... or in French for that matter.
In the past 25 years there have been very few times I have taught yoga in my homeland or my native language.
Since I'm getting a bit reacquainted with the language and since I'll have to spend some time over here, I've decided to teach occasional workshop on meditation and pragmatic yoga and see how it goes.
Here is the link if you happen to be in the area.
The Only Constant is Change
Over the last several years I have been mostly teaching as a guest teacher visiting any yoga centers or ashrams who asked me to.
Since my teachings have been evolving, or at least changing gradually but substantially, I have been feeling less and less comfortable teaching within the strict structure of the Sivananda tradition. Consequently I have been traveling less and less to give out programs.
Interestingly this quantitative decrease in teaching assignments has come in parallel with a qualitative improvement in both my personal practice and what I think is my level of teaching.
The next logical step is to organize my own events so that what I teach can be a true reflection of my personal yoga experience.
I'm putting together some programs here in Normandy and a few projects are in different stages of planning in Hamburg, Amsterdam, Speyer, etc.
I'm also in the process of updating my online biography so that prospective students can have a more accurate idea of who they will be dealing with.
The Power of Testimonial
I'm a strong believer in "testimonial shakti". Over the years I have met so many hundreds and even thousands of students that, call me a deluded optimist if you want, I figure a few of them might have something pleasant to say in regard to the different programs I have given.
The Call to Action
If you feel so inclined to share your impressions and would not mind them being printed on web sites or various printed materials you can go to this Facebook thread which I have set up for just that purpose.
If you have a personal blog or web site for your yoga center or ashram, make sure you mention the URL in the comment but outside the testimonial so I can link to you as well.
I think short testimonials are often more potent so I might not use everything you say even though I value any type of feedback.
Negative feedback is always fun to read so don't hesitate to leave this kind as well but it will probably not be used for publicity ;-)
"As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility." (ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah)Yoga Sutras - 2.35
Today we've reached our fundraising goal thanks to 44 generous donors. There could not be a better way to finish this intense year 2011.
This blog will now resume its normal programming. Look out for some good posts more or less related to yoga.
I pray you will have joyful holidays and a great new year 2012.
We have reached the fundraising goal!. My deepest gratitude to all 44 donors who have helped make this possible. All the best for the holidays and wishing you a happy 2012.
Most people will experience in their life a few turning points which will end up being critical, make-or-break events. I'm currently at such a crossroad and I need your help to assist me in moving forward to the next phase on my life.
Before entering the heart of the subject I would like to give you a little background information.
I started doing yoga at age 20 and took the Sivananda Yoga Teachers Training course in my mid-twenties. That life changing event was followed one year later by moving to North America to become a full time volunteer in the Sivananda organization (SYVC). That was the most exciting time of my entire life. Among other things I got to: learn English; discover California, the US, and their wonderful inhabitants; learn Yoga and its philosophy in depth and from fantastic teachers; learn about different aspects of skills such as running a non-profit business; and much, much more.
I've always felt that I have received much more that I have given during these 12+ years but by giving my life to yoga and its teaching I did make some sacrifices such as not making any money whatsoever and surrendering close to 100% of personal free time and privacy. That was done all in joy though so I've never harbored any regrets.
My primary motive to join SYVC was to learn traditional yoga as thoroughly as possible. Having been there for over 10 years I started feeling that I was learning less and less and it became more and more challenging to live in a community without the primary benefits coming in anymore.
I've always had an independent streak in me, for the better and for the worse.
At the end of 2000 I decided to leave the SYVC organization and continue my destiny as a Sivananda swami and yogi but on my own. Of course I left with big dreams, hopes, and plans. The least we can say is that things did not turn out as I was envisioning but do things ever do in life?
Most yogis and swamis who were in my position in the past found their own way to live a fulfilling life in their 'after-staff' time. Most gave up sannyasa and often times started a family, got a job, and used the good yogic principles acquired at SYVC to live beautiful lives. This was not, has never been, and is not my personal wish however. It's always been clear that even though I found myself outside an organization and outside India the values and spirit of sannyasa have kept burning high in my heart and mind.
The challenge has been and is to stay true to the spirit of sannyasa but finding a way to adapt it to this modern world and to my own personality with its strengths and weaknesses.
When I left SYVC I thought I would just continue in a very similar way following Swami Vishu-devanandaji's teachings to the letter and very soon opened up a SYVC like yoga center in California and a non-profit ashram called A.Y.A. (Advaita Yoga Ashrama). I soon realized that I was not meant and did not want to teach Yoga 1 courses for the rest of my life so that did not last too long.
Soon after that I was drawn to Austin, TX where there were a few Sivananda teachers and a nascent and promising community which was building up. Turned out this fizzled out for a number of reasons.
Making a long story short I felt compelled to move back to Europe and for the last few years I have been teaching here and there, very much living in a nomadic way.
Right now, about 10 years after I left SYVC I can now look back and I realize that in the first 5 years I was trying to copy the SYVC model in all its ways and in the last 5 years I've truly tried to find my own way. This has been related a bit in these few blog posts.
I believe I'm currently making tons of spiritual progress and, if I may say so, I'm a much better teacher now than I was 8-12 years ago. That's great and vindicates some difficult choices I made.
I had to give a name to my ever changing teaching style and attitude and I settled on 'Pragmatic Yoga'. Some of the principles which I value highly in this approach are:
- spiritual approach. More so than yoga centered around fitness, health, stress management, etc.
- pragmatic, which means centered around making actual spiritual progress (meditating deeper)
- empowering to the students
- free of dogmas
- free thinking
- with as little structure as possible
- with as much spontaneity as possible
Here is a good starting page for information.
Better Teacher may be, less Popular for sure
You would think the key points above would resonate with a lot of modern yogis but it does not seem to be the case at all. The irony is that the more progress I feel I'm making as a teacher and the fewer students I seem to draw in the programs I give internationally. I'm still trying to figure out why.
One reason might be that any true progress is predisposed on change. One cannot really grow spiritually, or as a human being, by parroting the same truths and thoughts, however noble and inspiring they are, for decades on end. With change comes a lack of comfort. My students from 10 or 15 years ago would probably like me to be more or less the same type of teacher they have known in the past and it's just not the case at all.
Additionally most students like to have their current views pretty much reinforced rather than challenged.
Psychologically many folks feel more secure with a fixed set of rules, teachings, ideas, and techniques which promise quick and lasting progress. Fuzziness does not seem as attractive although some spiritual teachers of the past have done really well teaching free thinking and personal freedom.
I did make a conscious choice and resolve (sankalpa) a number of years ago: I will not fit my teaching to the demands of the market. I will teach what makes the most sense to me and I do not want to take a marketing approach to the teaching of yoga. So I'm definitely ready to live with the fact that I will probably not have many students in the future.
The easy way to success seems to package the teachings into a defined course offered in the form a training with a diploma at the end. I'm not planning to offer anything like this at this stage.
That was the sound of Swami Atma falling back and down to earth reality. I have to admit that on a material level I did not picture myself homeless and penniless after these 10 years of following the path of independent spiritual pursuit. Furthermore I haven't had any health care for almost 25 years and this seems more important in one's fifties than in one's twenties or thirties.
Where are the Revenues Coming from?
Something has to give in. If I don't want to get a job and I'm not ready to compromise my yoga teaching for the sake of profit and commercial success then some money has to come from somewhere. It's not that I've been sitting on my hands or anything. In the last few years I have been learning web programming and found a lot of personal fulfillment in that endeavor. That's a great training for the mind, a good challenge for my little intellect, and in the process I'm building something good.
It's taken longer than I thought it would to reach professional proficiency but I'm finally there. A couple years ago I started a web design and programming company and things are finally taking off on that level.
In the near future, besides deepening my yoga sadhana and formulating it in a clearer way, I will be investing more time in that direction so it seems that I'm just about to finally earn more money that I spend.
Just as some Western and Eastern monastic orders do generate or have generated for centuries some revenues via non-spiritual means, I do feel truer to my path to follow this non-conventional business way that will enable me to always teach yoga and meditation free from financial considerations.
Future is Looking Good
Despite all this the future looks great on all levels:
- spiritual - practicing and teaching meditation much more successfully. The sky seems to be the limit.
- inner growth - on the yoga and non-yoga level I am learning more than ever. I feel like a child again.
- health - I made a big breakthrough over 6 months ago having found the diet that fits me best. Very nutritious, satisfying to the palate, leaving me free of cravings as well as much lighter.
- financial - although it's bad now the work opportunities with web programming are very promising.
- psychological stability - I might finally have a home very soon
Settling down is the Key
Something that has been weighing down on me for the last 6-7 years is that I've had no place to call home. I've been drifting from friend to friend and teaching place to teaching place rarely resourcing anywhere for an extended period. Over that time I think I have slept more than 2 consecutive months in the same bed only 3 or 4 times! This has resulted in the intense traveling burnout I'm currently experiencing.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of a couple students I made two recent attempts to settle down and finally drop my luggage to the floor but karma had it that neither attempt worked out in the end.
This is about to change. In the next few weeks I will be looking aggressively to rent out a little, as-cheap-as-they-come apartment and do 'my thing' with the benefit of solitude. A cave in a city. In the last couple years every time I could stay more than a few weeks in a given place and by myself I got to blossom in many ways and make breakthroughs in the different areas outlined above. I can visualize myself going down that path for the next couple years, doing relatively little teaching or traveling, and then coming back out renewed and as it were a 'reconstructed' yoga teacher.
So What's the Bad News you Ask?
After this long preamble you just know that something painful is coming. Over these last 10 years I have built up a considerable amount of debts. Some to credit cards in the name of the Advaita Yoga Ashrama which I share the responsibility with same one else and some in my name to various individuals.
This post is about the credit card debts which have accumulated beyond reason and which have been unmanageable in the last few years partly because of the high interest rates which make it impossible to get out of the quick sands.
I need your Help
This post is about doing a very last fundraising effort in the name of Advaita Yoga Ashrama. The amount of debts was more than significant but a student who has been my main supporter since my early days at SYVC Los Angeles has already stepped up to the plate and, as incredibly as it seems, has donated the larger part of the debt. From our original 4 credit cards, 3 have been paid off in the last year or so.
There is one card left and I need to appeal to your generosity a last time to bury this problem once for all and allow AYA and myself to thrive forward in a financially sane manner.
How you can Help
- Buy something from our online store
- Contribute with a donation
- Exchange a donation for some web work. Bartering programming for donation
1. Online Yoga Store - Total Liquidation
We've had a good inventory of yoga items in our store, many of them in stock for a long time. We would like to use this as a part of this fundraising drive. Please do consider purchasing some items in addition to or instead of a donation.
AYA is a 501 c(3) non-profit corporation so If you happen to live in the US your donation will be tax-deductible.
If you find it in your heart to help us lessen our burden I will be immensely obliged.
How Much Should You Give? Obviously this is entirely up to you but may I suggest the different factors to help you decide on an amount
- How much can you afford? Obviously we don't want to ask you for money and put you in a dire situation yourself
- How much were you affected by my or AYA's contact in the past? Since I don't want to make promises about teaching or anything which I might not be able to keep in the future, I ask you humbly to consider how we have influenced your life through the teachings.
- How much you feel sorry for me :-( I won't lie to you it's a bit hard for my big ego to do this appeal to your generosity. I count also on your pity.
Although a 'bigger' donation would give us a bigger chance to totally clear that debt right away we would be very grateful as well should you be able to pledge 5 or 10 dollars (or euros, or pounds).
3. Website Programming
I'm ready to work hard to end this unfortunate situation. If you are in need of a professional grade web site and find that our work is up to par with your expectations, I could give you the normal quote for the job and then could discount it substantially if you made the payment as an upfront AYA donation.
It is my sincerest hope that you will not be offended by this fundraising request.
Regardless of the outcome of this fundraising drive I feel my life has been immensely enriched by the direct contact with the many thousands of yogis and yoginis over the last 24 years since I teach yoga. And for that, THANK YOU.
In eternal gratitude. Om Tat Sat. Swami Atma
We have reached the fundraising goal!. My deepest gratitude to all 44 donors who have helped make this possible. All the best for the holidays and wishing you a happy 2012.
Charlatans who give a bad name to Religion
Derren Brown is at it again in this fascinating and entertaining video. He set out to expose 'fake' faith healers.
His message is very similar to Swami Vishnu-devanandaji's who staged a similar 'fake guru' demonstration with an actor who happened to be a student of his.
A problem in all traditions
This problem is not unique to Christianity and as a yoga teacher I'm very careful not to abuse the power conferred by the student.
If all atheists left the USA, it would lose 93% of the National Academy of Sciences but less than 1% of the prison population.Unknown
All movements go too far.Bertrand Russell
I will be teaching another workshop this Sunday in Zurich. We'll do 2 sessions of spinal breathing + meditation, some asanas, some hatha yoga pranayama, and learn some mudras and bandhas.
This will include the discussion of different variations of techniques such as mula bandha, tri-bandha, etc.
Om Om everyone,
This coming Sunday I'll be teaching a kundalini workshop in Luxembourg at the Centre de Yoga LA SOURCE.
As usual I'm really looking forward to it. Try to come. I don't know when will my next chance to teach there be.
Sunday February 27th, '11 - 9am-5pm at Mandala Yoga
Since I'm in town Gauri and I decided to organize a Pragmatic Yoga workshop next weekend.
Practices of kundalini yoga and deep meditation. Theory talks on about anything that will come up ;-)
The info should soon be posted to the Mandala Yoga web site
Be there or be square.
We have just relaunched our Yoga store. It features primarily a large collection of books by Swami Sivananda and a number of other useful yoga items.
Please check it out. The shipping costs are minimal, even outside the US, and follow a flat fee format. This means that the more items you purchase the less shipping you pay on a per item basis.
Thanks to Sita for her great, hard work on this project.
As mentioned in previous posts Pragmatic Yoga revolves around two core practices:
- Spinal breathing
This post aims at explaining in the simplest terms how to meditate.
- Sit comfortably and steadily at your favorite meditation spot.
- Relax body and mind
- Regulate the breath if you feel so inclined
- Repeat the mantra of your choice again and again. This is the actual practice.
- Take a little time to come out of the meditation state and reconnect with the outside world
The meditation method is very simple and providing one adopts the proper attitude of relaxation and openness it does not take long before one con achieve a deep state of meditation, which is to say, of quieting the mind.
Don't be fooled by the simplicity of it all. Deep meditation is the key to inner spiritual transformation and is extremely potent in allowing one to journey through the inner recesses of one's mind and consciousness. As a result the meditator experiences life changing inner states of peace, bliss, and joy but also encounters dramatic physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual experiences coming as by-products of the practice. These experiences will be discussed later on.
For now let's discuss the aspects of the meditation technique as well as the mental attitude which will lead one to success.
It's crucial for the meditator to find a posture that will be still and comfortable and in which the practitioner will forget himself or herself, at least physically. This is described at length in our sitting postures article.
Once this is out of the way one can proceed with the gradual process of calming the mind down.
Being established in the posture we should then take as much time as required to be deeply relaxed physically and mentally.
The posture is mastered by releasing tension and meditation on the Unlimited.Yoga Sutras - 2.47
This typically takes 5 to 10 minutes for a beginner or under a minute for an advanced practitioner in the good days.
Some body areas are more prone to tensions and we want to address those in priority. They are typically the face, shoulders, solar plexus, and hands. Each individual has tension patterns and one should always pay special attention to those. In other words if you know that your shoulders are usually tense spend a good amount of time in this area while relaxing.
If you don't know at all how to relax you will benefit immensely from taking some hatha yoga classes in a tradition which does not overemphasize physical performance or fitness over the true yogic inner experience.
In essence you just need to travel with your awareness through the different parts of your body and let a wave of relaxation go through the muscles and other tissues. You may want to imagine sending your out-breath through the tensions dissolving them in the process.
Start with your head and face spending more time on the eyes and eyebrows, the whole mouth, the tongue, the jaws and cheeks.
Proceed to send the relaxation wave and awareness down to your neck and shoulders, the whole back, chest, abdomen, the arms, hands, and legs.
Spend as much time as necessary on any area you feel might need it.
Forget Past and Future
We all carry some psychological baggage with us at all times. You want to leave that luggage outside your meditation room together with your shoes. Take a moment to remind yourself that nothing that happened in the past or will happen in the future has any relevance during this time of practice. Forgetting your worries and problems for the time being will only enable you to address them more efficiently later on. Let go of memories of the past and plans for the future, resting joyfully in the here and now.
We've conditioned ourselves to expect results for all our actions but meditation is more about 'being' than 'doing'. Nothing needs to be achieved. Just be open and aware.
The process of meditation involves concentrating on an uplifting object. This will lead the mind to slow down, turn itself within and connect with the innermost spiritual Self.
The biggest obstacle to successful meditation for most aspirants is to just try too hard. We were raised with the idolizing of the virtue of hard work exemplified in the 'no pain, no gain' motto.
That approach will do you lots of good if you want to become a Navy Seal, a body builder or in a great number of worldly endeavors but is downright counter-productive in our life of spiritual and inner growth.
The harder you will try and the further away you will be from the state of meditation and mental quietness.
Just as horse whisperers offer an alternate approach to traditional forceful cowboy techniques you con choose to battle your mind or to work with it in a playful and peaceful fashion. The 'horse whisperer' meditation attitude is the one I strongly recommend. Very few can fight their mind and come out the victor in the long term.
Choose a Concentration Object
There are two types of Eastern traditional meditation techniques. Those based on awareness and those based on concentration. In Pragmatic Yoga students are encouraged to experiment with every single facet of the practice. This little guide presents a concentration technique but feel free to explore 'awareness' types of meditation if you feel so inclined.
There is a wide variety of suitable objects to focus on in concentration types of meditation belonging to Eastern traditions in general as well as the Indian yoga tradition in particular.
This lineage's tradition advocates the use of mantras which are sound manifestations of spiritual power. Repeating the mantra taps the power lying at the core of the sound thereby unleashing it to work its magic through our nervous system and psychic body.
The mantras suitable for spiritual meditation and the quest to enlightenment can be classified into two categories: abstract (nirguna) and concrete (saguna)
The abstract mantras relate to a spiritual reality devoid of attributes and qualifications. They are used for meditations of a more philosophical nature. On the other hand the concrete mantras are usually conducive to more devotional practices as they point to deities with particular characteristics.
We practice meditation here in the context of kundalini yoga so we are going to forego the meaning, symbols, and feelings associated with these mantras and focus on the vibration which is emitted by the repetition and the sound wave spreading to all cells of our physical body and to the energetic body as well.
If you already have a mantra go ahead and use it, otherwise, you can use the highly esteemed and easy to pronounce 'OM' mantra. We'll publish some posts later with detailed instruction on choosing a mantra.
Now that you are all set and have selected a mantra just repeat it again and again in your consciousness. Let the mantra rise from your intent to reach that deep inner silence of the Self and propagate itself leading you to that peace that passeth all understanding.
The speed of the mantra repetition can vary from session to session or within a given session. It can go from very slow to very fast. You should adopt the speed that feels just right at the time. Too slow and your mind will get bored or drowsy. Too fast and your mind will get more agitated.
You can fix a time limit for your sitting session but I like to repeat the mantra until at least some type of quietness is experienced. Your total sitting time could go between 5 and 15 minutes if your are a beginner and between 15 and 30 minutes if you are more experienced.
I encourage you to set a very low minimum sitting time, such as 5 minutes for the days you are very tired, busy, or in a strongly extraverted mood. You may then stop after 5 minutes on those bad days but you will find yourself going on longer more often than not.
You WILL Be Distracted!
A common mistake by many is to expect their mind to be fully focused during the whole sitting session. This leads to despair, guilt and a whole lot of other useless emotions.
Unless you are the James Bond of meditation your mind will naturally drift away from your meditation object and entertain other thoughts.
The actual practice of meditation is to nudge your mind back again and again to the mantra. Persistently but very gently and with no self judging. Do not even chase the other thoughts away from your mind. Let them be and stay there but give the priority to that one thought you have dedicated these few moments to.
Do not give any emotional energy to the inner or outer distractions. Watch them as if they were totally different from you, as they actually are, and go back to your focal object. This repeatedly moving from the distractions to the chosen focal point is at the heart of the meditation process so do not loathe the presence of distractions but be grateful for them as they are key to the dynamics of meditation.
Of course as these diversions disappear and moments of inner silence are experienced we become immensely thankful to taste the true meditation experience but this would never have taken place without the process that led to it.
Wrapping it Up
It's a good idea to not go from deep inner stillness to hurried activity too abruptly. Allow 2 to 5 minutes of lying relaxation, loud mantra repetition, doing a ritual such as arati, reading some spiritual book, or any other compatible activity.
Here is a quick recap of what you can do twice a day for daily cultivation of that connection with the Spiritual Self.
- Sit comfortably and steadily at your favorite meditation spot.
- Relax body and mind
- Regulate the breath if you feel so inclined
- Repeat the mantra of your choice again and again. This is the actual practice.
- Take a little time to come out of the meditation state and reconnect with the outside world
Just Do It
For maximum results develop the habit to sit twice a day. Start with a few minutes of spinal breathing and shift into meditation. Let the gentle meditation process lead you to the deep meditation state where the sweetness of the inner stillness is experienced.
Comments welcome on Facebook.
September 10-13 in Lenzerheide, Swizerland
I'm very much looking forward to this special retreat. Every time I stayed or taught in Switzerland has always felt special to me.
In this retreat we'll be studying the vedantic text "Tattva Bodha". It summarizes the philosophy of Oneness called advaita vedanta.
Also this text is deep in explaining the basic concepts of vedanta it's also very accessible to new readers. Come with us and you will be moved by the implacable logic and clarity which are a hallmark of Sri Sankara's texts
Of course there will be a regular schedule of hatha yoga classes and deep meditations besides the lectures on vedanta
All details about the retreat and how to sign up can be found at Mandala Yoga.
OM OM OM
Many of this blog's readers are very experienced yoga practitioners and/or teachers. We all like to share the knowledge we have accumulated over the years.
Good Q&A Site
There is a new platform tapping into the expertise scattered all over the Internet and offering a "Questions and Answers" format.
This site will not belong to anybody. It will be a true community and the most prominent yogis and yoginis will be the ones who contribute the most with their good questions and accurate answers. The site's clever system of "reputation" and "badges" will take care of that.
What Can You Do Now?
Before the site goes live and open to the whole public it needs to gather momentum.
The first step involves gathering experts such as yourself.
Determine the Scope of that Yoga Site
Here are the steps you can take and the things you can do to help the site get going and establish yourself as an active expert:
- Go to the home page of the launching pad
- Get your own username and login
- Click on the "Follow it!" button
- Use 5 votes for questions you feel will be very appropriate and right on target for the site.
- Use your 5 votes to determine which yoga questions should NOT be accepted on the site and should be declined by the community.
- Propose your own 5 questions. Right now we need questions which are more or less about yoga but are still good examples of off-topic questions. Questions which are overly argumentative, don't have a clear answer, are troll-like, negative or offensive.
- Leave comments on the existing questions to discuss why they should or should not be considered good questions. Please note that we are not answering the questions yet. That will come at a later phase. This phase is only about determining which questions are a good fit.
- You can also learn about this whole system by checking out the FAQ page.
- Another good teaching tool is to look at the more active existing proposed sites.
Keep the Conversation Going
Doing the above is already good but we want to develop a true team of experts which will be active on an ongoing basis.
Take a few minutes every day to check out new questions and comments and keep leaving comments and adjusting your votes.
Spread the Message
You can do the same for any forums or blogs you like to visit or yoga magazines you enjoy reading.
There are two types of yoga postures - or asanas. The cultural poses and the sitting postures. The former are well known and constitute the most popular aspect of modern yoga as it has disseminated around the world. The latter are actually more important from the standpoint of spiritual growth. They are primarily used for pranayama and meditation, as well as other practices such as japa (mantra repetition).
Since kriya yoga pranayama and deep meditation constitute the core practices of pragmatic yoga it is important that we find a posture we are very comfortable with.
The Traditional Approach
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Maharishi
The asana (posture) should be steady and comfortable.Yoga Sutras - 2.46
There should be an effortless stillness. Think of a candle flame in a windless environment. It will convey the idea of lightness and poise which are both found in our meditation posture. The other fitting association is that of a rock. Let your sitting posture borrow its steadiness quality from it.
Comfortable & Easy
In the sitting asana the yogi starts transcending the body within a few minutes. That is to say the body awareness vanishes much like when we are falling asleep. Did you ever try to feel your legs or arms just before falling asleep? It's as if they were gone. Well, the same thing takes place within a few minutes of sitting in the right posture as our awareness shifts from the physical body to the astral body..
As you get established in the astral body awareness many experiences connected with it manifest on their own volition.
You have found your posture when, during the whole duration of your practice, you feel that you could sit there forever. Naturally it is not the case, there comes a point where the posture becomes a strain but let that point come after your session is done with.
To the previous attributes the Bhagavad Gita adds the concept of an erect back, properly aligned with the neck and head. The whole spine should be in its natural position which is to say that of an elongated 'S'.
Let him firmly hold his body, head and neck erect and perfectly still, gazing at the tip of his nose, without looking around.Bhagavad Gita - 6.13
The theory behind this is that when the spine is in its natural position the spinal cord and sushumna nadi will be freed and the prana/shakti flow between the root chakra, muladhara, and the third eye center, ajna, will take place with maximum efficiency.
The Gita gives us also much advice about the optimum environment for serious meditation practice: location, room, and the seat. The advice about location and room is full of common sense especially as it pertains to ancient India.
Proper Meditation Seat
The teaching about the seat is of particular interest and little understood by many yogis. It involves using a thin cloth, some kusha grass, and an animal skin. Some yogis used a deer skin, others that of a tiger.
In a clean spot, having established a firm seat of his own, neither too high nor too low, made of a cloth, a skin and kusha grass, one over the other, ...Bhagavad Gita - 6.11
To get this out of the way, no, the munis of yore were not hunting animals just to get a nice meditation pillow. They would usually use the skin of an animal already dead by natural causes or killed by the kshatriyas, soldiers/police, in order to protect the population.
This concept of killing tigers is obviously politically incorrect at the beginning of this 21st century but in order to understand this you need to project yourself in India a few centuries back living in a tiny village surrounded by a thick jungle and the occasional attack of a tiger killing villagers, adults or children alike, for an easy breakfast. Humans make for easy prey so that was the tiger equivalent of fast food. Once you'd have a few relatives and friends disappear in such fashion you'd feel okay about keeping the tiger population under control. Times are different now and, just to make sure, I'm NOT advocating hunting of any kind nowadays, much less of near extinct species.
Anyhow the above advice aims at creating an electric insulation with the ground. Psychically, as the kundalini power awakens, we want it to travel up the spine. Ancient yogis were usually practicing outdoors or in little huts with dirt on the floor.
For ordinary activities it's very healthy to walk barefoot on the ground, grass, or wet sand at the beach. Doing so makes an energetic connection with the ground and it's great for vitality and inner balance. Much recommendeded if you have the opportunity.
The advice is however different for pranayama and meditation.
Most modern electric devices have a grounding, the third one, wire which connects to the grounding prong on your electric outlet. That ground wire goes through your house all the way down to the ground. The purpose is, in case of power surge, to get rid of the extra power for sake of safety as that extra surge would most likely fry the delicate components of your beloved computer or other gadget/appliance.
The purpose of pranayama and meditation is to awaken and direct upwards as much prana/shakti as is presently safe and the last thing we want is for that formidable power, which is very much of the nature of electricity, to go into the ground and be lost.
The Four Classical Asanas
There are four classical sitting postures.
- Sukhasana - the easy posture
- Siddhasana - the Perfect pose
- Svastikasana - where cross in the form of the ancient Hindu svastika symbol
- Padhmasana - the lotus pose. You also have the half lotus which is a variant of this one.
These four have been described at length on many web sites. We'll revisit them further down this post.
The Modern Pragmatic Approach
We want to learn from the tradition and adapt it to our modern situation. Main differences that come to mind are our modern dwellings which are already very much insulated from the ground and the rest of nature as well as the lack of hip flexibility found in most modern yogis due to the fact that most of us have used chairs and armchairs for most of our life whereas ancient yogis spent their whole life sitting on the floor and/or squatting.
Unless meditating outside we can safely ignore the conductivity/insulation issue and focus intently on finding the sitting posture that will bring us the most benefits.
Steady & Comfortable, Yes! Straight, May Be!
While steadiness and easiness are essential it turns out that although it's nice to have a perfectly straight back, it does not matter that much practically speaking.
On how theory and practice differ. In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, theory and practice are different.
The yogic literature is pretty much unequivocal in advocating a perfectly straight position and yet photos of meditation masters, ancient and modern, tell us a very different story.
I have been meditating for so many years with a straight back that this is definitely my preference and although I like to sometimes use the softer variations listed below, either out of necessity (in trains or planes for example) or for the sake of change and experimenting, it personally never feels completely right.
