Hatha Yoga with Charles
IN AUSTIN, TEXAS AND OTHER
Overview of Raja
Two men travel the same path, intent upon the same quest:
to climb the mountain. They round a bend in the road and the Mountain
at last comes into view. The first man presses forward with determination
leaving the second man seated upon a boulder on the side of the path.
Soon he comes to the foot of the mountain, and without hesitation starts
up its slope. The first man reaches the top of the mountain that afternoon,
and looking around notes that the view is beautiful, but decides to climb
back down before sun set and darkness overtake him. He is surprised to
find the second man where he had left him that morning and asks "Why
are you still here! Are you feeling alright?" The second man does
not answer directly, but points to the mountain where deep purple shadows
are mounting their final assault on the summit, held at bay by the glow
from distant blood red clouds. The first man noted that this was indeed
beautiful and hurried on his way.
The second man comes to the foot of the mountain and again
sits, watching, listening, breathing. The next day he spends circling
the mountain, looking up at it from all sides, pausing occasionally to
admire it, noting points of interest, and plotting out a strategy. After
a week he starts up the mountain, wandering here and there, exploring
the creeks, searching out hidden meadows easily seen from afar. A month
passes by and still he explores the mountain, circling, ascending, descending
always amazed to discover something new by looking at the familiar from
a slightly different angle. Another month passes by and the second man
is realizing that the closer he looks, the more there is to see. After
ten more months have passed by, the first man knows that he has seen most
of the more prominent features of the Mountain, and that he has seen the
mountain through the cycle of seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter,
and yet he realizes that he has not seen all of the features in all of
their seasons from every possible angle and more importantly, the mountain
is constantly changing, behind his back, under his feet, in front of his
eyes! Every moment infinity is lost to him for ever, and all he can salvage
from any one moment, was a single perspective, the tiniest fragment of
the whole. Now the second man is humbled.
In time the first man goes on to climb many mountains in
many countries and becomes an expert on mountains. But his confidence
is built upon the assumption that to climb a mountain is to know the mountain,
and when this foundation crumbles there will be nothing left. The second
man gave up all illusions of knowing the Mountain, and became one with
THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA: Approximately 200 years B.C. Patanjali
wrote down the first systematized treatise on Yoga called Yoga Sutras
(aphorisms). In this work he describes the eight limbs of Yoga as: Yamas
(Abstinence); Niyamas (Observances); Asanas (Postures); Pranayama (Breath
Control); Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal; Dharana (Concentration); Dhyana
(Contemplation); and Samadhi (Self-realization).
The first five limbs (Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama,
& Pratyahara) are external disciplines and the last three (Dharana,
Dhyana, and Samadhi) are considered internal disciplines. It is best to
practice each of these disciplines in the order listed before shifting
your focus to the next rung of the ladder.
Since this proves to be impractical for most western students, it is permissible
to work on the first three limbs of yoga simultaneously.
It is interesting to see how each limb builds upon the previous
limbs. First control of your interations with society - Yamas (don't lie,
don't steel, do not harm etc.). Second is control of your own personal
habits - Niyamas (hygeine, contentment, effort etc.) Third is control
of your muscles - Asana. Fourth is control of your own breath - Pranayama.
Fifth is control of your senses (Pratyahara). Sixth is control of your
attention - Dharana. Seventh is comtemplation of God - Dhyana. The eighth
limb of yoga is illumination - Samadhi. Notice how each successive limb
is more subtle and leads the practitioner progressively deeper and deeper
into their own true selves.
It is my hope that you will view yoga not as a mountain
to be conquered, but to be explored, enjoyed, and appreciated, in the
hopes that one day you might merge with the spirit of yoga bringing body,
mind and soul into harmony.