Yogic Habits Part 1
We all love the practice of Yoga-asana! We flock to the studio, crowd the teacher and do our best to learn what we can every class we attend. We make friends with our fellow practitioners, buy the clothing and try our best to live cleaner lives! Each one of us, no matter the experience undergoes profound changes in our body, lightness in our mind, and great new perspectives in our life due to our connection to Yoga! Yet the tradition teaches that the asana’s or postures are merely preparation for the real essence of Yoga!
If you want to bring Yoga into your life, you need only look to your daily Habits!
The practice of Yoga As all things interesting, requires repetition (Ahbyasa). Every thing that we do day to day can only be so because of our own extensive practice. Even when we were Babies rolling around on the floor, we decided we would stand, and so the practice to stand began, we fell everyday, hurt ourselves more times then we could count but one day, due to our determination, to commit to the attempt daily, we stood! And so it is when we practice, headstand, Elbow Stand, Hand Stand or any poses which brings challenge and room for the practitioner the chance to develop the intelligence in movement, balance in mind, steadiness and ease in breath and body to accomplish, which was once unreachable. These processes are merely preparation for the real Yoga. So amazing just in preparation we can have such amazing experiences, what then is to come once we are properly prepared?
How to become prepared? it's actually very simple, first we must treat this practice as a science. What makes something a science? A systemized approach to test a hypothesis, or in Yoga’s case, a willingness to commit to a prescription introduced by the tradition through the teacher, in the form of an Asana, or meditation technique, or breathing practice, in real time, and or intersections on how to currently engage in the practice and where to continue as comfort grows with said prescription. The teacher or preceptor is vital for their adherence to established technical considerations, to the tradition and to ensure guaranteed results in the experiment. This is how we can relate these practices to our life!
When you look at most of the traditional imagery, From Lord Shiva to Lord Buddha and so many other examples, they are often found sitting in a formal or informal meditation pose. Obviously Meditation is an essential aspect of any spiritual practice, or even for a balanced life. Sitting upright, Body as a temple: Body and Mind still, Meditation should always be seen as a daily habit. Obviously we all have busy lives, not everyone can sit for 40 days and nights like a Buddha or Jesus, However we can all sit for a moment, every day, from 1 minute to one hour or even more if your life style allows. Even one minute of sitting with attention everyday goes a long way in our inner balance, mental and physical health. If we approach meditation as we approach brushing our teeth as a mandatory daily cleaning ritual, not done for fun or some special reason, rather because it is an irreplaceable habit which will enrich every aspect of your life.
Sometimes when our technology grows if brings with it convenience and further a perceived level of higher comfort. However the modern medical science is proving to us that this soft lifestyle brings greater disease in the body. One daily habit which has proven to awaken the brain and the senses to their peak performance is a daily cold shower. You need only look to modern Luminaries in the field, like Wim Hoff who through his own practice and teachings with the assistance of modern Biologists and cutting edge equipment found that regularly taking cold showers imposes a small amount of stress on your body, which leads to your nervous system gradually increasing its capacity for stress. Cold showers also wake your body up, inducing higher levels of awareness. The cold also stimulates you to take deeper breaths, decreasing the level of CO2 throughout the body, helping you concentrate. Scientific studies have found that taking a cold shower increases the amount of white blood cells in your body. These blood cells protect your body against diseases, this result is due to an increase of the bodies metabolic rate. Research has shown that cold showers (and exposure to cold in general), in addition to increasing metabolic rate directly, stimulate the generation of brown fat. Brown fat is a specific type of fat tissue that in turn generates energy by burning calories. Cold showers, then, are an effective tool for people who are looking to lose a few pounds.
Whenever I mention this practice in my classes or training courses, people laugh and shake their head as if i'm crazy. Other than Natural Hot Springs our modern style of long hot showers is very young, our bodies have adapted to this world for Millions of years, and we always washed with cold water. When i first went to India some 17 years ago, the cultural norm was to have cold shower with a bucket, even in the winter. Some may say its because they are poor! But if you dig a little deeper you would see that the culture surrounding Yoga, took on its principles and made them a daily habit, The ancients scientist of Yoga the Maha Rishis, through there own practice and meditation knew there true benefit, and the modern scientist verifies, and so when ancient and modern thought intersect we have the real Yoga.
Again modern conveniences, make the system lazy and thus the organs function in a diminished manner. The toilet though a boon to the ones who cannot squat, have left the healthy human’s Organs sluggish and inefficient from Child to Elder. When you study the human body and and also simply look to nature, where we came from, the natural form for Evacuation is a squat. The reason the westerner is famous for tight hips is due to a complete lack of squatting culture. In Asia this culture is still alive though gradually it is deteriorating due to the western influence and thus western diseases are starting to creep up in Asian populations. When one Squats on the toilet daily, the hips are always brought into a deep opening, the muscles of the legs and ankles become strengthened supporting the knee and most importantly the bowls become completely empty and this our bodies become more healthy! As a Yoga teacher who can do almost all of the Yogasana’s students always ask me how to open the hips, i always recommend squatting on the toilet first. You can go to India you can see even the old, fat person can still sit in lotus! If this habit becomes regular so will you!
These are just a few very simple habits that a person of any age or level of experience can start to integrate into one’s daily regime to further progress on the path of Yoga, and to be more in tune with the natural rhythms of the earth. Also with these habits we are slowly lessening our complete dependance on technology and decrease our own strain on the earth’s eco-system which is the imminent problem that each person will face in this modern age.