Yoga poses

Yoga practice in a group

With regard to group sessions of hatha yoga, the closer the distance between the practitioners, the faster and more efficient will be the practice. Please note that in India yoga classrooms are very small. If you try to start a fire in the forest with raw sticks, they will not burn one by one, but they will burn together. And it's the same in yoga - at the level of fine interactions we are all the same, so the closer you are to each other, the faster will be your internal processes.

Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)

Lie on the stomach, put your palms under your shoulders and gently bend backward the back for a second, then relax. For the second time bend a little longer, stay in the pose. Then do the same at your own pace, but each time keep a pose a little longer. Focus only on your feelings, which should be pleasant. As you know, in ancient India, there were no watches or even sandglasses, so time of the exercise was determined by the person's own intuition. Now rest. You have just done one of the poses which has nearly the same name in different schools - cobra pose ((Bhujangasana). Here is the description of this pose from ancient treatises:

Bhujangasana or Cobra pose
"Oh, dear student! Place your body on the floor on your stomach. Place the palms under the shoulders, lift up your eyes, then slowly raise your head, bend your neck, then your back and help yourself with your hands to bend more. So, remain in this pose, giving yourself to the energy. Then do everything in reverse to exit from the pose. This asana brings clear rage to the mind, like a cobra ready to strike. This exercise heals eyes, the upper spine, and gives clarity of mind. By doing this asana, you will wake up forces dozing in the sacrum."

Describing of a pose

In other treatises this posture has the same description. Remember the following: the description of yoga poses, including hatha yoga, normally is 3-4 lines, and the rest will be the comments of the various authors. I once came across a book, where the description of a pose took 20 pages. The more ancient is the source, the more laconic it is. It should describe only the essentials, and the rest will follow naturally.

Proper way for doing asanas

So what is the proper way of doing asanas? Each school has its own opinion: one says that you must stretch to the maximum; the others say that you do not have to strain yourself, and the third - that you need to reach the feeling of pain and stretch a bit more to overcome it. And all these instructions would be very strict and dogmatic. In our tradition it is considered to be incompetent to use the word "wrong" referring to the person practicing yoga poses. A teacher could be disqualified for using this word, because if a person cannot do one pose, he/she automatically is doing another pose. The person, who comes to yoga class for the first time often worries and thinks that yoga is a secret science, where every hair on your head should lay in the same direction, and each muscle must be stretched in a certain way.

Lay on your back. Stretch up, then bend down to your legs and put your hands on ankles. Remain in this position. Here is the description of this pose in an ancient treatise:

"She said, this is a pose for the abdominal area. Lie down on the ground, breath in and put your arms above your head, then breath out and bend forwards, grasp your ankles with hands. Make sure you legs and knees are straight. Remain in this position and let the energy flow inside you. Then touch you knees with your forehead. By doing this pose, you will get rid of any illnesses in your abdominal area, your legs will feel the joy"
Now lie down on your back and rest.

The undisclosed

There is an opinion, that all treatises are notes left by the teachers, and all important things were passed from the Teacher to the student in personal conversation. Our school does not agree with this statement. Teachers do not lie. If they hide something, they would write down the most important. And there are that sort of directions, if there are phrases like this: do this pose as you are told by your Teacher! But there are very few of them.

Two methods in yoga

According to axiomatic of yoga we are all made by some definite image and likeness. Yoga is not an abstract science, made up by some Hindu wise, it is inside us, in the construction of our body. That is why it is our aim to let it arise up inside us by using methods of Energy and Consciousness. The philosophy is that the same pose can be made according to two methods. The most important thing in the method of Energy is balanced internal feelings. You make the accent on the enjoyment from your body, for example, when you stretch in the morning. If you take a pose, without any discomfort, and wait when the energy as the result of this pose wakes up inside you, then at some point you will feel desire to bend even more and slowly, you will get closer to doing one or another pose. Your task is to trust your inner feelings. This is mother’s method, method of Energy. The opposite method is father’s method or the method of Consciousness, when you make yourself do it and want to overcome yourself and feel happy by doing it and proud that you manage to master your own body.

