In hatha yoga, there are three different kinds of poses, to make it simple. There are poses for the legs, poses for the arms and poses for the spine. Each of these three groups can be divided into two: poses for flexibility and poses for strength. In other words, poses on one hand that maintain or increase your flexibility and on the other hand poses that maintain or increase your muscular strength.
Born in Belgium, I was lucky enough to find the path of yoga and later to study the poses and techniques for these three different parts of the body with three world-class teachers. In 2006, I studied in India with the Shivananda school poses and techniques for the back. The Shivananda school is well-known for its expertise of poses pertaining to that area. In 2009, I moved to Hong Kong where I attended the challenging classes of Patrick Creelman, a certified Anusara teacher. Anusara is well-known for its many leg poses and exercises, beneficial for modern people who underuse their legs. In 2011, after moving to Taiwan, I did the teacher training of Andrey Lappa. Andrey is the founder of Universal Yoga and is the best exponent of arm poses. He invented more than twenty poses to stretch and tone our arms.
In my classes, I aim at working on these three levels equally or somewhat equally. I aim at bringing balance in one’s body and mind, avoiding to work too much on the spine (frequent in the Shivananda school), too much on the legs (frequent in the Anusara school) and too much on the arms (frequent in the Universal school). Through observation of my own practice and the practice of hundreds of students, I have come to the conclusion that an unbalanced practice can lead to physical injuries. For example, too much emphasis on the spine can create back pain and even disc herniations; too much emphasis on the legs can damage the knees; and too much emphasis on the arms can injure the wrists.
I also pay a great deal of attention in designing classes that work upon one’s strength as well as on one’s flexibility; strength and flexibility being the two wings of hatha yoga. How could a bird fly smoothly if one of his wings is overdeveloped and the other underdeveloped? In that way, the flexible students have the opportunity to work on their strength and the strong students, less flexible, can work on their flexibility.
Yoga is not only asanas. Like most teachers say, yoga is divided in three parts: asana, pranayama and meditation. ‘Pranayama’ is a Sanskrit word made of two smaller words, ‘prana’ which means ‘breath’, and ‘yama’, which means ‘control’ or ‘mastery’. To master or to control one’s breath, there are many ways. For me, I like to swim and to run.
Meditation is the last and most subtle part of yoga.
For a successful meditation practice, we need at least two things: to get motivated to start or to keep going and a regular practice. A regular practice means to practice once or several times every day. We can get motivated by someone who has reached a high level of meditation. We can receive the teachings of this person directly or indirectly. ‘Directly’ means to receive the teachings directly from that person. ‘Indirectly’ means for example to read a book written by him or her. The religion of this person doesn’t matter from a yogic point of view because at the Samadhi level all the religions merge. You can compare the teachings of Master Eckhart (Christianity), Albert Einstein (Science), Djalal Ud Di Rumi (Islam), Shantideva (Buddhism) and Ramana Maharishi (Hinduism). They are exactly the same.