I attended my first Hatha yoga (the physical asana practice of yoga) class at age 21 taught by a Kripalu teacher at a local gym in the Boston area. There was no music. There were no stylish tank tops nor skin tight capri pants. Although somewhat athletic, I was significantly challenged physically by my apparent lack of core strength and balance. But even more so, intrigued by the mental impact. I was quickly fascinated by the rhythm of my breath and the inner stillness I felt after class. Why was it easier to inhale than exhale? Why did my mind wander anxiously during relaxation? Within a month, I was hooked and so began my journey diving into self awareness, mindfulness, meditation and various styles of yoga.
Many people in America begin Hatha yoga for the physical benefits and the collective workout to a hip soundtrack while wearing stylish workout apparel. Some are easily consumed by the promise of a healthy physic and the assumed superiority of advanced postures. Those who stick with it and find more seasoned, authentic teachers, however, hopefully get to other layers of knowing themselves, their bodies and non duality experiences. There is so much more to yoga than what is typically offered in a Hatha class in everywhere America. Below is a favorite quote of mine that captures the essence of my shared beliefs on the practice.
"However beautifully we carry out an asana, however flexible our body may be, if we do not achieve the integration of body, breath, and mind, we can hardly claim that what we are doing is yoga. What is yoga after all? It is something that we experience inside, deep within our being. Yoga is not an external experience. In yoga we try in every action to be as attentive as possible to everything we do. Yoga is different from dance or theatre. In yoga we are not creating something for others to look at. As we perform the various asanas we observe what we are doing and how we are doing it. We do it only for ourselves. We are both observer and what is observed at the same time. If we do not pay attention to ourselves in our practice, then we cannot call it yoga." The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V. Desikachar
If you are new to Hatha yoga or have been practicing for some time, I encourage you to drop deeper into your internal experience. Forget about what you look like and achieving a certain standard, and instead be a witness to your breath, your intuition, your teacher on the inside. How we behave on the mat is a good reflection of how we conduct ourselves in life off the mat.
Swadhyay literally means "the study, knowledge, and discovery of the self" and is one of the five Niyamas recommended by Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (Niyamas mean daily observances). Look it up!
This is where I share MY TRUTH.... authentically, some of my thoughts, inspirations and insights that might be of service for whomever has interest and need.