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Classical Hatha Yoga

Classical Hatha yoga is the practice of Patanjalim’s 8-fold path called Ashtanga yoga. Along this path there are 8 stages starting from ethical practices and moral behaviors to train the mind for meditation, and reach a super conscious state known as Samadhi. While most of us may not come to know this higher state, it is possible to benefit from the many blessings Yoga offers. The yoga postures (the third stage) is often the most tangible way to prepare the mind for concentration and meditation.

Overall, Hatha yoga is an Indian set of exercises focused on body alignment, awareness of the breath and observing the mind. The use of the word ‘classical’ refers to a system of Hatha yoga that has been developed and taught by a Master teacher or Guru. It is not a hybrid or popularized version of yoga, but a lineage handed down to its students. Despite the differences among traditions such as Ashtanga yoga, which is a lineage within the body of Hatha yoga, the foundation of the practices share a lot in common.  The physical postures consist of the sun salutations (11 asanas combined with the breath), balance and standing postures, back bends, twists and forward bends. The closing sequence (11 postures) ranges from inversions like the headstand and shoulder stand, to rest and relaxation.

 

What to Expect 

I teach from a traditional stand-point in that my main focus is on the breath and the individual. The body has its limits while the breath is the vehicle to increase prana (energy). At present, the system I am practicing and studying is from Yogacharya Vinay Kumar in Mysore, South India, called Prana Vashya. My study began after a longer evolution starting from Sivananda yoga to Ashanga yoga. When I first came to study with Vinay told me, “Come and practice. This is your shala too.” It was a kind and beautiful way to welcome me, a new student; making me feel the embrace of the teacher and affirming how Yoga should have no bias, no prejudice and no ‘ego’ driven title.

The system of Prana Vashya takes its direction from the panic flow. It is practiced with retentions before and after the inhalation or the exhalation. These are formerly known as kumbhakas with antara (before the exhalation) and bahya (before the inhalation) and act as a way to control the breath. I have learned the primary and secondary series with Vinay, which involves both intermediate and advanced postures. Even the primary level is not a basic flow of simple postures, but a strong practice of arm balances, lotus positions and spinal twists. Breath retentions and a continual flow of movement are the inherent basis to the practice. However, the bedrock of the system rests in placing the mind in between the inhalations and the exhalations, and finding the space within these two forces.


As a sacred and spiritual tool in learning how to accept and work with limitations, the postures of Hatha yoga are remedies in dealing with chronic pain, injuries and emotional blocks. 
Hatha yoga is one way to discover your nature and the meaning of your life. It leads to meditation, which is the ultimate yoga.

Meditation

Classes are inspired by the Himalayan tradition of Meditation, an unbroken lineage that has been passed down from the Himalayan Masters to the present-day teachers and Swamis. The main focus is based upon watching the breath and using a personal mantra to develop awareness of the body and mental states.

Like all traditional meditation, it is more than a process of physical and mental relaxation. It is concerned with freeing the body and mind of chronic tensions and stress and ultimately transforming our usual mental habits and reactions. It is a practice to become aware of your true self beyond the physical identification with the body. While the benefits are ten-fold, meditation is truly the only practice that can bring you to the threshold of your own mind and soul. Meditation is also not something that any particular teacher can teach or give you. It is by being guided and applying the correct methods that a teacher imparts, which leads to realization. this in turn leads you to creating your own meditative experience and the teacher within.

Yoga Back Bending

Back bending is a practice that focuses on lengthening and opening the spine in backward, forward and lateral movements. It is a full body movement and an extension of the postures within Hatha yoga. There are many benefits such as flexibility, strength and balance. However, the true practice goes beyond the body by healing the mind through the body. It is suitable for anyone and at any level.

Beyond the immense flexibility that back bending develops, one of the deepest benefits is the mysterious way the postures bring you to the forefront of your preconceived ideas, abilites and comfort zones. An essential aspect to the practice is how to deepen the breath and use the prana (your energy) to move your body. It’s not about how far you can bend back or how much pain you can take as it is about learning to observe your emotional reactions during the process. This honest ability to ‘observe’ is usually overlooked in practice and actually more challenging than the back bends themselves.

My teaching addresses the whole spinal column throughout a progressive series of conditioning exercises suited to individual capacity and need. Learning to listen to your breath and to your body (not the ego) is the essence of back bending. It may seem impossible to extend into the extreme postures given the challenging aspects of them. I personally was only able to reach higher levels in the physical practice after a decade of daily practice. However, this was also coupled with daily meditation, pranayama and a regular Hatha yoga practice throughout.

To whatever extent you want to develop your back bending practice, there is always space to grow and develop. And with the path leading you to the ultimate potential of peace and inner freedom.