Ever thought of starting Yoga? Our 8 week Zen yoga course is unique and offers a rich tradition.
Zen Yoga emphasises 3 key areas: alignment,energy and mindfulness.
Physical alignment is highly emphasised in Zen. The founder of the Soto Zen School, Master Dōgen (d. 1253) wrote in his Zazen (meditation) instructions: "First of all, we must sit with the spine erect, not leaning left nor right, forward nor backward. The nose must be in a vertical line with the belly button and our ears are to be in level with our shoulders."
So always to keep the right posture, not only when you practice zazen, but in all your activities. Take the right posture when you are driving your car, and when you are reading. Your alignment mimics and mirrors how you feel. If you maintain good alignment this creates a positive balanced mind and life.
Energy One of the reasons why correct posture is so emphasised is because it powerfully influences both our mind-state and our energy. Underpinning Zen is the conception that the human being is an energetic hub. The energy or ki is seen as something that can be enhanced or depleted. The flow of this life force is through particular routes called meridians. These paths influence our health, well-being and emotional state and can also take us to a condition of non-dual awareness. Our energy and mindset are completely linked so when one changes the other follows.
One of the traditional Japanese names for yoga is do-in (from the Chinese Tao Yin), which translates as “guiding and stretching”. Through the yoga practice we stretch the body and energy routes, and guide the energy in beneficial directions. Intention is ultimately the means through which this guiding happens. The manifestation of intention may be through the breath, through imagery or simply through focused attention.
The third aspect of Zen yoga is the application of awareness or mindfulness (Japanese, "nen" 念). The Buddha is recorded as saying, "There is one thing that leads to happiness in the present and liberation in the future; and what is this one thing? It is mindfulness of the body."
How do we find this happiness and liberation? Strangely enough it is through coming face-to-face with our unhappiness and reactivity – in this case as they manifest in the body. Makko-ho, a traditional Japanese sequence of stretches, literally means "the practice of facing things". These are a set of curative exercises originally developed from temple prostration practice in the 1930s by the pioneering Japanese yoga teacher, Nagai Wataru, then taken up and extended by Shizuto Masunaga, populariser of shiatsu massage. When you face things with awareness they lose the power over you.
In Zen yoga practice, postures and movements are used to bring the body into focus so that we can notice any tightness or restrictions. The student is then directed to bring their non-judgemental attention to these blocked or closed areas, and it's this simple awareness that causes the ice (tension) to begin to melt. Awareness clears obstructions and opens up the paths (meridians) to greater health.
The Yogacara philosophy (one of the two main philosophical systems that underlies Zen) emphasizes that, as the individual begins to open and become more free, flowing and dynamic, they come to inhabit a world they've already created within.
The benefits of the practice include:
• Inner peace. • Flexibility. • Relaxation. • Mindfulness. • Energy and Vitality. • Well-being. • Trauma Release. • Strength. • Balance. • Lowering High Blood Pressure. • Dealing with Depression. • Sports performance.
Yoga can bring everything together: mind, body and spirit.