This blog post is from early 2009, reposting.
The Preludes are set standing sequences that a beginner is given as a preparation for yoga practice, in the Hatha Yoga school of Shadow Yoga. This note was part of a newsletter I recently sent out, regarding the use of the preludes and value of preparatory activities.
On the subject of Shadow Yoga, I wanted to mention that although we work a lot on the prelude forms in the Shadow Yoga classes, these are meant as the foundation for a traditional Hatha Yoga practice, very true to that described in classic yoga texts. Shadow Yoga isn’t a new invention or “mixing” of yoga and other practices, but a systematic approach that allows us to start with simple, practical tools without losing sight of the potential and scope of the traditional Hatha Yoga practice. It includes foundational work, a strategy common to many other disciplines such as traditional martial arts (both South Indian and Chinese/Japanese) and traditional dance. Therefore, Shadow yoga is not mixed with Martial arts, or dance, but does share a respect for creating success through in-depth work, beginning at the beginning.
Sometimes students confuse the preludes and preparatory aspects for the entirety of the Shadow yoga practice. This mistake is made because we spend quite a long time on the preludes, preceding asana or pranayama work.
We are not often given the opportunity as adults to begin with the basics and grow naturally towards a goal, and to spend years on “preparation” is a bit of a foreign concept. However, since many of us are gardeners in the Northwest, I might use the analogy of a garden. To start a new garden, you would need to cultivate the soil with fertilizer or compost, pick the proper time to plant, and observe the location and environment of the garden. Just as we couldn’t expect to decide to have a garden one day, and have some tomatoes and flowers the next, yoga practice involves a systematic and attentive dedication, in order to bear fruit. If we plant a seed randomly in dry, unprepared ground, it may not grow, or may grow a spindly, unproductive plant. With thoughtful preparation and patience, as well as research and care, the plants will grow better, just as yoga practice may be more helpful and fruitful with patience, attentiveness, and regular practice.
No need to be daunted, though, by the thought of spending years on the preparatory activities: as you may know from class, the Preludes are useful because of the changes and things they bring to the surface, right from the first day.
As I just recently completed a 3-week course with Zhander Remete, focusing on an important sequence of yoga asanas, I saw the value of preparation, as these familiar asanas took on an entirely different meaning and experience than when I had practiced them 10 or even 5 years ago. (or one year ago) As a student and teacher of this system, I am glad for the faith of students who, with less experience, trust me when I say it’s good to try it for some time, get some experience with the practice, and allow it to unfold with time and repetition.
So thanks for reading, coming to class, and see you soon!