Aasato Ma Sat Gamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
Mirtyor maamritam Gamaya
Om- lead me from unreal to Real
From Darkness to Light
From mortality to Immortality
Om Bhur –Bhuva Suvah
Bhargo –devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah pracodaya
We meditate on the glorious effulgence of the Supreme Being,
out of whom all this creation-the earth, heavens,
and beyond- has come into being.
May s/he illumine our minds and hearts and guide our energies.
Yoga is a system of discipline that is dated over 10,000 years old. Yoga means union with the self. The male and female, yin and yang, Shiva and Shakti, sun and moon, heat and cold. There is more to yoga than the stretches, but it is the easiest part of the discipline to learn before incorporating the other components. It encompasses eight systems combining mental, emotional and physical aspects. The eight systems are:
Abstentions (yama), Observances (niyama), Postures (asana), Life force or breath control (pranayama), Sense withdrawal (pratyahara), Concentration (dharana), Meditation ( dhyana) and Contemplation (samadhi).
Hence the eight limb yoga system or Astanga yoga. Other types of Yoga are Hatha yoga, Kriya yoga, Tantric yoga, Iyengar yoga, Kundalini yoga, Bhakti yoga, Raja yoga, Karma yoga to name a few. Each one focuses and utilizes different methods to achieve the same goal.
Guru, [remover of ignorance] are enlighten teachers who guide us in our growth. As the saying goes, “when the student is ready the teacher appears.” Do not go looking for a guru. When you are ready you will meet the right teacher for your growth. A true guru never has sole ownership over a student nor claims to have one. A true guru will also guide you to move on to other teachers to learn other aspects of the self. Do not become attached to a guru or have a codependent relationship with a guru. The whole idea of a guru is to find liberation not attachment or slavery to another being.
As J. Krishanmurti said, “No guru, teacher, religion, school can teach you about yourself, except yourself. The teacher is only here to guide you on your path to self-discovery of your true self. Do not seek extremes to find liberation or know yourself, but walk the middle path.”
One of my favorite quotes is by Ramana Maharishi who request that each of us meditate on “Who am I?” All that we need to know about our self is in each of us.
Meditation is an art of cultivating awareness, becoming aware of one’s thought. There is nothing mystical or magical about meditation. In cultivating awareness one is mindful of each action and thought before we act on it. In becoming aware one is fully awake in the conscious decision making process of the self. Meditation is the slow doing. Mindful meditation is to be mindful of your thoughts, breath, body and body parts. Meditation is the observation of oneself. As the saying goes, “wherever you go there you are.” It is a move into greater levels of oneself.
Dwell in the period of stillness and silence/quiet the mind, even in pain and hold that moment. The mind and body are capable of doing a million functions, except you have to know the operator model. Mind goes, mind comes, and breath comes, and goes. In cultivating awareness we become mindful of who we truly are.
Meditation can be done anywhere, watching a sunset, painting, and exercise. The trick is to totally concentrate on the self within and your breath. In utilizing breath work in meditation, you become totally conscious of your breathing. You become one with your breathe and enter a heightened level of awareness. These minute moments of awareness will propel you to further want to experience these moments of bliss. In becoming mindful, unhealthy habits are easier to manage along with stress, anxiety, panic is much easier to handle or minimized.
“When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still.” Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Breathing correctly means breathing through the nose, keeping the mouth closed, and involves a full inhalation and exhalation which brings the whole of your lungs into play. When you exhale , the abdomen contracts and the diaphragm moves up, massaging the heart; when you inhale, the abdomen expands and the diagram moves down, massaging the abdominal
In yoga different breathing techniques are utilized to help calm the mind. These breathing techniques are called Pranayama. Pranayama comes from the word ‘prana” life force. Prana is most abundant during sunrise and sunset, hence the importance of early morning or evening meditation. Prana moves in the meridians and is stored in the chakras.
Pranayama is cultivating proper breathing through the nostril by alternating breath through the nostrils or holding the breath for different counts of inhalation, retention and exhalation. To effectively learn the techniques, seek an experienced, certified yogainstructor and the type of yuga, to learn and practice pranayam correctly.
