|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 347]
In the hatha yoga techniques, one operates within a wide range of subtle energies. These energies are always polar (meaning they have two poles (+) and (-)).
In the Sanskrit language, ha means "Sun," and tha means "Moon." Symbolically, ha represents the positive (+), solar types of energies, and tha represents the negative (-), lunar types. Together they represent the fundamental polar energies of yoga.
The practice of hatha yoga leads to the balancing of the positive and negative energies. Only in balance can we experience health, harmony and success in life. Too much lunar (-) energy leads to a lack of control and mental instability, while too much solar (+) energy manifests in a lack of sensitivity and rigid, inhumane character.
These two forms of energy can also be referred to as:
(-) passive, Yin, receptive, feminine.
(+) dynamic, Yang, emitting (controlling) male.
These energies naturally distribute themselves in a certain way within the body. The negative (receptive) aspect of the being is the left side, while the positive (emitting) aspect the right. This will become relevant on a practical level as we begin to explore some practices over the coming lessons.
Do not get confused, or rather stuck with the use of the words female and male here. This polarity is apparent for all beings, regardless of gender. It is true, however, that to a certain extent gender possesses predominance in terms of polar energy. As Fritjof Capra writes in The Tao of Physics:
"One of the principle polarities in life is the one between the male and female sides of nature. As with the polarity of good and bad, or life and death, we tend to feel uncomfortable with the male/female polarity in ourselves, and therefore we bring one or the other side into predominance. Western society has traditionally favoured the male side rather than the female. Instead of recognizing that the personality of each man and of each woman is the result of interplay between female and male elements, it has established a static order where all men are supposed to be 'masculine' and all women 'feminine', and it has given men the leading roles and most of societies privileges.
This attitude has resulted in an over-emphasis of the yang [or male] aspect of human nature (activity, rational thinking, competition, aggressiveness and so on). The yin [or female] modes of consciousness, which can be described by words like intuitive, religious, mystical, occult or psychic, have constantly been suppressed in our male oriented society."
A proper understanding of the concept of polarity is crucial to the proper practice of hatha yoga. This knowledge is sorely lacking in many yoga styles today, which have either misunderstood this fundamental principle, or completely missed it altogether. Hence, many who teach yoga today present their students with practices which are disjointed and de-harmonizing. Though, to the under-educated teacher, a sequence of practices may feel nice, or be rationalized in some way to be beneficial, without proper understanding of the energizing effects of the practices, an energetically unbalancing, or de-polarizing effect can be achieved instead.
For instance, yoga classes today are as apt to focus upon certain anatomical or biomechanical features of the body, as they are to simply follow the whims and fancies of the teacher and/or the students. Some modern yoga approaches even follow a routine on one day that focuses upon extreme movement in one direction only (i.e., back extensions), leading to great imbalance of subtle energies. Still others may balance bodily movements proportionately, yet they lack the proper accompanying breath management or systematic methodology for establishing balance and harmony of the polar energy forces...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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