Yoga in COVID-19

Lockdown is nothing new for Indian Civilization

India’s spiritual masters and Yogis are living a self-isolated life since thousands of years with an intention to realize the ultimate truth of life. Eventually what happened to them is that they realized the nonexistence of what human body and mind experiences. Indian philosophy & its ancient life style allows human to self-realize and self-purify on the body and mind level.

Ideally, Ancient Indian lifestyle is divided into 4 stages or Ashrams of life. All the four concerns to a 1/4th of a life time for their particular offerings;

  1. Bhramcharya – time to spend in studying and learning.
  2. Grihastha – time to spend in Sansara (social life).
  3. Vanprastha – retired life period.
  4. Sanyas– time for renunciation.

Now, let’s talk a little more about third and fourth stages.

The one who has completed the second stage of life i.e. Grihastha Jivan, he will move to a life where social responsibility has ended. If you understand the etymology of Vanprastha, you will see that it is made up of two words- ‘Van’ meaning forest and ‘Prastha’ meaning to walk towards. This indicates that a human being needs to start detaching from the materialistic life; need not to abandon fully but just start the renunciation bit by bit. Take the own time and step by step leave the worldly life and enter into Sanyas, the fourth stage of life.

In PATANJALI YOGA DARSHAN, Sadhan pad-
स्वविषयासंप्रयोगे चित्तस्वरूपानुकार इवेन्द्रियाणां प्रत्याहारः ॥ २५४॥
Sva-viæayâsamprayoge cittasyasvarûpânukâra ivendriyâñâm pratyâhâraï __2.54
ततः परमा वश्यतेन्द्रियाणाम् ॥ २५५॥
Tataï paramâ vaåyatendriyâñâm__2.55

Patanjali suggests the same idea. When one starts withdrawal of senses and renunciation at worldly objects and start living detached life, it is Pratyahar. Symbol of Pratyahar is Turtle, the one who withdraws the senses and turns towards inside

2 stages of Pratyahar 

  1. Physical i.e. body level.
  2. Impressions i.e. association process.

Today, the whole humanity is facing a tough time. We all are bound to live a quarantine life and take our senses from outside towards inside. We all wish to go back to our pre-COVID lives. On the other hand, we are also struggling to reduce our material association of life through limited access. But our mind desires object of association which again brings hindrance in the purpose. And this is exactly where we are facing the problem.

Our Rishis and Yogis were masters in it, now it’s time for us to learn. Yogis used to do action without association. They were able to detach.

We might be highly qualified in our studies but what we are actually uneducated about the situation we are facing. But deep somewhere down, we hold impressions of all these qualities. We had Buddha in our history, who left the ultimate comforts and attained peace; Adi Shankaracharya, who left his home at the age of 8; Swami Vivekanand, who was a highly intellectual person; Shri Aurovindo, supreme conscious being.

India’s past has witnessed these great masters, who achieved peace after detaching themselves from all these associations with which we are fully attached.

This COVID 19 is great opportunity for humanity to attain peace within.

In PATANJALI YOGA DARSHAN, Sadhan pad
तीव्रसंवेगानामासन्नः ॥ १२१॥
Tîvra-samvegânâmâsannaï__1.21

For those who seek Peace whole heartedly, Peace comes close.

We have peace within us, what we lack it is to understand the nonexistence of human body and mind experience. Peace is not something to be achieved but to be realized. It is a natural human stage where misery of life doesn’t exist. Misery is our current stage and that’s where we have our senses but of that experience is limited. So, grow from limited to unlimited, senses to senseless experience and what you will experience is peace.

Mr. Jasmin Panchasara

Mr. Jasmin Panchasara

MSc. in Yoga, P.G.D.Y.T., NDDY. M.COM, B.ED
Yoga Coordinator and Senior Yoga Therapist at Project ‘Life’, Rajkot.

Yoga For Weight Loss

Our body tries to maintain its ideal weight through various internal regulatory mechanisms, which is the result of a complicated network of neural, hormonal and numerous chemical reactions. There are various factors involved in management of weight in adults, say

  • Metabolic Rate
  • Physical Activity
  • Hormones
  • Diet

Though there are numerous tips and tricks all over the web for weight loss, there is one ancient form that could control all the above factors that aids in successful weight loss and its maintenance when followed not just meticulously but as a lifestyle.

Yoga – The Ancient Science

This article will take you to the various changes yogic practices bring in your body that helps in weight loss.

Asanas

Apart from energy expenditure during asanas, they also bring about internal pressure changes over the organs due to manipulation of various parts of the chest and abdomen. Impaired insulin leads to impaired thermogenesis leading to weight gain. Insulin resistance is also associated with increased adiposity. Stretching of abdomen in asanas, (Dhanurasana, Chakrasana) increases digestive fire and improves insulin sensitivity which ultimately maintains a good body weight.

Pranayama

In long standing pranayamic practices like Sitali and Sitkari, the tongue becomes dry and taste buds become slightly desensitized, which helps to control excessive hunger. The rawness in the throat also activates the satiety centre. The vagus nerve activation in most practices influences the hypothalamus and controls food intake and satiety.

Regular practice of Bhastrika, Suryabhedana pranayama burns fat, increases BMR, thus reducing weight and visceral fat.

