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My Experience of Yoga

My Experience of Yoga

It is nearly 50 years since I sat on a beach in North Devon and wrote the book Yoga and Relaxation.  I was 33 years old at the time and I am now 80.  Looking back across those years I can see that my most powerful experiences in regard to the essence of yoga were met after I wrote the book.  Because of that I have wanted to revise it, or at least to add comments to what was originally said.  Out of that desire these notes have arisen.

One of the first important statements in the book is a quote, as follows.

“It is maintained that the study and practice of Yoga purifies the body, improves the health, and strengthens the mind; that, above all, it intensifies spiritual growth. Every person with sound mind and body is capable of attaining Yoga in some measure. The earlier in life the training is begun the better, but it is never too late to start its practices.” So writes Theos Bernard.[i]

I had the good fortune to come across Theos Bernard’s book Hatha Yoga early in my own quest for the kernel of the practice. Realising that the methods Bernard described were based on the ancient traditions I tried to follow the same path.  But at the time I was working full-time, running another business part-time and trying to be a father to my children and husband to my wife.  The traditional practice of Hatha Yoga Bernard describes arose in a culture that for many was not work dominated, and practitioners could be supported by servants or a community of people sympathetic to the discipline.  It needs a lot of time, courage, determination and great energy.  I made myself ill trying to follow that path. However it did lead me to an appreciation of what traditional Hatha Yoga was aiming at and how it was achieved.  It also gave me a means of assessing much that is called Yoga in today’s world, East and West. In saying that I pay homage to the masters of that ancient path.

Bernard’s book deals with just one of the paths to Yoga – Hatha Yoga. It deals with practices that involve the body in a sequential pathway to the mind and spirit. The above quote is an excellent focal point with which to explore the subject.  In particular we need to define the words yoga and spirit.

(Perhaps the most ancient and honored method of all originated in the East—the method of yoga, which, besides its avowed goal of spiritual enlightenment, seems to liberate the ego from its conscious limitations, making available the exotic fantasies of the subconscious. The witness of history and the testimony of thousands indicate that the system of yoga, if meticulously followed, can achieve this liberation. Unfortunately these results require years of persistent effort. Modern man, it seems, hardly cares to spend the time. From LSD Psychoanalysis)

But in today’s yoga in the West, most practitioners only aim to perfect the many postures, but traditional hatha/physical yoga had other ideas. So all these many postures are considered by classical hatha yoga as non-essential. They are used to make the body strong enough to hold the essential postures for three hours. Also I learnt to cut the membrane that restrictions the tongues movement to allow what was called ‘swallowing the tongue’. Also to learn to be able to swallow a long cloth in order to cleanse the stomach and to get past the gag reflex, and to cleanse the nose by taking salt water into my mouth and spurting I out through the nose – a wonderful method to make breathing easier and to cleanse dust.

The reason for keeping the practice going for three months is that they have to be done in this long because it takes that time, after which powerful physical and psychological changes will be made. After that they will not be necessary to keep practising. There are only three essential postures, the head stand, the lotus and easy posture. Links to Chapter Headings



[i] From his book Hatha Yoga, published by Rider.

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