A dozen years ago, Eckhart Tolle gave a wonderful talk entitled ‘Gateways to Now’ which was also published as an audiobook in 2003. In that talk, he identified three gateways: the gateway of the inner body, the gateway of silence, and the gateway of accepting this moment.
All of these gateways can be explored during our Hatha yoga practice, but especially the first: the gateway of the inner body.
Yoga is about awareness.
Performing asanas requires our full attention. If our minds wander during our practice or if we do our asanas carelessly, not only do we lose some of the benefits of a high-quality session, but we risk injury through inattention. We need to concentrate.
We’ve probably all experienced the exhilaration of completing a yoga class in which we have been fully focused and present. For an hour, we have not given a thought to anything but what we are doing; This is a meditation of the highest order.
How can we achieve this consistently and even deepen the experience? Here are four ways.
1. Perfect the posture.
Listen carefully to the teacher’s instructions and make the posture as correct as you are able to, given your personal limitations and experience. This involves intense awareness of the inner body: Are you feeling the stretches in the places you should? Is there any warning pain to be heeded? Is your body aligned correctly? Are you pushing your limits but not exceeding them?
2. Use visualization from time to time.
When in a twist, for example, visualize your spine as an absolutely straight rod of light. With this powerful image, you can breathe and relax into the twist.
3. Breathe consciously.
Attend to your breath both as you move from one position to another as well as when you are holding a posture. Make it easy and flowing. With it, release the tension.
4. Close your eyes whenever possible.
Closing the eyes encourages visualization, body-awareness, and breath-awareness. It helps you to tune in to your inner body and tune out external distractions.
There can be so much to keep in mind during our asanas! This level of attention provides so many benefits as well as the way into a deeper practice. Explore the best possible quality of yoga and a path of continual improvement. Completely immerse yourself in your inner body and engage in a moving meditation with every class.