Shuddhi Kriya

Hatha Pradipika (II-78) the classical Hatha Yogic text book describes the stimulation of gastric fire and slimness of body as the success of Nadi Shuddhi (Anulom Vilom).Shuddhi Kriyas like Kapalbhati, Vaman, Dhand Dhauti; Vastra Dhauti neutralizes the acid balance in the stomach and thus reduces hunger. Thus no excess eating, no weight gaining, but losing.

Studies point out that to decrease the Body Mass Index, skin fold thickness and hip and waist circumference, practicing Kapalbhati alters intra-abdominal pressure and increases Basal Metabolic Rate. Agnisar promotes weight reduction and reduces waist circumference. A very high negative pressure ensures efficient blood supply to abdominal organs improving their functional ability.  The practice of Laghu shankhaprakshalana results in reduced fat absorption for the next several days.  Both these Kriyas have affirmative effects in weight reduction.

Mitahar

Mitahar (Moderation in Food) is the practice of filling half the stomach with sweet agreeable food, one quarter with water and the other quarter left empty, as guided by classical hatha yogic text books like Hatha Yoga Pradipika(Vs. 1:59 to 61) and in Gheranda Samhita (5:21-22).

Along with the practice of Mitahara, one has to follow decreased food frequency which provides an abdominal condition that is conducive for the practices of asana and pranayama and thus reducing weight.

 Endocrine System’s Efficiency by Yoga

Yogic practices calms down your endocrine system, which overwork in times of stress. The activities of endocrine glands are relaxed and thereby regulate their secretions. Repeated bouts of excess cortisol leads to obesity and metabolic syndrome. Various studies demonstrate that Pranayama, Dharana and Dhyana increases Alpha wave which has direct correlation not only in reducing stress and calming the mind, but also reduces the cortisol levels, thereby preventing weight gain.

Connection Between Sympathetic Nervous System, Yoga and Weight Loss

Impaired insulin leads to reduced activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System. Low sympathetic activity is a risk factor for weight gain and obesity. In other words, it could be said that higher sympathetic activity is essential to shed pounds.

Sympathetic activity is experienced while holding an asana (say, Viparita Karani, Halasana) or any other Kriya (Kapalbhati); though it returns back to normal when one comes out of the pose.

Belief correction

Contrary to the popular belief that yoga has to be accompanied with other forms of physical activity to assist in weight loss, appropriate asana principles and techniques, pranayama, dharana and dhyana appear as a promising measure to support in weight loss and of course maintenance too.

Ms. Bindu Sunil

Ms. Bindu Sunil

Post-Graduation in Food Science and Nutrition, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Yoga Education.

YOGA FOR THE UNIVERSAL WELLBEING!

Friends, as we know we all are going through the worst pandemic in about 100 years where it has affected millions of lives across the continents; the loss of our fellow human beings is heart breaking and disturbing.As scientist, doctors and researchers there look for new ways to fight and defeat this virus, here we can only hope and pray.

For the last few decades many advanced countries and the developing world kept on evaluating its frantic economic, scientific and technological progress without giving much importance to our fragile environment thriving with millions of life forms. With only GDP as its economic yardstick most of the countries have failed to evaluate the real cost or price, we as citizens will pay if things resume and continue in the earlier ways of our life where ignorance is driven by greed, competition and violence.  

GET FITTER AND HEALTHIER – DO YOU YOGA?

When millions of people are looking for different ways to cope up with stress and anxiety during this challenging time – Patanjali’s Ashtanga YOGAalong with Ayurveda can be the real necessity or discipline to instill for the betterment of all Human Beings!  These ancient Indian scriptures and teachings are now been looked upon by many experts, philosophers, theologians as a contemporary science with its roots dating back thousands of years to the Vedic era of India.

Sage Patanjali’s sutras form the basic texts of Yoga are the scriptures or literature which will answer your queries for the Why? of yoga or rather How? yoga can help us in our normal day to day life!

The 8 limbs as they are called ASHTANGA (meaning eight angas), consists of life changing sutras or aphorism which has deeper meaning entrenched and are said to liberate oneself from the shackles of this materialistic world and lead a happy and contented life.

(8 Limbs are – YAMAS, NIYAMAS, ASANA, PRANAYAMA, PRATYAHARA, DHARNA, DHANYA & SAMADHI)

The relevance of these 196 sutras must never have been looked upon as widely earlier as it is now, where in this period of the pandemic, most of the people are trying the unconventional ways to bring peace, health and contentment in their lives. The fact that all forms of YOGA are being explored to keep oneself fit or healthy, cannot be denied.  The relevance of these practices during this time is unquestionable even by some of the greatest critics who have termed yoga as just another passé or a form of exercise which has no scientific basis.   The practice of pranayama which is elaborated in the 4th limb of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras clearly personifies its relevance &efficacies bestowed on millions of practitioners around the world. This literature which accepts its influence or authority from Vedas has been the most revered work, in Indian culture, as far as YOGA is understood as a philosophy.

Inhale life with PRANAYAMA!

The word Pranayama consists of 2 words –prana and ayama. Prana refers to the life force in us and Ayama is generally understood as control but specifically, control through stretching or elaboration/expansion. So, pranayama means control of prana by expanding or stretching it. Practise of this limb is said to improve our immune system, as it enhances your breathing capacity making the lungs stronger and healthier. This makes our respiratory system robust to fight against any lung’s enemy.

