How to begin?




This is a practical question for those who begin practicing yoga. What attitude should one have towards hatha yoga practice? Should one learn everything alone or better find a teacher? Should one attend certain classes where yoga is given or better buy a self-help manual and study step by step? The answer to this question is not that ambiguous as it might seem at first sight. Certainly the best way is to make first steps in a group guided by a teacher. Then you will be able to practice on your own. Unfortunately there are lots of factors that bring to no every effort.

First of all you may fail to find a good instructor. Not all the people who say they teach yoga really do that. Secondly you may live far away from where yoga classes are given or you might have no money to attend them. All the classes are for money now due to new economic trends. Nobody will give a studio for rent free of charge. Sometimes it so happens that sponsors can help but it is a very rare case. Or you may live far away from places where yoga classes take place. In this case you can start to practice using any appropriate book or manual. Learning yoga by treatises is allowed. But you will probably need more time or you will misunderstand some things and make more mistakes. In any case yoga says you must not lose time. The best option is when you mix guided classes with personal practice at home. This is the best way.

Frequency of yoga classes

And how often should we practice yoga? Is it necessary to practice every day and what time would be the most suitable? You will come to your rhthm of practice gradually. But years of practice show that the minimum number of classes per week to get the benefit from yoga is 2. If you do yoga less than twice a week it’s quite difficult to get the effect. The body has time to forget about yoga if there is less practice.

Practicing twice a week helps you to stay in good shape. In the course of time people realize naturally that they need more of yoga practice up to daily yoga practice without any violence. Many people who begin doing yoga tell they will practice every day. This is a very good decision. This is a useful decision but there is a danger that you will do your everyday practice one week, two weeks, three, four weeks, and during the fifth week you’ll start feeling tired. As soon as you notice something like that you should know you exceed the necessary number of classes. In this case you’d better minimize the practice time but keep practicing every day, this is the best option. Another option is to cut the number of yoga classes per week. In any case you must remember that there is nothing common for yoga and violence. Yoga is harmony. If you feel no harmony there’s no use to do yoga.

Duration of yoga class

How much time should a yoga class last? If you do only hatha yoga and no other kind of yoga, then a this period could be between 30-90 minutes. Everybody chooses own time – it’s up to you. It’s an optimum way if the modern way of life, our obligations and possibilities are concerned. If you are on holiday or you want to make a breakthrough in your personal practice, you can do yoga as many hours as necessary for you to feel the harmony. It can be two, four or more hours. The attitude should be adequate not to break this rhythm as you can make a great effort once and then fall out of your schedule for a week. In other words you should have common sense. Yoga stands for common sense.

Hard work

It says that if you want to reach the greatest goals that might seem fantastic and unusual, you should follow common sense. Unfortunately there is such tend nowadays that people read some books on yoga and think that the fact it gives fantastic, unusual and mysterious effects, means you must do something unusual and mysterious. It’s a mistake. You are not supposed to do unusual and mysterious things but understandable and natural ones which lead to something magical. Some people are disappointed. They think they came to learn yoga, and their teachers should open the third eye, expand their aura, something like that, they have expectations of magical things but they face the clear, concrete, hard work to be done by themselves. They don’t get it. But the fact it’s a steady, responsible work doesn’t mean it’ll lead to usual, mediocre results. It’s just a way to these mysterious and magical results that you should read about in the books.

Beauty of the place

It should be mentioned that beautiful landscapes and places have a very good effect, especially if you’re just beginning to do yoga. There are many beautiful places on the Earth. These are the places where the harmony of nature is not yet distorted by the dissonance we see from time to time in the big cities or where people have moved away from nature in many ways. In beautiful places one can more easily set his/her heart on peaceful perception and – as a result – one can easily feel this harmony inside. That’s why if you have a possibility to decorate a place where you will practice yoga, you’d better do it. Or you can just clean this place – as simple as that. You will bring harmony to the place by cleaning it. It works although it may seem weird. The effect is great though the things themselves (decoration, cleaning) are quite simple. Learn to see the beauty in place around you, in places that seem so common.

