ON PRACTISING YOGA
500 RYT book report © 2014
Text by: Alexey Baykov
500 RYT book report © 2014
Text by: Alexey Baykov
Concepts that affected my personal practice of yoga
1. Agni Raj Breathing
Before I was acquainted to Yoga I was fond of other mind-body practices like Judo, Karate-do, Kung Fu, Aikido, Qigong and Tai Chi, that's why mostly I was oriented on Chinese and Japanese worldview which tells about lower abdomen breathing, Lower Dan Tien concentration and the concept that all movements begin from this center. What made Teacher’s Yoga so essential to me is that in the core of it lies the so-called Agni Raj breathing, which connected my previous knowledge and experience of martial arts with my yoga practice, as if a missing puzzle was put into its proper place.
The technique of Agni Raj breathing wasn't difficult for me, as I knew this kind of breathing long before I started to practice yoga, but it becoming a very important practice which now I include into my personal morning practice. Practicing Agni Raj with dynamic spine movement in Balasana-Marjariasana sequence (child pose – cat pose) is a very good warm up which quickly wakes up the whole body – physical and energy bodies at the same time.
Beginning in Balasana (child pose), I breathe in slowly and consciously into the lower abdomen feeling the expansion of all Pelvic muscles as if a balloon is filling up with oxygen and then on the exhale I mindfully contract the muscles of the lower abdomen and pelvic area feeling Moola-Bandha, which makes a hot flow of energy to rise up through the spine warming my back. After several breathes on the exhale I slowly and consciously change the pose from Balasana into Marjariasana, rising the body in a wave-like movement extending the body as the hot flow is leaving the spinal cord vertebrae by vertebrae.
After several minutes of such practice I'm full of fresh energy as if an engine of a machine was started and the mind-body structure is ready for the new active day. So Agni Raj trains conscious breathing, trains muscles of the pelvic region, which are rarely used in everyday life and trains Moola-Bandha technique which is one of the most important practices of yoga.
2. Comfortable Seat
One of the main concept of Teacher’s yoga practice which is very important for newbies and advanced yogis is finding a comfortable seat. In the Yoga Sutras by Patañjali, a seated position is determined by the word “Asana”, but not the complicated postures as most people think nowadays, so that the more complicated asana the more yogi a person is.
What is really interesting about my personal experience is that even after reading Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras, where the importance of the comfort seat is emphasized several times, most newbe-yogis, including me, don't understand the value of these instructions, and the real meaning of the word “Asana”, most reader still stay brain-washed and can’t see what is written.
I’m grateful to Teacher’s Yoga TT, where the comfort of the seat for meditation is highlighted and I had the opportunity to break through the illusions and superstitions about the importance of the sitting asanas and the importance of how a person should feel physically during meditation. So now I understand that the seated position is one of the major “bricks” of the base in building the meditation “house”.
I’m glad that I found my comfortable seat – after trying Vajrasana, Virasana, Sukhasana and Pandmasana, which made my legs feel numb after 10-15 minutes, and now Swastikasana became my favorite. When I sat in Swastikasana, which looks so simple with a foot put between a thigh and an ankle, I felt a strong flow of energy from the base of the spine up through spinal cord to the top of the head - in a second it straightened my spine as with a wave of a magic wand.
In Swastikasana the whole body becomes alert and relaxed, conscious and de-concentrated, at the same time as if awareness of body-mind is switched on by this posture. Also finding a comfortable seat made me concentrate more on meditative practices (Pratjahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samandhi), which are as important as other types of yoga practices like Shatkarma, Asana, Bandha, Pranayama, Mudra, Bhavanah, etc.
In Teacher’s Yoga Teacher Training a lot of time were devoted to meditation techniques which influenced my personal practice a lot. I paid less attention to meditative practices before and spend a lot of time in asana-flows and different dynamic practices. For now I understand that all asana practice prepares a yogi for still (Sthira) and spacious (Sukha) state of mind, which is reflected in peaceful, soothing and steady body.
Also an important part of the practice is not just doing different meditation techniques, but utilize them in a structured system so that practice begins with physical sensations that are more ruff and tangible, like feeling the air entering the nostrils and going further in the lungs, movement of the abdomen, and then to more subtle feelings as senses themselves as objects of meditation, then the mind, which is experiencing the senses, and then further to more subtle aspects of consciousness, that are beyond thinking, like prana itself as a expression of energy.
Moving from bodily senses deeper into mind, detaching from the passing thoughts and external distractions, so that we begin to watch the contents of the mind in the same way as we watched the body, but remaining separate from its processes. And then we can concentrate on the stillness and space in between of thoughts, emotions, sensations, impressions. Then the space grows and consciousness follows it, so that observer, the observed and the process of observation dissolved into oneness of consciousness.
Also one of the major keys to successful practice for me has become the importance of choosing a topic for practice which influences the choice of the type of meditation that should be practiced after asana-sequence: Pran Vayu, Apan Vayu, Saman Vayu, Vyan Vayu or Udan Vayu Meditation methods.
For now I understand how Bhavanah (visualization) technique is essential for these meditation methods. I rarely used visualization before, because I was afraid to misinterpret the real feeling of prana and to mix them up with generated visual sensations.
Though after practicing these methods at Teacher’s Yoga class I understood the importance of using Bhavanah as a fire-starter to get into meditative state of mind but then drawing all senses inward using detachment from the techniques so that meditation goes further and deeper into more subtler state beyond thoughts and visualizations.
ॐ Sri Sat Guru Paratman Namah