The belief that this form of yoga can be practiced only after a certain degree of expertise gained in the basics of yoga or (other forms of yoga other than Ashtanga Yoga), is indeed a self-fulfilling prediction or a misconception, inflicted by some experts to a few of the beginners who are keen to delve into this practice or to know about this great literature.

Yoga and Pranayama in this Corona

A Yogic (asanas/postures) practice along with pranayama has been a tangible (non-medicinal) prescription by most doctors to most of the COVID 19 patients today.  The importance of Ayurveda has also been realized along with conventional medicine in the treatment of this virus, and much can be found or heard in our day to day life from various sources or mediums. Also, after the observations, this coronavirus had a very tough time getting the yogis (practitioners) down on the knees with its vicious attack, prolonging their medication or treatment. The most prominent hospitals around India with its doctors continue to request people to cleanse our system regularly with different kriyas, like shat karma along with asanas and pranayama to keep this malicious and often chest squeezing virus at bay.

This pandemic has given us a chance to look upon this world from a very different and holistic perspective, as the world leaders need to tackle our environment urgently with awareness and compassion towards all life forms existing.

Traditional Yoga not only takes care of our Respiratory and Immune system but also takes care of our overall wellbeing. Although there is a lot of literature found online to understand, learn and practice this form of YOGA it is always advisable to learn first hand from the most prestigious and prominent schools of YOGA!

Kaivalya Dham Institute, LonavlaIndia, is a school with great Gurus who continue to Inspire,Train, and Teach thousands of students every year from all walks of life and from every corner of the world. This institute is one of the oldest in the world and still continues to bestow Yogic Knowledge in the purest and most traditional form. The Institute was formed by Swami Kuvalyananda in 1923 with his Passion, Devotion and love for humanity albeit with a scientific attitude.

NAMASTE!

The above opinions are of my own understanding – excuse my words or thoughts if it might have harmed anyone, which was unintentional.

Shri Sujeet Pawar

Shri Sujeet Pawar

Yoga Instructor
Sujit is an Engineer with a Masters in Business Administration and is practicing yoga for the last 8 to 9 years.

Citta prasadanam- Ancient wisdom for eternal happiness

“maitri karuna mudito-peksanam-sukha-duhkha punya-apunya-vishayanam bhavanatah citta-prasadanam” Patanjali Yoga Sutra ||33||

Root cause of all the suffering is the afflictions (something that causes pain or suffering). These afflictions are described as 5 klesha by Sage Patanjali. These are categorized as the following –

  1. Avidya(Ignorance)
  2. Asmita(Ego)
  3. Raga(Attachment)
  4. Dvesha(Hatred)
  5. Abhinivesa(Fear of death)

Understanding and accepting the existence of these klesa in oneself is the first step towards eternal happiness. These klesa are a window into the state of mind. If we observe the history of wars and the current scenario of human suffering, they are the results of Raga and Dvesa. Looking through the lens of klesa before taking an action, brings clarity of thought and results in actions, one would not repent and cause suffering.

Sage Patanjali has given a beautiful formula to make decisions resulting in happiness, in the form of Citta prasadanam. Citta Prasadanam can be directly translated as “Blissful Mind”. Great sage also gave a simple tiered approach to achieve this bliss for everyone.

How to do this by Patanjali’s way?

All you have to do is, cultivate the attitude of friendship(maitri), compassion,(karuna), joy(mudita), and develop indifference towards pleasure(sukha), misery(dukha), virtue (punya) and viciousness(apunya). By repeating this attitude one can achieve citta-prasadanam- the blissful and peaceful state of citta (mind).

Reading through the above recipe, one might think it is easier said than done. I agree with that, that’s why one should first slow down the thought process. This can only be achieved by the practice of Pranayama (control of breath), under the guidance of a certified teacher. By Pranayama, you can achieve clarity of thought. After achieving that, all you have to do is turn negative feelings into positive ones. For example, when one of your friends achieves success, don’t be jealous and look for negatives, instead appreciate that person’s success wholeheartedly. This not only brings you happiness but also gets you a lifelong friend. Same works for an opposite event, when someone is in grief, be supportive and show compassion. When someone is having a joyous moment, amplify the joy of the person, by spreading the word about the person’s achievements, this amplification turns joy into bliss.

How to start?

  • Looking through the lens of klesa, understanding deeper thoughts and using the cittaprasadanam as remedial processes, you can achieve perfect mental health and happiness.
  • By spending an hour a day in practice of simple Yoga techniques such as “Om” chanting, Bhramari Pranayama, Gayatri mantra japa, and Anuloma Viloma pranayama, one can train the mind to have a upeksha bhavana.

To summarise, here is the happiness equation-

Blissful mind = (Slow down the thoughts + amplify joy + show compassion) – (hatred – jealousy)

If everyone follows this simple principle of citta prasadanam, both individuals and society at large will have a peaceful and harmonious existence. With this, you would see Ishwara in everyone.

Satish Tallapaka

Satish Tallapaka

Yoga Instructor
Satish has been doing his sadhana and teaching Yoga as a Karma Yoga in the United States.

Patanjali Yoga / Ashtanga Yoga

Today, Yoga is popular globally as a form of exercise or as a part of daily workouts; but authentic Yoga has wider and deeper dimensions to it than what is commonly known.

It is known for a fact that the body affects the mind and the mind affects the body. But, the effect of the mind on the body is greater than one realizes. The role of Yoga in helping a person become resilient to face stress (a part of our modern lifestyle), without harming the body (remain healthy) is gaining new importance.

