Yoga is not about experiencing the unknown. Yoga is about realizing the ever-known.
WHY HATHA YOGA?
Of all the actual different types of Yoga, you are most likely to have heard of Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is relatively younger to other types of Yoga and is responsible for popularizing the physical postures called Asanas. "Hatha" is also a common word in the Hindi language, and means "hard" or "stubborn". It has lead to the wide misconception that Hatha Yoga refers to intense postures that required extraordinary strength and flexibility. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
"Ha" means Sun, and "Tha" means Moon. The solar and the lunar cycles exist in all elements of Nature including us - the human beings. The human body, like everything else, is made up of the 5 fundamental elements - Space/Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Sun and Moon have a direct effect on these elements. Particularly, moon directly affects the water element (our body is approximately 75% water), and sun affects the fire element. Also, Sun represents the masculine energy (ambition, dominance, extroversion, aggression, rigidity, etc.), and the moon represents feminine energy (creativity, introversion, contemplation, fluidity, etc.) of Nature. The combination of this energy manifest as our physique, health, attitude and personality. Physically, the left brain and the right half of the body is Solar part, and right brain and left half of the body is the Lunar part.
Yoga literally means "to unite". Essentially, it means "to harmonize". The meaning of Hatha Yoga, now, becomes crystal clear. The purpose of Hatha Yoga is to harmonize the masculine and feminine aspects of our existence and it gives techniques for the same. Physical postures are but one of the techniques for achieving this. The asanas don't have to be hard. There are other principles for the practice of Asanas.
Classical Hatha Yoga texts like Gheranda Samhita by Gheranda Muni, Hatha Pradipika by Swami Swatmarama (Hatha Pradipika is the correct name - the text is usually, but incorrectly, referenced as Hatha Yoga Pradipika), and Hatha Ratnavali by Yogi Srinivas Bhatt have given prime importance to Asanas, and go further along to mention and describe asanas in great detail along with their effects and contraindications. In fact, many of the asanas are common among these books.
However, asanas are one of the many limbs of Hatha Yoga. Shatkarmas / Shatkriyas (purification techniques), Pratyahara (internalisation), Pranayama (breathing techniques to control Prana), Mudras (psychic gestures), Dharana (Contemplation), Dhyana (Meditation) and Samadhi (Dissolution/Nirvana) are all branches of the giant banyan tree called Hatha Yoga. All the limbs further branch out. These practices are not sequential, but simultaneous, affecting each other, bringing depth on the entire journey of Hatha Yoga.
The aim of Hatha Yoga is to prepare the practitioner for Raja Yoga - for the higher states of Samadhi.
Yoga did not develop as a physical or therapeutic science - it was solely a spiritual science. The science was secret because of the tremendous abilities and power it can generate. As the world changed, the Masters, in their infinite compassion, developed the science to suit the needs of the time.
As the world connected, Yoga spread. In the last two centuries, the change on the planet has been unprecedented. The kind Masters repackaged the knowledge so that everyone could understand it, and access it. Hence developed sciences like Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga which have provided us with health, abundance, and grace.
WHAT IS ASHTANGA YOGA?
We live on the outskirts of our city. The area is relatively scantly populated, and our locality is open land with farms around. During the pandemic, I, and my mother would go for a walk in the evening in our colony. We had a spot from where we would see the setting sun. Everyday, we were astounded by the beauty. I would watch my mother gaze at the sky in childlike wonder, dancing on her toes to see the fire-ball just a moment longer. She sometimes would even climb up on a platform. We would chatter excitedly about the colors in the sky. They were never the same. We would look for the evening star. She would, without fail, remark "It's surely bigger than yesterday, isn't it". I admit, even though it was not possible, and I would tell my mother that she was mistaken, I secretly agreed with her and wondered if I was losing my mind. I realized much later that the abundance and the vastness of the nature cannot be bound by the rationality of the mind. Anyways, it is fun to just be amazed in wonder. Everyday, we went to the same spot. We saw the same sky, the same sun. Yet, everyday, we felt the sky was new, the sun was bigger, and the colors were better. Nature, like the human mind, does not like to get bored. It does something new everyday, no matter if anyone is there to see it or not. But for such kind of creativity, there is a catch as well. It follows a discipline - the sun rises and sets everyday. It has practiced this for 4.5 billion years.
