This system of yoga is a science that unifies most Western sciences into a universal view of the energy world. Starting at the core of Quantum Physics, moving up into atoms and the molecules of our own biology, from there into body and brain chemistry, and into glandular and organ functions, we learn to understand and experience ourselves at a base level of an energetic reality called Chakras.
In the Chakra yoga system the art of deep breathing is the first thing taught, as it was with Swami Gitananda in India 1971-72. The first two weeks of the course is dedicated to teaching the three parts of breath and the following integration of those parts of the breath into what is referred to as complete yoga breathing - Mahat Yoga Pranayama. The three parts are:
Adham Pranayama - abdominal breath
Madhyam Pranayama - mid section breath
Adhyam Pranyama - upper section breath
With these parts of breath are over 20 asanas and kriyas used along with the movement of body and breath to enhance lung capacity. Complete yogic breathing is then applied through the rest of the course in all postures (an additional 80), movements, relaxations, concentrations and meditation.
Anatomy and physiology classes during this two week period focuses on the locations and functions of the breathing apparatus - nose, lungs, bronchial passages, alveoli etc. as well as the cardiovascular system and its major role in oxygen distribution and carbon dioxide elimination. As students come to understand the role of oxygen in the metabolism of virtually every cell in the body, we follow up in the coming weeks to a deeper study of all body systems - with the practical application of yogic practices to rejuvenate each one.
While examining the necessity of oxygen to our body functions we look at diet, nutrition and detoxification, applying cleansing techniques such as Shanka Prankshalan (salt water flush), and Jala Neti for body purification at the physical level. For those who find the salt water flush too demanding there are alternative cleansing diets like the Master-Cleanse.
Parallel to this we employ a pranayama technique for clearing of the mind and begin a psychological review of memory and emotional content of one's life to date. (Ekadasi Kriya). Counseling and consultation are available anytime throughout the course. The Asana practice at this time involves a fair amount of flow and movement in a methodic way that relieves stress, tension and emotional blockages while providing mobile assistance to the physical detox. The language of teaching and guiding students through some of these processes is well detailed and when practicum time is at hand the RYT is listening and correcting the language as the need arises.
The Yama - Niyama: morals and ethics of yoga, are introduced and discussed early in the course, and then elaborated upon throughout the weeks, with several hours dedicated to the subject of human behavior in modern society. The philosophy of ancient texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras, are woven in to the talks with discussions on how to apply the universal realities to this busy world.
As the course continues one week is specialized in a deeper study of each chakra and its physiological connections, with appropriate asanas and pranayama techniques to energize each of these - one chakra to one body system at a time. The nervous system, nadis (energy pathways) are explained in their parts and as a whole system. The explanation is not only based on the traditional view of Ida, Pingala and Shushumna but also explained in the modern view of electromagnetic energy and quantum physics, bridging this into our biology and back to body and brain chemistry. Also with the concept of kundalini: we look at the traditional view of a coiled serpent - tracing it through a variety of cultures, including the serpent in the tree of life in Eden, then equate it back into the biological reality of the coils of our own DNA. Science and spiritual realities were not separate in India nor in Egypt, so in our yoga programs we make the connections (yoga means uniting ), and students are given a good foundation in the complementary perspectives of each. Various documentary videos are shown and shared to support the concepts.
In conjunction with the exploration of human physiology and the subsequent influencing of organ and glandular functions through yoga practice, Chakra yoga looks deeply into the mental and psychological side of life. Mental thought patterns and emotional states are linked and interrelated to each chakra week by week; this leads to greater clarity of how the mind works, and how emotional states are woven in with thought patterns as well as how much influence both of these have on our physiology and health.
"Yoga chitta vritti nirodha" Patanjali - Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind.
During this time we teach a gentle progression of asanas with modifications and adaptations so that everyone can do them. Not only are they taught but clearly defined so that students are aware of how to go from the gentle postures with movement, to more intermediate poses, without stress or strain in such a way as to allow the body to adapt, release and stretch out. Added to these classes are at least 34 hours of specific details of alignment - how to observe a person's alignment, how to help and adjust when it may be required, and how to interact with students without overstepping boundaries.
Swadhiyaya is applied as self observation in the hatha classes (asana) in such a way as to direct each student's awareness inward and make them more conscious of their body feelings. Conscious feeling is the safeguard in postures, one which makes students notice the body feedback and prevent overdoing any posture. Through this method, as taught at the ashram in India, David has taught 42 years without causing any injuries in his classes.
The methodology of doing, practicing and teaching are demonstrated in each class, and there are many discussion sessions where we elaborate on appropriate methods of assisting, teaching, verbalizing and explaining clearly what we are doing and why we do it in specific ways. Questions and answers come together at these times. Students are taught how to analyze their own students when they are the teachers by observing each individual in a class, looking at their posture in general, and the postures as they do the asanas. Those who are struggling may need some private sessions to gain the most benefit, and in such a case that should be suggested. If the group is small and people know each other, then time can be taken for individual adjustments and modifications. People are not all the same and their bodies have different limitations; we make it clear that yoga can be of great benefit for all, so finding the right poses and breathing techniques for each person is important.
