Asana as Worship
It is difficult to determine how many people practicing hatha yoga are devotionally minded. To me, hatha yoga is worship. I am not inventing something or making up a new interpretation. It is only in the modern context, both in India and the West, that hatha has become separated from worship. Modern man knows only worship with speech: sing a hymn, recite a prayer, utter inspiring words and so on. Worship with the body and worship with the mind have been almost completely forgotten.
A truth-seeker is one in whom mind, speech and body all act together, in unison. In ancient traditions, one definition of personal truth in terms of truthful speech and truthful acts, is that ‘what one thinks with the mind, that one utters with the speech; what one utters with the speech, that one puts into action; what one thus puts into action is accomplished and fulfilled’. The entire personality is involved.
Some of the acts in the hatha exercises are symbolic. The movement of the arm is an offering of your arm to the Divine; it is not simply to build a muscle, but ‘here, I give to you my arm; I receive from you strength and movement’. A forward movement with an exhalation going down is a gesture of humility, modesty, bending down towards Mother Earth; and a movement upward, backwards, is looking upward at the sky, filling myself with the sun, with the light, thinking of that light which is in me here and coming into contact with that cosmic magnificence; and again, coming back to earth and exhaling. Holding a posture, holding still, means maintaining there what you have filled yourself with.
So there is this awareness in each posture; in each posture there could be this interpretation from the heart; a prayer, a worship, an awareness. When I place my body in that position, what mood naturally evolves? Or what mood would make me place myself in such a position? It can be looked at both ways. You can experiment; you know your body, you know its language, you know what it means when you are ‘like this’ and ‘like that’. Observe it, analyze it, conquer it.
The conquest of mood means that in your life you are never subject to the tyranny of moods, that your moods are subject to your pleasure. Do you know the tyranny of moods? “I can’t do this because I’m not in the mood. I’m down and depressed.” How can we be down and depressed when we woke up in the morning and looked at the sun and raised our eyes to the galaxies, took that light into our bodies and brought it down to the very earth? And from that earth, we rose again and looked up and resurrected ourselves. How can we be down and depressed for the rest of the day.? It is not enough for us to just sit there with our shoulders down and say we are like the light of the sun, but rather we must go through the postures and cultivate the attitude of strength and conquest. Not only conquest of the body but conquest of moods is what hatha yoga will accomplish for you.
Contact: Lynn Fraser [email protected]