The chakra chart is of the seven main chakras from the crown to root, according to the Vedic system.
There ares thousands of chakras in the body and most of them are aligned along the meridians. The chakras are energy vortex and are linked to the endocrine organs. They have specific vibration frequencies and vibrate in opposite alternating directions in males and females. Each chakra has specific deities, color of inner petals, mantra, and number of petals. The most commonly mentioned chakras are the seven chakras along the spinal cord.
To learn about the chakras in the true Vedic tradition refer to the book by GoswamiKriyananda, The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga or The Sivananda Companion to Yoga. In Yoga the base chakra’s internal color is Yellow, pelvic (White), Solar plexus (Red), heart (Smoky gray), throat (Bluish gray) and fore head (Violet). The bija mantra from base to forehead is as follows: LAM, VAM, RAM, YAM , HAM, OM. The crown is where the thousand lotus petals resides.
Mantras are sounds that vibrate in the ether. All words and objects have a vibration frequency. Repeating a mantra that is in tune with your constitution will calm the mind and open you to different levels of consciousness. The mantras also help open up the chakras to attune to universal energy. Mantras are repeated during meditation to help focus the breath and mind. Ideally a mantra should be repeated for 20 minutes everyday (for as long as it takes) to break the hidden meaning and power of the mantra. In the Yoga traditional the Guru chooses a particular mantra for the student as different mantras have different powers. Two landmark studies on impact of mantram on immune function, cortisol levels and PTSD by Bormann et al. (2009). Journal of Psychosomatic Research.
The Gayatri mantra (refer to beginning of page) is the premier Vedic mantra, an invocation to the sun. By repeating the Gayatri mantra an image of the sun is created within the consciousness. The sun is a powerful, noble, health giving, disease destroying being whose rays dispel fear, and weakness from the heart. Best time to utilize the benefits of the sun is in the early morning.
In Yoga the body is viewed as a vehicle which is evolving towards higher levels of consciousness. To do so it has to run smoothly and efficiently and requires regular cleaning internally and externally. Kriyas are purification practices of the internal psychic centres, organs, gastro-intestinal system, and external energy around the body.
There are six internal cleansing processes; kapalabhati (intense inhalation and exhalation), tratak (for eyes), neti (for nasal passages), dhauti (for digestive tracts), agnisara, vastra dhauti, nauli ( for abdominal viscera), and basti (for the colon). Some of them involve actual cleansing, alomg with intense breath work.
For most people it is extremely beneficial to do neti. It involves running warm saline water in one nostril out the other. It is beneficial for sinus congestion, allergies, colds and flu, dry indoor air, environmental pollutants. Mix 1/8 (one eighth teaspoon of sea salt) with one cup of luke warm water. To perform this procedure you must have neti pot or a small teapot with a smooth snout. Pour into one nostril and out the other. If you have a cold, flu, sinus congestion it is best to wait till you recover before you practice neti.
There are up to 1,800 yoga postures developed by the rishis (wise being and visionaries).
A typical yoga posture affects the heart and pulse rate, breathe, blood circulation, endocrine glands, organs and digestion. Every posture has an equal and opposite postures to remove any tension from the spine. Every posture involves breathing.
Specific postures massage and tone the internal organs. Postures improve oxygen intake, strengthen the lungs and improve digestion. Over a prolonged period of practice it affects right down to the cellular level. One is able to regulate one’s breadth and tocontrol the autonomic nervous system. The conscious breathing help to oxygenate the body on a cellular level to organ to bloodstream.
I have been practicing Yoga since 1981. Over the years I have found these postures most suited for myself.
They are listed as follows: Corpse pose (savasana), head to knee (uttihita-jamushira), child’s pose (moodha-asan), eye exercise, lion pose (simha mudra), sun salutations, leg raises (uttanatavasan), headstand (shirshasan), shoulderstand (sarvangasan), plough (lapasan) , bridge (setu bandhasan), supine (supta vijrasan), wheel (chakrasan), fish pose, forward bend, cobra (bhujangasan), locust (salabhasan), bow (dhanurasan), spinal twist (matsy-indrasan), hand to feet, triangle (trikonasan), rocking chair (tadananas karasam), butterfly stretch, camel ( supta vajrasan), bat (chamagadarasan), symbol of yoga (yoga mudra) and sage Dhruva (Dhruva asan). Doing all these postures takes around 45 minutes in a calm steady manner. It is great to finish your weight training /gym workout with Yoga postures.
