Hatha Yoga in the classical sense is a journey of integration where the body becomes the perfect vehicle for a different kind of consciousness – the adamantine body. This happens through integration – where the physical form is transformed by the substance of that consciousness. Through breath and positioning the energy channels of the body – the nadis – become clear. Allowing yourself to experience breath in the varieties of positions is essential. And I use the word “experience” deliberately. It isn’t about forcing the breath through a posture that feels stuck. It’s about being easeful and allowing enough that the breath can still be felt and enjoyed regardless of what shape you in. In that sense it is a cleansing the breath is a cleansing solvent for the nadis. There is not better place to breathe than in a posture where you are bumping up again your limitations. Often they are not muscle and bone, they are energetic – energy is stagnant. And, when the energy is stagnant, so is your mind. Movement is so important, and yoga asana is designed for this. This cleansing of the physical form allows the spirit to become more tangible in the physical realm. A well-done posture facilitates this integration.
That intersection of matter and spirit begins at the level of the thoracic spine – at the heart. The integration is simplest and most straightforward in the backbends. This alignment of these two forces (material and spiritual) occurs when the feet are well positioned. Parallel the feet in a back bend and the point of integration of the primary opposing forces – of gravity and upliftment is shifted from the lumbar spine to the thoracic spine. This creates a gentle, subtle space in that very restricted area. You will know the opening has occurred by the way you feel. There may be tears or a sense of wonder or great love which occurs with the opening. The practice at that juncture is to be spacious and allowing of the powerful feelings which unfold -and to understand that your practice is moving into another level – beyond mere physical release and into transformation.
Interested in stepping a little more deeply into the philosophy and inner practices of yoga? I send a newsletter once a week or less, in conjunction with blog posts, where we explore the inner practices of yoga within the context of a life. Sometimes drawn directly from the traditional yoga texts, and sometimes just commentary on the big picture of a yoga practice – I always intend it to convey something that will be useful to you. I don’t sell anything in these newsletters – it’s an offering and a way to keep my own practice fresh.