Archives for posts with tag: hatha yoga

PhotoFunia-b3b943Here comes a special day again… I also wrote in my post focusing on February 14 Valentines Day. Why do we show our love and affection on only one day. Everyday is special. We should show our love and affection every day. It is again a special day. March 8 International Women’s Day. I am a woman so I should write a post on the women’s day. Let’s see what comes out!

According to yoga belief, human body sets up of two energies. Feminine and masculine energies. Masculine energy starts from the coccyx and ends in the right nostril, whereas feminine energy also begins at the coccyx but ends in the left nostril. The male part is hot and active while the female energy is cold and passive. The male side is solar energy but the female side is lunar energy. This is how hatha yoga came out. Simply, ha means sun and tha means moon. Body is formed with the unification of these two dual energies. The aim is to balance the masculine and feminine energies, awake the divine force believed to live in the root chakra (muladhara chakra), help rise this divine force through the seven chakras, join the female and male energies in the third eye chakra (ajna chakra) and get enlighted.

As you can see, in yoga, particularly in hatha and kundalini yoga, we have to talk about masculine and feminine energies. In fact, female energy is an energy humanity has attached importance for centuries. However, female energy was oppressed and tried to be ended in certain ages. Wichery in the Middle Age Europe can just be an example. However, it is not a coincide that in many cultures, fruitful soil is defined as the Mother Earth or goddess of prolificacy were women in many Anatolian civilizations and their hips and breasts were stressed in sculptures as an indicater of prolificacy.

When it comes to yoga, the lunar energy is yin or female energy. It is passive, accepting, cool, creative, fertile, soft, compassionate and it surrenders.

In today’s world, are we aware of our female energy? Or at what extend are we aware of it? Do we respect it? How much do we love ourselves and try to understand ourselves? How much do we listen to our body and soul?

Until I started yoga, I was a person who never listened to the demands and wishes of my body and tore my body off. I was a woman but not a woman. I was like a man and I was proud of feeling so. I was glad that I did not ask for help from men. I could carry bags, open the bumper and check the needs of the car and I could repair certain things at home.

After I started to experience yoga, I became more aware of my womanhood and I loved it. I made peace with my female energy. Before I started yoga, I was having problems with my left leg, which would not surprise you. My left leg was swollen and I had problems in the left ankle. Surely, all these happened before I accepted my womanhood and loved it.

Similarly, I was hurting myself and being so tired during the menstruation period before yoga. Even my menstruation period was at odds with me and I was having severe headaches. What happened after yoga? I started to live more relaxed during these periods. I refrained from challenging sportive activities or daily things. I was doing inversions whether I am on my period or not when I first started yoga. In time, I quitted inversions in my periods and focused on yin yoga, particularly forward bends and hip openers. I started to feel more relaxed and this regulated my periods. My headaches were gone. My temper was gone. I was less angry and stressed. All these happened as I accepted and appreciated my womanhood and female energy.

Now, you may think of me as a “wild girl”. No, I am not so. I love to get dressed and wear jewelry since I was a child. I can be considered fairly womanish when compared to some others. However, being womanish is one thing and flowing with the female energy is another.

After yoga, I started to be one with the female energy, lived and flowed with it. It became me, I became it. We were a whole. Before yoga, I was a firm person with several principles. I was not flexible. I  could not get used to changes so easily. If I had made a plan and I had to change it for a reason or for somebody, I would have been disturbed. What has changed in my life? Not only my body but also my mind stretched after yoga. As my mind stretched, I started to be more flexible in life. As Lao Tzu said, I started to be flexible as water, I bent and changed shape when necessary. I changed myself according to current conditions. I adjusted to changing conditions. I left aside principles and saw that it was more peaceful, happier and easier to live this way. Why have I forced myself this much for year? A friend of my called after we decided to meet and asked if we could delay our schedule for an hour. In the past, I would be nervous and angry that our program had changed. But now? So what? I can find something to do till we meet. Maybe this delay has a reason. Everything happens for a reason.

