Monday, July 30, 2012

Continuing frrom where we left in the part I of this article....
Yoga is a child of Tantra. Most of the processes that we do in the inner limbs of Yoga on withdrawal (Pratyahara), concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana) are from the science of Tantra. To puit in a nutshell, 'tantra' should be taken to be today's equivalent to 'technology.' 

Swami Satyananda, formulated Yoga Nidra from the tantric concept of 'nyasa.' His reason to share it with a larger audience from the confines of a select few is to spread the benefits of Yoga Nidra to common man and enrich their lives. Let us salute and prostrate this Great Master for sharing this with us.

Yoga Nidra is practiced for various reasons and the most common ones are insomnia and stress relief. In deeper levels, it can be used as a greater tool for desire management through knowing how to frame and use RESOLVE during the process.

The process taps the brain to fulfill its purpose. The 'little man' in our brains is the point of focus as relaxation at all levels begins to dawn on us, once we know how to work on this 'little man' through Yoga Nidra.

Once we complete the work with placating 'little man,' we move to breath awareness at various energy centres. This helps us to get a peep into our psyche and various aspects withi us that we could be unaware of!

Later the session proceeds to induce visualisation, as the instructor takes us through various symbols, places etc., This evokes the response from our sub-consious mind. This also provides another window to understand ourselves.

In advance sessions, much more aspects of relaxation, visualisation and feelings(!) are induced. so, find out an authentic Yoga teacher or a tradition and learn Yoga Nidra or practice Yoga Nidra... What are you waiting for....

Relax.. breathe easy...achieve your goals in a stress free way...All the best.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Personal life today - I
Today, when we look at the life, there is not a single human being today who is not under the grip of stress. The boundary wall between ‘worry’ and ‘concern’ is fast collapsing…if you don’t have a worry, you are looked down upon.

We compare our lives with everybody else around and feel happy or sad. We easily forget that each of us is unique and struggle to fulfil someone else’s aspirations. This ‘someone’ else could be parents, spouse, children, friends etc. This attitude of pleasing everyone and the thought to draw a comparison chart are successful recipes to invite stress into our lives.

An analysis on stress in our lives can go on and on… Through a process called Yoga Nidra[1] we will learn to harness our desires to lead a much fulfilling life thereby using stress as a stepping stone rather than…

Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh envisioned the demands of our lives, more than 7 decades before and beautifully sums it up with the practical advice on hooking ourselves to time tested Yoga processes to get us out of this muddle: 

“Life today is full of stress and strain, of tension and nervous irritability, of passion and hurry. If man puts into practice a few of the elementary principles of Yoga, he would be far better equipped to cope with his complex existence.”

“Yoga brings perfection, peace and lasting happiness. You can have calmness of mind at all times by the practice of Yoga. You can have restful sleep and increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and a high standard of health. You can turn out efficient work within a short space of time and have success in every walk of life. Yoga will infuse new strength, confidence and self-reliance in You. The body and mind will be at your beck and call.”

“Yoga brings your emotions under control and increases your power of concentration at work. Yoga disciplines, gives poise and tranquillity and miraculously rebuilds one’s life.”

Today, we are mostly misguided by our notion that anything from the past is waste and out-dated. This very notion is possible only in an uneducated mind - a mind that is clolred by prejudices and conditioning. If we take time out to learn and practice Yoga processes from the tradition, we will be spared of visits to psychologists, psychotherapists as well as relieved from popping in anti-depressant pills.

Learning from the tradition is also a service that we do to ourself because we discharge our debt to the Rishis of yore. Our scriptures state that each individual is born with 5 debts i.e. rna - 1) Pitr rna, 2) Deva rna, 3) Rishi rna, 4) Bhoota rna and ) Manushya rna.

Thus, being born in this great country, BHARATA, at least we can approach our tradition with reverence and learn, thereby discharging one of the debts that we are bron with. BHARATA means 'that place where people are enthralled to be in the pursuit of knowledge.' We should feel proud of being born here and endowed with such rich culture and tradition. We shall dwell into the other 'debts' in the weeks to come.

[1] Culled out from the ancient tradition of Tantra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Characteristics of Pranayama

Characteristics of PRANAYAMA
The second element of Sadhana is Pranayama. Whenever we want to do any major work with the mind, we become mentally tired, fatigued and also feel that we are drained of energy. It is not just physical work that requires energy but mental work too. Mental work requires vital energy and we need a source for it. This is provided by the Divine Mother as Prana Shakti.

Prana Shakti is the cosmic vital force which manifests in our own systems as the five Pranas.

Through Pranayama we not only can regulate the physiological system and vital energy but also draw upon the cosmic store house of vital energy.

Through Pranayama the cleansing of Nadis, the channels of the flow of vital force takes place. Thereafter we have a methodology of tuning into the cosmic well springs of Prana and it is infinite. Fossil fuels are non-renewable but the Pranic forces are renewable.

Pranayama puts us in touch with the energy and vitality required to deal, discipline and process the mind and the mental energies.

Some Fundamental Questions
  1. What should we do to purify the mind (Chitta Shudhi)?
  2. What should we do to make the mind one-pointed (Chitta ekaagra-tha)?
  3. What should we do to expand the mind (Chitta vishalata)?

The first classical method of Chitta Shudhi (purifying the mind) is through Karma Yoga. Here we learn how to perform, any and every, Karma as an offering to the Divine by maintaining equilibrium of the mind and considering ourselves as the instrument of the Divine.

In today’s day and age what was considered the elementary approach is not very easy because there are a remarkable amount of toxins in our very life style. Our life today is so stressful that we have a solid bank of negative emotions inside us. So, even the practice of Karma Yoga is not very easy.