Nevertheless let us go through a number of possibilities to help the readers find their own preferred posture. We'll start with the gentler variations culminating with the ultimate sitting posture. At this juncture you might want to guess what is the best asana for meditation.
There are definite energetic benefits in sitting with the legs crossed and therefore I strongly suggest you try your very best to adopt a posture of this kind. Besides the strong energetic benefits that will come with sitting with legs crossed from the beginning it will help one develop the flexibility necessary to eventually practice the most efficient of all postures in terms of kundalini awakening.
This being said the yogis with injured knees or hips will go far in the practice even with the legs extended and feet flat on the floor. I do use such variations while practicing in public transportation vehicles and guess what, both the energetic benefits of kundalini rising and the mental quietness of meditation are being experienced to some degree.
With Back Support
So our first variation, the easiest of all, will be to sit on a sofa or armchair leaning back with the feet flat on the floor.
Similar would be to sit in a regular chair while leaning back or in one of those modern 'yogic chairs' with straight legs.
Without Back Support
If possible it's preferable to keep a straight back using one's back muscles as opposed to external props.
One can use a regular chair paying attention to not lean back against the support. It helps sitting on the edge of the chair to help tilt the pelvis forward. Even easier is to use some modern ergonomic chairs with forward tilted seat. The back will be straight naturally.
With Back Support
Again starting with the easiest variation, one might want to sit in one's bed leaning against the head board or the wall. Sounds too good to be true but it works so don't feel self-conscious. Try it out at least. Upon waking, you might want to answer nature's calls and going back to bed, sit up and start your practice right away.
A bit less decadent looking, and as efficient, is to sit and lean back on a sofa or large armchair.
Sitting on the floor you can use a "yogic chair" to lean against.
In the first two variations the legs will fit comfortably on their soft base while the latter one is bit more spartan.
On those rare, or not so rare, days when you don't feel like doing your sitting practice, go ahead and sit on the sofa and relax with your eyes closed. It takes zero effort. Everybody can do that for 1 or 2 minutes. Start breathing deeper if you feel so inclined. Then the spinal breathing will come by itself and before you know it you will transition into a meditation which might turn out much deeper than you thought it would be.
Without Back Support
Necessity of a Pillow
Since the first priority is to sit steadily and comfortably most meditators will need to sit on a pillow or blanket. In my many years frequenting ashrams of all kinds I have met VERY few yogis, Indian or Westerners, who could sit straight, naturally without elevating their pelvis.
Here the Westerners seem to have an advantage as our Indian friends are culturally repulsed to using a wimpy pillow and most of them end up sitting with terrible postures.
So, to achieve your optimum posture, feel free to experiment with the variety of seats such as pillows or folded blankets. There are so many choices nowadays in terms of shape, materials, etc. that we are truly blessed to live in such a world of abundance and choice. Some pillows are very soft, some very hard. You can also find a variety of 'filling' materials, many of those will espouse the shape of your behind as if you were sitting on the sand.
Some meditators will need to sit on a very high pillow so that the posture feels right. That's fine. After weeks, months, or years of practice one might feel the natural tendency to use a thinner pillow, decreasing the height gradually as it feels right. Going down to zero height is not the goal though. Many of us will never get there.
Be open minded about the selection of your 'ishta' asana.
Following are some suggested sitting postures.
Sukhasana - The Easy Pose
This is the 'natural' sitting posture for many yoga novices. Its name comes from the fact that it puts the least strain on the legs. It's recommended for practitioners who have knee conditions, stiff hips, and/or thick legs. The feet are more or less situated below the opposite knees.
Unfortunately, due to the position of the pelvis, this asana puts more strain on the back and it's therefore difficult for most to sit straight comfortably. This posture typically requires a higher pillow to sit on.
Based on observation the great majority of meditators and pranayama practitioners will adopt the following posture.
This is an easy variation of siddhasana. To adopt it:
- sit with legs outstretched in a 'V' form
- fold one leg in front of you in order to bring the heel in the central axis of your body. The foot is resting right in front of your pubis. Don't worry if your heel does not rest in the central axis.
- fold the second leg so that the foot will end up in front of the first food. If the heel is also on the central axis of the body it's good but it's okay if it's not.
- Rest your hands on your knees or thighs
Traditionally the left leg should be bent first but some yogis have a better body alignment with the right leg crossed first in which case they should adopt the latter variation.
In this posture the back is naturally straight.
Again this is the most popular posture and is highly recommended.
The Real Siddhasana
I have named the previous posture 'modified' siddhasana as it lacks an important feature which makes siddhasana the most desirable sitting posture of all. Most casual yogis will think of the lotus pose as the the supreme posture but the majority of yoga and meditation masters hold siddhasana in higher regard.
When perfection is attained through siddhasana, what is the use of practicing many other asanas? When the flow of prana is stabilized, the breath stops spontaneously and a mindless state arises by itself.Hatha Yoga Pradipika - 1.41
The reason is that this posture is directly stimulating the muladhara chakra, thus awakening the kundalini shakti and thus turbo charging one's meditation and other practices.
This is achieved by sitting on the heel of the first crossed leg. The more weight, or pressure, you put on the heel the stronger the kundalini stimulation.
The point of the body resting on the heel should be the one just below the muladhara chakra. It's approximately half way between the genitals and the anus, at about the central point of the pelvic floor.WARNING - ACHTUNG
Because of the raw potency of this posture you might want to wait until you are established in your daily meditation practice for at least a few months before you experiment with siddhasana.
Super Duper Siddhasana
Well, guess what, the previous one was still not the true siddhasana. In its purest form, in addition to sitting on the first heel, the second heel comes on top of the first foot and applies pressure on the pubic bone. This stimulates the svasdhitana chakra and provides even more of an energetic stimulation.
This one is harder for men than women for reasons which will become obvious upon the first attempt.
What about the other postures you ask. You can also adopt them if they are the right fit for you.
It takes extreme hip, knee, and ankle flexibility and I have only met a couple people able to do it even for a short time.
Padmasana - The Lotus Pose
Most yogis who can do this posture cannot hold it comfortably for a long time. The biggest problem with it is that so many meditators I know have worked on doing the lotus pose and ended up damaging their knees irreversibly. It's just not worth it.
The main danger is the unnatural strain on knee ligaments. Please be wise, patient, and gentle if you adopt this posture or work on it.
The main advantages of padmasana are a thorough upward redirect of the blood flow as well as extreme steadiness.
This posture is most recommended for practices such as bhastrika pranayama.
Again keep in mind that real siddhasana is arguably more beneficial spiritually speaking.
The Half lotus
Much easier to do and hold than the full lotus this posture brings you lots of steadiness and is easy on the back as well. It does not seem to have the destructive effect on the knee joints that the full lotus has.
Popular in zen circles this posture is not much used in the yoga tradition as it lacks the energetic benefits associated with the cross-legged positions.
Also it does not contribute to preparing the legs to eventually do siddhasana on the heel. Not recommended for pranayama or meditation but it can be incorporated to one's routine of cultural asanas for the sake of flexibility.
The great thing about this posture is that the spine will be naturally in its optimum form so you can use this posture to bring about the awareness of the your spinal column ideal position which your can later duplicate in whichever cross-legged postures you adopt.
To adopt this posture you either sit on your heels with the knees in front of you. You can also place a pillow between your feet or use a 'meditation bench' to sit on while your feet are tucked under the bench.
I'd like to think this little presentation is comprehensive enough to empower you to find your own posture which will propel your sitting practices to unimaginable heights.
Om Adi Shaktyai Namah!
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I'm happy to announce that I'll be teaching another "Pragmatic Yoga Experience" 2-week course in the Summer of 2011.
This one will take place at the Yoga Vidya ashram in Bad Meinberg, Germany in July 10-24, '11.
As science marches forward at a frenetic space it has looked at countless aspects of the ancient yogic teachings. Many of these teachings have been validated by the process while some have been disproved without any doubts.
Prahlad Jani spent a fortnight in a hospital in the western India state of Gujarat under constant surveillance from a team of 30 medics equipped with cameras and closed circuit television.
During the period, he neither ate nor drank and did not go to the toilet.
Amrita, the nectar of immortality
Many scriptures refer to the sweet ambrosia, or nectar of immortality, which can be accessed through practices such as kechari mudra.
The teachings state that in ordinary folks this cool nectar is dripping and end up being burned up in the digestive fire in one's belly. When preserved and tapped by the yogi it tastes like a sweet nectar and can be the source of youth distributed in the whole body.
As far as I know this aspect of the teachings has no parallel in our modern understanding of physiology.
As explained in this article this old sadhu not only claims that he hasn't eaten or drunk anything in 70 or so years but that he can do it because since he was very young a Goddess has been pouring ambrosia through his crown chakra.
This provides some food for thought - no pun intended.-----------------------------------
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Om Namah Sivaya, all info on pragmatic yoga will now be centralized on its official web site.
In yoga it is understood that 'God', Spirit, or the supreme reality has two components which can't be separated. These two are Consciousness and Power. By nature Consciousness is static whereas Power is dynamic. In the tantric tradition they are referred to symbolically as siva and shakti.
Spiritual Growth Practically Speaking
Looking at it on the individual level the static consciousness manifests as a deep inner silence and direct connection to the true Self while the dynamic power as the awakening of the infinite power within us called kundalini shakti.
Advancing on the yogic path is very simple. Just cultivate daily the power of kundalini and the experience of inner silence.
To do so we apply ourselves to the practice of 2 yogas which constitute the core foundation of our sadhana (spiritual practice).
- Spinal Breathing to awaken the kundalini
- Meditation to cultivate the experience of inner silence
Kriya Yoga Pranayama
The practice of meditation will be covered in another post so now we'll focus on the practice of spinal breathing. There are several yogic systems to awaken the kundalini power: hatha yoga is a popular branch of kundalini yoga but there are several others.
Paramahansa Yogananda popularized the kriya yoga approach at the beginning of the 20th century and of course this rich tradition has many methods and variations. Spinal breathing is such a variation which turns out to be very simple but also extremely potent and efficacious.
Here is my take on it which is directly influenced by Yogani's.
Why don't you take a few minutes to try out this simple practice in the next few days?
Spinal Breathing Technique
In essence you want to sit still, relax, breathe deeper than normal and visualize the subtle breath going up and down your spine in coordination with your breathing.
As mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali one's sitting posture should be steady and comfortable. If the spine is very straight it is a plus but don't fret about it if it's not possible yet.
If you have very stiff legs and back or any health issues that warrant this you can practice on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
There are advantages to having a cross-legged position so if you can do so please go ahead and proceed with the following suggestions.
The 'softer' approach is to just sit up on your bed the back leaning against the head board. The legs are comfortably crossed on the softness of the mattress.
This can also been done in a sofa. Legs crossed and back leaning on the back rest. One can also sit against the wall or in those modern 'yogic' chairs.
If you can, and this is my preferred recommendation, sit on the floor on a pillow with the back, neck, and head perfectly erect. Personally I have sat with a straight back for so many years that it feels wrong to lean against anything. I did want to present the other options though. Better practice in these sub-optimal postures comfortably than in a strict posture in discomfort.
If you want to know more about the sitting options consult the post on "yoga sitting postures".
It is a central concept of kriya yoga that relaxation gives rise to concentration. When concentrating or meditating too many yogis try 'too hard' creating inner tensions sometimes leading to headaches and other ailments.
The type of concentration we are looking for could be better called absorption. Think in terms of reading a book. Most people have found themselves, at some point in their life, in a high state of concentration while reading a book. When this happened to you did you try to focus really hard? Most likely not. You started with a line, then a few. This led to a page, and 2, and more. You slowly got caught up in the story or material presented in the book and before you knew it you had achieved partial pratyahara and a deep state of concentration.
Anywho, just take a few moments in your sitting posture to settle in stillness and to relax your face, shoulders, back, arms, and legs. Special emphasis on the jaws, tongue, eyes, and eyebrows.
Then follow with interest the motion of the breath and of the energy.
Deep & Slow Breathing
Now comes the time to breathe deeper. Not as deep as in hatha yoga pranayama but do take some full yogic breaths. First fill up the abdomen, then the chest. On the exhale start emptying the chest and then the abdomen. Do this a few times until it feels right and you are fully comfortable and relaxed.
Both inhalation and exhalation should take place through the nose. Make sure you breathe slowly enough so that very little noise is created by the breath.
The Mind Follows Shakti
You should then proceed to follow the journey of the subtle breath up and down your spine. Do this for a few minutes and then you are done for this session.
Here is a brief explanation of this visualization. The term visualization is a bit misleading because it implies a purely visual process. While many yogis will see a light along this path with their inner eye many also experience the movement of shakti in the form of vibration, tingling, heat, pleasant ecstasy, and/or several other ways. The main practice though is to travel up and down with one's awareness.
During the inhalation we move up along the spine. The starting point is the lowest chakra, muladhara chakra. There is a long explanation as to where this is exactly but here is the shortcut. Imagine you are sitting on a bicycle. Start from the point where you have most weight and go up inside about 1 to 3 inches (2 to 8 centimeters). This point is usually higher in women and sometimes further back as well.
Move backward and slightly up (or down) to catch the beginning of the spinal cord. Then move up inside the spinal cord all the way to the neck and keep moving upward until you reach the middle of the brain. At that point make a sharp turn forward to end up in the third eye located right between the eyebrows, not too high on the forehead.
Now it's time to start exhaling and move back and down to return back to the root center.
It might take a few rounds or even a few sessions of practice before you feel comfortable. Remember to relax body and mind as you do this.
At first you might not have any direct experience of the motion of the subtle life force. Or you might only experience it in a couple places. You will have to use your imagination to travel up and down. With practice you will have full awareness of the pathway from muladhara to ajna. When this is achieved even less effort is required during the practice.
You have to find your own path. Each yogi and yogini finds their own proper trace. Some perceive the muladhara as lower or higher, placed more forward or backward. As you move from there most are tempted to go up towards the other spine but it's often helpful to go backwards to reach wherever the swadhishthana chakra is.
The red and blue colors indicate different possible variations and the black dotted line indicate a trace following major pathways of the physical nervous system.
On the MRI above you can see corresponding areas of nervous system in the physical body. The spinal breathing works both on the physical and astral levels.
Twice a Day if Possible
Instead of thinking of the kundalini awakening as a volcano-like sudden surge of power in your lower back you might want to think of it as gradual process of creating and strengthening an energetic conductivity going from the root chakra to the third eye.
This will harmonize the 'raw' energies naturally located in the pelvis and help them ascend to the higher chakras, the brain and the rest of your body. This new power will then be available to fuel all your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. The stronger the psychic connection between these polarities and the richer your life. More theoretical details will come in the future as the focus of this post is to provide a practical guidance.
For this daily cultivation to take place substantially you need to practice daily. Either once a day or twice a day. Surprisingly it is actually easier to stick to a 2-a-day routine than a single daily session. This is because it takes more than half a day to exhaust the spiritual power accumulated in any one session. Thus you can still feel the shakti playing in your psychic and nervous system and reap faster and more benefits as soon as you start. You also feel more inclined to sit again.
Once you are accustomed to the technique it just take half a minute to a minute to get ready and start doing the visualization. Your sessions can then last between 5 and 10 minutes. You can use a clock if you want to be precise about it but I personally like to do it as long as it feels right without going too long. My practice improved significantly after I quit timing myself.
Best is to do one practice in the morning and one in the end of the afternoon. Some prefer later in the evening for the second session. I like the end of the afternoon because it energizes you for dinner, social activities, and/or various obligations.
In my experience this is the very best preparation for meditation so you can also make a habit of practicing this just before you meditate.
If this is new to you I suggest you give it a try for the next few days or couple weeks. Then you look back and determine whether it's worthwhile continuing.
I wish you a fruitful and blissful practice. Om Om!
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While I like to think of pragmatic yoga as my own way to convey the teachings and as an expression of my ever changing spiritual path I'm fully aware that I have not invented anything. Like most folks I have been and am currently influenced by countless great people of the past and the present.
While it would take a book just to mention all the people that I'm trying to emulate in some way or the other there are a few major influential teachers to whom I owe everything.
After a brief foray into the kriya yoga tradition of Paramahamsa Yogananada I met Swami Vishnu-devananada at the end of a month-long yoga teachers training course taking place in Kerala, South India, in January 1987.
As powerful and transformative as the course was, my first meeting with this great Master during the last few days of the course exceeded that by turning out to be life-changing in so many ways.
That meeting led me to join the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers as a staff member the following year and for the next 12 years I remained immersed full time in the models presented by Swami Vishnuji. This constitute the core of my training and the foundation of my yogic life.
Every other influence which have come before or after that period only comes as a supplement to Swamiji's approach and not as a replacement.
Swami Vishnu-devananda, like many genuine yoga masters, did not teach and serve in his own name. Everything he did, including naming the organization he founded, he did in the name of his own guru, i.e., Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh. Swami Sivananda was one of the few yogis of the 20th century who contributed the most to the worldwide spreading of yoga.
Learning from Swami Vishnuji meant learning Swami Sivananda's approach sometimes summarized as the yoga of synthesis or integral yoga. Swami Vishnu's way would just put more emphasis on the tantric practices of hatha yoga as well as the purifying practice of service or karma yoga.
A very prolific writer and teacher Swami Sivananda authored over 200 books and saw to it that many of his close disciples blossom into great masters themselves.
Even my very first yoga teacher, André Van Lysebeth of Belgium, was a direct student of Swami Sivananda.
Although yoga is a very practical discipline it stands on the shoulders of the rich philosophical foundation of the Srutis, or Vedas. The Vedas are the authoritative body of scriptures giving rise to what is now called Hinduism. At the end of these vedas came the small but extremely meaningful Upanishads.
The Upanishads lay the philosophical foundation behind all yogic teachings. Over the centuries many schools of interpretation came out of these teachings. Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-devananda embraced the pure non-dualistic views of Adi Sankara.
Sankara's commentaries of the principal Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras argue that advaita, or non-dualism, is the highest understanding of the Upanishads and life in general. Using clear thinking, uncompromising logic, and a fearless attitude Sankara defeated all other schools of thoughts via his commentaries and in countless debates.
The concept of Oneness pervading all expressions of diversity is a popular one nowadays and we can trace this to Adi Sankara himself.
While I was in the SYVC organization I was fortunate enough to be there during the last 6 years of Swami Vishnu-devanandaji's life. This gave me ample opportunities to have satsang with him which was a true blessing.
My karma was to not receive the direct training from him but, as luck has it, I was trained by many of his senior disciples and swamis. I learned a ton from many of them but my favorite of them all was Sukadev.
His dynamic approach to yoga teaching and to the practice of karma yoga inspired me a great deal and I even was called once a 'little Sukadev'. LOL.
Anywho Sukadev is a great yoga teacher in too many ways to list here but if you want to see by yourself what I'm talking about just visit the extraordinary Bad Meinberg Yoga Vidya ashram.
Talking and thinking in high philosophical terms is all fine and dandy but it does the aspirant no good if the yogi or yogini can't make it come true in his or her daily life. Jnana yoga is supposed to achieve this but it's just not working for most who adopt this path. We'll develop on this in an upcoming post.
Come to the rescue the practicality of tantra which manipulates one's life force and awaken one's inner power called kundalini.
Just like Swami Vishnu-devananda, Swami Satyananda was a great master of kundalini yoga but while Swami Vishnuji was primarily using the traditional tools of hatha yoga Swami Satya also perfected the kundalini branch of kriya yoga. Besides his perfect mastery of this art and science all in one, he was expert at guiding thirsty aspirants through his crystal clear writings. Among his many written works you owe it to yourself to check out 'yoga nidra' and 'kundalini tantra'. These two books are chock-full of theoretical insights and easy practices to understand your mind and tap your inner potential.
I started incorporating some of these kriya yoga practices to my sadhana a few years ago and it has propelled my yoga to new heights which I was starting to doubt I would ever reach.
Yogani is a kundalini master who is unconventional to say the least. He's American and decided to spread the teachings to the masses while remaining anonymous. He started Internet lessons via a Yahoo group several years ago and the quality of his 'advanced yoga practices' lessons is such that the word of mouth did the rest.
Having studied yoga from many masters and groups he has synthesized and simplified the kundalini teachings in the most pragmatic way possible. His is a path to get maximum spiritual results for the minimum required amount of efforts. His writings are unpretentious, full of common sense, and represent to my mind the true scientific approach which is a hallmark of modern Western civilization and yes, the USA.
Many like to attach the 'science' or 'scientific' monikers to yoga but few walk the walk the way Yogani does.
Who Am I?
Whenever I say in this blog 'I', 'we', or 'pragmatic yoga' I never imply or pretend that any of the material presented is new or original. It borrows from the great teachers above and many more.
For those who object learning from teachers not belonging to one's main lineage on the basis of principle I would just say that this is not very pragmatic and I would rather prioritize making more and faster spiritual progress over following dogmas blindly. Does it take courage and create discomfort? Absolutely. Is it worth it? You bet!
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This goes against yogic conventional wisdom but my experience of the last year or so confirms the ideas espoused in this article.
By cutting down on sleep we learn less, we develop less, we are less bright, we make worse decisions, we accomplish less, we are less productive, we are more prone to errors, and we undermine our true intellectual potential!
At first you might have to overcome the guilt created by society and yogic peer pressure.
I have 'practiced' this for a while now. What you need to do, as often as possible, is to not use an alarm clock and just get up after you fully awoke naturally.
Sleeping well appears to be one of the most important factors underlying the success in learning!
During sleep the brain and nervous system are creating and especially strengthening neural pathways conductive to improve memory and boost creativity among many other advantages.
Spending some time in bed to do some thinking, just like some great thinkers, is perfectly alright too.
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I'm looking for a live interpreter for a 2-week program I will be giving on the Spanish Atlantic coast in the gorgeous village of Mondariz-Balneario. This course, the Pragmatic Yoga Experience, will take place in August 2011.
If you'd like to be part of this wonderful experience you need the following qualifications:
- Excellent command of the English language
- Excellent command of the Spanish language. Being a native speaker is a plus.
- Being a yoga practitioner is a plus. Being a yoga teacher is even better
For this karma yoga you'll get free accommodations at the hotel where the course will take place and we'll take care of your transportation to/from Mondariz as well.
Should you be interested please leave a comment on Facebook.
Over a week ago I polled my Facebook friends about the 'Pragmatic Yoga' designation.
I got some great feedback and the least we can say is that it generated a lot of different reactions, including quite some negative ones. Nonetheless I decided to go ahead with this name and this post explains why.
When a 'regular' company or person does name research they then pick the most popular name. Here I'm going with it even though the reaction is not that good and that's because it's the best fit for what I want to do.
My quest in the last few years is to be true to myself and embrace my different interests in life. Since then I feel I've made lots of progress on the path and that's very exciting.
What is Pragmatic Yoga?
Yoga is a spiritual path. Yoga means union and refers to the union of the individual (jivatman) self with the cosmic Self (paramatman). It takes resources to move towards that goal; time and efforts. Pragmatic spirituality is about maximizing these limited means to advance as quickly as possible on the path.
Find your own Path
The best yoga approach for me is not the best for you and your best is not the optimal method for anybody else. Pragmatic spirituality aims at helping each aspirant find what works best for them.
To do this we want to use the experience of masters and yogis by following the wonderful ancient tradition of yoga and the word of the guru. But what if we get stuck at some point, why not try different ways which traditionalists disapprove of on principle or by omission?
Many claim that yoga is a science but would not dare to approach the path with typical scientific openness and the necessary readiness to question oneself and one's ways.
It does not have to be hard
You can choose to approach meditation, which is the chief practice of yoga, as if it is impossible or extremely difficult. You can also choose to approach it as if it is easy. For me the latter works much better and I want to share this approach and many other insights that came to me in the last few years.
The Pragmatic Yoga Experience
I'm now developing a 2-week course which I will be offering in August 2011 in Spain via my good friends at the Yoga Center Madrid and I hope there will be other courses as well in locations which are dear to me.
This post is the first of many about this new direction I'm taking. Stay tuned if you want to know more. More posts coming to this space and a brand new web site will be setup soon as well.
The ashram is taking shape, the energy in the meditation hall is building up, and some renovations are already taking place.
Thinking of organizing a weekend satsang soon for those interested and living in the area.
Death of a Great Master
Today, December 6th, '09, Swami Satyananda Saraswati passed away. He was one of the greatest living yoga masters and a disciple of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.
He died in Rikhia, India. He was a very well rounded master of yoga disciplines such as hatha yoga, kundalini yoga, yoga nidra, and much more.
Author of the Best Yoga Books
He was arguably the best yoga book author in the world. His numerous writings on a wide variety of yogic and tantric topics are defined by his unique clarity and precision in his explanations.
I've been working on a cool project. If you are a student of yoga or a student of life and if you like to take notes of facts and ideas, this could be very helpful.
Unless notebooks which you never look back at, this internet app can give you access to any note in one second through a super duper search engine. It's in private beta so if you want to try it out, send me a Facebook message.
Getting closer to students
My current ashram in Slovakia is just perfect. Perfect conditions for sadhana. So what's the problem? Well, most of my students live in Western Europe and inthe US and it's very difficult for them to get here from those locations.
By the Grace of God a new ashram opportunity arose for AYA and as a result I will be moving to Bickendorf (near Bitburg, near Wittlich, near Luxembourg) at the beginning of February.
This should make it much easier for yogis and friends to visit me. So what's the problem now?
Your Help is Needed
My getting closer will allow many yogis to visit me more conveniently and with fewer expenses. Furthermore you might remember that this ashram is a bit different than most. While sadhakas are accepted upon invitation only, there are no fees for staying at the ashram, no matter how long one wishes to do so.
Some yogis and yoginis decide to leave a donation before they leave, but it's up to them.
If you would like to contribute to this effort by sharing some of the costs of moving to the new house and equipping the new ashram, please consider using the PayPal button below and share any amounts you would like to. Even a few dollars will be appreciated. Not more than a million dollars though! I might do crazy things with that much money ;-)
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I am sometimes asked about how I feel about the modern transformation of yoga as it has spread throughout the world. Oftentimes the question includes a reference to the commercialization of yoga or its new emphasis on fitness.
While many 'traditionalists' tend to feel alarmed and may be threatened by the evolution which has taken place in the last 100 years or so I think that a lot of it has actually been for the better.
As for most topics I don't feel I belong to just one side of this debate. I value the ancient Indian tradition of yoga immensely. However I want to present in this essay the arguments in favor of the modern development.-
First let's recapitulate the common complaints I have been hearing over the years:
- It's all about money. Commercialization of yoga kills its spirit.
- Yoga is not physical fitness, it's about spirituality.
- Touchy feely new-agey
I'll first address these issues and then present the counter arguments.
Yoga$ Chitta Vritti Nirodhah
I actually do feel uncomfortable with the way yoga is often presented. Individuals or companies using yoga to fulfill their greed irks me. They will often distort the teachings to come to their selfish ends. But again if they do get an audience which relates to them and is happy to hand over loads of money, more power to them.
The plus side is that modern business understanding and practices have greatly contributed to the expansion of yoga, with its countless benefits, to the whole world and to the masses. When I first practiced yoga in the early eighties and taught it in the late eighties yogis were marginalized. While there is a thrill of specialness to being at the fringe of society I rejoice in witnessing nods of approval while telling somebody what 'I do' in life.
Yoga used to be little known and most folks even had a negative view of this whole thing. It's all over now.
The Fitness Trend
My view is that most practitioners focusing on the fitness dimension of yoga does not take away from the other aspects. Also a number of these practitioners will later explore other aspects of yoga after getting familiar with the purely physical dimension of it.
Think about it in mathematical terms.
Hypothesis 1 - the old way
Warning! These numbers are not accurate. I just made them up to make a point.
- Total practitioners of yoga: 100,000
- Meditation/philosophy adepts: 90,000
- Fitness yogis: 10,000
An impressive 90% of Spiritual Yogis, a figure that will rejoice the purists
Hypothesis 2 - modern situation
- Total practitioners of yoga: 50,000,000
- Meditation/philosophy adepts: 2,500,000
- Fitness yogis: 47,500,000
Only 5% of yogis have the spiritual bend. 'What a shame' will lament the purists.
Yes but it's 27 times as many people! Nothing is lost there at all.
New Age Yoga
Along many of my friends and colleagues I have often 'taken shots' at the confusion filled mumbo jumbo coming out of the modern new age cultural movement associated with yoga and many other disciplines.
I now realize that the so-called 'New Age' movement is much more than that as it also includes a new sensitivity on health, moral, ethical, and spiritual grounds.
Many of the points made below were gained as a direct consequence of the new age mentality.
Why Yoga Is Evolving in a Good Way
As fashionable as it is to complain about the ills of modern society I would not, if given the choice, switch to any era of the past, golden age or not.
Life is good these days, although not for everybody for sure. Most readers of this essay, and the author as well, live a privileged, comfortable, healthy, safe life which we owe to our modern times.
"Yes, but", you ask, "has yoga not been tainted, weakened, and devalued? Do we not get a poorer version of this sacred tradition in this materialistic society?"
