You can “Look Inside” Hatha Yoga: The Essential Dynamics at Amazon.com and find FREE Starter PDFs and other resources at the end of this post.
Disclaimer: I wrote the introduction below long ago, so please excuse the hype born of youthful enthusiasm. I have toned it down some. In any case, you may find this helpful. After all, there is an element of truth in all hype and myth. Yoga is actually a lot more mysterious to me now than back when I wrote this. What I wrote reflected more of my belief at the time, along with wishful thinking. Now, Yoga is more profound than I knew back then, yet also less of a panacea than I hoped back then. That’s a good trade off.
Most important: Now at 75 and with arthritis, I deeply appreciate the fact that Yoga allows me to vigorously work my body without stressing its declining frame. This is also true of Tai Chi.
Living things have one fundamental objective—homeostasis: a state of physiological and psychological equilibrium produced by a balancing of the life process. This, including having little thought of self and as few desires as possible, form a foundation for contentment.
Psychological equilibrium hinges on awareness. How you perceive life determines how you feel about it. Garbage in, garbage out… as they say. From the start, Hatha Yoga give you an occasion to deliberately practice moment to moment awareness. Beyond that, however, Hatha Yoga strengthen the physical foundation upon which awareness rests.
Awareness is manifested through the nervous system, which is influenced by the vitality of the other body systems. Modern living causes some atrophy of the original vitality you were born with. The natural animal vitality readily seen in the wilderness begins disappearing in the civilized human even by the time he/she starts to talk.
Returning to your original vitality depends on the optimum performance of each body system. Improvements in performance, in turn, depend upon a fundamental law of evolution—development follows the steady utilization of potential. For example, the frequent use of a weak heart through exercise develops microcirculation in this muscle, which helps keep it free from disease. In Hatha Yoga, complete physical health is achieved by discovering and challenging all weaknesses. This steadily increases the efficiency and vigor of all major and minor parts of the body.
The body systems are intimately interconnected, so that even subtle changes in one area eventually affect the whole body. With this in mind, observe below what happens physiologically through Hatha Yoga.
The body systems become highly developed through several events occurring simultaneously in each posture: the total relaxation and stretching of some muscle groups and organs, intensive contraction of others, and controlled diaphragmic and costal breathing. Among other things this results in:
- Increased capillarity and blood cell count which can greatly improve the blood circulation in the critical glands, nerve networks and other organs and tissues of the body, thus increasing metabolic efficiency.
- A toned and massaged endocrine and nervous system which produces a more responsive control and feedback loop for the various body functions. The body’s physical and mental harmony relies totally on the efficient functioning of this loop and its associated system, circulation.
- A massaged lymphatic system which drains the body of dead cells and toxins, and improves the inter cellular circulation and absorption of body nutrients.
- A massaged digestive system which speeds up and improves nutritional absorption and waste elimination in the intestines, thus helping to prevent many illnesses of the digestive tract.
- A toned, strong, and limber muscular system which gives you a comfortable, well functioning and beautiful body for the rest of your life.
In addition, each Hatha Yoga posture is a physical mantra so that through the watchful practice of one, the mind is led into a meditative state, This, it seems, gradually aligns billions of cortical synapses into new and/or better integrated neural matrixes which facilitates memory, concentration, relaxation, and finally expanded awareness.
The unique thing about Hatha Yoga is the condition under which meditation takes place, To sit calmly and meditate is one thing, but to learn how to remain calm and meditate even under difficult active conditions is full meditation of the deepest kind,
Awareness of the subtle qualities of mind and emotion depends on the same evolutionary law governing the improvement of physical health. In Hatha Yoga, the mind and body are developed simultaneously, and actually assist each other in the process. To see how this is so, let us begin by looking into the meaning of Hatha Yoga.
Hatha is actually two words, Ha = sun (Yang), and Tha = moon (Yin). Ha is work, the burning fire of the body radiating energy, and Tha is the reflective quality of mind; the deepest root of awareness or being that watches and enjoys. Yoga means a merging or joining. So this is the Yoga of Ha and Tha; the union of the reflective still mind and the creative active body
The mind is always agitated to some degree, especially when confronting difficult circumstances. In Hatha Yoga you go to your physical limits. This demand for perfection in action brings you to your mental and emotional limits. Thus you are brought head on into the usual compulsive emotional reactions which cloud the reflective mind in daily life, i.e. laziness, compulsive expectations, frustration, insecurity, and scattered—mindedness. These are the involuntary mental and emotional states which upset homeostasis, and hinder happiness.
Do thy work in the peace of Yoga and, free from compulsive desires, be not moved in success or in failure. Yoga is evenness of mind—a peace that is ever the same.
Bhagavad Gita 2-48
In Hatha Yoga, you gradually face up to and gradually let go of these reactions. Your objective is to work with perfection while maintaining the calmest reflective awareness possible: to watch but not get emotionally dragged into the battle of life. This challenging situation uses all the powers of mind and body that you can muster. Use it or lose it.
Thus, Hatha Yoga deliberately sets up a training situation in which you can discover, use, and thus strengthen various qualities necessary for self-harmony: reason, vitality, patience, carefulness, attention, love and finally the peaceful attitude of self surrender’.
These qualities, applied to daily living, help you keep perspective. This helps you avoid getting lost in restless desires and destructive reactions which, along with health, bring the happiness more within reach.
Download and print these PDFs of the first few programs and lessons. This will give you enough to launch you into a sound Yoga practice.
Some general and perhaps essential information for anyone serious about doing Yoga.
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This book and the Bhagavad Gita are all you need to take you to the end of ‘knowledge’. Then it will be up to your intuitive common sense and watchfulness to tailor a Yoga practice to fit your nature.
The Bhagavad Gita was the most important asset in my study of Hatha Yoga. What I found most important in Yoga was not how to do it, but how to approach doing it—attitude. The Bhagavad Gita goes right to the heart of attitude.