Genetics of Yoga –

The Patanjali Yoga Sutras is the oldest known text of Yoga. The word ‘Yoga’ is a Sanskrit word with 2 basic roots (origins):

  1. The meaning of Yoga derived from Yuj-yujjati is ‘anchoring’ or ‘integration’ of the whole human personality in terms of his ‘body’, ‘mind’ and ‘soul’.
  2. The meaning of Yoga derived from Yuj-samadhav is ‘Samadhi’ or deep concentration.

Hence, Yoga means the process (of integration/anchoring) as well as the state of concentration!

The Samkhya philosophy which is the basis of Patanjali’s Yoga, states that all the things that are visible on earth are made up of 2 eternal, uncompromising and metaphysical principles namely ‘purusha’ i.e. consciousness and ‘prakriti’ i.e. matter (similar to the Chinese Yin and Yang philosophy). Yoga is the process to realize the ‘Purusha’ in himself i.e. to achieve harmony in the body, mind and soul; it is also the end goal of ‘Samadhi’ i.e. concentration where the body and mind fade away and only the soul/purusha is realized.

Patanjali has prescribed an eight-limbed process of reaching the goal known as Ashtanga Yoga. The eight limbs are Yama, Niyama, Aasan, Pranayam, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyaan and Samadhi.

For many, Yoga is equal to Asanas; but this is only of the parts of authentic Yoga. When only Asana – the 3rd limb of Ashtanga Yoga is practiced, it would not be ‘Yoga’ by definition.

You might wonder, why do we need all the 8 limbs? Here is why.

The answer rests in the arrangement of these 8 limbs itself – these are in ascending hierarchal order which means each limb leads to the next. Every limb needs to be mastered before practicing the next one. Let us know them one by one.

Yama and Niyama

Just as we need to clear our primary, secondary school education before following higher studies, the same way the Yamas (1st anga of social attitude) and Niyamas (2nd anga of personal discipline) helps the person to become mentally and physically ready for the postures to be adopted in asanas.

Asana

The Asanas (3rd anga of physical postures) retrain our musculoskeletal system to be still and steady for prolonged time. To remain still in one posture, complete concentration is needed wherein the mind becomes so focused that the asanas can be performed slowly and effortlessly, one’s awareness becomes intensified and can experience infinity.

Pranayama

When one masters his musculoskeletal apparatus, he is now ready for Pranayama (4th anga of expanding the ‘prana’ or vital energy by controlling the breath). When the breath is controlled, one can control the mind. When the breath is extended and controlled, there is cessation of activity in the mind.

Pratyahara

Hath Pradipika, a classic manual on yoga says ‘Chale vate chalam chittam nischale nischalam bhavet’, meaning when the mind gets steady and thoughtless, Pratyahara (5th anga of going inwards) begins where we shut off external sense organs and look inwards.

Dharana

After focusing inwards, one comes to Dharana (6th anga of concentration on one object, in one place).

Dhyaan and Samadhi

As one becomes adept and Dharana intensifies, Dhyaan (7th anga) and Samadhi (8th anga) of meditation take place.

When we follow these 8 limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga, positive effects are perceived on the body, mind and soul;

  • The body becomes supple, muscular coordination becomes smoother and lightness is felt.
  • Mind becomes serene; known as samyama; there may be flashes of intuition.
  • Soul i.e.chitta attains purusha i.e. consciousness and spiritual growth is seen.

Thus, to progress on the path of Yoga, all the steps are needed. Though reaching true Samadhi is difficult, when we progress from Dharana to Samadhi, there occurs a psychophysiological balance which restores the natural rhythm of the person and insulates him from the natural stress response of the body.

Ashtanga Yoga is the most efficient, safe and cost-effective way to ensure health for each and every person. Kaivalyadhama was founded by Swami Kuvalyanandji and he wanted to propagate this message of Yoga to everyone irrespective of cast, creed or social status:

“Yoga is that art and science which is calculated to ensure an individual’s perfect health for the body and is infinite happiness for the mind and perfect spiritual development for the soul”

Dr. Kritika Doshi

Dr. Kritika Doshi

Pain Management consultant at Bethany, Jupiter and CSMH Hospitals, Thane.

YOGA TECHNIQUES TO KEEP YOU AWAY FROM COVID 19

The world is shattered and still dealing with novel corona virus

As known, it is highly communicable and lowers our immunity rapidly, making it a complex disease to treat and contain. Acknowledging this situation, we have accepted social distancing and staying indoors as our new normal.

Man being a social animal, we are habitual of moving out of the house, all around the world. But lately, we all are quarantined and this staying indoors somewhere impacts our physical and mental health. While counting the demerits of this pandemic- restricted movements, decrease in Vitamin D3 levels due to less exposure to sunlight, constant slouching in front of the screens, pressure of multitasking both, home and work fronts are a few to name. All this eventually increase our blood cortisol levels, lower the immunity, and reduces our cardiorespiratory health. To be précised, it affects the QUALITY OF LIFE.

As they say extraordinary situations call for extraordinary solutions, this is where yoga knocks in.

Yoga is a way of life that helps us to focus on ourselves. Yoga has been broadly divided into 8 limbs each having its efficacy that helps us to find the ultimate Kaivalya i.e. liberation. As a chronic pain specialist I am listing down few Yoga techniques which help us to move better, eat well, sleep restful and be mindful and calm in this stressful situation. But mind you, it’s just a drop of the yogic ocean.