Let me present some of the modern improvements.
- Science & Pragmatism
Openness & Secrecy
Let's assume you lived in India a few hundred years ago and wanted to learn hatha yoga. First you need to find a guru. That guru needs to accept you before you can join his ashram and give you the training. In the majority of cases your chances would be close to nil if any of the following were true:
- You are not a Hindu
- You do not belong to the highest brahmin caste
- You are a woman
- The guru does not like you for some reason you will never know
Hatha Yoga, belonging to the tantric tradition, enables one to tap into tremendous spiritual and psychic power in the form of the kundalini shakti. Of course any power that can be beneficial has the potential to be destructive as well. This is the reason invoked for keeping these teachings under utmost secrecy. To such extent that very few would be exposed to it.
Consider this excerpt from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the foremost hatha yoga scripture.
This Maha Mudra has been described as the giver of great success (Siddhi) to men. It should be kept secret by every effort, and not revealed to any and everyone. Hatha Yoga Pradipika - 3-18
Very typical and occurring more than once. One amongst many interpretations is that by talking too much about a practice and by divulging it its power is diluted.
Lack of literacy and education in ancient India and the prevalence of Sanskrit as the language of choice in yogic literature contributed a great deal to keeping many would be yogis out of the loop. Sanskrit is a live language but an acquired one, not one anybody learns as one's mother tongue. And yes the very few exceptions do confirm this rule.
Additionally all scriptures and writings kept an intended vagueness and fuzziness in the laying of the instructions to ensure the individuals could not really learn from them without a live guru anyway. This is often interpreted as a good thing and a sign of wisdom.
The Sharing of Knowledge
Modern culture, greatly based on science, posits that knowledge must be shared to benefit as many individuals as possible as well as society at large.
It all started with some great masters of the 19th/20th century such as Swami Vivekananada, Swami Sivananda, BKS Iyengar, etc. who led the way by breaking the secrecy status quo and revealing the hatha yoga vidya and other aspects of the teachings to the world at large freely and openly.
This contributed to a global dissemination of yoga. Modern practitioners and masters started writing manuals and books exerting to lay out the details as precisely and accurately as possible. Brilliant examples of this include the books by Indian masters BKS Iyengar and Swami Satyananada Saraswati as well as Belgian author André Van Lysebeth.
This early trend has only been amplified with the publication of massive amounts of literature in hundreds of languages and by the production of yoga instruction in audio and video forms. The technology changes (TV programs, cassette tapes, LP's, audio CD's, MP3's, VHS tapes, CD-Rom's, DVD's, Cloud hosting such as YouTube, etc..) but the trend towards the sharing and openness of knowledge keeps on accelerating.
The Internet Breaks All The Rules
During the early expansion of yoga some esoteric practices such as kriya yoga and other tantric practices were still kept secret but the internet, the great knowledge disseminator, has done away with all this. It's pretty much all out there now. Some modern teachers such as Yogani and his tens of thousands of disciples demonstrate that you can give it all away with precise and serious instructions and trust folks to use their common sense to avoid pitfalls and dangers.
The genie of knowledge is out of the bottle and it's not going back in!
Secret mantras and techniques which would command astronomical fees and cult like followings in the past, based on secrecy, are all available to anybody having half decent skills at using Google and other search engines.
I do not doubt for a moment that this democratization of knowledge is a good thing and a great service to humanity. Now each individual has the ability to research all the possibilities for personal development, try out different methods and go in great depth in any given field.
Do books, DVD's, and the internet replace having a live teacher? No, absolutely not. But they can lead many more keen students to find the teacher which they need and feel comfortable with.
The genie of knowledge is out of the bottle and it's not going back in!
A crucial attribute of our modern culture is transparency. Any society can talk a good game about non-violence when parents and school teachers are beating up kids, priests are sexually abusing children, in-laws are
burning murdering young widows, couples are killing babies because of their gender (hint: not because they are male), good folks are lawfully or unlawfully enslaved, etc.
All these problems still exist today but at least they are in the open, not swept under the rug. Did you know that there are more slaves now (2009) than in any other periods of history? Advocacy groups are fighting for the victims, laws are changed, solutions tried to be found. Do we live in a perfect world? No, but at least we don't pretend we do!
What does this have to do with yoga? Everything. For example most of us learned about ahimsa (non-violence) via yoga and/or Mahatma Gandhi.
Modern Western civilization is raising awareness of a deeper and subtler understanding of ahimsa. Example: the awareness that suffering to any animal is in clear violation of ahimsa. It's fundamental and at the heart of Indian culture you say? I respond that this may be the case in theory but, in practice, I'd rather be an American dog or a Swiss cow than their Indian homologues.
Extreme, horrible examples such as industrial animal testing, the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal and the existence of corridas only strengthen my point in light of the growing outrage that these medieval behaviors generate.
The Group & The Individual
Another essential development of modern ethics is the shift from a group centered culture to one revolving around the rights of the individual. Often this is argued to be a negative thing but when the group is higher than the individual it can be considered perfectly righteous to sacrifice any one or millions of individuals for the benefit of the group.
When the individual, nay every individual, is more important than the group solutions have to be found that benefit both group and all individuals. This applies to countries, religions, and organizations of all sizes.
An organization is an organism and it will oftentimes, to protect itself and just like any other organism, destroy any threatening foreign agents, be them inside or outside itself. In the case of religious and spiritual groups 'foreign agents' means people. Accepted behaviors of the past are shunned nowadays.
Throughout the ages religions have tended to protect the higher classes by exhorting lower class folks to be humble, meek, and subservient.
Modern yoga does not go along with that tendency. Yoga is supposed to empower the individual and does so whenever taught properly. Yoga should lead to freedom on all levels and modern yoga is not afraid to declare so.
Belonging to the Sivananda tradition of Saraswati swamis I feel very fortunate to follow the teachings of advaita vedanta in the school of Sankaracharya. It was presented to us by Swami Vishnu-devanandaji with a universal outlook and inherent tolerance to other spiritual paths and religions of the world.
By the way it's easier to be tolerant of a different religion located across the world than one situated just next door.
I will not accept intolerant people.
The quote above is meant as a joke. I could not find of a good setup for it but I can't let it go.
But most advaitins, just like dvaitins and members of all religions, like to think that their path is the best, the highest. These advaitins oftentimes condescend to be tolerant of other traditions saying that "There are different paths for different people. Advaita is like university and dualist paths are like kindergarten." LOL. What a joke! How can one be so insulting about other masters and fellow yogis with a straight face and feel good about oneself.
Of course Sankara himself had this "us against the world" attitude although I believe it's in part because of the tradition of commentary writing which stipulates that you need to demonstrate the validity of your arguments by showing the logic of your arguments and the fallacy of the other schools' tenets.
The 'E' Word
In modern or ancient discourse the word 'evil' is habitually used to make a strong emotional point which is not backed by much reason at all.
I'm deeply disturbed by the insistence of many vedantins, including great ones of the past, to praise Sankara for his greatest 'accomplishment': Kicking the Buddhists and their 'evil' doctrine out of India.
Leave aside for a moment the fact that most modern Indologists reject this theory as a fantasy and that some eminent ones go as far as saying that advaita vedanta borrows a great deal from buddhism, what is supposed to be so evil about buddhism?
Is it the eight-fold path? Is it teaching that desire is the cause of one's suffering and one should exert to eradicate desire to gain control over the mind and reach enlightenment? Is it the obsessive compulsion to develop as much compassion as possible? Is it the peaceful ways which are a hallmark of buddhist societies and communities everywhere? I just don't get it.
Oh no, wait, it's because the Buddha, trying to go back to the fundamental basics and essentials of spirituality refused to accept the omniscience and unfailingness of the vedas. That would and did weaken the power of the 'Man'. No one will ever get away with that.
Not that much I'm afraid but many modern yogis hold as sacred principle that all religions are different paths leading to the same direction. Often going as far as saying that all religions are one and the same. I do disagree with the latter extreme viewpoint.
I think all religions and spiritual paths are about the same thing, eventually reaching the same goal, using different techniques, theoretical models, and terminology. I think, though, that some paths are more efficient than others, better at some aspects of spirituality and while many of those paths contain similarities they also have a great number of differences which we should not ignore for the sake of truth and clarity.
Different paths and traditions fit different people. What is the best path for me might not be for you and vice versa.
I suspect most of the readers will agree with that last sentence and that is a sign that there is a great deal of tolerance among modern yogis. Intolerant folks and groups say "My path, my group is the only and highest way to reach the goal. All others are deluded, will go to hell, etc."
I like to think as my approach to yoga to be pragmatic.
On one hand countless yogis and masters came before us, made all types of experiments and drew some conclusions as to what works and what does not work. It would be foolish to ignore this body of knowledge and try to reinvent the spiritual wheel.
Because of this I'm a big advocate of the vedic tradition.
But on the other hand, at the end of the day, does the tradition come for the sake of helping us reach the state of freedom in the most efficiently possible way or is tradition the immovable end in and of itself which cannot be questioned, ever?
I think you know where I'm going with this. I prefer the former.
Some centuries ago and before that you would typically be born in a part of the world, be exposed to one brand or sub-brand of spirituality and be stuck with it for the rest of your life. The holy texts going with it were your texts, the final truth as far as you are concerned, and that's it. Never question. It's the word of God. If you follow anything else you'll be damned to hell forever ... Blah blah blah.
But guess what! The modern era of transportation and communication has made the world much smaller than it used to be. You can compare the different holy texts of different areas, different cultures, and different times of history. You can compare the different faiths.
Although it's politically incorrect to do it, it's highly beneficial to compare the strengths and weaknesses of all religions and faiths. At least the ones you are most familiar with. Trying to avoid making sweeping, stereotypical statements about teachings we don't know anything about is a good idea.
Practice This Now
Here is a quick exercise which you may want to take.
There are 3 questions. You have to think fast and write or enunciate your answers as quickly as possible. If the answers don't come fast that means you did not think enough about this. Doing the exercise slowly should be very helpful.
- What are the 5 biggest weaknesses or pitfalls of your main spiritual or religious tradition?
- What are the 5 biggest weaknesses or pitfalls of your main spiritual group or organization?
- What are the 5 biggest weaknesses or pitfalls of your personal approach to yoga or spirituality?
... Keep reading once you are done ...
That was painful, right? I know. It helps develop tolerance though.
To make you feel better I'll suggest the following exercise which is similar.
- What are the 5 biggest strengths or advantages of your main spiritual or religious tradition?
- What are the 5 biggest strengths or advantages of your main spiritual group or organization?
- What are the 5 biggest strengths or advantages of your personal approach to yoga or spirituality?
Similar exercises can be done for other faiths and other groups.
I don't have any. These are a few thoughts on modern and ancient yoga. I hope it will provide you with some food for thought and I look forward to hear your contributions to the topic.
Your comments are welcome on my Facebook wall. You will need to friend me first if you haven't already.
I'm posting this in the name of Prema (Maria Steiner)
The first weekend of September I organised and taught a Yoga & Meditation weekend in a very green part of Australia (not all is desert or beaches). We had a good weekend at the Gunnebah Retreat near Murwillumbah in northern NSW. Surrounded by lush subtropical gardens, in a secluded environment, it is ideal for an intensive yoga get-away.
Nine keen students participated in the daily program of meditation, mantra repetition, chanting, asana, pranayama, lecture and vegetarian cooking classes. Following the five points of yoga as taught and introduced by Swami Vishnu-Devananda: proper exercise (asana), breathing (pranayama), relaxation (savasana), vegetarian diet, positive thinking and meditation (dhyana).
The topic of the weekend was Yoga & Peace; also finding inner peace through the practice of yoga.
We did likita japa (writing of a mantra) and filled a few pages with peace mantras “om namo narayanaya” and “loka samasta sukhino bhavantu” for the Om Namo Narayanaya Bank on the summit of Vishnu Peak in the Himalayas.
Another highlight was the practice of Tratak a concentration exercise. Steady gazing at a lit candle and then visualizing the image of the flame in the third eye centre. This exercise may cause tears to flow but these will cleanse the eyes (kriya). Tratak is an excellent preparation for meditation.
The vegetarian cooking class and meals are always popular. Students like to be a bit practical with their hands, besides all the theory and sitting cross-legged for a long time, and learn new recipes. Get some tips on how to become vegetarian and change the diet and meals at home. Plus it is nice to prepare the meals at the Retreat as a “family”.
For me as a teacher it is always nice to organise and teach an intensive Yoga Retreat. It is inspiring to see the enthusiasm of students wanting to learn and know more about yoga than just the weekly hatha-yoga class. And since I’m a yoga student as well I’m always learning something new through the books and my teachers while preparing for the Retreat.
Om namo narayanaya !!
Here is a highly recommended post on the natural transition to death.
Om Namah Sivaya!
Today I've updated my traveling schedule. It goes all the way to November 2010. The events for Spring '10 should come shortly.
At last a new post. Those of you who did subscribe to the RSS feed must be happy that you did not have to check this page for new posts every couple days.
In the last few weeks I gave some intensive weekends in Speyer, Frankfurt, and Zurich. I just arrived in Amsterdam where I'll teach thing weekend a program on meditation and I'll be next week in Madrid for an advaita weekend.
More news coming soon.
Today & Tomorrow Only
As you might know one of the best ways to come to Levoča from Western Europe or the US is to take a direct flight from London to Poprad.
SkyEurope is offering some special deals just today and tomorrow for these flights.
You Snooze, You Lose
In the last couple years I have been working hard at encouraging yogis to use an RSS feed reader such as Google Reader. Unfortunately few have done it and are missing a powerful way to use the web enabling one to save time while keeping abreast of more sites such as this blog. If you see this post too late then you know what to do for the future.
Om Sri Sankaracharyaya Namah
It's been 17 years today that I've become a swami. I feel very grateful for this, having found my path and way.
May the next 17 years be full of intense sadhana ind dispassion and the combination of yoga/tantra/advaita bring mosha ASAP!
... to all yogi friends in the US and elsewhere. Let us all take this day to look within and think about all the good things and opportunities that were presented to us in this lifetime and this last year and experience gratitude.
Let us also take some time to reflect on the billions of souls who are sharing this planet with us but are unfortunately experiencing untold sufferings. Let us send them joy, peace, and bliss.
Here is what I think:
There is spirituality in religious people and religion in spiritual people. Percentages vary with every individual.
I have just created a new section on the web site for the Levoča ashram.
It includes the traveling details on how to get there.
In this last post about my move to Slovakia I had promised a warning about the new AYA ashram. The reason for this is that this ashram is not working quite like the SYVC and Yoga Vidya ashrams and I would not want anybody to feel misled and have a negative experience after going through the trouble of visiting.
Grandhotel at foothills of High Tatras
Meant for Doing Personal Sadhana
The main thing to know is that there are no yoga classes here in Levoča. I lead two satsangs per day, each time with silent meditation, some with chanting, and at least one lecture/common study per day.
Outside this program the visitors have plenty of free time to do their personal yoga practice, alone or with other visitors. Other practices are aratis and pujas which need to be done in different rooms of the ashram. You will be instructed on how to perform those if you don't know already and carry on by yourself.
There will soon be a good number of quality yoga books and scriptures available for all to read and study.
My plan is to keep the karma yoga shores to a minimum, simply focusing on cleaning and cooking. Should you want to do more, there are tasks associated with this web site which can be done while in Levoča or in the comfort of your own home.
Even though the house is newly renovated and comfortable as shown in the previous post's photos, I just moved in and it's not yet totally equipped. Please expect the following:
- There are no curtains yet on the windows
- There is very little furniture at this point. I hope to get some bunk beds before Christmas. Worst case scenario, you'd have to sleep on futon mattresses on the floor.
- Some of the finishing touches to the house will be done in the Spring such as light fixtures, power outlets, door handles and things like this.
You will most likely be 2 per room, up to 4 if many come for this Chirstmas retreat, and possibly alone if you are lucky and few people show. Maximum capacity this year is 10 including me but there are many other options in town in pensions, hotels of different standing from very inexpensive to 4 stars!
Free Time & Excursions
The area is rich with places to visit and things to do such as hiking, skiing, sauna, etc...
The problem is that I'm new here, don't yet speak the local language, and don't have a car. That means I'm not sure yet how to go about doing the possible activities although I've already worked out the public transportation to nearby towns Spišská Nová Ves and Poprad, the latter being the gateway to the beautiful High Tatra mountains.
This Christmas, at least one student will come by car so that could make it easier to visit the area but nothing is guaranteed.
The downside is that it's very hard to find bio products in Levoča, especially as far as produce is concerned. Otherwise the food here is fantastic! :-) Good yogic, sattvic, vegetarian diet cooked by Westerners for Westerners. Let us know your specific tastes at the beginning of the stay and it will all be customized.
A Good Experience
I think if you come with the right expectations you will have a very pleasant stay and an uplifting yoga experience. If you already expressed interest in coming this Christmas please feel free to email me again to let me know whether you are still planning to come after reading this.
Let's start off with this headstand picture. Their technique is sloppy, this has got to hurt the neck, and one should not use the wall. Very bad!
Shaolin adepts doing headstand without the hands and leaning against a wall
Ok, now the technique is VERY impressive. Still supposed to hurt the neck. Must be strengthening on some level though. As in the previous photo he's standing on hard floor without a mat or anything. Very impressive skillwise.
Shaolin practitioner doing headstand without the hands
Now that's too much. Our way to meditate is much gentler. I don't even get it. Why in the world would anybody do something like this? ...
Shaolin monk in meditating posture, hanging by the head
... Oh I see, in order to be able to walk on walls. Most yogis I know can't do that for sure.
Shaolin adept walking on side of wall
All comments are meant to be taken in good fun. The Shaolin tradition is very honorable and to be respected.
Location Location Location
I reached Levoča (English speakers should pronounce 'levocha') on Saturday afternoon. Levoča is a beautiful, historic city located in Central Europe in the Eastern Part of Slovakia. Should you be interested you can learn more at the town's web site.
I got lucky and since I have been here the weather has been beautiful and warm breaking temparture records for the season. It makes it easier getting acclimated.
As explained in previous posts we got lucky enough to set this ashram in this beautiful old house which has just been renovated, mixing the charm of a historical building with the comforts and convenience of modern construction technology and savvy.
Here are a few photos taken before unpacking the few things I took with me. I don't have a wide lens so these pictures don't truly do justice to the rooms.
The meditation room
Hangout area in kitchen
Stairways from 2nd floor
The way up to my room at the 4th floor. That floor is not visible from front of the house photo.
There is a little ski station just a few miles from town. Much bigger ones are in the high Tatra mountains about 20-25 miles from the ashram.
And the Award for Best Karma Yogi Goes To ...
... everybody. It's not Oscar night but I still feel the strong urge to thank every one I know, all those who have helped me ever, especially in the last 8 years since I've left SYVC, leading to this new important phase in my life.
I won't give names in order to not forget anybody except for two:
- Eva/Daya Devi from Luxembourg for being the main instrument of the ashram finding its new home
- Sita Chaitanya for being the rock on which AYA stands
- Everybody else please don't feel bad I have not mentioned you. You all count a lot in my heart. All contributions are very much appreciated and I pray hard that God gives you back ten-fold what you shared with me and AYA in the form of donations, hard work, hosting, friendship, love, fun, laughter, and much more
Christmas Retreat & Other Emails
Since this previous post several of you have emailed me regarding coming to the ashram for this Christmas.
I have a pile of about 20 emails to reply to. Your answer will come soon. So far everybody who asked me to come in those emails is welcome to visit. Stay tuned to this blog for details and confirmations as well as, ahem, a warning. LOL
Om Namah Sivaya!
I'm still in Luxembourg and gave a mantra initiation to a student last night. She told me that she wanted to reserve her space to visit the Levoča ashram over Christmas. We booked the dates.
There are a couple other advanced yogis who announced their intention to come for Christmas so it could turn out to be a mini-retreat.
Once I'm in Slovakia I will start working on the web pages for the ashram laying out all relevant details.
When you feel overwhelmed there is nothing like watching this video!
Joan Baez — Woodstock 1969
I will be moving to Levoča, Slovakia on November 1st. It's coming up really fast now and I'm so looking forward to settle down there.
I'm in the process of organizing the shipping of my belongings - mostly books and clothes - from Austin TX, Geneva, Bad Meinberg, Liestal CH, and Le Havre France.
Partial view from my future room
One of my new luxuries will be to have all of my books in one place and ready for me to refer to.
Since I haven't worked on learning Slovak yet the big challenge will be to get some type of conversational basics of the language.
The ashram should be equipped to receive visitors sometimes in December. Web pages will then be created to announce the details.
Be active but not noisy. Swami Sivananda
The thing about creationism is that it's so insane that you really can't argue against it. The following stat published by gullible.info though puts it into perspective.
Among American adults who believe in Creationism or Intelligent Design, 14.6 percent believe the Bible was originally written in english.
For some reason I have not felt inclined at all to practice the hot trend called laughing yoga. This video does nothing to change my mind.
Swami Govindaji has started a blog and I've subscribed to it.
Om Namo Bhagavate Sivanandaya!Happy celebration to all. Here is a quote from Master:
The spectator derives more joy than the actor. So be a witness of your thoughts. You will enjoy more lasting happiness. Swami Sivananda
Man is changed by every thought he thinks and by every action he does. Swami Sivananda
This nice article tells of the yoga classes being held across the disgraceful fence/wall dividing the US and Mexico - keeps on reminding me of the Berlin wall.
The rusty fence may divide the beaches of U.S. and Mexico, but it can't break up a yoga class.
Om Namah Sivaya!
I have just completed my intensive teaching Summer. It primarily took place at the Yoga Vidya ashram in Bad Meinberg with a week at the Westerwald's asram as well.
The programs were as follows:
- Advanced teachers training course based on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika scripture - 40 plus yoga teachers coming for an intensive with the right frame of mind.
- Asana Intensive week - 2 3-hour yoga classes per day. The title says it all
- The secret of mind control weekend - Every year I tell the secret, every year I have to find a new secret ;-)
- Four-week Yoga teachers training course in English. Just like the course offered by SYVC.
- Yoga & Meditation intensive week
- Sanskrit Introduction week - almost 20 students who were both enthusiastic and gifted. By the end of the week, as promised, they could read mantras and chant a chapter of the gita with extreme ease. It's like they all had a past life in India or something.
- and finally ... an evening workshop in Cologne Sunday night.
It was very inspiring for me to teach all this. If you'd like to do something both good and pleasant (shreya and preya), I will be teaching the same programs next year.
Om Namah Sivaya!
We haven't yet announced that Sita has started her own new blog a little while ago.
I'm subscribed to it and I recommend it.
Abstemious eating is the most important means of attaining longevity. Swami Sivananda
The science of aging is a big topic these days. Of course, as usual, society prefers to go about the complicated and expensive way. It has been demonstrated many times over with experiments on mice and rats that a low calorie, one meal a day diet is unfailing in its results leading to optimum longevity.
Here is quite an amazing video clip of a hatha yogi with a pretty decent commentary on yoga.
Hatha Yoga is a course of psycho-physiological discipline for the attainment of complete mastery over the body, the nervous system and Prana. Swami Sivananda
Just recently I came back from a three week visit to Haus Yoga Vidya in Bad Meinberg, Germany. My main reason for going was to attend some yoga courses led by Swami Atma, and boost my yoga practice. Here are some photos and thoughts about the trip.
My first and last nights in Germany were spent at the very nice Yoga Vidya center in Frankfurt. Maheshwara and Krishnapriya were generous and gracious hosts. I much appreciated the expert guidance on navigating the German train system from staff member Tarpan, and the excellent food and conversation with Maksim.
Maheshwara and Krishnapriya
Haus Yoga Vidya, Bad Meinberg
The next day I travelled by train to Bad Meinberg. The yoga center there is untraditional in the sense that from the outside it looks like a hotel, but on the inside functions as a very efficient and most excellent ashram.
Haus Yoga Vidya front entrance
The center is quite comfortable and the spiritual energy is very high. The staff were all extremely nice and helpful. The food was delicious, lots of variety and tons of different options accommodating all kinds of vegetarian diets.
Located around the center are lots of hiking and nature trails.
The setting is mostly rural which you can see from the upper floors of the center.
view from the 7th floor
And really they are quite surrounded by a peaceful and traditional farming community.
cows by the road
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
The main course I attended while I was at Yoga Vidya was the Hatha Yoga Pradipika Advanced Teacher Training Course. The advanced pranayama techniques portion of the course was expertly led by Sukadev, the main teacher at Yoga Vidya. The lecture portion of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika text was led by Swami Atma.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika lecture with Swami Atma in Sivananda Saal
Altogether there were about 50 students in the class, and so we used the main hall where they also do satsang. The course was translated into english and german by Reinard depending on which teacher was speaking. I learned a lot more than I expected and had a wonderful time making new friends as we traversed through the rigorous schedule.
Students attending the center are also assigned an hour or so of karma yoga per day. This is selfless service helping out the ashram with the goal being to help purify the aspirant. My karma yoga this time was straightening the Sivananda Saal with Jagadamba.
After the Hatha Yoga Pradipika course ended, I also took an asana intensive led by Swami Atma and translated by Klaus. After that I attended a weekend intensive on the Secrets of the Mind, also led by Swami Atma and translated by Klaus.
One of the main events at an ashram is satsang. These are held twice a day and include meditation, chanting, lecture and arati. Every Saturday night Yoga Vidya has an extra-long satsang where there is a lot of chanting and special guest speakers.
Sukadev in satsang
One interesting thing for me was seeing someone play a tambura. This is a traditional Indian instrument that you sometimes see pictured with Swami Sivananda. I had never seen one before in person, and there was more than one person at Yoga Vidya who could play it.
staff member playing at satsang
The Yoga Vidya center is the largest in Europe, and at the big Saturday night satsangs there may be as many as 400 people attending.
Swami Atma speaking in satsang
English Teacher Training Course
The all-english Teacher Training Course began towards the end of my stay. This is a month long program where the students learn how to become yoga teachers. This year there are about 20 students going through the program. The main teachings are being given by Swami Atma, assisted by the very knowledgeable Bhavani.
Swami Atma and Bhavani in the Sahasrara Raum where the TTC is held
I was able to attend the first couple of days of this program before leaving.
Puja for Mahasamadhi
The night before I left was a big puja celebrating the Mahasamadhi of Swami Sivananda. This is the anniversary of the day in which Swami Sivananda left his body, and is typically celebrated with a worship ceremony called a puja.
The puja was led by Sukadev and all guests and staff members were able to participate if they wanted.
puja setup for the Mahasamadhi of Swami Sivananda
Overall I had a fabulous time on my trip. I definitely recommend visiting there if you would like to seriously boost your yoga practice. Yoga Vidya is currently making a big effort to reach out internationally and they offer more and more courses in english and spanish. If you want to go but feel intimidated because you don't speak german, there are so many helpful German people who speak english that I never felt lost or out of place.
Finally a big thank you to Sukadev and Suguna who went out of their way to make my stay at Yoga Vidya special. Om Namo Bhagavate Sivanandaya!
First of all it blows my mind that there is a spiritual path. And then it blows my mind even more that I might even be on it. That my life is really a journey into my own heart. Krishna Das
He who, casting aside the ordinances of the scriptures, acts under the impulse of desire, attains neither perfection nor happiness nor the supreme goal. Lord Krishna
Bhagavad Gita - XVI.23
The moment you turn your mind Godward, you will gain immense strength and peace. Swami Sivananda
I feel ambiguous about this because I haven't checked whether this list is accurate but here it goes.
- The list includes
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Henry David Thoreau
- Martin Luther
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Carl Lewis and many, many more
You've got to train them young ;-)
A bit the ideal of karma yoga. Combining fun and useful work without the feeling of agency.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Krishnamurti
In other words play the game of life in your own terms. Too many people waste their life trying to fit in and just follow the masses and the system.
The system is just there to take your money, not for your own good.
Here is a yoga link that all will enjoy. Very spectacular demonstration by a young yogini.
Thanks to Bhagavati for submitting it.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Muktibhodhananda, gives a unique explanation of how to think of the jiva, or individual soul, in relation to the whole, or Brahman.
A single apple represents the whole tree from which it came. Just because you cannot see the tree when you look at the apple does not prove the tree does not exist. On the other hand, as the tree grows, the apple appears and then falls and dissolves back into the earth from whence it has sprung. We could say there was no individual existence of apple but only the tree's growth and development are real. It is like that with the coming and going of souls. Just as the potential of the tree and the apple expands and contracts, so does the entire universe of individual names, forms and beings within it. Swami Muktibodhananda
Today I took the bike to my university and on my way back it started to rain - just very lightly, so I didn't care. But then it got more and I started to get this "Oh no, I'm getting all wet"-feeling.
This was the moment the drops started to become thicker and suddenly I heard a small splashing noise when they hit my forehead. I cannot remember that I consciously heard this anytime before and found this small sound so amazing that I started to smile. And I was hoping it would continue to rain so that I can hear this small splashing noise and feel it on my forehead a little bit longer. And I continued my way home smiling and thanking the rain for this experience.