Over the years, I have moderated my yoga practice to include more inner core strengthening as I get older.
Hatha yoga is the most common yoga. Ha means the sun, thameans the moons. Hence Hatha is the attempt to balance the sun and moon in each of us with postures, breathing, and diet, prayers and ultimately to liberate us from this human bondage.
Kundalini is the dormant energy at the base of the spine. This potent energy will awaken on its own in the right time. In Kundalini yoga classes, intense breathing is practiced to force this energy to awaken and travel up the sushuma (within the spinal cord). As the Kundalini awakens it affects the chakras and awakens them gradually to its full potential. The challenge of awakening a chakra too early, the premature awakening will only magnify the negative qualities in you, plus it can cause an imbalance of your sense of reality. It is best to avoid forcing the kundalini energy awake. All yoga techniques will awaken gradually the kundalini with gentle techniques.
Tantric yoga is not about sex. Unfortunately, it seems to be the mindset in most people. Trantra is more ancient than most of the other yoga techniques. It is a strong combination of hatha yoga, pranayama, mudras (hands/finger postures/gestures), rituals, kundalini yoga, nada yoga, mantra, yantra, mandala, visualization of deities, alchemy, Ayurveda, astrology and hundreds of esoteric practices.
Iyengar yoga was invented out of the need for people in their later years that wanted to learn Hatha yoga, and were not so flexible. In this modality of yoga, paddings, props, support are used to support the body, remove the fear of injury and to prevent injury. Thus, it is a gentler form of yoga in comparison to most other forms of Yoga. Also with the help of the props one can get a deeper stretch of the muscular system and stimulation of the endocrine system.
Diet plays a crucial role in true yoga practice. Foods affect the mind and body. Ayurvedic/Siddha medicine contribute to the dietary aspect of yoga. As per Ayurveda body composition , diet are best suited to follow Vata, Pitta and Kapha body types. Food is divided into satvic, rajasic and tamasic foods. Satvic foods are pure, wholesome foods recommended in yoga. Before yoga classes one should avoid meals an hour before practice. Avoid caffeine drinks and alcohol.
- Ramana Maharishi. The Direct Path, and Selections from Ramana Gita
- M.P. Pandit. The Yoga of Love
- J. Krishnamurti. On Relationship, and Krishnamurti for Beginners
- Elise Sechrist. Meditation-Gateway to Light
- Swami Muktananda. Kundalini The Secret of Life, and Play of Consciousness
- Swami Vishnu Devananda. Mediation and Mantras
- Swami Vevekananda. Raja Yoga
- Goswami Kriyananda. The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga
- Lucy Lidell, Narayani et al. The Sivananda Companion to Yoga
- Swami Satchidananda. Integral Yoga
Bormann, J. E., Aschbacher, K., Wetherell, J. L., Roesch, S., & Redwine, L. (2009). Effects of faith/assurance on cortisol levels are enhanced by a spiritual mantramintervention in adults with HIV: A randomized trial. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(2), 161-171. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.09.017
Bormann J.E., Pelletier L.R. (2016) Mantram Repetition Program for Combat-Related PTSD Symptom Management in American Veterans. In: Martin C., PreedyV., Patel V. (eds) Comprehensive Guide to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Springer, Cham
Lidell,L., Narayani et al. Breathing. The Sivananda Companion to Yoga. p 69
Morris.K. (1998). Meditating on yogic science. The Lancet. 351:1038 http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(05)79010-3.pdf
Pereira, J. (1996). Yoga International 1996; March-April; 29-33
Don’t know the difference between a reverse warrior and a revolved triangle? Asanas and Pranayama? Head on over to Yogabasics.com, an attractive, fact-filled site that offers plenty of information for anyone interested in learning about yoga. The site currently offers a basic introduction to yoga and its history, an illustrated guide to over 45 yoga postures, introductions to and links for information on Pranayama and the seven Chakras, etc.
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