ASANAS – 

  • These are the movement component. They maintain and improve the posture at rest and during activities.
  • Bring more fluidity in our daily activities and stimulate the visceral organs directly.
  • Helps to focus on the alignment and breathing, leading to strengthen the neuro-endocrine system and improve our immunity.
  • Setubandhaasana,, Dhanurasana, matysyasana, Goumukhasana, Vakrasasana, Adhomukha and Urdha mukha svanasana, Tadaasana, Ustrasanaand Trikonasana are a few you can add to your daily practice. But if you are new to yoga you must start under the guidance of certified guru as each of them should be modified to your present health status . The same would apply for other practices listed in this blog below

PRANAYAMA

  • Regular practice improves lung functions and innate immunity.
  • Anuloma viloma with an equal breath count in inhalation, holding and exhalation is a good practice to start with. Begin with a count of 3. Slowly you can move to the recommended count of 1:2:2.

KRIYAS

  • They are great cleansers for the body.
  • The removal of malas helps in improving our health and immunity.
  • Jala netiis a good kriya to clean the nasal tract. It can be done twice a week along with anuloma viloma. There are quite a few more, but as said, they must be done under supervision.

MITAHAR

  • When stressed, we throw our eating habits far away. We either eat too much, too little, too sugary, too much fat, and too fast or eat quite irregular. As they say, ‘Annam Brahma’, which means food is God and which is true indeed. Eating freshly cooked, wholesome and locally grown foods is optimal.
  • You can add immunity boosting ingredients like turmeric, ginger, tulsi and pepper to your food.
  • Mitahar suggests needful and moderate eating. It helps in complete digestion and absorption of the food.
  • Keeping calm during meal times relaxes our digestive tract and prepares it for the coming food. Food then nourishes not only our body but even our soul.

MINDFULLNESS AND MEDITATION 

  • These are the most effective but under used antidepressant and stress managers.
  • Research has shown that 10 minutes of a daily meditation practice increases the cortical thickness and helps us to remain rational and logical.
  • It also strengthens the concept of self in the brain and increases the restorative sleep quality.
  • Mind has been known to be a monkey, so controlling it would require years of rigorous practice and may not be a cup of tea for all. Small steps in the form of guided meditation, belly breathing to a count, Shavasana and body observation, the practice of tratak or just observing the feel of the breath at the tip of the nose are great steps to start.

CHANTING 

  • Saying any prayer aloud helps to focus the brain on its words and the sounds generated.
  • Calming alpha waves are generated.

Remember that we all are together in this time of chaos. Thus, seeking balance in this mixed-up life is what we should strive to achieve.

SAMATVAM, we are well when we are in balance.

SHORT PROFILE

Dr. ANJANAA SUBRAMANIAN

MPT (Sports), Dyed, DAc,NASM – CES, NESTA-SNS

Dr Anjanaa is a Physiotherapist specializing in Musculoskeletal Medicine. She has over 10 years of experience in the field of Rehabilitative medicine. She is the founder of RECOVER PHYSIOTHERAPY a chronic pain specialty center in Bangalore and has been managing it for the past 7 years. She earned her masters from SAIMS Indore. She is a certified Yoga Therapist from Kaivalyadhama Institute of Yoga and Research, Lonavala. She is a National Academy of Sports Medicine specialized Corrective Exercise Specialist. She is also a National Exercise Trainers Association certified Sports Nutrition Specialist. Over the course of her career she has managed varied conditions from chronic pain syndromes to fitness needs of her patients. She is passionate about helping people manage and treat chronic pain through non pharmacological and holistic methods.

WHY YOGA?

This is in itself a value-based question

The first definition that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of yoga is Physical Practices. But according to me it is a myth to think that Yoga is merely for physical well-being or for people who have bodily ailments or for those whom the conventional methods of cure are ineffective (although its scope is inclusive of everything mentioned above).

What is actual Yoga?

Yoga is not only a physical approach but is a holistic way of living. The art of yoga assists one to work on his body, mind and soul to achieve peace. It does start for most sadhakas from the physical body, but the subtler practices channelizes our energies for the better. 

 

It becomes a passage for spiritual upliftment and eliminates blockages which make us think negatively. It protects from getting carried away by excessive belief in fate or superstitions and helps one takes charge of one’s life.

With the help of a balanced approach and sincere training a sadhaka can achieve equilibrium in his/her body, mind and breath. So, instead of getting entangled in futile pleasures why not adapt the path from body to mind, mind to breath (subtle energy), which is a medium to understand our existence?

How should a beginner enter into yogic practices?

Follow a step by step process that will ease your body and help you practice yoga effortlessly.

  • The start could be done with Sukshama Vyayam (micro exercises), gentle movements of joints and glands which will release the toxins stuck in the over -time and make the movements unforced.
  • Then the sadhaka could slowly progress towards Sthula Vyayam (macro exercises).
  • Gradually the body should be altered through relatively subtle practice of postures overcoming all the discomforts of asana in mind and body.
  • Since the breath (which is volatile) is the carrier to bring steadiness and stableness in postures breathing patterns must be understood and nothing should be overdone

Initially, the physical practices give energy and confidence to continue towards more complex and deeper experiences. At times, it may look that the results are taking a little long time or that it is a slow drawn process. But as said, patience is the key to success; so do not lose it because the results are assuredly lasting and consistent.