Movement is a vital part of asana practice in Chakra Yoga, taking the postures from forward bends to back bends, the breathing method for each movement going in and out of the postures is incorporated. Similarly with twists, when to take in the breath and when to exhale are specifically instructed in a way which is in harmonic flow with the compression or expansion of the thoracic cavity and lung capacity. In this system of yoga the health of internal organs is considered more important than flexibility, so breath and movement which help oxygenate these organs and glands is a priority. Postures are always counter balanced with complimentary poses, maintaining the equilibrium of body and mind.
Hatha Yoga Dandhal is an ancient system of body building which seems to be still unknown in the west. Referrence: "Yoga and Health" by Yesudian & Haich - 1946 publication. This aspect of Hatha has been developed and elaborated upon by David since 1976, and has become an integral part of the course. It is taught in the traditional method with specific breathing methods and slow motion exercises, and as students gain the required abilities, we discuss the ways of teaching it, and for whom this method is most appropriate.
The practical (practicum) aspect of student experience is woven through the course, for example, once we have completed the breath training, each student must design and instruct a class for their peers in this phase of yoga. Instruction must include explanations of oxygen, prana, and body chemistry. Evaluation is done by E-RYT and all students attend the critique. For the 500 hour certification there are added hours of volunteer teaching to the local community, two hours of which are supervised by an RYT and another three hours as personal experience are done independently with individual, private classes. For all students there is a 1.5 hour practicum designed and taught at the end of the 200 hour period and the 300 hour. For the 500 hour certification then, three practicums are required.
In Chakra Yoga there is a progression of asanas, kriyas and mudras that fit in to a system, one which leads into advanced sequences designed to enhance and tune up the endocrine glandular system for peak performance of body health while allowing a subtle re-configuration of hormones and neuro-peptides to help raise awareness to a higher level of consciousness. During the third month of training these practices are applied and brought to a high standard. They involve the three bandhas, mula, uddhiyana and jalandhara together with advanced breath retentions in and out, while holding certain postures such as the head stand; an ancient practice known as the "Oli Mudras". Consequently these are carefully taught with constant monitoring and feedback on the results. Since a gradual progression is required, allowing for body and cardiovascular adjustments, the mastery of these techniques generally requires three months of training. The more esoteric concepts of the bandhas as internal energy controls is elaborated upon, while looking at the relation to the Grunthies. The three grunthies are explored in their psychological components and students are led to explore how the mental resistances are important to overcome in order to facilitate spiritual development.
During the third month students are led into a deeper understanding of body chemistry and our ability to modify and adjust it as needs be for healing dysfunctions in any gland or organ. An advanced pranayama technique called Pancha Sahita is employed to rejuvenate each body system, while the mental and emotional aspect of the dysfunctions are brought up to be cleared through contemplation and concentration. The contemplative part requires a very introspective look at belief systems and attitudes.
The concentration part of the course is elaborate, involving step by step development of visual and verbal techniques from the realm of Raja Yoga.
The verbal techniques are taught as part of Mantra Yoga, in the first part of the course we introduce the concept of sound as vibration and go in to some of the ancient methods of "chanting" certain songs in Sanskrit while observing the calming effects this may have on the mind. During the third month this goes more deeply into more sophisticated sound formulas related to each chakra, used to clear and empower each one in a gentle awakening of the creative force known as Kundalini. Individual supervision is an important component in this phase and students are advised to work with these techniques in accordance with Swadhiyaya - the self observation methods which are practiced over the duration of the course.
Visual concentration begins with easy steps in eye gazing and works towards developing inner vision and opening up the third eye (Ajna Chakra). As one steps forward, sacred geometry is brought into the picture and during the second part of the training, as vision unfolds, the realm of Yantra Yoga becomes a greater tool for understanding the mathematics and structure of the universe. The knowledge gained can then be used to help oneself and other students through a mathematical and energetic analysis of individual chakras and the ancient calendar system of Yantra Yoga. Advanced visual concentration techniques are used at this time. Each chakra has its specific geometric form and color - used to deepen the experience and understanding in each realm of our human reality.
The healing powers of yoga are discussed and explained in the light of modern physics, while the practical work with chakra energies brings in the actual experience of working with the energies that are only theoretical in the scientific world. As students experience this more profoundly in the third month they come to a greater understanding of the old yogic saying "mind over matter". Then with the new understanding, mind becomes empowered to bring significant changes to the state of the present world situation. This is the power of yoga, and it is taught from the inside out. Students are re-Mind-ed and encouraged to become the positive changes they want to see in the world and to teach by being a good example of yogic living.
The settings in both Thailand and the Philippines are residential and ashram like, providing a peaceful and safe nurturing environment in which to learn and grow. Students are provided with a 250 page manual specifically written for the course; this is the study guide and reference material for future teaching. Also there is a 150 page book with the asanas described and photographed, alignments for each, modifications and cautions. The third month of the course has an added manual with advanced theory and practice in Chakra development.