Which method is better?

Which approach should we choose? One of the meanings of the word “yoga” is union. You must learn how to move from one method to another while during the exercises, and revolve two different approaches. Hatha yoga is somewhere in the middle of these methods. And you will become very successful in it when you start feeling margin between those two approaches. If you will use just one method, you will also succeed, but not so fast. There is a very strict and precise warning message in yoga: as soon as you start feeling discomfort, you should immediately stop doing the exercise (pose). You must always feel pleasure (enjoyment) from making the pose or from overcoming yourself. But if you have a headache, nausea, or pain, there is no sense in doing yoga. This is not yoga any more.

Now get up, stand straight, raise your arms and stretch – try to feel as much joy as possible. Then bend down to your feet and let your arms, neck and head relax – again feel maximum enjoyment. Now we are using the method of Energy. And now we can try the method of Consciousness – grab the ankles and for a second apply some effort and stretch more. Relax! Then repeat again, but a little bit longer. And continue in your own rhythm, and when you apply effort you should enjoy the leap of faith. Then streighten again, bend and relax – as by the method of Energy. It is not important for yoga how well you bend; the main thing is the inner feeling of harmony. Let the Energy to calm down, re-distribute and flow.

Now lie down on your stomach, bend your knees and grab the ankles with your hands – this is a bow pose. Do not force yourself in this pose. Start doing it by the method of Energy. We must lie for long enough and feel maximum pleasure in the body – the method of Energy requires time. The most valuable here is your own feelings and your attitude towards them. If you manage to feel it, you will be successful in the method of Energy.
You should learn theory before your start doing something, but as soon as you start, trust only your own experience and feelings. Yoga treaties are like a compass, but only you personally can find the river, mountains or the forest. Yoga is a being sensitive to the body. And now, after some time, we can use the method of Consciousness and arch up, and feel happiness. Exit from the pose, rest and arch again, find the rhythm, every time keeping a pose a bit longer. Feel happy and proud of the fact that we can do it. After some time, you will be able to stay in the full-up position longer and longer. Now rest.If you just noticed, we were bending into different directions – this is a principle of balance. Yoga is a union, where extremes meet. If you practice a pose bending to one side, do another one bending to another side. It’s not a law, but a recommendation.

Key points

1. There are two completely opposite ways to do asanas – mother’s method or the Energy method (effortless) and father’s method or the Consciousness method (with effort).

2. The concept of Bhava (translation from Sanskrit “internal, mental, emotional attitude”). If you are doing asana with the internal condition of Bhava, you are practicing yoga, if you don’t have this feeling, then you are doing gymnastics, stretching, or anything else except yoga. Bhava is the happiness about doing a pose, when you are doing and want to do more, or feeling happy about overcoming difficulties, when you realize that you are the master of your own body and it obeys you.

3. There is no violence in yoga. Violence, when used for a short period of time, can bring some results, but later your body will get back at you. Violence leaves an imprint on your causal body, and leads to complete unwillingness to practice. Our body does not forget violence, because it is unnatural and ineffective. You should develop and grow in harmony.

All schools of yoga will have predominant Energy method or Consciousness method and could be classified by those methods. They cannot understand that these two methods must be combined: sometimes you need to force yourself, sometimes to let it go. There must be a balance and hatha Yoga can only exist on the edge of two methods.

Extract from Hatha yoga treatise

I shall read a small extract from the treatise:

A student Adya asked his teacher: “How one ought to master unknown poses? And how to practice already known poses?She replied: “Wise men say that the best thing to start learning a pose is by the Energy method. As caring mother feeds her new-born baby, the Energy method helps the newcomer in yoga. Let it be even just one exercise a day.Then the same as a child who was breast fed, starts to see and play with his father, yogi should also learn a pose by father’s method, method of Consciousness.