- Wealth without work
- Pleasure without conscience
- Knowledge without character
- Commerce without morality
- Science without humanity
- Worship without sacrifice
- Politics without principle
This list is very thoughtful. The work of an original thinker.
You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake. Jeannette Rankin
Children, not the wise, speak of knowledge and the Yoga of action or the performance of action as though they are distinct and different; he who is truly established in one obtains the fruits of both. Bhagavad Gita V. 4
Today marks the 20th anniversary of my leaving France to become a full-time staff member in the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers.
My original commitment was for one to two years but it soon became obvious that I'd stay much longer than that. I ended up staying over 12 years. Twelve years of intense training in the different aspects of yoga, especially karma yoga.
I still see myself in the plane from Paris to Montreal. I did not speak a word of English. I had taken TTC the year before. I was as enthusiastic a yoga student as you can be and was very aware that I needed to learn much. Heartfelt thanks to all swamis and senior staff members who taught me so much.
I'm so happy I got to do this. No regrets whatsoever. Would do it again in a moment. I'm still as far to the goal as I was then though. So much work remains to be done.
Wish good to all beings. This will enrich your life and make you happy and peaceful. Swami Sivananda
Unruffled state of the mind, poise, cheerfulness, inner strength, capacity to turn out difficult works, success in all undertakings, power to influence people, a magnetic and dynamic personality, magnetic aura on the face, sparkling eyes, steady gaze, powerful voice, a magnanimous gait, unyielding nature, fearlessness, etc., are some of the signs or symptoms that indicate one's 'will' is growing.
The source of all life, the source of all knowledge, is Atman, your innermost Self. This Atman or supreme Soul is transcendent, inexpressible, uninferable, indescribable, the ever-peaceful, all-blissful. It is Omnipotent; the more you reflect upon its infinite Strength, and the more you are conscious of this inner Power of the Infinite in you, the greater is your will-power. Swami Sivananda
As long as there are thought impressions and tendencies, there will be more reincarnation. The tendency of the ego itself must be broken down, for it, too, is illusion. Maya projects qualities onto the individual, and he thinks that he is tall, fat, man, woman, talented or dull. When all such ideas, good as well as evil, have been overcome, the soul stands alone. Swami Vishnu-devananda
For you there is no birth or death,
for you there is no mind,
for you there is no bondage or liberation,
no good or evil.
Why do you weep, my child?
Neither you nor I have name and form. Dattatreya,
... and Happy Birthday, Swami Atma, 4-22-08.
Offerings to God need not necessarily be rich and costly things. What did the lord of elephants (Gajendra) offer? Only a flower from the tank. Draupadi offered a vegetable leaf and Sabari some wild plums. But the Lord was pleased. It is the feeling of love for God that God takes into account and not the material that is offered. He is pleased even with leaves and mere water. Swami Sivananda
Who is God? What is God?
Is there a God? Where is God?
How to realise God?
Man wants an answer to these eternal questions,
Certainly there is God.
God exists; He is the only Reality.
God is your Creator, Saviour and Redeemer.
He is all-pervading, He dwells in your heart,
He is always near you.
He is nearer to you than your jugular vein or nose.
He loves you; He can talk to you.
You cannot find God by the intellect,
But by feeling, meditation, experience and realisation. Swami Sivananda
Life in God is free from sorrow and pain. It is full, rich, perfect and independent. It is full of wisdom and eternal bliss. Live in God, in the inner Divine Being. Swami Sivananda
As I was editing some photos of our guru Swami Vishnu-devananda, I found this rather fun photograph which I really liked. It shows Swami Vishnu doing a headstand on the wing of his Peace Plane which he flew to many countries in the 70's distributing flowers and leaflets to promote world peace.
Swami Vishnu's teaching was that world peace could only happen when people first found peace within themselves. While the above photo is in fun, his mission was quite serious and important. In spite of all the continuing problems in the world today, we can be thankful that Swami Vishnu's peace mission lives on in the hearts of all the students who have taken his yoga teacher's training program.
The Gist for Busy & Impatient Yogis
In the vedic path and religion in general great emphasis is put on being good in thought, speech and action, oftentimes leading to guilt and split of personality - a split between one's aspirations and one's day to day nature.
Tantra says: forget about morality, do lots of yoga with the right attitude and that will lead to being a more moral and ethical person. We say here: practice on both fronts.
You Are Not a Bad Person
This essay aims at exploring the relationship of the moral and ethical precepts of yoga (yamas and niyamas) with the theory of tantra. Obviously the title of this page is a play on the famous saying ...
The devil made me do it.
This playful remark is often dismissed as a poor excuse for one's defects but it may hold the key to successful self-transformation and a better understanding of oneself.
Invoking the devil, an outside entity, is an easy cop-out to personal responsibility, however, why do so many new year's resolutions not last until January 15th? Many of us can relate to making conscious resolves to perform or not perform a given action and soon after not keeping up to that resolve, defeated, as it were, by an outside force.
The recurring theme of Advaita Vedanta is that our true Self is pure consciousness and taking the physical body and mind for the Self is a pure case of mistaken identity. This spiritual truth, just like many scientific facts, is counter intuitive but it is very useful as it leads to the realization that some parts of our own minds are independent of us and function on their own volition.
In the excellent book 'Yoga Nidra' Swami Satyananda tells of teaching deep relaxation to jail inmates. After only a few one-a-week sessions a substantial drop in fights and violent behavior was observed.
Somebody who acts in an over aggressive manner will often be met by a "what's his problem anyway?" reaction. This expression intuits that inner tensions and unease will lead to psychotic actions and that a well adjusted being won't indulge in such conduct. Managing stress and tensions through deep relaxation is a subject worth exploring on its own and is a major factor to the topic at hand but I want to focus here on the energetic side of the equation. This leads to the tantric view on spirituality.
What's Tantra Again?
Because of the general misconception it's always better to start with saying what tantra is not. Tantra is not primarily about sex and how to get a better sex life.
Tantra is a very ancient Indian spiritual tradition which is primarily concerned with the power aspect of the Divine. Consciousness (Shiva) is the static, male aspect of divinity and power (Shakti) is its dynamic, female counterpart.
This shakti is expressed as different Goddesses when thought of as outside ourselves and as the Kundalini Shakti when looked at within.
Tantra is a very practical way of spirituality. To oversimplify you could say that it's all about harnessing, awakening, and controlling prana and shakti .
Morality According to the Tantric & Vedic Traditions
Vedic Scriptures & Most Religions
Religious traditions lay out moral and ethical guidelines which usually manifest into hard rules and edicts. For example among the yamas is ahimsa which is the universal principle of non-violence. An application of this principle is the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill'.
Very good. Most agree that killing somebody is bad. In practice things get a lot more complicated but that will be the subject of a different essay.
Similarly we are taught not to steal, and this for obvious reasons. Now imagine that I have the samskara (deeply engrained habit) of stealing things from folks and stores - which I don't by the way ;-) .
Wanting to be a good yogi or Christian I try with all my might to not indulge in this bad habit but again and again I end up committing theft. This will create a strong feeling of guilt as well as shame if uncovered.
Now all of a sudden the non-stealing precept is creating a lot of inner tensions and may end up working against my spiritual evolution. At the very least it's not very helpful and at worst it's physically, psychologically, and spiritually damaging.
Please note that to be fruitful yoga sadhana needs to have a strong emphasis on purification, not just awakening, and that the lofty spiritual aim of life should be entertained in the mind throughout the whole practice in order to bear fruit. Otherwise the practice could lead to strengthening of lower desires and attachments leading to unrighteous character and behavior.
So what is one to do?
Morality in Tantra
Here the emphasis is to do much practice and invest little time and energy on the theory and philosophy although there are of course very sophisticated theoretical and philosophical tantric systems. Also one should be aware of the moral and ethical teachings but doesn't need to actively live up to them.
The idea is to awaken the inner powers and to channel all energies and forces upward and toward the higher chakras, thus freeing the mind from lower desires and tendencies. This will help loosen up attachment to old actions and habits and increase the practitioner's free will thereby leading to a more righteous behavior, in line with the yamas and niyamas.
So what's better, Vedanta or Tantra?
All religious traditions tend to include practices which help sublimate lower energies in order to enable one to reach the spiritual heights extolled and exemplified by their prophets and mystics. This article contends that if you had to choose, just practicing tantric methods such as hatha yoga will be preferable but it's best to combine both approaches with, for most people, an emphasis on tantra.
This is the approach taken in our tradition of Sivananda Yoga.
Advaita Vedanta with Tantra
In the Sivananda tradition we use advaita vedanta as the guiding light to our spiritual life but we use yogic and tantric practices such as yoga asanas, pranayama, mantras, etc. to purify, awaken, and sublimate prana and shakti.
Many yogis have integrated these concepts into their spiritual life but not always being consciously aware of this process, hence this article.
Keeping up the balance of mind in pleasure and pain, heat and cold, gain and loss, success and failure, praise and censure, respect and disrespect is wisdom. This practice is a trying discipline indeed, but it gives inner spiritual strength. He who is able to keep a balance of mind at all times, in all conditions, even under extreme provacation, is a mighty potentate on earth. He must be adored. He is a most wealthy man, though he is clad in rags, though he has nothing to eat. Swami Sivananda
A beehive is all quiet; when you disturb it with a stick, bah! swarms of bees start chasing you. Our inside also is like that, all the evils are there; but so long as they are not attacked by the rod of Sadhana they do not seem to bother us. But once they sense the impending danger, they start harassing you with all their might. Be bold and face all obstacles. Swami Sivananda
Peace is within. Search for peace within the chambers of your own heart, through one-pointed concentration and meditation. If you do not find peace there, you will not find it anywhere else. Swami Sivananda
There is happiness when agreeable things are presented to the mind. It is the happiness inherent to the Self, and there is no other happiness. And it is not alien and afar. You are diving into the Self on those occasions which you consider pleasurable; that diving results in self-existent bliss. But the association of ideas is responsible for foisting that bliss on other things or occurrences while, in fact, that bliss is within you. On these occasions you are plunging into the Self, though unconsciously. If you do so consciously, with the conviction that comes of the experience that you are identical with the happiness which is verily the Self, the one Reality, you call it Realization. I want you to dive consciously into the Self, i.e., into the Heart. Sri Ramana Maharshi
Man is God in disguise who puts on a garb in fun, but quickly forgets his true identity. Desire drags him down. Discrimination lifts him up. God became man. Man will become God again. Swami Sivananda
Take the fullest advantage of this human birth. Have a real, inner, divine life. May divine grace illumine your spiritual path. May the divine power actuate you to perform great deeds. May the divine grace transform you into divinity. Swami Sivananda
There are Different Yogas?!?
Oh yeah! Many different yogas exist. To avoid any confusion it's best to define what we mean by yogas. Yoga means union and refers to a mystical state where one is experiencing perfect merging of the individual consciousness (Jivaatman) with the Cosmic Consciousness (Paramatman). It defines the goal of spirituality. But yoga also refers to any technique bringing the practitioner to that goal.
Yogas as Paths
God is one but names are many. Truth is one but paths are many. Swami Vishnu-devananda
Truthfully there are at least thousands of such yoga techniques. They can be practiced individually or in combination. These yogas have been classified into four paths or margas. Some examples of these yogas are dhyana yoga (meditation), hatha yoga (physical and energetic path through postures, breathing, etc.), karma yoga (yoga of action), and japa yoga (repetition o a mantra)
Yogas as Traditions or Schools
The tradition of yoga is at least several thousand years old and has been transmitted through the millenia via the system of direct transmission from a guru (teacher and master) to a student. The succession of a given line of teacher to student to student is called a Guruparampara. Throughout India countless such lineages exist, all presenting a different mix of practices, theoretical teachings and philosophies.
Since the 20th century the world has associated the word yoga with the wonderful practice called hatha yoga. Different systems have evolved into different traditions and for the sake of simplicity they have been labeled as Iyengar yoga, ashtanga yoga, Sivananda yoga, etc.
So What is Sivananda Yoga Then?
It refers to yoga as taught by the great Master Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh. Sivananda yoga is somewhat of a misnomer because Swami Sivananda never intended to create a new brand of yoga and because he did not invent anything new.
He was an incredible Master resulting in a great number of followers from all around the world but also, and this is very unusual, a few dozens of his close disciples became advanced masters and gurus themselves. Many of them are listed in the dedication page of the excellent book 'Meditation & Mantras' by Swami Vishnu-devananda. These Yogis went all around the world spreading the teachings.
Sivananda Yoga as Hatha Yoga
When most folks talk about Sivananda Yoga they mean the typical yoga class involving 12 basic postures, two breathing exercises, and a deep final relaxation. The 12-posture sequence is also called the Rishikesh series as it originates in the region of that little town in the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Characteristics of Sivananda yoga also include:
- Mantra/prayers at beginning and end of yoga classes
- Longer holding of postures
- Pranayamas at the beginning or end of class
- An overall awareness and focus on breathing and the pranic dimensions of the practice
Sivananda Yoga as an Integral Path
Swami Sivananda was at once an orthodox and a revolutionary. His bold contributions - bold in those days, things we take for granted by now - include opening up yoga to the whole world by making English the official language in his ashram and in the writing of his 200+ books. He also liberally taught and initiated students of all castes, countries, and creeds - men and women alike.
If you could summarize his teachings and influence in a few words, they would be 'the revival of the yoga of synthesis'. Most paths and lineages tend to specialize in a limited number of practices belonging to one or two of the four paths. His genius was to recognize that all aspirants can benefit from a well-rounded daily sadhana containing jnana, bhakti, raja, and karma yoga while putting the most time and energy in their discipline of predilection.
Sivananda Yoga as an Organization
To make matters a tad more complicated Swami Vishu-devananda, out of devotion and respect to his Gurudev, named the organization that he setup in the 1960's "Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers" (SYVC). This has been one of the most visible groups representing the great Master. To anyone belonging to this group in any capacity 'Sivananda' or 'Sivananda Yoga' became synonymous with SYVC to the point that SYVC owns the copyright for the term!
Here I feel the need to mention a few Sivananda influenced groups which are also very significant.
First of all and most important is the Divine Life Society which is headquartered in Rishikesh. Swami Sivananda founded this group which has branches worldwide. Their web site offers free downloads of many of the books by Swami Sivananda in pdf or html formats. Other organizations include:
- Integral Yoga Institute founded by Swami Satchidananda
- Advaita Yoga Ashrama, owner of this web site and which is an offshoot of SYVC
- Yoga Vidya, extremely dynamic group based in Germany and founded by my beloved teacher Sukadev. These days I do a lot of my teaching there.
- Bihar School of Yoga founded by Swami Satyananda and run by Swami Niranjananda. Special mention to their books and publications. Outstanding in every way. To get you started feel free to try Yoga Nidra and Kundalini Tantra
- Keep in mind there are many, many more ...
I hope this short essay brought clarity to the subject and that it will contribute to the most important thing as far as your spiritual progress is concerned ...
An ounce of practice is worth tons of theory. Swami Sivananda
The enlightened one is a yogi devoid of yoga and absence of yoga. He is an enjoyer, devoid of enjoyment and absence of enjoyment.
Thus he wanders leisurely, filled with the spontaneous joy of his own mind. Sri Dattatreya
Explanation below is from the "Avadhuta Gita of Dattatreya" with commentary by Swami Ashokananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math:
Yoga - practice of concentration. The yogi who is enlightened has gone beyond the need for it.
Absence, etc. - because he is in the state of eternal yoga, or Self-realization.
Enjoyment, etc. - enjoyment of relative life. Absence of such enjoyment would imply self-restraint and self-abnegation. The enlightened one is beyond both.
When an evil thought harasses the mind, the best method of conquering it is by ignoring it. How can we ignore an evil thought? By forgetting it. How can we forget? By not indulging in it again, and also by not brooding over it. How can we prevent the mind from indulging in it again or brooding over it? By thinking of something very interesting, something sublime and inspiring. Ignoring, Forgetting, Thinking, of something inspiring, - these three constitute the great Sadhana for establishing mastery over evil thoughts. Swami Sivananda
Brooding over impure thoughts adds to their evil force. Do not become prey to these haunting dangerous thoughts. Entertain counter-thoughts: good sublime thoughts of God and His Divine Glory. By Japa, fasting, charity and selfless service, you can easily destroy the impurities of the complex mind. The evil thoughts, for lack of attention and by the pressure of good thoughts, will die a natural death. Swami Sivananda
Vigilant among the careless, awake among the sleepers, restrained among the indulgent, reflective among the thoughtless, the wise aspirant boldly marches forward, reaches the goal now and here and attains Immortality and Eternal Bliss. Swami Sivananda
Careful reflection will show that the entire universe is in reality the projection of the human mind Manomatram Jagat. Purification and control of the mind is the central aim of all Yoga. Mind in itself is but a record of impressions that keep expressing themselves ceaselessly as impulses and thoughts. The mind is what it does. Thought impels you to action; activity creates fresh impressions in the mind-stuff. Yoga strikes at the very root of this vicious circle by a method of effectively inhibiting the functions of the mind. Yoga checks, controls, and stops the root function of the mind, i.e., thought. When thought is transcended, intuition functions and Self-knowledge supervenes. Swami Sivananda
In me the universe has its origin,
In me the whole world subsists,
In me it is lost; this Brahman,
The Timeless, it is I myself,
Sivoham! Sivoham! Sivoham! Sivoham!
In me exist Brahman, Vishnu and Siva,
In me revolve the sun, moon and the stars,
In me flow the sacred Ganges and Jumna;
This Brahman, the spaceless, it is I myself,
Sivoham! Sivoham! Sivoham! Sivoham!
In me the Vedas and Vedanta have their origin,
In me roll all the Siddhis and Riddhis,
In me alone merge all the Rishis and Yogis,
This Brahman, the spaceless, it is I myself,
Sivoham! Sivoham! Sivoham! Sivoham!
Awaken thy heart, O Man! Happiness is here and now. Become a friend of humanity. Become a radiant Yogi. Strive. Endeavor. Swami Sivananda
What is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality?
Emotionally healthy spirituality is a universal approach to spiritual and religious life. It advocates a way of life where one can come closer to God while respecting one's needs, tendencies, and temperament.
What is Spirituality?
Spirituality is a path and a lifestyle which aims at bringing one closer to the 'Spirit'. Spirit should not be mistaken as anything which is not physical. Rather the Spirit is what is often referred to as 'God' or 'Soul'. The Soul is the divine spark which shines within each of us.
Love and compassion in action
Difference between Religion and Spirituality
Religion and spirituality have similarities but are not the same thing. Their common ground is to enable one to come closer to God.
Religion aims primarily at bringing God to regular folks and thus to enrich their life and give it a higher purpose and meaning. The focus is usually on practices and traditions inherited at birth. Most religions discourage indulging in practices belonging to other religions. One usually needs to abandon their own faith if they wish to convert to a new one. The goal of religion is to add a divine dimension to one's life and thus obtain happiness here and hereafter - in this world and in heaven.
Many like to argue that religion may have created more evil than good on this planet. Others tend to think of religion in negative terms and spirituality in positive terms. I firmly disagree with these opinions. Both religion and spirituality can tremendously benefit whoever is using these great tools for a better life. Of course they can also be misused and create untold sufferings in this world. Overall they bring more good than evil.
Spirituality is concerned with becoming one with God or the true Self in a very pragmatic way. If a method works then the spiritual aspirant will use it no matter what tradition it belongs to. For eons the mystics have been like scientists testing out techniques of all kinds, discarding the inefficient ones and keeping all practices that led them closer to God or the Self. Spirituality is more concerned with mysticism and less with traditions and rituals although mystics practice rituals for a definite purpose. The spiritual aspirant wants to experience union with God first and get worldly happiness second. The goal is not to be happy here and to go to heaven but to become one with God in this life and hereafter.
Forgiveness and cheerfulness in face of incredible adversity
How about the Emotions?
There is an inherent danger in religious and spiritual life to sacrifice so much for the sake of God so as to deny our physical, energetic, sensorial, and psychological needs. This can lead to repression of our basic desires and emotions leading to an inner conflict and a - mild or strong - form of schizophrenia.
Repression & Expression
Here is a dilemma. The spiritual aspirant needs to transcend his lower self and lower needs to embrace the glory of his Spirit. In so attempting, many a religious person suppresses their desires and various emotions. This creates untold tensions in the depth of the unconscious.
Modern western psychology is well aware of this and many want to avoid this pitfall. The knee-jerk reaction will be to express all their feelings, positive and negative all alike. Let's say one feels anger mounting and building up. The mistaken aspirant will express it in a fit in a poor attempt to get rid of the excess energy contained in this emotion. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is about finding a better solution, which is ...
The process of sublimation - in the spiritual context - is to take the tremendous energy belonging to our lower nature and manifesting in all types of desires, tendencies, and emotions, and transforming it into a higher type of power which will fuel our spiritual life. Lower emotions and desires such as sexual impulses are not looked at as obstacles anymore but as the very foundation of our spiritual life.
The obvious question here is: How to we do that? There are two avenues to that purpose which are 'spiritual practices' and a 'refinement of our lifestyle'. They should be practiced in concert. They eventually merge into one.
Self abnegation and renunciation
One can beat around the bush for ever but spiritual growth is a direct outcome of practice and discipline. The more one invests in prayer, meditation, rituals, and other disciplines advocated by their tradition, the faster and the farther one will advance in one's spiritual quest. A subtle, esoteric process is triggered and the energy usually dwelling in lower regions of the mind is transmuted into a subtler form which now pushes the practitioner's mind and consciousness upwards. This is very much like the naturally downward flowing water will naturally be transformed into a more potent, upward moving power when placed in contact with heat. The water in its new form of steam has now the power to propel a whole train and much more.
Refinement of Lifestyle
In order to not create any imbalance and repression of the emotions and desires, one needs to embrace the totality of one's being. There should not be any shame or guilt beyond a small, healthy dose. Let's open a parenthesis here to acknowledge that guilt can help one become aware of one's errors and lead to correcting them. Too much of it though will lead to inner conflicts and tensions which will slow down one's spiritual advancement.
Recognize Your Desires & Emotions Through Introspection
The first step is to develop the habit to be more introspective. Throughout the day do observe your thoughts, emotions, reactions, innermost desires and activities. You can optionally keep up a spiritual diary or journal to that effect.
With practice you'll become better at it and you should also see the causality of thoughts. You will recognize common though patterns. For example you will find that the same thoughts always occur when you are in a certain location, situation, or around certain people. You will also note that oftentimes a thought is always preceded by similar ones. If you want to address a certain desire or negative emotional state you will be more successful at it if you can interrupt or redirect the process at its budding manifestation.
Pure love, simplicity, and generosity
Be kind to yourself. Don't try to change yourself all at once. As you go on with the introspection you will become acutely aware of certain actions and feelings which will stand out as more harmful than others. Look at them and don't deny these desires but devise other healthier outlets for these tendencies. It's all about replacing thoughts and actions with similar ones which are more in tune with your spiritual aspirations.
The golden principle is that a negative quality or emotion can be best dealt with by developing the opposite positive quality. Good is stronger than evil. If for example you find yourself being too cheap, meditate on the quality of generosity. Visualize and analyze the downsides of miserliness and the advantages of generosity and magnanimity. Bring to your consciousness great examples, either famous ones or people close to you. Draw this quality from them and thank them for it. Emotions and feelings all come in such dual pairs: fear & courage; sadness & cheerfulness; greed & contentment; etc...
The gist is to not dwell so much on the negatives but to focus on positivity.
This should also be applied to actions. Substitute any actions you are not happy with with better alternates which will fulfill the same psychological needs. For example if you find yourself doing a lot of backbiting, replace the fault finding with the keen observation of other people's good qualities and virtues and replace the backbiting by making a point of discussing other folks' great character traits. If somebody tries to suck you into the old negative speech, stay quiet, try to change topic, don't feed the negativity in any way. Walk away if necessary. After a little practice backbiters will find you boring and positive thinkers will be drawn to you and this will thus create a new speech dynamic.
The Fascinating Journey
This post is just scratching the surface. The main principles have been laid out but more examples could have been given. It's up to you now to change your religious and spiritual approach. Above all remember that emotionally healthy spirituality is and should be fun and enjoyable. A sign of an emotionally healthy spiritual person is that he or she looks happy, relaxed and radiates love. Everybody wants to be around such a person. There must be a mix of determination to reach the spiritual goal with the tenderness and softness of love and compassion as well as a tangible, communicative joy.
May we all be in that state.
Recently I had the great fortune of sorting through some old paperwork and getting to see some photos and prints of Master Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-devananda. For the time being I have them spread across my desk to look at when I am at my computer.
Anyway, I find them very inspiring and so I wanted to share a few with you. Some you may have already seen other places.
Swami Sivananda and the River Ganga
Master and Swamiji and the Ganga, 1948
Swami Sivananda statue in Val Morin, Canada
Swami Vishnu lecturing late 1980's
classic photo of Swami Vishnu meditating
Meditation is a powerful mental and nervine tonic. The holy vibrations penetrate all the cells of the body and cure the diseases of the body. The powerful, soothing waves that arise during meditation exercise a benign influence on the mind, nerves, organs and cells of the body. The divine energy freely flows like the flow of oil from one vessel to the other, from the feet of the all-pervading Lord, to the different parts of the body of the aspirant. Through regular practice of meditation build around yourself a strong fortress of protection against the evil forces of the ignorant world and robe yourself with a magnetic aura. Swami Sivananda
It is the pure undefiled flower that finds a place at the feet of the Lord and nowhere else. Take great care to spend your life in spotless purity. Speak about Him, meditate on His Glory, try to see Him in everyone, Him who is the Self, the breath of life, the heart of hearts...
See That which, when seen, the wish to see anything more vanishes forever; hear That which, when heard, the desire to hear anything else does not awaken. Sri Anandamayi Ma
Sri Anandamayi Ma, 20th century Bengali Saint
Awaken thy heart, O Man! Happiness is here and now. Become a friend of humanity. Become a radiant Yogi. Strive. Endeavor. Swami Sivananda
Means and ends are necessarily identical. One cannot employ a wrong means for achieving a right end. The motive of the objective is judged by the character of the method employed for its attainment. One cannot obviously be a rogue outside and a saint inside. Therefore, be always watchful about the hidden impulse motivating your manners and actions. Swami Sivananda
When you are contented you are not looking for something, expecting happiness only if you have such and such a thing. For example, only if the weather is good, are you going to be happy. Only if Swami Vishnu teaches you everything are you going to be happy; only if your husband buys you a mink coat are you going to be happy; only if your wife cooks a delicious meal are you going to be happy.
In that way will you ever find happiness? No, because when you are depending on someone else, things can always go wrong, and they do. You can't expect the sun to come out just because you are not happy without it. But you can be happy within yourself. You can smile at the rain also. That's called contentment. Swami Vishnu-devananda
Virtue will develop and survive only when practised positively and actively... Rigidly observe truth and purity in your thoughts, speech, actions, in your inner motive and general conduct. Be loving, tolerant and charitable in your opinion of men and things, in your dealings with others. Swami Sivananda
Is it possible for you to look at someone with whom you totally disagree and say, without hypocrisy, "Sir, you may be right."? During those few moments watch what goes on within you. There is a combination of an earthquake, volcano, tornado and a tidal wave, all together. THAT is the ego... Watch what is happening inside you. That is the ego. Swami Venkatesananda
Is it possible to isolate each little bit of what happens to us in our lives and look at it just as it is - a tiny little fragment, not worth even looking at again? Like a movie film, this thing moves on. Each frame has got only one little picture, and there is no movement in it, there is nothing terrible. If I can view the present - a thought, an emotion, an experience, an event - as not more than a Vritti*, then it is easy to deal with. It is the mind (with all its memory, imagination and so on) that makes it big, magnifies it.
Put an end to that by remaining in that background of thought, in the God-consciousness, in the Japa** mood, in that meditative mode all the time - coming out for just a little while... Come out, work, go back into your background of thought.
* Vritti - thought wave
** Japa - repetition of a mantra Swami Venkatesananda
Purify the mind and meditate. Be still, and know that you are God. Calm the mind. Silence the bubbling thoughts and surging emotions. Plunge deep into the innermost recess of your heart and enjoy the magnanimous Silence. Mysterious is this Silence. Enter into Silence. Know that Silence. Become Silence itself. Realise God now and here. Swami Sivananda
Om namah shivaya!
I recently got some photos of this year's Teacher's Training Course with Swami Atma. It took place at the Yoga Vidya Ashram in Bad Meinberg, Germany. It was the third International Teacher's Training Course completely in English, there is one every summer with Swamiji since 2005. Apart of Swamiji who lead the course and took care of the yoga philosophy part and most of the theory, there were Ganga and Bhavani. Ganga taught the Hatha Yoga classes and the teaching theory. Bhavani assisted during the classes and our first experiences with teaching yoga by ourselves in small groups.
