Zen yoga is a branch of physical, energetic and mind training practices that can be found within Zen Buddhist tradition.
Practicing Unity of Yoga
Zen yoga focuses on three interconnected aspects of yoga training:
Flow of Energy
Awareness or Mindfulness
If you are familiar with Qigong (Chi Kung) training you will recognize the areas of focus are the same. In Qigong they are:
Jing (essence or body)
Chi (energy flow)
Shen (mind or spirit)
Yoga and Qigong
It is no surprise that Qigong and Zen yoga have similarities, as the tradition of Zen yoga and the tradition of the Shaolin Arts both have roots at the Shaolin Temple in China. One important figure that brought mind, body, energy and spiritual training to the world, as an organized school of teaching, was Bodhidharma.
Bodhidharma taught a series of mind, body and energy practices to improve health and cultivate the spirit at the Shaolin Temple in China around 527 to help the monks practice sitting meditation. The Qigong methods taught have been referred to as Chinese yoga or Qigong.
As the teachings of Bodhidharma spread across Japan, they were assimilated with other practices that led to liberation, realization and healthy living (in the now). Including traditional practices of yoga that have become popular today.
Releasing Tensions and Blockages
The exercises in Zen yoga are designed to release held tensions (that can lead to illness, blockages, stress and pain), open and unblock the body in preparation for sitting meditation. They help develop a deeper awareness of the body, and as an opportunity to practice “becoming one” with what’s happening in the moment.
On an everyday level the practice helps you relax at the physical, mental and emotional levels, releasing the things that get in the way of good health and happiness. In addition the practice of Zen yoga helps develop balance, flexibility, strength, resilience and ease of movement.
Zen yoga provides you with an opportunity to become aware of, investigate and realize where you hold tensions and habitual patterns that get in the way of smooth flow.
Working on the Physical, Mental and Emotional Levels
Our health is affected on the physical, mental and emotional levels. How we hold ourselves, view ourselves, breathe, move, think, eat, sleep, relax and let go, all impact on our wellbeing.
To only train at the physical level limits the opportunity to change and enhance your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. By training the mind, body and energy you are able to access the various aspects of your being more completely and usefully.
The practice of Zen yoga is a complete system as it is. It also compliments other training of Qigong and Shaolin Kungfu and can be used in combination or separately.
A Therapeutic Approach
As a therapist for around 20 years the emphasis in the yoga classes I teach is on the things that enhance your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing;
Alignment of the body
Noticing where and how you hold unnecessary tension
Habitual breathing patterns
How to move uninhibited
From avoidance to being deeply immersed
Personally, I was put off from yoga training for many years, as physically I lacked the flexibility of many yoga practitioners. My misunderstanding was that the aim of yoga was to get into a posture, which seemed impossible for me at that time. And as I wasn’t into big stretches and poses I stayed away from yoga.
Later I was introduced to Daizan, a Zen yoga teacher who’s understanding of the mind, body, energy, spiritual training and health practices was aligned with my own understanding and experience. Through his teaching, I experienced the importance of awareness in the here and now during the yoga practice and in everyday life. It was then I had the experience that yoga was not just about the pose (asana), but the journey we take, the learning that takes place and the realization of ‘who am I’.
The yoga is included in the A-Way Health & Wellbeing class and combines Zen yoga and Bone yoga. They are gentle, mindful and transformational. Classes are suitable for all levels and can offer you new ways to train and benefit from your yoga practice.