"Listen! the teacher of the teacher, the creativity of the universe,
In the midst of his uncontrived audience,
According to this inner source of all contrived quintessential teachings,
Describes how everything appears,
When you have understood the united frame of reference of this core teaching,
All other frames of reference will be reflected within this creativity that makes everything else possible.
Thus, if you know me -- the intelligence of the universe --
You will know the inconceivable truth.
If you know me -- the majestic creativity within everything --
You will know and be at peace with the reality of everything else."
Longchenpa "You are the Eyes of the World", translated by Kennard Lipman and Merrill Petersen, Snow Lion, 2000
Part One: General Principles
Authentic Yoga is neither Technology nor Techno-theology
Yoga Unites: Resolving Separateness, Fragmentation, and Duality Issues
Part Two: Yoga Styles and Teachings: Ways of Practice (Sadhana)
Balance: Reaching Sattva -- Rajasic (sun) versus Tamasic (moon) Styles: Finding Synchronization
Dissolving Edges and Barriers: Recognizing it and Moving into New Territory, No Man's Land, Wilderness, and Freedom
Part Three: Natural and Spontaneous (Sahaj) Yoga versus Willful or Forced Practice
Static Poses Versus Moving Poses: Control Vs Surrender
The Kundalini Being Modulated by the Luminous Wisdom Body
The Rule of First Impulse in Natural Yoga
Resisting the First Impulse
Prayer Dance as the Pulsation of Life: Focus
Part Four: Varieties of Yoga Teachers
Two Camps of Hatha Yoga Teachers: Structure versus Freedom
Teaching Yoga versus Teaching Asana
The Very Dangerous Radical Teacher/Teachings
Yoga asana practice is a way of focusing upon the natural and intelligent innate life supporting energy (prana shakti) as a gathering/focal point; so that we bring that intelligent energy increasingly into our daily lives, communing more deeply with THAT eternal source which supports all of life. In this way the nature of its Source (in All Our Relations) is revealed as our true Self. In this way love, clarity, peace, and healing manifests in our daily life as Sacred Presence.
Here we will discuss yoga teachings, yoga styles, and yoga teachers especially in the context of hatha, kundalini, and tantric yoga. Specifically we will focus on the body positive approaches which through simple process such as found in hatha, kundalini, and tantric yoga reveal the non-dual and transpersonal causal existence of shiva/shakti, mother/father, yab/yum, awareness and being, original spirit and nature, yang and yin (the Great Ultimate) as a whole -- in context of the Great Integrity of All Our Relations -- the Great Perfection or Mahamudra.
Ha (sun) Tha (moon) Yoga unifies and Reestablishes the Original Integrity of the Primary Sun and Moon Pairs of Opposites
Effective and functional practice starts off with the assumption that the human body is an evolutionary product of billions of years of co-evolution – an ongoing act of creation in relationship with the innate intelligent evolutionary power. When the evolutionary power is seen rightly in the light of the Primordial Source, it is known in its true form, as a reflexive, co-creative, interdependent, and ever changing manifestation. It is a magical wheel/mandala and holographic open doorway. Created "things" (phenomena) and thought forms do not exist by themselves independently, nor do they have an inherent separate or independent identity, rather they are interconnected by the Great Web of All. If we take the human body outside of its primordial context and its evolutionary power, it dies – it ceases to survive outside evolutionary processes (ceases to evolve). Human beings will cease to survive if their social structures and institutions continually grasp onto dead, conceptual, delusional, and dysfunctional principles.
The human body as well as the body of the universe can only be completely understood in terms of this integrative intelligent evolutionary process. We can not take away that context without ignoring our true human nature. Without knowing human life, nature, and our own true nature (who we are), it is hardly likely that one would be able to know their source, timeless identity, or anything else.
In short what appears to be the body's reality is most often a limited projection imposed upon "what-is-as-it-is" by a biased and limited mindset (citta-vrtti). A distinction must be made between an apparent perception, the view, and what is being viewed. If we view from a limited egoic/separate vantage point, then we will never be able to see the entire "object" from all/universal angles. Thus normal egoic perception is not really the way it truly is, as long as "reality" is not understood trans-conceptually -- as a reflection of the universe's own innate creative process. This understanding is awareness of and union with our original primordial consciousness. Primordial consciousness has always been integral to evolution, but humans can not grasp that conceptually nor in dualistic terms of merely anthropocentric frames. When primordial consciousness merges with man's non-dual perception of the universe as an ongoing and continuous reflexive pulsation, then man has reached integrity and virtue. That virtue is yoga.
Nature, and especially the human body as an intimate part of nature, is an always available teacher in his palm of the hand capable to remediate man's state of fragmented consciousness at any time, The true nature of nature as-it-is is known simultaneously when we know the true original and unpolluted nature of our own mind which is transconceptual. The human body is intimately connected to this living matrix and very wise. while nature has contained within it the entire story of all that is and all that has been, as well as the blue print and building blocks for the future.
Although human beings attempt to reduce the body and the mind to the mechanical laws of body mechanics, neurophysiology, biochemistry, brain science, astronomy, physics, philosophy, ethics, rules, religion, and conceptually based sciences such winds up as a severe limitations, conceptual boxes/frames, artifice, and fabrication that man imposes upon life, nature, reality, and the body which in turn separates man experientially and subjectively from full participation in life, the true nature and power of the evolutionary process of co-creation, as well as primordial transconceptual awareness.
These self imposed impositions, by the over use of the intellect to the detriment of intuitive wisdom, most often serve to block and impede the body's own wisdom which manifests naturally and spontaneously in children and adults (in the adult human this is accomplished by merging pure consciousness and pure being) if not repressed, ignored, feared, or punished.
It is this natural expression of the primordial consciousness as the body's innate wisdom that authentic yoga elicits. The adult egoic mind has become afraid and alienated from this expression and its spontaneous expression,. In fact the ego desires to control it. Hence natural expression has been repressed, suppressed and feared in unnatural egoic based and arrogant societies. Despite that, within the body there lies a path to primordial source, just as nature reveals her creation to her contemplative or devotee. Devotion to yoga in regard to getting the whole story, obtaining pure integrity and virtue, was known to yogis of the ages. It is the author's hope that this innate knowledge will help turn around mankind's current trend to poison and destroy nature, habitat, life, and Self.
This gets down to Integrity. That gets down to integrity with "what" and by "whom" which is pure virtue and integrity. Nature reflexively displays primordial consciousness which illuminates itself virtually, when the obscurations have been removed.
It is a well known yogic principle that where we put our awareness we place our energy. For example we can place our awareness and energy into a sense organ to enhance its function. More subtly this same principle can be applied to organs, glands, and nerves through internal feelings/awareness just as conscious movement through muscle function can be applied through the motor cortex to stimulate muscles and nerves. This entire process is mitigated by forces and functions of space, gravitation, the endocrines, the brain, joint reflexes, and a retinue of past mental and environmental factors operating simultaneously in the present and in anticipation of future events. This data is available to human awareness when the human's awareness is operating in the zone of enhanced transconceptual awareness so attuned.
Even within modern Western science, it has come to the notice of many brain scientists and modern neurophysiologists that not only the mental patterns of thought can be measured with cat scans, blood tests, EEG devices, and other physiological devices thus providing scientific proof that the mind affects the physical body, but also it can not be ignored that the body affects mind (say in tranquilizers, mood elevators, psychoactive drugs, biofeedback training, exercise, etc. It seems clear (at least to me) that some of the ancient yogis also intuited these relationships.
Although Holism in not a mainstream medical paradigm, it is gaining more credence because of modern technological devices capable of measuring these subtle physiological and biochemical relationships. Working on old karmic patterns such as through conscious respiration (breathing), combined with visualizations, movement (asana), dristhi (gazes), mantra (sound energy), and the like directly can unravel and liberate the practitioner from previously induced karmic patterns without becoming conceptual. Artificially programmed vestigial imprints (vasana, samskara, karma) are considered a barrier in yoga thus a path toward liberation from old programming can help trigger our natural (pre-programmed) primary disposition. It is in that universal primordial and evolutionary context that yoga can be understood as an effective tool for liberation.
In the modern world there exists a wide variety of yoga teachers and teachings, which can be confusing especially to a newcomer. In order to avoid "serious mistakes" including emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical injuries, it may be helpful thus to keep a few foundational principles in mind.
In order for the practitioner to have clarity in the matter of yoga teachings and teacher, one must first be clear what it is that they wish to learn. On the profound level of course, after one is absolutely clear on what it is that one wants to learn, one has already learned it; so at first there is always some confusion (until the subject matter is completely learned and de-mystified). That is, when the confusion, delusion, and ignorance (avidya, ego, and spiritual estrangement is removed), then the practice of yoga has reached its conclusion in inseparable union, but since most of us are still suffering from the illusion of separateness and thus can benefit from practice, then many pitfalls on this journey can be avoided by clarifying one's intent and awareness as to the nature of the teachings (and hence teacher) that are being pursued.
All our experiences in our life (all our relationships) form our teachings in so far we have the ongoing opportunity to be open and continuously learn. From our own direct experience, our world is innately informed, that is if we do not shut down from this opportunity. A major problem is that most people have learned and become accustomed to a severely limited, crippling, and dysfunctional world view which dictates to us our experiences -- wherein we think we already know something and hence grasp onto it. Then a mismatch, duality, conflict, and confusion arises, when the innate ever present teaching/teacher becomes chronically ignored where we become inured to the apparent condition that the inner teacher is not continuously present. When the innate wisdom and clarity is chronically absent, then people are subject to being misled, because they are looking for leadership in the wrong places. Then false views, foreign belief systems, and prejudice dominate. Authentic yoga is designed to exorcise this dualistic conditioning/programming and bring us back to our authentic natural innate Self. he truth is that the efficacious guide and teacher/teaching is eternally present, but it is only that our consciousness has become distracted that we have ignored such. Normally we have become distracted, but every moment provides an opportunity to open, to learn, to pulsate, vibrate, and respond. In our yoga practice thus we learn how to surrender to and open up to that ever-present instruction and process.
Back to Table of Contents
Man has often attempted to develop a sacred technology in which to obtain divinity, but for the most part such formulations have only reduced the sacred as well as limited human potential. Similarly there exist many definitions of what yoga is. There exist many different schools, formulations, and approaches to the teachings called yoga. So it may be easier to start by defining what yoga is not. Because of the recent fad in the West defining the Sanskrit word, yoga, as a form of physical exercise (which is only disguised as yoga), we are best served to begin by stating what would be obvious to the ancient yogis, i.e., that yoga is not exercise, gymnastics, acrobatics, or simply a system of physical culture, nor is it merely stress reduction, albeit some of its techniques may include such elements. Yoga practice may look like that to an outsider or Westerner, but such a view is merely ignorant of yoga's deeper potential and purpose. Although Westerners are free to think as they please, they do not serve any decent purpose by imposing their self deceptions and delusions upon others by misrepresenting the ancient teachings or misappropriating the word.
Because of this misrepresentation a modern confusion has become created in so far that the beginning student becomes seduced into thinking that accomplishment in yoga has to do with the goal of accumulating more technique, technical details, specifics, analysis of the separate parts, reductionist thinking, or mechanics; i.e., such teachings that yoga can be bought or owned at best only reinforces the illusion of separateness (ego); while the true purpose of yoga ultimately lies in the harmonization and synchronization of all the diverse parts of the body, mind, breath, creation, and creator; its intimate experience through a process of unification and integration -- a unified non-dual state of subjective beingness and realization which contains within it great peace and "well-being".
Albeit the parts are essential to the whole, and hence yoga is integrative rather than reductionist or fragmented. Any so called yoga teacher/teaching will create a disservice if the whole is lost sight of in the investigation of the parts, thus this distraction which causes dissipation and eventually dissolution of the energy, the life force, and awareness can be avoided by maintaining the overall bhava (intention and focus) of your practice -- by having the student of yoga become clear about what it is that they desire to learn. Is it a communion with clarity, healing, love, peace, and well being or is merely knowledge, physical skills, superficial vanities and beauty, flexibility, endurance, or physical strength and power. Even some so called non-dual intellectually and analytical oriented schools can often enhance the dualism, rather than to augment or affirm the experiential reality of the Great non-dual integrity.
Ordinary teachings/teachers reduce, break down the whole into its parts, and teach through the process of analysis at the expense of the integrity and embracing the whole wholeheartedly. Hence such an approach as the former, may distract by deceiving the student that the accumulation of more facts, knowledge, techniques, and tricks will lead to success in yoga. True success in yoga is based on bringing all the disparate or fragmented parts back together -- affirming the Great integrity which is yoga. The former approach may work in the University to win a philosophy, theological, science, or technology degree, but it is not a functional approach to authentic yoga. It is only possible to teach the parts within the context as being living examples and manifestations of the living whole. Only when the reflexive and luminous innate intelligence that lies behind the innate evolutionary power shines through and is illumined and revealed in practice is yoga successfully applied. This guidance is always available at all times, but humans widely ignore it. Here the context of the integrity of all things (the bhava of yoga as inseparable love and light) is brought forth, then will yoga be accomplished. This latter natural reflexive nature of the universe which illumines primordial consciousness is the higher teaching of yoga, in distinction to teachings of philosophy or exercise.
Yoga is also not a religion, albeit some of its techniques may be included as an adjunct to certain religious practices. Yoga as such is not the parroting, memorization of, nor conformation to foreign words, ceremonies, ritual, mudras, acrobatics, ideology, or dogma. Broadly speaking yoga simply means to join or bind together, to link up, to connect in union -- communion. Yoga thus acknowledges the Reality, Unity, or Great Integrity of the small self and the large Self, in fact the small self (ego) is considered to be a manufactured delusion, so that the process is thus one of destroying the programming and conditioned ignorance or obfuscation of the Big Self which is the same thing as disclosing the emptiness of the small self (the impossibility of an independent ego). This is a universal unconditional binding together devoid of bias, prejudice, chauvinistic tendencies, or limited conditions and as such goes beyond any one racial, ethnic, national, or religious boundary. This is the unbounded practice of yoga. Authentic yoga thus can not be owned nor belong to any one church, geographical place, race, nation, or religion, but to all as it is the realization of non-dual transpersonal relationship of All Our Relations.
In this universal and timeless context, authentic yoga teachers/teachings aim at opening up the student's awareness to this "reality" (to the Sacred Integrity that Binds Us All Together -- to Self Existing Sacred Presence) -- to bring the student HOME. Yoga teachers/teachings thus are always available universally at all times. Thus one's personal practice as well as all authentic yoga teachers/teachings are designed to open up the student to this reality by firstly maintaining this bhava, then by devoting and dedicating (bhakti) the practice to merging one's attention (chit) with the prana-shakti (energy) of the practice (chit-prana or shiva/shakti). This bhava as the central focus invites, invokes, and brings in the authentic teachings which in turn can take many forms and shapes.
In classical hatha yoga (which is one of the many schools of ancient yoga) asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) are the main tools. Thus maintaining this bhava while focusing on asana -- as the merger of shiva/shakti, yang and yin, and the chit-prana is most fortuitous. So when practicing, being taught, or teaching asana, we can more specifically call upon even more specific modalities toward this end such as opening up the nadis, by removing the conflicts and obstructions (kleshas, samskaras, vasana, knots, imbalances, negative habits and karma) -- by reaching inner peace, inner peace is taught. By experiencing directly balance, purification, harmony and synchronization in an experiential way, philosophy and conceptualization processes (inadequate to the task at hand) are by-passed. Such a practice becomes self directed and will open up the previously blocked pathways for an energetic realignment and attunement with the universal mandala as it manifests in the human form here and now. It is this experiential communion which should never be lost sight of in All Our Relations, rather authentic yoga not only brings this forth into the light of day, but is also guided by this light in practice.
Hatha yoga utilizes asana, pranayama, bandha, kriya, pratyhara, mudra, dharana (visualization, sound and gazes), and meditation within this context. Here it is noteworthy to point out that the hatha yoga teacher teaches and uses teachings not only to help the student realize the Great Binding, but more so, that the teaching is presented within the context of the Great Binding -- not outside of it. In other words, the goal that is pointed to is always in the present -- always present, omniscient, and inside -- non-dual. This teaching in integrity is not simply teaching by example, but an affirmation of sacred presence -- a transpersonal gift of pure love that the yoga teacher shares with the student, but does not come from the individuality of the teacher. Here the "teacher" should be very clear on where yoga teaching comes from (certainly not from the ego). Such teachings are always empowering. Thus in authentic yoga, practice is loving and energizing -- it is joyous and spirit filled. Eventually it becomes less than effortless. It is not hard arduous work or self torture, but rather the practitioner does not feel fatigued, tired, or drained afterwards.
Back to Table of Contents
Ultimately we must realize that the Universal Teachings are always accessible in the present now if we should recognize such. Yoga practice thus becomes a daily set period for this communion as an act of dedication and devotion. In yoga the teachings come from mother/father -- shiva/shakti, sun and moon, yin and yang continuously and uninterrupted. There is no beginning or end -- both unborn and eternal on one hand and ever present in each instantaneous moment on the other -- Both/and or non-dual, but neither one without the other. Thus the goal of authentic yoga is not to be goal oriented, rather yoga brings us back home -- to the sacred eternal present here and now.
Thus we start from this universal definition of yoga as an over-riding attitude (bhava), even at the very beginning so that the practitioner (who granted has not yet completely realized this "reality" in All Our Relations) can maximize their practice through the process of relaxing into their natural uncontrived state, rather than striving for some "thing" external. It is very valuable for "success" in yoga in order to avoid and minimize diversion, dissipation, distraction, and other externalizations/projections (all of which wastes of time and energy) to at first have some reminder, introduction, glimpse, draw toward, passionate intent to experience the wholistic natural state -- to deeply remember our transpersonal interconnectedness, to be uplifted by the great web of life, to have a transconceptual inkling/feeling of what the yoga process reveals and lays bare. Hence the teaching environment and teacher will accentuate, affirm, confirm, and magnify these possibilities of great peace, beauty, wisdom, and bliss effortlessly by virtue of their joyous being. In this sense teachers or environments which enhance such an outcome are beneficial.
When our Heart-Mind is open -- when we are in a receptive listening state, we can learn from everything and everybody and all the time. This is yoga. Although innate Buddhanature resides within all, we will make the assumption that this is where the teachings should lead us and that the student is seeking this universal teacher/teaching because some degree of fragmentation and blockages have been acquired via past conditioning (karma). Thus it is the teachers/teachings joyous and natural responsibility to lead the student into this state of yoga; i.e., where the universal teacher is omnipresent and the teaching is going on continuously. This is the very essence of yoga -- where Siva/Shakti is continuously teaching yoga, where the Sat guru (universal teacher) resides, where the Adi Buddha (universal and eternal Adi Buddha or Samantabhadra) is continuously discoursing on Dharma (in the Dharmadhatu).
So the first thing for the student of yoga to do is to be able to welcome transconceptual space by bringing a wide open beginner's mind to the teachings. One should evaluate the teachings and teacher in terms of one's own heart felt sense without prejudice or egoic desires, jealousies, fears, or pride. Confidence is gained when intellectual analysis is surrendered in favor of a deep felt sense (beyond the senses or intellect) as to whether or not this ultimate realization is enhanced or brought forth by one method or another. The wise student thus inquires and evaluates any yoga teacher/teachings experientially within the yoga context, whether or not this glimpse into the essential nature of the union of ultimate and relative reality is disclosed, unified, accentuated, and made more clear and accessible. On a coarser level one may analyze whether or not this union is being integrated into one's own life in terms of clarity, ahimsa, love, kindness, non-harshness, friendliness, compassion, happiness, santosha, joy, healing energy, and esthetic appreciation. If the teacher does not transmit these basic characteristics such as found in the yams/niyam, and of which are generally the spontaneous results of an effective practice, then the student is wise to ask what it is that they wish to learn and if this teacher is capable of teaching it.
When looking for a yoga teacher or a practice, one may easily find such who are seduced by their own ego, conceit, pride, and arrogance. They are unfortunately more common than not. A common pitfall are teachers who depreciate the student, while at the same time praising the teacher, the teachings, or lineage. Then if the student obeys and gets with the program, such students are praised (rewarded) by the teacher. If this dysfunctional relationship is accepted fully and quickly by the intimidated student, it helps the student relieve the pain of surrendering to the teacher/teachings, but it may also hopelessly disempower, confuse, and further create obsequiousness and dependence, leaving the student ripe for endless externalization, transference, and exploitation. Indeed this is the common lot of orthodox fundamental religious cults who demand faith and loyalty, while inhibiting and intimidating those who question authority, utilize critical or creative thought, and free inquiry. Instead they lay out strict structure, dogma, ideology, readily identifiable boundaries, rules, while attempting to shame anyone to disobey or break the standards. Such systems thrive mostly because of fear, low self esteem, habituations to past intimidations, and disempowerment tendencies in general. The more insecure and paranoid the student's world view (view of self and other), the more safety in terms of security and creditableness one will demand in external structure or rigid systems of external order. This fear is usually not owned, rather such a victim will manufacture externalized rationalizations for their need for structured boundaries (in their fear of freedom, owning their feelings, and self expression). Spontaneity, lack of structure, and association with the wild are thus often feared.
Too often in a paranoid and insecure society this need for a readily identified external structure, clearly defines student/teacher relationships, and even detailed regimentation becomes confused as safety. Too often such becomes institutionalized, familiar, and expected because of the student's past samskaras which manifest as habituation, association, dependence, or a need to extend confidence to those who exhibit confidence such as external authority/authority figures who create rigid and tightly structured "known" rules. People who lack such self confidence sublimate and project that need in subsequent craving for such authority as a transference security adaptation/reaction to compensate for their own confusion, disorganization, lack of internal order, dissociation, insecurity, and resultant diminished sense of self confidence and self esteem to a point of becoming compulsive. Some teachers and organizations exploit people's pre-existing lack of connection and meaning, lack of self esteem, fear, self hatred, pain, and desire to transcend (read escape from "self"). They simply move people in transference from one lack of connection to a substitute sense of connection, community, or identification; but still deficient in providing liberation -- a dynamic self instructing inter connection with the greater timeless spiritual community of All Our Relations -- with that non-dual transpersonal Reality which is the timeless teacher.
Such people attempt to find themselves, their meaning, identity, security, and self esteem by exchanging the old order by accepting a new order of similar ilk -- an externally ordered system. But in Reality they are merely, playing a game. They have become afraid to think for themselves precisely because their natural self awareness as an innate ability and inner wisdom has become chronically suppressed/repressed. When such an external/surrogate order/structure is absent or when challenged to be authentic, too often such insecure people feel threatened. They re-experience their fear, insecurity, pain, and confusion, rather than see the situation as an opportunity to release it (and become free).
Authentic yoga teachers will not capitalize, nor exploit this fear and insecurity -- which is really a state of spiritual amnesia or forgetfulness, but rather their teachings must be designed to eliminate it, through empowering our inherent innate self awareness -- by helping us to re-member -- by bringing us back into the intrinsic inner wisdom where there no longer exists any external ersatz need. Let us honor and respect such teachers.
In the modern spiritual milieu of widespread confusion, crass materialism, fear, neurosis, and often personal despair, it is not unusual to see people jump onto the bandwagons of fundamentalism, externally based systems, authoritarianism, guruism, ideology, hierarchical and strictly structured messianic cults --some of which are masquerading as mainstream religions. It is however very doubtful that any of these type of remedies (some of them well intentioned) will lead to spiritual liberation -- to the empowering/activating the Universal Union of yoga as the continuous ongoing co-creative, non-dual, and trans-personal relationship of All Our Relations.
Thus authentic yoga leads us into a Wholeness and Integrity where a direct experiential trans-personal relationship is established which creates as symptoms self empowerment, self confidence, and liberation and more. Surrendering to THAT Great Integrity -- to All Our Relations is thus the same as surrendering to our Highest potential -- to Brahman (the non-dual universal Self) -- to our Buddha Nature -- to Siva/Shakti -- to our authentic, transpersonal, and higher self. Thus through authentic yoga teachings/teachers this core energy and Reality of "Self" (which is not a separate self) is gradually facilitated and brought into our daily lives. It is on the basis of this recognition that we can evaluate an authentic yoga teaching/teacher or if the teacher/teachings may lead to the opposite; i.e., further into fragmentation, externalization, alienation, separation, corruption, and dissolution.
Having said "that", the teacher/teaching exists in every breeze, in the herbs of the fields, sea, stars, animals, cells, creeks, and breath, also we may recognize these teachings/teachers when they emanate in human form as well once our inner eye has opened. Indeed a human being who has realized the truth of All Our Relations and can teach it, provides a living contextual ground from which our continuum of consciousness can be renewed and activated, while our karmic propensities, negative emotional afflictions (kleshas), and past programming (samskaras) can be disentangled (rather than become further exploited and manipulated). Broadly speaking this is how the citta-vrtta are destroyed, through the authentic teachings of hatha, kundalini, and tantric yoga.
Since the teachings are everywhere present continuously (depending on our ability to be receptive), an authentic teacher, focused upon that great integrity and clarity, is not competitive about rival teachings, nor fears them, nor does he/she discourage freedom in their students. The authentic teacher rather spontaneously takes joy in bestowing the self empowering gifts of intrinsic awareness, receptivity, response-ability, revealing the omni-present implicate order, inherent clarity, and direct experience of the inherent emptiness of separate self as if such came from the universal mother, thus acknowledging the transpersonal non-dual awareness, rather than dualism, separateness, exclusivity, externalism, complicated goal oriented systems where spirit and truth exist elsewhere in some distant heaven. The latter teaching is by definition not spiritual because spirituality can not exist without the presence of spirit. When experience of spirit is present in sacred presence -- confusion, doubt, and externalism is destroyed in an instant. Such is yoga as a spiritual practice.
The authentic teacher thus acts as a portal reflecting her/his own transpersonal joyful experience, continuing their tradition, and/or lineage and consummation in each and every sacred gesture while communicating to the receptive student without a desire to exploit, control, or manipulate. That teacher acts freely, without using coercion, without expectation, impatience, or rebuke. Some teachers do this with tonality, some with words, some with a smile, facial expression, gesture, song, touch, example, and/or with wise directions while in continual dialogue and intercourse (verbal or otherwise) with the innate evolutionary power. Always there is recognition of the creative energy and innate power (Shakti), of that experience and presence, while the teacher males us more conscious of it. To be aware of the qualities and characteristics of this energetic intercourse with the teacher/teachings at all times is a great boon that yoga affords. It is because of the student's own awareness of their own shakti and their resultant communion, that progress in awareness and beingness itself occurs. As such it is the awareness of shakti in everything which eventually leads us to ultimate realization and activation in All Our Relations, and as such it is the universal shakti of the transpersonal universal teacher/teachings which is part of the equation in hatha, kundalini, and tantric yoga unless one becomes lost and overly objectified -- fragmented in mechanics and technicalities.
So such authentic teachers act as surrogates and portals (for the Adi Buddha, sat guru, kundalini, siva/shakti, the Mother/Father, or simply Grace) for the eternal trans-personal teachings to manifest adjusted as to time and place, language, culture, and conditions. In other words the teaching/teacher is timeless, but its manifestation is always evolving as shakti evolves. Teachers can and do thus transmit shakti (as in shaktipat) but it is very important never to see this shakti as a personal energy, but rather as a transmission from shakti herself and hence from Source. If it is personal or from an exclusive lineage then it is by definition tainted -- not from the sat guru (universal eternal teacher) nor from the Adi Buddha (Vajradhara), nor from the Tao, but rather it is contrived. Such teachers/teachings that claim exclusivity rather than an overall inclusivity should be evaluated wisely lest the student becomes confused. Sanatana or Eternal True Dharma (teachings) should not be confusing, but rather be self elucidating.
Thus from this shakti when it is mis-interpreted it is viewed as personal charisma of which in the context of dualism (separateness and ego delusion) such pitfalls are difficult to avoid. Many people seek the comfort and security not only of an external authority figure, but also as an opportunity to bask in their shakti, but the task of the real teacher is to reveal this shakti in all of nature -- including oneself.
As time and conditions have changed cosmically, astrologically, culturally, and genetically so too will new teachings of Infinite Spirit manifest in order that we become congruent (in harmony and aligned) with it. It will not serve us to try to find eternity in the past, or in a heaven in the future, but rather the challenge is right now in this very life -- in this very instant. As such authentic yoga has always evolved, lest it stagnate into mere memorization and conformity. It's peak in India was during the siddha period between the 6th and 13th centuries AD, before the era of the barbaric invasions (the period of alienation).
An authentic yoga teacher thus does not teach separateness and dualism, technique and knowledge, but because they have realized or have communed with the great transpersonal non-dual and have realized the emptiness of separate self, they have decided to share it. In this way the selfless motivation of the teacher becomes part of the teaching, for how could there exist anything but love, equanimity, patience, and compassion within the sacred space of the great transpersonal non-dual?
Various advice may apply.
Most human beings do not consciously recognize that they are missing their own heart essence. That is my advice to those who may be listening.
Of course most teachers that we will encounter have not completely or continuously realized or integrated such a union in their personal lives, but as their intent to do so has become refined within the context of All Our Relations that greater intent will come forth to a certain extent. This certain extent is the criteria of how we may further evaluate the effectiveness of the teacher while never forgetting that the full teaching is always available. Hence the teacher must be related to within the context of the eternal teachings. Some teachers will have realized and integrated it, but they still may not be an effective teacher depending on their past karma, cultural skills, genetic history, medical and other circumstances. Intent is a very important criteria, but also the teacher's wisdom, ability, and skillful means are also factors. Indeed we will eventually find that we can get different benefits from a myriad of teachers -- in the continuum which includes both dream and waking consciousness.
Such benevolent selfless loving and purified beings exist, but often we do not recognize them without pomp and circumstance because we are not used to looking with clarity into the heart. Some thus dress up the teachings, in order to honor it and to acknowledge their debt to selfless teachers, but that must be done skillfully or the corruptive influence of group pride, competitiveness, and exclusivity may arise. Some great and open-hearted beings are living treasures, gift bestowers, who having emptied themselves have become filled. They are portals for thousands of years of yogic sadhana offering it up in an instant on the universal altar of the great continuum which is yoga for all earnest seekers on the path. Such is the teachings of the munis, the Buddha, the seers, the Bodhisattvas, the Ongwhehonwhe, Zaddiks, saints, and rainbow warriors who have thrown off and defeated illusion's legions. These are very best and most treasured human teachers.
So in this way it is valuable to bow down and surrender our imperfections -- the delusion of separate self -- the dualistic illusion of separateness to the non-dual intrinsic authentic eternal teacher who abides within us as our true self -- as our Buddha nature -- as our highest potential --as the dormant kundalini -- Namaste!
Now we will investigate how we can use especially asana teachings/teachers as a way to reveal THAT - Tat Tvam Asi
Back to Table of Contents
Everyday and each moment presents itself with its unique possibilities and potential. Every moment we have options that lead us deeper into the energy and beauty or away from it. We can get more up "in the head" burdening ourselves with specific details or become more integrated in the deep coursings of our innate rivers of inspiration. If we are to maximize these opportunities for healing and creativity we must learn to trust our intuition and instinct. For instance, I may have been enjoying a few days of very vigorous and spontaneously powerful, and strong practice, but something is different today. Still being a creature of habit, if I were to try to "push" the practice the good way it was yesterday, as I was looking forward to enjoying the same joy and benefits of yesterday. but I will find that such a habit imposes an expectation and imposition that is untoward and limiting, Today my body may say, no "that's pushy". That doesn't feel right. That doesn't fit. There's some resistance today to that, today is now, not yesterday. If I wasn't in my feeling, sensitive and intuitive body, I would not notice.
The more I learned how to listen, watch, and expand my receptivity at each sacred moment, the more I saw that the body needed something else that day or better "that moment" -- the more I was able to optimize the asana session from a self imposed fixed and predictable regimen into more of an exploration into a new frontier. It was transformed from a goal oriented willful practice into a process oriented learning session where I became more present and conscious. Subjectively dive deeply and transconceptually into the innate wisdom (prajna) with the objective being synergistic balance and harmony. Then wait for that impulse to emerge and move you.
We have a choice in our asana practice to listen to the authentic needs of the body/mind (versus the neurotic or compulsive ersatz cravings) as well as the promptings of the deepest recesses of the heart space (hridayam) on one hand, or to force ourselves to conform to some conceptual external standard or expectation on the other. That is the point of this section; i.e., that we have this choice to surrender to our highest calling (Buddhanature or Isvara pranidhana) or continual to be a victim to our past habits, kleshas, and conditioning.
Because modern man has become programmed to be out of balance because of negative conditioning where he has abandoned his intuitive powers, such has created a left brain dominant malaise. That creates many neurological "dead zones" where consciousness and energy has become withdrawn not only from the physical body, but also from the mental/emotional and energy bodies. Consequently in order to come back into balance the practitioner needs to release the left brain approach, and honor, cultivate, and heighten right brain abilities/qualities of receptivity, openness, listening, and feeling. Here we get to the core of what the yoga practice is all about, Its about coming into synchronicity -- coming deeply into Self on all levels, which is facilitated by learning about ourselves, our present situation, the inter-relationships between our body parts, the mind, emotions, beliefs, breath, energy, nature, evolutionary power and the primordial source. Its about finding where this energy is stuck and moving it through -- reconnecting the dormant circuitry of the Long Body. The best approach (as mentioned above) is not of a doer who forces the processes willfully, but moreso as the purusha (witness) forming a deep receptive relationship with the bodymind, nature, and spirit in a profound synchronicity, so that it is this relationship which moves you. One may complain, that if we have become separated/fragmented, then how could the unitive force move us. The answer is to ask for this as innate guidance fully and sincerely. Thus it becomes a matter of aligning with siva/shakti as if you were allowing the bodymind to reconfigure around that already perfect relationship. That movement of alignment is natural and sheds the negative programming as you move. When the alignment is approximated, new energy will come into play naturally and spontaneously which can not be anticipated or conceptualized from the prior non-aligned dualistic state.