Ashtanga Yoga is the practice of repetition, for a long time, with honor. Maharishi Patanjali gave this mantra for achieving success in Sadhana. He gave 8 limbs of Yoga - 'Asht' means eight, and 'ang' means limbs. Since this practice has the foundation of Maharishi Patanjali's mantra, it has been named Ashtanga Yoga. A set sequence of particular asanas is practiced everyday. There is no absolutely no variation. At first, the mind resists. It is bored. It then becomes frustrated. Then, one day, it truly experiences the present moment in its totality. Gradually, it starts to expand. It starts to experience the different colors of the practice and they are new everyday. There are endless possibilities. The vision covers more and more sky everyday. It then starts enjoying the clouds too. It doesn't mind if the sun is behind the clouds on some days. It doesn't mind if rain falls. It knows there is the same endless sky behind. The consciousness establishes in the sky.
Practice of asanas is Hatha Yoga. Practicing a fixed Sadhana for a long time with honor is Ashtanga Yoga.
WHAT IS VINYASA YOGA?
While Ashtanga Yoga takes the approach of repetition, Vinyasa Yoga approaches the same goal from another side. In Vinyasa, the asana flow has a lot of variations everyday. The key lies in practicing each asana with breathwork and attention. There are principles of inhalation and exhalation while moving in and out of the postures. If done in a rhythm with awareness on the motion and the affected body part, it inspires the consciousness to ground itself in the present moment. Again, the totality of the NOW is experienced. As Ashtanga, the result achieved is the same, the path taken is different.
Again, doing asanas, breathing through them and being aware of the practice is Hatha Yoga. Doing the asanas in a flow and building a rhythm through breath and awareness is Vinyasa.
Have you heard of "Kundalini", "Prana Science", "Tantras" and "Chakras" too?
Some other common words that have been commercialised are Kundalini, Chakras, and Nadis. Yes, these words are part of Yogic Science. But no, they are not to be thrown around easily. The science of Kundalini is hard to understand and harder to explain. It includes Nadis, Chakras and, ofcourse, Kundalini itself. Hatha Yoga also includes all these things as well but approaches the Kundalini Shakti differently (and more gently) Kundalini's misinterpretation and malpractice has lead many a seeker astray. Anyway, the practices usually given by the modern teachers and schools who claim to teach Kundalini are Hatha Yoga practices only. There is a huge overlap between different paths of Yoga. You are going to work on your Kundalini when you practice Hatha Yoga. Relax. You are going to get everything you need with Hatha Yoga.
WHY LIVE CLASSES
We do not offer any recordings for any sessions taken by ARNAVH YOGA. Our adventures, experiences and experiments with Yoga have cemented our belief that for the practice to be profound, a teacher's presence is vital. We ourselves have been initiated into the practice of Yoga (and teaching Yoga) in the presence and grace of living masters like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Krishan Verma. We experience their love, compassion, abundance and grace in our personal practice, and do our participants in our sessions.
WHAT IS YOGA?
At its core, Yoga is not about the practices you do. It's not about which asanas you can do, or how long you can hold your breath, or how long you can sit still. No. It's much simpler. Yoga is both the path and the goal. It is about enjoying the trek while you climb the mountain. You cannot see the top, you don't know when you will ever reach there, but it is guaranteed you will. Why not then make sure to enjoy the scenery. Why not meet new people and help them make the climb. Why not light a fire and sing and dance around it. Why not get out of our minds and see the sun rise and the stars shine. Why not keep our phones aside for a moment and listen to the life all around and inside of us. We don't have to teach anyone anything. We don't have to gain anything from any action, situation or person. We just have to live, love and laugh. If we truly understand this, and are able to live this, we have achieved Yoga.
The knowledge of Yoga is and has always been contemporary. Its principles cannot be buried for they are predicated on living in the present. Yoga is not for the weak-hearted. Yoga is for the courageous. Yoga is for the valiant. Yoga is for the compassionate. In all its kindness, practicing Yoga develops these abilities. The knowledge itself makes the aspirant an eligible recipient.
We are only instruments. Our body and mind are simply going to realize what our soul has always known. Let us make this journey with love, with warmth, and with faith. Let's Yoga together - Here and Now.