Magnetizing

It is very desirable not to change the place and time of regular yoga practice. If you follow this advice, you repeatedly influence this place as if it were magnetized by your presence. In the course of time when you come to this place you will automatically feel the necessary wave of the harmony. This is especially important if you come back from your work or you’re just going to work and you have to feel good. The walls, the floor, the interior will help you. That’s why it would be wonderful if you could have such place. But if you’ve got no such a place, you practice where you can. You’re not supposed to be crazy about the place – you’re not supposed to spend too much time on decoration, etc. This is not rational and you should follow common sense. First begin doing yoga, and then do other things. There’s a general yoga aphorism that says the following: If you do yoga then time is your friend and if not it becomes your enemy.

Relax to relieve the tension

Before starting to do exercises it is recommended that you should sit down in peace and silence for at least a couple of minutes, straighten your back, neck and head. You should try to do your best to relax the muscles of your body and the muscles of your face. It is necessary to be sure we are not bringing any impact accumulated during the day in our yoga practice. We don’t tend to notice how blocked we are inside ourselves. Mostly it is marked on our face muscles. Sometimes some problems we’re thinking about happen to be reflected in face muscles tension. It is a factor of an inner stress. It’s clear enough that this stress – even if we are not conscious of it – doesn’t let us to penetrate into the depth of harmony deep inside. That is why it is very important in the beginning of the class to sit down and straighten the back, the neck and head, relax the muscles of the whole body and the facial muscles in particular. Though it might seem strange it works so well that when we look through our face we feel the tension in it and when we relax it we get an effect that goes to the inner psychic processes inside us.

Let it go

Finally it happens to be very helpful just to let the current situation go. As we might have had a complicated day, some problems to solve or some tasks we will have to do tomorrow. And sometimes they are all in our heads, we analyze whether we did it right, whether we got ready well enough and so on. The mental process is in progress. Yoga suggests we should let the situation go, it adds we did everything we could do at work before the yoga class. And now the most important thing is to let it all go and forget about all our problems for some time. It is considered that if we succeed in doing this, the Universe begins doing its part of work, the work we should do together. It should be clear that all partially depends on us but also it depends on other accompanying favourable factors that are beyond our power and control. Actually it’s very important whether we will think about these factors or not. As every thought is material and it keeps influencing as well. We block this process. Just imagine an enterprise functioning in two shifts.

For example, you work from morning till night, and the other workers do their work from night till morning. These people cannot start working until you go home. Otherwise you will interfere with each other’s work. And if you finish working and do not go away and you don’t let the night shift workers do their work, it stops. So in the same way we block the help from the Universe with our thoughts. We have to do our part of the work, we must do it duly, do our best, and then we should let the situation go, switch to another thing, switch to a hatha yoga class for instance. In fact when a person does hatha yoga, voluntarily or involuntarily he/she turns his/her attention from the problems and forgets about them. But sometimes – especially for beginners – it can be difficult to make the first step. S/he tries to forget about the problems but they won’t go away. Such a person blocks the help from the Universe with the thoughts.That is why it is strongly recommended to straighten the back, the neck and the head before a class starts. According to yoga one can reach the most relaxed condition sitting like this. We feel the spine while the body is completely relaxed. The muscles are not contracted. We might lie but we the slumberous feeling comes. It is very desirable to start a class just sitting down on the floor, relaxing the muscles of the body and face, and mentally letting it all go.

And after this it would be great if we could lie down and stretch out a bit. You can yawn while doing it. It’s just like in the morning we feel like stretching and yawning when we wake up. So we get rid of unnecessary tension and at the same time we add some invigorate factors. After relaxing for a couple of minutes and stretching for two or three minutes we can directly go to doing hatha yoga poses.

