Thomas Michael Fortel
is a longtime yoga practitioner/teacher, influenced by the Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Anusara styles of Hatha yoga, and drawing from his devotional experience in Bhakti yoga. He travels widely, sharing his love for yoga.
One's whole being, starting from the physical body, can be refined and strengthened so it acts as a medium for the higher cosmic force. The system of hatha yoga was designed to transform the gross elements of the body so they can receive and transmit a much subtler and more powerful energy. — Hatha Yoga Pradipika (6th century text)
Yoga is a practice of ever-unfolding metamorphosis. This is accomplished through the physical postures (asanas), conscious breathing (pranayama), and the clearing and focusing of the mental consciousness (meditation, or dyana).
The long, slow, conscious breath has the ability to stabilize and quiet the fluctuations of the mind. Concurrently, the breath can act as a medium through which we are able to connect to the formless dimension of being, to the invisible realms of spirit and soul. Whether we are in the yoga room, changing jobs, or dealing with a shadow facet of ourselves, the conscious breath can serve as an amazing tool of transition—it can calm us down in the corridors of change.
One of the fundamental tenets of yoga philosophy is that every human being is, at the core, an expression of divine light and love. The yogis refer to this as the Supreme Self or Inner Self. Many of us glimpse this from time to time, yet a primary focus of our journey is to honestly address the physical, mental, and emotional heaviness which covers up our inner luminosity. This is a necessary paradigm shift as we move into a fuller expression of our true nature.
Just as a plexus of nerves (many criss-crossing at the same place) in the body emits a stronger force of energy, the practitioners of yoga, by virtue of ongoing practice, have developed a high level of pranic force within the body and nervous system. We could say that the prana is an invisible or metaphysical force of energy, yet flows through and illuminates the physical body and being of the practitioner. We students of yoga engage conscious breathing as a way to connect to alternative states of consciousness.