When a child has been born, he/she experiences the world through his/her mother. It is necessary to start practicing yoga in the same way – by mother’s method, method of Energy. Here it is: take approximately the pose which you want to practice and wait until you start feeling it, when the energy wakes up, concentrate on it. It is better to close the eyes and sink into the feelings, “feel your mother’s warmth and her love” When a child grows up he/she starts communicating with the father. And father is strict, he teaches the rules, in the same way as the method of Consciousness. This is logic of development, the logic of growth; these are principles of the Superior.

The perfect method

Each of these methods by itself is not perfect, if they are used separately. It is possible to do yoga just by the Energy method: if it is pleasant – I am doing it, if not – I am not doing it. It is also possible to do yoga by method of Consciousness: always force yourself. Usually men follow this method, as they think that the whole point is to overcome difficulties. This is a mistake! Both these methods separately are not effective. And if you only let your body to have pleasure, you will easily become passive – this is an exaggeration. Another extreme is to do everything by the method of consciousness, even without violence yourself, even when you overcome yourself and do something nobody else can do and feel very proud of yourself. When being under continuous stress a person cannot move forward, and very few people have enough wisdom to give up their ambitions and the feeling of being “cool”. These are the traps on the way to yoga. We shall not be successful in yoga, if we don’t change our view on the life, when you have to go forward or when you need to bypass. Yoga can exist only at the junction of two methods, when they are combined. As for the child to be born you need both a mother and a father.The most important thing which will help you to avoid any mistakes - your own inner feeling during the practice! Despite the fact that by doing each asana we affect our physical body, we indirectly influence our fine structures, primarily our feelings and mind. By doing one or another pose of hatha yoga we sharpen our mind, make it stronger and we become more volitional, purposeful, we increase our brain power, sharpen our feelings. So, by influencing the physical body we get the effect for our physical body (strong, toned body), and several effects in our inner world of perception, ideology and mind. If this is happening it means we are doing yoga. We trust our internal feelings, harmony inside us.

We looked at two approaches to doing poses of hatha Yoga – Energy method (mothers') and Method of Consciousness (father’s). And at the junction of these two methods there is yoga. But if we go into extreme, there is a risk that we shall not receive from Yoga everything included into it.

Lie down on your back, bend the knees, take ankles with hands and raise the lower part of the body, bending our back. Stay in this pose for some time, do it by the Energy method. Low down on the floor.

Which method is it?

There are poses, which can easily identify method of Energy and method of Consciousness, but there are others when in their edge position, it is hard to say which method is inherent.

For example, you are doing a headstand, you can be fully relaxed, or you can strain by the method of Consciousness. The main thing in this pose is balancing, and methods of Energy and Consciousness are transforming into each other not when you relax or strain, but depending on the time of keeping the pose. Such as you make a pose for a second and then rest – this is Energy method, and if you do it and stay long in it – this is method of Consciousness. First you need to bend for a second and relax, then do it again for a bit longer, and relax again. And each time do it longer and longer, and don't forget to rest between the efforts. So you will move to the pass from the Energy method to the method of Consciousness.

Lay on the back. Then move your legs up and behind the head. Arms can stay in any position. Try to touch floor by feet behind your head. Try to touch the floor behind your head by feet, if you cannot do it, do as much as you can. If you touch the floor then try to keep your legs straight and don’t bend the knees. Stay in this pose as long as it is comfortable, and if you feel any discomfort, get out of the pose and rest on your back. Start with one second and every time stay in this pose a bit longer.

Are we doing the pose in a right way?

The energy inside us appears first of all as our emotions, feelings and experiences. It is incorrect to say that you are doing something wrong when you are practicing a pose – it nullifies the whole yoga effect. It doesn't matter what pose you are doing. If you don’t do one pose, you automatically doing another one. The main thing is process inside you, whether you feel harmony during the practice. Do not pay attention to some frightening warnings in the modern yoga books. It does not matter which way is you left toe turned, the main thing is the feeling of harmony. Each pose has a huge effect, including therapeutic effect on your body, as it is influencing those fine structures, which we have no idea about.

