About our yoga practice
Yoga is an ancient tradition originating in India. It includes various methods and techniques leading to a superior spiritual state. There are several paths of yoga, all aiming to reach the same goal. Of those karma, bhakti, mantra, hatha and raja yoga are most well known.
The path taught at our studio is hatha-raja yoga.
Hatha yoga uses the physical body, as the field where the actions takes place and as the temple in which the ritual is performed.
This type of yoga, is today mostly identified with physical postures and relaxation techniques. The emphasis usually being physical fitness, flexibility and general health improvement. However, this is an integral system geared at using the physical body as a tool for achieving a total change focused on the internal aspects of one’s being. In hatha yoga there are three main components: Asana (yogic postures) which strengthen the body and increase flexibility, balance, awareness and freedom from body limitations. Pranayama (breath work) is done in order to cleanse, reenergize and reach one’s potential by changing the flow of energy. Dhyana (meditation) is practiced to calm the mind, create clarity and discernment.
‘Hatha’ means ‘forceful’. The nature of this training is demanding and strong. This does not mean that training is done in a forceful manner but rather it is a challenging workout that increases strength and gradually releases from the limitations of the physical body.
The practitioner becomes more aware and observant and learns to work with the energies that flow in the body; in particular Ha and Tha, which symbolize sun and moon and all dualities in order to reach balance. This yoga practice is considered alchemic, just as the alchemist aspires to turn simple metal into gold, the yogi transforms their body into a pure state.
Like an unbaked urn left in water, the bodily vessel is soon decayed. But baked well, and hardened in the fire of yoga, the vessel becomes purified and enduring
(Gheranda Samhita 1.8)
Raja yoga, the ‘royal yoga’, is the ultimate purpose of the yogic path. This is the condition in which the practitioner reigns over the senses and his thought processes. This ultimate state can be experienced in various degrees during moments of grace filled with peace and calm throughout the practice.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā (an important text from the 15th century) the hatha yoga is described as the stairway leading to raja yoga. It is said that there is no raja yoga without hatha yoga and vice versa. In the complete yogic practice the yogi shifts from body to spirit, material to transcendental.
There are many who are Hatha Yogis without the knowledge of raja yoga. I think them to be simply practitioners who do not get the fruit of their efforts. (HYP 4; 79)
The combination of the two creates a complete practice that relates to the practitioner as a whole, both in body and in consciousness in order to experience his Self.