This ongoing inquiry, investigation, and exploration into our true nature thus goes beyond the limitations of intellectual/conceptual knowledge. Rather it leads us to the unbroken continuity with our intuitive wisdom (prajna). Here the left brain can only be a helping partner in the process when it is in synch with the right brain. This process of self realization requires an open mind, a beginners mind, a mood of exploration -- in short a right brain approach; while a biased left brain approach will only create limitation, rigidity, angularity, and immobility. One may ask in the latter situation what is the real motive for mastering the asana. Hatha yoga has been called the yoga of force only because some tantric schools of hatha yoga have developed which apply techniques which are both transformational and forceful in their application. However the original hatha yoga is the union of the sun (HA) and the moon (THA) which is our natural conditioning before the negative programming which programmed human beings to ignore their intrinsic reality -- as an intimate part of nature, not apart from nature and evolutionary power). The forceful approach only further dissuades humans into more separateness, strife, and strict ego identity, rather what should be amplified is the process of moving into love, synchronicity, healing, great peace, and unity consciousness in this very life as our life.
In authentic yoga we are not concerned about the goal, the result, the performance aspect -- to do the asana as an end in itself, rather it is the evolutionary process of awakening -- the evolutionary power herself as well as its source as primordial consciousness to which the yogi is aligning. Utilizing the process of exploring the asana as a means to open up and surrender to Self, to move into a profound synchronicity and alignment, to mobilize the dormant circuitry and energy flows where the left and right come into perfect balance married in the central channel which forever awaits us beyond linearity, time, separation, and striving. Vairagya, as non-attachment, is the rule and that applies to non-expectation to events as well as to non-grasping at thoughts. That leads to naturally transconceptual consciousness and a very open, spacious, calm, and clear mind.
Here instead of "doing" the asana in performance or forceful mode, we utilize the asana as a listening tool, as an inquiry into self. We go into receptive and meditative mode attuning to the positive biofeedback loop of the body/mind alignment energetic dynamics. In this way the practice is about awareness more than doing something to the body. In this way force and adversity is defeated, but rather an intrinsic partnership is enjoined. In this process oriented way the yoga practice becomes self instructing as the efferent nerves fire only after consulting with the feedback from the afferent nerves and as such the motor nerves that control conscious muscular movements become synchronized and attuned to the innate wisdom of the body -- of the cells and dna. Here we go beyond the intuition and instinct, but into non-dual left brain/right brain synchronization and partnership -- into true response-ability. In such a process oriented practice the inner teacher is always entertained as it becomes essentially a teaching practice/listening practice versus a doing practice and thus we become more deeply connected with the energy body, the inner rhythms, their connections with the rest of life, creation, nature, and source. Here it is the inner teacher moves and guides us as we approach the asana practice as samyama on body, mind, breath, nature, and Source -- as a pilgrimage and a devotional practice toward param shakti.
For example, if my body/mind is not willing to make the changes that the (left brain) conceptual mind has in store for it, it can of course be forced to obey by my will. But that approach is usually counterproductive as well as a potential source of injury. Although it is true that for some people, just doing the asanas even mechanically at first "warms them up" and gets "the energy" going which then takes over (once awakened) to lead the practitioner in the session. But more often mechanical approaches are dry and miss the adventure and the juice. Where there exists mechanical rigidity and body/mind separation injury and stress can occur -- that is where the ego rules. That is too often about control and power -- domination and force. That doesn't feel good to me. I "could" force it, but all I would be doing is to reinforce imbalance and tension -- I would be caught up and reinforced in my own drama rather than dharma.
That does not mean that if I find myself rather unbalanced, disconnected, immobile, rigid, non-intuitive, uninspired, and left brain dominant that I do not "do" my asana practice today. Rather once I recognize my afflictive condition the game plan has become altered. It's easy to change my approach in these situations if I view it as not giving up or losing something that I achieved or possessed previously (my predilection), but rather as opening up to something new, different, and more vitally relevant, i.e., as a re-newal and an opportunity to listen more deeply. This is the beginning of the transition state from a willful, rigid, sterile, objectified, and "external" practice toward a free flowing dynamic, inside-out, self actualizing phase of living and being.
Asana practice approached as a process oriented body/mind daily exploration allows us to see what is right in front of our face, something that is transpersonal, deep, profound, and sacred beyond the sterility of left brain dominated space. Asana practice thus becomes more of a self awareness, self realization, and spiritual transformation healing process than merely physical or "healthy" exercise. In fact asana practice can be a powerful trans-conceptual lever into the super-conscious nervous system in which all of creation is interconnected to a magnificent living neural network or giant mainframe (the Great Integrity) in which the living body is both a vital link and its holographic part simultaneously. Here there exist not only the nadis, marmas, chakras, winds and seas, and five elements within the body/mind but also the meridians, vortexes, power spots, celestial spheres, stars, elements, and spheres moving in the universe outside of the body in which we are connected genetically from the beginning of time. Here this dance is meets, unites, and is completed in the divine instant -- in the now of sacred presence -- in the Great yantra of which synchronizes the inner and the outer with Source and as such is not separate external or internal, but rather both/and. This profound but simple all inclusive non-dual "reality" is often called "All Our Relations" in indigenous cultures because it is intrinsic and can not be separated except in man's artificial mind constructs (frameworks of illusion).
Most of us simply do not see our real Self, nor are we attuned to the present phase of our emotional or psychological patterning, imprints, or programming; nor do we listen to (nor are we centered within) our authentic body/mind energy bodies. Too often we find ourselves distracted, forgetting to honor the life force, lost in conceptual thinking, past predilections, dysfunctional old dramas, and so forth. Too often we are either immobilized in fear or dissuaded in neurotic compensatory desire to simply acknowledge the abundant untapped treasure and wealth that is available in the present. Too often we are preoccupied with our disease to allow for our healing. Too often we are not aware enough and thus unaligned with the intrinsic laws of nature and her loving principles of ahimsa. This is how we become out of "touch" and synch with the living law of the heart and become estranged from our true nature and higher potential. Too often "preoccupied" with dissipative, neurotic, non-vital, and even pathological modalities and activities, our "therapeutic" self imposed regimens become self fulfilling death processes based on our limitations rather than our potential.
Transformation and "change" must be welcomed as grace and flow opening us up to life, embracing Spirit and creativity -- mobilizing us rather than immobilizing, freezing, and contracting us. Thus instinct, intuition, exploration, and our feminine aspect (right brain aspect) must be allowed for and even augmented, rather than viewed by the dominating intellect (which upholds the ego) as an uncontrolled "disobedience" of the body, emotional threat, lack of "self" control and will power, failure of the domination of mind, or ego failure. Spiritual transformation and healing comes from surrender of the fixations of false identifications, through the empty gate wherein all illusion is dispelled.
Prana has Implicate Intelligence as it Emanates from Primordial Consciousness. As such it is an instructor when we view it as such (in suchness).
These two extremes between a feminine, peaceful, meditative, rejuvenating, renewing, spontaneous, and relaxing practice allowing the innate intelligence of the energies to gently harmonize, find balance and equilibrium in the body/mind, and become synergistically aligned on one hand, and the other extreme of a male, strong willed, self controlled, rigidly pre-planned, and detailed mechanical "asana" practice are the very voltages of the right and left brain (the left and right side of the body) respectively that tugs at most modern practitioners. Although yoga's fruit it is realized by harmony, balance, and synchronicity, because of our present social condition which represses the right brain function and feminine sensitivities this balance can generally best be achieved by augmenting right brain approaches. Indeed when the body/mind split is reinforced, we go into sleep, into dormancy, estrangement, alienation, rigidity, immobility, and sterility.
Another example a left brain/male approach to asana practice is the rigid adherence and conformation to a repetitive and very specific sequential set of fast moving asanas even with its duration of hold and the number of breaths to be taken in each asana preordained before the session. This sequential set is then repeated each session day by day with no alterations. When it is mastered then another more advanced and also very specific sequential set is conformed to again, etc. Granted if the practitioner is not subject to injury and the asanas are well designed for the practitioner's unique body/mind type transconceptual energy may be activated and one can then be lead by the energy to some extent. However since innovation is not allowed, one is still confined to obeying the preordained sequence and exact configuration of body parts rather than to follow one's intuition, imagination, instinct, or to otherwise innovate.
When done in rapid sequence most people find this an exhilarating fiery aerobic workout which may bring more fire into one suffering from disorders of kapha or unbalanced excess tamas, and thus be transformative and healing, but its overall effects in helping achieve the goal of authentic yoga may be questioned unless the practitioner also learns self awareness, sensitivity to the energy, and how to honor the life energy and principle more continuously in daily affairs. The valuable affect here is that we are increasingly listening and communing with the life force (prana) and its source, of which the breath is at best a secondary emissary. As long as this communion with prana and Prana Shakti is accentuated, then the pace is correct.
It is not that such a practice requires to be judged as "good or bad", but it is wise to inquire whether our practice is balancing, healing, nourishing, supportive, and empowering as well as invigorating, if it is to be an "evolutionary" practice for the individual practitioner. Indeed such a practice that first activates and/or generates the energy can be directed so that its intrinsic intelligence can be integrated so that it directs and leads the practitioner into areas of even greater variegated customization and relevant spheres of exploration usually reserved to the realm of innovation and intuition. It's wise to discern the difference between the energy and heat generated by an aerobic exercise and that of kundalini, but yet there is no reason why these energies can not work in mutual synergy for certain constitutions if allowed to do so.
Since most human beings are already overly seduced by the mechanical paradigm of incessant "doingness' in order to achieve satisfaction, is it not better to entertain a more meditative approach that emphasizes listening and self awareness more? The first question we may ask is does such a practice reward conformity and inhibit receptivity and true creativity? In other words does the practice bring the practitioner to their core energy? For many the answer is yes, but the generation of heat, sweating, and physical exhaustion is not the same as coming into the heart or activating the creative evolutionary intelligence. Granted many people whose monkey mind (left brain) are over active who are made to jump through aerobic yoga hoops for two hours usually are grateful to be focusing on the body, vacant in the head, and exhausted. For many it is a way of surrender and "let go", but can such an approach lead anywhere other than to reinforce the unfortunate conceptual error that states through hard work, individual will power, determination, sweat, and conformity to the practice -- perfecting the practice, the fruit of yoga will be won. Here we must assert that fatigue (mental or physical) should not be confused with shanti, santosha, or yogic peace, and contentment, just as an aerobic burn is not the same as the heat of tapas or kundalini (although here a relationship can be drawn).
So let us evaluate how our hatha yoga practice can bring us into greater balance, alignment, and synchronicity. Since modern man is already unbalanced with left brain (pingala) over dominance, the general yoga prescription for the current age should be to reinforce the right brain (ida) voltage in order to reach balance. This male/female polarity theme is elaborated throughout this book and especially later in this same chapter. An important point here is that inhibition and repression of the natural instincts and intuition is a left brain (pingala) function, not a right brain (ida) function. This tension/conflict between right and left brain causes dis-ease, while in fact right/left brain synchronicity causes overall coemergent synergy.
later we will see how ha (left brain or pingala) and tha (right brain or ida) are united in the middle way sushumna). This profound balance is not found through repression, inhibition, denial, restriction, suppression, numbing out, or going asleep. Aggressive behavior is also most often associated with left brain activity (pingala) and specifically hyper-sympathicotonia (sympathetic hypertonia). In this regard it is of value to point out that the cause of aggression however is always due to an imbalance (lack on one hand and/or an excess on the other). When balance is achieved, a strength is also accomplished and the aggressive/often defensive need vanishes as well. So we will not encourage either pushiness nor reticence -- neither slothfulness and torpor on one hand nor hyper activity, tenseness, or hyper-vigilance on the other. Thus yoga encourages neither tamas nor rajas, but rather sattva (purity and synchronistic balance). Here the sympathetic and parasympathetric nervous systems are analogues of this process, but more is going on than just bodymind neurophysiology.
Contrary to common belief, the autonomc nervous ssystem can be strongly influenced and regulated through yoga practice. Except for skeletal muscles, which is under the control of the central nervous system(CNS), virtually all tissues in some way by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is broken down into the sympathetic and parasympathetic sub-systems. When these system swork in harmony, balance and health are achieved. When their dynamics are interfered with, disease and imbalance ensues. In general, perceived threat or the fight or flight syndrome, increases sympathetic nervous system tone. This has widespread consequences in a chronically stressed out, competitive, and paranoid driven society.
In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system is often identified with the relaxation response.
Most of the autonomic control control of various neuro-physiologic and emotional functions are modulated through autonomic reflexes, that is, homeostatic control of blood pressure, thermoregulation, endocrine gland manufacture and release, adrenal cortex function, the hypocampus, hypothalamus, amygdala, etc. These all depend on the autonomic reflex adjustment through the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions. Autonomic`relexes are based onthe following strategy:
1) A peripheral sensor monitors changes within a specific system.
2) This information is relayed to a certain level of the CNS, where it is integrated.
3) An adjustment is made by the autonomic discharge to the specific organ or tissue, which will alter its activity to return physiologic function back to the appropriate level of balance. Integration opf autonomic responses is often complexand may occur atseveral levels of the CNS. In addition emotional factors such as fear, anger, hatred, love, empathy, compsassion, joy, etc., also have strong effects upon the ANS and hence also CNS. The revrse is true also; i.e., that ANS changs effected through yoga can have strong effects upon the emotional/mental system and energy body. Many of these functions have been proven to involve neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, but since the ANS regulates the function of all tissues all the body's biochemistry and psycho-pharmacology are involved including the synthesis, release, and regulation of prostaglandins, dopamine (DA), serotonin (5-HT), melatonin, histamine, glutamate, somatostatin, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), aspartate, glycine, and many more.
In application, if our practice is very fast, volatile, energetic, fiery, active, and light it may or may not be balancing and thus "right" for you that day (especially if you need more fire and rajas to find balance as long as it is not pushy, increases forcefulness, edginess, tension, or aggression in your life) to go for the burn! So on one day for some people a practice that creates momentum and is self propelled -- an embodiment of flying animation and invigoration creating strength, endurance and stamina that flies the practitioner through one pose after another can be mutually synergistic as long as it is tailored by the inner wisdom. As long as we listen to our energy and approach the practice with awareness so that we are moving closer into balance, synergistic symmetry, and ultimate love, then a vigorous practice may be balancing, harmonizing, and beneficial.
Although many in the West most of us are overly hyper, pushy, willful, and overbearing due to cultural or conditioning imbalances, many others are overly torpid, slothful, and apathetic, and thus can thus turn up the fire with good results. So here we must look deeply into our own practice with self awareness in order to avoid any potential pitfalls, bias, or perversion. Some days may call for cooling, integrating, regenerating, or relaxing modalities. As we move we can inquire whether or not the practice is feeding pre-existing proclivities and imbalances toward chronic sleepiness or chronic hyper-ness, or is it inspired and informed? For me, most of the time my practice is somewhere in-between these two extremes. In a balanced practice peacefulness and receptivity are not exclusive of strength and ability, nor are they the same as sleepiness and sluggishness. The development of vital self awareness and insight allows us to know our individual needs and adjust our program proficiently and spontaneously moving us into a co-emergent synergistic harmony not only on a yearly, monthly, or daily basis, but moment by moment integrating the nervous system, bodymind, breath, energy, and positive emotions, with intuitive wsidom.
On some days, weeks, or months I have to learn to honor and accept one extreme or the other, because not to do so would be a violation of the inner calling for balance. It would be ignoring what the conditions are calling for that day. How does one know? By listening, feeling, being aware, and allowing the practice to unfold by itself, exploring the possibilities, and testing out the energy through approaching the session as a process oriented exploration and learning opportunity. Sometimes within the same practice session our energy and thus our needs will change. In fact every moment is a new opportunity for love.
There are many reasons why inetgartion adn transformation occurs; but the main point is that grace is best entertained when we are gratefully open to what is needed -- open to all possibilities and willing to "go with" the possibility which is most beneficent -- the one that connects us to our highest potential beyond the limitations of our past conceptions, beliefs, imprints, and even the imagination itself. So here affirming our highest intent is a valuable process in itself. Surrendering to that innate universal wisdom is isvara pranidhana.
The question whether to move more aerobically or more slowly or to do more sun salutations or more supine poses never comes up when the asana session is not run by the thermometer of the left brain; but by the gauge of the Heart. Here we can find balance and resolution from duality -- between the left and right sides. Here all our systems can become attuned and throb to the deeper harmonics of life. We are not conceptualizing at all in our practice, butteh practice has a wisdom of its own -- it becomes an informed practice.
For the same reason that human and animal life is not a straight-plane existence, that we are not machines, that there are seasons and cycles within nature, there also exists seasons, cycles, and sub-cycles within all living beings that can not be reduced by linear thinking successfully, we are interdimensional beings. There exist movements and dimensions that are beyond the gauge of the intellect which when recognized and honored by our deeper sensitivities allows us to embrace and merge into the great non-conceptual self existent Integrity -- into the All and Everything. Thus allowing for the Grace of the practice to unfold naturally without preconception is in itself a further and welcome gift and opportunity. This awareness is where authentic yoga leads us.
Thus an essential ingredient in any authentic yoga practice is awareness -- it is the process of becoming more sensitive and as such it is a qualified sensitivity training. It must be qualified in the sense that it is balanced, i.e., we do not become overly "sensitive" of the individual sense objects (such as known by the ears, eyes, nose, etc), but rather at the same time become sensitive to the heart -- to the throbs of the earth, the pulsations of the stars, the inner flows and tides so that we are able to come into resonance, alignment, harmony, and grace -- as one with that which truly nourishes, supports, and empowers. Qualified as such, asana practice becomes a joyful sensitivity training. As such we learn that we have become insulated, coarse, and ignorant of the subtleties of nature, of the energy, of the body, and the emotions and then we allow ourselves with this new more subtle sensitivity and awareness to act as one in creating peace, harmony, health, and love -- in All Our Relations.
Here there exists a valuable lesson in learning how to listen to, honor, respect, and respond to the diversity of creation and pay attention to our vital participation with it in love -- in honoring the balance between left and right -- between intuition and receptivity on one hand and intellect and will on the other allowing them to unite as one embracing the greater whole. In this book there has been presented many different possible approaches of "intelligently working" in our asana practice; but nothing will beat the customized, integrated, responsive, interactive, balanced, and kinesthetic natural approach. Indeed this is the purpose of an authentic yoga practice -- to get ourselves attuned, in resonance, and "in touch". Indeed it is this very "skill" that is supposed to bleed over after the asana practice into the yoga of daily life which this Reality is expressed and acted upon.
If we introduce force, violence, abuse, stress, domination, imbalance, or tension into our practice, we introduce a level of force, violence, imbalance, hurtfulness, and stress into our everyday life and this way introduce it into the lives of others. Authentic process oriented asana practice allows us a chance to reverse this dysfunctional tendency. As we become closer attuned to the higher purpose of yoga as a spiritual practice, we lower the level of tension, stress, and violence in our lives and the lives that we touch.
Asana practice is also a time of self healing, health maintenance, preventative medicine, and a proactive affirmation of the life energies within and around us. It is a joyful opportunity to increase this communion everyday. How far can we go? In one sense we are all working out a possible infection, a heart disease, a possible stroke, potential cancer, diabetes, disequilibrium, degenerative disease, tension disease, a restriction, limitation, conflict, contraction, corruptive process, etc. How do we become more sensitive to the body, mind, breath early warning symptoms and subtleties before the gross manifestations of "serious disease" call our attention more grossly to a dysfunctional dynamic that we have been ignoring up to now? How do we stop hurting ourselves -- causing suffering and grief? How do we learn to honor life, evolution, and healing and purify our the conditioned modalities of stress, tension, self hate, self destruction, and pathology? How do we learn to stop dissipating our body/mind energies and concentrate them in harmony with and open up to the spark of life? How do we come into love and synergistic harmony at all times is the question that yoga poses?
How do we learn to take on this self responsibility? How do we ramp up our healing power and regenerate depletion? How do we clear the pathways and increase the body/mind's innate wisdom to function, create, love, play, and heal? How do we come into self actualization? How do we bring this increased awareness, communion, and consciousness into our everyday life so often filled with suffering with the vagaries of diseased, uncentered, spaced out, angry, grief stricken, dysfunctional, neurotic, greedy, anxious, driven, and insecure people? How do we utilize our asana practice to help us continuously be mobilized, empowered, inspired (in spirit), and provide inspiration as embodied vehicles of love (rather than fear and disappear) twenty four hours a day?
Authentic asana practice is a learning experience, not something that we "do" to ourselves. It is 99% awareness and receptivity and 1% "doing". Thus it requires an innocent inquiry into what is -- what is illusion and what is reality; and as such it is a meditation leading eventually into to Self awareness as it is discloses what was previously unconscious and thus the unveiling of ignorance occurs by revealing the underlying matrix of the infinite. Through increased awareness and sensitivity that is effected by an authentic yoga practice, we become freed from old unconscious and dysfunctional modalities that have imprisoned and limited us. This is a key principle: Yoga practice brings awareness and alignment into our life. It is not a case where we seek knowledge in order to accomplish the pose, but rather the poses accomplish a shift in conscious awareness and transconceptual experiential energetic/spiritual alignment.
As mentioned earlier, if we are stuck in a pattern, we can set aside different phases within any one asana to ask the bodymind complex what wants to relax and what wants to move. The inquiry can begin with "what wants to stretch and what wants to engage"? What needs to open and what needs to energize? Do we need to bring peace, calm, nurturing, and soothing medicine to this part of the body or to the overall system today or do we need to bring it to new undiscovere territory, away from slothful habits, and stagnation into a more rajasic and fiery state in order to bring about balance/sattva? Conversely, do we need to settle down and ground the bodymind and connect our energy to the base in order to eneter into sattva. Do we conspire with teh breath and heart as guides in this process? The inquiries are endless, but ultimately all we have to do is invoke and access the inner universal wisdom and allow it to decide and expres itself. Hence we cultivate, through self study and Gnosis, by bringing awareness to the body/mind areas which have become forsaken, disconnected, abandoned, and forgotten. As we bring awareness to an area, we at the same time open up a psychic/energetic channel (nadi), and hence eventually the area becomes open and energized. Where there once was a blockage, numbness, and unconsciousness, now there is healing energy and consciousness (cit-prana).
Mostly when we are healthy, the nervous system is working in harmony and in balance where the two systems of relaxation and tonification are symmetrical and automatically synchronous. As the agonist muscle engages, flexes, shortens, or contracts, there is a corresponding relaxation, extension, and lengthening of the antagonist muscle. When the antagonist has gone to its limit for the time, the agonist stops engaging or there may be strain or spasm to the agonist, strain to the antagonist, wasted energy, or stress to an adjacent system of tendons, ligaments, joints, or bone. Such activities are regulated through an integrated nervous system which is mostly not under conscious control. Here the agonist muscle is the activator or male/left brain effector muscle while the muscle which is passive and stretched (the antagonist) is the female/right brain counterpart. In left brain dominant approaches "progress" is effected through increasing the force of the agonist (activator/effector) muscles; while in a right brain (female) approach the attention is devoted to simply relax the antagonist muscle releasing the stress and resistance, thus effecting movement. Hence both activation (left brain) and relaxation (right brain) energetics need to come into alignment and synergistic coordination in order to achieve frictionless synchronicity.
Without activation, the neuromuscular system may lack tone, stability, and/or synergistic and coordinated balance. Atthe same time without simultaneous relaxation, release, and parasympathetic activation there will be constant stress, tension, friction, and immobility. In the end movement occurs because there is some space created -- something has to relax, stretch, release, relax, or extend (usually the antagonist muscle or else we are pushing between a rock and a hrad space. In many situations fascia surrounding organs, glands, old wounds, and even mental/emotional and energy pattern constructs) may be resistant to letting go. They may need gentle coaxing.
In authentic yoga we thus concentrate on receptivity and awareness -- on energetic symmetry and alignment in harmonizing the autonomic nervous system with the central nervous system, the efferent with the afferent nerves, the sympathetic with the para-sympathetic, the mind with the body, and nature and spirit, awareness with the neurophysiology and energy patterns, and so forth. This is impossible to hold in the conceptual mind fully, so it requires a deeper transconceptual sensitivity. At fisrt the breath serves as both as a strong autogenic proactive projection and as a biofeedback monitor. It is an indicator. It is just as important to let go of our expectations of what the breath is supposed to look like conceptually. It is just as important to let go of the breath as the goal, and rather look to the direct awareness of the intelligent energy systems which uphold and support it. Thus we really should be moved not by the breath or any lone localized "thing" -- we should allow ourselves to be moved by the universal core at All Our Relations.
So awareness which the breath reflects, also becomes an intermediator as awareness of the energy (prana) and how it is interfacing with the mind/emotions as well as the body, but it too can be a limitation if we do not go beyond it to teh energy which moves it. This way we are moved transconceptually. Rather than to fall victim to the common goal oriented trap of attempting to master the asana or breath (there the tail is wagging the dog), we go to the real master, the primordial wisdom for guidnace and communion.
Previously when younger I used to teach asana to open up the body. Later I used to say to use the breath and energy awareness to open up the body; while using the asana practice as a modality for increased energy awareness. Even later I encouraged people to use the asanas to open the breath and the prana flows -- to effect the spontaneous arising of the bandhas, mudras, asanas, breath, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, energetic alignments, meditation, and communion, all as one movement -- one impulse -- one passionate embrace and prayer dance. then I encouraged asana practice as an awareness tool -- as a method to get in touch with primordial space and the evolutionary energy. But now I am saying to engage the asanas as spontaneous movement again, to simply watch it happen by itself as silent witness. Allow teh evolutionary energy to happen by itself without any willful interference, control, or need to modify it. Do not inhibit. limit, or repress it.
In this awareness practice we have focused on the built-in intelligence that allows activation and relaxation activity to express itself in a wild dance which leads by itself to balance and symmetry through transconceptual innate wisdom. Although push/force (activation of the agonist or prime mover) and relaxation (of the antagonist) can happen simultaneously in perfect equilibrium, coordination, and tone or it can happen sequentially at appropriate times, but really there is much more happening. Here, the release of the energy blockage and the inrush of new energy occurs simultaneously with a sublime alignment while the body merely reflects that, reflexively.
For most people, it is more beneficial to open, depressurize, and relax more in the case of an over dominant, tight, tense, or contracted activators; then new energy can rush in and be utilized for regeneration and restoration. This releases stress and pressure and opens the heart. For many beginners all we need to do is relax more -- to let go and relax the entire system -- the antagonist extends and softens allowing the pulsating motion to occur and the energy to flow. At other times we may find benefit in leading or directing the movement with more focus, fire, devotion, and intent (with increased intensity) on the subtle sensitivity of the life energy, being careful not to force, push, over activate the agonist, or forget to release and relax the antagonist. In this way we can move out from a "resistive" dead zone area with increased vigor and power -- with burning loving intention "response-ably".
Perhaps there may be resistance in the form of fear or anger in the antagonists or a weakness and imbalance in the agonist. Then we can simply acknowledge the resistance, noting where in the body and mind that it is manifesting, but also continuing to breathe into and through it. In a balanced practice the efferent and afferent nerves and muscles are acting in synchrony as mutual simultaneous synergists. Here the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system are acting in unity and synchrony. In this way there is no contradiction between the so called strong and active approach versus the so called soft or passive approach -- one moves or better is moved appropraitely in teh moment, by the moment, as the moment thouglessly but with full witness consciousness.
Yoga is designed to transform our old patterns and melt then down. Synchronicity and symmetry occur simultaneously when the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are also perfectly balanced and working synergistically. The antagonist muscles are the ones that lengthen, relax, stabilize, and are stretched while the agonist muscles are those that are asked to work (usually through a contraction or a pulsing), engage, and pull (in order for the antagonist muscle to stretch).
In the Western malaise most human beings are already suffering from stress related disorders -- a hyper-tonified sympathetic nervous systems (hyper-sympathicotonia), so a balanced asana program for many may best emphasize the lengthening, softening, and relaxation aspect (the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and Ida nerve) over that of active and vigorous aspect (usually associated with the pingala or sun psychic nerve). This chronic "disease" of hyper-sympathicotonia (sympathetic hypertonia) is the cause of a typical unconscious comedy in Western yoga classes wherein if there is an imbalance or a lack of "stretch" or openness on the part of the yoga student, the teacher will subconsciously chose to focus on strengthening the agonist muscle rather than relaxing the antagonist muscle group. the matra here is to soften and melt.m Melt the hard headedness and hard heartedness. Shake loose the armor and transfer consciousness to the energy light body while allowing that liquid lumionos force to lead us.
As indicated above, in some cases both a strengthening of the agonist and a relaxation of the antagonist is beneficial, but it would be more efficient if yoga teachers were able to forego their sympathetic nervous system, efferent nerve, rajasic, or pingala bias in lieu of a more right brained, energy awareness, meditative, and kinesthetic approach emphasizing receptivity, release, and awareness itself -- listening as one moves and then "respond" to the intelligent feedback that the breath and energy provides. Because nothing can move until empty space is created for it and that space is best described as a fluid continuous softness or openness which is inherently belongs to the idea of the right brain or feminine, and hence here one can easily "get in touch" with the inherent teacher within, as shakti.
In other words, it would be highly beneficial for most Westerners to use asana practice as an awareness practice, a tool for self discovery, an exploration into Self -- a communion in which we allow ourselves to relax and release tension and pressure. That will allow the body/mind vessel (adhar) to become energized, healed, and in synch with the prana and the source of prana -- allow for the alignments of body, mind, spirit, breath, and nature to occur allowing for the inner wisdom to become activated or "kicked-in", while defeating the tendency to treat asanas as an end in itself. The agonist striated muscles are under the wilful control of the motor cortex, hence left brain and wilful conceptual practice is associated by a practice which is based on using them as initiators. Certainly even antagonist muscles are under the control of the will, but not so when they are chronically tight or suffering as a reaction from fear or trauma. When the movement comes from a deeper transconceptual moment/force then the practice becomes more intelligent and efficient.
Here we take the opportunity that authentic yoga offers, where the asana practice is merely a means for us to merge with the very organic process of evolutionary becoming -- with Love -- as such asana practice is never a fragmented end in itself but a touching -- a merging -- an extension -- the co-creative dance of siva/shakti -- of Nataraj. As mentioned in part I, all movement contains an element of extension, softening, and relaxation as it is a necessity for the agonist or activating muscle to move the bone, the antagonist must relax or something will break or snap. Overbearingness, pushiness, constant struggle, chronic tension, the desire to overpower, forcefulness, stress, and hypertension are all symptoms of an unbalanced (but unfortunately) common modern malaise of sympathetic hypertonia that can lead to injury and increase dis-ease; of which authentic process oriented yoga should not reinforce, but rather dismantle the stasis by creating synergistic balance and awareness of what the balanced phase feels like and how to come into synch with our core energy. Here we do not have to know all the mechanical details, but rather only be able to "feel" the energy -- move into the healing energy vortex of the great yantra connecting to the all-mind-bodhimind matrix.
To sum up, the agonist or activator muscles should not coerce or dominate, but rather coax acting as a facilitator for the release of tension and stress allowing the corresponding muscles to soften and thus the joint to open and move-- to act as the initiator of the breath and energy (the Jnana Prana). In this way in a functional yoga practice we will find the perfect synchronicity of balanced agonist/antagonist synergy in which each one acts as a unified unit to place us into the alignment of energies (body, mind, spirit, and nature) both internal and external where maximum beneficence is realized. Here the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are put into a high state of attunement and resonance -- here the right and left brain move toward synchrony.
The key to this is listening and being receptive far MORE than "doing". The nerves responsible for sensing are called afferent nerves, while those that activate and fire the agonist muscles belong are called efferent nerves. Thus when we move in this way (listening and being receptive), the afferent nerves are paid attention to --we become more present in the body, to the breath, to life energy. So then when we move, we can monitor the biofeedback response in relation to the inner wisdom of these intelligent regulating systems within. We ask how does this feel, what is the quality of the feeling, what is happening here now, is the region warming up, is it relaxing it, is there more energy there, is there resistance, is there tightness, pain, emotionality,... and finally release. Here the afferent and efferent nervous system comes into a healthy intelligent partnership and synchrony -- into an instantaneous response-ability no longer needing the mediation of the will. This is where high performance athletics and martial arts become actualized -- split second timing -- heightened awareness and response times. Here the basket, basketball, hands, legs, wrists, feet, breath, opponent, team, and the entire court come into a magic zone -- one is "on" or "hot". Yoga of course is not a performance sport nor martial art, but this magic zone is just as valuable and even more accessible when we approach the practice as an exercise of increasing awareness, receptivity, and being more present.
In all cases we are best served by balance moving into the non-dual state of synergistic harmony and simultaneous synchronistic alignment. In advanced yogic practices that pertain to the awakening of kundalini there is considerable emphasis placed upon the balance between the prana and the apana -- the ida and the pingala nadis, the receptive and active modalities, the female and male energies, the left and right, right brain/left brain, the front and back, shakti/siva, etc., coming into equilibrium and synergistic harmonious balance and thus enabling the prana to move into the central column (sushumna) activating kundalini (the super-conscious evolutionary intelligence and energy). If we would simply allow the natural evolutionary intelligence of kundalini to run our asana sessions for us, then there would be no difficulties.
