Someone sitting in the lotus position with their hands in one of the Yogic hand gestures, is what many of us perceive as the classic Yoga stance.
We have often taken these gestures with our hands, because we see everyone else in class doing the same, but do we really have any idea about their meaning?
Whether within the practice of Yoga asana, or in meditation and relaxation, it has been suggested that we should drop the chin towards the chest with the neck lengthened, lift from our root or pelvic floor, draw our navel towards our spine and upwards. We try to adopt these internal locks of energy, but often in a forced way, and with no idea of how they may benefit our practice.
We are taught various points of focus to give us energetic alignment and focus, but are we aware of how that focus is about internal focus?
A point of focus is to develop awareness and has little to do with our sight. Our eyes will often distract us with what is going on in our surroundings, and may lead to judgement and expectation.
The real looking is directed internally and we help to direct our attention to the subtle aspects of our practice. These being our breath, engagement of bandhas, and the mind.
I remember when I began practicing Yoga in my mid twenties just after I had my first daughter. At first I tried to squeeze in a 30 minute practice while she was having her nap, and soon I found I had a little more time. Yoga not only helped me feel great physically, but also seemed to give a sleep deprived new Mum more energy and the tools to cope with motherhood and living in a different country.
I bought books which talked about the breathing techniques, the focus points with the eyes, and the means of controlling the energy within, involving muscular contractions known as Bandhas.
For some time, and even after I completed my first teacher training, I was unsure as to whether I fully understood the meaning of ''controlling the pranic energy'' or whether my focus was internal or external.
When we cover this topic on the course, I keep the explanation as short and simple as possible, as I believe this is something that will come naturally in time with regular practice.
I have seen too many people (and I was one of them years ago), squeezing their abdomen and buttocks in the hope of finding this enhanced energy flow through the bandhas.
Mudras or hand gestures are symbolic signs which cause an alteration in the body's vital life force and help us to direct it to various parts of the body.
Again, these gestures are truly personal and without any knowledge of the purpose and their meaning, are best introduced very gradually.
My main objective as a teacher of Yoga, as well as a tutor, is to offer the information regarding various techniques, and how to use them, to benefit practice, but leaving it to an individual to find which tools give them a true sense of freedom both on and off the mat.
Nothing in Yoga should be forced, as there is already too much judgement in life.
Both to my students on the course, as well as those of you who attend my classes, take what you will, but make your practice truly authentic to you.