Speaking from Relaxation
Over the more than 30 years that I’ve been an initiate in the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition, at times I’ve ventured out and attended hatha yoga classes at commercial yoga outlets. Often at those classes, I encountered teachers who shouted instructions like circus barkers or gym instructors. Not only did I feel agitated by those teachers tense voices, but I also wondered if those classes were in circus training rather than yoga. People were literally jumping into headstands and very challenging postures without awareness. I thought of those classes as Ego-yoga: yoga to expand one’s ego.
But Himalayan yoga, which I was learning, is meant lead one away from identifying with ego, and to oneness with the real Self. Expanding the ego is not part of the Himalayan program. What is taught in the Himalayan Tradition combines both energies of hatha yoga: Ha (the solar energy of fastness, tenseness and energy) and Tha (the lunar energy of slowness, relaxation, and calm). This way of practicing brings the solar and lunar energies together so the center stream, the sushumna nadi, the flow of energy along the spine, opens, and one drops into meditation.
Many years ago when I was first an initiate in the Himalayan Tradition, I went to my teacher, Dr. Usharbudh Arya (who many years later took swami vows and then became known as Swami Veda Bharati), and asked him if I could teach relaxation. In typically American fashion, I had just started learning and already wanted to teach. Dr. Arya looked at me very kindly and said, “yes, you can teach relaxation, but first you have to learn to relax.” He was right.
So often, in those commercial yoga studios I mentioned, it’s as if the teacher was simply reading a script without being relaxed. That isn’t how Dr. Arya/Swami Veda taught. He was relaxed and had a serene mind and when he spoke, those hearing his voice were induced into the relaxation and had an experience they would not otherwise have had. This is the way one learns to teach in the Himalayan Tradition. We teach HaTha yoga, not just Ha (solar) yoga.
Years later, when I was endeavoring to teach meditation, again Swami Veda (he had by then taken his sannyasa vows) guided me to teach from my meditation rather than simply speaking the words. This was how he taught.
One time, when I was assisting Swami Veda in his chambers, doing some computer work for him, he brought some people in and began leading them in a guided meditation. Being in that room with them, hearing his voice, my mind was literally pulled into meditation, and I couldn’t continue working. All I could do was to sit and enjoy the inner experience.
Many people who come to yoga have never experienced relaxation or meditation. If all we do is repeat the words of a guided relaxation or meditation without actually embodying those energies as we speak, the students will not have the experience. Speaking the words without embodying the energy is like telling someone what sugar tastes like rather than handing them the sugar to taste. The words just don’t do it.
This is how to practice and teacher in Himalayan Tradition. This is a tradition of practice, not just of words. When we are doing own practice, as well as when we lead others, it’s essential to go as deep as possible into our relaxation, into our meditation. The most important part of the practice and of teaching is to do so from the relaxation or the meditation. Simply reading a script while maintaining an agitated mind takes one nowhere.