So in this magic zone/space where we create the asana practice as a magical mandala, there is no one right pace for all of us everyday the same, but rather the question is how do we actualize our highest potential and creative evolutionary ability within the overall wholistic context of yoga most expediently? How do come into our own pace, neither rushed nor held back? How do we come into the depth of our highest potential of love and wisdom? Focused on the true goal, watching the breath and heart rate so that we are neither straining nor falling asleep; listening to the inner feedback of the organs, fascia, tissues, nervous system, mind, and energy; listening to the song of the heart and the pulsations of the planet, we move ourselves and allow our self to be moved simultaneously; afferent and efferent move in a delicate intelligent dance of mutuality without conflict or resistance as we move further into phase and profound richness which process oriented yoga offers as we move into a prayer dance -- into an energetic alignment where the breath moves us.
Back to Table of Contents
There are many ways to practice hatha yoga. Because the average beginner has become distanced from their innate energetic bodymind inter-relationships, hence intuition has become severely obscured if not repressed and perverted. They will not easily be able to understand the advanced natural awareness approaches discussed later. Since these advanced practices (which are really the most simple) are supra-logical (transcending flat plane logic) and transconceptual (nirvikalpa), they most likely will appear arcane and mystical if not abstract to such compromised beginners. Hence these beginners might be advised to start with phase one below. Then once the coarse layers of obscuration have become unspun, they will be able to listen to the promptings of the subtle or light body more directly.
Thus following is one possible delineation of the process.
1) The human being has become disconnected to one's subtle sensitivities, feelings of innate joy, inspiration, innate healing wisdom, and innate higher power, and intuition hence one starts with movement albeit mechanical in order to break up these old habits and karma, stuck attitides, body/mind holding patterns, static configurations, and edges.
2) Having broken up some of the old armored patterns, feelings come back in the form of more subyle awareness and intuition. Then one can practice according to the innate direction of breath awareness and energy awarenes. Here old edges and configurations are replaced with teh movement into predictable unpredictability -- into ever-newness -- non-grasping and fearlessness. Here awareness is drawn to the back body, the energy body, the subtle body, the light body... and the work is accomplished from there after one establishes direct working connection/relationship.
3) After being able to access a greater continuity of self awareness in regard to the physical, energy, mental/emotional , and intuitive wisdom (Gnosis) interactive energetics, one's practice becomes both inner and outer directed simultaneously. In other words one recognizes the same universal teacher inside one's body and inside all living systems (outside), thus forming a non-dual interactive relationship with the essential teacher who guides the yogi directly. Practice leads to seamless and unbroken continuity (samadhi) -- dancing with shiva/shakti.
In the first case, yoga is almost entirely "doing" with directions coming from the external teacher and mechanically followed by teh intellect and will power of the student. In the second case yoga brings about increased receptivity, so the doing is more self informed and inner directed (a partnership between doing and listening). In the last case, yoga is 99% listening, directed by the universal intelligent evolutionary force (shakti) who is married to shiva.
In some popular schools of hatha yoga (Sivananda, Integral Yoga, etc.), often a relaxation, settling in, and reintegration period in between each asana is created in order to allow the body and energy to integrate, while in other popular schools for example such as Bikram, Kripalu, Power Yoga, and the Iyengar method there are often no deep relaxation breaks between the asana sequences unless one is doing restorative yoga. Instead in the latter case there usually a long relaxation period in shavasana (often combined with yoga nidra practice or meditation) given at the end.
Integration is essential, but the "when and how of it", has to be customized. If the body is hungry for it, then short rests in between each asana should be heeded, but at other times one asana naturally, effortlessly, and spontaneously may flow one into the other, building its own synergistic momentum. Usually the depth of the breath will be a crucial indicator, but even more indicative is one's energetic enthusiasm and openness - one's growing inspiration for the process which is a sure sign of one's alignment with shakti.
Yoga as an awareness practice it is very practical to be sensitive, listen to, and be guided by prana-shakti (the evolutionary energy which resides in the bodymind). Sometimes "rest states" are very powerful, healing, invigorating, and profound such as being conducive to lucid or yogic dream states. Maybe they would be better termed transformational or transitional stages where the body/mind energetics are allowed to reintegrate. For some these transitional pauses can be renewing, rejuvenating, and even revelatory; yet there is nothing wrong with continual or even accelerated opening when the conditions are present. How do we know? Again by being present with the innate transconceptual evolutionary energy and primordial wisdom which is being cultivated.
In short on certain days one may be very happy to energetically move stagnant energy out in a purification mode opening up into a new edge/territory beyond the breath. Here by edge, I mean a new degree of mental clarity, sharpness, and awareness; a further depth that contains a feeling of fresh exploration and energy of entering into a brand new territory and freshness. Meanings that transcend logic and conceptual constructs are the life blood of yoga. One might say it is the perception of the life blood period. These feelings of aliveness, freshness, inspiration, openness, compassion, love, gratitude, generosity, and empowerment. freedom, and spontaneity are positive indicators. We are giving birth to our innate Buddhanature in such a way that liberates the natural expression of innate bodhicitta. Something deep inside is starving for oxygen, for expression -- a buried part of Self wants to be born, evolve, and be expressed. Because this is ALWAYS a transconceptual wisdom, one should allow oneself to be moved by an inner urge that is noticed by an increased pulsation, an undulating gyre, oscillating rhythm, and/or faster vibration.
There is talk about boundaries and finding your own edge, in order to not get hurt or push too far, but this is a danger/fear oriented approach built around stuckness. What these boundaries look like may mean different things to each practitioner. Many boundaries are created by fear, past injuries, trauma, tension, memories, old habits, conceptual mentation, and limited belief systems. We don't really want to keep "boundaries" in our mind, but rather healing awareness. The movements are designed so that we can discover disparate parts of self that have become blocked off from the whole -- from the mind, the heart, nature, the universe, beginningless time and space. In reality then we are working in a "no man's land" -- unincorporated territory -- wilderness and integrating with that. Where the consciousness and energy has not yet extended itself is the boundary that we are extending. It is not a physical edge, but rather bodily movement helps us to be conscious of the lack of flow in the area. If we focus our awareness and breath there upon the physical movement. then the situation will become illumined and liberated.
Even in a static pose where the external physical body does not appear to be moving, tremendous amount of neurophysiological and energetic change may be occurring. The boundaries that are not helpful to break are those where our pride is attached to comparative results or goals. Forcing or pushing oneself to accomplish a physical pose is always counterproductive.
Some teachers mean by this to challenge and push themselves in a self adversarial or competitive way. This often comes from a competitive society, upbringing, a sense of low self worth (found in workaholics and goal oriented perfectionists, etc.). That of course is not functional yoga, but simply neurotic compensation, while authentic yoga is aimed at annihilating neuroses completely. Here we will try to discuss these various "approaches" and attempt to free the counterproductive mental patterns of the practitioner which transcends the idea of edge or any boundary altogether -- into that boundless all together place -- into the Great Integrity of All Our Relations.
Yes, the monkey mind craves structure and boundaries -- something to sink its teeth in by grasping onto concepts which are energetic and mental prisons of the bodymind. This is where most of our limiting and stubborn tendencies habits have become imprinted, habituated, and rigidified. Some yogic approaches cater to this need in the hopes of exhausting it, but the monkey mind can be destroyed in other more skillful means, other than by learning an ever increasing amount of techniques, by climbing a steep ladder of hierarchical systems, or by other such dare I say, counterproductive wild goose chases where such folly is finally exposed.
Giving challenges or finding limits in this way is not useful on the spiritual path. It is simply another way of giving in to syndromes of fear and disempowerment. That is not to say that new modalities, techniques, approaches, methods and the like are not beneficial. Yes, innovation may be gifts from Shakti in the play of her eternal grace. Surrendering to the evolutionary power which resides within nature and within ourselves as an intimate part of nature is where spiritual transformation comes from -- from surrender, from being open, from being a disciple and devotee of the universal mother and teacher/teachings. It doesn't come from a manmade hierarchy, from structural engineering, physics, or man's intellect alone -- neither anatomy, neurology, nor kinesthetics alone, but rather such are only a reflection of the Grand Self -- a part of the over all grand equation which is not manmade and cannot be written down; yet it can be fully experienced consciously simply by opening up and clearing the mind of concepts and expectations.
Thus in our practice we acknowledge a huge intelligent diversity at work. Such is happening simultaneously, should we allow ourselves to consciously listen and hence be instructed as our daily practice. The old boundaries and edges are old habits and elaborate structure (held together by karma, samskara, and vasana) which locks up our energy, emotional, mental, and physical bodies. Here we joyfully let go our grasp onto them, and then move past these stuck areas by acknowledging/recognizing them in order to release them. We do not need to know their causes nor structure nor analyze them, rather simply consciously relax them while clearing the body-mind of their imprint. The truth that the body contains as well as Infinite Self rests far beyond the limits of the intellect. These boundaries once identified as such, thus can act as our own liberators, establishing a greater connection, opening up the nadis for the magical mandala to be energized in present time and space. Here we recognize the tendency to identify, obsess, and fixate with external structure, while fearlessly and effortlessly letting that go.
Too many people live inside a repetitive and fabricated, but "seemingly" comfortable state of denial and self deception. This is their "safe" and paranoid prison. Predictable prisons have for them become confused with safety and security. The more uncomfortable or threatened they feel, the more they attempt to build more walls and to hide more, insulate and protect themselves, add more padding, or else fall collapsed in helplessness and overwhelm. But this feeling of being comfortable within the fortress walls and prisons of our own making, is in reality an uneasy truce. It is not true happiness, but an escape with negative anticipation being the motivator. It is due to a pre-existing fear, aversion, avoidance, and constant state of ignoring (ignorance). This is not beneficial to our authentic yoga goals as well.
So not only does the body and energy system benefit from such an approach, but also the mind. Thus many people who have become accustomed to mental constructs as "safe" territory will not feel comfortable, relaxed as they tend to go to hyper vigilance for security. Such hyper people normally do not feel at ease with the idea of breaking through boundaries and discovering the pristine frontiers in sacred life; but in authentic yoga must eventually bring us to that phase, not delay it. If we are not accustomed or familiar with spontaneous life existing in the vital or sacred present, then we may be somewhat afraid to give up the familiar trappings of the old (even though they are our prisons). Here there may arise fear of the "new" or unfamiliar producing a contraction or aversion away from it. Authentic yoga teachings thus bring us closer to the end of suffering, to the eventual realization of our integration into true and lasting happiness -- a non-dual union with the un-changing eternal in the present flow of the ever-newness -- a joyful synchronization of the two and many into the all encompassing Integrity.
Anything which holds us back from that which limits and constricts the opening of the heart -- of our creative healing awareness and potential -- what is called an "edge", but it is simply a blockage of energy -- a lack of awareness. Breaking down a blockage can be accomplished in functional asana practice by repeatedly coming up against its borders and investigating it with breath and with loving attention. Eventually this HeartMind will be "sensed" (by the inner wisdom) that the real danger resides in grasping -- by not letting go of this self inflicted boundary or prison comprised of fear and armoring, memories of past traumas, and associated non-integrated negative emotions. Giving this space attention and space, an inner passion for liberation -- to break through this limitation will spontaneously arise. One may call this the innate BuddhaMind, Christ, or BuddhaNature desiring expression just as well.
So in one sense "breaking through to the other side" is always an indicator of repressed, frustrated, or locked up energy. It can be expressed however as a neurotic and self adversarial desire, especially in the personality type which knows only strife, no pain/no gain, hard work, pain, self adversity, and suffering. Yoga if it is to be healing and empowering should not reinforce pushing oneself compulsively, being habitually self adversarial, nor forceful, but rather encourage us to find continual release and liberation. At the cutting edge where prana meets cit, where consciousness meets the bodily dynamic, at the edge of the cit-shakti, we disengage old programs and dysfunctional habits allowing for the activation of the dormant higher circuitries to become energized and engaged. We feel our way into the pose with heightened sensitivity. As our yoga practice progresses in that way, so does that transconceptual awareness and sensitivity. In that way there is no hard and fast edge, just lack of awareness and energy, and the subsequent melting/softness of the hardness/blockage.
Here neither stasis (tamas) nor incessant pushiness and self adversity (rajas) is desirable, but rather balance (sattva) and special synchronization is the goal. We already talked about Sattva and this special balance in the previous section, but it is emphasized that finding our own pace and our own balance is arriving into awareness and communion -- it is where our optimum therapeutic edge becomes saturated with cit-prana. Further we need to move further through edges into the therapy -- away from the shadows of boundaries -- into boundless light. To do that is to break down old karma, remove samskaras and kleshas, untie the knots that block the nadis -- this will remove the adhesions, energy cysts, spasms, contractions, black holes, lesions, and dead areas in the body/mind. Moving into these areas of pre-existing pain, should not only feel good, but more energy is made available as we surrender the tension which required much effort to maintain.
Hence this discussion of edges and boundaries is in this sense only linear and dualistic, while Reality is actually curved, spiral, circular, rounded, or gyre like; anything but straight edged. But since this is the problem (most of us being lost in externalized mentations) let us then inquire what may work to lift us from this linear morass and imprisonment. In fact edges are held in place by the mind -- by mental conceptualization. When we try to put a thing in a box conceptually we place it within a limited framework. Of course we are free to play games within that fabricated realm, but such is hardly where the inspiration of yoga comes from. Rather using yoga to break free from our self made conceptualized prisons is far more fun. Using yoga to break free from conceptualization process brings us to nirvikalpa (transconceptual) awareness allowing us to be instructed outside of the limitations of time, place, and normal causation.
As will be shown later, we do not want to become stuck analyzing an edge intellectually/conceptually, nor is it necessary to even recognize "it" for us to let it go (although the presence of an edge as such may be helpful if it acts as a signal to let it go). One simple way to work functionally is to ask, "What is tight here-- what is holding, is the breath involved, an emotion such as fear, a hardness, grief, anxiety, tension, conflict, discomfort, etc or does the cause matter other than as a distraction? Am I out of touch with something here that is contractive/stifling or does not feel good? Whether there may be hidden greed or insecurity here or there. the real question is how do I bring energy and awareness into the area? Am I ignoring or unconscious of a pre-existing "tight" area or holding pattern? Then if so go into it with awareness and light! Whatever is causing the stuck energy is always a blockage of awareness. So through awareness we shed it and move into expansive wholeness. Further we can joyously approach the practice as a daily exploration of self emancipation -- in working out old karma and freeing up old stuck energy -- discovering hidden nooks and crannies and liberating them -- moving the energy through the all the eight limbs of astanga yoga.
In other words in our practice, we scan the body/mind to investigate if there are any hidden stuckness or tension being the result of holding unto old dysfunctional patterns due to dualistic beliefs, self contradiction, unresolved past emotions (grief, tension, anger, fear, desire, or resentment) that are being carried into the future while usurping or perturbing the present? Here we simply propose the possibility of dissolving the edge -- moving the intelligent energy into and through the area. The reason this is so powerful is that it is precisely the unconscious past conditioning and neuromuscular preprogrammed patterns which we are not aware of that is holding us "back" in the old pattern of "ignoring" (ignorance). Through authentic practice we explore and become aware, then let go, then integrate. Then we carry this integrative, healing, and creative energy into our daily activities as its extension.
When we finally learn how to release and let go of the past body/mind samskaras, tensions, and armoring in the sacred present, we eventually realize that we were fighting our self, that we lacked integration and resolution, we lacked integrity because of corruptive thought, that one "apparent" truth was fighting "another". The antagonist was fighting the agonist in an isometric standstill. One part of us said move this way while another said move in the opposite way, efferent and afferent were at war, front and back and left and right were oppositional, but finally by coming into the present we learned how to move into synchronicity uniting the left and right in the central column. In this sense functional asana practice and breath work becomes a body based psychotherapy as well as a spiritual lever integrating body, mind, breath, nature, and spirit synchronizing all five koshas.
One way to work beyond concepts of edges/safe boundaries is to first find out what or where it is, what does it feel like, and what does the breath tell me about it. I am happy when I find it, because I love to work "through" blockages to the other side -- to its joyful release. Thus it is a joyous experience and not self adversarial at`all, where we are moving into a new frontier in the joy of discovery and opening celebrating the new and deeper energy coursings now moving throughout the body/mind. Thus I am too often surprised to hear other hatha yoga teachers claim that they enjoy moving into the edge of being uncomfortable -- that they are not "comfortable" until they have pushed themselves up against a rock and a hard place. The very concept of enjoying being uncomfortable seems to be an oxymoron on the surface, because by definition being uncomfortable is defined as not being comfortable or joyful.
Dissolving Dead and Hard Spots
The problem is precisely this - that too many people are already chronically uncomfortable with embodied existence (with nature and the body). They have already become too extracted and conditioned by an externalized, objectified, and alien linear mind set that no longer allows for their innate creative genius to sprout forth. This is already a widespread epidemic and plague of humankind. People generally already feel stuck and stagnant -- that constipation is "normal". They are already out of touch with their embodied vital feelings, natural internal and external communication pathways, and embodied innate sensate awareness. Authentic yoga is not supposed to feed this estrangement; but rather it is designed to reconnect us with the inherent and organic vital intelligence within nature and all of existence, thus having lost touch with nature. Only then do "feelings" become associated with pain -- because embodied existence i.e., the body, is already painful, contracted, abandoned, disowned, and denied. Thus it is easy to become caught in the logical trap, that in order to escape pain, we simply avoid being embodied or feeling -- we simply deny life or identify with it. This is not dissimilar to those who try to deny death, but denying life. Yet in both cases the pain and discomfort is due to this rift, discontinuity, contraction, duality, and separation in the first place. Thus like someone suffering from frostbite, to gain back our sensibilities and health we have to start slowly massaging, loosening up, moving, and warming up the frozen parts. These are dead spots which we have become dissociated from and numbed out. We do not even know that they are there. We have created insularity, numbness, and protection around these areas (emotionally, physically, and energetically) by layers of armor, tension, forgetfulness, insecurity, denial, or fear. These dead spots are dead not only to feeling, but to consciousness and energy. They are unintegrated parts of "Self". Functional asana practice however helps us come to terms with these areas and re-member -- bring it all back together.
When we are comfortable in the body, we are at peace with nature and natural Self. We no longer chronically try to extract ourselves from it, deny it, or try to ignore or escape from it through artificial systems of a future heaven or absent God. At the root of this extractive process is the rend from the Great Flow or Integrity which creates (among others) the fear of death.
When we are reconnected with Spirit -- when it intimately flows through us, fear is removed, we are at a profound peaceful place, and we can thus emanate peace, strength, healing, and love. This kind of peace is neither artificially contrived nor somnambulant; but rather it is vitalistic, empowered, transconceptual and transpersonal. It stems from being non-alienated and indigenous -- at home with mother earth by becoming at home with the body. It is being comfortable with the present and accepting Reality as-it-is as the starting basis for any creative change.
Once the "present" situation settles into the integration of both awareness and subjective existence or "beingness" -- once the fear of truth and physical existence is dispelled and washed away, -- once we become accustomed to the creation of internal flow, healing, love, and deep peace, then are we capable of expressing that living intelligent sacred Reality outside of us in creative action. When human beings become aligned with the evolutionary power as being a vital part of that larger process, then these dead spots start to become smoothly integrated. Likewise when we discover dead spots in the body, they can act to lead us on a path and journey back into re-integration. Such is what a functional asana practice affords.
Perhaps those who demand "uncomfortability" hardness in their practice really mean that they need to experience new energy beyond their old comfortable and stagnant place of familiarity and stasis, and thus hang out or be with that new territory or feeling until a new energy shift occurs. Familiarity is thus not to be confused with deep comfort or authentic peace due to integration. Because of past injuries, traumas, and overwhelming experiences with their unsatisfactory integration we often carry a certain degree of residual fear and apprehension along with us into the present often creating stress and dysfunctional energy patterns, which functional yoga is designed to uproot and dissolve while bringing us into the "deep-present", core energy, or home. Even with peacefulness there is also movement/activity -- Shiva and shakti symbolize this integration.
It is in this sense it is useful to not confuse comfort in stagnation, in boundaries, in contrived patterns of order, in predictable structures, in jumping through familiar hoops, etc., that are merely created in order substitute for implicate order, or to satisfy the delusional need of the ego for the illusion of "accomplishment", the appearance of well being, and the security of boundaries and bondage. It is however at the same time desirable to be comfortable in the body by welcoming flow and wilderness/wildness devoid of neurotic body armoring. Indeed we shall show later how once internal flow is established, the authentically connected/integrated bodymind throws off the neurotic acquired body armor naturally and spontaneously.
Thus as we become more sensitive and aware we have more recognition of the dead spots and hardness that the bodymind carries along with it. One may state that as it being desirable to be uncomfortable with fear and stagnation, but that is a dysfunctional way to frame the situation. When fear is associated with "change" or transition by the always insecure ego (the ego is always insecure) so the "real problem" that the ego creates is that fear is too often confused with "newness", because newness contradicts the contrived, stagnant, old order, familiar frameworks that the ego is desperately holds onto for security -- an order that is delusional, conceptual, self limiting, mind made, and of which the practice is designed to eliminate not enhance. Newness however does not have to be looked upon as pained confusion or as a threat to "self"; it is only a threat to the ego -- to the illusion of separateness -- to the prison. So instead of seeking out predictability in our practice feeding the ego, an authentic practice goes beyond all boundaries seeking out fearlessness, freshness, wilderness, wildness, the unknown in order to disclose our larger potential of loving active healing presence.
Those who realize that they have become too desensitized, "too comfortable" in stagnation, delusion, standardized illusions, shells, body-mind armor, insulated encapsulated cocoons, comfortable masks, and other prisons of ego, then may use the asanas to wake them up from sleep, somnambulism, stagnation, sloth, apathy, or tamasic tendencies. For them they may have to fight "the demon" (ego) with fire and be willing to make "extra effort" in order to emerge out of their shell more. Wild abandon may be helpful here. I pray that no one reinforces ingrained beliefs in forcefulness, self punishment, and self hatred. Thus for people who are already too driven, goal oriented, overly externalized, rigid, hard on themselves, and/or hyper, such an approach may be "too pushy" and counter-productive.
Rather than to drink more coffee or take more stimulants they will benefit more by becoming nourished and revitalized from aligning with nature's Source. Instead they will thrive more to synergistically learn how to synchronize body/mind and breath with the great Integrity. In other words, those who are already pushy and hyper do not realize their type A behavior usually without learning the hard way; however it is possible for them to experience deep peace and bliss out of the press of time and the fear of losing control within the safe and sacred setting of an authentic yoga class, so that they may be able to desire to recognize and experience this state again.
As such, a process oriented yoga practice can create the preliminary structure, presenting a clear distinction between the present set of boundaries and limitations and instead of going up against them in an adversarial or goal oriented way, rather we can present the possibility of engagement with the limitless, timeless, and formless true goals of yoga lying in an altogether non-dual realm. In other words, we do not always have to go to war or attack one by one with each limitation or symptom created by separation and duality; but rather we can shift states realizing an implicate unitive state which these problems are not reinforced, enhanced, or validated, but rather simply embrace and/or surrender to the inclusive or positive phase of a more intelligent trans-rational integrated and intimate body/mind ecology. This is simultaneously vairagya (letting go) and surrender (isvara pranidhana) not to some vacuous emptiness, but rather into an all encompassing intrinsic order -- a realm of Great Integrity, true contentment, fullness, and complete deepest meaning of All Our Relations.
"Hyper" people need to soften, relax, decompress, and open up. Since hardness has to do with tension, stress, pressure, restriction, contraction, clenching, grasping tight, holding, fear, rigidity, and stress which in most cases manifests as a residue of chronic sympathetic hypertonia (hyper-sympathicotonia), which is most often is a symptom of unresolved past trauma. Such chronic situations can be remediated by creating a non-threatening structure where a system of decompression and release of stress is honored. Thus pushing harder is less effective than a softening and an opening -- yoga being the integration and mergence of the practitioner, the process, and the result simultaneously occurring without friction -- as one.
All of us have a different "edge", being as it were, a therapeutic brink, precipice, or cliff where new horizons are viewed and experienced, but wherein to go further would topple us into the brink of pain, injury, or further abuse on a physical level, while on an emotional, energetic, nervous, or psychic level we would are not prepared to handle its energy, charge, or intensity. Functional yoga slowly develops our capacity to hold ever increasing charges and energy flows without overload or injury acting as a purer conduit between nature and spirit as embodied love. Best we can ask where do all the edges converge, into no edge -- into Infinite mind?
Although it may be easier to speak of physical boundaries; the nature of our rigidity and edginess result from a spiritual or karmic malaise rife with the affliction of negative emotions and held together by dualistic belief systems. Most of us are suffering from induced neuromuscular and biopsychic boundaries created by negative conditioning whose chief agent is non-integrated fear held together by the glue of memory, intellect, and will (ahamkara). In this fear driven, neurotic, and constricted malaise the monkey mind seeks structure and safe boundaries, refuge, and escape in the contracted form of external order; while newness, spontaneity, openness, and flow may appear as threats to its imagined "safety" or sense of ersatz integrity within the familiar confines and surroundings of the current delusional drama (ego state) of our own making. This defensive mechanism fed by fear can be broken, through functional yoga which purifies the nadis, the mind stream, our karma where in we gladly surrender and renounce the burdens of past imprints (samskara) as the dead weight that they really are. Rather authentic yoga embraces total integration with the boundless, infinite compassion, love, joy, and equanimity.
If we have become dependent upon an delusional ego state as a life raft, we have habitual patterns established that will resist change and new information especially that information that contradicts the ego delusion/illusion (seen as a threat to "self"). Such resistance to change, resists "Flow" and the needed change -- the stream of nectar which brings the very healing salve to all the tissues, organs, glands, and brain which in turn is the only effective lasting remedy that can be applied to the past traumas and fear in the first place. However when we are confused, we do not see clearly the obvious which is standing right in back of us peering out of our eyes waiting to be disclosed -- we have forgotten how the neuro-endocrine substances, breath, love, and healing winds move in self motivated joy and ease. These processes operate beyond the central nervous system alone.
People immersed in the symbols of their confusion, traditionally did not seek instruction in authentic yoga or other spiritual paths in the first place. However in the modern era, because asana practice is now mis-associated as an ego accouterment, many such ego driven people "practice yoga" just as if they were performing physical exercise. For them boundaries and edges will be first appear to be purely physical, and as such they will crave structure and detail oriented approaches to occupy their mind and attention. Although it is possible that such people may slowly see the depths that authentic yoga may provide through breaking down the neuromuscular and psychophysical prisons that bind us to illusion, there exists an equal possibility that the mechanical approach will only reinforce the delusion of ego in forms of ego aggrandizement and arrogance, thus reinforcing the exact boundaries of which authentic yoga is designed to break down.
Most of us need to breakup and dissolve the old dysfunctional patterns, imprints (samskaras), habits (vasanas), and boundaries of the ego formed by fear, intellect, memory, and will, rather than reinforce them. To that end, functional yoga is more concerned with the processes of release, non-attachment, openness, surrender, vairaga, and flow. This is not an empty "let go" a negation, or a denial, but rather an affirmation, a celebration, and a greater identification, interactive encounter, interconnection, and dynamic union with the transpersonal whole and Source.
As a a practical matter, the psychologist and author of "Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, writes in his book, "Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self Deception",
"As pain enters the psychological domain, its source becomes more abstract and diffuse. A lion's bite is specific; it can be dealt with decisively; flee, or, if trapped, flood the the brain with endorphins. But mental pain is elusive. Financial; woes, an uncommunicative spouse, existential angst -- none of these stressors necessarily yields to a single simple solution. Neither fight nor flight is satisfactory, the fight could make matters worse, the flight even more so."
"While stress arousal is a fitting mode to meet emergency, as an ongoing state it is a disaster. Sustained stress arousal leads to pathology; anxiety states or psychosomatic disorders such as hypertension. These diseases are end products of the stress response, the cost of an unrelenting readiness for emergency."
"That response is in reaction to the perception of a threat. Tuning out threat is one way to short-circuit stress arousal. Indeed for those dangers and pains that are mental, selective attention offers relief. Denial is the psychological analogue of the endorphin attentional time-out. I contend that denial, in its many forms is an analgesic, too."
Dr. Goleman goes on to explain how this tuning out of emotional or psychological pain not only has a neuro-endocrine analogue but also often is the nuts and bolts of a dysfunctional habitual escape mechanism that insulates us from awareness, new experience, and learning.
Sometimes while practicing asanas, we may run into a vague feeling of uneasiness, uncertainty, newness, intensity, temporary overload, or even contracted fear. Simply exploring it, being with it, breathing into it, looking at it, laughing at it, running healing energy through it, and bringing pure loving attention to it, rather than tempering it (albeit if need be) will bring us across the threshold into rejoining with a previous disjointed or fractured junction or previous disowned or alienated part of Self. If we discover pre-existing internalized fear, anger or grief, it is in reality a valuable healing opportunity -- these impurities we desire to disclose, dislodge, uproot, expiate, and get rid of. We want to seek them out where they are hiding in order to be liberated. Fear, anger, and even grief are not the same as pain.
Through practice the practitioner becomes aware of the relationship between physical pain and mental pain. Working similarly, the body attempts to assuage or mask physical pain with endorphins. Old traumas and fears (be they physical or mental) linger in the cellular memory, protected through body armor -- fear of pain, horror, aversion, anger, and the rest. So too painful memories, things that are painful to the ego, "horrible" things, and other such things that may threaten our self image, our beliefs, our self esteem, our safe and ordered world -- our delusion may be judged painful, horrible, bad, or ugly by the ego, but these are merely manufactured deceptions and judgments of the delusional self (the ego) -- it is not reality.
Mental pain or anguish is only the result of the deluded mind -- it is only the result of the confused intellect judgment that it is so -- that such and such is painful, this is bad, ugly, or unsatisfactory. Mental pain is merely an illusion created by the judgment process of the mind, so in that sense there is nothing to let go of except a mirage -- an illusion.
Playing on the edge for me thus is ever joyous and increasingly joyous because we are bringing new awareness and energy into life as lively presence. As we let go of the dross, we sink into deeper symmetries of awareness, of rooting out impurities, of being home in the body on the planet, of connecting with the transpersonal non-dual, of being in the sacred present, drinking our maximum fill of ambrosial spirit, letting spirit fill us. Kinesthetic asana practice moving with the breath and prana can move us into Sat Chit Ananda which is more than comfortable. This passion, focus, and devotion for Sat Chit Ananda becomes our motivation and momentum -- it engulfs our practice. It is the creative and living frontier of the new undiscovered universe -- of evolving consciousness and being -- and thus the epitome of freshness, newness, limitless, exploration, expansiveness, mystery, and learning, thus removing any taint of boredom and stagnation.
Such a practice is free from the old taints of hard work, forcefulness, and self competition, and adversity; but rather it is a joyful communion existing beyond even enthusiasm itself -- self propelling. Such a practice requiring no effort nor discipline (external or self imposed) unfolds naturally and spontaneously (sahaj). Perhaps when friends who say that they enjoy being uncomfortable and challenged in asana practice really mean is that we all have different edges and fears? Perhaps the challenge is to be comfortable with change and newness and even excitation and intensity eradicating all fear, predilection, and tamas (stagnant inertia) and wholeheartedly embrace the great Flow? Yet, I acknowledge that for too many friends tragically do not remember what it is like to be unarmed -- to not be paranoid, defensive, and competitive -- to lose their discomfort, their edginess, adversarialness, and their armor. "It" is difficult for them. We all have our lessons to learn and yoga is well designed to bring us into this process of self awareness and learning our lesson-- the process of teaching and being taught, Authentic yoga is designed as a means for self realization.
For me being uncomfortable is the same as being in pain, or at the best discovering that I have strayed away from the heart or core energy. In my practice I am looking for -- nay yearning for resolution and reunion that embraces the feeling of coming home and having arrived. Despite what some so called gurus teach, I believe I can do very well without being uncomfortable or in pain in this search for union. As a matter of fact, the removal of pain and suffering is an essential part of my practice where the nature of this interface, alignment, or union is bliss, while the pain and suffering reflects a distortion of the energy field -- a contraction, torsion/distortion, disharmony, imbalance, conflict, and feeling of things not being "right" or in place.
In a "process oriented" asana session I enjoy the process as an act of liberation . Each movement liberates. I may seek out the hiding places of pain, tension, or distortion; investigate its nature; meet it; investigate it; bring awareness to it; acknowledge its message; then shake it lose; empty it; surrender to the innate intelligence while letting this innate awareness propose its transconceptual energetic resolution in the form of an expiatory direction of movement in light, thus achieving release of the pain and discomfort simultaneously with a greater coemergent integration with Universal Self. This is reflected in the ahhh breath -- a sigh of relief as a release from a burdensome and bondage.
Being comfortable in this regard does not mean being complacent or apathetic. Indeed we actively seek shakti's bliss as a reflexive natural release, once our higher intution spontaneously takes over. In this way hatha yoga becomes a devotional practice, where the ecstasy is the feeling quality, while the method is one of pure awareness coordinated with movement as skillful means -- as a prayer dance, as liberation and communion.
Here, I do not mean to suggest that we deny, disown, or run away from an already pre-existing pain. It is indeed very beneficial to discover pre-existing "hidden" areas in the body/mind that may be obstructed, distorted, strangulated, stagnant, tied up in knots, blocked, insulated, deadened, tense, stiff, hard, rigid, inert, uncomfortable, fear wracked, traumatized, constricted, contracted, disconnected, immobile, and/or traumatized and spastic areas or pain, in order to awaken to it, fearlessly own up to it, acknowledge it, bring awareness into it (cit-prana) and bathe in this healing light -- shining the light.. That way we stop running away from it. All that can happen in an instant.
