Structural Yoga Therapy has been written for teachers and serious practitioners who want to use yoga to bring complete balance to the body. Mukunda stiles begins by providing a comprehensive overview of the spiritual philosophy of Yoga, and its many branches. He discusses everything that a beginning student needs to consider when choosing a practice, including how to find a yoga teacher. He also shares his solid understanding f anatomy and kinesiology (how specific muscles and bones react during movement) so that you can understand how each asana affects your body. Structural Yoga Therapy involves a series of 24 asanas. You'll learn "body-reading" to determine what your posture reveals about muscular imbalances. You'll find out about joint mobility and muscle strength and learn how to work with a series of joint-freeing exercises to strengthen muscles. Once you are fully acquainted with your individual needs, Stiles teaches you how to synthesize a personalized program from the 24 Structural Yoga asanas to optimize health and healing. This valuable textbook is also useful for anyone working in physical therapy, myofascial release techniques and other forms of massage.
Mukunda was first exposed to yoga while a cadet candidate for West Point Military Academy in 1969. In this unlikely setting he had a spiritual awakening, which transformed his curiosity into a lifelong passion. Subsequently, he has received extensive training in Classical Yoga and meditation under the guidance of the world's finest teachers. Most of his yoga teachers, including B. K. S. Iyengar and Indra Devi, are students in the lineage of Professor Krishnamacharya.
Another transformation occurred from receiving the gift of Shaktipat ("the descent of Grace") in 1974. From this devotional process, a continuous purification of body, mind, and Spirit were set in motion guided by the lineage of Nityananda of Ganeshpuri. Over the next eight years, he was yoga instructor at four of his spiritual teachers' residential ash rams and studied in India with both renowned and hidden teachers. His academic training includes a degree in religious studies from the University of California, Davis, and a year of graduate study in physical therapy at the California State University in Sacramento. He created Structural Yoga Therapy TM in 1976 after training at America's first professional yoga school, the Institute for Yoga Teacher Education (renamed the Iyengar Yoga Institute).
Since 1978, he has given certification courses in Structural and Ayurvedic Yoga for teachers and therapists. Mukunda is the author of a poetic rendering of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (soon to be published by Samuel Weiser), The Yoga Poet, American Yoga College asana course manuals, and is editor of the International Ayurvedic Institute's course manuals. He has taught and given workshops on four continents.
This text of the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism declares that the nature of our True Self is bliss. When I first studied with Baba Muktananda, my first spiritual teacher, I was given experiences of a place in myself that was this True Self. The language was unfamiliar, the trappings were strange, and even the smells were exotic. The experience, how- ever, was one of coming home in the most profound sense. I had been a teacher of Hatha Yoga before meeting Baba in 1974. At that first meeting, Baba gave me initiation in Siddha Yoga, his term for the modern version of the devotional tantrik kundalini yoga tradition. This consisted of a personal transmission of the presence of yoga given through the life-force of his breath. Upon receiving this, my life began to change spontaneously for the better. Although I had no contact with him or his teachings for a year, this Presence grew inside me, until my motivation for life changed to follow its inner guidance. Over the course of time with Baba, a growing desire inflamed me to translate the process of knowing this Presence, which he called the inner Self, through the hatha/physical Yoga discipline.
I had been introduced to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by an inspiring teacher of Indian philosophy, Dr. Epstein, while pursuing a degree in economics at the University of California at Davis in 1973. In some mysterious way, my pursuit of a CPA license and the wealth to afford a Jaguar XKE lost their captivating quality after connecting with Baba. The Sutras, however, began to glow like an inner flame that I was irresistibly attracted to study. I changed my major to Religious Studies and was given free rein to write my own program because I was the first student to pursue this program. I chose to write my senior thesis on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and, through interlibrary loan, obtained all the translations of this ancient text, which contained the secret to define, clarify, and share the experience of yoga as Self-knowledge. I knew it was in there, and yet my studies of the translations were unable to satisfy my desire for a direct experience of this Truth. I could sense a literal step-by-step understanding of a path that offered an intellectual comprehension coupled with the immediacy of personal experience of this secret teaching.
