Yoga, Ayurveda and acro yoga in Budapest - classes, philosophy also in English

2010. szeptember 4., szombat

What the yoga class is about?

It is September, and I meet more and more new people in my classes. The participants are ever changing and there is no time to talk about important things, because people once they pay they want to get the most out of the 90 minutes. However, there are a couple of serious concerns one should consider before engaging in the physical practice to fully benefit from a yoga class, and to formulate correct expectations.

Yoga is not a sport, and it is not a health prevention exercise. Basically, yoga is a spiritually oriented system. This becomes clearer when we look at the relationship between the affiliated sciences of yoga and ayurveda. In fact, these two should be studied in a close connection, since they are each other’s complementary. They come from the same source, they evolved in parallel, but their final aim is different. Yoga concentrates primarily on the spiritual and the unification of the human and universal consciousness, that union I discussed in a previous post. On this road, hatha yoga is a mere preparation with its asanas, pranayama and meditation. These are all tools in service of the attainment of higher goals, and the health benefits are a side effect, not the main goal. In classical terms, yoga is a real ascetic system, where retreat from the world and turning inward play essential roles. On the contrary, ayurveda is the science of the common man for here the emphasis is on the maintenance of the body and its health, in addition to the healing of already occurring diseases. (This is why I will give a series of lectures on Ayurveda, more info will come on this site and in email.)

Well then, a typical “modern yoga class” should be the mixture of these two. Someone who works daily as a serious manager, public servant or does any other intellectual job while sitting in an office and living in family, cannot possibly be an ascetic. This person needs something different and a “modern yoga class” can help here too, especially if it is combined with ayurvedic knowledge. However, the principal character of yoga should not be disregarded even for a second. More so, that introspection and self-observance are beneficial not only for the ascetic, but for us too. Thus a yoga class is not a sport activity, since its main goal is not just to move the body thoroughly, though this will naturally happen anyways. So you should come into a yoga class with an approach different from that of entering a gym or a dance hall. The modern yoga class is a high level mental and psychological practice combined with physical movement, at least in my perception. In my classes I try to convey this approach, but for this to happen I need my students’ cooperation. If during practice you can achieve this introspection by focusing primarily on your breathing pattern and mental occurrences, then you give leeway to the benefits of yoga to manifest: like stress relief and body and mental detoxification.

First, you shall try to focus on, or better, learn how to focus on your thoughts and feelings. You shall learn how to look at your own internal occurrences like a passive witness. Otherwise, the automatism of our days will catch you, namely that “Cogito ergo sum”, “I think, therefore I am”. Most of the time, man is totally identified with his thoughts and feelings and suffers from mental stress, a flux of thoughts or bad moods. Unfortunately, even positive thoughts and feelings, like optimistic planning, or enthusiastic mental upbeats, can cause physical stress in the form of insomnia or restlessness. You may say, yes, this makes us human! Sure, this is true, but don’t forget that there is more, and it would be a pity to miss out on that. If you always let yourself to be identified with your thoughts and feelings, then probably you will never be capable of living in the present moment. Thoughts and feelings generally take you to the past or future. But if you always define your Self along these lines, then you will simply miss the present, yet life is a continuous sequence of present moments. Don’t pass by your own life. Yoga teaches you to stay in tune with the present.

During a modern yoga class, it is essential to watch your breathing and through this to notice the flow of energy that is constantly streaming inside. Indeed, this is Prana. The life force within. I demonstrate this to my students through the following exercise: I ask them to shake their hands as if they wanted to get rid of them, continuously lifting their arms up by the side of the body and down. We repeat three times, and then I ask them to quickly bring the hands facing each other in front of the chest and to stop all movements. “Look, does anything happens between your palms?” And it usually does. My dear reader, if you don’t know this already, please give it a try.

Consciousness starts where you notice the inner occurrences and slowly separate yourself from those and just watch through your breath the subtle flows of energy inside the body. This is a real yoga practice. But for this to happen, you shall use all your energy to focus and be still on the outside and the inside. You shall refrain from talking because that is also a loss of energy, moreover it distracts you and others from focusing, from the discipline. This is also why we need to hold the asanas longer so that this meditative state can happen.

Being still or nonmoving does not mean though that the muscles are on holidays. The muscles will still continue contracting; it is called eccentric lengthening and isometric practice. Other sports, or even our daily activities are generally isotonic movement. In this case the muscle will suddenly contract then release. The muscles are concentrically shortening and the body becomes taut, strong but rigid. Think of the body builders or guys with too many muscles how they are sometimes incapable of lifting their arms above the head. But it is the same case when we are running after the tram or bus, or behind our boss from office to office, or when we jump suddenly off of a bench in school or do weightlifting or any other repetitive movements. These movements all have their place in yoga practice (e.g. Sun salutes or warms ups), but yoga is an isometric exercise at its core. Here, the strength comes from holding a pose. In these situations what happens is not only the instant shortening of a muscle, but the lengthening of a muscle and all the tissue around it causing all other connecting muscles to get into tone simultaneously. Thus at once all the surrounding muscles and tissues are working and growing, not only one separate group of muscles. This explains why the yogi body yet not typically “worked out”, rather characterized by long muscles and a slender figure, will be amazingly strong.

And where is the link to spirituality? The connection is that in a flexible but strong body – as opposed to an apparently strong (bulky muscles, huge biceps), but rigid frame – the life force or prana can flow without hindrance more freely. And if prana flows freely, than the body will be healthy, it will not suffer from ailments due to lack of energy or blockages; and the ancient latin ideal can manifest: “Mens sana in corpore sano”, otherwise “A sound mind in a sound body”.

All in all, in a modern yoga class, if you see that we are ONLY holding the pose, have no doubts, you are already working a lot and in the meantime this will provide you with the inner stillness necessary for mental work, in which you can relax, and simply open up to the present moment and experience the greatest gift, that you are alive.

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