Indeed that is the beauty of asana practice where we use the posture to explore the past traumas and samskaras hid in the cellular memory and energy body. Then we are better able to "treat" a dysfunction after we have thus entertained the possibility that it may have been ignored or it lies beneath our present level of sensitivity or consciousness. We scan for tension; yet it in order to recognize disharmony expediently we must have to know what harmony feels like. The asana is a coarse way of becoming aware of the more subtle energy blockages and patterns that hold the old patterns rigid, so that in this way we are able to more quickly root out the samskaras, kleshas, vasanas, past dysfunctional habits, and even negative dormant genetic propensities by bathing them in the light of an all encompassing non-dual healing light -- by experientially abiding in the present while breathing in the prana shakti into the pre-existing discomfiture, irrigating the nadis, and disclosing a greater glimpse of the trans-rational non-dual wholistic context which accelerates the intrinsic co-arisen process of our greater Completion (in authentic yoga).
This acknowledgment of imbedded samskaras, unresolved past traumas, injury, fear or pain from the past however, is quite different from creating new pain, creating discomfort, tension, injury, or punishing ourselves imagining somehow that we will benefit from a "hard" work out or that "progress" will come simply by pushing our self to conform to some assumed rigid and external standard, feeling more duress and pain, or at least not pampering our self. People who have "learned the hard way". masochists, fear ridden control freaks, goal oriented workaholics, and other grief stricken ego driven future oriented souls certainly will not agree with the above assumptions of process oriented yoga. However all because our past life experience has been full of pain, self adversarialness, competition, fear, and paranoia, we do not have to continue such a syndrome into the future or present. Indeed Yoga can give us a breather and provide a healing perspective. The future reality does not have to conform to our past ideas, PTS syndromes, habits, or predilections. A basic healthy attitude that is assumed in authentic yoga practice is that we can change for the good through functional yoga practice. That within us all albeit often dormant lies our buddha nature -- our higher creative evolutionary potential. It is this sort of approach that leads to a greater Self understanding and evolution of our field of consciousness.
Thus an authentic approach to yoga gives the goal oriented pain ridden practitioner an opportunity to drop these negative assumptions, but first the possibility of ridding ourselves of this affliction must be entertained, which unfortunately for too many may be "a leap of faith".
So where mental and emotional pain is caused by the illusory predilections and judgmental processes of the intellect; so too not heeding or listening to the message that physical pain signals can also similarly further create "physical" injury to fascia, muscle, tendon, and ligament tears or worse. Although too many asana teachers say; "Don't worry about the pain; the pain is good," this is not the way to avoid injury. "No pain, no gain" likewise is the result of negative conditioning and old karma that can be deprogrammed, unlearned and purified. Although such an approach may cater to workaholics, perfectionists, goal oriented, paranoid, competitive, and/or upwardly mobile future oriented types who have become habituated to such beliefs of the harder one pushes oneself, the more secure and fruitful their life will become, this approach is most often both counter-productive. Functional practice should be directed toward creating healing, joy, and peace. This should be obvious, if the pre-existing pain is not removed layer by layer, but rather reinforced, then how can one ever arrive at true sensitivity -- how could one ever hope to get in touch and make contact with their feelings, their subtle energy currents, their energy body, and inner wisdom and intuition? A valuable lesson in our practice thus is to break up the pain, contraction, armoring, insulation, dissociation, inhibition, and disorganization that exists around old trauma -- samskaras imbedded in the cellular memory, in the organs, in the neuromuscular system, in our psycho-neurophysiology. Simultaneously when the samskaras are uprooted/eliminated, the consciousness moves from coarse objects to subtle -- a depth of conscious beingness is reached that goes even beyond the most subtle.
To reiterate (and this is a pivotal point) going for the joy and feeling of well being is not to say that we are denying or escaping from the emotional pain that may reside inside of the body/mind, au contraire; we are simply exploring and discovering the previously hidden recesses where past traumas and fear have found safe harbor -- where energy cysts, adhesions, past traumas, lesions, cellular memory, and tensions remain imprinted in myriad precipitated accumulations and contracted residual vestibules. When we come into contact with these previously disassociated gray areas through the context of the life energy, breath, and awareness, then we are able to release it by placing it within the LIGHT -- a greater vista where it can be seen, targeted, dealt with, handled, transformed, released and/or healed.
HERE in the Eternal Now and sacred presence that can not be known through the intellect, but only through direct experience which yoga affords, we realize the process of self realization through self study (swadhyaya) and self learning -- the inner teaching and the the inner teacher -- through the realization of the inner enemy. Thus the authentic teacher discloses the authentic enemy -- the ego. Taking "response-ability" we root out and exorcise our inner demons hiding in the murky caves of denial and deception -- hidden in the dark recesses of the unconscious mind -- in our delusions and confusions -- fears and ignorance. As such, the cit prana -- the subtle partnership of the mind with the subtle energy -- the union of the prana of pure focused attention, breath, and awareness -- of wisdom and healing love shines forth its light destroying the inner foes of samskaras, klesha,vasana, and old karma.
So this is a great benefit of authentic yoga. Because so many people chronically cater and have become addicted to their pre-existing wounds, boundaries and edges, prisons, creating "safe" and secure forbidden or "no touch zones" that have become sanctuaries and repositories of their precious pain (both emotional as well as physical), daily functional yoga practice offers us an opportunity to turn this around -- to establish a reversal. Such people who are overly concerned with "boundaries" are almost always holding onto their pain and past trauma, because of fear created by these very unresolved past "traumas" or similar unsatisfactory experiences. By demanding set boundaries, requiring set structure, and rigid external rules, they are really making a statement that they are not yet ready for release of their past pain and trauma, that they do not feel safe to do so, that they rather avoid new experience. Thus they become victims of stagnation, their past programming, and are unable to break new ground. All to commonly they are denying the "Self". Through functional yoga these people can work at their own pace to step into new territory and feel safe while opening up their feelings rather than to close them down.
Tragically too many are putting off the liberation that allows us to flow freely into the greater body of Self, that they are afraid of being vulnerable, opening up to life, and responding to the newness of the present. In short they are holding onto their own dysfunctional fear; while they would be much more happy to relinquish it which they will gladly relieve themselves of it after they realize what they are doing in the context of Reality -- in the light of Gnosis.
In the past they may have been forced and coerced into a painful or traumatic situation which they could not with integrity cope, control, nor integrate. Thus a biopsychic fracture or split was created. Then they dysfunctionally try to ensure that they will not be vulnerable to such an attack on their integrity again through the insulating "safe" guise of being in control of the situation by demanding, fabricating, and contriving limitation, external order, and artificial "control" of the present situation. This need to re-establish integrity and order is neurotic and dysfunctional, because the core Integrity and implicate innate order that they have become estranged from is being held back through this neurotic imposition of artificial and limited order. The reasons for dysfunction are almost infinite, but the good news is that the remedy is always the same; i.e., release the tension/stress and focus your awareness coordinated with the breath and energy. Let the energy flow throughout the energy body and align the physical with that.
Chronically diseased/tense people find it difficult to let go -- to melt their past karma and they can not be coerced into letting go, but first need to feel safe to let go. They must learn how to become enthused by doing so, invigorated by the potential, and motivated by the creative joy waiting inside for loving expression. In this way the prisons of old dysfunctional boundaries can be rended, without trauma, au contraire, by gladly shedding the old traumas and their residual elements of fear, contraction, and inhibition that they carry.
The real challenge is in allowing for the freshness of unpredictable, uncontrived, and natural co-arising skillful means. This is where the real, vital, and truly meaningful lessons and experiences occur at all times -- where the wisdom energy resides in recognizing the absence of the sacred and then joyfully re-connecting. Although we may meet our hidden pain, disappointment, grief, and anger through this portal of truth, this is also where the joy and love exist -- the liberating tears and laughter. This is where the present and the sacred presence resides. Here great peace, completion, union, and fulfillment manifest beyond even comfort.
Because I have learned that I do not enjoy being uncomfortable having learned the difference the hard way, I have learned to change direction in a functional and therapeutic way. That's really the crux -- to demand being present and feeling good and to take that with you everywhere we go at ALL times. Thus one must demand of one's yoga practice not harshness or force, but to feel good, well, peaceful, strong, and healthy; not as an escape, but rather as an affirmation of a deeper heartfelt communion. Through movement We are really working with burning up the old patterns and karma.
Authentic yoga practice transforms, revitalizes, empowers, activates, and uplifts us. Serenity, good feelings, happiness, clarity, compassion, wellness, and joy are symptoms of a deeper beneficent interconnection that a functional approach to yoga can accomplish. I have made the decision that restlessness, pain, discomfort, anxiety, nervousness, edginess, stress, tension, boundaries, and uneasiness are to be eliminated from my life. I simply do not desire that anymore nor wish to harbor those feelings in any way; although there were times in my youth that I foolishly cultivated this type of activity. I was confused then, but now I have finally decided that I absolutely do not need to do that anymore (it took me long enough!).
Indeed being comfortable, relieved, the sigh of release all are symptoms of moving in the right direction -- of alignment of body, mind, emotion, breath, nature, and spirit. This way "progress" or feeling good about myself is no longer measured by how difficult the "accomplishment" of the task, how much I have overcome, or how much pain and discomfort I was able to endure or withstand. Working hard, establishing, and pushing myself are no longer primary driving factors or values; nor are they places that I wish to inhabit or commune with anymore. To break free from that, strength, vigor, stamina, enthusiasm, and endurance can be effectively applied as supportive methods.
Although the elimination of pain, pressure, and tension, may give relief, release and pleasure, the search of yoga goes far beyond mere palliation, but into participatory harmonious intercourse with all of creation and its source. Thus in functional and authentic yoga we search out and explore the edges and boundaries (the contracted and constricted sanctuaries of past trauma and pain) and after recognizing that we go beyond attempting to break down old rigid barriers, fear, anger, grief, rigid beliefs, tapes, biopsychic imprints, lesions, energy cysts, dysfunctional painful patterns, and samskaras, rather we let them go -- exorcise them. This is where healing and liberation takes place.
It's a great relief to be free of the burdens, dross, coarseness, rigidity, and heaviness of past errant ways of unconscious thought and action, but it's a different reality altogether to have the channels open and connected resting and established in the great momentum and participatory energetic flow of creation and natural being. Too often people focus too much on the boundaries rather than the liberation, thus reinforcing its existence and always working against it. Rather eventually it is more expedient that we go beyond the idea of finding the edges -- working and concentrating on the boundaries, sore spots, and limitations, but rather focus on the process of joyful liberation itself, on the process of surrender and integration.
We should know that there will appear to be endless boundaries in the realm of duality and differentiation -- in analytical and reductionist thinking; but this corrupted way of thinking in separation is the very aberration that yoga is designed to resolve. The nature of reductionist thought is to break things down into its separate parts of which there are endless permutations and combinations. Thus many practitioners use their asana practice to continuously work up against some further physical "limitation", boundary, or edge -- there is always a next step, a further nuance, or another segment that calls for integration. Such an approach burdens the mind with an endless sequence of hierarchical rules and details, while ignoring the freedom and integration which is at the heart of true yoga. Here we explore a trans-rational realm -- a realm of experience and beingness where increased functionality, skill, wisdom, and love naturally combine as one; where creative ways of working in asana that take us over the edge into unity consciousness beyond the mind quicker and more completely occur by themselves because of our deeper communion with the intrinsic intelligence of the universe -- once we change the focus of our approach and allow ourselves to open up.
This body/mind/breath/spirit/nature unity state of being or synchronized phase of integral communion with the Great Integrity, produces as a result healing, joy, ecstasy, and bliss. It contains within itself the feeling of deep well being, peace, grounded energy, and strength without contradiction or feelings of dis-ease and which is increasingly taken with us into all our life activities. It unifies and heals the rifts of body, psyche, spirit, and nature.
My practice is best when it is relaxing, opening, purifying, rejuvenating, activating, mobilizing, renewing, and energizing all at the same time. Asana practice for me is like taking a daily energy bath. Here a balanced and intelligent energy flow establishes itself which accelerates me through the practice. A synergistic balance, equilibrium, and harmony pervades the session and bleeds through the rest of the day. Being tight, controlled, contracted, or inhibited is in the strangulated opposite direction. I don't feel comfortable or enthused with that, but rather hope that the session will free any of that "grunge" up and wash it away. Thus daily I set off joyfully on the journey to search out and to slay my inner demons. Is this being a Rainbow warrior?
For me yoga is a home coming -- it must feel very comfortable. As it connects me with the body, it connects "me" to the planet and the stars more directly -- with all of creation, All Our Relations, sky and earth, nature and spirit, and the unborn Source. I am secure, at peace, centered, balanced, grounded, and energized all at the same time. Here we are coming home to our real Self, our true nature, or our natural state. Here I am more than comfortable, well, and at-ease, but rather if the practice is fortuitous in ecstasy. I am in ecstasy as a symptom or result of a deep and fulfilling communion, engagement, intercourse, interconnection, and completion. Here there is a completion in full and profound animation and stillness at the same time. Words cannot adequately describe the higher stages of yoga practice.
It may be simply semantic hair splitting disagreement between the question whether can we become too comfortable and hence static in our asana practice or at the other extreme, can we become too pushy, driven, and hyper? Certainly both extremes of tamas (slothfulness and apathy) and rajas (edgy and hyper) are unbalanced (and hence undesired), while in yoga it is the sattvic approach of balance -- of harmony and synchronicity -- which is desired and beneficial.
Some modern styles may indeed be too Western, too driven, too goal orientated, too achievement orientated, too macho, too hard, rigid and rajasic. Western life too often caters toward the bias of always working against something. In this chronic Western uncomfortable milieu somehow things don't feel "right" unless we are pushing ourselves, working up against something, or struggling to achieve some distant goal. Too many of us suffering from physical diseases because of this extreme approach to life. Other approaches may be too pampered, too static, too easy, lethargic, too tamasic for our constitution. In this case, finding a teacher who loves and is enthused with the joy of yoga can be beneficial until the student finds these same energetic pathways within, until the student's practice itself becomes the student's teacher.
For some of us who are too passive, static, lethargic, tamasic, sleepy, sluggish, apathetic, heavy, cynical, disinterested, nihilistic, feel despair, caved in, and have given up responsibility and have disowned the body, nature, kundalini and life, they may benefit more from an increased, enthused, vigorous, and fiery practice, if not an aggressive practice; but others who are more rajasic may benefit more from a slow sustained practice requiring the opposite remedy. In our practice all of us are best served by striving for the state of non-strife -- for the balanced state of natural flow and synergy. If we seek it out, it will come.
One effect (but not to be confused with the overall purpose) of the practice of course is to heal the primal rend from the evolutionary power (nature), bring us into a sattvic (balanced and pure) state, bring us into balanced synergy, symmetry, divine alignment, harmony, self empowerment, and love. In fact each individual has unique and often diverse propensities, bias, genetic makeup personality, karma, and constellations and thus require unique medicines, while most judgments and prescriptions of non-eclectic and authoritarian schools usually only reflect the ownership of doubt, drama, fear, and insecurity. Then we have come home.
How do we know then? We know transconceptually, as this is a very deeply felt space. What is important is to find your own structure that works for your own body/mind, rather than to follow external "rules" or external authority. The point of yoga in the first place is after all to elicit your own innate wisdom and dormant potential. This should be the focus of your asana practice. This self knowledge, self awareness, self realization, or Gnosis that emerges from the inside out supersedes the more superficial issues of lack of self esteem, self worth, self confidence, or self authority. This type of intimate inner direction and way of knowing and living is what ancient hatha yoga was designed to bring forward. A loving approach to Yoga brings us into Self of which nothing can adequately substitute. It breaks down all barriers and boundaries lovingly. It is both the liberation and the liberator.
For example for beginners at first, working kinesthetically, slowly, and with the breath becomes a "must". Here we are exploring consciously and learning how to feel and relate beyond the framework of the individual mind. We move to continue to open; opening more and more until the appearance of a barrier, boundary, edge, tightness, or limit prevents further expansion or opening. Here through awareness/recognition of what is happening, we investigate further with full sensory awareness the nature of its empty texture.
Again we can analyze it endlessly as to whether or not it is an old dysfunctional emotionally based holding pattern, imprinted memory of an old physical or emotional trauma, a contraction stemming from the manomaya kosha or vijnanamaya kosha? Does it release when we release any existing imprint of fear, anger, grief, guilt, or dogma? We could analyze whether or not if exerting any further force in this direction cause a close down, pain, or physical injury? What other directions are possible or what other parts of the body/mind are involved that can act as synergists in this overall motion/emotion opening and wavelike expansion and movement? But the better inquiry is to stay focused on how we can achieve continuity of opening, flow, movement, and expansion of full awareness? How do we shed the karmic load joyfully?
We can pose many questions such as does further movement cause a closing or tightening and is this direction the direction of pain and injury? How does the breath and energy change in this movement? After awhile, we can pose the question to the unconscious and the body will tell us in what direction we should dance -- how we should move. The important thing in this matter is to keep on exploring, inquiring, asking, and searching eventually bringing awareness to this area which has previously become forgotten, fragmented, and disparate. In this sense, I am an innocent beginner with no preconceptions except a burning passion (tapas) which lights my fire as a self illuminating flame burning up the karmic patterns on the wisdom sword of discernment (viveka).
People often ask how long should a pose be held? The answer is as long as there is increased joy and energy (usually signaled by warmth or fire), as long as the old frozen borders are continuing to melt, as long as there is still increasing movement of energy and awareness, as long as the dead zones are being filled with light and love, and as long as the emotional discomfiture is still melting away being displaced by an opening and increased sense of the warmth of the heart. This all requires one thing; i.e., awareness-- heightened fearless sensitivity.
Try to move into the seized up, static, constricted, restricted, traumatized, or frozen over body part and emotional part through the media of the asana and the breath but. disengage at the signal of an energy decrease, an increased coldness, a freeze, an increased seize, and before there is pain or injury. There is a difference between going into old emotional pain hiding in closed down and contracted cells due to past traumas and fear, and the pain of fascia, muscle, tendon, or ligament tearing. Through a kinesthetic oriented approach to asana practice, we learn the difference by heeding the message of pain in order not to cause physical injury; but rather to effect the opposite, that of healing.
Thus we learn the optimum duration and degree of each pose through awakening our own innate awareness of body/mind/breath/spirit interactions in their most synergistic natural alignment. Here all of nature and life sings through us as an unified Integrity not isolated, fractured, nor torn apart.
We move into the pose listening and sensing for resistance, tightness, tension, pressure, tautness, or stress and pause there with the breath, backing off if necessary taking a breather. Here we can try to breathe into any muscle spasm in order to release it. If and when the tension dissolves or tautness relaxes i.e., when openness occurs, then there is release (usually accompanied by a decreased pain quotient or the experience of increased energy flow and pleasure. Then we can further explore the pose increasing the joy, bliss, energy, intensity, while invigorating the overall energy of the entire body/mind/breath/spirit system creating alchemical heat or catalytic energy to explore the next edge, limitation, or boundary (again perhaps experiencing stiffness, resistance, pressure, tension, stress, tightness, hardness, constriction, restriction, closed mindedness, tautness, or sense the emotions of fear, anxiety, insecurity, loss, or dislike). Here we are experiencing the limit of the antagonist muscle to stretch or relax any further without stress or the agonist muscle to engage, flex, or activate any further without spasm or stress to either system and/or an adjacent or relational system. Especially people who are "pushy" or believe in the false dictum of no pain, no gain and "hard work", must learn to eventually pay attention here unless adverse effects are created in the form of distortion, injury, or a sterile, empty, and dead wasteland.
To push any further (increase the force) into an unwilling and unyielding area would cause pain, discomfort, stress, tension, or injury. It would increase the trauma rather than alleviate it. It would not feel good and our breathing would most likely reflect this diseased energetic by becoming shallow and/or rapid (a further sign of stress). Perhaps we may notice a small muscle spasm, a hardness like a rock, or a dead feeling where there should just be a tonified and elastic muscle, and free circulation of blood and prana. Perhaps we will notice a tiny irritation, an itch, a gnawing old pain, an old abandoned trauma, a lesion, an energy cyst, an adhesion, a spastic area, a contraction, soreness, ache, hardness, stiffness, a tingling, heat, burning, cold spots, deadness, atony, stasis, dysfunction, distortion, imbalance, poison, a feeling of disease, an apprehension, fear, anger, resentment, irritation, etc. Pause there and notice the qualities of these sensations and perhaps map them out as you undulate wavelike in and out of the edge using the breath and sending prana into these spaces as you listen for a response. Here we are not proposing that you attack the energy cyst, brutalize it, jerk into it, force the movement, or otherwise incessantly push your self forward, but rather entertain the possibilities in the six directions and go inside to find the wavelike spiral undulation -- the movement out of time that comes from our heart core center in which healing emanates.
Here we listen at first to the subtle edges of our breath and explore the ways that it can become more round and full. Later as our awareness and sensitivity increases we listen to the energy and consciousness in the region involved and bring more light and wisdom coursing through the magical mandala of the bodymind. In this case is not "the edge" a portal into a greater phase synchronization between body, prana, breath, mind, nature,evolutionary power, and primordial spirit? It is not really a physical edge at all. Rather is is simply an area of lack, devoid of awareness/integration. Does the movement deepen by itself, being driven and moved by the presence of the higher wisdom, or does the dualistic linear oriented mind dominate and limit this inner wisdom and intuition from unfolding?
Can hardness melt into softness, can rigidity dissolve into openness, can disease move into healing, stasis into motility, inertness into vitality, atony into tonification, and can toxins be purged? Can you move into higher vibration, pulsation, mobility, energy, wellness, and function? Can we learn to honor the life energy, our chakras, and the flow in all our activities? Can dead zones turn into realms of light and light? Of course, as long as we entertain the possibility that the entire bodymind can be infused with such as its natural inheritance.
For example a so called "edge" or numbed out unintegrated dead spot, when recognized, thus can be a therapeutic edge or portal, where the abdominal ujjayi breath is invoked and becomes deep, full, balanced, and perfectly spontaneous and natural. It can be used as a bellwether gauge in a vigorous asana practice if such is our wont. If we hold the breath in a deep posture, then it may be a gross signal that one is forcing the pose, pushing too hard, going too far, and straining. Usually however, the opposite is true, we do not go far`enough by letting go of our grasping onto strategies and future attainments -- we do not become spontaneously present. For instance if the breath is not very deep, it may say that we are not moving deep enough or maybe the pace is too slow or should be changed. The breath automatically starts to come alive when we slowly deepen the pose at a good pace. If we go further than our therapeutic edge, the breathing will then start to become erratic, less deep, or disturbed. Similarly if the breathing is not deep, perhaps we are being slothful and tamasic not working even close to our expansive and joyful potential? Likewise for my practice to be optimum usually the ujjayi breath mostly is continuously deep and full (but not loud, harsh, or stressed) even during transitions. For some who need more fire, their practice must be more fiery. They will have a different edge than one who is overly hyper.
If we start to lose our breath it is because we are going too fast, too hard, past the edge of informed movement -- by not listening deep enough -- by being less than sensitive and conscious we can hurt the physical or energy body. Are we going too fast or too slow is a decent inquiry to make. Such questions will be answered when we consult the energy body and its source. What is the best ratio between the heart beat and the breath? Sometimes fear, uncertainty, anger, grief, or other emotions may arise during the session which will also modify the breath. Investigate what is the situation and adjust the pace, the depth, the approach, and the breath so that maximum release, balance, strength, and liberation is achieved in accordance with the transconceptual non-wilful information and guidance. Instead of being guided by fractures, disparities, and discordance, we become more endeared to being guided by the ever changing whole. Here maximum energy, bliss, serenity, and consciousness should also manifest.
As we do asana practice daily, we will find phases or stages of proficiency. For example we can approach a new asana the first time with some difficulty as an exploration and reeducation of the nervous system and fascia. Everyday we can continue to melt old edges and move into a new territory and aliveness -- a new understanding and reframing of that position and what it means to us at every kosha. What is its specific energetic quality and how can e benefit from this possibility or can we create an even more synergistic variation? We may not necessarily be "there" at first, but it is rather an attitude of approach. In fact cultivating the attitude is both an approach and its culmination. Then we actually get "there" or what we may call "being aligned with our infinite potential. Physically and mentally we may see progress as the ability to be here/now more often, then consistently every day, and then all the time. Our attitude and intention in fact can deepen and expand.
We will find evernew nuances. Then there may be another depth of that asana that we never perceive before, until one day that particular dynamic of that asana is mastered, and further practice utilizing that particular posture does not produce any new depth, Yet there will be another asana waiting for us (beyond our current boundaries that is the next learning step of our ongoing inquiry -- a further exploration into the new terrain leading us to our next therapeutic experience. Here asana can be seen as therapeutic portals. They can be a configuration or constellation of the body/mind vessel that attunes with us with and opens us up to the remedial therapeutic energies to melt and dissolve our old habitual patterns of "stuckness". These new depths of beingness may bring us into awareness of physical, emotional, mental, energy, and spiritual dimensions and dynamics while consciousness is continually expanding and evolving in synch with the evolving universe and the evolutionary intelligence.
All these constellations are best viewed as temporary stages or phases. In context with the greater Reality they are all limitations that require dynamic change ALL THE TIME. In other words they must flow. When the flow becomes inhibited, eventually tension and stress is created. Finally this tension comes to our conscious attention as recognition of stasis == of a barrier, pain, disease, or edge. Healing thus is dependent upon surrendering to the flow and letting go by always moving into a fluid and giving nonlinear portal where there are no edges, boundaries, boredom, staleness, or stuckness.
In Reality, all edges and boundaries are illusory. In a truly proficient practice, we move beyond separation, edges, and boundaries, beyond their very concepts and limitations. Thus working with the linear idea of an edge or the limitation of boundaries conceptually may be self defeating in our yoga practice. A mature and proficient practice simply deepens their center with the limitless all -- melted in love and divine yearning. Here we are the nomadic and protean adventurer and traveler outside of conventional three dimensional order, no longer sedentary, bounded, or marginal.
Thus in our practice if we keep sight of the whole, then we will not fall into the common trap of reinforcing the boundaries of separation and ego. In other words if we attempt in our practice to always "push the envelope", to work harder to accomplish a physical goal, to constantly master a new or advanced asana, or achieve a greater degree of physical flexibility or prowess we are in the long run reinforcing a hardness and rigidity while escaping from the present; while most of us need to create softness and openness and come into the depth and richness in the present -- most of us need to learn how to de-stress, unwind, and relax and reclaim beingness, more than how to strive harder in order to gain some reward always dangling in front of us in an imagined future.
Because we need to learn how to breakup our dysfunctional habits and patterns, not reinforce them, for most of us our "edge" is most often finding and even demanding softness, continuity, roundness, and flow and then melting into it, rather than becoming more accustomed to working up against a hard barrier. Hitting the wall is a tragedy. It is the same thing as chronic inhibition and repression. It is slavery and imprisonment. Yoga is a gift for liberation -- a freedom fighter.
Using these transconceptual approaches I do not need to hit up against barriers or chronic hard spots, because my constant conscious intent is to melt increasingly into softness. Yes, there will be physical limitations, but the limitless and loving energetic evolutionary process can be disclosed as a direction, bathed in, and synchronized with leading us in the direction of true evolutionary "progress" or overall wholistic healing when we learn how to devote and dedicate our practice toward exploring and seeking out this ever present possibility. To that there is no limitation -- only infinite space and loving light. Giving it a name reifies it... changes "it" into a "thing" and hence imprisons it.
In asana practice there are many varied opportunities that we can entertain which can present themselves to us during our asana practice. Thus the real challenge is not to limit our attention, intention, task, goals, or otherwise stress ourselves, as most of us already have too much of that kind of future goal orientation which extracts us from the sacred present. Rather functional asana practice should eventually bring us home. It should disclose to us how to distinguish between exhaustion and active serenity, as well as the differences between compensatory and false feelings of self worth on one hand, and what it feels like to deepen our connection with true Self. Through authentic yoga practice we learn how to create the magical space to find the party -- to celebrate and explore the limitlessness, to destroy the bounds of separateness and delusion, and how to get to the very depth and width of love. Our edge and boundaries are truly what we make of them; and the true yoga process discloses that very fact while allowing us to undue the limitations accrued from past actions. So it becomes clear that to use asana to accomplish a physical pose or to do a trick of self accomplishment is a foolish diversion. There is a built-in limitation in that regard and hence all physical edges and limitations are for the most part not the essential focus of the practice. There are spacious places without boundaries that exist in the energy body realm, in the psychic realms, and in transconceptual Gnosis which exist to help us if we go to it for guidance
Asana practice is effective on many levels an dimensions -- many prantas and bhumis. Here we can work consciously with the body as a reflection of the psychic energetics of ida and pingala -- of yin and yang. One way of balancing these opposites is through exploring the edge of relaxation and consciousness versus simply harder pushing action until something "gives", the interrelationship between the antagonist and agonist neuromuscular system and between the central nervous system and the autonomic.
Here again, for example, we can utilize the technique of activating the agonist while inhaling and relaxing the antagonist while exhaling then move into synergistic balance or union. Repeat inhale/activate, exhale/relax, then balance and repeat without straining until all edges are rounded. Are we balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system at the same time? Are we bringing into harmony the efferent and afferent nerves, the forebrain and back brain, the cerebrum and cerebellum, the prana and apana, the pingala and ida, the sun and the moon? Can we move into our core energy here? What is resisting?
We will find that allowing relaxation to the antagonist, letting go of tension and fear, surrender, and opening is at least as essential to our asana practice than is simply tightening, shortening, flexing, contracting, strengthening the agonist more -- or working harder. Here working the with neuro-muscular awareness by deepening our boundaries and redefining "Self" we can utilize all the previously learned visualization and intentional practices we have learned previously as adjuncts or we can just simply "let it all go" surrendering to the innate intelligent evolutionary energy of the process itself! In other words, the simple balancing of the relationship between the efferent and afferent nerve impulses, can provide a direct non-conceptual port into the entire nervous system and brain allowing us to reconfigure and repattern the entire system. This not only affects the annamaya kosha, but if it done as a spiritual practice it can re-synchronize the pranamaya, the manamaya, and the vijnanamaya koshas as well.
For a specific physical example, in hip flexion, we can extend, relax, open up, and stretch the hamstrings and gluteals by activating and contracting the rectus femoris and iliopsoas (the two principle hip flexors) simultaneously or in wavelike motions while we are exploring the interaction of the results of the efferent motor nerve impulses upon the hamstrings through the messages received via their afferent sensory nerves. In fact we can allow the afferent sensory nerves to modulate the efferent motor nerves directly and put them in touch, in direct contact, dialogue, in-synch, communicate in harmony and balance, thus allowing the overall natural living intelligence to become activated and empowered to mediate and modulate the process directly. We learn how to contact the inner healing wisdom and the life force and cultivate it more in our everyday life, learning how to not be limited by perceived straight line edges, boundaries, limitations, and prisons to further convolute, retreat, constrict, or close down upon itself both physically and emotionally. In this way the inner constellations align with the outer forming an integrated inter-dimensional synchrony which is sacred space. Here there exists unity and the fruition of yoga and in this manner our vision deepens.
In this same example, but more specifically while working with the hamstrings and thigh after attempting to balance and engage it, we may also perhaps pay more attention to physical balance (especially if we have a pelvic tilt, SI joint, or leg dysfunction) by investigating whether or not the femur may be in internal or external rotation, at the same time looking at whether the pelvis is in cat tuck, dog arch, and/or mulabandha? Is there space created so that the sacrum can move in a wavelike motion? Can the spine pulsate? Is our breathing deep and diaphragmatic? Can we send energy, wavelike motion, visualization, or motility to any neglected or ignored areas in neglectful need of being activated or released? Can this best be accomplished sequentially or all at once? This will not be of any lasting benefit if it is not integrated with the entire neurophysiology. If the neurophysiology is not integrated with the evolutionary power and intelligence, then we are missing a very large teaching.
Because our muscular and nervous system have become somewhat disconnected, unbalanced, dysfunctional, polluted, and deranged, there is a conditioned (but temporary) limit to how much current, energy, intensity, or juice that we are able to handle at one time before closing down or going into overload. This again can be labeled as a temporary physical limit or edge, and we can accept that temporarily. As our natural enthusiasm for the practice increases because of increased contact with the evolutionary force, we sustain and develop our sadhana (practice) over time with increased capacity, thus old limitations eventually melt away. Thus hatha yoga practice gradually allows us to build up our ability and capacity to harness, activate, and express the evolutionary energy or kundalini and become its very expression. Eventually we wake up to how to live continuously in fluid compassionate wholeness.
Through finding our more gentle and subtle edges, meeting the curves and non-linear nature where the openings and expansion "appear" to stop, we can learn to recognize their nature and then learn to work with them more efficiently with many of the techniques discussed previously such as ujjayi breath, bandhas, abdominal or back breathing, chakra visualization, oscillation and undulation, extending energy vectors, lines of directed force, sound, positive emotion, or even the visualization of color into and through the specific areas that are blocked or holding, utilizing equal and opposite vectors, and/or using neurological models to effect the establishment of synergy, balance, and release. Here we both listen and suggest. Here we can simply watch, using the power and intelligence of witness consciousness to provide the healing. We learn and act wisely. We integrate and celebrate.
Our body/mind constellations are unique each moment. They change and reconfigure each and every day and thus nothing is more effective than pure awareness or Self knowledge. The messages are always there, but the "mind" has become conditioned to ignore them (avidya). Thus the conceptual approaches risk reinforcing insensitivity and experiential awareness, but the asana practice has the potential to re-condition and reprogram the body/mind energetics moving into a deeper, richer, and far more rewarding transconceptional space creating a more vitally interconnected, energized, and empowered participation with All Beings and Things once we learn to focus our attention upon these workings of these inner processes always at hand. Once these inner "boundaries" and insulated blockages are dissolved then the basic dissociation and disorganization around it is given a chance to reorganize our vital core center. A resonance occurs -- a knowledge of a broader kind (Gnosis) becomes available -- "things" are seen not in the context of duality and confusion, but as-they-are in Reality in All Our Relations.