Number of hatha yoga poses

There are as many poses in hatha yoga as many poses are possible for a human body. In other words they are endless. In any case there are a lot of different poses. But the wisdom of yoga is not in sorting out all the postures a human body can take. It’s in use of quite a small number of poses, postures that will be well enough. There are a different number of the poses in different treatises. But for you to know there are around 70-80 poses.

In other words they are not that many. On the other hand, it depends on how you count. Sometimes you can consider two poses to be the variations of one pose, or you may regard them to be two different poses. So it’s a matter of taste. And here this general yogic tendency of harmony is observed as well. Nowadays a modern man wants to systematize everything. A western man first of all defines a pose, its name, how it’s done, how many poses there are. They want to know everything in concrete terms. Nobody ever sets this as a task in the field of yoga. It just wasn’t considered interesting. That means there’s no a reference book that could be of great use for the western people.

Names of poses

The similar situation is with the names of the poses. There are some poses the names of which are established, and even in absolutely different traditions of yoga they either sound the same way or they’re quite alike. The Sanskrit language used in the naming of yoga poses has never reached for writing form but it has always been looking for pronunciation. That’s why in Sanskrit the same word can be written with different letters. What is more, in the course of time these letters bring a specific accent in the pronunciation, and sometimes it finally turns to be kind of a dialect. In different yoga traditions a pose can have different names. And vice versa – there can be two or more names for one and the same pose. This mess always existed and it still is there. There’s no one definite list with all the names of yoga poses.

Is it a yoga pose?

So it was considered that you could get a very good result doing only 70-80 hatha yoga poses. But everyone is free to experiment with own body, look for variants, own poses. It is not forbidden. At the same time the same pose can be regarded as yoga pose or not. It will not depend on what you do but on the way how you do it. The poses in hatha yoga are called asanas. From the viewpoint of harmonic yoga everything flows from one thing into another in a very smooth manner, and any commentary on wrong doing of an exercise does not make sense. If you don’t do one yoga pose, you automatically do another one. The question is what effect you will get. So we know there are basically 70-80 yoga poses with the strongest effect. So we have to start with these poses and then we can do some other ones, if our body needs it. Sometimes your body asks like a dog or a cat asks you to feed them. According to yoga we must immediately do the pose if we feel our body needs it.

Feeling

By practicing yoga people become more sensitive. Sometimes they are not able to explain why they make some decision but they feel it is right and results also tend to be better. The same happens in yoga. When the body asks for something, you should analyze why it happens. And try it even if the pose will be the strangest one. You won’t go against yoga; on the contrary, you’ll act as the ancient yogis did. We should get rid of the modern tendency that only the yoga instructors a la know what you should to do and how to do it well as if they were kind of Gods on earth.

It is important to understand that a real, true yoga instructor is a very proud title, and the task of such a person is to help other people to discover their potential in a better, harmonious way. Unfortunately there’s a tendency in yoga that some instructors oppress the people saying things like: “It’s wrong, this pose is called like this and not like that, and your toe must be directed to opposite way”. This is kind of intolerance. A person has come to a yoga class and it’s important for instructor to discover, not to press to show off own significance as an instructor. This is a bad trend and it goes against yoga. If you face it you must be aware – this is not yoga! Yoga is harmony. And any act of intolerance and any attempt to bolster self-esteem by means of somebody or something - this is not yoga.

Description of poses

There exist poses with more or less established names. The descriptions of how they should be done take from one to two sentences in the ancient manuscripts. Many people were discouraged by this fact. They thought: “Aha, they wrote two sentences in the treatise, but in real practice they must have told some sacred instructions that would take 20 pages”. It contradicts to the very ideology of yoga. They say everything or nothing at all. There cannot be half truths in the ancient tractates. It usually sounds as follows: “Do like this and like that, in all other cases listen to your Teacher”. But this is what the complicated practices as concerned (meditative, etc). As a rule a pose description is very simple, sometimes it might even seem not to be serious enough. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to understand what you have to do, especially if you have never practiced yoga before. In some tractates it’s more or less understandable: put your leg here, turn your head there – everything’s clear. And as for some poses it’s quite difficult to understand what was meant – it is not clear at all.

