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  Hatha-Yoga, Backbending & Meditation

Classical Hatha-yoga

This system is an integration of four key aspects. These are: 1) the external body (the muscles, tendons and ligaments), 2) the internal body (physiological aspects), 3) the intellect, and 4) the spirit. The overall practice is focused on body alignment, awareness of the breath and internalizing the effects of the postures. The physical practice consists of the sun salutations (11 asanas combined with the breath), balance and standing postures, back bends, twists and forward bends. The closing sequence includes 11 postures ranging from inversions to rest. 

The various body positions are the vehicle used in moving from the gross (the body) to more subtle levels (intuition). Yoga is not just as an exercise alone for the body, but a sacred and spiritual tool in learning how to accept and work with limitations, pains, injuries and emotional blockages. Pleasure and pain are equal parts in the journey and it is the practice to create a calm mind to endure and see this. 

Heather teaches this system from a traditional stand-point. Some adjustments are given but these are only meant to aid the learning and not become a central part of it. Physical adjustments are considered a temporary aid. This is with the understanding that often they hinder a student from learning how to develop internally (the mind) and externally (the body). The overall intention is to guide students toward becoming more confident and self-realized practitioners; to understand their own capacity, nature and mind from the on-going practice.

 

Backbending Yoga

Backbending is a specialized practice that focuses on lengthening and opening the spine in backward and forward movements, as well as laterally (sideways). There are many physical benefits such as flexibility, strength and balance. However, the true practice goes beyond the body and opens the mind. The practice creates a deep heat and boosts one's energy by releasing endorphins (natural pain-killers). It is suitable for anyone to practice and at any level (just not the faint of heart).

Beyond the physical flexibility and strength that back bending develops, one of the deepest benefits is the way they challenge us to accept our limitations. Our 'preconceived' limitations are considered building blocks to deeper growth beyond the superficial benefits of good health and a strong body, but to an open heart and mind. Back bends are very invigorating, dynamic and powerful and uplift the mind, the body and the spirit. The classes are designed to be challenging.

The 6-week program provide the training and instruction in learning back bends. This also includes a variety of other postures such as forward bends, twists, counter postures and arm poses. An important aspect of the practice is deepening the breath and using the prana (the breath) to move the body. Classes address the entire spinal column in a progressive series of exercises suited to your capacity and individual need. During the program the classes are designed to focus on the abilities and goals of the individual.

Practice with Freedom of the Body: Primary elements of the back DVD (now available as a download).  

 

Meditation

Classes are taught according to The Himalayan Tradition, an unbroken lineage that has been passed from the Himilayan Masters to the present day mentors, teachers and Swamis. The main focus is based on watching the breath and using a personal mantra (chant) to develop awareness of the body and mental states.

Like all traditions, however, it is more than just relaxing the body and freeing tension and stress. It is a process in becoming more aware of one's deeper being beyond the physical body. While the benefits are ten-fold, this practice is the only one that I personally know of as a teacher and student of Yoga that brings you to the threshold of your own mind. A recommended practice resource is Stilling the Mind CD: Relaxation and Sitting. 

 

Brief History of the Himalayan Tradition: Swami Rama, the founder of the Sadhana Mandir in North India was raised by his Spiritual Masters in the mountains. He held the title of Shankaracharya, which he later renounced in order to serve the West. He was first Yogi to undergo scientific and medical tests proving total mastery over his body and mind. His living prodecessor is Swami Veda (a senior and direct discisple of Swami Rama).   

 

Recommended Reading

Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama
Night Birds by Swami Veda
Meditation and its Practice by Swami Rama
Happiness is Your Creation by Swami Rama (2005, Himalayan Institute)
Meditation and Mantras by Swami Vishu-Devananda (1995, Sivananda Centers)

Additional: Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa (2008, Shambhala Publications)
The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa (1999, Shambhala Publications)
Training the Mind; Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chogyam Trungpa (2003, Shambhala Publications)
Great Eastern Sun (Wisdom of Shambhala) by Chogyam Trungpa (2004, Shambhala Publications)

 

Bird's Eye-view of the Program  

  • Each class begins formally with sitting quietly and preparing for the class. 
  • To build upon intellectual knowledge and understanding related topics are discussed.  
  • Personal feedback is provided when necessary and/or if requested. 
  • A guided mediation session takes place for 15-20 minutes
  • Each class is closed with a traditional chant in Sanskrit.  
  • Homework is assigned and students are expected to self-practice.
Includes Jon Kabit-Zinn's book, Letting Everything Become Your Teacher. 
     

Yoga Program Levels

Level I: New students and/or beginners of yoga. Learn the fundamentals. Focus: Breathing, conditioning exercises and body alignment.

Level I/II: A combined class of beginners with more experienced students. Beginners are guided to practice at their own level while experienced students continue to build upon their current practice. Focus: More challenging yogasanas combined with the theory and philosophy behind the practice.

Level II: More experienced students. Students should be familiar with lotus (padmasana) and headstand (shirshasana). Focus: Modifications are not encouraged offered with more demanding asanas introduced.

Mysore Sadhana: Traditional Mysore practice. These are not formally guided class, but designed to develop an independent, "self-practice" of AtmaVikasa.

BB (Backbending): Taught in the tradition of Yogacharya Venkatesha who holds the rare title of "Rubber Yogi" and having been a former champion of backbending. Learn the techniques and practices unique to backbending including the breath, counter postures and theory. Programs include the sun saluations and closing sequence postures.  

Workshops: Various workshops offered. These are focused on a specific area. Visit the NEWS PAGE for more information.