Being a woman? Bending, stretching, creating, accepting and surrendering… Moving with the flow of life… Accepting everything as it comes to you and just the same as something leaves you… Being one with the life, flowing with life.. Melting and eradicating the stiffness of masculine energy in the compassion of the feminine energy…
Awakening the female energy? March 8 International Women’s Day… Women! Let this magnificent energy flow out of you! What is my suggestion? Of course, yoga and particularly yin yoga. A yoga class or practice which awakens your second chakra, swadisthana chakra. That is, a yoga practice focusing on hip openers. The second chakra, including our sexual organs, is associated with sweetness and creativeness, which is not something that can be ignored. A chakra associated with the element water. As Lao Tzu said, “The best of man is like water,  Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them. It dwells in (lowly) places that all disdain.
That is why it is so near to Tao… Bend and be straight; Empty and be full; Wear out and be new; Have little and gain.” Hoping that female energy sees the support and attention it deserves in the world…

It was many years ago when a new yoga instructor joined to our gym club. I need to try what yoga is like. Many people around me, particularly my family, thinks yoga is something in which you just sit in a cross-legged position and sing absurd noices like “auuummmm.” But, my instincts tell me to try yoga, and I often listen to my inner voice.

 

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Suddenly, I find myself in a yoga class with the support of my friend. I guess it was a yin yoga class that began with “uttanasana” (standing forward bend). Naturally, I had no idea about terms like “yin yoga”, “ashtanga yoga”, “hatha yoga”, and “vinyasa yoga.” Yoga is just yoga to me. We bend forward and wait statically in that pose. I first look at myself, and I like myself in the pose, my hands are touching on the ground. I find myself fairly flexible, which makes me happy. And then I am staring at the person beside me, i.e. my friend. Her hands are also touching the ground, she is also flexible. Then I look at my left, and the person in front of me, I am looking at every one. Poses change, we are getting into different poses, and I am looking at people. It is easier for me to look people on each of my sides when we are doing a twist. I love twists. I try to see whether people around me are flexible or strong. Can they do the pose well? I am interested in everything expect myself. What is wrong with me?
I have never been an ambitious person during my whole life, neither in secondary or high school nor in university. I was a person who was satisfied with what she I got even in my business life. I worked in the same office for 13 years, but I never thought of getting a better title or moving to another department. Although I was a person with no ambitions, what was that I was feeling in the yoga class? Was it an ambition or a curiosity? Why was I staring at everybody?
This was how my very first yoga class was. I was watching everybody in the class without focusing on myself. Despite everything, I liked yoga. I decided to join yoga classes whenever I was suitable. Our instructor was talking about just the physical benefits of yoga in those firt classes. Naturally, she was also aware that we were joining the yoga class for just physical purposes. We were away from getting to understand yoga philosophy.
Our instructor started to tell us that everyone was just responsible for himself/herself on the yoga mat a few months after the classes began. Yoga was our inner journey, and we should only be interested with ourselves, and we should not try to see what others were doing. And even, we could close our eyes.
What did this mean? Inner journey, closing the eyes. No, no, I could never close my eyes. When I close my eyes, I cannot feel comfortable. Even though, this lit a light in my head. My mind was saying that it was impossible for it to accept such a thing, but at the same time it was wondering what it was like to close the eyes. Therefore, I tried to close my eyes in some sitting yoga poses. But I was still curious.
As long as I continued to join the classes, I started to close my eyes on my own, without the teacher’s instructions. In time,  I noticed that I was not wondering what people were doing. My mat was my place, we were two, me and my mat. I was feeling as if only two of us were existing in the entire studio. An inner journey when eyes closed. To my inner self, not my thoughts. Not just thoughts like what I would do after the class, how angry I got at the office. I was feeling that very moment, and how it was like to do just simple pose. First steps towards my inner self and towards seizing the moment. Like a baby crawling, standing up and then falling down. Achieving the inner journey, and then re-opening the eyes and being interested in the outside world and others. One step forward and one backward…
It was a challenging journey, but I was gradually givin up the outside world. I was enjoying the journey towards my inner self. The most important thing in this journey was to keep my eyes closed. As long as my eyes were closed, I could look into my inner self more easily and I was caring about the outside world lesser and lesser. What my neighbor is doing, whether s/he is flexible or stronger than me… I did  not care. All these were no more important to me. Gradually, I started to be interested in only myself. How was I in the previous class, how am I now? Why am I different? I did the same pose more easily in the previous class, and even I could go to the edge. So why can’t I do it now?
This time, a different journey began in my mind and my inner self. It was a journey in which the only passenger was me. In poses, I realized that my body could give me different responses each day. All these are related with my mind and spirit. I also accepted that.
I first gave up the outside world, then turned my eyes in my inner self, and started to watch my inner self, mind, body and spirit, then I tried to stop my mind.
I tried to learn how to stop my mind talking. I saw that if my body, mind and spirit were not in harmony, I could do nothing. However, if my mind and spirit were in harmony, my body could more easily move and even flow from one pose to another.
At this point, I was enlighted. Acceptance… I saw that if I accept myself, my body, my limits, my life, my environment, and everything and everybody as they are, life will flow. If I accept everything, life will be easier and more peaceful; I will have a better life. Everything will be better if I accept everything as it is and try not to change. The only thing I should do is to let flow like I do on the yoga mat. To let myself be moved by the daily flow of life, to row my boat towards the flow instead of rowing it against the flow…

