Understanding Hatha Yoga with AMBIKA SINGH
In its first-ever health feature section, Rajputana Collective joins Ambika Singh, a professional Hatha yogini as she shares her yogic experiences while systematically debunking common misconceptions associated with the practice of yoga in contemporary times.
AMBIKA’S YOGIC JOURNEY
A present-day Hatha yogini, Ambika Singh could be contended to embody a powerful antidote to the mainstream notions of ‘daily 1-hour yoga and 30-minute pranayama’ regiments that are commercially thrusted upon societies such as ours. For yoginis such as herself, yoga is beyond the misconstrued idea of a mere exercise for improved physical agility. Instead, it serves as functional process that begins with the body, moves to the breath and facilitates one to operate in close synchronisation with the mind, to eventually be closely guided towards one’s inner self and consciousness. A more simplified yet authentic definition of yoga in this discourse would be “a union with everything within and around you”, as stated by the 26-year old.
Hailing from Rajasthan’s Pink City, Ambika acquainted herself to the world of yoga through an initial attempt to strengthen her skills as a professional shooter. The approach of acquiring yogic skills through the medium of books and internet proved to be rewarding in terms of greater strength and flexibility no doubt, but Ambika was still waiting for a life-transformative experience. Coupled with that, encountering certain emotional hiccups made her realise her choice to undertake the yogic path and ever since, there had been no looking back for Ambika.
Over time, the will to place herself more firmly upon this path and develop a nuanced understanding of the various ways of yoga led Ambika to Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation. There, a 6-month-long, fully residential training course helped her to establish a foundation of inner balance and discipline. Gradually, an inner-transformation that came about in her prolonged journey with Isha enabled Ambika to further cultivate her life purpose as a yogini.
“As a child, something that often plagued my understanding of the world was why people quarrelled and missed out on the little pleasures of life, why the society couldn’t be harmonic, and as I grew up, I imbibed the same traits of the world that I had once despised.”
Presently, Ambika is serving the society as a professional Hatha yoga instructor to seventy-five participants in Jaipur. She is also preparing to develop ‘Yoga Sampath’, her very own yoga studio in Jaipur’s Jagatpura area, overlooking the Aravalli range. Once completed, this centre would provide a peaceful learning environment wherein Ambika envisions delivering in-depth yogic experiences to the attendants based on learning experiences that she gained at Isha’s Hatha Yoga Centre. In its first ever health feature section, Rajputana Collective proudly presents the experiential insights of Ambika Singh on systematically debunking common misconceptions associated with the practice of yoga in contemporary times.
UNDERSTANDING HATHA YOGA
Traditionally, Hatha yoga stems as a branch of yoga that emphasised on physical techniques within the broader yogic realm that assisted a mastery over the body and mind. Argued to be amongst one of the oldest yogic forms, Hatha yoga and been reclaimed in modern times by pivotal organisations such as Sadhguru’s Isha foundation, amongst others, in order to generate a better quality of overall health and well-being by dispersing it through beginners and amateur yoga-practicing populace. For practitioners of the Isha yoga such as Ambika herself, a healthy society is prioritised over a normatively educated society, because a healthy and optimally-functioning body serves as the fountainhead for the collective realisation of all other humanly virtues. In other words, superior education, skills and multi-faceted reasoning are severely limited by a body that lacks the basic resource of holistic health.
In order to elaborate on this factor, Ambika elaborates the essence of Hatha yoga by experientially stating the benefits that its practice has brought her. In her words,“ yoga has the potential to transform your life and the lives of the people around you. More than being a mere medium that helps one reduce their weight or drop a few inches of fat, Hatha yoga reshapes the body itself. In my case, I felt less friction between the body, mind and soul, and began entering a natural state of relaxation through the day. If the body is relaxed, it needs lesser sleep to repair itself and hence, my daily sleep quota decreased, thereby providing me more time to include everything that I has thus-far missed out on due to the paucity of time. I don’t perceive classical forms of Hatha yoga just as a physical exercise, because it has a lot to do with organ health, which is missing from other forms of exercise in a big way. An increase in lung capacity, for example, left me feeling energised throughout the day. These are the subtle yet powerful ways in which Hatha yoga transforms lives, if practiced patiently and consistently.”