It is always important to remind oneself that the physical body with the uncovering of intermittent sheaths is the path to reach the soul. So, one should not be carried away by anything during sadhana. With time greater awareness is developed resulting in higher quality of life, and the identification with body steadily loses its effect.

Thus, Yoga has its three E’s – EVALUATION, ELIMINATION, ELEVATION

Do you know the origin of Yoga?

History of Yoga has been lost in obscurity and uncertainty due to its tradition of transmitting knowledge orally i.e. via, Guru -Shishya parampara. It can be classified into 4 periods

  1. Development of yoga can be traced back to Indus valley Civilization around 5000 years ago. It was first mentioned in the oldest sacred text of Rig Veda (pre classical period of yoga).
  2. Then it was Sage Patanjali in the period of Classical Yoga representing yoga in a systematic form – The Yoga Sutras.
  3. Post classical yoga comprised of practices designed by yoga masters to rejuvenate body and prolong life.
  4. Lastly contemporary times can be called as The Modern Yoga where Hatha Yoga is still strongly promoted in India by the schools of T.Krishnamacarya, B.K.S.Iyenger, Pattabhi Jois, Sivananda and others.

The father of Yoga and his contribution

Sage Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga. He is the first to compile yoga in 196 sutras. The efficient way of implications of yoga through the sutras was presented by him – The Asthanga Yoga – eight limbs of yoga to help attain liberation.

patanjali ji kaivalyadhama lonavala1

  • Yamas are the first in the eight limbed path and instruct the practitioner to observe proper conduct and self -restraint. Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-possesiveness), Brahmacarya (moderation of senses/ right use of energy), Aparigraha (non-greed) form a part of the Yamas
  • Yamas are followed by Niyamas which include Sauca (cleanliness), Santosa (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study), Isvara Pranidhana (surrendering to the higher power).
  • The third limb is Asanas. The steadiness in asana leads to observance of breath i.e Prana.
  • Pranayama is the fourth limb which when focused upon takes the mind away from wandering towards external objects.
  • When the prana and mind are withdrawn from sense objects, Pratyahara follows suit. Pratyahara (control over senses) forms the bridge between bahiranga yoga (external limbs of yoga) and antaranga yoga (internal limbs of yoga).  Thus, the mind is gradually trained to focus on the object of meditation after controlling its wanderings.
  • The ability to hold onto objects is Dharana.
  • This ability leads to the seventh limb, which is Dhyana. The difference between dharana and dhyana lies in their continuity. While the former could be discontinuous, Dhyana is unbroken.
  • Flow of awareness ultimately leads to Liberation i.e., the eighth limb Samadhi- oneness with the subject of Dhyana. In Samadhi the mind loses its identifications and becomes free of all afflictions and influences of the gunas.

Sage Patanjali’s Ashtanga Marga is still followed in modern yoga to transform life and make it meaningful. I urge you to take a step forward and take charge of your life, transform it and spread its blessedness wherever you go. 

“Human life is considered as very difficult to be born into. It is one of a kind and one has to utilize it very wisely. We have no certainty of what we will be in our next birth. So, we have this one life available at present, take a chance and embark on the journey of yoga “      

OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTIHI

My Journey In Yoga:

My doctor and mentor inspired me to take this. It started off with asanas and breathing practices. Later on for a better understanding of Traditional Yoga (the roots of yoga) I approached a well-known Institute of yoga – The Kaivalyadhama Institute.

This was a turning point of my life where I began to learn the scriptural texts of yoga, which I was completely unaware about. Through that I learnt the essence of yoga, meaning of existence and true purpose of human life. The implications of these teachings to refine and progress spiritually also added to my understanding in due course.  

My expedition is still on-going; I am evaluating my philosophical perspectives, and continuing to subtly apprehend the intrinsic nature of existence.

Priti Sanjay Ashar

Priti Sanjay Ashar

TTC - Kaivalyadham Institute
Diploma in Yoga Foundation and Advance Diploma in Yoga Foundation - Mumbai University
M. A. in Yoga Philosophy - Mumbai University
Experience - 15 years
Working with Schools for Special Kids.

Yoga and Weight Management

Yoga supports physical, mental and spiritual development. It is said that if you want to have the best version of yourself practice yoga. It is also an effective tool to lose weight irrespective of its apparently non-aerobic nature. The awareness gained through a gentle, relaxing yoga practice helps to lose weight.

What does Ayurveda Say?

Ayurveda states that one of the main reasons of diseases is Pragya-Aparadh that translates to ‘mistake of the intellect’. It is like doing what is wrong despite knowing the consequences. In this modern era, we frequently do Pragya-Aparadh, for e.g. bad sleep patterns, excessive exposure to social media, over eating etc. Overlooking these factors results in weight gain and thus imbalance in the body. Yoga not only improves the flexibility of the body but also helps to get into right mental space to actually cut the weight.

It is a general perception that weight can only be reduced by doing cardial exercises. Yoga addresses weight loss issues through Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and meditation. Let us know the relation between yoga and weight management.

1. Yoga and Mindful eating

When you practice yoga with the help of Asana, Pranayama and Meditation, mindfulness is developed, i.e., living in the present moment. This makes you more conscious while doing any action, say eating. You eventually start avoiding unhealthy food and may start consciously looking for fresh and unprocessed food.

Paying attention to what you are eating results into eating slowly, ultimately lessening the quantity of your food consumption. Thus, you start realizing the requirements of your body needless of consulting any dietician.