How many exercises should you do at one set?

So you’re beginning to do yoga. How many exercises should you do at one set? There is a viewpoint according to which the more you do the better. It’s totally wrong. In yoga it’s not important what you do but how you do it. It’s not that important how much you do but how deep you penetrate into what you’re doing. That’s why even one exercise a day can formally be considered a normal yoga class. Still experience and practice show that a beginner should do seven poses. Your practice should consist of at least seven poses. But if you fell like doing more – do more, and if you feel like doing less – do less.

How often should you change the exercises?

So you’ve chosen your seven poses and you begin doing them regular. There is a false opinion that you’d better change your series every day: today you do this series of exercises, tomorrow you do the second one, and the day after tomorrow you do the third one. It does not make sense too, especially for beginners. You don’t have enough time to dive in one set of exercises as you jump to another one. That is why it’s regarded you should chose one series of poses and don’t change it during a week. After a week you can change it. But this is for those who learn the poses themselves. If you go to a yoga class you don’t have this problem of choice – you should do the sequence the teacher/instructor suggests and these classes can be more useful, especially for beginners. Practicing in a group of people a person can immediately experience new feelings, a new state. It happens due to a special group atmosphere. But if you practice alone at home you’d better not change the sequence during a week.

How many times should you repeat an exercise?

In this respect yoga says it’s up to you. It depends on what you feel. If you do a difficult exercise you’d better split it up and take the general time of practice by doing it several times. If you feel more or less comfortable in a pose, you can take the whole time by doing it just once.

Rest between the poses

What is the best way to change poses? Should we have a rest between two poses or not? It’s not an easy question and the answer wouldn’t be easy as well. According to the theory of yoga there are two ways of doing a pose. They are so called method of Energy and method of Consciousness. In other words they are the ways where you relax and let it go and where we have to force ourselves. So the way you change poses will depend on the method you apply.

For example, you do one pose, and then you finish and rest for a minute or 30 seconds. After that you do another pose, and then you finish and have a short rest again, and so on. But there is another variant of doing poses when you change the poses without having a rest. Both variants are acceptable, both methods can be very useful. In the morning – when you want to bestir and wake up– it’s very good for you to go without a pause for a break. On the contrary, in the evening when the working day is over and we’ve been making efforts all day long, the method of Energy fits perfectly: we do a pose, and then we have a rest, we do another pose, etc. So the key point is harmony. It is all about harmony in yoga. If you’re making efforts, you’re doing a pose, another one, a third, etc, and then you feel it’s too much, you’d better stopor slow down? Or vice versa if you’re practicing so slow and blasé that you’re likely to fall asleep, you’d better put forth. Nobody except you can define the method that’s better for you at every particular moment. Even when there is big group practicing together under the guidance of yoga Instructor each one of the group will have the benefit. It’s a separate, a very serious field of knowledge. It’s not easy at all.

For those who practice on their own the best way is to listen to their inner teacher. Respect your feelings! YouTrust yourself. There’s very big sag nowadays: the Western people trust more to books, manuals, some tractates, videos or teacher instructions. They trust them more than their own feelings. Maybe in some other spheres of life this knowledge works but not in yoga. In yoga you are supposed to trust yourself, your own feelings first. All other external tractates, instructions and words go on the second place. This must be a very important rule for you. Listen for yourself! Do you feel harmony? If you feel it – it’s good. If you don’t – you probably failed to understand something in a tractate, or it was said for another person who lived in different time, or it was probably a wrong translation, sometimes it so happens that a translator had no qualification and understanding of the material that was translated. That is why it is you who defines the way of practice.

Mother’s method (the method of Energy)

There are two diametrically opposite methods for practicing hatha yoga poses. The first one is the method of Energy, it consists of listening for your feelings and trying to obtain the maximum joy and pleasure out of your body from relaxing.