Here the boundaries, veil, or prison that authentic yoga practice is designed to break asunder is pierced. Once these inner blockages are removed and purified, then our outer action in the world will reflect our newly reintegrated creative power and love effecting breakthroughs in the old boundaries and past limitations of outer expression and interaction as well. The refreshing spirit of the ever-newness -- the primordial eternal now -- will lead and prevail.
How do we explore and root out our stagnant inner limits, boundaries, and edges so that we can joyously liberate ourselves from our own blind spots as we move into the experience of previously "unthought of new territory"? It is by embracing the limitless. Just as light destroys darkness, spaciousness destroys the contracted heart. Nothing can adequately replace the light that illumines the darkness, the Gnosis or inner teacher. Indeed, asana practice is neither an end in itself, nor is it merely a means to release the body or even simply heal it; rather it is a system aimed at true and lasting wholistic healing through activation of the integrity of the body, mind, natural forces, and spirit through Self realization, thus utilizing the asana practice as a non-conceptual gateway into the reality of our natural state -- of our true nature through destroying the cloud and veil of illusion, falsity, and delusion. The process of asana practice brings us into the process of hatha yoga itself which is the process of opening up to and communing ever more deeply with the source of creativity and life through its manifestations in the life force and creative intelligent evolutionary energy.
Living in the vital present is living in new territory having crossed over into a new frontier of consciousness and being. It is exciting -- it tingles with prana, life, vitality, healing, creativity, joy, and love -- it celebrates itself. Functional asana practice should embrace and enhance it as our practice becomes the kinesthetic non-conceptual exploration of unlocking its doors. Here we have to become very present, very conscious, very sensitive, and very respectful honoring the delicate continuity of synchronized body, prana, consciousness, and reality balancing in deep love and joy.
Some of the specific preliminary "Ways" in which we can work in yoga is really the topic of the first two chapters, so I won't repeat it all again. It's a big topic -- it's a twenty four hour topic. It's effectiveness depends on how wise our actions can become.
The overriding question that should always be at the forefront is what is it that will move us into increased synchrony, divine alignment, and divine "re-memberance"? How do we stay attuned to the synergy of nature and spirit in the body/mind and surrender to that? How do we stay centered in the dynamic love of the HEART and how do we celebrate That? So much is determined upon what our intent is i.e., what is it that we want to achieve.
Do we want to commune more deeply with the process of healing? Are we convinced that truth leads us into Reality while falsity leads us into illusion/delusion? Are we convinced that illusion leads us into suffering, while reality leads us to joy and celebration? How do we get out of alignment; and how do we regain it? How can we cultivate Gnosis? What is the body/mind actually calling out for at each and every moment? How do we become more responsive to this vitality, healing force, and vital call in all of life? Are we ready to give up our suffering and delusion? Is it not love -- more love -- pure, non-artificial, and undiluted?
Boundless and Infinite -- Limitless unbounded by time and space -- Expansive co-arisen bliss! Ho! Source of unrequited love, you are everywhere -- inside of me and all things simultaneously co-arising in each synchronistic instant!
Back to Table of Contents
So we have seen that, the very word, "edge", connotes stasis, boundary, separation, or stuckness while its dissolution connotes openness, expansion, and liberation. In yoga we move out of away from old conditioned patterns, old stagnant habitual imprints and obscurations, and stasis into the unmodified natural all inclusive unified state of integrity. In the scriptures of classical hatha yoga, the goal is not to hold a pose for long periods of time, but rather the essential unifying theme is to evoke shakti, activate the dormant energy, combine the sun and moon energies and unite them activating the core energy channel or simply put to activate the innate dormant evolutionary energy called kundalini. Thus contrary to modern conventional opinion, hatha yoga is not about controlling the body or repressing its natural function, but rather its about bringing forth its latent potential as the natural evolutionary embodiment and continuation of spirit.
Hence holding asana posture for long periods of time certainly is not the goal. We can ask if it is helpful at all? Many indeed claim that it may be an effective means for self cultivation and liberation. Certainly for some people, simply moving intentionally in a controlled way may greatly help in focusing awareness and then allowing for the integration of the relationship between body and mind better; while for others simply resting in static, rejuvenating, and relaxing asana poses may invoke a desirable stress reduction situation. Holding poses for a long time may in some cases aid in creating a focused meditative attitude, but only if it is combined with a balanced, functional, kinesthetic, and overall integrated practice will it come into its higher fruition.
For many *releasing* deeply in a pose with awareness, sensitivity focus, breath, and healing intent allows the higher intelligence and intelligent energy to come into focus and synergistic play. When we listen to that intelligence as to how long to be in the asana and how to allow for further release we are consulting with the evolutionary power for guidance. We thus learn to be open and to listen for the next move and the next and thus without intellectually grasping we are moved by the intelligent energy in a complementary direction as to what movement should follow. When we are beginning to listen to shakti or the evolutionary energy and beginning to move naturally, we wake up more. Here the duration (long or short) of the asana is not a goal, but rather it is the synchronistic communion and touching bases with the energy fields flowing through the human bodymind that is being consulted and amplified. Albeit, this will be repeated over and over again; i.e., that the key is to stay open in mind, in body, in the nadi while not even grasping on to thoughts. That open space allows the new instruction in. When each moment is a new instruction; when everything is the evolutionary ever-newness, then we will never again need or attracted to consume new and improved "things"..
Most often we seek after good things to do, "rules", or correct ways to practice, For example if we identified a specific psychic constitution which could be remediated by holding a specific identified pose for a sustained time, allowing us to go deeper into the pose (even if it were practiced gently, kinesthetically, without strain, and gradually deepens with the breath while simply abiding in witness consciousness) this "could be beneficial", but as long as a conceptual rule exists it also has limitations. Today's rule is tomorrow's taboo. The use of static poses even with sensitivity is almost as unfortunate as the more common mechanical practice of "holding" a posture without sensitivity or inner guidance. Although the former approach is one of rather holding a space in which to allow natural movement, and unwinding, and integration to occur, even though it is premeditated, contrived, and carries with it a death sentence. Both approaches should be abandoned if we desire liberation. Sometimes the internal movements that occur are very subtle, energetic, visceral, and/or psychic so that the pose only "appears" to be static, but in reality much more is going on. The best approach is to open, listen, feel, and allow oneself to move beyond reason. Such is not as difficult as it may appear. Children do it all the time!
One way to get into this mood, is to scan the body for any frozen fascia and/or areas that appear to be numb, tight, dead, devoid of feeling, of consciousness, of awareness, or spirit-- recognize that and then breathe prana into that area in order to release the tension, awaken and mobilize the area filling it with consciousness and life energy (prana). Likewise if any area seems to be too hot, extremely tense, too intense, calling out to gain your attention, one can imagine many remedies such as to utilize the breath to cool, soften, mobilize, and relax that area. We can ask ourselves, "are we holding the pose, or relaxing/releasing into it"? Are we forcing the duration by not moving, or would movement create more force? Where is the life energy and are we moving toward it? Where is the Buddha field and are we moving into it? Are we acting with self violence, force, or self adversarialness or are we acting with love, ahimsa, and healing intent? Are we pushing ourselves or moving from a tight space to embracing our natural state of vast open space?
Regardless one posture follows another. The key is that every thing is in movement/flowing, dancing, with the reflexive pulsation of the universe. Hence sequential flow happens regardless, but its pace and characteristics shape the effective outcome of the practice. Some people according to their unique conditions, character, and constitution claim that they move more deeply into flow while performing a fiery flow practice, holding poses for short durations. Such is practiced by tending the fire of constant and highly paced vigorous flow (vinyasa) moving rapidly from one pose to the other without resting in-between. They find that revisiting the same posture repeatedly for a short duration in such a specialized flow sequence (for example repeated salutations to the sun), deepens the posture, catalyzes precursory energy, and creates openness. However beneficial such a "fiery" approach may be, it may on the down side too often produce unfortunate results if it is presented as an exercise of individual will, memory, conformity, and hard work instead of an exercise of surrender. As mentioned earlier it is not wise we to confuse exhaustion and fatigue with peace, contentment, surrender, or love. In authentic yoga, neither static asana nor rapidly moving asana sequences (vinyasa) practices are beneficial in themselves, but bear their fruit when integrated with yogic intent. There exist many other qualities and conditions in which to qualitatively elaborate their possible beneficial effects.
Even though "static" poses may have specific beneficial utilization, we must caution about the downside to static poses as well as rapid vinyasa when they are approached as builders of individual willpower, personal power, pride, ego, control, conquering the body, natural instincts, and intuition; thus establishing the domination of the ego at the expense of the transpersonal universal reality of unitive consciousness. We reiterate, that inhibition and repression of the body, natural function, and the innate evolutionary/creative power is a result of left brain dominance, and its resultant strangulation, numbness, and sleepiness only creates neurosis, craving, and dissatisfaction while putting off authentic spiritual progress. Yoga specifically warns against this latter approach which contradicts the true goal of hatha yoga which attempts to activate, balance, and integrate our dormant self existing innate true nature which is transpersonal, omnipresent, and self existent in nature.
Although holding a pose for a long duration can build stamina, concentration, endurance, strength, control, ability to focus, and even provide relaxation on the plus side, such an approach can be counter-productive as well if it reinforces the false identifications of ego, pride, or left brained willfulness as delineated above. Such an approach may well be cautiously avoided even though some popular "yoga" schools teach asanas as a way to dominate, control, and suppress the body, spontaneous nature, and natural functions which they fear and see as threats to their artificial identifications. This reflects the futile and neurotic attempt of the estranged and insecure ego to maintain a sense of order, control, and security by gaining dominance and control over and subduing the body, nature, and wilderness rather than coming into synergistic harmony with it.
This latter mechanical approach by "holding" poses for extended periods of time may well reflect a popular misconception of stasis as control. Is it another form of self competition and adversarialness disguised as letting go and surrender? Eventually the true yogi finds that more and more externally imposed structure is not the answer, but rather it is a prison and distraction created by a more primary disenfranchisement from the intrinsic order -- a basic disorganization and confusion of the body.mind and breath. The authentic spiritual seeker on the spiritual path will realize that authentic yoga practice wakes us up to the implicate or self existing order which surrounds us, it is an awareness practice eventually allowing us to surrender to the practice of self discovery as an inherent path by itself.
It is true that at times in various parts of our practice we may find it of benefit to rest or bathe in a pose for a long duration of time, but in this way it may only "appear" to be static to gross untrained eyes. The asana here may serve as an energy vortex, a force of direction leading to greater balance, synchronization, and integration. Inside the body, imperceptible to external eyes, fascia may be moving, organs may be opening, hardness may be softening, tension may be relaxing, energy may be flowing, pulsations may be energizing, cell mitosis is always occurring, cranial sacral rhythms move in harmony with the inner winds and tides, peristalsis, venous flow, lymphatic ebbs, and an ocean of very small and slow internal movements may be taking place simultaneously as the earth, sun and stars gyrate and realign. This then there is really no true static pose, because many things are actually moving and it is hopeless (as well as counterproductive) to imagine that one is "holding" an asana or mastering the body by holding the body still or stiff. Here we are not controlling, but rather allowing energy to move -- we are accomplishing flow.
As long as we do not freeze up and hold the poses willfully, rigidly, mechanically, pridefully, competitively, stressfully, and/or without feeling as a goal or an end in itself -- as long as transformation, breath, spirit, and life energy continues to build and flow, such posturing only "appears" to be a static pose even though one may find oneself abiding in the same asana for as long as a half hour or more.
Indeed the words, stasis, edge, and boundary are related. They connote deadness, frozenness, rigidity, fear, contraction, limitation, separation, discontinuity, and impasse. Although we can learn from our impasses, we do not benefit by wallowing in them, nor is the goal necessarily to understand them. Instead of focusing on deadness, we focus on aliveness. Rather than be "problem" orientated, we are for the most part better served to be "solution" orientated -- process oriented. In yoga we should not forget that we desire to be through with problems, impasses, limitations, boundaries, and edges rather than to overly focus or obsess on them. We should be more concerned with the joyous freedom of moving into what was previously deemed inconceivable new territory, -- into the freshness of the new frontier, than with learning about our limitations and difficulties. We should welcome going beyond the realm of preconception into the pure joyful awareness of creative spirit. Here it is not necessary or even helpful to learn about our edge as much as to simply let them go. It is not necessary to know about or scrutinize an obscuration first, in order to see through it and embrace the clarity of unobstructed vision. This is the natural view of wholeness that we seek to be illuminated by through the practice of natural yoga.
Stasis and movement, holding and flowing, contraction and expansion are opposites. Movement connotes continuity, flow, pulsation, undulation, exploration, and change. Movement contains both contraction and expansion, but not necessarily containment, boundary, limitation, or holding. Movement is essential for exploration. While fear and anger freezes, contracts, and holds us tight, movement melts and liberates. Functional movement expands and flows from the inside out as an awakening of the innate divine energy, intelligence, and wisdom while disclosing the true Self and our essential interconnection and communion as an intimate part of It.
To reiterate static poses can be forced and cause injury just as incessant moving can also cause injury. We must ask if we are always moving is that coming from some incessant neurotic drive to escape the present, another type of self adversarialness, pushiness, force, and violence? Here we will now discuss THAT wholistic synergistic balance between all extremes -- the moving into harmony, balance, grace and unity which is Yoga. Although as we have mentioned, both static and flowing (vinyasa) asana practice can unfortunately reinforce the pre-existing imbalances, we will now discuss a flow that is not mechanical, external, dependent upon will, nor conformity. Nor does such a flow have to be exhausting or fatiguing, but rather in natural yoga practice flow is positively invigorating.
Since willful practices in yoga are associated with the left brain (right side of the body or the pingala nerve), it is only half the story. In natural yoga willful and linear practices are considered only a preliminary adjunct at best for arriving into a more natural state of completeness and wholeness which is most often lead by the right brain (left side of the body or the ida nerve). When these two polarities are simultaneously balanced the synchronous state of divine symmetry, spontaneity, and wholeness -- a state of spontaneous and natural flow occurs in the middle nadi, the sushumna where unity consciousness occurs.
Because of the widespread misconception that yoga is about control over the body and natural forces it will be emphasized again, even though it may be repetitive, that Yoga is not about developing individual willpower, intellect, individual gymnastic prowess, strength, domination, accumulating siddhas, comparative advantage, the ability to conform to an external authoritative standard, the ability to jump through more hoops, imitation, mimicry, repetition, security in familiarity, rigidity, or other egoic processes such as increased memory etc. These ideas of gaining more control are fear based. It feeds the ego which is not the goal of yoga, but rather its distracted opposite.
Yoga is not about merely gaining health, good looks, nor superiority. Some of these "abilities" or attributes will come as a symptomatic and natural result of the overall process of attaining unity consciousness, but these symptoms are not the goal of the authentic yogi; nor is it to his/her ultimate advantage or benefit to identify with such ego accouterments without being subjected to severe negative and counter-productive consequences.
Authentic yoga is not about reinforcing the delusion of separateness or the ego by learning how to perform within a familiar system in order to master it and feel "good" about oneself, capable, or accomplished. These attributes only feed the ego and thus reinforce the barriers of separateness. Functional yoga is rather about surrender albeit requiring a certain amount of trust or love which someone in fear may experience difficulty in actualizing. Fear reinforces the need for control, so the question remains how does one release their fear, their habitual reactive contractions, and need/desire for control?
By definition, yoga is designed to show us how we can go beyond separation and alienation -- beyond the bondage of stagnation and limitation, beyond ignorance and arrogance, beyond our familiar boundaries and into the experience of liberation and its expanse -- into exploration and the process of creative inquiry. Authentic and functional yoga leads us into interactive participation with and as the limitless transpersonal identity -- the bearer of deep and natural peace. Thus the true yogi inquires; "who and what is Self? Where does my body, nature's body, and God's body begin and end?" through the functional utilization of asana practice. Can the human body and life exist without the power of nature, the earth, the air, water, sun, stars, evolutionary intelligence, and spirit? If not then, an illusion, a distortion, and a corruption is conjured when we define or imagine the human body and/or "self" as separate, independent, or vitally disconnected. This is a humble and innocent, but essential inquiry of authentic swadhyaya.
Obviously an intellectual understanding is not enough to eliminate fear; while functional asana practice has the capability of by-passing the conceptual process altogether acting as a portal into the super-conscious nervous system so that this reality can be experienced and eventually trusted ever more.
Because the present day culture is already left brain biased and dominant (oftentimes severely out of balance), the path back into wholeness -- the practice that is most relevant in defeating our left brain conditioning thus must include, honor, and evoke right brain techniques in order for the synergistic balance of left and right to occur. This requires real devotion, dedication, love, openness, and surrender to truth, for it is the intellect (belonging to the ego) whose cunning tendency to erect "sage" artificial and separate borders of self encapsulation, conceit, and "limited" self involvement must be defeated if we sincerely wish to love a life of integrity.
It was to accomplish this purpose that medieval hatha yoga practice was established utilizing kriyas, asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, visualization, and meditation which acted as primers for the pump. They are designed solely to bring us into the experience of divine attunement.
When this process (sometimes one or all of the above elements) occurs naturally and spontaneously it is considered to be the awakened activity of the innate evolutionary force, i.e., the kundalini. In modern terminology this has often been called the awakening of the super-conscious nervous system (usually held dormant, latent, or repressed in the average fragmented and unbalanced human being). To the initiated this is home base -- one's joyful Source of creative and healing power. When this possibility is realized it is then easy to surrender to it. Otherwise just the idea of surrender may conjure up fearful images of past unintegrated traumas where one was helplessly exploited and abused. Here surrender is liberation.
In ancient India, the idea of surrender was handled more easily usually through the medium of surrendering to a living tradition of authentic and realized teachers. Then one could trust that the authentic teacher would bring the student to realizing the authentic teacher residing within. In those situations the teacher and student lived together closely and there was little room for mistrust, confusion, doubt, or disinterest. This is not the same situation today. Today yoga practitioners must find the inner Gnosis within and surrender to that by means of an authentic yoga practice which leads to the inner teacher finding the true Self within. Thus we must find our own pace in our practice and learn to surrender into truth and reality purifying old obscurations, blockages, and afflictions of negative emotions. We must demand that the yoga process bring us into deeper and more intimate contact with our own rhythms, creative energies, joy, and process of self awakening and evolution. Although modern yoga teachers may help us learn how to practice functionally, the present modern era is not highly conducive toward external spiritual teachers, external religions, or spiritual institutions. See the following two sections for a more in-depth discussion of Hatha yoga teaching styles and teachers.
Back to Table of Contents
Thus in the beginning coming from the numbed out and disempowered milieu of spiritual self alienation, willful approaches to the asanas (in the form of either static or flow forms) may be a temporary help to get in touch with the inner wisdom, intuition, and teacher when presented in the context of authentic yoga. When performed in a kinesthetic and with process orientation, it builds concentration of the life force which is capable of activating our dormant potential heretofore inhibited and repressed through unnatural negative conditioning. Thus in the beginning phase we first have to learn to be content and happy with what is -- in the present -- accepting of the moment and not be goal or future oriented even if we are not in a spontaneous moving flow. Here we learn that if we surrender and empty the mind of predilection, our bias and imbalances will also be allowed to shift. Here we learn the truths of effortless activity of non-"doingness", increasing the breath of no breath, and the flow of non-flow. Here we arrive at pure beingness (sat), pure consciousness (chit), and as a result pure bliss (ananda).
Here we learn how not to resist as well as how to not resist by getting out of our own way by very simply seeking true balance. Here we come out of the cold of the gross and coarse and into the warmth and the great spaciousness of the inner living all inclusive Reality. This is not a complicated process, but rather the undoing of the complications created by the mind which is accomplished non-conceptually through authentic yoga processes.
Flow occurs in synergistic balance from the most subtle to the gross -- from the inside out. Even though the gross physical body may have measurable energy fields, patterns, voltages, polarities, and tendencies this alone is not where synergistic flow comes from because it does not exist as independent, as an isolated "self", or in a vacuum. Formless existence, Source, or unembodied spirit, the source of form (although incapable of being viewed) can be known (in Gnosis) from exploring its act of creation (form) by tracing its footprints in the sand of existence. In rigid dualistic existence Spirit or Source is held separate from the creation but when flow is created in the body/mind as the intelligent play between nature and spirit -- creation and the creator -- as the creative and intelligent evolutionary energy -- as its synergistic synchronization, integration, embodiment, and expression which is called in hatha yoga the activation or awakening of the kundalini (or dormant innate power). This occurs in the central nerve, the sushumna, which is the great integrator of the vajra or light body.
According to ancient medieval hatha yoga, this practice is concerned about activating the vajra body which is an innate potential within us all. When we are able to come back into harmony with nature, then our dormant circuits start to become energized and awakened with spirit. Here the form body (nirmanakaya) and the formless (dharmakaya) is modulated successfully by the luminous body or vajra body through the system of the three primary channels (ida, pingala, and sushumna), winds, energy vortexes (chakras), and drops located in the sambhogakaya (bliss body) which are coordinated in flow with the spontaneous breath of pure awareness. If the body/mind channels have been sufficiently purified through yama, niyama, kriyas, asana, bandha, mudra, visualization, and meditation before hand this arising of the kundalini is not only painless and fearless, but on the contrary blissful and transforming. Here conflict, distortion, and imbalance will not be increased, but rather divine synergy quickened and accentuated.
Most of today's negative publicity surrounding the awakening of kundalini in the modern milieu has focused on people who have not performed the preliminaries of hatha yoga yama, niyama, kriya, asana, bandha, pranayama, mudras, visualization, and meditation; and they have for the most part no wholistic or integrated body/mind framework in which to understand their experience. In this milieu when combined with unbalanced left brain false identifications, the fear of kundalini becomes generated as well as the fear of nature, naturalness, creativity, and wilderness. Thus kundalini is too often "judged" to be a threat to the orderliness of the ego, to the linear noetic mind, to the idea of self centered control, etc. This malaise of needless suffering can be prevented through the functional and wise practice based on natural yoga. In real and authentic Hatha yoga, kundalini arising is not only welcome, it is the conscious goal and natural outcome of the practice.
Thus for yogis who are accomplished or proficient, yoga asanas often occur spontaneously as an expression of kundalini because they have become accustomed to welcome its natural occurrence; while its absence marks an unsuccessful practice, a rigidity, spiritual stasis, malaise, or disease. When spontaneous asanas occur it may merely be a purifying or healing expression an old body/mind dysfunction, but also she/he may be activating dormant energy nexus, chakras, or a previous latent higher evolutionary potential. When seen by an observer, such a practice may appear as a beautiful expression of spirit, as improvised and innovative play, or as an art form, but to the practitioner it is simply spontaneous love, being driven by the higher innate intelligence within all of creation. It is driven by their synchronicity with creation and creator within their own intimate experience. It is not personal, but rather transpersonal, not being performed out of separation.
To imitate such experience willfully may be only somewhat beneficial (as asana practice can be a two way street), but this limited approach can often have adverse results, because it is too easy to become seduced and reduced into a mechanical and static structure of goal orientation, conformity, mimicry, or repetitive performance, unless we very carefully seek out the energy or synergy behind the form while empowering and affirming our creative and intelligent ability (innate wisdom) to act "response-ably" and spontaneously. Thus we must be encouraged to defeat the tendency toward the many potential severe limitations imposed by mechanical approaches to yoga practices. Thus in our practice I encourage allowing the dance to occur from the inside out, attempting never to repress it, thus allowing ourselves the opportunity to let go of the willful approach as completely as possible -- letting go of all attachment completely, opening up to the breath and energy, while learning how to surrender to evolutionary love ever more completely if we are to evolve and reap the real fruits of yoga.
We gradually learns how to vibrate, pulsate, and abide in this center as our central axis, our core, our home, and our heart. If the outer structure coincides with or brings us to communion or superimposition with the innate natural structure, then here we have arrived at true synergistic alignment, confluence, intercourse, balance, flow, and union. This is how kundalini is gradually modulated and integrated. Here Kundalini arising is really a partnership. balance, and synergistic synchrony between the left and right brain -- between control and surrender. The process is titrated rather than controlled through opening up the knots of the nadis (psychic pathways which kundalini flows) as joyful communion, an act of worship and sadhana, without force or violence, but rather through infinite kindness, love and healing -- through one's daily practice where all five koshas are harmonized.
If we are rather spaced, scattered, confused, or easily upset we may be frightened of the spontaneous arising of kundalini, but a balanced asana practice will ground us. For those without a conscious and responsible practice, a common reaction to this temporary lack of focus, balance, and centering in the heart is to increase left brain willful yoga practices and external forms of external discipline and structure as an aid in concentration with the hope that it will provide a solid or integrative base. This can help only if one eventually is able to recognize this as a substitute and let go of it while, embracing the core base at the heart (the hridayam). The danger is that the the external structure will obviate the intrinsic order as a fear driven addiction -- a repression of the kundalini, and we will be left dispossessed, dismembered, and disempowered.
Thus certain difficulties can be overcome through developing the cit-prana, concentrating the awareness and energy as a unit through increased practice of kriyas, pranayama, asana, meditation, bandhas, mudras, and visualization as well as by increasing the comprehensiveness of one's personal gestalt, self identification, and world view through studying the research work of integrative and vitalistic yogis and wholistic scientists in order to reflect upon and integrate our own organic and subjective experience -- integrate being with consciousness -- left and right.
Eventually we must "know" through experience what we are doing in this over all context of kundalini awakening -- to be able to experience its ebb and flow experientially and then be able to let go of any externally imposed structure -- as a caterpillar molts into a butterfly -- to surrender when we feel able. If we become dependent upon the external structure, we will stagnate and eventually decay. Adjunctive healthy yogic diet and lifestyle changes are also synergistic in this regard, so that the energies we generate and participate with in everyday life are not discordant, pathological, or self defeating, but rather unified and synergistic -- working without friction as a synchronized team.
Here glimpses of the full play of Lila become more frequent and we become more familiar with the process of the inner flows. Then insecurity, doubt, fear, hatred, loneliness, apathy, despair, and other negative emotions will more rapidly be displaced by divine longing and inner spiritual passion. Eventually the surrender to spirit will reside more fully as our daily core experience -- it will be increased and intimately welcomed -- it will be sought out and disclosed in All Our Relations.
Then we can abandon obedience to external rules and mechanical approaches altogether -- as formulated preparations to get us in touch and make contact with the energy bringing us to that stage so that we can eventually surrender to its energy and Source, once we feel somewhat safe, secure, and inter-connected. Here-now we become naturally reprogrammed to surrender this temporary life raft that served us in the sea of duality, for now we have learned to swim strongly through the waves of the ocean of life -- so that we can now walk upon the further shore. Without such an attitude, external structures and forms have the danger to become counterproductive -- where it becomes the end rather than the means -- where we have become attached or addicted to the external rules, forms, and practice, thus preventing ourselves from taking the next step (surrender) in our spiritual evolution.
A beginning practitioner who is fear driven may crave structure and security to occupy the monkey mind; while the advanced practitioner has sensed and realized the existence of the transpersonal evolutionary intelligence and has decided to go to it directly for instruction, nurturance, and reintegration. For beginner's then, the structure must be placed in perspective with the true aim of the practice, so that the risk of externalization is reduced. To that end the integration of breath and energy awareness in daily practice is both simple and profound -- it is very grounding and causal, capable of simultaneously leading and centering us all the way to the full depth -- the core/heart of the practice. Thus the best student is one not burdened by fear, apprehension, and in need of protection -- one who is closed down, but rather the best students are those who are willing to explore one's own vulnerability -- to open, to feel, to become aware and alive -- to dance and sing -- laugh and cry.
So for an advanced practitioner following rules is not only "not enough", but mostly counterproductive; yet the evolutionary solution is not more complex; it actually becomes more simple. An advanced practice can gradually manifest and evolve simply by allowing time and space for spontaneous movements, kriyas, asana, mudra, bandha, pranayama, concentrations, and meditation to occur naturally. Such a practice is more than effortless -- it is empowering. It brings us into kinesthetic resonance. This is the style of ancient sahaj, kundalini, and siddha yoga and of which we may also call purusha or authentic yoga.
Proficient yogis use willful techniques merely to prime the pump so that the inner flow of energies are activated and directed, but not introduce external distractions -- never abandoning shakti, but rather allow for the practice to be guided by the intelligence behind the energy from the inside out. Some people find that they can do this after shaktipat (the empowering of shakti) initiation by a guru, while others "do" flows (vinyasa) spontaneously through the grace of the eternal and true teacher that resides within, the ever present Sat guru. But in Reality, Shakti is always present, but the problem is that we have placed our attention elsewhere. The alignment of the luminous LIGHT body energy body with the physical body comes about both as an awareness of who we truly are -- what is real and what is not. This simultaneously occurs as a synchronization with all of creation and its Source -- at the core/heart. As such it is the result of a onepointed dedication, grace, a communion, a revelation of consciousness, and a devotional practice all rolled up in one.
If our practice were to focus upon communing more intimately with the creative impulse, the play of all creation, our innate creative intelligence, and the creator then we will more easily enter that realm of pure beingness and pure consciousness where all of experienced world is filled with living vortexes of continuous and infinite love energy -- where static rigidity is only an illusion.
Because most of us are inured to external structure, an intermediate technique would be to ask ourselves what asana would feel good now, or what will bring joy and energy, what direction or vectors does the body want to move toward now? In this respect we focus on the cit-prana -- the energy of awareness and the awareness of energy. This starts to build by itself as our practice evolves.
Bringing the breath into the body and consciousness, investigate the pose by listening to its guidance as Ram's emissary. First feel this possibility and energy inside before any external movement. Then see if the body resonates with it in external movement. While in this "favorite" pose allow for the next position to occur synergistically and with the breath, the energy -- as joyful inspiration and surrender to sacred space -- all combined in one moment as one movement -- synchronized from toe to head -- from earth to sky -- sun and moon -- orchestrated by a symphony divine.
Another related technique used to actualize flow rather than to imagine or visualize a possible completed pose, is to at first listen for and open up to the innate subtle vibrations to dance and move about on their own while the practitioner focuses within. This is accomplished by opening up the nadis -- by relaxing/releasing obscurations and tension. Then allow a transconceptual pulsation to arise as subtle movements occurring on their own throughout the entire bodymind. Allow for a wavelike motion to oscillate through and take the direction from that. Let it come from the inside out and outside in. Do not cut it short with the intellect, by releasing/clearing out the ordinary mind mentations. Let the movement occur spontaneously as a feeling of joyful release -- a celebration of liberation and do not try to control or shape it with the intellect or will. Let the movement lead and undulate your entire being into a magical mandala with a momentum toward an unknown goal which can not be conceived but only intuited. Entertain the simultaneous awareness of all the planes of existence and all dimensions and move from this timeless universal space as if this was one's ultimate meditation. Let your focus on the intelligent process behind the movement further trigger and reveal an innate untold tale and inconceivable mystery.
Eventually we can simply observe or witness ourselves moving into various poses in partnership with the still and passive universal witness space. One can play with stress reduction, relaxation, softness, extension, surrender, vairaga, etc., but release even releasing and merge the breath at holy conjunction of both spirit and nature -- touched together simultaneously through the activated vessel (adyar) of the human temple.
The body is form as embodied spirit. Spirit is all pervading essence. Form is perceived as static only when we are in illusion -- when we are out of our center or core energy.
When we perceive all form and everything as movement (including the body), we have reached the stillness of the central axis where all time and space converge in turiya. This is Reality. Here all physical form including the body are perceived as always moving (subtle or gross) with all of existence. When it freezes up solid and gross be sure it is because the mind has framed it and we have entered a cramped, contracted, and stuffy alienated space. Recognize that tightness and rigidity and release it. Learn to quickly recognize the difference and the subtle energetic and mental vectors and bring your "self" into synchronicity increasingly.
Disengage from framing reality as form in a static sequential linear temporality which is illusory, but rather form is fluid like a river -- as animated movement of endless change -- it is not separate from essence just as in reality spirit and nature, man and woman, and siva and shakti, pingala and ida, back and front, microcosm and macrocosm are united. They complete each other forming a greater whole.
Once the nadis are opened and basic inner wisdom, intuition, instinct, and innate awareness has become restored, it the dance dances itself. Simply observe, allow, enjoy, entertain, and be entertained by the Lila -- by the profound play of the divine creatix and dive more deeply -- love more completely. Allow for this uncontrived and non-presuming play to occur more in your everyday life as well as in your asana practice. Dedicate your practice and your life to evoke the creative genius of the source of creativity into manifestation increasingly. Make your life a sacred flow of love energy, a sacred dance, or a moving prayer always responding creatively, spontaneously, lovingly, intelligently, proficiently, and in a healing, heart-centered, and truly wholesome "response-ability" regardless of what the external stimuli of the surroundings may bring. In this way spiritual healing will be assured.
When the protean spontaneous and creative process of Lila is potenized, then the pure consciousness is evoked as well, existing as the silent universal observer. Consciousness embodied -- spirit and nature united, movement occurs naturally, by itself, and according to unprescribed laws. When this "situation" is occurring in asana practice, we can call it a manifestation of Purusha or pure consciousness. This is because purusha as being pure witness consciousness has contained in it the essence of intelligence. purusha is its source. This essential intelligence is nascent in Purusha, but emerges as intelligent energy manifesting in action as shakti, or the intelligent evolutionary energy in all of nature. It is through conscious participation with Purusha consciousness in our asana position that authentic yoga practice continues.
Problems arise inhibiting and constricting surrender because many people do not trust themselves, rather they have misplaced trust. They have become conditioned out of fear to incessantly create and impose an artificial order and maintain tight control upon the "world" thus constantly attempting to superimpose a grid, filter, or mesh upon "Reality" which never fits but rather distorts and limits. Others simply do not know how to trust their higher self, being dispossessed from Reality or Self since early childhood trauma which reinforces the fear of being out of control. Too often "adults" do not believe that the world is a safe place, thus it may be difficult for them to "let go" their guard, their armoring, need to control and feelings of vulnerability; but if they can't, then the Lila has no chance of occurring. Simply put we have been unfortunately conditioned to be closed rather than to open to life. We anticipate, presume, and prejudge to a point where we have become preoccupied and closed down.
