In Ashtanga Yoga we begin the spiritual journey to the core of the Self by using the physical body as a vessel to cleanse the way into the true unchanging nature of the Self - Purusha - that is same in each and every one of us. The method we use is Asana. Through asana, we bend the body in very specific ways using a specific type of breathing - ujaya breathing. The combination of movement in and out of postures, or vinyasa, combined with steadiness in asana and ujaya breathing is what allows for the cleansing process to happen. The cleansing fire generated by this combination is called tapas. Tapas is referred to as heat or fire, heat in form of devotion and fire in terms of discipline.
The process of cleansing ‘the vessel’ (the body) comes in steps. We being with Primary Series or Yoga Chikitsa which serves to heal the physical body of ailments. It does that by unlocking toxins stuck in body tissues, ligaments, joints, organs, muscle tissue. Once muscles, bones and organs are aligned and working in oder then it begins to create strength where strength is needed. Once the body is strong and healthy the practice has access to move at deeper levels.
Second Series or Nadhi Shodana cleanses the nervous system. As humans we are like a very complex wiring system. When things are out of place in the physical body the energy or prana that runs through these energy channels called nadhis, becomes obstructed and often gets stuck and redirected. Practice serves to rewire the system. It unclogs, unlocks and redirects the prana in these channels. When the prana - life force - is not properly running through the nadhis emotional, mental, psychological issues begin to manifest. The proper flow of prana will heal all sorts of nervous system ailments.
The opening chant refers to the practice as a jungle doctor that takes away the poisons of the mind. “sandarshita swatma sukhava boddhe, nishreyase jangalikayamane, samsara halahala mohashantie..” A vital aspect of internal purification that Guruji teaches relates to the six poisons that cloud the mind and darken the heart. In the Yoga Shastra say that God dwells in our heart in the form of light, but this light is covered by six poisons: kama, krodha, moha, lobha, matsarya, and mada. These are desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy and sloth. “When yoga practice is sustained with great diligence and dedication over a long period of time, the heat generated from it burns away these poisons, and the light of our inner nature shines forth.”
We bend the body in order to bend the mind. Having all in order and flowing properly helps the mind settle and have more space to be flexible and adaptable to life circumstances. I’ll leave you with a few words from Sharath: “The Spiritual aspect of yoga is there in the practice but only comes with devoted practice. The body changes, the mind changes. Once you bring peace within then everything around looks calm and peaceful. Bring calmness to your mind. It will come when it has to come. You need lots of concentration and attention to build properly. Putting attention inwards. Save your energy for your own transformation.”
Join me on Retreat this year in Nicaragua 3/31-4/6 and Mallorca, Spain 6/28-7/4
All info here