It’s like stretching and yawning once we wake up in the morning – we’re kind of squeezing the pleasure. Practicing like this we are supposed to make a minimal effort and follow what our feelings are showing to us.

For instance, doing a pose when we’re grasping the ankles with our hands and trying to bend forward to our knees. There are various ways of doing it. Doing it according to the method of Energy we take any position that we consider being comfortable, it is not necessary to touch the legs with the head – we do it the way we find pleasant. But later we feel like bending a bit more forward and then more, we’re kind of following our feelings. This is the method of Energy, it is called Mother’s method, too. As the ancient manuscript says we approximately take a pose we want to do and we give ourselves to the will of the universe or our feelings. And the feelings tell us when it’s better to bend forward. This method is very smooth, very gentle, you don’t need to put efforts in.

Father’s method (the method of Consciousness)

There is an opposite way of doing exercises. It is so called method of Consciousness, or Father’s method. It’s when we are supposed to make an effort, to strive for more, it is kind of an ascetic way. Right now my body doesn’t hear me and I’m going to overcome this obstacle. And I’m doing the same pose but making effort. It’s clear that the muscles are resisting, it’s an effort. It’s an effort but it’s NOT violence. There is a difference between effort and violence. You are supposed to feel happiness at the background.

The process of overcoming should make you feel happy. That means “I’m bending and I feel happy – I’m a good yogi. My body didn’t respond to me but now I it will.” When finish doing the pose the body feels good, you are happy. This is Father’s method, the method of Consciousness. Make notice that it’s different compared to the previous one, the method of Energy. We make an effort, we are active. All the known hatha yoga schools tend to use more one approach or another, it depends on their history and some other factors.

Combination of two methods

In yoga it is recommended that you should learn to use both the method of Consciousness and the method of Energy. The most important thing is to learn how to combine these two methods, even when doing one and the same pose. We begin with the method of Energy and continue with the method of Consciousness. That means we get maximum pleasure first, and then we start to stretch the muscles consciously. Anyway you are supposed to fell happiness and satisfaction either indulging in the Energy method or making effort by the Consciousness method. If you don’t feel happy it means something goes wrong. If on the contrary you are violent in your practice it’s totally unacceptable. It won’t give a long term result. According to yoga violence is inefficient as the body will revenge. At first the body obeys but it takes revenge afterwards. It’s not reasonable. Sure you are to make it do some poses but you are to do it in a very reasonable way. Sometimes you should give a rest to your body but again you should do it reasonably. The most important is to detect the moment when it’s better to change your tactics. That is the most complicated thing.If you realize when it is the right moment to change the tactics you will really know a thing or two in yoga and you will be able to get the most out of hatha yoga practice. The right way of doing hatha yoga is considered to be on the jointing edge of these two methods, the method of Energy and method of Consciousness, when we let it go or when we make an effort. If we follow this way our practice are the most efficient. That is why we try both methods first separately, and then we start to bring them together. Trying both methods we are to catch a thin line between. But if you only make effort you will be very tired soon, you will be exhausted not only physically but also emotionally. Every effort takes some energy, it is not reasonable to be in such a strained state all the time. We can be strained at work or when solving some other problems, it would be too much to be strained when doing yoga as well.

When it happens people tend to drop out from yoga practice as they get very tired mentally. It is one of the main serious reasons why people stop doing yoga, they overestimate themselves. Then you miss a class, and then you just don’t feel like coming back. That is why it is not reasonable to only make too much effort.

Another extreme point is when we only relax and let it go, that means we are too relaxed when doing yoga poses. In a long-term prospective it is also not reasonable. The body will be lazy and it will become more and more difficult to make it do something. We can get the maximum use out of practice only when we combine these two methods. Yoga is a system of self discovery, the method of yoga is combination of making efforts and letting it go, its correlation. It is a universal method. However, nothing will happen if we have no practice. And later everything will follow! Good luck!

Last modified: Sunday, 25 December 2016, 9:39 PM