Authentic yoga must be approached as a vehicle in which to destroy our fear, anger, grief, delusion, inhibition, and separateness and this is the real beauty of natural yoga. We seek external order because we are already confused, spaced out, or afraid, but oh how more wonderful would it be to know the implicate order, to watch and augment the inner self organizing energy fields and vortexes that reside as a constantly changing interactive unity inside and out? These are out of control of the limitations of intellect; yet they are astonishingly beautiful aspects of Self in which we can consciously become aware of and interact.
Because the corruptive mind may seek something to grab unto in external engagement in external order because of fear, it essentially contracts our prana and with it the body contracts. Thus functional yoga is designed to remove both the fear and the contractedness of both the body and the mind.
Thus the ego mistakenly "thinks": that in order to function or cope that we need to contract -- to hold on tight; but this is in reality an old dysfunctional modality driven by negatively afflicted emotions that eventually has to melt through functional yoga practice eventually being resolved in divine pulsation (spanda) which occurs as a synchronization with the primal expansion and contraction at the core of the universe creating the natural rhythms, seas, and winds of creation -- the throb of union with the great Integrity from the axis of stillness from which everything else flows.
An essential ingredient for success in yoga asana practice is the impetus of the inquiry itself -- the search for meaning, implicate order, and identity -- of who we are -- to know Self and to be at One -- in Divine Completion and Union in All Our Relations. This is the beginner's mind of pure unbiased inquiry-- the willingness to be surprised and discover, the willingness to not will, the willingness to align with divine will, the willingness to trust and open to the new and unexpected, to be vulnerable and surprised, to explore, to give up control -- to let go of our fear, prejudice, expectations, engagements, frames, and self made prisons -- to allow for love while simply allowing and observing the divine Lila to occur.
So a functional external willful practice is only of value and successful when engaged upon as a means to activate and reveal the intrinsic wisdom -- the inner self organizing energy fields, vortexes, and dormant circuitry to create the experience of internal flow; while internal practice will first create inner flow and then move from the inside out manifesting in what appears as external flow. This first aforementioned process is usually preliminary to the second and as long as its purpose is to activate internal flow, it will not feed delusion and lead to further dissuasion and dysfunction.
Since we do our asana practice in order to become more fully in synch, "in tune", and aligned as we rid ourselves of old ingrained habits and dysfunctional patterns, here are some practical hints.
If you are coming from chronic "external: orientation and agendas, then allow a few asanas of choice after doing a few asanas that augment the breath and bring in energy. Investigate with the breath moving into one asana that might grab your attention. If nothing comes up spontaneously, then scan all the asanas you know of or have seen by memory and maybe resonance will occur, i.e., your energy will resonate with it.
Similarly, when I was "stuck" in a rut, I would find an asana that was very difficult for me and play with it. Not as a challenge to the ego, nor in self adversarialness, but as a way of breaking up the samskaras and energy blocks. Here I would chose an asana on the assumption that its energetic matrix contained the remedial blueprint, that would open my nadis and reverse the negative programming (karma) that was holding me rigid and stagnant.
In our daily practice it is very valuable to be willing to give up our preconceived notions about what a "good" practice is "supposed" to "look" like, but rather internally embracing our breath and being braced by it continuously. It is better if we focus on what a good practice should "feel" like -- feeling being a far deeper way of knowing and being than logic or intellectual abstraction. It is always helpful to be resilient and flexible -- to be willing to give up (and surrender to the moment) the planned regime for the session and be receptive to alternatives and opportunities i.e., to the higher intelligence always available. Allow for each asana session a time for such groping in the dark -- allow for this in-between each asana -- allow for this sacred time which is omnipresent and eternal to creep into the practice -- through the asana, through the entire body, through the way we touch the earth as mother and breathe the sky into our mysterious evolutionary and creative process which is manifest being. Ho it is sacred!
Back to Table of Contents
Yoga has traditionally been less of a disciple than an enthusiastic devotional practice -- an act of love. It comes from the Heart rather than as an act of personal self glorification that feeds the ego. The instrument in hatha yoga is the act of creation itself (shakti) and we will conveniently find her in the physical body (yes we are part of nature despite modern anti-nature dogma). As such this very body is the gateway and as such everything we need is close at hand. All that is needed is to open the nadis and unlock the knots (deprogram the old matrix) and then align with the dance. In this way we learn to look upon each moment freshly with a beginner's mind. In this way the evernewness is revealed. The eyes see freshly, the nose, tongue, ears, and feelings are open to the mystery of life pulsating through the very heart of our own bodies and connecting up with the Heart/Core all encompassing web of creation/creator in All Our Relations.
Although such happens spontaneously, many of us are "stuck" and overly rigid. Because we have become so estranged from our heart, because many of us chronically fear to open and be vulnerable, some practical examples will follow. Say that I'm in an asana or in a transition and an impulse comes to mind to do another asana, but my logical mind says to me, "gee, I wasn't planning to that one now. Now I am doing this one. I'll do that one later, in its "preordained" order." So I ignore the energy and the impulse. I repress my instinct, intuition, or shakti or I at least hold it in abeyance for a future time. This spells disaster because it reinforces repression and inhibition while letting the regime of the intellect and will become reinforced. Inhibition is death. What is rather needed is some trust. Maybe it won't pay off, but maybe it will. Explore it and find out.
Even if you thank shakti for her idea and intend to "do" this asana later, it will simply reinforce the will and intellect. It may still have some physical and healing value, but then again it may only have its full value when the idea originally came into consciousness. In any case it will not have its full psychic value in terms of reconditioning our mental patterns in regards to spontaneity.
Thus in our daily practice let us attempt to create a stage of opportunity for shakti to come into our lives increasingly throughout our asana practice, in-between asanas or while within an asana as the presence of the beginning an inner urge, an inner dance, or feeling. This occurs through feeling inside -- directing our attention within to the organs, to the fascia, to the abdomen moving through the action of the diaphragm, through the internal action of the bandhas, through the awareness of the energy inside each cell. Each asana has many variations, of which there is an optimum approach that always can be more finely tuned, not by blind belief in external form, mechanics, or reductionist logic, but rather by the innate wholistic intelligence. Although rational guidelines may very well help us, we must be able to test them in the fire of surrender to shakti -- it must act to bring out our inner wisdom, not to subvert or replace it.
For this higher wisdom (gynana or prajna) to become more part of our daily routines, it may be critical that we surrender up attachment to "doing" our regular pre-planned asana set. Functional asana practice is more about listening, being receptive, and thus cultivating awareness in order to bring about activation of kundalini shakti, much more than doing something to the body, whipping ourselves in shape, or being in schizophrenic control. At the very core of our practice is this synchronization of "DOING" and "RECEPTIVITY".
Through functional asana practice the efferent nerves which fire the motor of the muscles and the afferent nerves which receive the messages in terms of kinesthetic awareness are synchronized -- they act in unison without friction. We become "response-able" when we act with 99% listening, receiving feedback from the body as we move. Then we are capable of making intelligent split second decisions without ever having read a book on kinesiology or anatomy. A highly functional athlete on the basketball court for example must make split second compensations[ for the condition of the court, the opponent, the basket, the position of her body in each and every move which changes every instant. Failure to be in this response-able synchronized state has grave consequences. Similarly, when we are not aware -- when our biofeedback communications system has become disconnected then we are the opposite of being synchronized, but rather we are uncoordinated and acting at odds with the body and the planet. Wisdom comes from listening.
Every moment this biofeedback synchronization between the afferent nerves and efferent nerves can be looked at and enhanced. Every moment the left brain/right brain synchrony can be enhanced. Every moment the autonomic and central nervous systems can act as a coordinated unit. Every moment the left/right brain dualities can come into synch and the kundalini lead us. Working with the eyes half shut or even closed can help us focus on the inner teaching -- the ongoing holographic evolutionary symphony and dance.
Every day and better at each moment we can invite in All Our Relations. The remedial movement is always available, but we do not often know how to put our fingers on it because of predilection. It is this predilection and bias that asana practice must over come. When stuck, we can set aside a good portion of our asana practice to doing things differently. Perhaps if we do standing poses at the end of our practice, then what would it feel like doing them in the middle? If we habitually do prone poses separate from supine poses, what would it look like doing them in a different order? If we habitually use one leg, arm, or hand to lead or grab in a specific position, what would happen if we used the opposite one?
What other opportunities or possibilities may call to you? Do not be afraid of change, but rather embrace and cultivate it. Again a major ally is the inquiring mind itself -- the what if mind -- the beginner's mind -- awareness itself. What are the possibilities -- they are endless. Each moment is a precious sacred gift where love calls out to us. Here we are not changing things just to be different and relieving boredom, but rather allowing us to let go of the conditioned mind patterns and communicate more intimately with the unconditioned entering into synchronized and synergistic flow -- into a greater sensibility and sense of well being, wholesomeness, and sacred space where we simultaneously sing from our heart as we hear the divine song being sung.
Even if we have been programmed to not be particularly spontaneous (inhibited or repressed), we can try to shift things around, do asanas out of sequence, shake things up, move into the old programming (the fixed matrix of samskaras, the past traumas and fears, the accumulated pain and fixed thoughts), and disrupt them. Perhaps we can allow ourselves to become temporarily confused as to what to do next, like in being open without a conceptualized agenda. Consulting the breath and better the energy or wisdom body at every step, we can sincerely call out more fully for guidance.
To summarize, in willful asana practice we use external movements. If these external movements are utilized to break up past conditioned fixations and actualize inner flow, the practice is functional. In turn when inner flow and inner Gnosis are activated, then we can start moving from the inside out. Here inner flow and outer flow become synchronized -- what is within and without become an unnecessary duality -- the choreographer, the dancer, and the dance merge as one movement as Nataraj (the dancing form of Siva). Following we will summarize the opposite technique from Being the first impulse in order to actualize flow from inside out.
Back to Table of Contents
Another way to "prime the kundalini pump" is almost the opposite to the rule of following the first impulse. In this technique to learn surrender. We first contemplate performing a "possible" asana, but not act upon it physically. We then ask ourselves, how would this asana feel? We can visualize the three channels (ida, pingala, and sushumna) and the present state of energy becoming aware of the coursing of the breath and prana. Here we can utilize the visualization of the vajra or luminous body) as inter-mediator between unformed spirit (dharmakaya) and the form, body of the relative world of nature (nirmanakaya). We can visualize moving into the asana with this awareness and experience its subtleties, variations, and energy flows. What would happen if we moved it this way or that way? We feel its energy while monitoring any emotional response. Does it feel strained, stressful, and laborious or does it feel exciting, energizing, relaxing, opening, inviting, or healing? How can it be modified to activate free flow? We thus contemplate the physical, emotional, psychic, and spiritual energetics of that possibility.
We should not be occupied in holding the body still for a long time, not moving, controlling the body, fighting or forcing the body through imposition of will power, but rather we innocently investigate and playfully explore intelligently when) the energy builds up sufficiently to invite or coax us into the actual position of the asana. This can be stimulated through ujjayi breath, pranayama in general, pratyhara, and visualization (dharana), but best we can allow for us to be moved, for us to breathed, to have awareness and the energy of consciousness chit-shakti be the leader while we simply observe.
We pose the question how can the energy actually move us without effort? Does the energy and movement come from inside out? This activation is the creation of inner flow. Then we can move into its exploration thusly from the activation of the inner energy. In this way we have a way of energetically choosing only the asanas that feel "right and good" -- which bring us into phase, alignment, balance, and synchronicity. Thus we are leaving behind stress, disease, rigidity, holding patterns, fixations, and hardness. We are communing more directly with the remedy -- with wellness rather than working with the symptoms of our illness.
If we start our asana practice affirming joy, celebration, and the healing energies, while honoring the chakras, life force, shakti, and spirit, natural flow will gain natural momentum and its innate intelligence will lead us deeper than we ever could attain through the use of individual powers of intellect, memory, and will.
Likewise, we will find that simply visualizing the asana before doing it has a definitive energy and power of its own. Once we learn the asanas, we become familiar with these energies and simply imaging these asanas we learn how to commune and activate these energies. This assumes that we are doing the asanas in the first place as an energetic and kinesthetic practice (without such we are not aware of any energy which to imagine or access in the first place). This latter practice can be done when we can not do the physical asana practice as well as in bed during sleep to achieve the opening of the nadis. This is rather an advanced practice, accessible after we have learned about the subtle energies through the physical gross practice, but it is mentioned here because it is directly related to contemplating the energetic quality of the asana.
Yes, it is impossible to hold the body still or rigid. To try to do so is absolute folly. The body as well as the entire universe is in constant motion -- it is in a dance. We all know about the two pulses of the veins and arteries, the systolic and the diastolic. We know also that the diaphragm creates rhythms of movement throughout the fascia in accordance with the nervous system (see pranayama chapter for more). We have heard of the craniosacral pulse where the spinal fluid moves from sacrum to crown and back in wavelike peristalsis. We know about the peristalsis of the intestines, stomach, and glands. We know that the organs and tissues are constantly moving creating enzymes and chemicals, the cells are reproducing in mitosis and even within the cells there are myriad operations being organized by the organelles and the dna within its own living intelligent and energetic medium. Of course much more is going on as well -- the heart is beating, the lungs are breathing, the lymph is flowing, the earth and sun are moving, etc. There is a unique rhythm, pulsation, and resonance throughout the universe at each moment and the body is rightfully an intimate part of that symphony. In short, the entire body is in constant motion with many rhythms, but in health they are coordinated efficiently and in celebration. When it is functioning in optimal synchronicity with the spanda (the pulsation or throb coming from the center and origin of the physical universe) the super-conscious nervous system kicks in and we are in phase, samadhi, or turiya as long as we do not try to hold rigidly onto the past. Here we are in phase and bathed by the healing waves of shakti. This is not a purely physiological or biopsychic phenomena; yet it is the embodied pathway of jivamukti (amongst other valid pathways).
Here emotion, heart, breath, blood, organ, gland, tissue, cell, fascia, bone, earth, sun, cosmos, and source are no longer fixated, stuck, estranged, or unaligned. Here there is synchronicity and true wholesomeness. Here there is flow and continuity.
Following the higher wisdom which is innate in shakti in turn catalyzes, liberates, and activates ever more creative energetics and momentum which becomes mobilized in natural flow. This flow is interdependent upon a phase of communion, alignment, integration, and synchronization with the source of intelligence and consciousness itself. Here we join with the non-dualistic two way river where the intelligence is both inside and outside. It merges in the all inclusive Unity. Through this heightened awareness, communion, and egoless identification pure awareness enters into our life increasingly and naturally. We wake up to how we close off from flow and fixate, not only in our asana practice, but in daily life; and thus we learn how to seize the opportunity to allow, follow, flow, and let shakti into our daily activities ever increasingly. This is the way we learn how to integrate, make the changes, and stay in the flow "24/7". It becomes more part of us as we become more part of it, not as some sort of feared blackout or engulfment of black unconsciousness, but rather as the opposite -- the sport of conscious integrity. Honoring and respecting it, we increasingly live an embodied existence which increasingly honors and respects life and spirit in all our relations as All Our Relations.
Back to Table of Contents
Even the encouragement to move into deep "flow" -- for deep flow to be "kicked in" or activated, still suffers from the polluting and misleading presumption of dualism where a practitioner is encouraged to go into unity (as if it were not already self existent, now, or in the present). In other words, dualistic framing of our situation, too often chronically prevents non-dual change from occurring. Rather waiting for and allowing ourselves to be moved by spirit -- moving from the heart implies more.
So better than perhaps the invitation to join the dance, but rather to listen to it in the first place because it is pulsating within us and all around us ALL the time. Such affirms the subtle reality that tells us that there preexists already in Reality a more comprehensive and all encompassing unified dynamic holotropic all inclusive intelligent being and force that exists -- inclusive of the human body as well as all of nature. The difficulty with words is that they tend to differentiate the parts, rather than unite or connect them. Authentic yoga does not give credence to the fallacy that this great Reality -- this Great Integrity -- can be successfully grasped or contained by the human intellect (which always shrinks it), but rather it affirms this non-dual trans-rational Reality through the framework trans-verbal, trans-rational, and trans-conceptional context of the Universal Heart.
The best we can do with words is to create a left brain system that is in synergistic unity with the right, so that natural synchronicity is encouraged. The functional yoga approach will then assume the Reality of our situation -- that we already reside in that state of unity in our natural state if we looked with an open mind or heart, but we might not always recognize it. What would the asana practice look like then, when there is nothing to achieve? Here, we need only to entertain this possibility -- the possibility of grace -- allow the inner constellations to align with itself and to also align with the outer constellations forming a trans-integrity. Entering into alignment --we move into the Great Mandala and become the Yantra -- we move into a multidimensional synchronicity and arrive home -- the home which we have never left except in illusion. So how can this isvara pranidhana occur at all times. What would that look like?
There would be:
1) a conscious peaceful resting in the energy body (pranamaya kosha) and the conscious awareness and hence ability to release energy blockages there.
2) the meditative awareness of the body, breath, ground, and surroundings (annamaya kosha) and awareness of any tensions residing there hence facilitating our ability to consciously release there and synchronize body, breath, earth, and energy.
3) the meditative awareness of any emotions/thoughts residing in the manomaya kosha, thus allowing for release and synchronization there through the release of any afflictive emotions or thought patterns. Focus here beyond thought but rather pure energetic or kinesthetic awareness.
4) the wavelike clearing out of blocked pathways and subsequent harmonization, balancing, and linking up of the previous three in unity, as one in spirit with the innate wisdom or gnosis. (vijnana maya kosha) becoming aware of any limiting or dogmatic beliefs and ideologies thus allowing for their surrender as we become aware and guided by the inner wisdom or intelligent innate energy.
5) letting the energy build, circulate, and move to the bliss (anandamaya kosha) without predilection increasing our communion in the state of Sat Chit Ananda as our practice expands moving toward the unfolding limitless bliss of pure and uncontrived being and pure and uncontrived consciousness.
6) through this practice of authentic tapas there occurs a heightening of shakti's passion and the passion for shakti simultaneously which brings us into awareness of the pre-existing subtle dance occurring in the tissues, organs, blood, the cells, the dna -- in the breath, nerves, muscles and bones as well.
When the koshas are all aligned and synchronized with all of creation -- in All Our Relations -- the ecstatic song and prayer dance reaches its greater evolutionary potential and completion as a release of restrictive karma and vasana --as a surrender of pain and bondage on shakti's altar. Here the yoga becomes consummated in the realization of our true nature. This is the context which should be entertained as reality, even by the left brain -- even if only conceptional at the least.
Natural movement and flow can take place when we are not preoccupied with physical mechanics and such limitations. Rather we have focused and yearn to more deeply commune with the innate indigenous spirit lying deeply inside -- with THAT intrinsic ineffable effulgent Reality which pervades all of creation -- resting our awareness and breath "here". Thus we simultaneously move toward IT, as we allow IT to move us in sacred release, expansive freedom, and prayer. Every part of us becomes attuned as a celebratory and revelatory prayer dance -- moving from prayer to liberation -- from bondage to release. Here the energies of nature, the physical body, the emotions, the psyche, and universal spirit are synergistically aligned and attuned opening up an embodied pathway of creative and sacred expression as the completion of the great yantra. we move into that great vortex and alignment and are moved by it transpersonally. Here we are allowing the innate non-dual intelligent energy to move us! Here we are drinking prana and bathing in it -- letting go of the chains of past karma.
That is only a brief possibility of what expanded flow might look like from the inside, but still this view is still dualistic and mechanistic. In later stages our movement is sacred movement, a living prayer, a gentle delicate living dance, a continuous interconnected interaction and dialogue with the beloved -- with the Self -- with love itself being so profound, so intimate, and so vital that it commands our complete attention, devotion, and dedication, yet is not capable of being defined nor limited by any of these dualistic terms, concepts, or words.
Can we describe in words what is done from a preverbal space? In natural flow none of the above is actually performed, the bliss, energy, and breath lead while the body follows. The mind and emotions as well as the ego simply get out of the way, or if there are remnants still present in the background, they are also dragged along. Synchronicity is attained and separation is dissolved. Moving from the joy and directed by its own intelligent energy is the highest form of movement as embodied love and spirit. In this sense we could call joy and ecstasy a tool or technique, but it is not really. It is a deep feeling modality that transcends concepts as well as any concepts of tools or techniques. Rather, no words are adequate -- ultimate freedom has no limits of definition -- inseparable emptiness and bliss -- a sacred dance starting as prayer, love, and devotion which ends as a luminescent whirlwind of limitless love.
Here the joy and ecstasy is not the goal or end, but searching it out its absence in all the nooks and crannies of the HeartMind evokes a deeper sense of Self and Integrity. Such brings us into a new life and beginning -- our natural state at one with our true nature. Here lies life, love, healing, continuity, and flow -- here there is no judgment or choice not to go with it? It calls us into itself when we are ready and have learned to listen deeply. Its absence heralds and reminds us of its potential sacred presence. Perhaps it is a disservice to attempt to define natural flow at all, since by definition we delimit that which is preverbal as well as proverbial. By naming we set one thing off from another, become objective and extractive -- a practice which is essentially negative versus inclusive, positive, integrative, and limitless.
Objectivity without integrating subjective reality is dry, inhibiting, sterile, and limited. This is the milieu of modern man suffering from his left brain dominance, while our natural wisdom and power lies inherent in our natural subjective state. When this natural wisdom is allowed to flow and becomes empowered combined with a pure objectivity as a witness consciousness, then our highest potential is unleashed, activated, and allowed to manifest. Our asana practice will thus never truly become an authentic yoga practice unless it is designed to cultivate and bring forth this natural inherent and mostly latent wisdom. Conceptual or rational thought can never adequately substitute for this natural wisdom. When it is free flowing animating our body/mind and coursing through our veins everything is explained, all is known, the questions and doubts disappear, serenity are achieved. Intricate, intrinsic, and "grace full" interconnections are spontaneously evoked and embraced. Laughter and tears are appropriately allowed -- creativity, intelligence, enthusiasm, and love pour forth naturally.
This is integration and interconnection which is the true definition of the goal of yoga. Again, NOTHING CAN ADEQUATELY REPLACE OR SUBSTITUTE FOR THIS NATURAL INNATE WISDOM OR GNOSIS. It must be brought forth from within not submerged with endless tasks or rational schemes. In natural yoga or Purusha yoga we allow ourselves to be led by IT -- we search IT out by opening ourselves to it while watching the interconnected and unified body/mind/breath/spirit move all by its own intelligence -- animated by the divine shakti having found conscious alignment in nature. We beat the bushes for it. We become it through the integration of praying, waiting, and allowing, the integration of listening and acting, the participation without attachment in the creative and intelligent play of Lila all occurring simultaneously. We become its pulsating, wavelike, and undulating expression. A ancient word for the energy -- of this intelligent and creative play of Lila as a motive force or power in the human body, is kundalini.
Lila works in conjunction with our passion and love -- our desire to be free and dance. Although kundalini and tantric yoga is rich in willful practices that bring this physical mass of polarized synergy into balanced flow and synchronous unity, we can not over emphasize the danger of becoming caught up in the means; because true and ultimate success always lies in the eventual abandoning of striving while opening up in surrender. In correctly applied tantra, hatha, kriya, sahaj, siddha, and kundalini yoga methods, conflict and tension are replaced by peace and energy. Here the heart, the hands, and feet touch living space finding balance and synchronicity as we swim in the ocean of non-dual bliss liberated from the dark specter of fear. Distortions are removed by harmonization. Waves of flow, beauty, gnosis, ecstasy, bliss, and love move us as kundalini. Yet we are not spaced out, but rather truly centered, brought back to our core before the rend, rift, primal trauma, alienation, or corruption process began.
We are one -- body, mind, spirit, and nature residing in our natural state with no ego, no separation, no duality, no confusion, and no fear. This way of life can not be rushed, but it must be allowed -- space must be created for its natural unfolding. This joyful allowing and creation of sacred space is what natural yoga sadhana enthusiastically embraces.
Sahaj yoga, natural yoga, kundalini yoga, tantra yoga, and Purusha yoga accepts the mechanisms of kundalini as being valid, but however allows for these occurrences to happen naturally and spontaneously by eliminating interference to their natural expression and evolution, while the observer resides in the stillness of universal consciousness. For example, when she (kundalini) moves in flow her eyes turn up into her third eye, here breath whispers in ujjayi, her muscles quiver and fascia undulates with the full movement of the diaphragm, then mulabandha occurs naturally and energetically, and the kundalini reaches into the utmost reaches. She is light, buoyant, beautiful, graceful, loving, strong, wise, peaceful, and flowing. Similar movement may also be initiated or imitated semi-mechanically with similar results (although rarely reliable) increasing in reliability after much practice. Here flow becomes natural -- motion and movement is continuous. It is only fear and ignorance that freezes, fixates, fractures, and kills.
For example in authentic asana practice we may ask, is this direction more cramped, stuffy, constricted, closed, and tight or is it more vibrant, open, expansive, and alive? Does it augment shakti? Is a natural exploration into Self and nature occurring in this direction? Is this a more loving and a more feeling space? Am I activated or shutdown when I move this way or that way? How does the spine and the specific chakras feel in this space? Does it awaken us or put us into dead space? Is the vibration at a higher rate here? Is the wavelike motion stronger. Is the breath deeper and singing? Is there lightness, effortless, synergy and weightlessness here? Is there an emotional impurity and incompleteness present here and how can we rid ourselves of its limiting burden? When the body is opening so too is the mind and consciousness. As we let go of physical and energetic constrictions, so too do we alleviate the emotional burdens of fear, anger, grief, and ignorance. The truth is often intimidating to the ego, but it is empowering to the true Self.
Authentic asana practice is like knocking on heaven's gate everyday persistently gradually waking up to the fact that it is you who are the gatekeeper. Here it doesn't matter how loud (or soft) we knock, but how deep does the silence take us. Who we know and how deep is our passion and devotion. Who knocks for what reason and how strong is our bhava? In proficient asana practice it is our attitude and intent (bhava) and our devotional passion that will carry us through to the other side. The asana practice exists as a portal, platform, and sacred set existing in the vital breath of the present opening up to us the vast possibilities that destroy all limitations. Asanas exist as a catalyst for spiritual healing and transformation if we entertain that possibility. It is a healing place to reframe our previously inherited misconceptions, vasanas, and samskaras, and past afflictions by first unframing and letting go.
Here is a time we set aside to disengage from past fixations, rigidity and discomfort, to unwind the knots of fear, tension, and confusion, and fall into uncontrived creative play, surrendering the fear into the wholesome wonder, hanging loose, stretching through, making contact, oscillating and undulating, shaking loose, making waves, pulsating from the inside out, releasing, letting the old fall away, making contact, exploring the unpredictable new territory and unknown depths of pure existence, opening up to life and creation, attuning to the energy of the asana rather than the physical form finding the joy and bathing in that. Now is the time to let go of all worries and move into the center slowly with feeling softening the hardness and rigidity. Applying samyama to the asana practice is being complete in each moment losing the sense of any limited purpose or need of accomplishing anything. This is true accomplishment, attainment, and proficiency while we join together with the prime mover -- the source of momentum itself.
Is there more energy, openness, and love here? Feel your way this way and that. Is there warmth and a higher vibration -- more joy and less stress? Release and liberate, activate and purify, heal and love -- move into dynamic flowing equilibrium and eliminate the boundaries to love.
Children are always moving. They are open, mobile, and vulnerable in many ways and directions simultaneously. They are spontaneous. present, and honest. They have not learned how not to be. They move from a primal center from the inside out. They pulsate and oscillate at a higher frequency of vibration than most adults. They are closer to the source and more pure, open, and naked to her rhythms. They are more alive, while older people move slower, and while dead people don't move at all. This book is about sacred movement and consciousness -- about being moved by spirit -- about embodying spirit as a pure vessel. Its about embodying love increasingly.
The important distinction between natural yoga as opposed to willful and mechanical yoga practice is that here we move from flow and gnosis while the opposite approach to asana practice is willful and intellectual. The former moves from the heart and affirms it, while the other acts from the mind and will. The purpose if natural and authentic yoga is to reinforce the former in the form of love and surrender to the Shakti and the Great Integrity, not the latter. This latter approach has the tendency to reinforce control and the delusions of ego and comes from fear unless we are able to approach it as just a preliminary step whose purpose is to allow us to eventually get to know, become reminded, and become able to rekindle the natural living rhythms of passion and love for Nature and Spirit, rather than to further repress or strangle them with fear. This is the dominant principle of authentic yoga which does not diminish one iota our ability to intellectualize or our ability to concentrate or assert individual will in mechanical situations that call for it.
Practicing natural yoga, the nervous system, blood, endocrines, brain, and inner flows are activated and are synchronized. The entire system functions more efficiently and with less resistance, tension, and stress.
In natural yoga, spontaneous flow happens without thinking about it and thus not inhibiting it; yet we witness it completely as it happens. The "filter" of the conceptual mind is removed as we are motivated by the higher intelligence. The bridge between the unconscious and autonomic nervous system and this higher intelligence residing in nature is completed. We see that in reality there is no separation, the DNA in the nucleus of each cell has this same intelligent energy, just as all else of creation. It was only the ignorance of the conditioned mind, under the affliction of negative emotions that blocked or insulated the natural pathways from being energized and opened.
When natural yoga is actualized, we can also say that the divine Lila is activated and we are captivated in her creative uncontrived play and grace. The creative process moves us, it moves through us as we enter the divine creatix as its loving vortex moves us; and all we can do is bear witness to it awesome splendor without offering the ballast of resistance.
Here, natural innate wisdom rises from the inside out; while it is witnessed, but not inhibited, by pure conscious awareness (purusha). Here the pure objective witness consciousness recognizes the pure subjective innate intelligence as two aspects or poles of the same universal life energy merge or unite as one in the living integrated body/mind acting as a rainbow bridge.
The universal objective consciousness in the crown chakra looking down upon and into the body and the innate universal subjective intelligence manifesting through embodied existence looking up and outward from the earth chakra are reconnected without artificial barriers thus activating the now super-conscious and supercharged body/mind in natural flow as a living pulsating self organizing intelligent integrity. This is not an encapsulated integrity, but rather the super-conscious network includes and embraces the greater neural network where inner and outer are included as an integrity within a greater whole. Here the intelligent power in manifest existence (shakti) and unmanifest pure consciousness (the source of power and intelligence) recognize and augment each other naturally in natural flow and grace including the physical body, while we experience bliss having reintegrated and synchronized the anandamaya kosha with all the other koshas.
If either the ida or pingala forces are dominant, we are unbalanced and out of synch. If the objective force (purusha) looking down and inside from the crown is dominant, the world seems small and we are stuck in time. If the subjective principle (prakriti or shakti) looking up and out of the body is overly dominant (rare today), then the world seems large and time has no meaning. When both are merged in synergistic synchrony then the intricacies of wholistic healing can manifest. This ontological experience of natural yoga occurs when conscious intelligence within knows and embraces universal conscious intelligence -- when it knows itself. Through authentic asana practice this synchronized phase is sought with the hands and feet and with the heart. It satisfies an inner yearning to find balance, wholeness, nourishment, and synchronicity. As the source is reunited with its long lost child, the soul is reunited with pure spirit, the bio-psychic organism is integrated, potenized, and made whole and complete.
The functional goal of authentic yoga is to increase and augment the state of flow, so that we can eventually both rest in and act from it all the time dispelling the limitations and bounds of delusion; while the more prevalent left brain dominant approaches have the danger of reinforcing the illusion of separateness and ego i.e., that "I" (the will and intellect) acting out of separateness accomplished "this", rather than accomplishing identification with the All who knows no bounds which is the completion of authentic yoga. One must taste the experience in order to truly know its flavor. Here everyone is invited to the feast and partake in the nature of abundance.
Natural yoga practice not only increasingly engenders the experience of continuous flow in a state of transpersonal grace, love, and consciousness, it merges and becomes at one as It -- as the Divine Lila. Seen from the outside, it is the exploration of our true heart center which is the birthright of all, but from the inside it is the heart's expression. It is establishing resonance with the core.
Here flow "happens" by surrendering our attachment to "doing" flow. Here our intent is focused in the heart. Here we go in first and listen and abide. Here it does not matter if flow manifests externally in the form of spontaneously occurring asanas, bandha, mudra, pranayama or as meditation. It does not matter if it is a subtle movement or gross. If it is an internal energy vector precipitating subtle oscillations or if it occurs in broad strokes or dance. It can occur within an asana as well as the segue between positions. It may appear as yoganidra (yogic sleep) or it may appear as a vigorous external and active vinyasa. It doesn't matter what it looks like. What does matter is that we are connected with the intelligence of shakti and are being moved by that intelligence abiding in loving creative awareness.
Such sacred occurrences are best honored with gratitude, not requiring us to "understand" it in terms of duality or as the "accomplishment" of a personal ego, lest we quickly fall away from grace. In this sense authentic yoga is a meditation in motion. The habitual dualistic mind creating misidentification of our self as a separate ego is dysfunctional and self demeaning to the natural experience of reaching alignment and interactive interface with the higher transpersonal Self -- the Great Integrity -- the Divine Source of All that profoundly reminds us in grace that Love is all we need. Natural yoga is so designed as to break up this negative conditioning and bring us back into divine synchrony. Thus practicing natural yoga becomes psycho-spiritual portal or spiritual practice beyond the rampaging mind into direct experience of the Self. This is the same goal of meditation and all the other yoga practices.
