‘AS THE SEED IS IN THE PLANT, AS THE SHADE IS IN THE TREE…’ (Kabir)
Yoga Nature has grown from the seeds of classical Hatha Yoga – and is ever evolving… From the Yogic perspective, real understanding can only arise through direct experience. By exploring Yoga’s Seeds of Practice, we not only improve our health and wellbeing, we can also access a deeper place within ourselves – and awaken into our connection with all of Life.
NATURE – WITHIN AND WITHOUT
The natural world is one of our greatest teachers. It invites us to reconnect. It reminds us of our true Nature. If we take time out to be with, and in Nature, we rest quietly in the simplicity of Life being lived all around us. Growing, flowering, transforming. We begin to feel the embrace of peace and harmony that is always with us. And a natural rejuvenation starts to unfold…
DHARMA – AN INNATE WISDOM
‘That without which nothing can exist; “As it is, so it is”… That which supports us in the same way that a tree “supports” its leaves…’ (1)
Both simple and complex, Dharma refers to an innate Wisdom, the Universal Truth or the Natural Law of Life. It encompasses and supports all of Life, including ourselves. As we dive deeper into the practice and experience of Yoga, we can draw upon the essential insights and teachings found within the wisdom traditions of India (particularly Yogic and Buddhist philosophy). These Teachings arise from direct experience, and are an invaluable guide for understanding ourselves, our Practice, and all of Life. As our understanding of the Dharma grows, so does our understanding of Life itself.
EMBODIED ASANA – STEADY AND SWEET
‘Yoga must not be practised to control the body: it is the opposite, it must bring freedom to the body, all the freedom it needs.’ (2)
In the west, Asana is generally referred to as physical postures. However, in the practice of classical Hatha Yoga, Asanas are a deeply embodied experience: ‘Dynamic internal dances in the form of postures. These help to keep the body strong, flexible, and relaxed. Their practice strengthens the nervous system and refines our process of inner perception.’ (3)
When we practice embodied Asana, we practice with the intention:
‘sthira sukham asanam’
Asana should be steady and sweet.
(Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Sutra 11.46)
Or more specifically, every Asana: ‘…should be done with a feeling of firmness, steadiness and endurance in the body; goodwill in the intelligence of the [mind], and awareness and delight in… the Heart’. (4)
In a Yoga Nature class, we explore and learn the core principles of embodied Asana. Working with these principles, we are able to access a deeper, more subtle Awareness of what it means to be comfortably centred ‘in the Body’ as well as the Mind – and Asana becomes a delightful meditation in action!
VINYASA – IN THE FLOW
The poetic nature of the body and breath. The poetry of the Aliveness!
In Life, everything is connected, there is always a flow… In Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa means ‘to place, or put together in a special way’. Quite often, this is referred to as a vigorous and dynamic series of physical movements.
However, the principle of Vinyasa can also be experienced as a moving meditation connecting the body, breath and mind – within a single Asana or posture, as well as within a series of Asanas strung together like a mala (garland). Although not visibly perceptible to others, Vinyasa can also be experienced on an even subtler level – as the continuous flow of the breath.
No matter what aspect of Vinyasa we are exploring at the time, there is a common thread – All are never static. All are full of Aliveness and Prana (life force). There is always a flow…
PRANAYAMA – BREATH IS LIFE
Pranayama is the ultimate tool to energise the body – steady the mind – and access our Bliss!’ (5)
The practice of Pranayama is beautiful and profound, and is one of the most essential and important cornerstones of Hatha Yoga. Generally, Pranayama can be defined as breathing practices, however, this does not convey it’s full meaning.
Prana mean vital energy or life force. Ayama is defined as extension or expansion. Therefore, Pranayama means extension or expansion of the dimension of Prana. (6)
We can access the subtle, energetic benefits of pranayama in various ways:
• Simple, mindful, unrestricted breathing – feeling the natural flow of the breath;
• Learning to synchronise the body with the breath – energising and free-flowing; and
• A more in depth study and practice of the essential techniques and rhythms of classical Pranayama – a transformative and complete practice within itself!
These techniques can be explored and cultivated to harness or encourage the free-flow of Prana – and can be either calming or invigorating, depending on the intention of our Practice. As we open up to the transformative qualities of Pranayama, the vibration rises, and we begin to access Life’s most subtle energy – the Aliveness!
MEDITATION – THE DOOR TO AWAKENING
As our Yoga practice evolves, we naturally prepare the body and the mind for Meditation. Meditation is vast, open and limitless, and therefore incredibly hard to define! In it’s simplest terms, Meditation is an act of surrender and letting go – of resting the habitual mind and all of it’s patterns, stories and distractions. It is in this letting go that space is created for insights to arise, and a deeper clarity and connection to take shape. The practice of Meditation allows this space, and from within it, the potential for something to spontaneously arise and expand…
There are many techniques and forms of meditation, but at it‘s essence, it can be as simple as mindfully watching the breath, aware and fully present in the moment – to just simply be. Sitting meditation as well as deep rest and Savasana, are all forms of meditation. In time, and with dedicated practice, compassion and patience, we begin to fall in Love with Meditation and the sense of peace and equanimity it brings. It then becomes an integral and beautiful part of our Practice, and our lives – pointing the way to the door of liberation, and beyond!
SVADHYAYA – SELF INQUIRY AND AN OPEN MIND
Svadhyaya means study of the Self. Quite often the practice of Yoga becomes a catalyst for a deeper inquiry into the question ‘Who am I’, and how we relate to ourselves, and the world around us. The essential ingredients for Self inquiry to flower, are a natural curiosity and an open mind.
When we take the time to look deeply into the nature of ‘Self’, we slowly begin to see our true colours, and real understanding starts to flower. With continuous dedication, and unwavering patience, this practice of Self Inquiry, Mindfulness or Witnessing Awareness, provides precious insights, that shine a light on the path to Freedom!
SANTOSHA – GRATITUDE AND EQUANIMITY
The meaning and essence of Santosha is contentment. Having an acceptance and gratitude for what life presents to us in the moment – both pleasurable and painful – and experiencing this with equanimity. Not an easy task! Our practice of Yoga provides fertile ground for the exploration of Santosha. It is a seed of practice that requires constant attention and care. As our understanding grows, we begin to feel a natural gratitude – for our Practice, ourselves, and all of Life… this gratitude spontaneously arises from a source within the Heart, like a bubbling spring. Inexhaustible, and ever fresh!
All of these Seeds of Practice need to be planted and nurtured. In time they will grow, flower and bear fruit… revealing our true essential Nature!
‘Put seeds and cover them.
Blades will sprout
where you do your work.‘
1. reflections upon the meaning of Dharma, by Open Dharma
2. Vanda Scaravelli
3. Donna Farhi
4. BKS Iyengar from his commentary on the ‘Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali’
5. experiential wisdom from my dear Teacher, Clive Sheridan
6. BKS Iyengar ‘Light on Pranayama’, sourced from Yoga Arts