Australian Yoga Magazine, 2005
For the universal energy to effortlessly flow, the trinity form needs to be balanced. Yoga practice harmonizes the trinity, allowing the energy to flow. This heightened energy flow awakens consciousness to greater levels of awareness.
The essence of sādhanā is to surrender to the universal flow. Whatever means or method one uses, the universal life-energy, prāna, requires the freedom to flow. Only through the flow does it have the power to cleanse, maintain, and transform the practitioner.
Various yoga methods may focus on a particular trinity. For example, in the practice of prānāyāma, yogīs focus on the flow of inhalation, breath retention, and exhalation. In mantra yoga, the trinity is sound, form, and meaning. In philosophy, it is union of body, mind, and spirit.
In the same way, hatha yoga is based on the trinity of āsana, prānāyāma, and mudrā. To awaken the energy through this form of yoga, this trinity needs to flow as one.
The core spinal alignment has four curves. The lumbar and cervical spine curve inward, and the sacrum and thoracic spine curve outward. In addition to this natural alignment, when the back appears straight, the spine has four primary directional movements: flexion (forward bend), extension (backward bend), rotation, and lateral.
To maintain the flow from one posture to another, the spine moves from one of these four directional movements or remains in the core alignment.
When flowing between a backward bend to a forward bend, the spine rolls vertebra by vertebra, either ascending or descending, while following the natural wave of the spine.
To maintain the flow, a backward bend (extension) is entered through a forward bend (flexion) and a forward bend is entered through a backward bend. An example would be the two movements of Cat Pose. In Cat Pose the spine is in a gentle extension. While exhaling, one begins at the base of spine, rolling vertebra by vertebra into a flexion or tucked position. To return to Cat, one begins at the base of spine, flowing from the spinal flexion, vertebra by vertebra, back into the gentle backward bend.
In addition to the spinal wave, the whole body flows. To sustain the flow, one maintains relaxation-in-action and common alignments between the two postures. One connects, flows, and dissolves each posture into the next, moving only what needs to move in order to conserve energy. To give the feeling of equilibrium, or to feel the flow of energy, one extends equally in four directions: north, south, east, and west.
Precise alignments support the natural alignment of the skeleton system. With this strong foundation, the body relaxes in the flow. When one enters the flow, prāna increases, awakening the inner flow.
Prāna is derived from pra, meaning “continuous” and na, meaning “movement.”
One maintains a rhythmic svara (breath flow). As the air flows, the body relaxes and the mind calms. The body and the breath are synchronized so the movement has an even, graceful, rhythmic tempo. The flow of air is the same throughout pūraka (inhalation) and recaka (exhalation), not speeded up or slowed down.
One allows the length of the breath to extend, as stretching the breath increases the life energy allowing for fewer breaths per minute. Yogīs claim that decreasing the amount of breaths per minute increases the life span. Animals that breathe more breaths per minute have a shorter life span; those that take fewer breaths per minute live longer.
Mudrā assists inner communication, like hand gestures assist outer communication. Hasta (hand) mudrās are either sustained or flow one into the next. Synchronized hasta mudrās with posture and breath, seal and focus the trinity energies.
One of the main hasta mudrās to use with the postures is jñāna mudrā. The first (thumb) and second fingertips touch. The remaining three released fingers symbolize sat cit ānanda. There are many hasta mudrās to use with yoga practice.
When the eyes are open, one uses the eye mudrā of trātaka, a relaxed steady gaze at one point. When eyes are closed, one uses Bhrūmadhya Mudrā with the eyes focused at Ājña Cakra (space between eyebrows). Ultimately these eye mudrās direct the flow of energy upward.
Through the flow of yogāsana, prānāyāma, and mudrā, prāna becomes balanced giving the foundation of all physical, mental, and spiritual accomplishments. The essence is in the flow. As the river flows into the ocean, we flow in and from the source.