“I am relaxed, I am calm, I am at my center”
Only when you are extremely soft and pliable can you be extremely hard and strong. Yoga is a balance between strength and flexibility. Every posture is connected to every other posture and movement. Yoga is a series of postures which emphasize developing strength and consistency, concentration and flow. Yoga is a union between higher and lower levels of consciousness; between body and mind. Hatha Yoga is the physical exercise that is engaged in to develop that union. Hatha Yoga is based on the origins of the word itself. “Ha” meaning sun, and “Tha” meaning moon. Therefore, the exercises are bringing together solar and lunar energies; the hard and soft. One makes you solid, strong, focused, grounded, powerful, effective, and unyielding. The other makes you fluid, gentile, compassionate, sensitive, spacious, and yielding. The two working together combine to form the power within Yoga. Flexibility is a result of the development of strength. Strength develops flexibility. The strength work provides the “heat” which enables the flexibility to develop. Without the “heat” provided by the strength work, flexibility development would not be as effective, as safe, or quite possibly, achieved at a high level. One must be “hot” in order to stretch safely and effectively. This can only be accomplished by combining strength work along with flexibility training. Yoga aids in increasing range of motion, agility, flexibility, strength, lung capacity, endurance, and general body awareness. It is about being centered in the moment. One has to be focused on the moment. You cannot be concerned with any thought about the past or the future, only the moment. You are training yourself to build mental endurance. You are training your body to build physical stamina which will enable you to flow through the exercise without stopping. The goal is to train your mind to stay focused for the duration of the exercise; to maintain your concentration on the ultimate achievement of your goal. Yoga teaches one to be hard on oneself as well as how to be soft. It teaches how to work hard, sweat, and how to rest and recover. It will work your body, your mind, your whole being. You will be training your lungs to increase their volume while training your heart to work more effectively. You will be aware of your breathing, your heartbeat. You will become aware of and in touch with the process of life and growth. You will become aware of the subtle tensions, toxins, tightness and limitations to your body and mind and have the power to correct. For that is the essence of Yoga.
Source: Yoga – Beryl Bender Birch 1995