Slowly sit down on the floor and stretch your legs in front of you. Bend the right leg and bring it to the body, then put it over the left thigh. Carefully turn the upper part of your body to the right and try to turn back as much as possible.
Do it by the Energy method avoiding any pain or discomfort. Now stand still for a second and analyze your position. Half of you turned to the left and not to the right and this is normal. There is not a single teacher in our school who would have stopped you and said that you were doing it wrong. The person should understand everything by practicing. If you wished to turn to a different side, it means that you needed it, your intuition and your internal feelings are much more important. You would notice it yourself later and correct yourself. If you are doing a pose you are doing it perfectly, no matter how – this is another yoga principle.

Exit the pose and do the same on the other side. Then do it by turns: first left then right, and add time in the pose gradually. And now you decide yourself how long you can keep the pose. Feel that the whole world has disappeared, you combine the Energy method and the method of Consciousness by two ways: first – how long you stay twisted to one side, and second – how far you twist you spine. Your task is to feel “the edge” between these two approaches and to feel when you need to push yourself, and when you need to let yourself to relax. This is a philosophic principle, which can be used in everyday life: how to turn two ineffective extremes into their effective and harmonious combination. The main thing is to feel happy by doing or by overcoming yourself. There should not be any violence, as it is ineffective, it will push you to some point and then punish you for back.


Lay on your belly, put your palms under the shoulders on the mat, move your body up keeping arms straight and carefully move into the “down-facing dog” pose, raise your hips and arch your back. Do it as good as you can. Keep this pose for a second and move to the next one: bend the knees and lie down, then raise your head up as in “cobra” pose. Linger and then do the first pose again, but keep it a bit longer and move to the next one again. This is another way to combine cross-over from the method of Energy to Consciousness and vice versa. Now you are doing two exercises adding time to each of them, first you enjoy the feeling and then start overcoming difficulties and feeling good about it, longer and longer, better and better, and adding more time. And at the same time you should always remember that if there is no harmony inside you, you feel tired or feel pain, you should immediately stop doing it. Exit the pose and sit down.

The switch

You performed several poses, to show how two methods are combined. This is a part of yoga axiomatic, which is known to few people, as the wisdom of switching from one method to another is not so obvious. In some poses it is very clear, in other poses, such as headstand, the switch is implemented by the time spent in each pose (every time longer and longer), and the third type of poses lead us to some pose and are themselves a part of the switching. It often happens that two extremes are merged and it is impossible to understand whether we force ourselves or we enjoy ourselves – this is the main way in yoga, where there is no forcing and no resistance of the body. This is important, because if you organism feels violence, it will take it as an invasion into internal structures and will start blocking.

The “secret” mechanism

This mechanism was discovered by psychologists and it is used now to cure many physical and psychosomatic diseases. The meaning of it is that by making the influence from one side, it is possible to use the patient’s attention in order to slide in from another side, i.e. get the access to sub-consciousness. Yogis achieved awesome abilities, they can give orders to their body.

For example, when a person decides to fall asleep and to wake up after 30 minutes and does it. This ability can be reached by anyone, who is able to tame the internal world of sub-consciousness. In one old movie “Indian Yogis. Who are they?” there was a scene when Yogi drank a glass of hydrochloric acid and nothing happened to him. Yogis reach such an interaction with their internal structures, that it is enough for them to give a mental order and the body performs miracles. Normal people cannot do the same trick, as our body does not trust us, we don’t have access to our structures. And when we start doing hatha yoga and follow harmony, this ability can be opened inside us after some time. Yogis demonstrate their abilities only for the purpose to show what a great inexhaustible potential we all have, what treasure we all carry inside us, in particular, our physical body.

Last modified: Sunday, 25 December 2016, 9:37 PM