Unity and integrity… Integrity of the body, mind and the spirit… Yoga.. Yoga means unity and integrity and being one and being a whole, so why do we face different types of yoga in our daily lives? Why does hatha yoga exist? Why do we name a certain style of yoga as vinyasa yoga? And then, what is yin yoga?

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In eastern philosophy, yoga is just yoga. It does not have different names and styles. Only the time during which you stay in poses can change, duration of your stay in a pose can be long or short. However, yoga is not divided into styles and types according to the duration of your stay in poses in the eastern world. In eastern culture, yoga is simply “yoga.”
Yoga has started to be named differently according to different styles after it was introduced to the west. More rapid, dynamic and flowing yoga classes are called “vinyasa yoga.” We can also define these classes as “yang” classes. Calmer, more static classes with long-awaited poses are named “yin yoga.” Actually, “yin” and “yang” represent female and male energies, i.e. everything in nature and life are either “yin” or “yang.” “Yin” and “yang” refer to opposite poles like dark and light, female and male, cold and hot. Moreover, “hatha yoga” can be defined as a style of yoga in order to be performed to harmonize female and male energies in our bodies.
It is so natural for us not to have so much time for ourselves in the daily life in the western world. Therefore, we find ourselves in gym halls after we spend a tiring day at work. When we go to gym, our aim is to “achieve the most in the shortest time.” Sometimes we feel ourselves strong, more active and join dynamic classes. Sometimes we feel tired and we wish to have peace in calmer classes.
This is exactly why the western world divided yoga into styles and addressed the working people of metropolises. If we feel ourselves strong, energetic, active and ready to sweat that day, “vinyasa yoga” can be the ideal choice for us. “Vinyasa” means flow. In vinyasa yoga classes, we flow from one pose into another with our breath like a river. Non-interruptedly, we change from one pose into another with the help of breath, and like flowing water. And as if we are dancing. Instructors can add “surya namaskar” (sun salutation series) at the beginning, middle and end of these classes. And also they can ask us to perform a set of “surya namaskar” between some sitting poses, thus we can overcome and eliminate any stiffness in our bodies if there are some at that time.
“Ashtanga yoga” is one of the most well-known of vinyasa classes. It is a style of flow yoga developed by Pattabhi Jois. It has an unchangeable flow, and it is not performed during new or full moon because we do not want to hurt our bodies with moon’s effects. This style of yoga uses “ujjayi” (hero) breath, “mula” (root) and “uddiyana” (abdominal) “bandha”s (locks) and we always have a “drishti” (a perspective) in the poses.
On some days, we may feel something different in our bodies but we cannot even define what it is. This may result because of a change in our male and female energies. One day, our male energy may prevail and the other day we may be under the influence of our femal energy. Hatha yoga can be the best thing to do under such a circumstance. In simple, hatha yoga is the yoga of sun and moon, i.e. the unification of male and female energies. We try to balance these two energies when doing hatha yoga. A bit female, a bit male… After doing “purvottanasana” (reverse plank), we do “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend) in order to regulate and balance the two energies in our bodies. “Purvottanasana” means looking towards the east, which is a male asana. However, “paschimottanasana” means the posture heading towards the west, which is a female asana. For this reason, we do poses affecting sun and moon, male and female energies, in hatha yoga. Thus, we balance the energies in our bodies and we try to harmonize our mind, body and spirit– which is the final target of yoga.
