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yoga meditation and philosophy with Lynn Fraser
in the Himalayan Tradition of H.H. Sri Swami Rama


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From an Asana as Meditation Workshop by Ashutosh Sharma.
Written up by Michael Smith.

 Relaxed Stretching with “Ha”-“Tha”- Awareness

There is tension, and there is tension-due-to-stretch.  Stretch without unnecessary tension.  Extend without becoming tense.  Extend in a relaxed way.  There is extension but no tension. At the limit of the stretch watch the breath in the abdomen for 3 to 5 breaths.  Then come out of the stretch with an inhalation and relax with an exhalation.  In the transition between postures take 5 breaths mindfully.

The emphasis is on inner observation of the state of the body and the breath, not on completion of the posture or how many repetitions (such as in ankle rotations) you can do.  Staying with the exercise at hand, and not thinking “what is next?”  Being in the “Now.”  The state of being is valued, not the doing of postures and the performance with degree of stretch etc.  Go deep within and observe. 

We need to observe all aspects of a posture: movement, relaxation, tension, stability.  There is a double awareness. Close your outer eyes and open your inner eyes.  Explore.   Experience.  You observe the stretched part and the still, stable part with the inhalations and exhalations.  Usually we pay attention only to the stretched part and ignore “Tha.”  If you ignore any of these aspects while doing Asana, we are not doing them correctly.  The key is to keep with the flow of the breath throughout. 

Practice and Learning:

If there is time, do hatha twice a day, morning and evening.  If you do not have time, then Learn for a week or so, and then start Practicing

Learning: Learn in the evening to improve. You can do “Ha” Yoga then.    Keep the same series.  Learn all the aspects of that series.  Learn and correct. It will take you a while to learn the postures; then go into the “mood” of  Practice.

Practice: Practice in the morning. Use the same sequence every day.  You need a complete plan to practice oven and over, a single routine over a long period.  When Practicing there should be only the experiencing of relaxation and enjoyment. Always stay within your comfortable capacity.  Never go beyond your capacity.  Accept your physical and mental state.  There should be no struggling, no trying to improve, no effort, no strain, no analysis.  Not like the usually striving at a job.  It should all come naturally and effortlessly — flowing.  Accept yourself completely and flow with the breath and enjoy!  Practicing this way will energize you.  You will feel energized and clear-headed and alert the whole day.  That is why you do not do Practice at night; you will not be able to sleep.

Straightening the Spine:

Swami Rama and Swami Veda have both stressed the importance of a straight spine as a prerequisite for meditation.  The spine is not naturally straight; there is a natural “S-curve” to the spine; however, due to genetics or poor postural habits like slouching, this curve can be exaggerated.  One of the things a good hatha practice should do strengthen and limber muscles around the spine so that when a student sits in meditation, the spine is vertically balanced and aligned and the flow of energy through the nadis is not cut off.   The concave curvature at the lower part of the spine is called a lordosis (fr. Gk. “curving forward”), and the convex curvature at the upper portion of the spine is called a kyphosis (fr. Gk. “humpbacked”).  Most of the ways we use the back are counter to what is needed to straighten the spine because we have adopted poor postural habits.  For example, when we bend backwards in the second position of Solar Salutation, we bend may backward from the lower back, therefore increasing its natural concavity.  When we bend forward, we may hunch over the upper back, thus increasing its natural convexity.    

Ashutosh spent quite a bit of time showing how one could correct the curvatures in the back to straighten the spine.  One of the main things we can do is to observe how we are using the back and see what muscles come into play as we make various movements.

Breath can straighten the spine — the breath-energies.  There are six movements to the spine: forward, backward, to the side, twisting, extension and compression.  In Hatha we do not want compression.  We get that during the day with stress and so forth.

Swami Veda said, “If you want to meditate, be lazy — but be completely lazy!”  We can be completely lazy in meditation if the vertebrae are completely aligned and the spine is balanced.

If we are tipped forward, we will have tension in the lower back, and our attention will go there. If we are tipped backward, we will have tension in the abdomen, and the breath will become constricted and irregular and pull us away from meditation.  If the mind fluctuates, it may mean that the spine is tipped backwards and is constricting the abdomen and the breath.