As explained in a previous blog, Yoga isn't just about moving around on a mat with an incense stick and tight lycra pants(#instagramyoga) Yoga is primarily a 'self practice' and unfortunately the inner work is not as exciting to look at in a little square frame on your phone.
Hatha is literally the combination of the 'solar' and the 'lunar' energy. On the left you have the LUNAR energy and on the right the SOLAR. These channels are called Nadi's. Lunar is called Ida and the Solar is called Pingala - the third is in the centre called sushumna. The combination of these balance out our heat vs cooling, feminine vs masculine, active vs calm, physical vs mental.....to practice Hatha is to strive to obtain balance between these two Nadi's in order to activate the sushumna - the central energy chanel in which the two nadi's criss cross over creating equilibrium allowing the Chakras along the spine to activate. Ashtanga has it's 8 limbs to live by - Hatha yoga bases it's practices around 7 principles which ultimately lead to Samadhi. Let's take a close look....
This translates as '6 processes / actions.'
These 6 actions are known as Kriyas which are cleansing techniques. Kriyas are important part of the practice as it clears obstacles which block energy, it leaves you feeling ready for practice. Cleanliness is important to the practice to make sure your physical and mental wellbeing is looked after and have self discipline.
Please note that these methods were not intended to be done daily but maybe once a month - once every 3-6 months. Please also note that these are Yogic practices you may want to do further research on if you wanted to try any but I do not recommend techniques without guidance from an experienced practitioner.
Dhauti - This is cleansing of the stomach. Methods include Vaman Dhauti - drinking salty water and vomiting it by inserting two fingers in the throat to induce the reflux action. This cleanses the stomach of excess bile, acid and food to purify it. Vastra Dhuati is another method in which the practitioner soaks a cheese cloth in salty water and swallows the majority of it leaving enough in the mouth to pull back out. This is a much more of an advance technique.
Basti - This is the cleansing of the bowels / lower abdomen. The technique of Shanka Prakshalana requires the practitioner to drink salty water and perform Asana's and twists until they need to go to the toilet. This is in essence an enema. They repeat this until only clear water comes out.
Neti - This is the nasal cleansing. Using a Neti pot, the practitioner fills the pot with saline solution (Salty water), tilting the head to the side the water is poured into the nostril and allowed to flow out of the other. Both sides are done. The other method is to use a thin rubber tube - Sutra Neti - which you insert up the nostril and down through to come out of the mouth. You floss to cleanse the passage. Nasal cleansing is said to be great for cleansing the sinuses, circulation for ears, eyes, nose and throat.
Nauli - This is massaging your digestive organs by applying a Bandha (Lock) and controlling your abdominal muscles to move side to side or in and out.
Trataka - This is 'gazing'. The practitioner looks at a candle flame or holds their thumb out arm length and gazes at it without blinking for up to 5 minutes for beginners - advanced may go up to 30-60 minutes. This is said to improve concentration and stills the mind. This also often makes people's eyes water which also cleanses the eyes.
Kapalabhati - this is also a Pranayama technique and translates literally as 'skull shining'. The practitioner exhales forcefully and quickly and the inhale follows automatically. The way I describe it is like a squeezy ketchup bottle, you forcefully squeeze it out and ten when you let go the air automatically goes back in. When you do this there is no need to think about inhaling, it will naturally follow. This is done 1 minute up to as long as you want. This technique forces out stagnant carbon dioxide in the lungs and strengthen abdomen muscles, lung capacity and improves energy and alertness.
Asana is the most well known part of any yoga practice, but as you can see, this only forms part of it. Asana means 'Posture.' The whole concept and idea of performing Asanas is to ensure your physical form is healthy so you can be free from ailments and to be able to sit for long times in order to meditate.
Pranayama is to 'expand your life force' and people often shorten it to breathing techniques. Find out more about it here.
Mudras are 'gestures'. These gestures help to channel energy and improve attitudes.
The 5 types of Mudra are hands (Hasta), head(Mana), postural (Kaya), Bandha (locks) and Perineal (Adhara).
More on these in a later blog.
Bandhas are part of the mudra's and pranayama techniques, but just as Kapalbhati is a pranayama and a Shatkarma, Bandha's are an important function in their own right. Bandha's mean 'lock' or 'tighten'. The
four types of Bandhas are :
1) Jalandahara - Throat lock
2) Mula -Perineum lock
3) Uddiyana - Abdominal locks
4) Maha - All three at the same time
These locks serve to retain energy to be concentrated in certain areas of the body during some of the practices and helps activate Chakras.
This means meditation, this combined concentration and awareness. Pantanjali describes it as 'continuous flow of concentration.'
Often people mistake meditation to be to 'empty your mind'. (Of course that is when your mind begins to throw up made up scenarios, the time you called your teacher mum in year 4 and everyone laughed and the shopping list for tomorrow..... Meditation is as described, concentration and awareness. It's anchoring yourself to the present moment to observe, be aware and focussed without letting your mind drift into thoughts unrelated to the moment. This is easier said than done of course, say you are thinking, 'I here in my living room....I am relaxed...oh wait I need to hoover the floor when I'm done with this! Okay, think about being here...after the hoovering I need to wash the clothes...and I'll text Rachel back about next wednesday, although the weather looks bad so maybe I'll suggest coming to my place instead of outdoors...oh and I left the bike outside and haven't locked it yet, oh my God what if someone is stealing it right now? I better go check I should've stuck it in the garage..." and so it goes that despite sitting there for 10 minutes, you let your mind race and wander....)
And so to start I would pick something to concentrate on - breath is a good one as it's always there for you. Like anything in life, you need to practice your concentration before it becomes second nature.
Samadhi is the point at which the practitioner's ego dissolves and your mind's fluctuations still you experiences a higher