Harmony in yoga practice

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How often during the day do we make ourselves do something? Is it possible to have fun at the same time? Do we allow ourselves to relax and to enjoy the process often enough? How often do we feel harmony in our daily routine? And what does the word “harmony” mean?

The modern lifestyle with its technical progress obliges us to keep up to date. We need to move on, otherwise that same progress will throw us back in our development. This is unacceptable in terms of the evolution of both a single person and society as a whole.

While striving to succeed in life and to achieve our goals, we flog ourselves to death, day after day, year after year, and only very late in life — when we are too tired of this turf battle — we realize that we needed to slow down, look around and find the harmony inside us. It could be on the contrary a passive “go with the flow” attitude, with no pressure or any efforts.

Being passive, we do not set any goals and don’t reach them. Thus, having lived to no purpose, at the end we realise that time is over and we have not done anything of value.

The world around us is balanced at this very moment! This balance is achieved by means of neutralizing the extremes.

We swing from one extreme to another. We try to compensate for the disharmony, but really the more we move to one side, the more we will be thrown in the opposite direction. In other words, we tend to overstress where it is necessary to relax, or we relax too much in situations when we need to apply effort. This is irrational from the yoga point of view, as our effectiveness drops down in this case. Having cornered ourselves by skipping from side to side, some of us eventually start feeling the lack of harmony and try to find it intuitively inside ourselves and in our environment. Then many questions arise. Looking for the answers could lead us to yoga.

Yoga is a unity with the whole world, unity with oneself and a unity of extremes in oneself!

Each kind of yoga we follow leads us to balance of the extremes.The easiest way is to start with the physical body, using such an instrument as Hatha yoga. It helps to feel the harmony and to reject the extremes on the physical level of our body. We get our muscles, joints and other structures of the body to a more balanced and harmonious functioning.

By changing the position of our body, we redirect the energy inside us, get rid of any tension and support our weaker parts. In this way, from physical to subtle, we achieve harmony in our thoughts, emotions and life as a whole.

Methods of doing the exercises

When we start practicing Hatha yoga, we should remember that there are two methods of doing the exercises: maternal method of energy and paternal method of consciousness. Here is what “The Treatise of Hatha Yoga” says about this:

“HA means to push oneself, THA means to let oneself.

HA means to let oneself, THA means to push oneself.

HATHA —  to achieve the highest result in life.”

According to the maternal method, we let our body take a pose in a relaxed manner, without any tension of the structures not involved in maintaining the pose. We let the awakened energy inside us position our body in the right way. According to the paternal method, we on the contrary, take all the positions with effort, directing our attention to achieving perfection, overcoming ourselves, though, without violence. The maternal method is also called “the method of pleasure” and the paternal method — “the method of asceticism”. 

Only when the two methods converge, the extremes can be balanced and harmony can be achieved.

While practicing asanas we should feel joy from either doing the exercise or from overcoming ourselves. If there is violence the harmony will disappear and as a consequence, there will be no yoga. Only by using both methods simultaneously and not ignoring any of them, we can reach harmony not only in our practice, but in our lives as well. This is the truth incorporated in the word “hatha”. By moving forward into success in our practice, we become more aware of this truth. 

“Reject the extremes and you will achieve Hatha yoga.” The Treatise of Hatha Yoga

Usually, the beginners poorly understand the importance of harmonious approach in yoga and continue to overpush themselves, with extreme tension, feeling content that the more they bend or stretch the muscles, the better. This is a mistake!  

It is essential to remember that yoga is not a kind of sport!

It is not the aim of hatha yoga to achieve results within a preset period of time, and there is no space for competition in it. The sole purpose of yoga is self-exploration. So, in any exercise the only benchmark is the feeling of harmony inside!

That is why the recommendation in Hatha yoga is to start practicing with the maternal method of energy, in other words, letting yourself relax, taking your time in the asana no matter what it looks like. After some time it is good to include the paternal method of consciousness — push yourself, stay in the asana for a couple of seconds, but do it perfectly according to your perception.

On the wave of harmony, the practitioner is capable to unite both methods and to balance the extremes by the practice.  

Anyway, we should remember about enjoyment of doing the pose or of overcoming ourselves!

Harmony is the key in yoga practice! It is something we cannot see or impose on another person! We can only realize it for ourselves and to discover it inside us. This is something that balances the extremes and brings the feeling of happiness and joy! The feeling of internal harmony will tell us how to do the exercise — either to push ourselves or to indulge ourselves. 

Practice with harmony and for the sake of harmony!

Author: Olga Belous

Editors: Kerigona, Mirra, M.Sarasvati-Bhavani

Project curator: Kerigona

Translators: Tatiana Sugrue, Nat Satcitananda, Alexander Vijaya