We were 22 people who came from all over the world. We had participants from Chile, Mexico, India and South Africa. There were many different reasons for taking that course. Some just wanted to learn more about yoga philosophy and have an intensive experience by diving into yoga for four weeks. Most really knew where they would teach afterwards, some didn't.
Mareike Getting Her Certificate
For everyone of us it was a really interesting and intensive new experience. Living yoga apart of your daily life for four weeks shows you very much about yourself. There is time to reflect where you want to go in life and what life is all about. We all learned very much and gained depth in our yoga practice. Some got a spiritual name and mantra initiation. By doing this we confirmed for ourselves that this yoga path is our way and that we want to go on following it at home and for the rest of our lives.
We learned very much for our own practice. Apart of that we studied the philosophy and the Kriyas which are cleansing techniques. Ganga taught us how a yoga class should be structured and what to pay attention for while teaching yoga to students. And there was so much more, it would be too much to write about all this here.
Group Chanting In The Last Satsang After Four Weeks
There will be a TTC like this one from July 13 to August 10 this year. If you're interested, you can find informations at the Ashram's web page. Some of us wrote their opinion about the TTC at the Ashram's forum. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
You can ascend the rungs of the spiritual ladder with the help of intense, unflinching faith alone. Whenever doubts assail you, reject them ruthlessly. Open your heart to the Divine Light, the source of all knowledge, all light. Become as simple as a child. Pray from the bottom of your heart. The flame will again become brighter and brighter. Swami Sivananda
My main instruction is to control the mind. Secondly, avoid unnecessary desires with one exception - desire to increase your will power. If you satisfy one desire, ten more will come to take its place, and then when will you ever be finished with all those desires? But if you develop your will power and kill even one desire, then you will be strong. Then you will easily kill ten more, and then a hundred. Swami Vishnu-devananda
There is no virtue higher than love; there is no treasure higher than love; there is no knowledge higher than love, there is no Dharma higher than love, there is no religion higher than love; because love is Truth; love is God. God is an embodiment of love. In every inch of His creation, you can verily understand His love. Swami Sivananda
Once you have understood that nothing perceivable, or conceivable can be yourself, you are free of your imaginations. To see everything as imagination, born of desire, is necessary for self-realization. We miss the real by lack of attention and create the unreal by excess of imagination. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I Am That
Make others truly happy as you strive to make yourself happy. Speak a helpful word. Give a cheering smile. Do a kind act. Serve a little. Wipe the tears of one who is in distress. Render smooth a rough place in another's path. You will feel great joy. Swami Sivananda
Be always cheerful. Laugh and smile. How can a mind that is gloomy and dull think of God? Try to be happy always. Happiness is your very nature. This is termed cheerfulness. The spirit of cheerfulness must be cultivated by all aspirants. Swami Sivananda
From faith in the scriptures comes fidelity to one's own duty; and by the performance of that duty comes the purification of the heart. There only is the knowledge of the Supreme Self, and by that knowledge comes the destruction of the tree of the world - root and all. Sri Sankaracharya
Write the words "Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realise, be good, do good, be kind, be compassionate. Enquire who am I? Know the Self, and be free. Adapt, adjust, accommodate" on the tablet of your heart. You will hear the music of the Soul and be drowned in the ocean of Bliss and Peace. Swami Sivananda
He whose craving is annihilated is a calm sage. He who is free from anger, lust, greed, egoism and jealousy is indeed a sage. He who calls nothing in this world as his own, who is not elated by success or gain, who is not depressed by failure or loss, is a sage. He who does not crave for sensual pleasures, who is independent, is a sage. May you also become a sage. Swami Sivananda
Jiun, a Shogun master, was a well-known Sanskrit scholar of the Tokugawa era. When he was young he used to deliver lectures to his brother students.
His mother heard about this and wrote him a letter:
"Son, I do not think you became a devotee of the Buddha because you desired to turn into a walking dictionary for others. There is no end to information and commentation, glory and honor. I wish you would stop this lecture business. Shut yourself up in a little temple in a remote part of the mountain. Devote your time to meditation and in this way attain true realization."
That man is liberated who is a friend of all, who bears everything patiently, who is tranquil and self-controlled, who is devoid of fear and anger, and who is without passion. Swami Sivananda
Truth, compassion, Tapas (austerity) and charity are the four feet of Dharma. Swami Sivananda
Meditate on love, bliss and peace, regularly in the early mornings. Sit still in peace and silence; forget the body. Rest in soul. this is your greatest duty. Swami Sivananda
God is the end of all your actions and movements. Seek Him. Realise Him. Only then can you be perfect and free. Swami Sivananda
God is always established upon his own majestic changeless Self. You and I try to be one with Him, but find ourselves diverted by nature, by the trifles of daily life, by money, by fame, by human love, and all these changing forms which make for bondage. When nature shines, upon what depends its shining? Upon God, and not upon the sun or the moon or the stars. Whenever anything shines, whether it is the light in the sun or in our own consciousness, it is He. He shining, all shines after Him. Swami Vivekananda
He works best who works without any motive - neither for money, nor for fame, nor for anything else. And when a man can do that, he will be a Buddha and out of him will come the power to work in such a manner as will transform the world. This man represents the very highest ideal of karma yoga. Swami Vivekananda
Live in the present. The past is dead. The future is a fancy of the mind. The present alone is. Swami Sivananda
Be not afraid of anything. You can do wonders. Your essential nature is fearlessness. Fearlessness is Brahman the Absolute. Tat Twam Asi. Thou art Brahman. Be bold. Swami Sivananda
Solitude is in the mind of a man. One might be in the thick of the world and yet maintain perfect serenity of mind; such a person is always in solitude. Another may stay in the forest but still be unable to control his mind. He cannot be said to be in solitude. Solitude is an attitude of the mind; a man attached to the things of life cannot get solitude, wherever he may be. A detached man is always in solitude. Ramana Maharshi
Take care of essentials. Do not pay too much attention to non-essentials. What may be unessential to an aspirant at a later stage, may well be essential to him now. Do not throw away precious grain with the chaff. Watch the mind. Swami Sivananda
Have friendliness with equals; compassion for those in sorrow; joy in the joy of others and superiors; and indifference and absence of ill-will and anger for the wicked men. You will be peaceful and happy. Swami Sivananda
Yoga leads from ignorance to wisdom, from weakness to strength, from disharmony to harmony, from hatred to love, from want to fullness, from limitation to infinitude, from diversity to unity and from imperfection to perfection. Swami Sivananda
We are punished by our sins, not for them.Elbert Hubbard
One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.Bertrand Russell
Yogic exercises and breathing exercises, right and simple living and high thinking and meditation are the important requisites for the preservation of health, for the attainment of the high standard of vigour and vitality, longevity and everlasting peace and joy. Swami Sivananda
Be in harmony with the fundamental laws of the universe. This is the first step in the path of Yoga. Swami Sivananda
Self-control is the best of all vows. Sweetness of speech, benevolence, absence of malice, anger, and hatred, forgiveness, patience, forbearance, non-violence, modesty, courtesy, good behavior, truth, straightforwardness, and firmness - the combination of all these constitutes self-control. Swami Sivananda
Subhuti was Buddha's disciple. He was able to understand the potency of emptiness, the viewpoint that nothing exists except in its relationship of subjectivity and objectivity.
One day Subhuti, in a mood of sublime emptiness, was sitting under a tree. Flowers began to fall about him.
"We are praising you for your discourse on emptiness," the gods whispered to him.
"But I have not spoken of emptiness," said Subhuti.
"You have not spoken of emptiness, we have not heard emptiness," responded the gods. "This is the true emptiness." And blossoms showered upon Subhuti as rain.
Knowing the real Self, which is the witness of the intellect and its actions, by this thought, "I am That," conquer the false idea of "I am" in the non-Self. Sri Sankaracharya
Here is a treat for everyone.
Thanks to Bhagavati for sending us a video of this 9-year old girl who can REALLY do asanas.
Love of God is Prem or devotion. It is pure love. It is love for love's sake. To love anyone for attaining some selfish gain is selfish love. It binds you to this earth. Swami Sivananda
Student: If I'm open minded, won't my brains fall out?
Teacher: No, just keep your mouth shut at the same time.
The only trouble with being a self made man is when you worship your creator.
This funny joke serves as a perfect introduction to the program I'll be giving tomorrow. I'll teach a yoga class, and a satsang. The theme of the lecture will be "Ego".
Hearing of Brahman is good, but thinking is one hundred times better than hearing. Millions of times greater than this is meditation. And when one becomes free from doubt in that meditation, that is endlessly greater. Sri Sankaracharya
Worry does great harm to the astral body and mind. Energy is wasted by worry. It causes inflammation and drains the vitality of man. Nothing is gained by the worry-habit. If you are vigilant and keep the mind fully occupied, this worrying-habit will disappear. Swami Sivananda
Work incessantly, but give up all attachment to work. Do not identify yourself with anything. Hold your mind free. Swami Vivekananda
We are very lucky living in 2008. At least this is true for those of us being spiritual aspirants in Eastern traditions. Thanks to the work of the pioneers who brought these teachings to the West there is wealth of information and teachers to learn from.
But it was not always the case and there were few Western aspirants who had the true spirit of adventure and went to get the teachings where they were.
One such adventurer was French yogini Alexandra David-Neel who became a mystic in Tibet. She knew early that she wanted to travel.
In 1885, when she was seventeen, Alexandra again left home, this time traveling alone by train from Brussels to Switzerland. She then hiked alone over the Saint-Gotthard Pass through the Alps to the Italian lakes. Her distraught mother had to travel to the shores of Lake Maggiore and retrieve her by then penniless daughter.
I recommend reading the short online biography of this fearless yogini.
At one stage, in early 1923, she went as far north as the Gobi Desert, from where she returned via Kanchow and Lanchow, south through China, and westwards into southern Tibet. Altogether her journey covered around 8,000 miles on horse, sedan chair and foot. Along the way bandits were a menace, as were tigers and leopards.
All are agreed that the one aim which man has in all his acts, is to secure happiness for himself. True lasting happiness can be had in one's own Atman or immortal Soul, but not in external perishable objects. Swami Sivananda
Do as you would be done by. This is the gist of ethics.Swami Sivananda
Leave it to Swami Sivananda to extract the essence of the teachings with utmost simplicity.
With spiritual life everything can assume an importance or value. Without it nothing is of any value. Swami Sivananda
An interesting ongoing development is the relationship between the ancient teachings of yoga and modern science. Many yogis like to point out all the ancient assertions which are validated by modern science but my skeptical (meaning scientific) mind is also looking at all the discrepancies.
The biggest one is the timeline of history given by the yoga masters compared to the works done by different schools of scholars. In a nutshell the yogis and mystics believe there were advance civilizations way before what science and scholars believe.
As an aside I formulated the former sentence in this way on purpose. One thing that always cracks me up is when scientists or pseudo-scientists talk about ancient or foreign cultures they always phrase it as 'they believed' or 'they believe' and usually contrast these statements with 'now we know'. Semantic bias.
An interesting point is that science's timeline as far as early humans is concerned changes periodically and usually by pushing back all the dates.
This article from news scientist is such an example. Very ancient beads were discovered and scientists are drawing conclusions from that.
"Personal ornaments are a powerful tool of communication," says Francesco D’Errico at the Institute of the Prehistory and Geology of the Quaternary in Talence, France, one of the team that studied the beads. "They can indicate social or marital status, for example. But you need to have a complex system of language behind that. To me [these beads] are very powerful archaeological evidence that these people were able to speak like us."
I recommend you read the whole article.
Zen students are with their masters at least two years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship, had become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: "I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs."
Tenno, confused, had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in's pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.
A good man is ever happy. He always lives with God. He has divinity within him. Do all the good that you can in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, at all times, with all zeal, strength, love and heart. Swami Sivananda
What is really required of us in this yoga is that our thirst after the beautiful should be directed to God. What is the beauty in the human face, in the sky, in the stars, and in the moon? It is only the partial manifestation of the real, all-embracing Divine Beauty. "He shining, everything shines. It is through His light that all things shine." Take this position of bhakti, which makes you forget at once all your little personalities. Swami Vivekananda
Peace is your birthright. Peace is filling your being within and without. Peace is in front of you, behind you, to the right, to the left, above and below. Peace is the only living Reality. Names and Forms are all illusory. Realise this peace and be free. Swami Sivananda
Truth is not outside you. It is within you. It dwells in the cave of your heart. You are a truth of God, a work of God, a will of God. You are unfettered, free, eternally free. Swami Sivananda
Everything will end well for those who are truthful and sincere and who rely on God. Throw your burden on Him and rest peacefully for ever. Swami Sivananda
Courage is your birthright, not fear;
Peace is your divine heritage, not restlessness;
Immortality, not mortality;
Strength, not weakness;
Health, not disease;
Bliss, not sorrow;
Knowledge, not ignorance.
Thou art Divine. Live up to it. Feel and realize thy divine nature. Thou art the master of thy own destiny.
O Blessed one! Thou art Immortal! Swami Sivananda
If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours. Anup Singh
Blend your love for your wife, son and property into one and direct it to God. You will attain God-realisation this very second. Swami Sivananda
Doing some cleanup and reorganizing of photos on my hard disk I found these pics taken about 3 weeks ago in Luxembourg.
The Centre de Yoga La Source organized a Weekend Intensive on Bhakti Yoga. The teaching was very gratifying as most students attending had not had much exposure to these wonderful practices. It all culminated in a participatory puja workshop on Sunday afternoon.
Below are a few pics.
We took the whole afternoon. Everybody helped setup and participated throughout the ritual. Lots of explanations were given.
Next is an 'action' picture!
Offering of jyoti or light.
In his latest e-newsletter Sukadev linked to a kirtan taped in satsang titled: Jaya Ambe. Go there and click the 'play' button to get some shakti and inspiration.
In the last few weeks we have been putting together a free online spiritual diary. I have been doing the coding and a few dedicated yogis have been kind enough to use it every day and iron out the bugs. Thanks to all the yogi beta testers.
If you want to check it out, go to the diary's explanation page and feel free to try it out.
Back in 1990 when I was running the SYVC Chicago center, I had published a print version booklet of Swami Sivananda's diary. It 6 months worth of tables and was a pretty good tool but of course since it was in a book form I had to determine beforehand which practices most people would use and monitor.
Over the years I have made for myself and used some Excel Spreadsheet based diaries as well as a couple database driven ones. All this culminated in creating a diary which has the full flexibility of a database system with a power of calculating one's statistics on the fly.
I pray this free service will enable many sincere aspirants to improve and stick to their sadhana.
But see that the efforts of years are not reduced to nullity in a second and that the sadhana of hours is not undone in a minute. Let no event of the world influence your inner spirit and make you despondent or elated... Such as we are, we feel ruined by slander and bloated by flattery; we fall by failure and are blinded by success.
And listen again. We can wait patiently for many years for acquiring a husband, wife, degree, wealth, etc., but we are unable to wait even a few years for the welfare of our soul! We are ready to sacrifice everything to acquire the things of the world, but shall we do the same thing for remembering God?
Now take it from me. Every movement of life is His projection and all activities, both inside and outside the world, are carried out within that projection. You have to reach the temple. Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Taming the Kundalini
Some students asked their teacher: "Master, tell us the secret of your wisdom!"
And the master replied: "When I'm sitting, I'm sitting. When I'm standing, I'm standing. When I'm walking, I'm walking."
"But master, that's what we're all doing – what is so wise about it?"
"Oh no. When you're sitting, you're already standig. And when you're standing, you're already walking. There is no other moment than now, there is no other time than the present. To live completely in this very moment, that makes all the difference."
Why should you think that you should be born again to do intense Sadhana (spiritual practice)? Surely you could achieve the life's final goal - God-realisation - in this very birth. This is your birthright. Aspire for it. Struggle hard. Try again and again and stop not till the goal is reached. It is not yet late. Wake up. Gird your loins! Start doing sincere Sadhana from this very moment. You are destined to achieve a great purpose in life. You must not waste a moment in vain. Swami Sivananda
We judge an asana far too fast by the way it looks instead of by the energy a person gives into the posture. In yoga prana, the mind is always more important than the form. Prana is more important than the body. The mind is higher than the body. So, it's not all about an asana looking good or looking bad but with which state of mind, prana and awareness we give into it. And it is about letting go of the ego and developing a deeper awareness instead of indulging in a form and striving for perfection in the sense of having a goal and wanting to reach something. Dr. David Frawley, Ayerveda-Acharya and Yoga Scholar
The best vitamin to be a happy person is B1.
I'm about to leave the Yoga Vidya ashram in Bad Meinberg where I have stayed a week and had a wonderful stay as usual.
The occasion was the annual Yoga Kongress (conference) touching the topics of yoga, meditation and peace.
It was my first time being and teaching at this conference. Altogether there were about 500 folks in the ashram including the staff. The attendees had up to 11 or 12 consecutive yoga classes or lectures to choose from in some time slots. Very exhilarating with many Ph. D.s and bright speakers in action.
I got to speak the first evening about Swamiji and how his life was a merging of yoga, meditation and peace.
At the beginning of the weekend we had a puja since it was Diwali and it coincided this year with Swamiji's mahasamadhi, so it was all very auspicious.
On Saturday afternoon I gave a talk on the 'secret of mind control' which was very well attended even though there were 10 other attractive lectures at the same time.
In conclusion it was a very good experience and I'm really glad I came. The weather was quite cold and miserable this week but this morning we had the first 'real' snow and it's kind of white on the roofs, cars and fields but not on the roads.
There is some truth in everything. Views and opinions are different aspects. Do not quarrel with others. Swami Sivananda
At Rama's time, the demons lived nearer, in a neighboring country. At Krishna's time, they lived in our familys. Now they are even nearer, they are living inside ourselves. We have to kill these demons to attain it. They are named arrogance, egoism and envy. To attain peace of mind, we have to be ready to fight. Not with guns but with love, surrender and sacrifices. Without bloodshed, only with peace and love.
Om Shri Durgayai Namah
Today is the fourth day of Navaratri. Navaratri means literally "nine nights
It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them. Alfred Adler
This a poem by Swami Sivananda.
As one extracts butter
By churning the curd,
I have found the Truth
By churning the mind.
Meditation is my churning rod,
This body is my churning pot,
Om is my churning rope;
Atman is the butter:
So says Sivananda Swami Sivananda
Vishwanath told a nice story in Satsang at the Yoga Vidya Ashram in Bad Meinberg this morning. It is a story about spiritual growth, about the small steps you have to take.
1. You walk along a street. There is a big deep hole in the sidewalk. You do not see it and you fall in it. You don't know where you are. It's not your fault! It takes an endless time to get out again.
2. You walk along the same street. There is a big deep hole in the sidewalk. You do not see it and you fall in again. You know where you are. It's not your fault! You get out quicker.
3. You walk along the same street. There is a big deep hole in the sidewalk. You see it but you fall in nonetheless. You know where you are. It is your fault. You can easily get out again.
4. You walk along the same street. There is a big deep hole in the sidewalk. You see it and you walk around it. You don't fall in this time.
5. You take another road.
Here is an interesting Zen story of a Zen practitioner who attained enlightenment through the teachings he got from his butcher.
Wisdom is everywhere, or can be at least.
When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.
"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.
"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."
At these words Banzan became enlightened.
These ten rules are very well known but worth the post for those who never saw them. Common sense wisdom that gives you some perspective. Totally in accordance with Yoga.
- You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it's yours to keep for the entire period.
- You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, "life".
- There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately "work".
- Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
- Learning lessons does not end. There's no part of life that doesn't contain its lessons. If you're alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.
- "There" is no better a place than "here." When your "there" has become a "here", you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here".
- Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
- What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
- Your answers lie within you. The answers to life's questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
- You will forget all this.
The last two weeks have been very hectic for me. Traveling a lot, staying outside ashrams and yoga centers, and sadly not being able to connect reliably and consistently to the Internet.
So if you are waiting for some e-mail answers or some blog posts please stay put until mid next week.
In the meantime thanks to Sita and Lalita for publishing interesting posts until I get back in touch. I'll conclude with an inspiring quote by Master Sivananda
Where is God? Look within, my child! Behold! He abides within thy heart. Feel His Presence.Swami Sivananda
The goal of life is the attainment of divine consciousness. This goal is the realisation that you are neither this perishable body nor that changing and finite mind, but you are all-pure, ever-free Atman.
Remember always ajo nitya sasvtoyam purano: Unborn Eternal Permanent is this Ancient One. This is your real nature.
You are not this little passing personality hooked on to a name and form. You have only fallen into this little delusion by an accident through some passing cloud of ignorance.
Awake and realise that you are Pure Atman. Swami Sivananda
You have entirely in your own hands to determine the order of thought you entertain and consequently the order of influence you attract and are not mere willowy creatures of circumstances, unless indeed you choose to be. Swami Sivananda
Power of endurance is a virtue to be possessed by a Yogi, a Jnani and a Bhakta. Many hardships and privations have to be faced by the students in the successful performance of Yoga.
The weak man emerges as a strong and sublime man from terrible trials and adversities. Trial is a crucible into which nature throws a man whenever she wishes to mould him into a superman.
Therefore do not be afraid of troubles and adversities. They are blessings in disguise. Swami Sivananda
What a comfort it is to know that I can let go and let God lead me in all matters and in all that matters.
Become silent. In Silence the truth will shine. Look within. Be still. Hear the Inner Voice of God. Swami Sivananda
This story from bbc.co.uk is interesting on a number of levels.
First it demonstrates quite conclusively that organic food has some definite health advantages.
A ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce found almost double the level of flavonoids - a type of antioxidant
Then it becomes almost comical. There is obvious bias of both the scientists and the BBC writer to not acknowledge that organic food is superior. In order to get to their ends they just ignore logical thinking altogether in a maddening way.
Here is the excerpt starting with the bold heading 'conflicting evidence':
Flavonoids have also been linked with reduced rates of some types of cancer and dementia.
The Food Standards Agency says there is some evidence that flavonoids can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and they are currently carrying out a study to look at the health benefits in more detail.
However, a spokesperson said there was no evidence that organic food was healthier.
So here is the thinking process of the article:
- Scientists have proven that their are more flavonoids in organic food
- It's proven that flavonoids can reduce high blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Flavonoids have also been linked with reduced rates of some types of cancer and dementia.
- Studies so far do not show connection between organic diet and better health.
- That's a conflict of evidence.
There is no conflict at all. They should just start new studies right away to make that connection which is more than likely and strongly encourage folks to eat organic food.
Instead, just to make sure that the status quo is not threatened, they come up with the following:
Our long-standing advice on organic food is there can be some nutrient differences but it doesn't mean it's necessarily better for you.
Seen on a bumper sticker ...
Jesus called. He wants his religion back.
This is the fate of founders of religions and spiritual groups that their followers rarely live up to the teachings they have promoted.
Swami Sivananda would often say that yoga is not about converting anyone but helping the Christian be a better Christian, the Jew a better jew, the Muslim a better Muslim, the Hindu a better Hindu and so on.
These words are echoed by the Dalai Lama who has written and said the same about Buddhism.
I have been reading more about Zen lately. Fascinating tradition. So many simple and beautiful stories about the spiritual path.
This first story is also very much quoted by yogis. It's called 'The Cup of Tea'.
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. Thomas A. Edison
Or as Swami Sivananda put it 'every failure is a stepping stone to success'.
The rajasic mind in this rajasic modern world wants some immediate results and this applies to yoga and spirituality as well.
Unfortunately the quest to moksha is a lifelong process so the qualities of endurance and forbearance are very needed and one should acquire that steadiness which is born of sattva.
This is a speech of Swami Sivananda which he gave on his tour through India and the countries around it in 1950. He spoke to people in Sri Lanka which was already relatively westernized in comparison to India. In my view, it applies to us western people as well.
You admire the little electric lamp on your table.
Have learnt to admire the glorious sun which sheds the light in the whole universe?
You admire a bottle of French parfume.
Have you learnt to admire the fragrance of the rose or jasmine?
You admire the paintings of artists and the little toys made by craftsmen.
Have you ever thought of the beautiful creation of the Lord – this glorious earth itself – which is only an infinitesimal part of His creation?
You glorify the little man who digs a small swimming pool.
Can you glorify the Lord for His creation of oceans, lakes and rivers?
You deify the sculptur who carves some figures out of the stones; you deify the scientist for his superficial knowledge of the inner human mechanism.
Can all the scientists in the world produce a human being?
The intelligence with which the scientists have invented so many things is itself a spark of the Divine.
Man is a drop in the ocean of Consciousness.
His ego is a point in the limitless truth of Existence. Swami Sivananda
I have renounced all sects.
I have removed all creeds and dogmas.
My religion is the religion
Of truth and love.
My religion is the religion of the heart.
My religion is the religion
Of the Upanishada and Vedanta.
My religion is the religion of OM.
My religion is the religion
Of service, sacrifice and renunciation.
My religion is the religion
Of goodness, kindness and tolerance.
Om namah shivaya!
My name is Lalita Devi, I'm one of the two newest AYA affiliated teachers and a student of Swami Atma. I live in Witten which is in the Ruhr Area in Germany. From now on you will find some blog posts published by me once in a while, hope you enjoy it! Om shantih!
It was always most important for Swami Sivananda to spread the yoga teachings. Therefore he distributed the books he wrote to everyone for free, he shipped them all over the world. When his disciples told him one day that the Ashram will run out of money soon, he just answered: "There is no way we will stop distributing books and pamphlets to interested people, even if we have to stop buying food!"
The Divine Life Society which was founded by Swami Sivananda still acts in this tradition. On their homepage you can find many books written by Swami Sivananda to download and print them for free.
Muesli is this Germanic breakfast which is both delicious and nutritious. Really good for you. There are different types of Muesli. Most famous is Bircher Muesli created by Swiss nutritionist Dr. Bircher-Benner. Variations of it include the Alpen Muesli.
You can make your own by using a muesli grinder. When I was at the Frankfurt Yoga Vidya Center at the beginning of the Summer I saw one such grinder for the first time. Below is the photo.
Happy yogini Maryia making muesli with grinder. It does not show of photo but you have to work quite hard at it.
A person who trusts no one can't be trusted.Jerome Blattner
So many ways to illustrate the yogic teachings that say that the world is nothing but our own mental projection. We project all types of things and see the world just that way.
During this Summer of teaching Sukadev recorded a few lectures. He's publishing some podcasts of lectures about yoga, vedanta and more. Most of them are primarily in German so not so suitable for the majority of readers of this blog.
But here is a lecture I gave about Swami Vishu-devanandaji. It's in English obviously but also translated by my good friend Klaus.
It's a long lecture. Listen to it if you feel so inclined.
I have learned to use the word 'impossible' with the greatest caution. Wernher von Braun
This is an essential part of yogic sadhana to become acutely aware of the power of thought. Entertaining the "it's impossible" thought will block one to many opportunities in life and prevent one in fulfilling one's potential
If you enjoyed this post please help spread the word by linking to it from your web site or blog. The easiest is to copy and paste the code below:
<p>Why you should never say <a href="http://yoga108.org/blog/posts/545-its-impossible">It's impossible</a>.</p>
I have just modified the locations page in two ways. Firstly I added our two new affiliates to the world map and secondly I embedded the interactive map itself on the page, very much like below:
Every moment of man is derected towards Satchidananda in a direct or inderect manner. Swami Sivananda
Love all, because all are the manifestations of the One Self Swami Sivananda
Children, sing from the depths of your hearts. Let the heart melt in prayer. The joy of singing the Lord's name is unique. The bhajan is for us to pour out all our heart's accumulated dirt. Leave aside all shyness and open your hearts to God. Amma
Detach yourself from the unreal and attach yourself to the Real. This is the way to attain Self-realisation. Swami Sivananda
Om Namah Sivaya!
Lord Siva, the first and original hatha yoga teacher
For the third consecutive year I'm teaching at this time of the year this advanced course in Bad Meinberg.
It's a nine-day course and the topic is 'Hatha Yoga Pradipika'. During every lecture we are going through the whole tantric scripture, verse by verse.
The course started last night and there are 45 students, counting the Yoga Vidya staff members attending the course full time. Everyone has extensive experience with yoga, having taken many programs and trainings and most are teaching yoga already.
So it's an ideal set-up and I feel blessed to be part of this.
Pranayama and Advaita Vedanta
Pranayama is the control of all life-forces by realising naught but Brahman in all things as the mind, etc.
The negation of the Universe is the outgoing breath. The thought: ‘I am Brahman’ itself is called the incoming breath. The permanence of that thought thereafter is the restrained breath.
This is the Pranayama of the wise, while the pressing of the nose is only for the unknowing. Aparokshanubhuti, 118-120)
Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions. Albert Einstein
This cool pic was sent in by Misha.
In the book "Bhakti and Sankirtan", by Swami Sivananda, he mentions that there is a lot of philosophy contained within the name Radha, which is kind of interesting and which he goes on to describe as follows.
To begin, you should imagine that there is a blackboard in front of you. On the blackboard is drawn a circle and around the circle the letters R-a-dh-a are written. Something like the drawing here.
