into the asana on a physical, mental and spiritual level. Prana has to flow in the body, the chakras have to be awakened and your mind has to be focused. Use your breath to let your body flow into an asana, apply the counterforce and observe the strength you are building up.
Prana Kriya Yoga
It is a moving, active and continuing practice which makes you become aware what you are transforming, where things are happening in the physical, mental and subtle body. From consciousness to spiritual level. Physically challenging and working on stamina. Kriya yoga is also known for its anti-ageing properties.
Science of Relaxation
It works on the Samskaras (imprints from previous experiences from this or from previous lives) to free/release them and to find deep relaxation, to find yourself. The mind and your needs is the third dimension and this is trapping you in the illusionary world (Maya) and has to be transformed. Only by going deep you can understand yourself and connect to atma – your soul.
Yogi Ashokananda teaches in London and Europe and invites yearly to his yoga retreats in India. More information can be found under: www.yogiashokananda.com
His next retreat is with Mind Body Spirit, in October in Somerset.
Be the Light – Yoga and Meditation Retreat with Yogi Ashokananda.
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