“The attendance is compulsory for all seven days. After these seven days, if you wish to come for the guided practice session also, you need to commit to be here for the entire two weeks,” the firm and gentle voice of the Samskriti student teacher resonated in Adiyogi Alayam.
It was the first morning of the 21-day asanas correction and guided practices program that Robin had signed up for. It started with Guru Pooja at 5:30 am, followed by a crash course of “Inner Engineering”. There had been correction sessions in the ashram before, but for many people like Robin, this one seemed too formal and long – volunteers were expected to be there for at least 2½ hours every morning for the next 21 days. She was hesitant to commit for the whole program.
But the sporty Robin stuck on for the whole program. “These 21 days unfolded not just my body but were one of the finest experiences of morning sadhana in the last four years of my stay at the ashram,” she shared.
Same Practices, New Experiences
Robin was among 191 full-time volunteers who took the opportunity to go through the 21-day program, which included one week of asana corrections, followed by two weeks of guided practices. The program was designed to deeply establish all aspects of hatha yoga, i.e. Surya Kriya, Surya Namaskar, Yogasanas and Bhakti Sadhana as a part of the morning sadhana of ashram volunteers.
Shylaja, vouched that the way she did her asanas would never be the same again. “I could never bend fully into Padahasthasana, or into any other forward-bending asanas. But as the days went by, I learnt to visualize my subtle body, and many times got fully into all postures, effortlessly. As if my body was not there. It was truly a revelation!” she beamed.
Meanwhile, Radha, who is a fan of hatha yoga, had always been in a spot when it came to her morning sadhana. She would squeeze in so many different practices during her morning sadhana period that she had little time to spare for hatha yoga. During the program however, she exclusively focused on hatha yoga for those two continuous hours, and her experience of these practices climbed to new heights. “My way of being is changed. I am doing three times more activity than I did before, but the calmness and focus with which I am able to work now is remarkable,” she said.
Hold… Hold… HOLD… Relax
In hatha yoga, one must stay in an asana for a certain amount of time in order to experience the benefits. And yet, some people find ingenious ways to warp time. “I never fancied hatha yoga practice before. It was almost comical the way I used to speed up the mental countdown within me to come out of a posture quickly,” confessed Kalpana. “But this program has changed my attitude completely. It’s really intoxicating to be aware of minute movements of the body,” she shared, oozing excitement.
Vikas said, “I used to be one of the people who demonstrates hatha yoga postures for participants at ashram programs. So I didn’t think I needed much correction. But then I realized after a few days that I would unconsciously hold the asanas that I could do with ease longer, and hurry up those I couldn’t. Now, I automatically do all asanas for the same duration. My body feels much more balanced now.”
Venu, a soft-spoken volunteer said with a smile, “I am now able get into Shalabhasana and Dhanurasana easily, and hold them for much longer. The body feels at ease.”
The Butterfly Effect
Whether straightforward asanas like Shavasana and Patangasana (“patanga” means “butterfly”), or the more intricate ones like Matsyendrasana and Sarvangasana, getting into each asana became a discovery of its own for the participants.
“I never paid this much attention to Patangasana initially. I just did it because it was a preparatory asana for the new asanas that I was really very excited about getting right. But soon, I was striving to do this asana also well because it just felt good to do it right,” Shylaja explained.
“The first day it was so funny to see that most volunteers moved their legs during the Patangasana like a flutter of humming birds. Later, as the program proceeded, it was inspiring to see that their fluttering smoothened into the gentle glide of butterflies – as the practice should be,” Emanuela laughed gently. A trained Hatha Yoga teacher, Emanuela was supporting Samskriti students in making the corrections.
“I simply ignored it earlier when I heard teachers say to feel the sensations at the base of my spine during Patangasana. I always thought these nuances were too advanced for me. But now I finally, finally, felt the sensations,” Kalpana said with a tinge of awe in her voice.
The Magic of Hatha Yoga
Kiran, though very regular with his morning sadhana, struggled so much with his evening sadhana, and always wondered why. He was overjoyed when he discovered that after a day’s activity before the computer, if he did Nadi Vibhajan slowly, as was taught in this program, his body just settled. “I feel my meditation quality has also improved considerably now,” he revealed.
“I was suffering a certain health condition for the last one year. The ashram clinic doctors did many tests, and even sent me to specialists, but the condition persisted. Miraculously, after these 21 days of practices, it’s gone!” Radha said with folded hands and moist eyes.
“And, the magic of doing hatha yoga together; all of us following the same pace – was inexplicable. Learning to take corrections with gratitude from each other created a beautiful space within me. I didn’t feel a wee bit embarrassed when I couldn’t get into a posture properly, as others corrected me with so much care and inclusion. The ease and skill with which Samskriti students conducted this program was simply fascinating,” said another participant, Asha.
“The exuberance I felt by being in this program was no less exciting than any all-night party I have been to before I came to the ashram. This was our 21-day long Hatha Yoga Party. Feeling great with the body at ease and a focused and pleasant mind, is only the hangover!” Kalpana quipped.
*Some names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.
Editor’s Note: The annual 21-day Hatha Yoga Program will take place at the Isha Yoga Center from May 24 to June 13, 2017. For more information or to register, visit IshaYoga.org