By Shameem Akthar
A consistent growth in your asana and pranayama practice is also simultaneously a spiritual adventure and progress.
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Unfortunately, there seems to be a trend to act as if yoga is split up into two genres – one which works the body, and another, which works the mind. In fact, a good yogic sadhana works on both.
This is actually due to yoga schools themselves setting up exclusive body-only or mind-only clubs. They are dismissive of other schools, creating further divisions. In fact, a strong body-oriented practice is meant to make you mentally fit. Interestingly, in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, sticking to a point of view as absolute is mentioned as one of the hurdles in yogic path!
Also, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says sickness is one of the six biggest hurdles on the yoga path to self-liberation. If the tool (yoga) is there, not to use it to create health or physical stamina is deliberate indulgence of the ego. Equally, there is no hatha yoga (where that is interpreted as a body-only science) without raja yoga (of the mind). This is also stated clearly in the ancient yogic texts.
For instance, the warrior series poses develop mental stamina even as they work on physical stamina. The standing balancing poses develop focus, ekagrata or one-pointedness, which is necessary for moksha. Arm balancers also remove fearfulness, another hurdle in the spiritual path of yoga. Inversions are said to release the kundalini shakti, from where she lies content at the base of the spine. Interestingly, a lot of poses considered spiritual are also very difficult: kurmasana (tortoise), vajrasana (thunderbolt), yogamudrasana (psychic union pose), guptapadmasana (hidden lotus pose). Not surprisingly, they also work on the animal instincts, calming or taming them. Even in the initial stages of practice they are said to control anger and anxiety that are big hurdles in the yoga of the mind.
So, it is essential to see that in your yoga practice you do not set limits where none exist. A consistent growth in your asana and pranayama practice is also simultaneously a spiritual adventure and progress.
(Upward facing dog pose)
Lie prone, on stomach. Place palms under either shoulder. Legs must be straight out behind. Inhale, push palms into ground, lifting entire body off the ground. Knees also lift off. Arch neck, looking up. Arch at the spine also, so the lower back feels intense pressure. Straighten arms, keep them close to the body. Hold for five seconds, breathing continuously. Release and drop back body gently to ground. Rest for few seconds on stomach, ideally in the crocodile pose (makarasana) and then repeat two times more.
Benefits: Makes arms strong, tones legs, preparing you for advanced postures. Develops strength throughout. Builds mental stamina. Makes the body flexible. Is said to sweeten the voice. Helps lose weight.
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