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Philosophy

The yoga treasure vault

01.01.2013
Yoga Journal

When you have already spent some time on the yoga journey, you might ask yourself at a certain point whether you might now feel "advanced". In an interview with the YOGA JOURNAL Ronald Steiner, author of the book "Yoga für Fortgeschrittene“ (Yoga for Advanced Practitioners) written in cooperation with fellow yoga teacher and author Anna Trökes, answers this question and explains how a deeper understanding of yoga can be achieved...

What gave you the idea to write a yoga book for advanced practitioners together with Anna Trökes?

There is a general consensus that flexibility is not the main aim of yoga; still, positions requiring great flexibility are often described as "advanced". With our book, we mainly want to explain what advanced practice and taking further steps on our yoga journey truly means.

Is your book also suitable for yogis from other traditions (e.g. Kundalini)?

Anna and I have completely different yoga backgrounds. For this reason, we do not focus on one single line of tradition. In contrast, we explain the basics which most of today's established forms of Hatha Yoga rely upon.

The exercises we describe are examples of the archetypal practice motifs. We deliberately did not limit ourselves to the body postures (asanas) but illustrate the entire spectrum with pranayama, mudra and meditation techniques.

For each exercise, there is not only a detailed description but also an explanation of the philosophical and mythological backgrounds. Of course, the physiological-anatomical effects and specificities also find their place.

From which point on can I describe myself as "advanced" as far as yoga is concerned?

For me, advanced practice means to understand yoga as a holistic practice system. Even though Hatha Yoga starts with the physical side, it is by no means limited to physical exercises. When we move on, we finally leave this surface. By working with the more subtle energies, with start to experience feelings and thoughts in a different way. This transition from the coarse to the more subtle is the true progress on our Hatha Yoga journey.

On the one hand, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra tells us that "the stronger our faith and the more intensive our efforts" (I.20/21), the closer we come to our aim. On the other hand, too intensive efforts are considered one of the biggest obstacles on our way. Isn't it difficult, especially for advanced yogis, to find the right balance between too little and too much ambition?

This is precisely one of the big misunderstandings in yoga. Beginners think that getting into a specific position will change something. They are often over-ambitious when it comes to mastering certain exercises. But in fact we do not come closer to the yoga experience by being able to put our foot behind our head - in contrast, as Patanjali writes in Yoga Sutra I.12: "Abhyasa- vairagya-abhyam-tan-nirodhah.“

Through the balance (Abhyam) between enthusiasm (Abhyasa) and serenity (Vairagya) we also reach the calm state of the mind (Tan Nirodhah), which is the main aim of yoga.

It is only through this balance that we (starting from physical experience) can enter deeper and deeper into more subtle areas.

By now, yoga has been very popular for quite a while in Germany. Did you observe a certain change as far as practitioners are concerned during the last few years? Are there now more advanced yogis who have not only deepened their asana practice but also their knowledge on the mental, philosophical, energetic and meditative level?

In Germany, more people than ever are currently practicing yoga. In my eyes, there are two developments: on the one hand, yoga reaches more and more areas of life and different social spheres. Even though this holds the danger that quality sometimes suffers in the process, I definitely welcome this tendency as it offers many more people access to yoga. In parallel, a second line of development tends towards reaching a greater depth. People who have been practicing on a regular basis for years now start their search to find out more about the effects of yoga practice on all aspects of their being and to thus reach the essence of yoga.

For me, this second line of development is of particular importance. For this reason, during workshops and trainings, I offer assistance for participants to better understand the background of yoga practice. In this context, I shed light on both the anatomic-physiological effects and therapeutic aspects and the traditional origins and philosophical concepts including their application.

In this way, the book by Anna and me can serve as an entry to the incredibly rich yoga treasure vault. I wish all readers a happy treasure hunt!

"Yoga für Fortgeschrittene. Learn and master both simple and more complex asanas. Understand anatomical processes and effects. Discover mythology, symbolism and the mental level of yoga.” by Ronald Steiner and Anna Trökes (GU, ca. EUR 25).

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What Yoga Journal says

At the end of their book, Anna Trökes and Ronald Steiner thank "the teachers who lightened up the flame of enthusiasm in us to go on the lifelong yoga journey." This enthusiasm becomes apparent on every single page of "Yoga für Fortgeschrittene“. Not only do individual chapters feature aesthetic images and lovingly created illustrations but also very precise explanations of single asanas, bandhas, mudras, pranayamas and meditations. As a result, the complex subtitle lives up to its promise: by reading the book, we can not only deepen our own practice and anatomical knowledge but let us also become enchanted by the stories about mythology and symbolism. May the authors' flame of enthusiasm continue to burn for a long time!

Résumé: A great book on the basics of yoga which one likes to open again and again because you always discover something new and deepen your understanding of every single aspect of yoga.