Your body tells you something, start listening to it. You can feel the capacity of your body and understand when it is asking you stop. This helps you to avoid over-eating

Unlike the short term diet plans, yoga is a lifelong habit with constructive effects!

2. Yoga and Sleep quality

Quality of your sleep is one of the major factors that affect your weight and its gain. If there is no proper sleep body craves for extra food which adds to weight.

Following practices will help you work for your sound sleep-

  • Yoga postures like Balasana, Uttanasana, Supta baddha konasana and Shavasan improve sleep quality.
  • Pranayama practices like Bhramari reduces stress which improves the sleep quality.
  • Regular practice of Pranav Jap encourages weight loss and helps to maintain a healthy body.
  • Guided Meditation and Yog Nidra may help to deepen the sleep.

3. Yoga and toned muscles 

Yoga in general is not an aerobic exercise. Practicing yoga postures helps to develop toned muscles and improves metabolism.

Asanas like the following can help to stretch the whole body, strengthen and tone the muscles and also improve blood circulation.

  • Chaturangadandasana,
  • Virabhadrasana – Warrior pose,
  • Trikonasana – Triangle pose,
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Dog pose,
  • Sarvangasana – Shoulder stand,
  • Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana – Bridge pose
  • Dhanurasana – Bow pose

4. Yoga and Cleansing processes (Shuddhikriya)

Shuddhikriyas like Vaman, Douti, Neti are useful to remove the toxins from your body. It improves the functioning of vital body parts, especially of the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and nervous system. This ultimately helps in removing the excess fat and thus reduces body weight.

5. Yoga and regularity

If one follows daily routine, Dinacharya, there is an improvement in overall health. Weight loss is a positive effect of following the Niyama i.e. rules. To abide by the daily routine is one of the basic principles for Yoga practitioner.

6.  Yoga and Life style

By practicing yoga, one starts to learn to let things go. This habit reduces mental and physical stress which controls all other negative activities like improper sleep, overeating, etc.

Thus we can conclude by saying that there is a simple mantra to maintain a healthy weight –

Mindful eating + proper exercise + sound sleep = Happy & Healthy Weight

What are you waiting for? Be a yoga practitioner and take care of your body.

 

Swati Mandlekar

 

Swati Mandlekar

Germany

Yamas and Niyamas-Quintessential in the path of yoga

- By Neeru Parashar

The sharp rise in yoga’s popularity and demand in the modern world has come at a high cost.

While the ancient wisdom of yoga continues to exist due to its benefits, yoga’s rapid expansion into the lives of millions of people has also led to confusion and misinterpretation in the practice.

Let’s first comprehend the actual meaning of the word. “Yoga” is etymologically derived from the root yujir, which means union or yoking of ātman (individual consciousness) and paramātmā (universal consciousness). One more meaning mentioned by the authority of Sanskrit Grammarian, Panini and Patañjali yoga darshana is samādhi (yujir samādhau) – a state of mind with supreme valid knowledge where the vrittis (whirlpool of our countless thoughts) is at the attenuated state and the citta (mind) is in an unsullied condition.

Yoga is believed to be close to a 5,000-year-old practice, but its history goes back more than 10,000 years with its teachings transmitted by an uninterrupted chain of gurus to their disciples.

Many ancient texts like Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita have presented the yogic thoughts in their own unique ways. In Bhagavad Gita, the primary written text lauded as Yoga Shastra, Bhagwan Krishna removes Arjuna’s vishada or misery by teaching him yoga. Yoga is a way of living with awareness for all the crises human beings face in their day-to-day lives. He describes yoga as “yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam” – Yoga is skill in action, “samatvaḿ yoga ucyate ” – Yoga is equilibrium, “yoga-sthah kuru karmānni” – remaining in yoga do all the actions.

All the ancient texts have emphasized that “mind” is the cause of bondage and freedom, mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha-mokshayoh.” This means that all our thoughts, emotions and actions backed by this ignorance lead to misery and bondage, but if we train our mind and concentrate our thoughts to a place of singular focus on an object or concept, it can lead to freedom. Even if the goal is not fully attained, the controlled mind can help a person lead a healthy and happier life.

Control of the mind can mean more than just a focus on āsana. One verse of the Yoga Vasistha says, “Even if one sits in the lotus pose (padma āsana) holding the hands in the prayer position, how can one attain samādhi if the mind is restless.”

Bringing the mind to a calm or controlled state by emphasizing discipline in life is an important component of yoga. With gradual disciplined practise, when the mind becomes free from all the negative thoughts/emotions like anger, passion, jealousy and hatred, yoga becomes a means to rise above one’s limitations.

Around 2,500 years ago, Patañjali systematically described the Ashtanga Yoga/eight-limbed path – yama, niyama, āsana, prānāyāma, pratyāhāra, dhāranā, dhyāna, samādhi – as one way to develop self-awareness (Sūtras 28 through 55 in Pada II), or the second chapter, of the Yoga Sūtras. This approach will lead the sincere aspirant to samādhi – a state of mind where there is supreme valid knowledge free from citta vrittis.

