Cultivating Relaxation & Openness through Yoga Practice
Using the Body to Discover the Self
In Hridaya Hatha Yoga, the physical postures (asanas) combine with Advaita, the non-dual vision. Asanas are performed while holding the inner spiritual attitudes recommended in the traditional texts of Tantra Yoga and Kashmir Shaivism. The practice is oriented towards getting intimate inner knowledge of the physical body and its bio-energies as well as of our Real Nature, the Spiritual Heart. Therefore, a contemplative attitude is indispensable.
Hatha Yoga practice engenders relaxation and happiness rather than effort or strain. Even if it, by itself, may not result in spiritual realization, Hatha Yoga can give us a more adequate “starting point” on the spiritual journey. At Hridaya, Hatha Yoga is practiced to create the state of relaxation and openness needed in order to realize the transfiguration of the body. Therefore, it is very important to maintain the witnessing attitude, which, through the alchemy of asana practice, leads to the intuition of our True Nature.
The Natural Yoga of the Heart
Hridaya Hatha Yoga is a natural yoga, a free expression of energy, where everything is done straight from the Heart and with all our heart. The difference between natural yoga based on the free flow of energies and yoga practiced with the only goal being to push energy in certain directions is similar to the difference between the Heart and the mind. When yoga is practiced mechanically, our starting point is based in the individual will and mind.
That is why we do not “teach the asanas.” Instead, we learn meditative attitudes meant to develop our inner sense of freedom. These attitudes are supported and favored by the Hatha Yoga techniques. The awareness of the Spiritual Heart and the attitude of surrender enhance our ability to harmoniously express our personality, improve our ability to focus, and increase our discernment and dynamism.
Yoga postures are a practice of samyama, a turning off of the mind’s filters to allow an intimate identification with the body, energies, sensations, breath, and higher mind. By sublimating energy in spanda, the Sacred Tremor of the Heart, we rediscover the sacred and devotional aspects of Hatha Yoga. Asanas have a devotional aspect as well, because they open us up to our inner guide, which is exactly this tremor. This leads us to who we really are.
Yoga—Joy, Relaxation, Celebration, and Surrender
The Spiritual Heart expresses its radiant power of love and happiness in every asana. At Hridaya, we do not focus our attention on performing a spectacular or artistic pose but on awakening and expressing the inner happiness of the Heart. We use the body to allow this happiness to radiate through it, removing tensions, strain, and stress. We avoid practicing in a dry, mechanical way and seek to awaken the happiness, love, and the clarity generated by the awareness of the present moment.
When the physical body is positioned in an asana and there are no tensions or unnecessary muscle contractions, we perceive a real “blossoming” of the free flow of energies. In this way, our asana practice reflects a positive, life-affirming attitude. It allows us to completely open our hearts and celebrate life. The asana becomes a mechanism for transformation and spiritual healing, a process of revealing our Divine Nature, not just an “energizing and healthy” exercise.
We start and end the yoga practice reminding ourselves that yoga is ultimately a spiritual art and that the revelations which we may have cannot derive from our personal efforts alone, but primarily from the capacity of surrender or letting go of our individual limitations.
The Role of the Physical Body and Emotions
We see the physical body as a divine instrument designed to enable us to experience the ecstasy of recognizing and glorifying the non-dual, Infinite One, Advaita, in the domain of multiplicity, samsara.
The physical body is a majestic manifestation of the spirit, not just a mass of dense matter. In a similar way, our thoughts, desires, passions, and emotions are not obstacles in the way of spiritual awakening to be repressed or eliminated. Rather, they are tools for expanding individual consciousness and, even, for transcending it.
Our physical body and subtle energies represent divine gifts meant to help us discover the most profound sense of freedom. We aspire to develop and refine all aspects of the being: the body, mind, intuition, mental clarity, purity of emotions, and our most profound virtues.
The Witness Consciousness
We cultivate an awareness of the Witness Consciousness. However, the harmony of performing an asana spontaneously induces an intuition of the consciousness of the Divine Self. Our own intuitive knowledge of our nature and the detachment from the physical body make energy flow more freely so that spanda may awaken more easily. Through Hatha Yoga, we aspire to the complete freedom and happiness of the Pure Existence, of the “I am.”
Hatha Yoga creates a greater fluidity of the energies of our being. In addition to flexibility and relaxation, we feel more balanced and free. At Hridaya, the amplification of energy is accompanied by the development of the capacity to witness it. This results in increased clarity and the centering in the Spiritual Heart, which favors creativity and the ability to get closer to aspects of life that inspire us.
Hatha Yoga sessions are seen as a whole, as a unique dance, as a communion with life itself, as an expression of a unique impetus for celebration and the revelation of our Divine Nature.
The Seven Steps of the Hridaya Hatha Yoga Asana Practice:
The Witnessing Attitude and Open Attention: These represent the underlying background of the entire asana session. We observe thoughts, trends, and patterns, and keep a non-reactive attitude toward them.
Entering the Asana: We emphasize the relaxation of the body and the slow movement of getting into the posture. This is meant to increase the elasticity of the joints and muscles. We do this movement with the joy that a cat or a dog has when it stretches its body. It is the same naturalness and feeling of spontaneity. We perceive how the movement itself releases tension.
Immobility: The body remains motionless and still (kaya sthairyam). After we settle in the final position, we try to maintain the complete immobility of the body, which induces the stability of the mind.
Open Attention: We have an awareness of present moment, attuned to any kind of physical or subtle sensation, impression, energy stream, or chakra activation that might appear during an asana. Thus, we remain in a state of observation full of love, free from the need to analyze, label, or conceptualize. This attitude brings a state of acceptance, intimacy, and identification with the energy, sensation, etc.
Chakra Activation: We acknowledge the specific energy that the asana awakens in us (according to what we spontaneously perceived in the previous stage and to the traditional recommendations regarding the asana). This is a state of awareness with a specific object (a chakra or a specific form of energy related to the asana).
Universal Energies: The awareness of the universal quality of the perceived energy—a transition from the personal perspective about the energy to a transpersonal one. The energy is not perceived as being “my energy” anymore, but universal in nature. This does not mean that a universal energy replaces a personal energy. It is just another perspective on the same phenomenon.
The Question: The surrender of the egoic consciousness to atman (the Supreme Reality). Here, the asana becomes meditation. Asking the “Who am I?” question, we stop identifying with the physical body or with energy (even universal energy) and we become aware of the infinite and non-dual nature of our being.