A UNION CALLED YOGA
A key perspective asset that places yoga at a superior platform as compared to most well-being-oriented techniques is that it places union at its fulcrum. Since its ancient evolution that has come to be tested in modernising times, the core meaning of union
stands as an unchanged attribute of yogic practice. “Yoga is about union, with one self and with the whole universe. We as a society have always been divided, into cates, religions, races, countries and continents. We have always been about division, history stands a witness to this. Yoga reverses divisive perspectives and logics of the human mind, and drives it towards the harmonious communion of all earthly matter”, says Ambika. This common perspective that penetrates several spiritual discourses implies a close understanding of the fundamental force that binds all living organisms in unison. When understood and harnessed in adequate measure, this uniting force supersedes all divisive factors that plague the human race, thereby encouraging greater acceptance, peace and compassion in the society in general. Ambika highlights this transformative capacity of a union-based perspective that forms the crux of all yogic practices.
DELVING INWARDS OVER OUTWARDS, EXPERIENCING OVER EXPLAINING
In the words of the famous mystic and spiritual master Sadhguru himself, “human well-being will not happen by looking outwards. Well-being will happen only by turning inwards because human experience is from within. Not up, not out, but within.” Hence, any worth-while effort targeted towards well-being and transformation is directed inwards. Not only does this approach generate greater self-accountability but also helps one realise the tremendous power and control that they hold from within. “Yoga gave me the maturity to realise that the struggle to control people and the world around you should stop, but efforts should be made to maintain peace within and enter a state of harmony with the self”, she recounts.
Ambika further elaborates this factor by recounting, “I have often been posed with a question, “what does it mean to experience oneness with everything?” To make someone understand this experience is like having to describe the flavours of vanilla ice-cream to someone who has never known its taste. Experiencing oneness with everything is not something that can be explained by the mere power of words. If anything, it can only be experienced.”
An irresistible mysticism that accompanies yogic practices is its experiential meaning that eludes intellectual explanation. Experience, in itself is an inward process that holds subjectivity as sacrosanct. In being unique, every inward journey led by yogic motivation is meaningful in itself; and opens up the infinite range of experiences that constitute the world.
In summarisation, Ambika’s personal accounts vis-a-vis her yogic journey subtly yet systematically debunk common misconceptions associated with the practice of yoga as a merely physical and disjunctive form of exercise that can be systematically elaborated upon. Categorically speaking, her wise insights can be clubbed into three crucial points : -
Hatha yoga transcends the physical realm of exercise to functionally reach out to the mind and consciousness of a person, thereby generating a positive impact on all spheres of the body- physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. It perceives an individual and collective union of all living beings at the core of its essence. In order to experience this union and subsequent transformation of the self, a primary direction of exploration is inwards, within oneself. Further, in their supremely subjective nature, yogic experiences transcend the limited and literal realm of intellectual explanations.
Ambika’s yogic journey derives much beauty and significance in its simple evolution of what began as a subsidiary exercise into a force that now chiefly motivates her life purpose. The all-encompassing impact that yoga has held for Ambika in terms of her health, well-being, choices, relationships and a spiritual awakening in general is one that she willed upon herself through self-discipline, consistency and above all, immense faith in the practice of yoga. So much so that the budding yogini vouches for a vital perceptive shift vis-a-vis the most common and ordinary practices that constitute our life. Providing a vivid account of an experience that could be classified by many as mundane, Ambika eloquently concludes, “for me, an aasana is like a beautiful cosmic dance. Every time I stood on the yoga mat, life opened itself to me step by step. Being in yoga made me authentic towards my being.”