What is Hatha Yoga and Who is a Hatha Yogi?
Hatha Yoga, in my understanding is a path leading to higher consciousness through an in depth, ongoing study of body and mind.
There are other types of Yoga, all paths leading towards the same ‘higher truth’. However, the Western world hears much less about these Yogis. The only difference between them is the ‘vehicle of exploration.’
For example, a Bhakti Yogi practices through love and devotion (ie prayer, chanting) a KarmaYogi practices through selfless service, and a Jgnani Yogi through intense textual study.
A Hatha Yogi is also a seeker. She is a curious explorer and investigator through the vehicle of her own body. This curiosity is her greatest passion. It accompanies each breath and movement. Through such a path, a devoted practitioner acquires valuable skills and tools which can greatly enhance her life.
What is VIJNANA YOGA ? How does it differ from other Hatha Yoga styles?
What matters the most for a Vijnani Yogi is the quality of awareness during the practice, and this can be developed and honed from the simplest of poses to the most difficult. The awareness is always the same.
By practicing in a way which encourages us to notice, to pay attention, to observe what is being experienced, the mind becomes aligned as well.
For example, feeling the evenness of two sits bones in the ground, or the back heel connected to the front knee in Warrior 1, or noticing parallel hand and foot in downward dog, etc. can create balance and evenness of the mind.
Observing the Central channel or Nadi in the body cultivates a centered state of mind. Feeling the touch of the body with the ground in Shavasana ( corpse or relaxation pose) allows the body to drop heavily and so the mind ‘drops ‘and unwinds.
Wherever the body becomes quiet, even, open and balanced, the mind follows. Through such a practice, the Yogi can experience bliss, Healing, and/or elevated levels of consciousness .
On the other hand, if the practice focuses mostly on the body ‘doing’ many asanas, often quite challenging ones, in rapid succession and speed, the mind cannot catch up. When the focus is not on noticing how the body feels and responds to the various practices, or, it becomes predominantly about the pose or asana, injury may occur. Additionally, precious fruits of the practice may be missed out on. While the physical aspect of Hatha Yoga is essential, it is NOT meant to be separated from it’s ancient roots.
Vijnana Yoga means Yoga from the Inside.
In this style of Hatha Yoga, we explore not just the pose, but what is creating and enabling the pose. We cultivate each Asana (pose) through the 7 Vital principals of Vijnana Yoga: Relaxing the body, Quietening the Mind, Intent, Rooting, Expanding-Elongating/ Widening, Connectivity & Breathing. These principals work together to create a heightened quality of practice.
We prepare the energy body to support the physical body through specific Pranayama ( breathing) exercises and through developing an ever increased awareness of subtleties throughout the practice. (ie: noticing the touch of your hands on your body, your feet on the ground, or the air on your skin.)
Many typical yoga classes can become about fitting in as many poses as possible and then finally collapsing in Shavasana. Such a practice can often result in injury, and tire out the practitioner. Instead of experiencing buoyancy and vitality, it can become exhaustion and pain.
The focus on subtle awareness throughout the practice slows everything down, and keeps the Yogi focused on her path as a seeker of truth; exploring higher consciousness through connecting body, mind, emotions and spirit.
Practicing with these underlying qualities has deeply supported me over many years, helping to overcome various physical injuries as well as traumatic life events. My life has been greatly enhanced by this quality of practice.
I am grateful to my teacher of the past 25 years, Orit Sen Gupta, creator of Vijnana Yoga, who has patiently and lovingly shone her light.