Therefore we need look at something else that can prepare us and take us through all these three namely Chitta shudhiChitta ekaagra-tha and Chittavishalata. Such a method is also provided by the Divine Mother. She is a compassionate one and knows well that we will need it. This is called as Mantra Sadhana or Mantra Yoga.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Characteristics of Asana ... Yogasana!

The first element of Sadhana is generally the Asana. A trained disciplined mind is our greatest friend. An undisciplined and untrained mind is our greatest enemy.  Sadhana is nothing but training and disciplining the mind.

To train and discipline the mind we need to work on the mind. To do this we need to understand, introspect and turn in. Thus a posture is essential to work on the mind.

Asana does not mean exercise but if any Asana contains certain exercise movements it is incidental and an add-on.

Asana is a posture at which point where all the energy levels of this system (psychophysical energy system - body) get harmonized and equilibrated.

For working on the mind it is essential that we are able to sit straight. A few questions may arise:
·      Why should we sit straight?
·      Why can’t we assume any posture?
·      Why can’t we sit like a question mark?
·      Why can’t we be sprawled in a sofa?
·      What is the necessity of any meditative posture?
·      Why is posture important?

The back must be in balance. That’s why we will find that excepting for Vajrasana, there will always be a triangle (triangle indicates stability) formation at the base.

The other most important characteristic of a posture for meditation is that the head, neck and back should be in straight line. This is what Sri Krishna refers to in the Gita as Samam Kaya Shiro grivam - essential.

A correct upright posture fosters alertness. It is an anti-dote for depression, mental inertia and laziness to a certain extent. We have already seen that depression is one of our enemies. Thus at the posture level itself we have tackled one of our enemies.

Head, neck and back straight is an easy recipe for cutting depression and fostering alertness.

It is a challenge that we cannot think of a depressing thought sitting straight. Our head will drop down the moment we encounter such a thought. Thus there is a connection between the mind, the body and the nervous system.

Ayurveda says, ‘Adi Vyadi’– Adi in the mind gives rise to vyadi in the body by the dislocation of the three - vatapitta and kapha.

For spiritual purposes Padmasana and Siddhasana are enough. As most of our systems are under repair, we need the other Asanas to flush out the toxins that are generated by wrong life style. This will reset the system, both at anatomical and physiological levels. There is also a connection between the Asana in the physical and the mental level. So the first level in Sadhana is Asana.
(extract from the notes of Shankarji's sessions)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

1.  The earliest of the Yoga texts is the dialogue between Sage Yajnavalkya and Sage Gargi. We can safely conclude that all the Yoga texts owe their existence to ‘Yoga Yajnavalkya. ‘

2.  Yoga, like any other science, has reference texts for processes as well as guiding principles. The most referred Yoga processes texts are Gheranda SamhitaSivaSamhitaHatha Yoga PradipikaHatha Ratnavali etc., and the guiding principles are outlines in Patanjali Yoga Sutras and the crown jewel, Bhagavad Gita. In none of these texts, Yoga means ‘only postures.’ Today, mostly, Yoga is being construed as a set of physical movements and at best practiced as a form of exercise. If some physical benefits are obtained by the practice of Yoga, it is incidental. Practice of Yoga, gradually, in the long run, brings or should bring about a sense of heightened awareness.

3.  Any process done with complete awareness (of mind and body) comes under the umbrella of Yoga. It is awareness that facilitates understanding and defines the very purpose of any process. Without awareness, any process tends to become mechanical and feeds our emotions thereby resulting in inferiority or superiority complexes. Thus the terms ‘Yoga’ and ‘awareness’ are inseparable.

4.  Various Yoga schools have taken to an ideology and lifestyle aspired by their respective founders. As per the Indian traditional wisdom, any system that doesn’t provide an integral perspective of life has to be approached with concern. If any Yoga school ignores this fundamental principle and focusses on one aspect i.e. only postures or only meditation, then the aspirant or practitioner needs to check with themselves whether it is what they are looking out for.

5.  Yoga processes, in the tradition, were customized to the age, need, stage of life, lifestyle and the environment that one lives in. For example… most of us are aware that Pranayama is one of the great Yoga processes. Though we may know this fact and also learn to perform it, we cannot practice all the Pranayamaprocesses amidst city pollution. If done so, it turns counterproductive. Thus, it is a non-negotiable need to customize it to the location that we live in.

6.  Depending on our need, level of understanding and practice, the definition of Yoga changes. The meaning of Yoga is impregnate in its root, ‘yuj i.e. to unite. The collapsing of the wall between the individual soul and universal soul is termed as ‘real’ YogaSwami Vivekananda, in his lucid translation of Patanjali Yoga Sutras (aphorism 28), states, “By the practice of the different parts of Yoga the impurities being destroyed, Knowledge becomes effulgent up to discrimination.”

7.  The different parts of Yoga are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. It is at the highest levels of Samadhi, one realizes the ‘real Yoga.’ To hasten the process of ‘real Yoga’ our tradition, apart from these different parts of Yoga, have left behind a wealth of scriptures like the Upanishads and the Gita as well as practical processes like Mudra, Bandha, Kriya, Mantra etc., We will get a glimpse into all these invaluable scriptures and processes at Shrimath Yoga Retreat.

8.  At Shrimath Yoga Retreat, we strive to provide an integral view of Yoga that enables proper assimilation of Yoga processes thereby assisting each and every participant to benefit spiritually, therapeutically, intellectually and emotionally. As we get older, the mind and body need a therapeutic touch in any activity. We take you through a structured, customized and easy to understand method that is all encompassing and allows you to experience peace and happiness, here and now…