At the advanced stages, life itself is a Place for training. And this Place is not to be chosen.
You can only choose the place for special training, which should correspond to the main tasks and the goal of your practice as much as possible.
It is desirable to have a fixed place for training, and, if possible, avoid changing it. The longer you stick to the same place, the farther you can advance in your development and the more efficient your training will be.
The matter is that in the new conditions attention, in one way or another, is distracted by the peculiarities of the new place, and an effort is necessary to get used to the new conditions. Of course, it is interesting to develop one’s ability by consciously adjusting to anything and «survive», but distracting attention wastes Power that could be used in practice and this reduces the intensity and quality of your training.
If one is familiar with the Place «prayered» (i. e., a place charged by habitual prayers), it becomes similar to a tuned instrument: «a wave of the fiddlestick and the music is flowing». In this «place» specialized training takes minimum time, and there is the possibility to regularly measure training effects, which is absolutely necessary for progressing in practice, mastering training form and increasing the Power.
At different stages of evolution in training, one has to resolve different tasks. Resolving them, accordingly, requires different training conditions.
The best place for training is untouched nature. Unfortunately, the number of such places on the Earth decreases every year. But it is still possible to make the conditions as close to ideal (at least partially) by choosing a forest, beach, park, etc.
But in the real conditions of modern life, there is often no time to get to a natural place even if it is not very far away. There should also be no people in this place who might interfere with your practice. But the main restrictions on training out in nature are weather and season.
Of course, for some types of psychic training, the weather and climate conditions are not important, and adverse weather conditions can be used as special stimulating factors. First of all, such exercises develop the ability to adjust to any conditions and ignore whatever weather restrictions exist. As a result of this training, you improve your immunity and get rid of diseases. At advanced levels, this allows you to develop superior endurance, strength and abilities.
It is the weather conditions that make a Himalayan yogis migrate to the valleys in the winter. During this time, snow covers all the high mountains and the temperature is often fifty degrees below Celsius.
Outdoor practice is often distracted by the unevenness of the ground, stones, grass, and other objects on the surface. Problems also arise from the temperature of the ground, humidity, mosquitoes and other distracting factors. This is why the most valuable and popular places for training have always been those which do not have adverse conditions. Quite logically, this leads to establishing special places for practice in monasteries and training halls.
The possibility to avoid being distracted by outside effects, and get the additional energy given by special training places, leads to the rapid development of training techniques and progress in practice. This makes clear the importance of a special place and equipment (if necessary) in order to achieve the best results and to save time.
Among numerous training techniques, we can differentiate several types requiring similar conditions and places. These are complex psychic-energy and breathing exercises on the floor, standing position exercises for controlling attention and contemplation, and such generally-restorative techniques as jogging, swimming, etc.
The best place for jogging is nature. And it is healthier to jog barefoot. Jogging is also more effective if you practice on hilly rather than flat terrain.
The best place for swimming is a swimming pool if, of course, the goal is training rather than a pleasant rest at the beach.
Nature is also an ideal place for breathing exercises, Shiva Nata (the Dance of Shiva, see below), development of the ability to concentrate attention and to contemplate (if there are no restrictions in terms of weather conditions and mosquitoes). Although, a place specially equipped for these purpose (Temples) is in no way inferior to the outdoors.
Referring to complex psychic-energy training, a specially equipped hall is the best place to take advantage of modern training techniques. Of course, specialization and equipment are conditional on the method of the school «but all questions regarding training must be answered here». And there will never be a uniform standard for such a place, as it always progresses with the development of the methods of the school.
Traditionally from ancient times, Himalayan yogis used warm tiger skins for meditation; cotton or woolen material for training; and vines, ropes or slings on which they could hang for some special compensation and antiorthostatic exercises.
The proliferation of Yoga in western countries in the twentieth century, led to the development (in Krishnamacharya’s and B. K. S. Iyengar’s schools) of special modern props. These were devised to assist beginners, and to compensate for various problems related to the lack of flexibility and physical atrophy. These props are now wide spread among Iyengar-Yoga practitioners.
Besides Western countries have also developed special yogi-mats (modern substitutes for training mats), timers to count static form and keep time during breathing control exercises, electronic glasses with programs that model meditative objects for contemplation, special training clothing, special phonograms and music for practices, and many other things.
Attitudes to all these products vary and depend on the level of the practitioner’s consciousness. The direct physical contact of the practitioner with any surface, atmosphere, sound, form, radiation, etc., of these external effects must be taken into account. Individually, it is necessary make a conscious choice, from the many possible options, and choose those that provide the most efficient training.
A yogi-mat may be taken as an example. Can it be called perfect if the practical experience of many practitioners has connected it with a number of inconveniences, such as: insufficient length to practice? (Many people who practice Krishnamacharya’s - Pattabhi Joice’s Ashtanga-Yoga order a special longer yogi-mat.) There is insufficient width to train in Tri-Yoga style (Kali Ray uses two yogi-mats, laying them crosswise), and there is insufficient stability during dynamic practices when it wraps, distracts and requires to be constantly put right. On the other hand, it proves insufficiently soft. The mat provides no compensation for the rigidity of the floor, and it distracts beginners by causing pain signals when they stand on knee or elbow joints, spine lumps, ribs, chin or head.
Of course, at advanced levels of practice, all these difficulties are minimized since practitioners have already acquired enough experience to ignore the problems listed above. But even the most efficient practitioners will never be absolutely free from the requirement to choose the qualities of the place for special training.
Unfortunately, the above drawbacks of the training place limit one’s freedom and ability to creatively develop training techniques.
Traditionally, small-sized spaces for practicing Yoga were mainly conditioned by the culture and life conditions of overpopulated and poor countries in the East (where people lived tightly), or by the inability for a travelling yogi to have a sufficiently large or thick mat.
But presently, when numerous places for training are available not only in the East, but also in the West, it is simply not necessary to restrict the creative development of training techniques by looking back at the oriental atavisms or at the lack of free space in small-sized apartments.
For example, by the way why should a yogi-mat look as it has been designed in the West if in the East, it never existed in such a form and has a lot of imperfection? Aren’t people simply used to it? Don’t they get accustomed to the limitations which it gives and forget that Yoga’s purpose is Liberation (Moksha)?
Special gymnastic equipment, which is more advanced than a yogi-mat, and allows one to avoid the above listed problems, has been designed and widely used throughout the world. For example, the «tatami»-mat covering used for judo optimally combines all the qualities required for free training in any Yoga style. The weight and thickness of this cover prevents wrinkling, and remedies the unevenness of the floor. The hardness of such mats allows you to stand firmly on one foot or on your hands. Their softness compensates for the pressure on body tissues in any exercise, and alleviates pain, which allows you to avoid being distracted during practice, and guarantees safety in intentional or accidental falls on the floor. If required, the smooth surface of the cover allows the mat to slide during the training, whereas a special wavy surface stops slipping.
A large area of such special mat relieves the practitioner from sense of the constraint and nesessity to be depended on a minimum area, limited by the square of the small mat. This allows him to use a wider arsenal of various forms, movements and combinations during the training.
Preserving balance, while standing on one foot or on the hands on the «soft» surface of these mats, may be hard just in the beginning. But when one learns to allow for the «softness» of the mat, this inconvenience ceases to be of substantial importance. Besides, if all these balance exercises are mastered on the «soft» surface, it will be much simpler to practice them on a firm surface.
In summary, it is possible to say that there are no minor details in choosing the right place for training, and that the place should have a number of important qualities consciously selected by the practitioner.