May authentic and universal love, peace, intelligence, gnosis, and grace come into our lives increasingly in all our activities and thus become expressed into our environment and society as manifestations of love and wisdom; so that we can more easily reach our highest creative potential so we can eventually celebrate the workings of love in all activity. This realization is the real goal of authentic yoga; and it is to this eventuality that we dedicate our practice if we are wise.
Perhaps a unique characteristic of modern twenty first century yoga is that kundalini must be consciously allowed to express itself not only as a personal spiritual practice in the context of a separate sacred space or specific limited time period, but as an expression in our continuous and integrated everyday sacred life, honoring spirit and nature, continuously twenty four hours/a day. Authentic spiritual practice should not reinforce the illusion that holidays are different from ordinary days or churches and shrines are sacred, but the rest of our life is profane. Where Spirit is absent, held back, or repressed, let us remind ourselves and allow it space to shine! Let us hold forth the truth proactively that IT is always available as divine presence; while demeaning it, demeans ourselves and all life. Let us all open to it more and remind each other.
Emaho, Ho, It is Sacred - Om Tat Tvam Asi.
Back to Table of Contents
All external classes should be taken with a grain of salt. The Real Teacher is Teaching 24/7 because yoga means continuous. Yoga is designed to get us in touch with the innate teacher, the inner wisdom, and Gnosis and as such external classes can be disorienting without this in mind. Authentic yoga is not some external system that when parroted, conformed to, or graduated from will bestow upon the student anything of value. Real yoga can not be owned, consumed, nor mimicked. No, yoga is not a sport, glorified exercise, or pastime. Despite popular belief, yoga means much more than that. Our greatest progress in yoga is always to be found in our own practice and that practice is ALL THE TIME -- It is found in All Our Relations.
Thus the teaching and the teacher is ever present, intrinsic, implicate, indigenous, endogenous, and inherent. Thus the practice simply means to come home -- to be profoundly present -- in a very sacred here and now. An authentic "yoga" teacher thus augments this "reality" in his/her class. He or she is a guide into spacious being -- into the Great Integrity which is yoga.
Because we all possess our own unique biopsychic rhythms and needs, how could any single group oriented class honor the uniqueness in all the different participants and be as optimal to each participants unique conditioning. It can't be as effective as your own practice, although external classes and teachers do have their value in other ways. An authentic teacher can and must encourage and inspire the student to develop their own practice in all ways, never utilizing intimidation, comparison, competition, shame, or other abusive methods. An authentic teacher neither creates fear nor discourages the student to explore and practice on their own. An authentic teacher does not glorify the ego, utilize praise, flattery, nor heighten one's sense of comparative and compensatory pride; but rather brings one to that experience which requires no such poor substitutes for lack of self worth, meaningfulness, and deep sense of the true Self.
Albeit in the setting of a functional class a mature teacher may be able to design specific modifications for each student, but how can one teacher know what is the optimum time for each and every student to hold an asana, what variation sequence is best for everyone, what unique injuries and propensities, doshas and winds etc., that each student carries around within them in the context of a general class unless everyone is exactly the same?Thus a group orientated class, is always limited and a compromise; not able to be as powerful as a personal practice where we are exploring deeply within ourselves, getting to know our self better, and reestablishing our own rhythm. Thus for these and other reasons some classes can even be counter-productive in many ways.
Major problems can occur if the teacher is immature assuming that everyone's situation is the same, the teacher then often may subscribe to a dogma or ideology that states that the remedy for everyone is the same, or else the teacher further feeds the external conformity process where the student feels less in their own authority, inner wisdom, and self confidence and more dependent upon outside authority (or the teacher). Some teachers are so insecure that they can get freaked out by non-conventional or spontaneous movements. These teachers tend to feel comfortable only within the limited scope of movements that they have already been taught, and thus may feel threatened if they are not strictly obeyed.
Most modern states of mind already are too "involved" in some imaginary "wanna be" desire of the future or else dragged down by the impositions of external and objectified conformist standards and values fixated in the limitations of the past. We are already overly externalized and alienated into the rapid pace of modern society or marching to the drum beat of "others", while the real problem remains that we haven't yet come "into" our authentic and creative Self or true nature. In short utilizing yogic terminology, we are already victims of our own past karma, avidya, samskara, klesha, and vasana.
Too many of us are already too much out of our center or core energy so we need to be brought back into intimate contact with it by an authentic yoga teacher, not further objectified and estranged. Even though we may find a "great" teacher with "all the right moves" for us, the authentic teacher should also bring us back into our own pace, into our core energy, into the present, inner rhythms, unique needs, inner authority (gnosis), into balance, self empowerment, into LOVE and the HEART, rather than to create external dependence.
On the other hand some other teachers may not present what we need in terms of "the right moves" physically for our body, but still may be beneficial in energetic or spiritual terms in reducing stress, upping our positive energy, enthusiasm, clarity, positive perspective, and attitude; bringing us into our core energy; reminding us of peaceful and loving ways of being; and/or reveal light and beauty. We thus should ask what it is that attracts us to a certain teacher, and is that going to serve us in the long run? Are the asanas an end in themselves or are they simple a channel/vehicle for divine synchronicity to manifest and become embodied?
Because so many of us are goal oriented -- suffering from being estranged from our inner teacher or inner authority that we have become convinced that it doesn't exist or is simply an ego projection. For those people, it is helpful at first to simply see yoga as a tool for self discovery -- as a means at first of getting to know the territory of the body/mind, of the inner and outer terrain and where they mutually interact and share a commonality. For them it is best to see yoga as a home coming -- a getting in touch and establishing a life affirming and healing basis. For those who know only strife, war, self adversity, fear, competition, pain, and suffering; it may be hard to accept an approach that doesn't utilize or even augment such; but the role of an authentic teacher is to remind the student of the hidden and forgotten love and Gnosis within. The authentic teacher helps the student discern between the preexisting pain, fear, and tension versus creating new pain and suffering. The authentic teacher helps reveal the difference between compulsion and spontaneity -- between neurotic love and real love.
Dogma or philosophy beyond this is counter-productive. When we have this motivation and intent to learn about ourselves, nature, and Source, then we start to learn about the process of self discovery through authentic asana, pranayama, and meditation practices which is the process of consciousness and self realization of who we really are beyond delusion and illusion. Then we can see that it is this process that reveals to us our authentic self which is the authentic teacher. We eventually learn that the deeper inside we go we go we find a profundity of the unity of the inner and the outer -- we find that there does indeed exist an inner teacher who is eternal, self existence, and self effulgent. Simply put, this is the real Sat Guru.
An authentic teacher is a catalyst that brings us into deep interconnectedness conscious participation with that reality which connects creation and all beings, spirit and nature, the inner and the outer, the body and mind as the divine relationship or Lila not through challenge, admonition, intimidation, shame, or guile, but through purity of intent reminding us of the possibilities of love -- of opening us up, by removing fear and contraction, by bringing us into the innate consciousness which reveals. Although the neurotic or monkey mind may crave structure, a good teacher does not cater to its demands; but rather brings us into intimate resonance with the implicate order -- the innate self organizing intelligent order innate and self existent within all beings as well as within our self. Although the egoic mind may crave prowess and domination, the authentic teacher encourages love, openness, and surrender by feeding us love. An authentic teacher presents themselves as a catalyst for this -- a surrogate -- a portal, conduit or channel, but not the source of the teaching, thus reinforcing and reminding the student that spiritual change always comes from within -- from the universal inner which is All Our Relations . An authentic teacher does not reinforce the false notion of separate self, i.e., that the teaching is coming from a dualistic "teacher" or self, but rather the authentic teacher always reinforces and supports the "Reality" of unitive non-dual Self. This way no ego problems can possibly emerge.
This does not say that the teacher must be God Realized and egoless, but rather this union and integration should be his/her intent and dedicated focus (bhava) as a yoga teacher. With that intent and focus (bhava), the class moves in that healing direction.
Hence all external classes and teachers have the potential to take us out of our own center, natural rhythms, and healing pace, while at the same time they have the potential to serve as catalysts in our spiritual evolution as long as we exercise the process of inner wisdom (Gnosis) concurrently while participating in a class. Of course if we had realized our innate perfect wisdom completely, we probably wouldn't need to take a yoga class in the first place; hence we may define a functional class or teacher as one who helps to move us into our own Gnosis, inner wisdom, inner teacher, innate intelligent core energy, while catalyzing the activation of our experience of deep inner flow.
We should first ask why we are going to this class. Is it because we want to meet new people and socialize, is it because we want to master a specific asana, is it because we want to lose weight, look more beautiful, possess more energy, health, self confidence, and self esteem? Do we cultivate praise from the teacher and desire to her/his recognition or approval? Are we impressed by the teacher's credentials and physical stature and ability or do we experience love and openness from her/him? As long as we are clear what our motivations are disillusionment, distraction, and disappointment will not arise. Many of these reasons are however hidden limitations and our counterproductive in terms of the purpose of authentic yoga. These symptomatic motivations can be grouped together as the desire to feel "good" or better which is not being deplored; but authentic yoga teacher asks the question what activities will bring us true and lasting happiness -- unconditional happiness which naturally flows from the union of embodied spirit and nature -- and then that teacher addresses that as the central theme. An authentic teacher will always bring the joyful work of yoga back into your own court.
This does not mean that an authentic teacher must be enlightened or a superman/woman, only that he/she should be dedicated and able to present the yoga practice as a self empowering process of self discovery and liberation first and foremost. This element should come through in your class gradually and increasingly as we learn how to let go of our conditioned, dysfunctional, and inefficient ways of ignorance. Here an intimate experience of peace (not exhaustion), intimate self knowledge (not rote memorization of "scripture"), self empowerment (not devotion to a hierarchy or separate teacher or system), openness and love (rather than arrogance and pride) are made abundantly available.
Here yoga philosophy says that if we arrive at deep interconnection of body/mind, breath, nature, and spirit we will have arrived at the most beauteous place, the place of greatest bliss, the abode of deepest peace, and connected with the eternal and immortal Self of which all energy, creation, life forms, health, and systems of true esthetics stem we will be complete and abide in peace and Ananda (bliss). Authentic yoga teachers versus asana teachers "know" this Truth. They have experienced it to some extent and believe in it i.e., yoga. This is what makes them different from regular, fashionable, or "grandiose exercise" teachers; yet an authentic yoga teacher would not in the least be self aggrandizing Their class thus does not come from separateness or ego, but rather as a non-dual platform acting as a vehicle for embodied love. An authentic teacher may teach much like an artist, musician, or poet being inspired by a "higher source" or higher self while teaching high yoga art.
Since the student may not be clear about the true goal of yoga, an authentic yoga teacher's main goal is to present the hidden energy, beauty, bliss, and wisdom that the asanas disclose. The first part of this process is purification or the removal of the blockages or accumulated body/mind afflictions or negative emotions from past traumas of ignorant and unenlightened conditioning.
Thus we may say that the real value of classes is to help us get through our blind spots and habitual blocks; to break up old dysfunctional patterns; to restore our enthusiasm and self confidence for our own personal practice; to get a fresh, new, unprejudiced, or clear perspective upon our practice; to get acquainted with the new variations and new possibilities; to become inspired and enthused about the joy of liberation and yoga; to come into awareness and self realization; and this includes learning the territory of our edges, so that we can liberate it -- melt through them into the joyous fresh land of new territory and thus embrace the innate process of pure awareness.
Here the teacher should be less concerned in showing us where our specific limitations and boundaries are in terms of separateness, but rather what it is like to feel the release, openness, new energy, and flow utilizing the body/mind and breath as levers into the super-conscious nervous system. Here we are encouraged to explore this realm as an intimate and rich spiritual process in which we can take home with us. If the teacher really cares and is pure in the heart, their intent, intuition, and inner wisdom will guide the class in a therapeutic and evolutionary direction, thus quantitative and beneficial information and instruction will accrue, whether or not the teacher has "good eyes" or if she/he teacher can evaluate our own individual situation conceptionally and provide temporary mechanical "correction", "adjustment", or massage.
Sometimes specific mechanical "fixes" may be counterproductive as it may feed the externalizing process of achieving the pose as an end in itself. Temporary fixes are alright and may be helpful (if we do not create a dependence on or addiction to them). Instead of physical adjustments being given mechanically, they should be performed if at all in a meditative way where it is understood that it is the heart that will see us through for the long haul staying true to what authentic yoga must focus on.
Some people feel that it is intrusive and disruptive to receive any touch or physical adjustment at all in class; while others may welcome its loving healing touch without creating dependence upon touch. It is an unfortunate fact that too many of us in the present modern culture do not get lovingly touched at all during the day, and although we may crave it, this may become a distraction and addiction. If the teacher is in the heart, rather than just sharing his or her "expertise" or experience, he/she is able to see with universal eyes and act as a healing conduit of liberation coming from sacred space. This approach will have more longer lasting effect being better able to move us energetically into our own healing process than the mere physical or mechanical approach. That same teacher (if authentic) will acknowledge the transpersonal omnipresent Source of this wisdom, rather than to imply that the origin is the property of the teacher, tradition, hierarchy, priesthood, school, church, etc. Through this universal omnipresent approach to yoga we become truly touched by shakti and learn ways of keeping in touch more continuously in deep interconnectedness and integrity. Thus the authentic teacher is a conduit or vehicle to Universal Source reinforcing the basic idea that this is not only available within the student, but must be brought home in order for any authentic inner transformation to occur.
In other words the instructor should bring us into more direct and intimate connection with the transpersonal Universal Self, rather than reinforce the idea of separateness from Self throughout the asana process. The authentic hatha yoga instructor should reinforce or affirm the basic assumption of hatha yoga i.e., that everything we need to know is inside -- it is before our eyes, but our eyes have become veiled and all we need to do is apply awareness through conscious spiritual yoga practice. Authentic yoga takes us into the present more than to some striving state of an idealized future or occluded past fraught with fear or pain. The type of instruction that moves our heart, has more lasting benefit than that which simply moves the body or the head. This way our enthusiasm builds dynamically and naturally.
Thus the authentic teacher takes us inside to meet the authentic teacher within (the Sat guru) -- making the student more present and connected with the intelligent principle in creation, nature, and our true nature. Only then will the student is able to integrate yoga in everyday life rather than approach the practice as an end in itself. The authentic teacher brings us to the shore where we are able to explore our authentic self more deeply -- where the teacher's words and voice becomes superseded by finding our own authentic voice.
Is it a contradiction to take responsibility on one hand and to let go and surrender at the same time? Is that not our real responsibility, i.e., to surrender the conceptual contrived mind in exchange for the universal consciousness abiding in the center? Here freedom, surrender, and self responsibility merge as the same act. Is not duality resolved by finding true balance? Here we are not referring to abdicating our sensibility or feeling; au contraire, taking responsibility here is accepting our feelings, moving in harmony with them, coming to sensitivity, resonance, balance, and inner flow, and then eventually moving from the core center or heart (which is the theme of the natural yoga discussion above) by uniting effort and receptivity, male and female, efferent and afferent, etc.
Thus as mentioned above, it is most advantageous to ask the question, what do we really want from a class before, during, and after a class. This way we learn how powerful and synergistic focused intent and attention can be to the overall proficiency of the process. In advanced yoga we are constantly redefining "self" at each moment being aware of all the relationships we form with the universe at every moment -- all our involvements and modifications of the mind -- and then entertain the option for love more continuously. This is All Our Relations in practice.
Thus authentic yoga as a spiritual discipline can grow on us if we let it. It can and will if we do not allow our self to become dissuaded or distracted. So we can engage in self inquiry about these above possible traps by asking if we are still limiting our approach to asana practice as a means toward acquiring personal health and beauty? Is it to feel better about ourselves in a comparative sense? Is there some hidden factor of psychological transference or approval from an external authority operating? Is our addiction to classes an immature attempt to surrender to some external authority and abdicate self responsibility or rather is it to find and clear the pathway Home?
A new student may ask whether they are looking to asana practice as a form of physical exercise or is yoga a means to integrate with timeless spirit? Does the class bring us into awareness of the greater sensibility that we can feel experientially? Is the teacher going to strengthen just our belly and/or up our head and self confidence, or is she/he going to help us open in the Heart? Are we seeking compensatory self worth and self esteem through external or objective accomplishments or approval and does the instructor exploit that need or not? Are we subject to transferring authority to the teacher as a surrogate authority figure, coach, mother, or father seeking their approval, acceptance, and love or not? What is it that we want and will this liberate and empower us?
If we go to a class because we lack self discipline, how are we going to eventually shake that addiction without finding a teacher who can turn us on to the universal principle that resides within and inspires us? After taking widely different classes one does not have to chose between swami (master) A, B, or C, but rather the real benefit may be that one has learned that there are many possibilities of styles and approaches which present possibilities, not absolutes -- many more than just those that can be taught even by human beings. Indeed the ancient yoga texts tell us that there are eight million four hundred thousand yoga asanas. A good teacher turns you on to your infinite potential which resides in being present, aware, awake, and attentive. Does the teacher honor the present and help you to be more fully present?
The outer teacher must activate the inner teacher by presenting movements that trigger liberation with happiness and joy, with breath, spirit, and healing, otherwise he or she might simply be a workout instructor, a calisthenics teacher, aerobics instructor, or gymnastic coach. In other words, asanas should not be presented as an end in itself, nor as a means to a far distant end, but rather as a process of communion, becoming, awakening, and liberation. Without this intent, virtue and integrity will most likely not occur -- the spiritual values of hatha yoga loses its meaning, and the asana practice not only becomes perverted, but can actually become counterproductive by feeding arrogance, pride, the delusion of ego, and separation which spiritual practice is originally designed to destroy.
In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition the teacher presents his/herself as a spiritual friend (kalayana mitra). an equal, or nothing "more" grand than a simple temporary surrogate for one's own innate buddha-nature, one's inter-mediator, or facilitator to arouse the student's shakti (the intelligent evolutionary power) which is to be found within us all. In this way we can dedicate the asana session as a process where we are turned on to the various possibilities of discovering a more direct, deeper, and potentiated communion with nature and our own true nature (swarupa). If a teacher claims that he or she is in a "special" knowledge or is in an exclusive superior or secret relationship, hierarchy, cult, tradition, mystical system or other such contrived or artificial relationship that only his/her system can dole out or which may be milked by the student, such a system is not universal, not heart oriented, nor can it honor truth, virtue, integrity, and true openness which are the basic qualities of authentic yoga.
It is not wise to carry such teachers on our shoulders, unless the student falls further victim into the clutches of separateness, delusion, and egoity through persuasions of a manipulative teacher. Rather a proficient teacher of yoga does not reinforce ego delusion, pride, or arrogance in their own life, but has realized the truth of equanimity, compassion, love, honesty, openness, and wisdom which manifest in relationships that does not reinforce dualism or separateness any further than as being "spiritual friends on the path" -- co-participators in the great evolutionary process of love together -- as kin and in Truth as being One. Even if such a teacher is human and not continuously "realized" or completely integrated with this truth all the time, a very positive sign is that he/she reminds us of this possibility as something he/she values, which is the aspiration which is at the heart of the authentic yoga process. Something comes through which is of value as the human teacher acts as a channel/conduit -- as a surrogate for the universal teacher. Authentic love is beyond concepts of separateness and does not breed external dependence.
Authentic teachers should instill a sense of spaciousness, not contractedness and limitation; abundance not scarcity; fun not competition; peace not struggle; and love not fear. One should ask, "how does the class and teacher feel"? Are you left with joy and freedom or just some new trick? Do you feel more present and does Shakti feel more available to you? Do you feel demeaned or empowered? Are you centered within with more natural poise and self confidence or are you overwhelmed and worried? Is this what you want? Can you get this from someone else? Is the class fun? Does the teacher have a sense of humor and also a sense of humor about her/him self, or do they take them self too seriously or too importantly? Does the teacher provide good cheer, joy, and shared enthusiasm or is he/she stern, glum, uptight, rigid, and dry? Is the teacher authoritarian or egalitarian? Is the teacher humble acknowledging the universal transpersonal Principle having surrendered at least in part toward honoring the Great process of spiritual transformation, or is the teacher still caught up in ersatz ego gratification.
The teacher can be dedicated and sincere and still be spontaneous, fun, humorous, and a celebrant of life. Later we will discuss the ancient yoga philosophy and the high regard yoga holds for the simple life as a further adjunct toward spiritual realization. One may ask does the teacher try to integrate such yogic teachings in the classroom or in his/her own personal life? Do you feel more integrated and complete after the class? Is the teacher an authoritarian and if not explicitly so implicitly authoritarian by placing him/her self in a hierarchical, exclusive, or privileged place in an authoritative lineage or authoritarian system? Is he/she offering a special "place", reward, or certification in this system that he/she authoritatively administers? Is there obedience, allegiance, passivity, conformity, and dogmatic belief promoted or on the other hand is creative critical thought promoted while one is encouraged in questioning "authority", exploration, inquiring, and discovering? Does the teacher create dependence on his/her self, the method, church, school, hierarchy, or lineage or is it self empowering promoting freedom? Does the teacher promote group pride, comparative self worth, condemnation of other schools, exclusiveness, aloofness, arrogance, absolute authority, and/or contempt of others or does he/she cater to a more loving universal sentiment?
The teacher should not intimidate nor make one passive, but rather evoke our natural enthusiasm and spontaneous spirit of inquiry and creativeness. The teacher should thus not reward or encourage conformity and obedience, but rather encourage exploration and awareness. We should not become dependent for their praise, flattery, approval, or acceptance as well. We should not fear their disapproval nor would an authentic teacher intimidate us through comparison. They should not motivate or encourage us by reinforcing or evoking the competitive spirit, but rather bring us into a loving and more pure motivation. The teacher should never inflate their "self" into a position of comparative importance, but rather empower and encourage us to explore the true non-dual trans-rational realm of spirit within ourselves.
The teacher should always encourage our own personal practice; while not making you dependent upon their special knowledge or guardianship. In fact the time that a teacher is most needed is when your own practice is lethargic, static, slothful, apathetic, or dull --when you are lacking in joy, enthusiasm, and have lost vigor and interest in your own practice. This is what a good teacher is for, not to intimidate or create passivity nor engender dependence or addiction. If the teacher even intimates that he/she is invaluable, irreplaceable, or necessary, then it is best for the student to decide not to carry them any further, lest a dysfunctional relationship becomes further exploited. Many "so called" teachers will not acknowledge their dependency and addiction to "students" -- their own insecurities and lack of self worth and subsequent neurotic need for self aggrandizement.
It is best however to know the subtle signs of denial and addiction. Because an authentic teacher knows that the student's best progress always comes through the establishment of the student's own direct, intimate, and personal practice we may ask if does he/she honor and reinforce that process while removing obstacles to the invocation of our inner wisdom? The teacher must affirm the inner teacher within us, our inner authority, and positive enthusiasm to further explore yoga on our own. The good teacher does not addict us to him/her, nor is he/she addicted to his/her students.
Too many teachers make the teaching seem complicated, serious, "dangerous", and external that many students are stripped of self confidence to practice, experiment, and explore asana and yoga practice on their own. They unfortunately keep on going back to the external "teacher" for further instruction, while the teacher in turn continues to reinforce the illusion of separation.
This is not to say that loving, compassionate, and awake teachers do not exist, but rather a student must exercise fundamental discretion (viveka) because of the great seductive power of self deceit, conceit, and ego delusion that is present in our current era. On the other hand it does not do any good to become phobic so that we are afraid to try a new teacher either. In one sense we have something to learn from everybody, but rather we owe it ourselves not to waste our time in distraction or dysfunction any longer, but rather maximize our time, energy, and opportunity.
Ask yourself what is the teacher teaching and what qualities of feelings do they evoke in our body, mind, emotional body, and spirit. Has the teacher come into love and peace and/or are they working on it? If not ask yourself what is the nature of the underlying teaching here and do we want "that"? What is the central teaching that you can learn in that situation?
Is the teacher manipulating your black hole of authoritarian obedience and lack of self confidence or is the teacher evoking the inner teacher and your higher nature? In real yoga, the true and real teacher is eternal, self existent, ever present, and innate. Thus in functional yoga, the job of an "external" teacher is to help the student realize and activate the true teacher inside i.e., to make intimate contact with our true nature which resides in all beings, but lies obscured in ordinary consciousness which has become modified through past neurotic conditioning.
Most teachers really are sharing what they think is important from their own experience, but we are all coming from different places. Thus it is a rare teacher who is not self involved in his/her own drama and disease. They are mostly speaking about what has worked for them and thus are coming from their biased point of view i.e., "this works well for me ergo it may work well for you". Thus many teachers (most often underneath) actually are talking about their own struggle, drama, and disease and how they are healing it -- about what worked for themselves and what didn't whether or not they are conscious of it; but is this teacher's situation, drama, or past disease relevant to your own situation and disease phase? Is the teacher mature enough to recognize "other" body types and more effective approaches according to your own unique body/mind constitution?
Does their struggle, duality, and belief fit yours as well? If their past predicament, genetic propensities, body type, karma, programming, energetic constellations, disease, and limitations match closely your own, then their style might be relevant, but also we may question in the following way. If the teacher resembles ourselves we may ask if it may be true that this relationship, involvement, and/or association may be holding us both back. This can occur when both are suffering from the same induced illusion, bias, or imbalance. In other words is the relationship dysfunctional and reinforcing the mutual illusion and share bias and disease phase? Do you relate well to your teacher because of the familiar layered language of the illusion or because of the liberatory and self empowering creative energy that the teacher activates and potentiates within you?
An authentic teacher can transcend their own experience and learn to "see" the dramas of others, even if they did not experience it in their own lives, with compassion. Such a teacher is both mature and skilled; but still the question must be asked if the teacher is capable of seeing and capable of correcting the more causal energy patterns, the psycho-spiritual dynamics, and other more causal factors of the misalignment, or is he/she only interested in working with the physical alignment. A very "good" teacher intends to work causally as he/she interacts with the physical body and breath multi-dimensionally and wholistically merely as a lever into both the neuromuscular system and the greater super-conscious nervous system interconnecting the nexus of spirit and nature, star and earth, left and right, etc., in a sacred dance.
If the teacher paints a picture of struggle, what would love and harmony look like? What would peace look and feel like and who would teach that? Ask what feelings does the class and teacher evoke and are these joyful, healing, happy, joyful, and liberating? Does the teacher weigh down your head with endless details, or do the asanas come more freely, smoothly, graceful, deeply, spontaneously, effortlessly, and automatically? Do you energetically FEEL the connection of yoga subjectively or is it merely an intellectual experience? Is there a resultant sense of liberation or one of an added burden? On the other hand is the teacher simply human and not perfect; but at the same time can you accept and live with that without becoming too judgmental or condemning? Is the teacher's intent sincere, loving, well meaning, and liberating?
If your own private practice is constantly inferior to that of a class, check to see that the problem is not engendered by the teacher. Feel free to talk to the teacher about any difficulties in your own practice. A good teacher will encourage your own practice as the essential key. If they don't, then it may well be possible that the teacher is part of the problem, perhaps in subtle ways that they will not admit or even be conscious of.
Look also to yourself to see if you are projecting too much onto the teacher or somehow there is a hidden resistance to take responsibility for your own practice or come to terms with your own energies and intimacies. Too many people are addicted to teachers as surrogate mother/fathers, as authority objects of transference, as life rafts of continuance, of objects of transference, for touch or massage, for attention, approval and nurturing, to be "fixed", "adjusted", healed, or saved. How can you become more sensitive to what your body/mind is calling for and how can you learn to listen better? See what you can do in your living space and life style to create more space or make room for your daily home practice to happen. Are you at a stage where yoga simplified life style changes, yogic diet, yoga philosophy, meditation, pranayama, or other yoga practices other than asanas may be of help? Do you feel more integrated and inter-connected after a yoga class? Is your life coming together in a spiritual and loving way?
Again this is not to say that have to seek out and find an "enlightened master" before we take a yoga class. As a matter of fact such a projection may disclose a hidden emotional affliction, a self abdication, or need for transference, which an authentic teacher will not only not feed, but will defuse. Are we caught up in a syndrome of our own doing and if so what will help us best to stay in the present, deprogram, and re-condition? In either case we can not know what forms enlightenment will take unless we ourselves are enlightened. What does an enlightened "self" look like is an oxymoron. It may be wise to ask what does the absence of a "self" look like? What does the absence of separateness look like? What does egolessness look like, what does non-duality look like, and does the teacher reflect that? Does it look like friendliness, kindness, compassion, generosity, gentleness, equanimity, and love; or does it look like arrogance, pride, coldness, and aloofness? Does it look like mom or dad or does it look like a friend? Remember suffering is due to ignorance-- it happens when we are asleep.
Some authentic teachers share with us their glimpse of samadhi while a fake teacher may emulate or conform to the perfect picture of what we may expect an enlightened teacher may look like. On the other hand some teachers may be genuinely "there" sometimes, only when they are teaching, or all the time, but how it "appears" to us is still going to be colored by our own predilections, past and conditioning until we become enlightened. In the medieval hatha yoga stories, the guru comes disguised; yet we will never know her true form until we know our Self. A good teacher thus acts as spiritual friend on the path, while all of life is an experiential opportunity to live, learn, and love. This is the safest teacher relationship where the teacher is simply sharing what they know spontaneously out of generosity and compassion.
If you are lucky enough to find a teacher who really brings you into your own power, joy, awareness, and flow -- home into your heart, then this is fortunate -- this is grace. Allow grace to occur more often! If it feels great, if joy occurs more often, if stress is reduced, if ecstasy, serenity, and bliss arises, and there appears no strings attached, then go for it! As our exploratory mood increases, as our search for truth increases, so then will our awareness and our liberation. Make sure that the teacher does not take advantage of your enthusiasm in any exploitive way, but rather naturally exudes the sympathetic joy and wisdom of giving and sharing.
Now all this does not mean that we should only study yoga with a perfect master, as such will not be found in the "external" world at all. Rather we should study with teachers who bring us home, into the heart, the Self, into the Universal One without concern about judging or deciding whether the teacher is enlightened or not in conceptional or conventional terms. Although we are simply talking about an asana teacher, not necessarily a self realized Buddha, the question still arises does the teacher teach the asanas as a spiritual discipline -- as a process for self discovery, liberation, and transformation? If not is that how you want to spend your effort, time, or money?
In order to find a "good" yoga teacher, it may be helpful to receive a recommendation from someone that you know well; but again if their body/mind constitution is very different, the teacher that appears relevant to them may not at all be "right" for you. New students to yoga are best advised to try all the approaches at least once, and then pay attention to their effects upon the body/mind -- let the transconceptual intelligence behind the prana decide. The student should always feel free to walk out of any class at any time and/or take responsibility by modifying any posture that may feel dangerous, painful, or injurious. Even two teachers that teach the same "style" of yoga may have very different classes; while even the same teacher may teach widely different classes on different days. If we are fortunate, the higher wisdom will guide us. Since this is one of the major effects that proficient hatha yoga practice discloses, our inner Gnosis may lead us to various different teachers or classes at various auspicious times.
As our connection with our inner wisdom grows, we are better able to make wise choices and follow our hunches with confidence further accelerating the process of spiritual healing. Because we are not always able to fully access or decipher the evolutionary intelligence of shakti until we reach enlightenment, we should feel free to experiment "intelligently" and not be afraid of being "contaminated" by "foreign" or new ideas. As long as we listen to our hearts and take responsibility not to create injury or pain, we can not get in trouble. As long as our motivation is pure we can always find something beneficial or useful in any class, if we take responsibility. Conversely if we do not take responsibility or get sucked into competitiveness or pridefulness, injury is also possible. Some teachers invoke before the class the guidance and protection of the sages -- the realized, proficient, and accomplished yogis of the past to guide the class, or the higher Self. This purification and protection of the space can be very beneficial -- it helps reinforce our positive intent (bhava); and there is no harm to this as long as the instructor does not do this claiming him/herself as an exclusive inter-mediator.
Sometimes a beneficial teacher or class will appear by itself once our intent is has been formed and focused, or we have asked for help; because our intent creates an energy direction and vector that is causal to events, shaping our karma, and our evolutionary destiny. Remember that the true teacher abides forever both within as well as without.
We don't ever have to become attached to a teacher or become distraught about them. Look within, the real teacher is always available. If meditation, asana, pranayama, self study, life style changes, dietary adjustments, body work, and herbal remedies do not do "it" for you, look within nature and your own true nature for inspiration and insight. Learn to dialogue with nature! All the necessary alchemical elements for true spiritual transformation are always at hand. Shakti is always here. It is shakti that gives the best adjustments. Problems arise only because we are not listening or have forgotten how to listen. A good class enhances the sacred space. It is sacred. Grace is always possible if we are able to give up the cloud of prejudice, preconceived ignorance, errant ways, false identifications, dysfunctional programs, insecurities, and fear which we bring along with us in the unaligned and disparate nexus of the fractured body/mind which is calling out for attention, healing grace, and love.
Back to Table of Contents
Credentials can often be deceiving. Their presence in some cases might actually be a "bad" sign. No one gives a yogi a certificate after years meditating or doing yoga in a cave in the Himalayas. It would be demeaning to such a yogi if someone even intimated that he/she performed their practice for such superficial or ulterior reasons or otherwise conformed to any Western type of vocational training. Rather for a true yogi, yoga is the pursuit of truth and freedom, and one travels this path for reason alone; as an intimate and ultimate spiritual journey. Rather it is more often insecure people who often find themselves in constant need of more certificates, external validation, authority, and approval. These people need to convince themselves as well as others their self worth, value, and esteem, because they have confused the small self with the larger all encompassing transpersonal Self. The more separate, the greater is the "need", Some of the most driven and neurotic people on the planet have walls full of the best credentials money can buy; but does that mean they would make a good teacher for you?