A year later, when Baba returned to California, the Presence guided me to pursue a career in yoga and to move to the San Francisco Bay area for studies with Rama Jyoti Vernon and her staff at the Institute for Yoga Teacher Education (now the Iyengar Yoga Institute). Toward the end of my studies, the inspiration for the program, B. K. S. Iyengar, came to stay in our home for an intensive week-long program of Hatha Yoga classes. I had been having much trouble with my hyperextended knees, due to their increased mobility and sensitivity, and could never find a placement for them that felt right despite having some of the best advisors teaching me-Judith Lasater, P. T., Ramanand Patel, and Rama. In the teaching of the first class, in fact the first pose, Mr. Iyengar came to adjust me in the basic standing pose, Tadasana. As one whose desire to learn is strong, I have always placed myself directly in front of my teachers in order to watch them closely. He immediately recognized instability in simply standing still. He placed his hands lightly on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and swiftly drew his bent knee up between the insides of my knees. Immediately, I experienced the essence of the Siua Sutras stanza quoted at the beginning of this chapter. My mind emptied as if a giant drain had been opened and a profound stillness of absorption in samadhi ensued. I had no interest in anything outside of myself and I was caught without any desire to escape. When the mind returned (and I did sense it then as the mind, not my mind), I knew that this was what I wanted to know. I desired to find this experience myself and, by an intimate knowledge of this presence, to share it with others. I sought nothing more from Mr. Iyengar; he had given me what I wanted in one initial contact. He had a tremendous amount to offer in terms of under- standing the physical body, though being the independent person that I am, I had to make my own way.
Soon afterward, I began to explore my own way of comprehending this experience. I knew instinctively that there must be some physical training necessary to gain this knowledge, and yet, I knew that by pursuing only physical training, I would be lost. My intuition urged me to learn more about the doorways to this multidimensional Presence of my Self Clearly; however, there was something to be learned from Mr. Iyengar's swift motion bringing about physical stability. My next step was to learn all I could about anatomy and kinesiology to gain an understanding of the body mechanics of Hatha Yoga. At the same time, I continued to see Baba on a daily basis at his Oakland ashram, just a mile away from Rama's home where I lived.
Over the years, I have been given insights into how adjustments through Hatha Yoga to relieve subtle postural tensions can sometimes bring people into an immediate experience of their own innate Presence of Yoga. The insights first expressed themselves during the early 80s when I was a staff yoga teacher at Muktananda's ashrams in California, New York, Massashusetts, and India. During that period, Baba began to encourage Hatha Yoga training in addition to meditation training. He was quite specific about how the practices must be given, even going so far as to demonstrate the practice of bellows breathing (bastrika) himself in public. It was remarkable to watch him remain absorbed in his inner experience, unchanged by this profound physical pranayama. His stillness and devotion touched me deeply.
Another student of Baba Muktananda, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, sought me out for personalized instruction to help him rebuild his athletic body into the suppleness of a meditating yogi. When I applied what I had been given to bring the body into the pose of the Presence, Gabriel went into a meditative state. He was not interested in achieving this through Hatha Yoga, however, and insisted 3n using my knowledge of anatomy to change his physical body to have less density in his muscular and skeletal structures.
Through Dr. Cousens, I was introduced to some of Baba's American Swamis (monks)' who were suffering from back pain. The ash ram schedule required about six hours daily of sitting on-hard floors. The Swamis had been doing a Hatha Yoga practice, although it was usually minimal compared to the hours spent daily in chanting or sit- ting for meditation. One of them, Baba's secretary, had been doing the Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana) pose, which I thought should be helpful for his back. When I asked him to show me how he did it, I saw that he was not following the basic principles that Iyengar stressed for body alignment. Once I adjusted him in the pose according to these standards, he swooned into an all-encompassing bliss state of absorption into samadhi. He left his physical body to enter this bliss and crumpled like an infant in my arms. Tears of joy streamed from his eyes and he was, of course, quite free of back pain.
Another Swami with whom I worked was an accomplished hatha yogi before he met Baba. He had a beautiful practice for many years, and yet he experienced persistent back pain. Rather than diagnose him and give my prescription, I asked him to show me his practice. His poses were all effective for his overall health, though I could see that they were not therapeutic to his back condition. When I had made some minor adjustments and explained the deep anatomy of the spine, he began to feel within himself how to use his body more exactly. He learned quickly and saw how to go through the layers of his multidimensionality (explained in chapter 6) using his physical and energetic bodies and his mind and spirit to integrate them. His experiences of “getting it right” were comprehensive-he stayed in his body and also accessed his bliss of samadhi.
From these few moments with these highly trained yoga meditators, I learned a great deal about integrating the process of Hatha into Raja Yoga that Patanjali had so beautifully described two thousand years earlier. The magnificence of the true teachings is that they are timeless and apply to the mind/body regardless of culture, sex, age, or time period. Yoga is the most profound practice I have found. It affords its disciplined practitioners all they could ever want to know or experience about themselves.
My intention in putting forth yet another name for a form of Hatha Yoga is to create a living understanding of anatomy and movement based on deep reverence for the integrity of the human body and Spirit. The body can and does adapt itself to injuries physical as well as emotional and mental. This adaptive force, which is referred to in yoga as prana shakti kundalini, is the root inspiration for structural yoga therapy. Through in-depth study of the gross physical body, the subtle body can be appreciated more-as can Albert Einstein's words, "God is subtle." To know the subtle workings of the body is to appreciate and respect the indwelling Being that remains changeless as 'our appearance changes from infancy to childhood to adulthood to old age.
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