Monday, July 6, 2015

Discovering Oneself through Hatha Yoga

Or, as in my case, Re-discovering myself.

I can't get over the fact that it's already July. Mid-summer, and yes, I'm still relaxing. Or learning how to do this. The rediscovering part came a few weeks ago. I don't remember exactly what brought it all on, but I opened up an old notebook, which I put together in 1992, with a variety of things, including Rune study, my thoughts on religion--Christian, Native American and pagan. Also I've written down dreams and a few metaphysical events.

Somehow this, and the show "Kung Fu" all led me to Yoga. That and I'd been suffering back pain and stiffness. I'd lost elasticity of my youth, and I really hated this. More to the point, my whole left side hurt, and was stiff, and working or even walking was difficult. I have scoliosis, and so there's little I can do, except keep excess weight off, and doing stretches. But I needed to know how to do these correctly, and thought of yoga. Thus, I thought of this book:
by Jess Stearn 1965

It's an old book, but the instructions are good, and there are figures to show how to do the stances. Jess Stearn, the man who wrote it, lived in the yoga instructor's house with her family in Concord. Middle aged, and somewhat dubious about the claims of yoga, he wanted to write a book on the subject, and wasn't sure what he was getting himself into. What better way than to live in an ashram? It's an interesting read, and since I have not opened it since I'd bought it--and that was so long ago I still had my maiden name scribbled inside, it might be 30+ years ago since I'd purchased it. I surely don't remember too much of the contents, because some of it really caught me by surprise. Did you know that Alcot, Thoreau and Emerson studied the far eastern practice of meditation and Yoga? Thoreau made the trip to Walden Pond--the poem he is so famous for, among other things--as a "pilgrimage".

Well, I didn't get into this for history lessons, but the read was good in these first chapters. And, so, returning to the other more important things about Yoga, it's true that the stretches are very tranquilizing. And, it is said after a time of practicing, you become ageless. A neck roll I'm doing should get rid of the rings (wrinkles) around my neck. We'll see. I've only just begun them, and they do relieve the neck tension.

There's also one thing to do for sinuses. Lie out flat on your bed, on your back, and head over the side of it, and gradually lower your head to the floor--possibly with someone holding you so you don't fall. I haven't tried this one, for that one reason.

But one for the spine was simple and I could hear it pop as I did this. I call it the Rocker, and I do it after the head rolls, and some other stretches. Lie on your back, pull knees up to chest, clasp hands under knees, or around them, and gently rock back and forth. I think this one helped a lot.

One thing that I like about Hatha Yoga is there is never any hurry, nor do you force anything. It would seem that a person who does calisthenics would be able to do these things no problem, but the author of this book--who went to the gym regularly--noted that many of the stances were difficult, and to hold them very long took practice.

Also, there are claims that certain ailments can be righted by the practicing of Yoga. Some people claim to hardly ever be sick. Eventually you have greater control of specific parts of your body, and you learn how to breath. Yes. We breath wrong! We breath shallowly, and we never really get enough oxygen to the brain. I've begun extending my stomach when I breath in, and tighten it as I breath out. I'm trying to understand when to breath in or out during these exercises.

The simple ones are the ones I'm on, but I do some form of others. Standing on one leg to do the Tree Pose is harder than you think and will take practice. Try closing your eyes and doing this. Yeah. Right. I can't even do this for more than two seconds. But I try it every time to get the hang of it. I'll eventually do it. The whole thing about yoga is you act deliberately and with control.

The child's pose is simple. When I do this one, I can feel the spine move. Especially the first time. It's a very relaxing pose and I leave myself in this position for ten or more seconds.
Other stretches are the side ones, like this:
And then you do the forward and backward fold. Always doing the opposite bends to relieve the pressure.
Then, while I'm already into position I go into what's known as "Dog-Down":
Then, I like to get down on my knees and do the "Cat-Cow"... only I don't moo or meow.
Now, you can do a number of other poses, like the Upward facing Dog...
This next one I can do, but it took me two weeks to get it down. I remember doing this one easily, back when I was much younger. I know, it looks confusing, but it stretches the spine nicely. You do one side and then the other side.
Well, I'll leave you now with this quote from the above book: "...with self-knowledge comes an awakening, as to both our limits and our potentials. You must know where you are, before you know where you are going."

As for me, I think I'll brave the mosquitoes and heat/humidity and go for a walk in our park. Here's hoping you are having a great day!