With a framework for relating to energy we can approach and create a framework for Yoga practice. There are 3 modes of practice:
- CIKITSA: recovery. This mode of practice is associated with dispersed energy. Dispersed energy can be felt as low or unstable energy. Yoga practice in this mode is a relatively soft practice – one that can be gracefully executed by a person with dispersed energy. Yoga in this mode can facilitate a process of recovery – collecting the energy. In practice this is a therapeutic mode. Chronic back problems, asthma, depression are examples of situations in which a Cikitsa practice can be useful. The dominant tool in this mode is Asana.
- RAKSANA: health preservation. This mode of practice is associated with collected energy. Yoga practice in this mode is intended to preserve and sustain a stable state of energy. The intensity of the practice should be adjusted accordingly. A practice that is too low in intensity will have little to no effect on the system. A practice that is too intense can cause and disturbance and potentially lead to illness (which would require a Cikitsa practice for recovery). The dominant tool in this mode of practice is Pranayama.
- SIKSANA: intensifying. This mode of practice is associated with condensed energy. This is the classical mode of practice in Yoga. It assumes that energy is readily available – collected and condensed and that the system can be pushed into more intense modes of practice. This is literally playing with fire. The dominant tool in this mode of practice is Mudra & Bandha.
Weekly Yoga Classes
Yoga practiced by common people like you and I is usually integrated into a hectic and busy life. It is not practiced in monastic conditions with an entire system of support dedicated to the practice. It is injected into a tight corner of a crowded life alongside a career, family, friends, hobbies, etc.
This means that most people meet Yoga in a dispersed mode of energy. The relevant practice for most people is therefor Cikitsa – recovery. Indeed, many people come to weekly Yoga classes with an expectation to recover from a hectic week. In some cases, when the practice is effective, they will experience a sense of recovery, a rejuvenation of their system. When this happens people leave a practice with a collected energy. If they were to start a practice now, when the practice has ended, they may be able to contain a more intense Raksana practice. But alas they are not going into a practice, but going back into a hectic life and back into a dispersed energy. So a weekly Yoga practice, for most people, will be a movement back and forth between recovery and health preservation. People can practice Yoga for 20 years in this way without a substantial change in the system. Their are preserving a baseline of health, preventing, slowing a process of degeneration.
Daily Yoga Practice
I know of only one way to move beyond this basic loop of preservation. Practice more. My teachers have described Yoga practice as a savings account, the more you put into the more you have. My experience as a practitioner supports this. A more frequent practice can eventually leads to a more sustainable mode of health. If you practice 3 or 4 times a week you are altering the balance between disturbed energy and collected energy. You are no longer facing a week’s worth of dispersed energy but only a day or two. This may lead to improved health and in time open a crack into more intense Yoga practices.
For most people this is an irrelevant mode of practice. Unfortunately some of the most popular brands of Yoga in the western world preach and teach intensifying forms of practice. It is a matter of personal responsibility and conscious effort in choosing a proper yoga practice and teacher. Learn to walk, then learn to run and then train carefully for a marathon.
“Living in this hut, free of all anxieties, one should earnestly practice Yoga as taught by one’s guru”
(translation by Brian Akers)