Starting at the top left and going around the circle to the right you have the word Radha. Most people already know that Radha is the consort of Lord Krishna and an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. The name Radha means fortunate, or successful. Radha represents the ultimate form of love and devotion towards Lord Krishna.
Next, starting at the top right and going around the circle you get the Sanskrit word Adhara. Adhara means prop, as in support or substratum. In other words, if you worship Lord Krishna as the support or substratum of the Universe, He will quickly free you from the cycle of births and deaths.
Now starting from the lower right corner you get Dhara. Dhara means flow. In other words, if you worship Lord Krishna from your heart, as a continuous flow of oil or water poured from one vessel to another, you will get liberation or Mukti. The idea is to meditate on Lord Krishna all the time.
Finally, starting from the lower left corner is the word Aradh, i.e. Aradhya, which means worship. If you do Aradhana or worship of Lord Krishna, singing his name with proper mental attitude, love, and faith, you will receive His darshan (vision) and be liberated.
Radha with her beloved Krishna
Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya!
What are the prerequisites of a perfect life?
To attain fellowship with other beings, to think in terms of everything that is around, to share in the feelings of the different breathing contents of the universe. In other words, to give freedom to your inner expressions and potentialities, to raise yourself from the egoistic thinking and to surrender the physical and the mental consciousness to a still higher unifying substance, is indeed the precondition of the truly happy and perfect life. Swami Sivananda
Realization is for everyone; Realization makes no difference between aspirants. This very doubt whether you can realize and the notion
"I have not realized" are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also. Ramana Maharshi
By the practice of pranayama, all diseases are removed. By not practicing pranayama, all diseases arise. Yoga Chudamani Upanishad
This reminds me of my teacher Sukadev who used to say, may be still says it, when asked whether there are dangers in practicing pranayama that there are dangers in not practicing pranayama.
In this kali yuga you can't take anything for granted. Turns out it's very easy to buy honey which is actually not honey but honey mixed with additives of all kinds.
If you'd like to only eat 'real' honey, then check out how to verify the purity of honey.
That supreme light is Om. One should always repeat that verbally, should practice that regularly within the body, and should repeat that mentally. Yoga Chudamani Upanishad
The omkara is the sound manifestation of the highest consciousness or highest light called brahman.
The mantra exerts us to repeat it in order for our mind to be absorbed and merge into that brahman of the upanishads.
For more results one should repeat it on three levels:
- Verbally: to let the sound resonate and work its magic on the conscious level
- In a whispering fashion: to affect the subconscious mind
- Mentally: to transform the super-conscious mind
I had to blog about this article since Seitan has been my favorite high-protein food for at least a couple years now.
Seitan is the product of only two ingredients: wheat flour and water. The dough created from these ingredients is kneaded under cold water, which leaches the starch from the dough. Extensive kneading ultimately results in a lump of wheat gluten that is 70 to 80 percent protein.
Although it's not as easy to find as tofu in the health food store, it's worth the quest. Also if you make it yourself, it's VERY inexpensive. You just need to buy wheat gluten.
According to Ellen Tisdale, who runs the cooking Web site Ellenskitchen.com, seitan was first created by Buddhist monks in seventh-century China. The monks, who adhered to a strict vegetarian diet, set out to create suitable substitutes for meat, along the way creating tofu and seitan. With the spread of Buddhism, seitan spread from China to Japan, and from there to the United States. During the Great Depression, some families used seitan in faux meat loaves, calling the dish “End of the Month Loaf.”
Most of us Western yogis tend to idealize and romanticize India. This 11-minute video shows another side of India which most people are not aware of: the untouchables.
Untouchables are outside the caste system.
This touches to one of the differences between Yoga and Hinduism. While the caste system is deeply entrenched in the Hindu religion, most Indian yoga masters have transcended it and rejected it.
This video was submitted by Misha.
This article relates the efforts of Professor Vipin Mishra of GSVM Medical College, Kanpur of prescribing yoga practice to his diabetes patients.
Professor Vipin Mishra of GSVM Medical College, Kanpur has prescribed yoga therapy for more than 1000 patients and those who have followed his regimen have been benefited.
Benefits are described.
Regular practice of yoga does reduce blood sugar levels, the blood pressure, weight, the rate of progression to the complications, and the severity of the complications as well. The symptoms are also reduced to a great extent, so number of diabetes related hospital admissions.
Plus much more in the article
God is the Inner Ruler. Root yourself in God. Swami Sivananda
This article presents a research done in India relating yoga practice to pregnancy.
Shamanthakamani Narendran, from the Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore, and colleagues studied 169 pregnant women trained in the integrated approach to yoga and in 166 "controls" who received routine prenatal care.
Om Namo Narayanaya
Today is the Memorial Day holiday in the US. While it's laudable to honor the fellows who give/gave their life in a righteous war to defend their country and countrymen, this type of holidays and celebrations usually serve to promote and encourage humankind's biggest source of man-made suffering: the declaring and fighting of unrighteous wars motivated by greed, hatred, religious fanaticism, ignorance, racism, ambition for power and much more.
Blessed Are The Peace Makers
Let us take the time today to honor the peace makers, those who went to great lengths and great risks and at the price of personal sacrifices to contribute to a better world. Let's remember and send positive thoughts and prayers to:
- Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence
- Jesus Christ and all prophets of peace who inspired millions to lift themselves closer to God and further away from violence, hatred etc.
- Swami Vishnu-devananda who risked his life many times on his peace missions around the world trying to help humankind come to its senses
- The peace pilgrims. She talked the talk a little but walk the walk all the way.
- All men and women of peace, famous or not, known or unknown, who contribute or have contributed to make this world a more peaceful place.
It's explained in this article that some Boston University researchers studied the effects of yoga on the brain.
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital have found that practicing yoga may elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels, the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter.
The findings, which appear in the May issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, suggest that the practice of yoga be explored as a possible treatment for depression and anxiety, disorders associated with low GABA levels.
“The development of an inexpensive, widely available intervention such as yoga that has no side effects but is effective in alleviating the symptoms of disorders associated with low GABA levels has clear public health advantage,” added senior author Perry Renshaw, MD, PhD, director of the Brain Imaging Center at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital.
You can elevate others only if you have elevated yourself. This world can be saved only by those who have already saved themselves. A prisoner cannot liberate other prisoners. Swami Sivananda
We have just posted a new page to the AYA web site about the Kundalini power and Her rising.
Here is the result of two studies that link the consumption of salt with higher risk of heart attacks or strokes.
Eating less salt reduces the chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke, the first long-term study of salt’s impact on health confirms today.
Always good to see when scientific research validates the yogic teachings.
By pursuing these trials, Dr Cook’s team has shown that those who reduced their salt intake did have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. “Our study provides unique evidence that sodium reduction might prevent cardiovascular disease and should dispel any residual concern that sodium reduction might be harmful,” it concludes.
Please see the fiull article.
Actually chickens do taste like arsenic.
Another Reason To Go Vegetarian
FOR ENVIRONMENTALISTS and some public health experts, one of the most puzzling practices of modern agriculture is the addition of arsenic-based compounds to most chicken feed. The point of the practice is to promote growth, kill parasites that cause diarrhea, and improve pigmentation of chicken meat.
This article explains, as you would expect, that arsenic is not good for you.
Fifty-five percent of the 151 samples of raw chicken in these tests contained detectable arsenic ranging from 1.6 to 21.2 ppb, Wallinga wrote in a report. Nearly three-quarters of the samples from conventional producers had detectable levels of arsenic, but only one-third of samples from certified organic and other premium chicken suppliers had detectable levels.
The Upanishads throw a flood of light on the path of knowledge and lead the aspirants to the highest rung on the ladder of Jnana(Wisdom). Swami Sivananda
And here is another inspiring spiritual video.
For those who don't know, Swami Vivekananda was the first yogi to go out to the Western World and presents the spiritual teachings of yoga.
He somehow got invited in-extremis at the 1892 Parlement of Religion held at the Art Institute of Chicago, IL in the US. There he made a very strong impression on everybody's mind and soon became the crowd's favorite. Every day of the convention his lectures were scheduled at the end of each session to keep everyone in.
His first speech became known as "Swami Vivekananda's Address" and is part of the legend and history of yoga.
The only downside to this clip is that it turns out it's not the actual voice of Swami Vivekananda that we hear.
This video of a pada puja is a rare document. Close disciples of Swami Sivananda perform a puja, a ritual worship which is one of the bhakti yoga practices, to Swami Sivananda. To his feet actually. It's an ancient devotional tradition to worship the lotus feet of God or Guru.
Thanks to Bhagavati for pointing us to this video.
There are two notable birthdays to celebrate today, April 22.
Today is the Jayanti, or Hindu celebration of the birthday of Sri Sankaracharya, according to the spiritual calendar of the Divine Life Society.
Among a number of other things which were all quite notable, Adi Sankara is the exponent of the great philosophy of advaita vedanta and the organizer of the ten Swami orders, whose lineage can be traced through the years directly to Swami Sivananda. You can read more of the highlights of his life and philosophy here.
Om Sri Sankaracharyaya Namah!
Today is also the actual birthday of our own beloved teacher, Swami Atma. Happy Birthday Swamiji!!! Hope you have many, many more birthdays and years of wonderful sadhana and spiritual illumination.
Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You-ou, Happy Birthday to You … and many mooorrre.
For anyone who would like to send a birthday greeting to Swami Atma go here.
PS. Nicole-Shakti and Sandra-Sarada wish you Happy Birthday.
I got same interesting feedback from a number of people regarding my previous post about the different TTC formulas.
Here is an e-mail I got and wanted to share. I formatted the bold characters
it's nice you got your blog fixed. I like reading here sometimes and I like your mixture of fun things and spiritual things and just normal things. I wondered about the TTC, too - my mother took the 3 years-TTC which is even longer than 2 years but was provided by YV some years ago. And I'll be with you in summer for four weeks and I'm really looking forward to it.
As you said different types of courses fit for different people. I think it would have been too long for my mother to be all the time in company and she says she cannot imagine being in the ahsram for four weeks doing so much hatha yoga lessons. She thinks it would just be too much for her physically even if she's really fit and only 50 years old. But I think the 2 or 3 years course is missing at least one or two weeks in the ashram to feel how it is to live yoga all day - it's easier there than at home and I think that's good for the beginning.
As I'm studying and only 22 years old, three or two years would be too long for me. I really can't say that I'm home for two years being in the center every tuesday.
What is most important for me is the spiritual part, I think the rest just comes along. So if you prefer having changes slowly and integrating them in your every-day life, probably two years is better. And if you prefer experiencing very extreme new feelings in short time, four weeks is great.
What I think is fine is the "2 Jahre-Baustein-Ausbildung" at YV. So you do your four weeks course and participate in weekend workshops or whole week workshops with different topics.
So you can have an intensive beginning and deepen it with topics, you're interested in...
But I'll stop now as we're meeting tomorrow for the workshop in Bad Meinberg and probably have time to chat. Om shantiLaura Bauer
And to Bad Meinberg she came and here is the photo taken at satsang to prove it.
You can now see all the AYA locations in one convenient map
I'm also working on a more ambitious map which will show all the places I have taught yoga at. Or at least most of them, the ones I can remember.
Kudos to Google Maps for giving us such an easy tool, free of charge, to create our own maps.
To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it. G. K. Chesterton
This Wednesday the 14th will be the national free yoga day in Australia.
Maria, our affiliate teacher down under, is going to be part of this event.
There have been 'free yoga days' every year in Austin as well for the past several years, also observed by the majority of teachers in that area. It's usually takes place in the US on Memorial Day.
See the official Free Yoga Day web site.
The Basic Question
I have been thinking about this for a while. Actually it's been in my mind for like 15 to 20 years. So here it is.
What's better: A Yoga teacher's training course that lasts 2 years, meeting once a week, with an occasional weekend intensive or a 1-month live-in intensive?
Obviously there are many other formulas, most of them being variations of these two and some of them being very extreme. Yoga Vidya also runs a number of combinations mixing these two.
Please note that these remarks apply more particularly to trainings in the Sivananda tradition.
teaching workshop on 'yoga for pregnancy' during TTC
The Four-Week Intensive Course
Well, to start with, I'm very biased in favor of this formula. I took this type of training back in 1987 in India and felt I benefited so much from it that I used to not even consider the alternative a suitable path as all.
The spirit behind this formula is that it's not so much about training the students to teach as it is about training them to become a 'yogi' or a 'yogini'. It's quite different. Swami Vishnu-devanandaji thought only a genuine yogi, who practices the yogic lifestyle on a daily basis can be truly qualified to teach this sacred science.
And this does not just mean doing the asanas with the bhava of exercising one's muscles and increasing one's flexibility but also to be on the path of Self-realization with earnestness and devotion. This is what this formula is all about:
- Gurukula System - One is immersed in the ashram life for one full month and from 5:30 am until 10:30 pm.
- Developing a solid practice - the two yoga classes ensure one will make solid progress.
- Breakthrough guaranteed on many levels - In such an environment one is exposed to one's weaknesses and usually finds the key to overcoming them.
- Integrating yogas - In this live-in experiment one become acutely aware of the relationship between all yoga practices belonging to the four paths. This includes: yoga asanasa, pranayama, diet, yoga theory, philosophy, meditation, kirtan, kriyas and much more. Of course that is also explained in a two-year training but it is experienced first-hand in this formula.
- Great if you want to experience lots of new feelings and experiences in a short time.
- Not enough time to integrate the teaching. Whenever the students get into the groove, it's almost over.
- Learning techniques not as polished to say the least. The students don't get a chance to practice their teaching long enough. Graduates are often kind of rough around the edges when it comes to pure technique. This is supposed to be compensated by teaching from a very good place from within for reasons explained above.
- Finding the time - it can be hard to find 4 consectutive weeks to dedicate to the training according to one's family, social or professional responsabilities.
The Two-year Training
Here the focus is not so much on the students becoming yogis but on them becoming skilled at teaching hatha yoga.
- Lots of time to learn proper hatha yoga techniques - many become more adept at being anatomically correct in their practice and teaching.
- Lots more time to practice teaching - this helps improve the technique in correcting the students during class.
- More time to assimilate the intellectual concepts - regarding the yoga theory and vedanta philosophy as well as the new spiritual experiences and feelings.
- Easier to fit in one's schedule for folks who can't take a full month off, away from everything and everyone.
- Practice of asanas and theory + philosophy are more separated. - students don't perceive as much the importance of the spiritual dimension of yoga, which is a real shame.
- More Teachers don't become sadhakas
- longer commitment - one has to stay focused on this training for a full two years. But this could also be looked at as a plus.
This post feels like a work in progress and I will probably add things in the future. Feel free to e-mail me with your thoughts if you would like to contribute to this article.
Both formulas work for different people. The main thing is to practice hard and to teach with the right spirit of sharing these wonderful teachings with others.
Graduating from both these courses is only the beginning of the adventure and all of us should always exert to learn yoga in more depth. And that does not mean taking a million workshops of all styles and from all teachers out there. But that's another topic for another post.
Do not be deceived by the charm of external objects. It is an illusion. Swami Sivananda
Develop fiery determination, iron will, burning dispassion and yearning for liberation. You will realise the Truth right now. Do or Die. Swami Sivananda
Although the tap water in Germany is one of the best in the world, almost nobody in this country drinks it. About everyone buys bottled water. So water quality is predominant in one's consciousness.
No surprise then that yogis would push the envelope one (several ?!) notch further.
The H2OM Bar at Yoga Vidya Westerwald
Of course there are water bottles around but on top of that they installed several types of water filters. The two herbal tea pots are there as well for good measure.
That's a study we won't complain about. Who are we to argue with scientists?
Frequently dismissed as cranks, their fussy eating habits tend to make them unpopular with dinner party hosts and guests alike.
But now it seems they may have the last laugh, with research showing vegetarians are more intelligent than their meat-eating friends.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers say it isn't clear why veggies are brainier - but admit the fruit and veg-rich vegetarian diet could somehow boost brain power.
Please read the whole article.
Maintain always serenity under all conditions and circumstances. Swami Sivananda
This is my second post pointing to a study or article that recognizes that the best thing people could do for the planet and to combat the greenhouse effect would be to become vegetarian.
"The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.
This whole article is very well written.
This is a very compelling story and a strong argument in favor of the theory of reincarnation.
Bruce and Andrea say they began to see signs of a spirit linked with their son when James was 20 months old. While moving from Richardson, Texas, to Lafayette in February of 2000, Bruce took James to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, Texas. Andrea says planes had always been his fixation: He spent hours playing with toy planes and he would yell when he saw a real plane in the air.
mes Leininger signed his drawings "James 3" before his father knew about James Huston Jr. In April of 2000, after getting settled in their new home in Lafayette, James' nightmares began. Bruce and Andrea at first attributed their son's nightmares to being in a new home with unfamiliar sounds. But when they didn't stop, the parents' interest went to a whole new level.
Please read the whole story
"This child couldn't know the things he does - he just couldn't - so I believe he is somehow a part of my brother," Ms. Barron says. "These are the things you read about. There must be a reason for it, but I have no hint of what it could be. It's some phenomenon that I don't understand. It all happened nearly 60 years ago. There must be a reason."
Congratulations to the folks who thought up this very creative ad.
Love is the fulfillment of the Law. Understand the Law, and attain power and wisdom. Swami Sivananda
Published and fact-checked by Gullible Info.
In a study done at Cornell University, it was found that athiests were 63 percent more likely to return a wallet found on the street than self-described Christians. The research was done with a planted wallet and a hidden camera.
What an interesting karma this nun has had so far.
From the age of 7, I never in my life wanted to be anything but an actress," Hart said. She was a strong-willed girl even at that age.
She made her screen debut as Elvis' love interest in 1957's "Loving You," his first starring role.
"I had no idea who Elvis Presley was," she admitted. "When I first met him, he was just a charming and very simple young boy with longer sideburns than most.
He couldn't have been more gracious. He jumped to his feet and said, 'Good afternoon, Miss Dolores.' He and Gary Cooper were the only ones in Hollywood who called me that."
Following a very worldly start, she turned to spirituality.
Mother Dolores, now at 67
Now the Rev. Mother Dolores Hart and prioress of the cloistered community at Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut,
And she has come back to Hollywood lately, but still as a nun, to promote her cause.
Last month, Hart testified at a congressional hearing in Washington, citing the need for research into a cause and cure for the painful and crippling disease./blockquote>
Please read the fun article.
For no particular reason I felt like showing you this authentic video of Mahatma Gandhi.
Watch this authentic video.
During the 7-month publishing interruption, I have collected a number of interesting links.
Understandingly some of these posts come quite late but I think there are worthwhile anyway.
For yogis the 60th birthday is particularly significant because the planets, since the higher applications of jyotish aka vedic astrology is regarded highly by yogis and sages, are aligned in a very similar fashion than at one's birth time.
Swami Saradanandaji was the focus of a traditional Jubilee celebration. Very interesting. A facet of yoga most are not familiar with.
Feel free to see the online photo album
Draw strength and power from within. Atman is a magazine of infinite power and strength. Swami Sivananda
The Atman means the true spiritual Self.
God is the breath in your nose. Light in your eyes. God is the root of all joy, strength, peace and bliss. Swami Sivananda
QUESTION put to Swami Sivananda:
What is the technique of concentration on the 18 parts of the body as advised by Sage Yajnavalkya for the purpose of attaining Pratyahara? Please explain fully.
ANSWER by the Master:
The technique of concentration as given by Sage Yajnavalkya involves a process of withdrawing the mind and Prana gradually and step by step from one part of the body to another, starting from the two big toes of the feet and progressing upward by a series of successive acts of such concentration-cum-withdrawal, through the several occult centers of the body, leading finally to the crown of the head.
By this process, the mind and Prana are totally drawn away from the entire body and finally centered in the top of the head where the practitioner dives into deep meditation.
The 18 parts mentioned by Sage Yajnavalkya are given below:
1. The great toes
2. The ankles
3. The middles of the shanks
4. The parts above the shanks and below the knees
5. The centers of the knees
6. The centers of the thighs
7. The anus
8. The center of the body, just below the waist
9. The genitals
"Dog yoga is to help the owner experience their yoga session in a deeper spiritual way," Barry said.
Om Namo Narayanaya
Please read the whole story here.
Remember and practise the three D's -- Discrimination (Viveka), Dispassion (Vairagya), and Determination. Swami Sivananda
For those unfamiliar with yogic philosophy, discrimination refers to the quality of discerning between truth and untruth.
This morning we are flying from Basel, Switzerland to Malaga, Spain.
That will be my first time at the Casa El Morisco and our first retreat there.
I'm very much looking forward to it. It will pretty much be yoga, meditation, swimming and sun bathing.
I might not be able to connect to the net for the week.
Om Namo Narayanaya.
At www.sivanandaonline.org they have a nice website which contains lots of information including a spiritual calendar of the Hindu holidays and festivals, and audio and visual files of Swami Sivananda. You can also subscribe to get the "Sivananda Daily Readings" via email.
Here is the Sivananda Daily Reading for today which is about prayer:
Essentially, prayer should be selfless as far as possible. We should first pray for the good of others, for the welfare and peace of the world and for our own spiritual evolution. We should pray for the eradication of our evil qualities, for wisdom and knowledge, for goodness and saintliness.
An aspirant should always pray for the removal of his ignorance. His goal is to realise the truth and to free himself from the meshes of those things that are unreal. His goal is to realise his essential divine nature.
At times even sincere prayer is not responded to but this should not be allowed to mar our faith or sincerity or to discourage or depress us. It should be considered as a necessity, as a test of our sincerity, our serenity and our faith in God.
At times this irresponse is often repeated. The devotee becomes bewildered; he begins to lose faith in God; he may even be diverted from the path. Indeed it is here we must show our patience, our steadfastness and our faith in his grace. God often tests us with severest trials but does it mean that he is unkind, that he does not wish to pay heed to our prayers? Obviously not. It is a test that the aspirant must pass through. His faith may not be strong enough; the dross of his mind may not have been cleaned yet; his heart may not be pure yet.
How can the aspirant strengthen his faith? How can he cleanse his mind? How can he purify his heart? Only through tests, trials, tribulations. Just as gold is purified by passing it through the crucible several times, so also the heart must become pure, the faith must become unflinching, through passing through the crucible of trials again and again.
But at the ultimate end all prayers are fulfilled and gratified with the highest fulfilment. Therefore when we pray to God or wish to receive grace from him, we must be prepared to accept joyfully his irresponse and the trials and tribulations.Sri Swami Sivananda
We are about to leave from Austin to start the silent meditation retreat week
I'm of course VERY MUCH looking forward to this.
I had heard about these experiments for a long time but I had never witnessed any before.
You need the sound turned on to watch this video.
These are salt patterns crystallized by sounds.
Found it at digg.com.
I think this video alone is worth the trouble of being subscribed to this blog. Unfortunately I was unable to do a screen capture. To see the results please go to the site.
Here is an excellent question from Sarada from Austin:
What is worse yogically, alcohol or meat?
Wow. that's a good question
I'd have to say alcohol.
Meat is worse ethically but alcohol is worse morally.
Both are tamasic but meat has some nutritional value.
A saint's life is one long prayer. Swami Sivananda
QUESTION put to Swami Sivananda: I am not able to practice meditation for more than ten minutes. After that my mind begins to wander on sensual objects.
ANSWER by the Master: When you develop Ruchi or taste for Dhyana and Japa, you will be able to sit longer for Japa and meditation. Before going to bed, also in the morning at 4 o'clock, and before taking meal at noon, you should do Japa and meditation. Just as you take tea three or four times a day, so also, you should do Japa three or four times a day. Do not worry if the mind wanders. By gradual practice, it will come under your control. Do Kirtan when the mind wanders much. Do Nama-smaran while walking and working also-- Sri Ram, Sri Ram.
If you are not able to sit in Padmasan for long, you can sit on a sofa and do Japa and meditation. It is not necessary that you should sit in Padmasan.
Give up onions and garlic completely. Give it up entirely. Do not prepare it at all at home. If you try to reduce it, one day you will take a little, another day you will be tempted to take a good quantity! A cigarette addict who wants to reduce cigarettes, takes a very few cigarettes on some days, but on some other days he smokes heavily, with a vengeance as it were, and more than compensates for the quantity foregone by him previously. Therefore, give up onions completely.
If you give nice cotton seeds and oil-cakes to your cow, it will cease to graze in your neighbour's fields, it will give up its wandering habit in search of grass and herbs. Now your mind is running after Rasagulla and Peda which it has tasted. But if you give the mind the bliss of Japa and meditation, it will no more run after worldly objects. When you develop Ruchi for Japa and meditation, the mind will give up its wandering habit.
Man's mental and moral growth has not kept pace with his technical and scientific advance. Swami Sivananda
What's interesting about this quote is how it closely resembles this other quote.
At last the .mp3 cd has been released.
Last year in June I taught an advanced teachers training course at the Yoga Vidya ashram in Bad Meinberg. The theme was the 'hatha yoga pradipika' and we went through every verse of that fascinating scripture.
A student, by the way great thanks to Maheshwari, taped all but a couple of the lectures I gave, for her own use.
After a while some students asked her for a copy of the recordings as well. It looked liked it would be quite a project but I did not realize the extent of it at that point. Therefore I suggested that we, at AYA, would compile them into .mp3 files and release them for a modest price.
But as it turned out: 'Oh la la!'
It was a huge undertaking and poor Sita in Austin got fully busy with this project. So a million thanks to her. In the meantime she had to oversee construction of her house and open a yoga center there.
Besides compiling the files, Sita did quite a bit of audio cleanup to make the lectures more pleasant to listen to.
Here is the cd. Nice jacket too :-) 799 minutes of talks!
So now the cd is out and available in our online store.
Students of the course get a 'HUGE' discount, as promised. To get the discount enter the coupon code in the shopping cart. I think all students of the course will be able to guess the German word which is the code. If not please e-mail me and I'll send it to you.
And by the way listening to this cd could constitute a very good preparation for those taking the course this year.
... Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land.
Well in modern days people worship many different types of "gods" and I find the following picture amusing.
I think this what was meant by this commandment.
Please!!! a statue to a ball player. Better than generals I guess.
As an aside and regarding the 10 commandments, many yoga students have a big aversion to bow to an altar by virtue of this commandment. I think this one is the easiest commandment to be absolutely strict about. Just think about it.
I never met a student who made the same fuss about 'don't envy your neighbour', 'don't steal' or 'don't commit adultery'!
Avoid lip-service, lip-sympathy, and lip-vedanta. Swami Sivananda
By this Swami Sivananda means that we should put our spirituality into action.
Real yogis don't talk about karma yoga but do it.
They don't pretend to be compassionate but show it in action.
They don't talk over and over again about Brahman being real and the world unreal but they 'walk the walk'.
Question to Swami Sivananda:
In all matters with which it is connected, science gives us a precise account of how a particular thing is constructed and how it grows.
We are also given the successive signs that mark the growth. Are there, in the practice of Yoga, any definite indication to measure the aspirant's progress--for instance, some experiences that he would have after, say, three months of practice, others which he would come upon after a year, and so on?
Answer by Master:
Various Yogas give various experiences. The practice of Pranayam and Hatha Yogic Kriyas, for instance, would give a graded series of psychic experiences. Seeing all kinds of ethereal lights and hearing certain Anahata sounds belong to this category.
Here, the sages who have propounded these Yogas have given very definite stages of spiritual experience. As the Kundalini passes from Chakra to Chakra, the Yogi has certain definite, verifiable experiences. That is because each Chakra governs a particular Tattva, and its mastery, therefore, gives specific experiences.
Similarly, in Tantrik Sadhana also, they have been able to give a definite chart of spiritual experiences. Each Sadhana has its own particular Siddhi; and therefore, the experiences of all Sadhaks following a particular Sadhana are invariably the same.
But, these are all lower experiences of an inferior type.
They are psychic experiences which need not necessarily denote the aspirant's spiritual progress. Even the Bhakta's experiences of horripilation, shedding of tears, etc., though they are not so perfectly graded as those of the Hatha Yoga practitioner, do not necessarily indicate spiritual progress.
When you enter the domain of the Spirit, you come into the sphere of the Infinite. Infinite are the Yogas and infinite are the experiences too. Each man's Yoga is his own. For, he has brought his own Samskaras and Vasanas and he strives in his own way to reach the goal. These two, interacting on each other, give him his various experiences.
For instance, as he approaches the transcendental, infinite, immortal Self, the aspirant would enjoy great inner peace and indescribable happiness. He is not easily affected by what goes on around him. Not only this, he is able to radiate peace and happiness to all those who come into contact with him. He becomes good and radiates goodness.
This is the most important sign of spiritual progress. God is perfect goodness. The aspirant who progresses towards the realization of God, therefore, grows in goodness. His evil qualities slowly vanish and are replaced by sublime virtues. If this most essential element is not there, then all other visions and sounds are practically useless.