One day, we may feel ourselves tired and exhausted. Such a day may be a good opportunity to experience yin yoga and spoil ourselves. Yin yoga is a style of yoga that has come out as a synthesis of hatha yoga and Chinese Taoist tradition. In fact, what we should do is to stay longer in asanas, and feel the relaxation and stretch in our connective tissues.
Yin yoga aims at relaxation and stretch. Finding peace in our bodies and mind. Since we aim to relax and stretch up to our connective tissues in yin yoga, we enter into poses and we give ourselves in. We loosen our muscles. However, it is out of question for us to loosen our muscles in hatha and vinyasa yoga. We tighten our muscles all the time when doing hatha and vinyasa yoga, and we try to warm our bodies up by using “ujjayi” (hero) breathing and thus, aim to eliminate the risk of injuries. However in yin yoga, we aim to give ourselves in, and accept the situation we are in. Under such a circumstances, relaxation and peace prevail. Sometimes, our mood and bodies let us do yin yoga but sometimes the instructors asks us to do such a pose that we cannot stay even a single moment in that pose. We should not forget that the philosophy of yoga is associated with flexibility and acceptance. In that case, we can accept this situation and we can try another pose that has the same affect. What does this mean? We are not depended on a single pose in yin yoga. If our aim is to work a certain part of our body and affect our internal organs, then we can achieve this goal with many different asanas, not just one asana. This is what differs yin yoga from others. If our aim is to work the hip external rotator muscles, i.e. the gluteal muscles and iliotibial band, then we can achieve this goal with many poses like “shoelace”, “square” or “sleeping swan” and we can stimulate our gall bladder.
Yoga is such a flexible and wide world. The western world has adopted classical yoga to its own habits, and turned it into a system and philosophy acceptable to everyone.
In fact, yoga is just “yoga”. Yoga asanas are all the same irrespective of what type of yoga we are performing. Only the duration of our stay in the poses change. We can sometimes use props and try to modify the poses for our bodies.
Whatever it is named, yoga is the art of being a whole in the past or today’s world, in the west or the east. It is a mental and bodily relaxation and stretch, finding peace, and acceptance.
The only matter is to stay yin, calm ourselves, accept and give ourselves in, under a yang pose or circumstance whenever doing yoga or in real life. Similarly, we should become yang, get more energized, strong and active in a ying pose or situation if we are supposed to do so.
We should not forget that yin and yang is an indispensable whole. Every yin element can also be yang, and every yang element can be yin at the same time. What we should do is to balance our yin and yang energies, listen to our inner voice and insights, and meet our instant needs. This can sometimes be running or jogging, dancing, meditating, jumping, a yang style yoga, or a yin style yoga. What can we expect and hope more if we balance our yin and yang energies and if one does not dominate the other?