Today, January 5th is Paramahansa Yogananda’s birthday. He was a yoga guru from Gorakhpur, India who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in 1920, and is the author of ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’. This is one of the most enlightening books a yoga and meditation practitioner can read.
Paramahansa had a brother Bishnu Gosh, the founder of the Hatha yoga lineage that I was introduced to when I first started practicing yoga 14 years ago. Bikram Choudhury made this yoga popular in the United States in 1971 by patenting the posture sequence and adding heat and humidity to the room. These two breathing exercises and 24 postures are incredibly healing when done mindfully.
Benefits of camel pose
On this special day, I wanted to highlight one of my favorite yoga postures in the hot yoga sequence: camel pose or Ustrasana. This posture is something you build up to with the previous postures in the sequence. For beginners, it’s best to simply support your very lower back with your hands until you are comfortable bending back to reach your heels.
The benefits include stretching abdominal organs, reducing constipation, stretching the throat, thyroid gland, and parathyroids. It opens the rib cage to give more space to the lungs and by compressing the spine, gives flexibility to the neck, spine, and relieves backache. It slims the abdomen and waistline, and opens your heart. Sometimes emotions come up but just breathe and calmly let them wash over you.
This is the biggest back bend of the sequence and so it should be followed by the biggest forward bend, rabbit pose. Hatha yoga should balance your body and so it’s good to do rabbit pose after camel pose.
Paramahansa Yogananda wisdom
Paramahansa wrote other books including ‘The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You’. I am reading a book of compilations from the larger text, ‘The Yoga of Jesus.’
Paramahansa reveals wisdom through the beautitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Mathew 5:8) For he asserts through teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali that purification of the heart—or “chitta” the inner heart or power of feeling—through yoga is necessary to open the “eye of all-revealing intuition.”
He wrote: “When chitta—human knowing and feeling—is calmed by meditation, the ordinarily agitated ego gives way to the blessed calmness of soul perception.”
This is what Ustrasana helps me to do. By opening my heart and embracing my emotions, I am cleansing it and find calm and clarity. I endure the heat and sometimes pain. I move past it and realize that it’s beautiful and temporary, just like all life.