Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection
“Wow! I can really ‘do’ yoga now,” is a statement I often hear from all types of folk who are exposed to the Yoga principles that Krishnamacharya made clear. Instead of trying to climb a mountain each day in the effort to achieve standardized goals, the practice changes to a deeply pleasurable absorption in Life. I see such relief from people as they contact their energy and source. For strong athletic types or others with health limitations, these principles make Yoga extremely empowering.
“If you can breathe, you can do yoga,” Krishnamacharya used to say. “Anyone who wants to can do yoga,” he asserted, “but not just any yoga.” He insisted there was a perfect asana program for every person that immediately resulted in yoga: more peace and power. Every body can realize. Today!
It was not a struggle to attain physical or spiritual gymnastics for some future goal, but a direct participation in our own Wonder and nurturing force of Life. And he gave precise instructions so that you and I can custom-build our practice to make it authentic and efficient.
To my astonishment in my early days of studying in Madras, in the home of Krishnamacharya, I learned that the purpose of the asana was to participate in and enhance the breath. The asana was not there for its own sake. Professor Krishnamacharya explained that the ancients perceived the breath, and not the heart pulse, to be the most critical function of the living organism. What is so magical about the breath is that we can intentionally take part in and develop this underpinning depth of our life. All other critical functions of the system then strengthen, including the heart and vascular system.
So asana is for the breath. And the breath is your guide to the asana. The careful selection of asana movement for each person ensures that the breath is strengthened without any struggle. Because the great power of the anatomy is being used to move the breath, it moves with ease as we contact our depth, our source. “Let the breath be your Guru,” the Professor said. Forward bends and twists facilitate the exhalation, and back arches serve the inhalation. In advanced asana, the structuring of the whole body around our breath forms bandha, the channeling of life force. Asana is hatha yoga, ‘ha’ and ‘tha’ — sun and moon, “strength receiving,” which is enacted by exhalation and inhalation. This matter is vital because strength that does not receive is destructive to itself and others. In strong asana we should see that the muscles and joints are soft enough to receive the inhalation.
We can make sure that our asana is hatha yoga. Practice is participation in all the natural polarities of life, left to right, above to below, front to back, inhale to exhale, inner to outer, spirit to form. To realize that one aspect does not exist with out the other we feel the heart or wholeness of things. It has profound implication to our life and health. The challenge of the practice becomes the energetic rhythms of the body, breath and mind as one. The breath quickly builds an unusual strength into our life, soft and strong, durable and responsive. The extreme intelligence, which is your life, is permitted to thrive.
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