By his mere presence the advanced Yogi is able to inspire people to lead a good life, free from hatred and malice. His heart is filled with cosmic love, and therefore, he serves all spontaneously and selflessly. These are all real signs of spiritual progress.
But, beyond all these, is the ultimate experience.
That is indescribable. Peace and happiness, undisturbed tranquillity of mind-- these are all great signs of progress, but they do not constitute the goal. The goal is to become God. You must become one with God. This is achieved through ceaseless practice of meditation after establishing oneself in virtue and goodness. That supreme experience, when the Yogi feels he is one with God, no words can describe.
Just added a glowing testimonial about the MTTC course.
I can comfortably say that I have learned a great deal about yoga and what yoga mediation is really about. So, whether I actually start teaching a class (which I do feel I could at this point), it certainly has helped me to solidify my own yoga practice.
... is another name for Venice Beach.
I preferred taking a photo in the morning when nobody was working out. The light was still very pretty and the moon was showing.
In the 60's body builders from all around the world came here to show off their big muscles. All pros were there including the current governor of the state.
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968), Strength to Love, 1963
If you don't know what this post's title refer to you need to first read this post.
They found the young boy who is an intense meditator. He is ok and just wanted to find a quieter place to do his meditation.
The media had also created huge hype when he disappeared suddenly without letting anyone learn about it. Now again the news of his reappearance and statement have created same hype as he is repodely claimed to have seen by the search party.
They took a video of him. He says again that he wants to do his 6-year meditation and ask people to leave him alone.
Bomjan himself denied being called the next Buddha or something like that when people(devotee) began rushing to him for worshipping and quenching their thirst . Ever since he has been a great mystery to the people and juicy challenge to the science.
Please read the whole story here (previous link was broken so this one goes to a different story).
This question/answer article goes at the core of 'materialism' vs. 'spirituality' beliefs and understanding.
Question put to Swami Sivananda: We should direct all our energies in gaining economic betterment for the masses. If we do not waste time and energy in propagating spiritual ideas, Gita studies and Sankirtan, but devote that energy to the above end, then we shall get economic betterment earlier, after which those who wish can pursue philosophy and religion.
We should develop our material and physical powers and get to the same peak of progress, power and comfort as the Western nations before we can dabble in philosophy and the like.
Answer by Master:
Two types of workers, social and religious, are necessary in this world. Social workers will work in their own fields of activity. Religious workers will carry on special propaganda and dissemination of spiritual knowledge. A carpenter has his own field of work and an electrician has his own field. You cannot ask a carpenter to do the work of an electrician and the electrician to do the work of a carpenter. Social, economic, political and industrial development and constructive work in those directions are very necessary. These should not be ignored.
But, religion only can save people. Without religion, man is nowhere. Even those who work in the other fields cannot turn out good work without disciplining themselves, without having a spiritual basis, without undergoing a religious training, without practicing Ahimsa, Satyam and Brahmacharya. Leaders who are selfish and corrupt spoil the society. They fight for their own superiority and power.
Bread, butter, jam and nice biscuits cannot give you everlasting peace. Comforts are enemies of spiritual life and peace. They pull a man down. After all, man wants very little on this earth. You will think of God only when you are in adversities. What is wanted is spiritual wealth which is inexhaustible.
That work which removes the ignorance of man and gives him happiness can eradicate human sufferings in toto and give him eternal happiness. That work is spiritual propaganda. That work is the dissemination of Bhakti and knowledge of Yoga and Vedanta. It is the crowning glory of human activities. This is the greatest Yajna or Yoga. This is Jnana Yajna, the highest of all Yajnas.
India alone possesses the supreme divine wealth. Even the richest people of the different parts of the world come to the Himalayas to practice Yoga, to seek the guidance of Rishis, seers, Yogis and sages and to acquire this imperishable wealth.
Happiness does not come from wealth. The Western nations are quite restless despite their enormous wealth. From this we can infer that spiritual life alone can give real, everlasting peace and happiness.
After a year, the group who stuck faithfully to the new eating plan lowered their cholesterol by an average of 29 percent. Jenkins said the rate was comparable to results from participants who had taken a statin drug for one month before starting the diet, as well as general studies of patients on such drugs.
No breaking news here of course and these posts are preaching to the choir but it's nice to know that the yogic diet is becoming more and more mainstream.
Many do need the approval of doctors and authorities to do the right thing.
According to the American Dietetic Association, "appropriately planned vegan, lacto-vegetarian and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children and adolescents and promote normal growth.
When I was in France last month I saw this show on TV about the young boy (16 years old) which some are calling 'little buddha' or 'the buddha boy'.
The gist of the story is that this boy, named Ram Bahadur Bomjanw, was fairly ordinary in his early years, although some of his play friends and family members claim he always had a very sweet and compassionate nature, started a continuous meditation a few months ago.
Ram Bahadur Bomjanw
Born in Nepal in a buddhist environment he went to a monastery to receive spiritual teachings. In May 2005 he decided to go to the thick jungle to meditate deeply.
Some people found him and the word spread that he may be the Buddha himself since he was spending all day meditating at the bottom of pipul tree. Furthermore he seemed to not move all day, to never eat and to never drink!!!
Before you know it more people started coming, they cleared the forest made a 50-yard 'no-enter zone' to leave him some peace and quiet and recently thousands and thousands of pilgrims came to visit him.
Obviously there are many skeptics out there. Seeing the show I came out with the impression that he is a genuine, advanced yogi. This is also the opinion of many buddhist monks of the area. They said that he is not buddha but doing tapas (austerities) and that people should just leave him alone doing his meditation.
Only one person really approched him and that's his brother who also said that we should just pray for him to help him reach his goal of enlightenment.
You can read more in this article including this quote:
Last November, he briefly emerged from his meditation to announce: "Tell people not to call me the Buddha, I do not have the Buddha's energy, I am only at tapaswi level." A tapaswi is a sage who practises austerities."
Then an astonishing turn of event took place. After 8 months of continuous meditation under the tree the boy disappeared, as explained in this article from CNN.com.
He may have just fled the crowds, or being kidnapped or any other scenario. It's everybody's guess. As they say, this news story is developing.
We will keep you posted.
Yesterday, March 17th '06, Sita took the vows of brahmacharya.
Her name is now Sita Chaitanya. Congratulations to her. May Master Sivananda and Swami Vishu-devananda's blessings be with Sita always.
Being initiated and becoming a brahmachari or brahmacharini makes one officially a student in the field of brahma vidya. One vows to dedicate all energy to the pursuit of Truth and the Absolute. A noble adventure indeed.
Give up desire and craving. Seek the Grace of the Lord. Sing his Name, with dispassion and renunciation as your cymbals. Swami Sivananda
So many interesting people teach yoga these days.
Her study of yoga, which began in 1952 with basic meditation and breathing, has never ended.
80-year young Patricia Byron
Some of her students are newcomers; others are longtimers. Kim Lukat, a registered nurse and licensed midwife, rarely has missed a class in five years.
"A lot of the gyms have yoga instructors who literally take a weekend class and they're certified," said Lukat, of Palm City. "Pat lives it, breathes it. She is yoga. I love her.
That's a good one for vegetarians, especially those of us who like cabbage and sauerkraut. Incidentally sauerkraut is probably tamasic food but I have some occasionally.
A Georgetown University study published this week in the latest issue of the British Journal of Cancer expands upon many other cancer studies by identifying and describing the cellular process which gives cruciferous foods, like cabbage and sauerkraut, a strong cancer-fighting response in the human body.
And according to Downs, naturally fermented sauerkraut may be even stronger in fighting cancer than raw cruciferous vegetables. A Finnish study completed in 2002 found the fermentation process that turns cabbage into sauerkraut breaks down the cancer-fighting chemicals in cabbage into simpler substances, which are even easier for the body to use.
Renounce pedantry, erudition and learning and become child-like and silent. Now you will realise the Self. Swami Sivananda
Try your best to make others, as well as yourself, better, wise and happy. Swami Sivananda
Good informative article and practical tips.
Most Americans understand perfectly well that osteoporosis is a serious medical problem," said Susan L. Trimbo, GNC Corporation's Senior Vice President for Scientific Affairs. "Less well understood, however, is the wide range of things that can be done well in advance of the onset of osteoporosis to maintain healthy bone density.
In my last trip to France I saw there is a huge pro 'Omega 3' movement as far as diet is concerned.
The media talk about it a lot and many products are advertised as being "high in Omega 3".
The consensus is that few vegetarian foods contain it. As usual the media tend to oversimplify everthing and I realized I don't really understand much about it.
This article provides a good and fairly thorough explanation.
However it is also important for vegetarians to ensure that their intake of LA is not too high compared with ALA since a higher intake of LA interferes with the process in which the human body converts ALA into the even more beneficial EPA and DHA, so a LA to ALA ratio of around 4 to 1 or slightly lower is considered to be the optimum, but any steps to bring down an excessively high amount of omega 6 fats in the diet would be beneficial.
... Incentives welcome.
The science of yoga teaches us that the secret of life and happiness is to act without expectations.
One should surrender the fruits of the actions to God and not be affected by the pairs of opposites such as success/failure, praise/criticism etc.
This being said success and praise feel better than failure and criticism.
In the last few weeks (prior to the MTTC) I have been putting more energy into this blog and I have been looking at the counter's numbers to measure the readership. I must admit that the ever-increasing numbers do act as a motivator. This means two things:
- I should work on better detaching from the results and the relative popularity of these pages
- If you would like to boost my motivation you can contribute to increasing the readership by:
- passing the word on to your friends
- if you have a web site or blog, linking to this blog's home page or some individual post(s). That will bring more readers and increase the search engine rankings.
Work out your salvation in and through the world. Swami Sivananda
The 2005 AYA MTTC (meditation teachers training course) ended yesterday.
It was a success in all aspects. Wonderful experience for all of us who were involved. Following are a few random thoughts and a couple photos to illustrate.
The Margaret Austin Center
It was our first AYA event in this location and we have been very happy with the place.
It's a haven of peace and quiet located on 40 acres of beautiful land.
The accommodations are very simple, quite rustic but the whole energy is so spiritual there that it's a real treat to stay for any length of time.
They rent to only one group at a time so even though our group was very small this year we had the place for ourselves and we felt very much at home right away.
Located 45 minutes from Houston this part of Texas is quite green and has many trees. Very pleasant.
There is a fairly large meditating labyrinth on the grounds and I made a point to use it everyday. Sadly I must admit I did not have any really powerful, significant or meaningful experience. I know these things really work for many people but it was enjoyable nevertheless.
We enjoy the place so much that we have scheduled a few more programs there, the next ones being a week-long silent meditation retreat on May 26th and a weekend retreat in October.
Like the first edition this course was an intensive with a lot of practice and even more theory. Much emphasis was placed on training the apprentice teachers to deliver lectures and to be able to explain most concepts in just a few words or a few minutes. They are now feeling very confident in teaching general concepts and important teachings such as the yamas and niyamas.
Left to right: Linda aka Shri Devi; Jamie, Suzanne aka Jagadamba; & Swami Atma
There were only three students but there were all 3 my favorite type of students: dedicated, open minded, there to learn and practice hard
Furthermore the atmosphere was friendly and I think we all had a good time.
The Teachers & Staff
I was teaching all the lectures, workshops and satsangs and gave a few hatha yoga classes as well.
Sita, who among many things organized the whole course and coordinated the logistics on all levels, taught some yoga classes and cooked some meals. She drove from Austin almost every day back and forth (3 to 4 hours round trip).
Janaki from Houston cooked most of the meals and also taught some yoga classes. She is a great chef and her love of cooking is being felt as you eat.
Hilde, manager of the Margaret Austin Center, cooked a couple delicious meals as well. Thanks to her to welcome us in this parcel of heaven in the heartland of Texas.
Jamie, Shri Devi, Swami Atma, Janaki, Sita & Jagadamba
That was inspiring and enjoyable all at once (good and pleasant). We can't wait for next year's edition.
In a previous post Sita announced the grand opening of the new AYA yoga center in Austin.
Today is the first day and this morning was the first class. Four students showed up and enthusiastically took the center's very first class.
If you live in Austin make sure you come this week and check out the gorgeous new yoga/satsang room.
The 9-day intensive is starting tonight at the Margaret Austin Center in Chappel Hill, Texas.
It's my favorite course to teach and I'm looking very much forward to it.
For this blog's readers it means two things:
- I may not be able to post anything here in the next 10 days
- Those who live near Chappel Hill (like in the Houston, Austin or Dallas areas) can come visit us for some programs such as satsangs, yoga classes and/or lectures).
To know when to come and for which programs I suggest you visit the MTTC schedule page. Satsangs are free of charge to the visitors. Yoga classes and lectures/workshop are $10.- each. You can also have meals with us if you wish for $12.- per meal.
I hope to see you there.
If you live in faraway lands you may want to attend the upcoming AYA yoga vacation retreat in Spain. If you plan to come make sure you call us at least 24 hours ahead to give us a chance to include you for the meal and to confirm that there is no last-minute change of schedule. Number to call is 512-388-1162.
AYA Yoga and Meditation Center Austin Center
Grand Opening Week
the actual house where the classes take place
We are pleased to announce the Grand Opening of the AYA Yoga and Meditation Center located in Austin, TX.
In order to open our doors in welcome to as many people as possible, we are offering free asana (postures) classes throughout the whole week of March 13-19.
Times of these free asana classes are as follows:
- Monday, March 13 9-10:30 am
- Monday, March 13 6:30-8:00 pm
- Wednesday, March 15 9-10:30 am
- Wednesday, March 15 6:30-8:00 pm
- Saturday, March 18 10-11:30 am (*)
(*) This class will be followed by a vegetarian lunch, $5, pre-registration required.
Be sure to arrive a few minutes early and do not eat for at least 2 hours before class.
In addition to these free classes, Swami Atma will be teaching a few classes/workshops during this week as well:
- Thursday, March 16 - 6:30-8:15 pm - Advanced Asana Class - $20
- Saturday, March 18 -1:00-4:00 pm - Advanced Hatha Yoga Workshop, Awakening the Kundalini Power - $30
- Sunday, March 19 - 10:00 am - Satsang with Swami Atma - free, donations accepted
For details on these events with Swami Atma please see the upcoming events web page
We hope that many of you will be able to join us in celebrating our Grand Opening.
For more information on the Austin Center and upcoming events, please visit our web pages or call 512-388-1162.
This ego is a false non-entity. It is a mere false shadow. It is a false reflection. It is a mirage. It is a dream. Swami Sivananda
I'm particularly fond of these poems by Master Sivananda.
He uses them to successfully describe the indescribable state of moksha.
ONCE AND NOW
I searched for God in the caves of the Himalayas,Swami Sivananda
In the pilgrim centres, in river banks;
But I myself am Brahman, God of gods now!
I had once intense love for my sweet home,
Native village, district and province;
But I am now the home of all worlds -
East and Wet, North and South,
Greece and India, Australia and France,
China and Russia have become one.
I loved Tamil once;
But I am 'Om' now,
The source of all languages.
I had once great love for my body;
But now I have realised, "All bodies are mine".
Once one hundred years was too big for me;
But I now abide in Eternity -
No time-piece, no calendar is necessary now.
Once five thousand miles was a great distance for me;
But now I feel, "I am Infinity".
Time, space have vanished.
I have neither home nor house address nor name!
'When non-acquisitiveness is established, an understanding of the purpose of birth is gained.' Yoga Sutras - Chapter II. Verse 39
Aparigraha, or non-covetousness, is one of the five yamas which are the universal virtues of yoga.
The true purpose of human life is to find the Eternal, the Real, which we usually call Atman (the True Self) or Brahman (the Absolute Reality or God).
When owing to ignorance the mind is deluded it looks for happiness where it's not.
It runs after countless desires all more silly than the others all ultimately unsatisfying. Many of these desires are related to greed and the constant need to acquire money and things. This clouds our consciousness even more and this is why we need to cultivate aparigraha.
When the aparigraha quality dawns in the mind the pointlesness of acquiring useless objects and money reveals itself and the yogi is naturally drawn to look for the source of real happiness.
A one-ounce handful of almonds offers heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, the antioxidant vitamin E, protein, fiber, magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and iron, all in 160 calories. In addition to their nutrition, almonds can play a role in heart health and weight maintenance.
This article presents the results from a number of scientific studies made in regard to the effects of adding almonds to one's diet.
Many of you know Jamie Shiffner. He's a good student of mine and, incidentally, we are working on writing a book together. The book project is nearing the end of first draft but that's not the point of this post.
Unfortunately Jamie had a stroke last year and fortunately he recovered fully and quickly.
In fact he recovered so fast that he's now preparing to run a marathon in support of the American Stroke Association!
That is amazing.
If you would like to help Jamie fight the big killer which is stroke, please go to his page and donate some money. Remember he's going to run 26.2 miles (over 42 kilometers) in your name.
Those who know Jamie know that he's very funny and the descriptive on his web page has of course a very good joke. I won't reveal it here to give you an extra incentive to visit his page.
And by the way, for those who don't know Jamie, the picture on his page in not Jamie's but Tedy Bruschi's who is an American football player who had a stroke a year ago and went back to play pro football less than a year later.
Below is part of the e-mail I got from Jamie:
I'm training to run a 26.2 mile MARATHON to help the American Stroke Association.
Through the association's Train To End Stroke program, I have a coach, a team, training schedules, and special clinics and I'm raising thousands of dollars for stroke research and education programs. That's important, because someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and someone dies of one every 3.1 minutes. And 29 percent of people who have strokes are under age 65.
I'm asking for your support through your good thoughts and a generous contribution to the American Stroke Association. I am especially proud to run on behalf of many who've had a stroke and desperately need our help. You can run with me in spirit.
P.S. Your tax-deductible contribution, sent as soon as possible, is greatly appreciated! Every dollar makes a difference toward stroke research and education. If your company has a matching gift program, please send me the matching gift form along with your check and potentially double your donation.
For a man of contentment, sovereignty of the whole world is no better than a bit of rotten straw. He is indeed miserable and poor, who is discontented. Swami Sivananda
I just uploaded the web pages for upcoming AYA silent meditation retreat taking place from May 26 until June 2nd in Chappel Hill, Texas.
This program will be the perfect opportunity for meditation beginners as well as experienced practitioners to delve deep within and experience the meditative lifestyle.
If you are good, the whole world will be good for you. Swami Sivananda
Our Yoga Fora are still going. They are not overly busy, to understate it, but the discussions are picking up little by little.
Today I posted this reply to a nice thread about the guru/disciple relationship:
It's a little bit like with Pranayama. Doing some advanced practices could trigger a premature kundalini awakening and therefore the practice is said to be dangerous.
While this is true just shying away from the practice because of this potential danger will also deprive one from the countless benefits of these powerful techniques.
One has to balance pros and cons of practicing or not practicing carefully. One of my teachers said wittfully that it can be dangerous to NOT do pranayama. Meaning many health problems they develop could be avoided with regular yoga practice.
Similarly there are dangers in the teacher/student relatioship but those have to be weighed in with the benefits.
In my opinion, nowadays, it's a big problem of modern society that people do not have a sense of developing a healthy, but deep, relationship with their teachers. Not even basic respect is shown on most cases. Of course ...
Today when this political and religious leader is faced with conflicting explanations of life's mysteries, the Dalai Lama still favors scientific evidence over classical Buddhist concepts.
But the Dalai Lama also emphasized that religion can help science, not just hinder it. In particular, he urged neuroscientists not to discount the role of Buddhist traditions on the brain, specifically meditation. "Try to find reality with an open mind," he said, referring both to investigations in science as well as to studies in Buddhist thought. "Without investigation, we can't see reality."
The Dalai Lama talks to journalists who attended a news conference after his speech to the Society for Neuroscience in Washington.
O'Hara applauded the religious leader's support of science, "especially given the issues with evolution and the [fundamentalist] Christian reluctance to accept evolution because it threatens their beliefs." Olivia Carter of Harvard University found it fascinating to hear about the Dalai Lama's personal interest in neuroscience and the importance he places on the scientific method of inquiry.
Please read full story here. Highly recommended reading.
There should be a great demand from within for God. You should be spiritually hungry. Then alone will the Lord fill you with His grace. Swami Sivananda
... Google !?!
You never know what Google is going to come up with these days and I found this interesting post about health factors in the Official Google Blog.
The reduction in mortality from coronary artery disease is the same if not better with lifestyle or dietary changes as it is with medications. Other things to consider (but not analyzed in this study) are that lifestyle changes, such as more physical activity, don't produce bad side effects -- well, maybe a little sweat, but all medications may have some side effects. And certainly the cost of exercise vs. medication is lower too.
A port crane in Le Havre, my birth place, where I've just arrived yesterday for a short visit
Perfect yourself first. Save yourself first. Have purity of motive. Reform thyself first. Swami Sivananda
Terrible is the fight put up by the senses. Fight bravely! Conquer them you must. Swami Sivananda
A story of a cancer patient using yoga to help her deal with the ordeal.
Marsh said. "I don't think you can help it. It's always on your mind."
Yoga has helped control her anxiety, though.
"As long as I practice living in the present, if I worry about the future or think about the past too much, it comes back," she said. "Yoga centers you, puts you in the present and makes you feel better physically and emotionally.
The Upanishads contain the essence of the Vedic teaching. The Upanishad is the pivot of Hindu culture. Swami Sivananda
Researchers studied 203 men and women with an average age of 71 and a control group, all with slightly elevated blood pressures.
meditation group had a 23 percent reduction in death from all causes, a 30 percent reduction in deaths from cardiovascular diseases and a 49 percent reduction in the death rate from cancer.
Crave for a thing, you will get it. Renounce the craving, the object will follow you by itself. Swami Sivananda
Good sources of folic acid or folate, which occurs naturally in food, include: enriched grain products, such as bread and pasta; fortified breakfast cereals; beans; green leafy vegetables; and orange juice.
not your typical yoga teacher
For those who don't know Ricky Williams is a major NFL (American Football) star.
In a move that most people, including me, had not understood he took a year off in the middle of his career. It turns out that he enrolled in the Ayurveda College in Nevada City, California.
Since that ayurveda school is located only a few miles from the Sivananda ashram in Grass Valley I knew he was going to go to the Sivananda ashram there.
Well I learned from this 'Sports Illustrated' article that Swami Sita became his guru!
He then took the Sivananda Teachers Training Course, then started playing football again and played quite well, especially at the end of the season.
Now for the off season break he's going for more by taking the Sivananda ATTC in India.
... Williams said. “ In the old days, it would be about going out and looking for something, but I’ve really turned my thoughts and focus inward toward improving myself as much as possible.”
To that end, Williams already has signed up for a month of study in India in what he called 'an advanced teacher's course.'
It's all the stuff I did before, just harder, Williams said with his trademark grin.
QUESTION to Swami Sivananda:
In my work of spreading the knowledge of Yoga, do you have any special advice to give me?
ANSWER by Swami Sivananda:
Side by side with instructions on practical Yogic processes, place always stress upon the great importance of Sadachara, Yama and Niyama. Inspire the students with noble idealism. Spur them on to strive for a life of lofty virtue, active goodness and selflessness. You must stress the need for self-purification and self-mastery. The true inner Yoga is the transformation of the essential nature of man. The lower human nature should gradually give place to an illumined divine nature through a process of spiritualization of the entire being of man. This should be brought home in an effective manner, yet withal with great sympathy, understanding and insight. The aim is to attain divine consciousness.
May we all be worthy of this advice.
Not that we are surprised by this or anything but I keep posting those types of articles because I know that many yogis like to read about it when modern science validates our ancient teachings.
After 12 weeks, the patients in the yoga group were better able to do daily activities involving the back than were the patients in the exercise or education groups. After 26 weeks, the patients in the yoga group had better back-related function and less pain. Also, fewer people in the yoga group used pain relievers.
While it's estimated that about one million people currently practice some form of yoga for relief of back pain, questions about yoga's value for this condition have persisted. Sherman's study, which is the largest randomized controlled trial to date, helps to prove its effectiveness.
Researchers in Boston recently found that the area of the brain that integrates thoughts and emotions "thickens," or grows new gray matter, in people who meditate.
Jack Waters credits yoga with saving his life four years ago. Riding the subway in Paris, he began experiencing chest pain. He knew that signaled a heart attack because he'd had two already, side effects of an HIV medicine that raised his cholesterol. He needed to get to a hospital, but first he wanted to do a yoga pose.
Lord Siva. Lord of Yogis.
II.7. SUKHANUSAYI RAGAH
'Attraction is that which dwells on pleasure'
This verse defines Raga, that tendency of the mind to be drawn towards the sense objects which have brought us pleasure in the past.
Below is the commentary by Swami Vishnu-devananda
Commentary: Most think of attraction and pleasure as positive things, but when associated with objects of the material world they inevitably bring pain. Nothing in the physical world is permanent; hence the constant fear of loss and loss itself keep those seeking pleasure in an unhappy state. This is why the yogi learns to cultivate a dislike for world pleasures. He is never disappointed or unhappy. The result ironically, is that by not seeking pleasure he is always happy.
Gurudev imparting Brahma Vidya to his disciples (from left) Swami Venkatesananda, Swami Krishnananda, Swami Chidananda and Swami Satchidananda.
QUESTION: Why do Sadhaks fail to realize God quickly nowadays?
ANSWER BY SWAMI SIVANANDA: After attaining a certain stage of development, they begin to dissipate their energies in preaching, in making disciples, in publishing books. They become the slaves of name and fame. That is the reason why they fail to reach the highest goal of life, viz., Brahma Sakshatkar (God realization).
An argument for less teaching and more practice.
With the holidays coming up everyone's thinking of what to buy and for some of us, :-) , what to receive as well.
The truth is that many of us have more than we need and our life would benefit most by sharing with the less privileged. A good way to do that is to create a charity gift "wish list".
How does this work? You make a wish list at this site and tell your loved ones of what you want for Christmas/Hannukah.
Link provided by Radha from Hamburg.
ULTIMATE YOGI CHRISTMAS
‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, the whole ashram asleep,
Not a yogi was stirring or making a peep;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Sri Lakshmi soon would be there;
The swamis were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of satsangs danced in their heads;
Karma yogis exhausted from cleaning the brass
Had just settled down for a long nap, at last.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window we flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a small, strange ascetic, and a bull very near.
The little old man, it seemed hard to believe!
Still, I knew in a flash - it must be Lord Siva.
More rapid than Garuda, towards us he came,
And he whistled, and shouted out loud with acclaim:
“Now, Svapna! now, Sakshi! Akarta and Lila!
Viveka, Vairagya, Vidya, Mudita!
Ganesha and Vishnu, Lakshmi and Guru,
Rama and Krishna and Saraswati bless you!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
Up to the house-top with Nandi he flew,
With the trident in hand, Lord Siva came too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of the bull Nandi
Sunday morning we had a nice puja dedicated to Lord Ganesha in order to invoke His Blessings for the upcoming AYA Yoga & Meditation Center (web pages coming soon).
The shakti and bhakti were very palpable.
Altar at end of puja
Evening lecture interpreted by Lila
Saturday night I was invited by AYA affiliated teacher Lila to give a lecture at the Deaf Yoga Retreat.
Lila is the founder of the movement called "Deaf Yoga" which is growing fast. Regular yoga classes have been held in Austin but this endeavor has many projects. The newly formed community is establishing a new yoga vocabulary in ASL and this yoga retreat was the first event of this kind. There were about 15 participants for the whole weekend, about 2/3rd being deaf and 1/3rd hearing.
Satsangs were held twice a day, same for yoga classes and vegetarian meals.
I gave the evening satsang, first leading the silent meditation and then giving a lecture on vedanta philosophy and a stimulating Q&A session.
I truly enjoyed the experience even though I was a bit nervous to give my first lecture to a deaf group. The students were eager and attentive and the energy of the retreat was very focused and peaceful.
Full article an structural changes in brain as a result of meditation.
An imaging study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers showed that particular areas of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain, were thicker in participants who were experienced practitioners of a type of meditation commonly practiced in the U.S. and other Western countries.
'Our results suggest that meditation can produce experience-based structural alterations in the brain,' says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study's lead author. 'We also found evidence that meditation may slow down the aging-related atrophy of certain areas of the brain.'
A college tennis player at Harvard and now the founder and director of Core Yoga, Deborah Cohen customizes her yoga sessions for the Harvard women's tennis team.
Depending on the sport, I emphasize different poses. Tennis players have tight hamstrings and shoulders, so we work on loosening these areasâ€ . Yoga, she says, also helps bring the body into overall alignment by encouraging full range of motion.
Even more than the physical benefits, however, Cohen cites the mental benefits of yoga for increasing awareness, In America, there is a misconception that yoga is just stretching, but it's not just that. First and foremost, it is a mindfulness technique to quiet the mind through the lens of the body.
the scientists have found a chemical in cabbage which has anticancer property, even a recent study reported in our website links to the use of eating cabbages reduces the incidence of lung cancer in which eating cabbage reduced the incidence of lung cancer in people who have inactived genes of GSTM1 and GSTT1 and the study results are not correlated to smoking,
For years, the conventional wisdom was that all vegetables are good and that may be true, but now we're finding that specific chemicals in these vegetables can fight specific cancers.
