If we do yoga asanas for an hour a day, there are still 23 other hours of the day when we could be mindfully improving our yoga, just by how we go through the activities of our normal day. In Tibet, this is called Chulam Neljor: All-Day Yoga.
There’s a yoga body, there’s a light body. On the way to your light body, it’s fine to want to look good. That’s a yoga body. We work on the asanas day after day, to wrestle ourselves into the yoga body: lean and strong. But if you know one simple trick, you can make the whole process happen much, much faster. Faster to your light body, and faster to what you were meant to become.
If any person does yoga on a modest, daily basis, then they will inevitably attain the extraordinary benefits of yoga. And so the question for us, as teachers, is simply getting students coming back to the studio. About sixteen centuries ago, the Indian sage Master Asanga—in his book called The Jewel of the Sutras—described four gifts that we give our students, so that they do come back for their practice.
Two people walk into their first yoga class. One of them leaves with the most exhilarating experience of their life. The other leaves with a sore neck, and never comes back. Why the difference? Our entire being is like the layers of an onion. The outermost layer is the gross physical body. The next layer down is what feeds this layer, the breath being our most important “food.” This breath layer is linked to a layer of subtle physical energy—the prana, or inner winds.
The following is from The Lamp that Illuminates the Very Heart of All the Essential Points in the Golden Harvest of Attainments, by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Tibet’s famed Sera Mey Monastery.
The original purpose of the yoga asanas, of course, was to reach in from the outside to affect the inner channels, or nadis, through which prana and our thoughts travel, linked together. We thus loosen up chokepoints in the inner channels, where they twine around each other and form the circular-shaped “wheels,” or chakras.
This post presents a summary of the different chakras, including their ancient names, general location, and function—according to traditional Indian and Tibetan sources. These sources often differ from each other in specific details; these differences often have a specific purpose and are not just mistakes.
Learning to breath properly during asana is essential in getting prana or inner wind to move through the body properly—which is the whole point of the asana. Throughout any practice of yoga asana, it’s important to maintain what’s called ujjayi breathing in Sanskrit. The throat is lightly constricted to make what’s been called a “Darth Vader” sound, or heavy breathing sound, as you practice.
The following bit of advice on how to finish our yoga practice was excerpted from The Crystal Mirror which Reveals the Machine of the Body: a book of instruction which grants—within a single year, or at least within this single lifetime—both the highest spiritual goals and the worldly goals of this life (Trulkor Selway Melong), compiled by Marpa the Translator, also known as Marpa Chukyi Lodro (1012-1097).
The four universal dreams: We’ve already mentioned briefly the four dreams that almost everyone has in their life. Believe me, the real reason that your students have come to your yoga class has something to do with one of these four dreams: financial security, a relationship with a good partner, staying young & healthy, and somehow being of service to the entire world.
If one task is to get people to come back to yoga class, another is to inspire them to do their yoga practice daily, if only for a short amount of time. Anyone who has truly gotten deep benefit out of yoga knows that this requires a daily practice—opening up the channels and chakras is really a lot easier with a modest, regular, daily practice. Here then are some tips for getting people to actually do a daily practice.
If they don’t come back, it doesn’t matter what you can teach. As a yoga teacher, we need to spend a lot of time thinking about how to make our class a pleasant, enjoyable, uplifting experience. The goal of having a class is to help the student. We can’t help them if they have an unpleasant experience in our class and don’t come back.