Certainly, for one who is confused, credentials look attractive, but they can be deceiving as well. They may certify some minimum skills, but such superficialities too often obscure spiritual and moral bankruptcy -- a severe absence of presence, love, integrity, purity, contentment, and sincerity. Rather a true spiritual explorer looking for instruction in authentic yoga (versus exercise, gymnastics, acrobatics, or aerobics) would be better served to evaluate a potential teacher on their loving presence, smile, integrity, peacefulness, sincerity, shakti, of ability to transmit grace --as a living embodiment of yam/niyam (ahimsa, integrity, self study, and the like).
In the modern era many Western groups are vying for control of certification standards, standardized programs, credentials, authoritarian approval, organizational affiliations, and even the dictation of ethical professional standards in a self serving quest for self validation, acceptance, and increased material security. This is neither helpful nor really needed in the true context of yoga as a spiritual discipline. Unfortunately many such organizations assert that they are doing this for "yoga", but if one reads between the lines, the underlying desire/motive is for "professional" standards be established out of fear, insecurity, personal power, and issues of status and comparative self worth and advantage -- so that they can themselves can be validated, sanctioned, justified, and approved, while competing systems that they disagree with would not. In every case such organizations push their system out of attachment, fear, personal desire, and protection, but rather than admit it, they pay lip service to protecting the student.
Not exactly pretty, this tendency toward empire building and authoritarian hierarchy is further fueled by greedy and selfish economic issues of those who hope that insurance companies will soon approve/improve "yoga" in their benefit plans to such "approved" or certified providers. Of course, none of the above yoga teacher certification and standardization organizations have anything to do with real yoga, but their existence does speak to the futility, contradiction, and confusion that is today current in the West that attempts to place yoga within the Western context as being an economic vocation or Western type profession. Simply put, in the past true yogis sought yoga teachers for reasons of spiritual transformation. After many years of practice (sadhana) liberation (mukti) and accomplishment (siddhi) are attained. Then either one's teacher sends the student out to teach or concomitantly new students seeking a yoga teacher find the teacher through recommendation or grace. Granted, yoga instruction in the West will have to be different than the East, because the socioeconomic and psychological contexts are so different; but never-the-less one's motivation is crucial -- the goal of authentic yoga is universal even if the techniques/teachings will have to be individually adapted and adjusted.
Here again it must be clarified that a yoga teacher, teaches yoga, while an asana teacher, teaches asana. Asana teachers are not yoga teachers, unless they also teach yoga. Yoga, of course means to join together and for thousands of years, the term meant to integrate the innate unity of creator/creation (shiva/shakti) within the sadhak (practitioner). Although the techniques differ widely from school to school this goal of uniting heaven and earth, spirit and nature, consciousness and beingness, crown chakra and earth chakra, and similar remains the same. Therefore if a teacher only wishes to teach asanas without including the overall context of yoga; it is best that they do not call it yoga in order to not become misleading. It is even better if they did not even call it "asana" which strictly speaking is a Sanskrit word whose meaning can not be separated from that of its definition within the scope of yoga without otherwise being corrupt; i.e., asana practice is one technique within hatha yoga which when practiced with the other methods of hatha yoga lead to the union of Ha (sun) with Tha (moon) or in other words to the resolution/remediation/harmonization of the dualistic and disparate dynamics into its greater non-dual unity/synchronicity.
Of course everyone has the right to teach and learn what they desire, but this can be accomplished more expediently and with less suffering without creating more confusion and contradiction -- without demeaning the many thousand year old traditions of what has been called yoga in the east. Hence there exist today many teachers who teach yoga like exercises, but few who teach authentic yoga according to the traditional meaning of the word.
Teachers have differing styles. Some people who chronically are in "achievement mode" (ambitious, striving and goal oriented) may desire or like physical corrections -- they may possess a need to "master" or be excellent in comparative terms or otherwise have a "neurotic" need to be perfect or the best. This is not to say that for other reasons physical corrections may be helpful to prevent injury, facilitate ease, and/or help us come into kinesthetic awareness of a previously ignored function or area; yet they can too often bring us out of our own wisdom center while even creating external dependencies and lack of inner direction. authentic instruction in yoga should always encourage self discovery, disclose the innate wisdom, and bring us into our core energy so that we can rest in that center where we know intimately for ourselves who we are. If "adjustments" help in the latter regard, rather than distract us, then they are beneficial. In either case, a true yoga teacher should neither make us dependent upon them, nor contribute toward misplacing the focus of the asana practice as a physical goal. Westerners especially are prone to perfectionism, competitiveness, and achievement orientation, thus it is a wise teacher who does not feed these tendencies, but rather disarms and dissuades them. Some teachers use physical correction and partner work as a major teaching aid, but such an approach too often caters to the desire to learn/master postures, rather than to attain the more lasting and healing fruits of yoga.
Because of the fear of the conditioned and traumatized contracted heart one too often craves for protection inside of a structure to dive into. Many yoga teachers cater to this by overloading the mind with endless specific mechanical details and objectifications, until one becomes an observer rather than the participant. As such one becomes numbed out to feeling and the practice becomes an impossible burden upon the intellect. Indeed even to live one minute, attempting to keep the body alive entirely consciously not only would burden and overload the mightiest brain, but it would result in sure death and fragmentation. Thus the analytical/reductionist approach breaking the posture down into its specific parts may be helpful in certain cases when it is designed to break up old dysfunctional imprints (samskara), dysfunctional cellular memory, fear/desire filled habits, old traumatic patterning, psycho-neuromuscular armoring, past karmic propensities, and the like; but without the overall integrative context of joining all the parts back into the whole (which is yoga); reductionism (especially in the West where the average person is already overly abstracted) is fraught with the danger of reinforcing over objectification, goal orientation, self limitation, and delusional dualistic identifications.
If a teacher never loses sight of the yoga through maintaining the spiritual and healing consciousness of the class as the dominating motif/motive (bhava), then the details will not distract -- a teacher who uses asana as a means to achieving yoga or union will augment the process of integration (as yoga means establishing union, flow, unity, deep interconnectedness and wholeness). Thus an authentic yoga teacher tries to imbibe these characteristics and context within their yoga class as a natural expression of their own spiritual sadhana. This latter kind of teacher is a true yoga teacher because he/she is not teaching how to do asanas, but is rather teaching asana as a means toward disclosing the inner teacher/teaching -- of achieving true knowledge and mukti through authentic union.
An authentic yoga teacher is a body positive and nature positive person who does not believe in mastering the body, controlling nature, or suppressing natural function. He she acknowledges, honors, reveals, and magnifies nature's beauty and power. Such a teacher attempts at all times to enhance and bring out instinct, intuition, innate wisdom, laughter, joy, and the inner creative/evolutionary potential within the very framework and fabric of the class's process. The task is to recognize, respect, and evoke the dormant, repressed, inhibited, or forgotten inner wisdom, instinct, and intuition -- it is to wake us up to our inner power and thus allow us to live an empowered and creative life. Here the class as sacred process is the sacred temple and the sacred cauldron, as well as the body is the temple, as well as the entire earth and universe in All Our Relations. sacred presence coalesces HERE and NOW in increasing awareness of the reflexive nature of the universe -- the synergistic multiple correspondences between siva and shakti. This way yoga brings us to Self and is a home coming, while anything else is a misguided distraction or corruption.
Of course the student must be open, receptive, and desirous for such occurrences and for this nothing is better than a beginner's mind of innocence, inquiry, and exploration rather than expectation or preconception.
One way to teach is through demonstration rather than to stress specific details which may detract from the affirmation of the Whole -- the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Indeed to reduce the process into its more subtle parts is in the end futile and counterproductive. It can only be productive and synergistic when the whole process is kept in perspective. Thus the detail becomes valuable when viewed as part of the continuity of the process.
Instead of concentrating on "corrections", another way to teach is to demonstrate flow, demonstrating the process as we participate in it, pointing out the love and shakti, showing one positively how one can feel much better, rather than what one is doing wrong. Take stock in the "form" that your teacher uses while being open to some one who takes us into Grace, Breadth, Breath, and Shakti. Here the communication can more easily go beyond words, intellect, the mind, and individual willpower, but rather the teacher directs to the inside of the body -- the inner teacher. This includes the somatic wisdom, the dna, the energetic inner astrological interlaces -- the chakras and our energetic spiral vortexes with the five elements and all of nature. This comes from an awareness of the breath and the nadis and thus a right brained oriented teacher can communicate this to the student's energy body and right brain directly from the teacher's own energetic stance and dance with the cosmos. When the teacher is dancing with/as Nataraj, the students are invited to join in because each student has their own innate non-conceptual/trans-rational and intuitive ability to know and feel beyond words. Such teaching and transmission here is more direct -- from heart to heart, home to home -- from Source where the teacher's voice is superseded by the student finding and coming into their own authentic voice -- their inner teacher.
Here the observer's body/mind and energy body sees the teacher's body/mind and energy body going through (in and out of) the process and "senses" the energy and intelligence which the asana can invoke. The observer recognizes, feels it, and knows it on a level beyond speech, words, intellect, beyond reductionist filtering, beyond mechanical and logical models, and beyond separateness. It is communicated through the sheath of gnosis beyond mind and thus the intelligence and energy of it is more deeply, directly, and completely communicated and understood. Thus the authentic teacher addresses balance, harmony, synergy, symmetry, and alignment deeper than the physical and hence the central channel (the sushumna) becomes activated. From emptiness the experience of great fullness is fulfilled.
If I am in a deeply felt flow, synergistic symmetry, and alignment as the teacher is in synchrony, then the inner wisdom inside the observer (student) can pick up on the process directly and become activated just as we witness art, good music, or aesthetic appreciation from a deeper space/time perception, from an inner resonance, responsiveness, or unity. If I am in deep flow, my ego drops out of the picture. I am in love and inspired. "I" am no longer teaching because there is no apprehension of separateness, but rather shakti's energy and intelligence is spontaneously allowed expression and voice. Thus an authentic teacher does not teach the asana as an end in itself, but as the process of self discovery -- the integration of the intuitive process with the psyche so that the student becomes better acquainted with Self and is thus better able to drop the stress, conflicts, tensions, and dissipation stemming from the illusion of duality, the facade of separateness, the armoring of fear, ego and delusion -- the source of our distraction.
Rather than to be lead by the hand, mechanically, logically, or to learn "step by step", an asana class can be an opportunity to allow the inner wisdom, the quiet teacher, the inner teacher, the silent witness consciousness, the trans-mental facilities, the inner Gnosis, the eternal and always present Sat guru, and living innate creative spirit to enter into dialogue, to blossom -- to become self potentiated, and empowered; to open and naturally emerge -- to taste and eventually find Self Integrity and Wholeness if such a bhava (as loving intent) is maintained. Every moment is an opportunity to come Home and to know the intimate intrinsic Self as Indigenous Universal Self without barriers of separation. This self empowerment and direct communion with one's own inner teacher/teaching is the true self realization, that authentic yoga offers.
Using the intent or bhava of authentic yoga, an authentic teacher focuses on what they are really trying to accomplish allowing the asana to reveal the higher wisdom -- allowing this implicate all encompassing inseparable wisdom to predominate. When an authentic teacher connects with the authentic goal of yoga, they commune with and catalyze the process that loosens the kundalini and thus the sacred non-dual higher potential innate in all of creation is experienced as your true authentic "self". Authentic teachers simply act as its voice, while chronic fixation and false identification with separateness, old dysfunctional habits, and the ego's delusional tendencies melts and gets out of the way. Such a teacher must surrender the limited and separate "self" on that altar of universal love, which is the self same process of authentic yoga or the class will either become superficial or counterproductive to the the goal of transpersonal union.
The authentic teacher must intend and desire with the utmost of passion and devotion (maintaining the bhava) for this innate wisdom to communicate directly, to show itself and to remind the student how to allow and activate this same Lila (divine play) which is always waiting within al of us to be acknowledged and be at any time. Through focusing on this intention the teacher prays with wholehearted devotion that shakti will lead the class, will pick the "right" asanas, will set the "right" pace, and make corrections energetically or secondarily set the tone and say the "right" words through the teacher's mouth. Since the teacher is not always completely aware or enlightened, the class never achieves its very highest potential, but none-the-less it can often take on its own energy and higher intelligence which is transconceptual, self organizing, and self instructing. In this situation students are in synch with their own inner teacher, inner child, and inner/outer process.
In this context a "good" class is one in which the ego has the least influence, and the transpersonal wisdom innate in all of creation has dominated. One is no longer seduced, dissuaded, nor distracted in owning, mastering, or conquering the asana, but rather the asana is put within the true yoga context a means of communion and connection -- of our inseparability. A good class is one where we all are "re-minded" of the timeless synchronicity, the sacredness of the moment, the creative embodiment of the spirit of love. A good class centers us in the heart equally subjectively and objectively, equally in pure beingness and pure consciousness, abiding in the deeper space of sat chit ananda. A great class is lead by the Heart.
A functional, authentic and healing yoga class is where separation, disconnection, malaise, helplessness, fragmentation, regimentation, and especially struggle has been overcome by wholesomeness, self empowerment, and relaxed release beyond words or conception - where the foundational seed core essence is exposed, emanates, and is expressed through our bones and hearts. In a "good" class, we will not be able to conceptually understand all that has occurred or what has been accomplished, and even the need to do so is entirely quenched. Rather we find ourselves more in touch with our feelings of well being and wholesomeness as we gratefully abide there authentically. An authentic yoga class is about being grounded in the body, on the earth, being present, being energized, and centered in an all inclusive integrity (that includes and affirms the body, the life process, health, evolution, creation, shakti/siva, the present, peace, and well beingness. It's about an increased self awareness, a deepening of conscious awareness, a feeling of transpersonal interconnectedness, about being in love, well and healthy, really feeling good and well about one's situation or sense of self, not just about the absence of a disease or illness -- not about conquering an asana, controlling the body, gratifying the ego, feeling prideful or better than others, nor is it about the ego possessing knowledge or spirituality. The latter attributes simply being an inadequate compensation or substitute for the former due to the dualistic ego.
Neurotic behavior is a negative reaction to a lack of meaning in life; an absence of sacred spirit; a rift from a deep sense of well being, health and wholesome self identification; an absence of a feeling of an intrinsic awareness and interaction/communion with self worth that goes beyond "meaning" altogether into direct and deep communion with non-dual Reality Itself. Activities aimed at building up pride and the ego, is not yoga, but rather makes yoga more difficult to realize.
A good class is not only not hard work or not painful, but rather it is joyful. It shows us where the bliss and freedom comes from -- where the ecstasy is -- where completeness comes from -- where everything is coming from -- IT TAKES US HOME and celebrates that. Thus it takes us to that deep intimate space which is our authentic Natural Self (in swarupa) . Feeling good can become ecstatic and this can increasingly become contagious and ever more continuous. When ecstasy, joy, bliss, and full body orgasm is more continuous, then issues of well being and self worth become meaningless -- they fade away as symptoms of a past obscuration now dispelled. Although we "do" hatha yoga not for the ecstasy as a goal, yet ecstasy should be one of the telltale aspects, symptoms, or results.
Ideally a class may have many human facilitators working synergistically and simultaneously. One facilitator may demonstrate the positions energetically and while in flow working from the inside out; while at the same time there are one or more sensitive, aware, or experienced "correctors" roaming the class offering individual and integrated energetic and mechanical direction. Also simultaneously a different instructor could serve as an articulate, spontaneous, sensitive, joyful, loving, and humorous verbal facilitator holding the energetic space in a "good" voice talking us through in a meditative, loving, potenizing, and empowering way as well. Thus an ideal class may have three or more simultaneous human facilitators; but most classes can not afford this luxury, where one teacher depending on his/her unique abilities facilitate one or more of these roles one at a time.
When I am the lone teacher in the class, I chose to teach mainly through example, because getting into the asanas themselves reinforce the shakti of the pose, the nonverbal, and transconceptual elements of the asana which I am better able to transmit more subtly and directly. Indeed shakti has her own language and method of communication. Without experiencing the intelligent energy of the pose, then and there, it is more difficult for me to communicate its nonverbal essence to the student.
This also helps dissolve the very idea of student/teacher relationship which must be constantly dissolved if we are to enter into the realm of non-dualism together. Here I too am exploring, experiencing, discovering, communing, and learning in the open state of "the beginners mind". Here the teacher also is a fellow equanimous explorer and worshiper of shakti, not a separate being higher or lower reinforcing the illusion of a hierarchical separateness. Here the student does not become dependent upon me as an outside agency to "adjust" them but rather they must dive deeper focusing upon the reality which lies both within and without. Although physical "adjustments" may in some cases be helpful, especially when they are accompanied by loving and healing energetics maintaining the meditative space, for many students this can be an intrusive violation taking them away from their inner meditative focus. Although physical corrective adjustments may be an aid for some if done wisely and intuitive, avoiding such maneuvers may be preferred by other teachers for good reasons.
The best classes are those that do not lose their focus of asana as a portal into the energetic mystery of beingness and becoming; where the teacher does not become distracted trying to teach the asana to help the student achieve the physical pose, but rather to learn the intelligent process of letting go and unwinding; where the teacher was able to let shakti teach as much as possible; while the students are graced to create enough inner space to do so; and where the teacher, also has simultaneously become the eternal student.
In a "good" class, the devotion, intent, passion, sincerity, prayers, and aspirations of the other students toward honoring the life energy and spirit help create their own motive force in the positive outcome of a class that is structured not only to allow for shakti's grace, but rather whose goal is to invoke her. The intent and mind continuum of yoga is thus augmented and accelerated.
An authentic or functional yoga class leads itself -- it energizes and WE very simply commune with "it" as the evolutionary "process", as it elevates and uplifts us, opening, purifying, irrigating, and filling the nadis. It has its own animation, power, energy, flow, intelligence, momentum, lesson, and direction and all of that is part of the unity of the class. It brings us into synergistic equilibrium -- a harmonious synchronization, and as a result a deep sense of strength, well being, awareness, health, empowerment, and peace spontaneously and instantaneously manifest more effectively than any "rational". Mechanical, willful, or reductionist approach. It is both grounding and elevating, centering and expansive. The student, the teacher, the whole class, and the aftermath of the class should glow and feel comfortable and quite "good" -- something is touched that is beyond judgment, that is familiar and dear -- that heals the rend and chasm of separateness. That bliss is what authentic yoga invokes as sacred presence.
This integration is true yoga because for yoga to be authentic, union must occur. Yoga is deep interconnectedness, yoga is intimate and energetic direct participation of the creative and intelligent divine expression of the creator through the medium of the body, the planet, the cosmos, and all of creation. As such true yoga is not static because creation is ever evolving. In this dance there is no fear -- no holding.
Authentic yoga resolves issues of grasping, desire, estrangement, alienation, inhibition, repression, and separation. Real yoga breathes life into the heart and empowers our creative spirit and allows for its expression. Here we feel rested, not afraid, but rather renewed, nurtured, and complete. Here we are not object oriented and fractured, but rather present, whole, and happily fulfilled. Authentic yoga takes us to the center -- it aligns us with our innate core energy. It thus creates peace and a sense of sacred presence; rather than reinforces or validates the idea that this can be achieved through increasing struggle, force, or mechanical imposition of will. A truly functional asana practice must be proficient in providing the healing and loving trans-rational and all inclusive fulfillment and completion whose nature is bliss for which yoga is designed (lest the practice becomes dysfunctional, corrupted, or perverted).
Our practice becomes a surrender to the intrinsic teacher -- our innate buddha nature. Thus it is at once devotional and kinesthetic in our focused desire and intent to passionately integrate and unite -- to synchronize in prayerful celebratory dance with Nataraj as Nataraj and as such we shake off the heavy burden and dross coarseness of past negative propensities, neurotic compensatory desire, karma, and bondage as we enter the mandala, it disappears. Renunciation, intent, and wisdom all spontaneously united as one instantaneous activity. Here through our practice of non-practice we are attuning ourselves to the non-dual instruction which comes from a deeper source than from mere human intellect or artificial thought constructs -- deeper than any human can grasp. A sense of liberation and empowerment is experienced as co-arising bliss and clarity.
It is to that all inclusive Self -- the Great Integrity of All Our Relations which includes the sacred yantra of physical body, speech, mind, breath, prana, and bindu -- nature and all of creation together with its inspired unborn source of all -- to that dauntless synchronization wholistic palace which brings with it a feeling of ineffable completeness -- to that which uplifts and animates, sustains and liberates and warms the heart -- to All Our Relations -- I surrender my distractions and negative afflictions and dedicate my practice!
"Directly from Teacher to Student"
(Poem by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche)
First, the outer guru reveals the dharma.
The key point is to turn the mind towards dharma.
In the middle, through the inner guru of hearing and contemplating,
The key point is to apply dharma as a perfect path.
Finally, through the secret guru of one's mind,
The key point is to liberate confused thoughts into space.
By merging the guru of the beginning, middle, and end,
The key point is that confusion dawn as wisdom.
So that the precious guru of sign, meaning, and symbol<
Remain inseparable from oneself, faith and yearning are essential.
If you are unsparing in your appreciation, faith, and longing for the guru,
Wherever you dwell in the three levels, you will meet his blessings.
If you do not find conviction in trust, faith, and devotion,
Even if your father were the guru, what good would it do?
Do not be attached to the form body as the ultimate guru.
The true meaning, the guru of the dharmakaya, pervades samsara and nirvana.
If through the confusion of not recognizing your nature you do not see that,
Let the golden scalpel of oral instructions open a hundred eyes of faith.
Look! There is no meeting or parting!
By the force of that, the unconditioned virtues accumulate
In abundance, like the joyous rain clouds of spring.
In the source of blessings, siddhi, and buddha activity,
One attains conviction free from doubt."
Back to Table of Contents
We have already discussed the role of a "safe" and reliable teacher as spiritual friend (kalayana mitra) which is associated with the idea of peer sharing found in traditional yoga as well as in Mahayana Buddhism. There is also another type of teacher (called in vajrayana Buddhism a vajra charya), one who teaches in subtle and hidden ways often upsetting the student's personal life and order. This is akin to the teachings of the coyote trickster figure in Native American spirituality, the Crazy Wisdom teachings in Tantric Buddhism, Soto Zen, and similar. Another name for the vajra acharya is the "dangerous teacher". Dangerous to whom, one may ask. The answer is dangerous to our delusions, illusions, petty clinging, pet beliefs, bad habits, false identifications, fixations, and stagnant tendencies.
Here the teacher and teachings operate outside of conventional mores, standards, and reality -- they exist to the least part on the "edge of the known world". On the official path of Vajrayana tantric Buddhism one has to have complete confidence in the vajra acharya as one's mindstream's meet as one. It is said in this path that the contradictions between where one is stuck and where one is going will collide head on, but through the guru's grace and intercession, there will be a rapid spiritual transformation.
To sum up, there is a lot of room for exploitation and derailment here, as well as rapid magical progress. My opinion is simply that, my opinion, but it seems to me that an external teacher can teach very effectively and freely without creating an externalized authority figure, external locus of authority, dependence, attachment, or addiction. Eventually one has to awaken the inner teacher in any case.
Such fast track methods of teachings have always been considered dangerous even in traditional monastic settings. Even more so in the Western milieu, where there is a great amount of pre-existing mental insecurity and disturbance, what can be said to be safe anyway (each individual's definition of safety may vary considerably). For one person "safety" means predictable, sterile, insulated, and imprisoned; while for another safety means lasting happiness, Reality, and Truth. With the vajracharya method one must have complete confidence in the teacher/teachings -- here one's rational mind is purposely subverted and utterly destroyed by the vajra master whose purpose is to liberate the student from all narcissistic vestiges while catalyzing rapid transformation without recidivism.
An authentic teacher may create sacred space and presence while upholding a external structure only in order to disclose the non-dual intrinsic and implicate order residing non-dually both inside the student and outside -- is this connection point met? This quality if present is the natural emanation of the authentic teacher's own realization -- his/her synchronous yantra of body, mind, and being. Does the teacher reside in this space?
We can thus judge the teacher's motives and goals (whether or not they are an authentic yoga teacher or not) based on whether this motive force and intent is present in their teachings and actions. If they emanate power and charisma without love and self empowerment toward their students, then we may have good reason to doubt the ultimate efficacious outcome of their teaching. Thus one may ask oneself will this teacher/teaching lead to yoga (authentic union) or further fragmentation, distraction, externalization, and alienation?
Although the student enters the situation from the veil of estrangement and dualism, the teacher may start there, but more importantly the teacher must uphold the context of the non-dual and non-separate. Even though it is too much to assume that the teacher is already perfectly enlightened, never-the-less this realization should be the overall aim, intention, direction, mood, or bhava of the teaching. In other words this motive and intent must be present. Thus it may be alright to start with some structure and staging, but only so to lead to the stageless freedom. In other words, the multifaceted techniques and means should not subvert the integrity of the teaching -- one should not become so bedazzled, fascinated, and hypnotized. The teacher may offer clear external structure, but does it at least attempt to reveal the intrinsic and implicate internal order of all things? Does the teaching lead one to find one's own conflicts, delusion, confusion, and inner demons and then eventually allow oneself to exorcise and dissolve them, or on the other hand does the teaching/teacher reinforce a further glorified externalization, diversion, and false identification?
To be plain, does the teacher assert the proposition of an external teacher, structure, and teaching to be worshipped and parroted demanding obedience without critical investigation, or does the teacher point to an intrinsic inherent omnipresent teacher? Is the goal always "there" in a distant future, or does the teacher empower you to abide in the sacred present? Is spirit, love, peace, compassion, clarity, friendliness, honesty, equanimity, and happiness full and plentiful or scarce in the teacher's presence. The above are specific questions and criteria which the sincere student of yoga may wisely ask themselves.
Does the teaching reveal the universal teaching and does the teacher reveal/reflect the universal eternal teacher? Is the teacher held to be a separate "self" or empty of separateness? Is the teacher/teaching presented as being at one and in integrity with All Our Relations? Does the teachings belong to an isolated time period, bias, prejudice, culture, exclusive club, hierarchy, lineage, country, region, religion, language, or belief system or is it universal and all inclusive -- having myriad names and forms? Does the teacher get out of the way, or on the other hand does he/she place pictures of him/herself up above the other students? Is there an attempt to extract the student into an external system, or on the other hand to place us into an intrinsic indigenous connection of natural self abiding?
Does the teacher operate on blame and scold- praise and reward, or are they free from manipulating and exploiting our past fears, traumas, negative self images, anger, and conditioned beliefs? In other words is the teacher and teachings a further obstruction -- a manifestation and continuance of transference based on limited beliefs -- an extension of our latent neurotic tendencies toward manipulation of our pre-existing negative afflictions which only furthers our history of disease and self abuse? Does the teacher act as spiritual friend refusing to place oneself outside of the integrity of equanimity, compassion and love; or do they place themselves on a separate throne above us? Does the teacher present oneself as a "temporary" surrogate mentor or intermediary for the eternal teacher who resides inside, or do they claim themselves as an essential "replacement" mother or father?
Rather the precious authentic teacher acts as a living portal -- as infallible guide that selflessly leads us into intimate contact with the inner guide and teacher -- that points out the universal teachings of the inner ever present teacher -- who reveals to us the presence of universal love and spirit -- the culminating teachings of all his/her teacher's teachers without selfish regard? In that sense going to that teacher is a pilgrimage to a holy ground -- a power spot -- our state of being is intimately transformed and subjectively we commune and abide more deeply aligned with the authentic coursings of non-separate, trans-rational, transpersonal -- Self. Grace is provided in that space and we are able to joyously surrender and offer up "not self" unto THAT altar of love. This reality is what a true teacher shares, but never claims to possess. Thus in this non-dual context prostration is done by the ego to the true teacher within inseparable from the continuous union of siva/shakti. Here Kali's swift sword releases the dualistic burden of separate self so that we can drink the nectar of emptiness that produces absolute bliss.
It is hoped that the above may create some useful context for the sincere seeker and yoga student so that they may assess their spiritual situation, and thus be able to free oneself from potential pitfalls. Inauthentic teachers often act out of pretense fed by unconscious neurotic needs of self esteem. Such teachers will never own up to their ingrained inauthenticity, nor even be capable of defending it, because they themselves have been victims of such inauthentic teachings, i.e., they teach what they know and believe it to be the "truth" and "way" never waking up to their own limitations of belief.
The above pitfall is one reason why many avoid religions, organizations, and even spirituality as such may connote a tragic ineffectual struggle; yet given its many potential perversions/corruption, authentic yoga is never far off because it always waits for us inside should we seek it. Its exploration should never be discouraged. An authentic spiritual teaching thus does not create further spin off and externalization into EXTERNAL systems, scriptures, traditions, distant heavens, or complex theory -- nor in ever more complex graduated techniques and methods; rather it is the opposite. It is the simple process of activating the inner wisdom and teacher here and now. It is at once simple and profound, but for those who have been programmed that it must be something complex and contrived, their teaching appears over many lifetimes of suffering.
Thus the authentic teaching itself is the process of Yoga itself -- it is Self Revealing as Union, Integration, Wholesomeness, and Integrity. In getting to know oneself, we get to know the Universal Self, unobstructed in All Our Relations. This is found in Divine Presence -- in the Sacred Present. The teacher thus evokes this in the each moment -- not separate -- not separate (neti -- neti). The teaching is going on 24/7 -- all the time and everywhere -- that is the truth of authentic yoga, thus the authentic teacher points to that intrinsic eternal teacher and process and activates that in All Our Relations -- the teacher is a living embodiment of the teachings.
The authentic teacher thus always points us in the "right" direction, i.e., that of the eternal teacher (sat guru) which is within all -- that all of us have buddha nature waiting to be potenized. The teacher helps us activate our dormant kundalini by teaching us how to balance the chit-prana -- how to remove the obstructions embedded in our cellular memory, in our energy body, in our karma, negative propensities and compulsive habits, vasana, samskara, klesha, mind stream, and ignorance.
This type of practice/teaching that the authentic teacher teaches is precisely that i.e., teaching and empowering us how to give up all that (samskaras, bad habits, energy blockages, kleshas, old karma, ignorance, false beliefs, distractions, and similar) as true renunciation so that we may affirm/embrace and surrender to our true self, true nature, evolutionary and creative potential. The teacher teaches us that this joyful offering and healing/loving embrace is not just an ordinary activity of willpower and intellect, but requires awareness -- the embrace of the willingness and power to be aware -- the inherent chit-shakti. This awareness must be married to the method as skillful means, just as siva is inseparable from shakti -- just as our loving healing intent is inseparable from skillful activity when the underlying non-dual ground of All Our Relations is revealed as our natural unconditioned state. The feeling of such a realization of the synchronization of pure beingness and pure consciousness is pure bliss (Satchitananda).
As such the authentic teacher not only points out the pitfalls on the path (both self existing and not yet ripened but potentially existing in the future), but more-so stimulates our motivation, spiritual passion, loving intent., enthusiasm for accomplishment. Such a teacher "turns us on" to the path. They empower rather than addict and/or manipulate the student.
In this context the external guide is never the end, but rather leads us into the good path and as such acts as an authentic portal -- a gateless gate into the world of non-separate self -- where the teachings are ever-present. Although at first a good teacher may create the stage, present the groundwork, present some structure and technique, but without creating extraction of goal orientation nor dependence on the means. Setting the stage and stirring the cauldron -- turning up the heat on the soup, the potion must be tasted in the present.
In this way intrinsic sacred presence is revealed to be -- not located in some far off land -- but within the context of indigenous time and space -- as the divine yantra, the pure balanced state -- as the perfect alignment, harmonization, and synchronization of inseparable heartfelt sacred presence. HERE the alienation and externalization of barbarism is discarded -- the Diaspora is ended.
In this way there is no "external" charisma nor "external" shaktipat which is not internal as well -- no fascination or obsession with a separate external guru which is not internal -- All Our Relations becomes our teacher and our practice is "Self" inspired, All events and activities become our celebratory dance and contact high -- OUR transpersonal non-dual co-arisen spontaneous ecstatic dance whose nature is experienced as authentic bliss -- in the laughter of absolute happiness which destroys all suffering, So Be It!
"Listen! the teacher of the teacher, the creativity of the universe,
In the midst of his uncontrived audience,
According to this inner source of all contrived quintessential teachings,
Describes how everything appears,
When you have understood the united frame of reference of this core teaching,
All other frames of reference will be reflected within this creativity that makes everything else possible.
Thus, if you know me -- the intelligence of the universe --
You will know the inconceivable truth.
If you know me -- the majestic creativity within everything --
You will know and be at peace with the reality of everything else."
Longchenpa "You are the Eyes of the World", translated by Kennard Lipman and Merrill Petersen with an introduction by Namkhai Norbu, Snow Lion Publishers, Ithaca, NY., 2000
Back to Top
How Asana Works: Natural Attunement and Harmonization
Yoga is not a Religion
The Guru and the Light Inside by Swami Rama
Who is the Teacher: An article by Roshi Kobun Chino Otagawa, Zen abbot of Hikoji
The Authentic Context of Hatha Yoga Practice: An Overview
The Guru and the Light Within by Swami Rama Tirth
An Ashtanga (Eight Limbed) Yoga Meditation Practice
Chakra Purification Meditation
Introduction to Chakra and Energy Healing
Swara Yoga: Utilzing the energy valves (swaras at the nares for tarnsformation and liberation (modified July 2008)
"Nature's Finer Forces and the Science of Breath (Pranayama Yoga)" was originally published in Sanskrit as "Science of the Breath and the Philosophy of the Tatwas"), by Rama Prasad, is available here in PDF format,
The Timeless Body of Infinite Life: Koshas, Kayas, and the divine Body (Modified July 2008)
Hatha Yoga Asana Practice: An Energy Body Approach
Kundalini Yoga from the Ground Up: aligning the body, energy body, and mind with the evolutionary power and primordial mind as the essential goal of classical hatha yoga
Neti Neti -- Not Just Separate Self
HeartMind Portal Specific to Hatha Yoga Practices
Rainbowbody Articles Index Page
Back to HeartMind Yoga Home Page