Om Namo Bhagavate Vishnu-devanandaya!
Om Namo Bhagavate Vishnu-devanandaya!
Om Namo Bhagavate Vishnu-devanandaya!
Twelve years ago today my Gurudev Sri Swami Vishnu-devananda Sarasvati left his body.
In Yoga we call this occasion Mahasamadhi or the Great Samadhi.
Since then it is the custom for his devotees and disciples to celebrate this day (November 9th) with some mantras and/or rituals. Same is done on the 11th of November commemorating the occasion when his body was offered to the Ganges river. We call that occasion Jalasamadhi.
May we all be his worthy disciples.
Om Namo Bhagavate Vishnu-devanandaya
The little 'I' fused
I sat alone on a block of stone
On the banks of the Ganges or Bhagirathi.
Mother Ganges blessed me.
I meditated on OM and its meaning -
The Word that is the symbol of Brahman.
The little personality was lost.
The mortal limit of the Self was loosened;
But there was infinite extension.
I entered into the Nameless Beyond;
I realised the quintessential unity of Bliss.
No words can describe the thrill of joy,
The mananinous mystic experiences,
The supremest and divinest height of felicity!!
The little 'I' fused into the incandescent brillance.
Two became one now.
It was all Tejomaya Ananda -
One mass of transcendental Light Bliss.
-- Sri Swami Sivananda
During the last retreat in Emmental we had a student from Russia. She actually lives part of the time in Switzerland but interestingly she learned about our retreat in the Russian edition of Yoga Journal while being in Moscow. All written in Russian and everything.
Thanks to Olessia for sending us the scans.
Since I'm in one of these periods of relative seclusion with more time for sadhana and less involvement in teaching and human contact, this quote by Swami Sivananda really struck a nerve.
QUESTION: How to enter Samadhi quickly?
ANSWER: If you want to enter Samadhi quickly, cut off all connections with friends, relatives, etc. Do not write letters to anybody. Observe Akhanda Mouna or the vow of continued silence for one month. Live alone. Walk alone. Take very little but nutritious food; live on milk alone if you can afford. Plunge in deep meditation. Dive deep. Have constant practice. You will be immersed in Samadhi.
Be cautious. Use your common sense. Do not make violent struggle with the mind. Relax. Allow the divine thoughts to flow gently in the mind. Swami Sivananda
I cannot follow this quite by the letter at this point but the idea is there.
So we just finished the month-long TTC in Bad Meinberg. Last night there was a big feast and this morning was the graduation ceremony.
During the feast/celebration the students gratiously offered thanks and gifts to the teachers. I got a very slick mp3 player/recorder that will allow us to record lectures from now on, plus much more. Besides this a student (Jnaneshwari a.k.a. Micki) read the poem that she had written in the previous couple days. Here it is accompanied by a few photos taken by Emma:
Jnaneshwari reading her poem during the celebration
Dear Swami Atma,
What an amazing time we have had.
Saying goodbye leaves us feeling sad.
The programme was undoubtedly tough
But when the going got really rough,
With your spirit and humour you pulled us through
Wiped out sensations of pain and those of feeling blue
Let some forget that half their body was numb
That nerves were pinched from the neck to the thumb,
As cross legged we sat for hours on end
The back long and straight, ideally not bent
Whilst for ten minutes we stood on our head,
Our legs like wings of an eagle we spread.
Some practises we learned seemed truly odd
For example, filling from a large cooking pot
Lightly salted water, six times in a cup,
Drinking it, before throwing it all back up.
Jeff demonstrates the sutra neti kriya
Few succeeded at stuffing a rubber hose
Down the nostrils to the back of the nose
Across the tongue and back out through the lips,
Not even Mischa could offer us helpful tips.
We won't forget the Mahabharata
Suresh played the part of Duryodhana
Acted the mean-spirited brother with gusto and verve
Whilst we keeled over with laughter, he held his nerve.
We feel cleansed after four weeks without booze and caffeine,
With lentils, cheese, nuts and tofu providing protein.
Fish, meat, onions and garlic were considered forbidden food
Since they are bad for meditation and one's general mood
We fasted and remained silent for a day.
To many different gods we learned to pray,
At Puja showered their statues with roses,
Sang also to Jesus, Buddha and Moses.
Puja with a lot of rose petals
Discussed whether the world was real or unreal,
How to end life’s turning Samsara wheel,
How to free us from desires and passion,
Was the topic of more than one session.
Vices like greed and anger were easily overcome,
Though punctuality remained a struggle for some.
Asking god to grant us an understanding heart,
Equal vision and wisdom, formed an integral part
Of ev'ry morning and evening prayer.
Slowly we peeled away layer and layer
Of Maya; worked on sublimating emotion
To gradually build and strengthen our devotion.
Going through life like the actor in a play
With detachment, might be possible one day.
When you realise that life is really one big show
Then anything is possibly, that much, we now know.
Although we may never move mountains,
We've learned to tap into spiritual fountains.
Are aware that saints can be produced by any nation.
Who knows, some of us may even reach true liberation.
Getting to the fourth week of TTC we have been having some pretty intense talks about advanced vedanta philosophy and rigorous yogic discipline.
While the advanced yoga teachings are not for everyone, all can benefit from at least hearing about the most uncompromising teachings of vedanta.
Buddhist Monk Prostrating
So here is a quote by Swami Sivananda taken from his book "May I Answer That?".
First comes the question:
Your Holiness advises a man to treat his wife as "World Mother" as soon as a son is born to him. In case the son dies after a few months, there will be no heir left to look after his estate. Under such circumstances, what should he do? Kindly let me have your advice.
Then the answer by Swami Sivananda:
Answer: Why should you bother about heir for the estate? Did you bring the estate with you? Would you take it also when you die? What is estate? Is it not a lump of earth only? Can this estate and heir give you happiness and peace? Are they not sources of misery and worry? The desires for property and children will bind a man to the wheel of Samsara. These are all hindrances for a Jijnasu.
What did Lord Buddha and Bhartrihari do with their estates? Did each one crave for a son to look after his estate? How can a man who thinks of property and son think of God? It is impossible to think of God and Mammon. In the presence of light, darkness cannot exist. When you enjoy sensual pleasure, you cannot have the bliss of Atma.
If you beget another child, you will multiply your miseries. You have already many ties around your neck. He who has rightly understood the magnitude of human sufferings will never bring forth a child into the world. If your mind is full of Vasanas and if you find it difficult to curb the passions, you can have a second son. Then become a true Brahmachari.
A few weeks ago I started a wish list with Amazon.com. I kept it low key and did not even announce it in this blog. I did not know whether these things work at all.
Well it did. Not only did a generous soul buy one of the books but 3 copies of it actually!
Naturally I felt emboldened by this charitable and generous gesture and added a number of books to the list as well as an expensive dream item for the ashram, just in case.
I assume you are dying to see the list, so here it is.
In the ancient Upanishadic times, yoga was taught in ashrams. Typically these ashrams would be quite small in size but very high in spiritual wisdom. My vision for the upcoming AYA ashram has been to build such a small community in the middle of the woods.
The Yoga Vidya in Westerwald (Forest region in the West part of Germany) gives you exactly the right feeling. A few buildings located in the middle of the woods and lots of dedicated yogis and yoginis. I could almost picture myself in ancient India except for the fact that everyone speaks German all the time, and, to my BIG surprise, taking a walk by the ashram I stumbled upon a horse ranch and in the middle of it lies ...
... An American flag. It's Texas all over again! Turns out the ranch is owned by an American lady and is filled with American, saddle-bred horses.
This horse in not from the Westerwald ranch since I did not take my small digital camera with me in Europe.
The "Introduction to Sanskrit Course" had six students. Turned out 3 of them had already gone through the basics so the level was high. The new ones followed along very well so we had time to cover the basic Sivananda mantras including those for meditation and almost a full chapter of the Gita.
Several students expressed interest in the upcoming follow-up course in which I will be teaching the grammar and vocabulary of Sanskrit by way of learning the Gajananam and Tryambakam mantras. I will start developing this course in the Fall, God willing.
In Yoga we try to work on many virtues including humility. Humility is very tricky and it's said that the moment you think you have it you have lost it. A big no-no in yoga is to say "I'm a humble person", "I'm very humble" or other oxymoronic statements.
These days public speeches are filled with euphemisms and other hypocritical statements. One of my favorite, and it always cracks me up so I enter this post under humor as well as yoga, is the following:
Federal appeals court judge calls nomination 'very humbling'.
Here it was said by the judge making the Supreme Court which was his biggest ambition in life but the effect is the same when an actor receives an oscar, an athlete beats records or a scientist receives the Nobel Prize. The occasion makes them extremely proud of themselves. I can't help but thinking every time that if they failed again and again, it would make them truly humble.
Of course you will find the exceptions, the truly humble souls who will not be affected in the least while the spotlight shines on them.
London: People must stop eating meat and turn vegetarian to reduce global warming, says a British scientist.
... Giving up pork chops, lamb cutlets and chicken burgers would do more for the environment than burning less oil and gas, believes Allan Calverd.
I wish the article had a link to the actual study though.
For some reason I don't find this one funny at all!
Vipul Shah, a vegetarian, was shocked when the Hindu meal he ordered on his VA Washington-Mumbai flight came topped with what he calls a 'big smelly part'. The flight attendant informed Shah that it was probably fish or chicken. Other vegetarian passengers on that flight were stunned, too, when they heard about it, said Shah.
This article from IndiaExpress.com says it all.
Ouch. One more reason to dislike flying.
A fun article on yoga and relaxation. It's interesting to see how so many methods derived from the deep yogic relaxation have taken so many names. Here it's called "scientific sleep".
This concept of Scientific sleep was used by many of the great leaders of the world like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and Napoleon Bonaparte. For example, the officers of Napoleon have reported that even in a battlefield after long hours, Napoleon had the amazing ability to energize himself within half an hour.
In this article from TimesOnline.com this fellow humoristically describes his Vipassana Meditation Intensive experience.
Two days, 14 hotel lobbies and one not entirely ethical 100-rupee “guest-book viewing fee” at the Pink City Guest House later, I track Becca down to Dhamma Thali, a spiritual retreat in the hills above Jaipur. 'Have you come for Vipassana?' asks the man at the gate. 'Absolutely,' I affirm.
The end of the story is surprisingly positive.
Warning!!! This is not for everyone.
While under the influence of Maya the jiva (individual) tends to think he will live for ever. This incurs a false sense of security and satisfaction and prevents him from being as eager doing his sadhana as he should. Swami Sivananda and many sages tell us that the secret of wisdom is to live your day as if it were the last of this lifetime. In other words one should keep in mind the ephemeral nature of this existence. What better way to do this than with the death clock?!?
The death clock guestimates one's death date and give a countdown in seconds. The clock's address is: http://www.deathclock.com/
Below are my stats! :-)
I better increase my pranayama sadhana to push the date back some.
I just sent the AYA e-mail newsletter. I hope that it will, among other things, bring fresh blood to the forums< and create more discussions.
I had an excellent weekend.
In the last few months I reconnected with old friend Dattaatreya. Dattaatreya has been a disciple of Swami Vishnu-devananda for a long, long time and during my last few years in the Sivananda Organization we spent a few weeks together for a number of times, principally at the Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas and the Yoga Camp in Canada.
So this weekend I was leading a yoga retreat at the Stone Door Yoga Retreat, located a couple hours East of Nashville. The topic was "Advaita Vedanta". All students had experience with yoga but half of them did not know much about advaita. We covered the basic tenets of the philosophy and discussed some of the techniques of jnana yoga. We all had a great time.
Besides the positive experience with the yoga retreat, I enjoyed spending some time with Dattaatreya and I was impressed by Tennessee. The state is incredibly beautiful and lush. So many varieties of trees and plants. It's all very green and luckily the yoga retreat is located right next to the Stone Door State Park with its 14,000 acres of woods in a canyon. Imagine a small "Grand Canyon" but all green and full of trees. On Sunday night we visited the park and the actual Stone Door used by the Native Americans to go to and from the bottom of the canyon.
This seems to be a new low in Yoga Teacher certification.
This is an online course.
and hopes to capture a substantial part of the fast growing Yoga training market. The certification fee of $49.99 includes an indepth courseware and over 70 pictures of various exercises.
Time and time again Swami Vishnu-devananda reminded us all that the primary motive behind teaching yoga should be to serve the students and should not be a career move. Although the process of teaching may involve starting and maintaining a business, business growth should not be the primary motive for this endeavor.
Please read the full story.
Comig from this Reuters.com article
The practice of yoga during pregnancy seems to improve birth weight and reduce prematurity and overall complications, Indian researchers report.
Dr. Shamanthakamani Narendran, from the Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore, and colleagues studied 169 pregnant women trained in the integrated approach to yoga and in 166 "controls" who received routine ...
As time goes on there will be more and more studies validating the ancient practices of yoga and their numerous benefits.
Coinciding with the release of the latest Star Wars movie I stumbled upon this article that explores the influence of yoga and Hinduism on Star Wars' director, George Lucas.
The Bhagavad-Gita may well have been Yoda's manual for teaching Luke Skywalker the way of the Jedi.
This does not even explore obvious similarities such as "the force" and "prana/shakti", etc.
We just added a new category to this blog: Guest Authors. Every so often we will be featuring articles from writer friends to enhance the quality of this blog. If you would like to contribute, please comment to this blog or contact me if you know my info.
This first post is contributed by Radha from Houston, TX. Swami Atma
Change your thoughts and you can change your world.
The Hidden Messages in Water showcases the research of internationally renowned Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto. Dr. Emoto's work was recently brought to world wide attention through the film 'What the Bleep do we (k)now!?'
Using high speed photography, Dr. Emoto found that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them. Music, visual images, words written on paper, and photographs also have an impact on the crystal structure. Water from clear springs and water exposed to loving words show brilliant, complex and colorful snowflake patterns, while polluted water and water exposed to negative thoughts form incomplete patterns with dull colors.
Just think about the significance of this concept. The human body is made up of 70% water and so is the earth. Therefore we can heal the planet and the body with just the use of positive energy. With passion and precision, Dr. Emoto explains his process, explores his findings, and shares his conclusions
Women Quarterly reports that mind-body exercise, such as yoga, is associated with greater body satisfaction and fewer symptoms of eating disorders than traditional aerobic exercise like jogging or using cardio machines. Yoga practitioners reported less self-objectification, greater satisfaction with physical appearance, and fewer disordered eating attitudes compared to non-yoga practitioners.
"Through yoga, this study suggests that women may have intuitively discovered a way to buffer themselves against messages that tell them that only a thin and 'beautiful' body will lead to happiness and success,"
Despite the seriousness of the subject many jokes could be made about some of us.
Anyway feel free to read the full article
As discussed in previous posts the AYA is now expanding its activities with the creation of an online discussion forum about such topics as yoga, meditation, yogic diet, advaita vedanta philosophy, teaching theory and methods plus much more.
It's my hope that it will become a fertile ground for constructive, positive and open-minded discussions about the classical teachings.
I would appreciate if you helped jump start the bulletin board by starting topics about issues that have been in your mind lately regarding your sadhana and teaching. Of course replying to existing topics is also much needed, although there are no active teaching threads yet. ;-)
Please take a few minutes to register and join in. It should be fun.
Last night we had a lovely graduation satsang/ceremony.
Our four graduates are now ready to go out to the world and spread the divine teachings of meditation and advaita vedanta.
Congratulations to Sita, Radha, Lalita and Ramie for graduating and being such good students. As one of my teachers used to say:
Good students make good teachers.
With the completion of the first Meditation Training Course, the AYA is ready to expand its scope and activities. The following projects will take place in the upcoming days or weeks:
1. The creation of a bulletin board on the web site. There will be discussions forums about the teachings of meditation, yoga and all aspects of spiritual life in the classical tradition of India. The main viewpoint in the discussions will most likely be the Sivananda approach to the teachings but the intent is to create a positive and constructive dialogue among a large community of sincere yogis of all creeds.
2. The creation of the AYA Meditation Teachers Association (AYAMTA). Its purpose is to unify the meditation teachers who have had training in the Sivananda tradition and to create a reference for students traveling around the world and wanting to find meditation teachers and satsangs anywhere they go.
3. The creation of the AYA Yoga Teachers Association (AYAYTA). Similar to the above but aimed at bringing together yoga teachers of different groups and trainings such as Advaita Yoga Ashrama, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, Yoga Vidya, Integral Yoga Institute, Divine Life Society, etc.
4. The creation of a new category/feature in this blog: "guest writers". First article should come soon. If you would like to contribute articles, reviews of books or even movies, or anything else please comment this blog entry.
We can't wait to see all this take place. We will post the progress made for each project in this space.
First of all, a big thank you to all readers who have let me know that they check this blog regularly and would like to see more posts. It's a huge motivator and greatly contributes to me keeping up or improving the frequency of the posts.
The MTTC is nearing completion. After much studying and a bit of worrying the trainees took the written test yesterday. They felt much relieved afterwards and appear very relaxed today.
All students who did not have a personal mantra until now chose to receive the mantra initiation this morning before sunrise. The initiation was inspiring for all involved and will propell the students into a fuller meditative life.
At 4 pm today we will have a concluding satsang and graduation ceremony. We expect many visitors to join in. If you live in the Austin area, make sure you come.
The Meditation Teachers Training Course, a very intensive training program, is running full speed now.
The students have already been introduced to a number of subjects such as the life of Swami Sivananda, the theory and philosophy of raja yoga and advaita vedanta, the science of mantras and much more. Several classes focused on the science and art of giving lectures and communicating the teachings in the best way possible. The students have already done some good practice sessions where they are giving mini presentations on a number of subjects.
The meals, cooked by Sita, have been fantastic. The menu plan offers much variety and the meals are both healthy and delicious.
May be I should not say that already because we are still far from the end and because they are reading this blog but the students are wonderful. They have a very positive attitude, are very keen in all classes and perform a lot of karma yoga with the right selfless bhava. The teachers feel immensely grateful to have the honor to teach this group of students for this first ever MTTC course.
More news in a couple days ...
"The ancient Eastern practice of regulated breathing, gentle movement and meditation has long been ascribed anecdotal healing benefits," says H. R. Nagendra, Ph.D., vice chancellor of the Swami Vivekanada Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana. "We are pleased to partner with M. D. Anderson to answer key cancer questions and expand yoga research to produce more tangible results that the scientific community would view as solid medical evidence of the benefits of these types of mind-body interventions."
Another proof of the vitality of Yoga in Texas.
The results achieved so far are very positive and encouraging. While almost all persons in the experimental group report better self-confidence and control over their health, some have consistently demonstrated the ability to even abort attacks by specific breathing practices
You can find here the full article from ChennaiOnlineNews
I personally know several yogis who have decreased the frequency of their epilepsy seizures by following the yogic lifestyle.
The Meditation Teachers Training Course (MTTC) started Friday night in Austin, TX with an inaugural satsang and four students were initiated.
The group is small and intimate and everyone is very motivated and supremely enthusiastic.
The schedule is intense and yesterday some of the classes and lectures took place outdoors to take advantage of the friendly weather and the beautiful garden.
Following up on an earlier blog entry about the new food pyramids, I found the web site to determine one's own food pyramid according to US government. The site is at: http://mypyramid.gov/
When Swami Vishnu-devananda arrived in North America in 1959, a lot of his lectures were aiming at educating the masses about a healthy lifestyle according to yogic principles.
He would talk at length about health, the beneficial effects of a vegetarian diet, and many other topics as well such as the negative effects of tobacco. It's hard to believe nowadays but he faced a lot of resistance. There was a complete lack of awareness in those days.
If you want to understand how backwards our modern medical science was as far as nutrition is concerned, even in the 80's, you should check out this book: "Recalled by life" by Dr. Anthony Sattilaro.
The good news is that things are changing and the US department of health has changed its views quite a bit, including replacing the infamous food group pyramid by a number of more individual alternatives.
If you are interested, please read this interesting article from the Olympian Online site.
The U.S. government on Tuesday unveiled 12 new individualized food pyramids to replace the one old one.
The pyramids feature vertical bands representing different food groups instead of horizontal bands as well as a person climbing a set of steps on the outside of the pyramid.
More interesting links from the US government's web site include:
Although not vegetarian in nature, this diet has got many principles which are awfully close to the yogic diet.
Here's another Indian connection of Pope Benedict XVI - he's a great admirer of Indian culture and yoga.
No one knows this better than Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil, with whom then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger held lengthy discussions on the subject.
I did not intend to "cover" the new pope in this blog. It just happened.
Article from SFGate.com - the San Francisco Chronicle.
I learn that I cannot simply ask the chef to prepare something vegetarian, because that will only produce another omelet. In the vaulted brick dining room of one restaurant, I am highly emphatic about my omelet embargo, only to be presented, triumphantly, with an asparagus-tip scramble.
At a curbside cafe in Avignon, I order a Mediterranean salad. It comes with sardines, and I plan to off-load those on my father's plate and just enjoy the olives and feta cheese -- until I discover that the oily little buggers have been chopped up and put in the marinade.
Well written article, quite funny, but unfortunately rings very true. Brought back some memories from when I became a vegetarian.
Chefs and waiters in restaurants actually feel insulted when you ask for true vegetarian food.
Article from Boston.com.
That it was his first marathon didn't bother Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Nor did it trouble him that it had only been a year since he had kicked off his long-distance running career. On that Sunday in October of 2003, the problem was his new sock. The blister that seemed certain to develop on his right foot eventually did and it burst during the race, leaving Rinpoche's foot covered in blood. He never panicked, focusing instead on blocking out the pain and visualizing the rest of the marathon. He finished the race in 3 hours 24 minutes 19 seconds.
A modern yogi who demonstrates the power of meditation. I find this inspiring.
Article from newswise.com
To the surprise of some, the psychotherapeutic tradition now taking meditation most seriously is cognitive behavioral therapy, the article reports. Behavioral therapy in its original form was concerned only with stimulus and response and tangible rewards and punishments. Eventually behavior therapists recognized the need to take account of thoughts and feelings, and they incorporated cognitive techniques into therapy. Now some therapists have gone further, merging cognitive techniques and meditation in something they call the 'third wave' of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Article from PregnancyAndBaby.com
Yoga helps labor
Pregnancy yoga taught with an internal focus benefits the woman's labor tremendously. The more you are internally connected the more energy you'll have for the process of labor. You will be able to access energy that you didn't know you had. It can be an entirely empowering experience. The urge to give up may be at hand but if you've focused in a yoga class you'll know how to do that when the going gets tough. The postures become more than movement that stretch and strengthen the body, they become an anchor for labor. Many students report that they visualized certain postures while in labor to focus the mind and bring them back to the yoga class where they received support.
From now on I will be linking to more articles underlining the multiple and diverse benefits brought about by yoga practice.
Article from the St. Cloud Times, Online Edition
Laugh at the visual of Plautz doing yoga if you will, but the coaching staff has been impressed by what they've seen this spring.
"He's by far and away, our most improved player since last fall," Huskies head coach Randy Hedberg said. "He's come a long ways and he's feeling as good as he has since he's been here.
"He's a high character guy, highly intelligent and really committed to this program. He's moving much better and his quickness is improved."
Another indication of how yoga can help myriads of individuals.
Rest peacefully in the transcendent Silence. Swami Sivananda
This article reports on a study of the effects of yoga on Multiple Sclerosis symptoms.
Fatigue is a significant symptom in people with multiple sclerosis. But a study published last year suggests that performing yoga might significantly reduce the tiredness that the disease can bring on.
"I think physical activity by itself is probably beneficial for mental and physical well-being," explained Barry Oken, MD, a neurologist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, and the study's lead investigator, in an interview.
Well generally I don't like to say bad things about other yoga teachers but this article on copyrighting yoga raises deep concerns about the future of yoga and spirituality in this country.
The legal protection he is allowed may depend on whether yoga is defined as an exercise regimen, a sport, a spiritual practice or a choreographed form of expression, like music or dance. The case, says UCLA law professor Neil Netanel, "really depends on an issue that isn't covered in the law: What is the nature of yoga?"
Some legal experts believe the case could have broader implications, not just for yoga but for many forms of physical exercise.
Stanford University Law School professor Paul Goldstein said a decision in Choudhury's favor would have "clear implications for any other activity that entails a combination of movement and environment," such as choreography or martial arts. "It could also have implications for basketball plays, or football plays, if it were decided that way."
Adds Jim Harrison, a Sacramento attorney representing a group of yoga teachers and students who filed the lawsuit against Choudhury challenging his copyright claims, "If Bikram is successful, people will run to copyright bench-pressing and stepping."
Compare this to the selflessness and purity of intent of the rishis who gave us the upanishads and you will find that something went wrong in the process.
Submitted by Chandra from LA.
Simple living, high thinking. Swami Sivananda
Santosha is the second niyama in the path of raja yoga and means contentment. This means being happy with what we have and whatever situation God and/or karma presented us.
Uparati is the 3rd virtue in the jnana yoga path. There is much to say about it but the most simplistic explanation is that it enjoins the spiritual aspirant to keep one's life simple, free of complications, unnecessary and time-wasting activities.
In the process of learning about blogs and exploring blogs out there I stumbled upon a write-up which presents an easy to follow method of applying the above two concepts.
It comes from the "It's raining again" blog.
We got to the point where our home feels roomy & comfortable, despite being only 692 square feet. Life feels roomier too - despite full-time jobs, school, maintaining relationships with family & friends (and each other!), ongoing projects and miscellaneous errands.
So why am I writing about this now if I'm feeling oh-so-darn-pleased with myself?
Cause this simplifying thing is cyclical. And I'm about due for another sweep out.
I enjoyed the reading.
Death is only of the body, not of the Atman or the Supreme Soul. The Supreme Soul is immortal. Swami Sivananda
But the Yogi who strives with assiduity, purified of all sins and perfected gradually through many births, reaches the highest goal. Bhagavad Gita - 6.45
In many ways the field of yoga (spiritual path) is different from many others disciplines.
In many cultures the time it takes to achieve some type of mastery in any skill - being art, academic knowledge, science, sport, craft or other, is measured in years. In modern America we have become even more impatient and expect substantial results and recognition after just weeks or months of discipline and practice.
Yoga functions on a much different time scale. As Lord Krishna points out in this verse true spiritual progress comes slowly to the aspirant. In a given lifetime the aspirant is expected to only go so far in terms of gaining more control, delving deeper in meditation and/or cultivating any given virtue.
Before one attains the state of mastery, or sainthood, it will take crores (hundreds of thousands in Indian parlance) of lifetimes going through the experiences of daily life and many (tens? hundreds?) lifetimes of protracted austerities (yoga or related discipline).
From that time on several more lives of intense and continued practice (abhyasa) will be required before one attains Self-realization, the goal referred to in the above sloka.
This may seem a bit discouraging but the Masters who have traveled that road and reached the target remind us again and again that it is more than worthwhile. Having reached the goal one experiences immortal life, absolute consciousness and one swims in an ocean of Divine Bliss (ananda).
In Sanskrit tapas means austerities. It literally means "that which burns". Doing daily tapas gradually burns the samskaras (latent impressions) and vasanas (desires) in the mind. It also burns and weakens the bad karmas (often translated as sins).
For the last couple years I have been leading a 9-day yoga retreat in the summer time in a small village of Emmental, Switzerland. It's organized by Maria Steiner, the AYA affiliate in Switzerland, and takes place in a beautiful chalet in the midst of the rolling hills of Emmental. No need to say the atmosphere there is deliciously peaceful.
Today I have been working on the yoga pages for the retreat which will take place this coming September.
Perfection, freedom, independence are attained only by direct experience or wisdom of Atman. Swami Sivananda
So these days I am spending quite a bit of time setting up this blog which is a new project. It should take a few more days before I complete its design and then I will announce its creation in the AYA e-newsletter.
Today I am teaching a Bhagavad Gita class. This is the 10th class out of 11. We will complete the course next week. As usual I took some time in the afternoon preparing for it. Most of the class will focus on the 17th chapter. Here is a verse which I have selected for publication in this post:
peech which causes no excitment, truthful, pleasant and beneficial, the practice of the study of the Vedas, are called austerity of speech. Bhagavad Gita - 17.15
The Yogic lifestyle includes control of about every facet of one's being. There are disciplines aimed at controling the body, the senses, the emotions, the intellect etc.
One such discipline is the austerity of speech, as described in this verse by Lord Krishna.When thinking of austerity of speech most students will think of mauna, the vow of silence. While mauna is part of the incredibly broad collection of yogic techniques, it cannot be practiced at all times. So what should we do when involved in worldy and social activities? Limit our speech to words and ideas which will serve a good purpose, will not harm anyone, be truthful, etc. For most of us this wil entail a reduction of 50 to 80% of our spoken words ;-)
Try it for a day or two. If it turns out to be as beneficial as we think it is, you may want to carry on for the rest of your life.