The first seven limbs are the means to achieve the final eighth limb, samādhi. In this process, the first two limbs –yamas and niyamas – hold a very important place. Yamas and niyamas describe the ways an aspirant can shape his/her mental attitudes or behavioural patterns to facilitate progress along the path to samādhi. According to Patañjali, every vikshepa (distraction) which causes a disturbance in the body and breath has its root in citta/mind (“dukha daurmanasyāngam ejayatva śvāsa praśvāsā viksepa saha bhuvaha” –  I:31). A refined knowledge of the yamas and niyamas is just as important as a refined knowledge of āsana, prānāyāma and bandhas, which are typically the focus of more advanced practices in western yoga.

The yamas areahimsā/non-violence, satyam (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (control of sexual activities) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness). Among the yamas, non-violence is the basis of all other practices and is considered to be the highest dharma. Here, non-violence does not merely include the tendency to kill/harm somebody at the physical level, but also encompasses this tendency at all three levels of word, thought and action.

Due to such importance, even Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the major texts of hatha yoga, mentions ahimsā as one of the important aspects.

The niyamas are shaucha (purity of both mind and body), santosha (contentment), tapas (self-discipline), svādhyāya/mantra japa (chanting/studying of literature that would help in self-realization) and ishvara pranidhāna (surrender to God principle).

The last three niyamas – tapas, svādhyāya and ishvara pranidhāna – are included in the Kriyā Yoga (yoga of action) as one’s nitya karma (everyday ritual) to purify the mind. Ishvara pranidhāna or surrender/devotion to the will of God’s principle, one of the most important niyamas, is also mentioned in Bhagavad Gita, with Krishna emphasizing that all our actions should be performed as an offering to the lord. This would lead us to inculcate the niyama of santosha or contentment, ultimately leading us towards peace of mind with a feeling of gratitude towards the ishvara (God).

These yamas and niyamas can be compared to the roots of a tree which enables its growth and expansion. That is why they are called the Great Vows or mahā vratas by Patañjali. They have to be followed everywhere, at all times, irrespective of caste, colour, creed and nationality. The aim of these vratas (behaviour) are to progressively cultivate vairāgya (dispassion) and viveka (discrimination). They can be referred to as the dos and don’ts for a sādhaka (a spiritual aspirant) forming an ethical code of conduct.

Even for an average person, these psycho-physiological attitudes are important to lead a happy and healthy life since they are not merely philosophy, but a way of life which refines one’s relationship with society and oneself. In the beginning, they sound impossible and difficult, but when such behaviour is adopted through regular practice, it gradually makes new neural pathways in the brain which help the individual get rid of old behavioural patterns.

This trains the autonomic nervous system in such a way that any sensory inputs don’t affect the individual, thereby helping create new habits. This approach is very important, even if a person takes up yoga for therapeutic reasons.

Swami Kuvlayananda emphasized how correct psychological attitudes have a high significance in Yoga Therapy

“one’s attitude towards things in general and towards one’s circumstances in life have an important bearing, direct or indirect, on the genesis of not only psychosomatic and chronic, metabolic or other disorders, but also the infectious ones” in his book, Yogic Therapy – Its basic principles and methods.” 

When the mind is free from the thoughts of worldly possessions and negative emotions, the mind becomes pure and can focus on its true nature.

Apart from Patanjali yoga darshana, these psychological attitudes have also been referred in āyurvēda as “sadavritta,” the moral, ethical, behavioural code of conduct to be followed by an individual to lead a healthy life. Some other texts like Yogayajnavalkya and Hatha yoga of Charandas include 10 yamas and 10 niyamas, some of them being compassion, sincerity, forgiveness, fortitude, moderation in diet, generosity, chanting of mantra, tapas and santosha.

One of the verses of Yoga Vashistha says: “Contentment is the supreme gain, satsanga is the best companion, the spirit of inquiry itself is the greatest wisdom and self-control is supreme happiness.”

Swami Kuvalayanada explained how “the conscious emotional conflicts can be tackled by yamas and niyamas and unconscious emotional conflict by āsana and prānāyāma.” An aspiring yogi practising yoga without incorporating yamas and niyamas in their daily life would only be able to get the physical benefits.

Yoga is a discipline not just for the human body, but human being as a whole. The best way for an aspirant to progress in yoga is to live these yamas and niyamas.

This Blog was first published in the “yoga bridge” by Yoga association of Alberta.

Meditation – some reflections

When we read about or hear the word ‘meditation’, we normally think about the Buddha or Buddhist meditation – and visualise people, including the Buddha and Buddhist monks, in various meditative poses. This image or thought is not inaccurate. Buddhism is built upon a strong practice and tradition of meditation, with images of the Buddha and his disciples meditating sculpted, etched, painted, printed, photographed, etc. on myriad surfaces.

However, if we dive deeper, we shall find that the word ‘meditation’, etymologically, has French and Latin origins, and has nothing at all to do with the Buddha, Buddhism or the practice of meditation – all of which originated from India thousands of years ago. In fact, the practice of meditation has its origins in the Sanskrit word ‘dhyana’ and in the teachings from the Vedas from ancient India going back approximately 3,500 years.

Dhyana stands for focus and is associated with Goddess Saraswati in India who is a metaphor for learning, knowledge, wisdom, art, poetry and music. What dhyana helps us achieve is an uninterrupted train of thought that leads to a heightened awareness of our inner Self where, according to Hinduism, our divinity lies. Dhyana, therefore, is a process of searching for our Self within. It turns our attention inward in Self-discovery.

Vedic teachings hold that, since the universal divine Self dwells within the heart, the way to experience and recognize divinity is to turn one’s attention inward in a process of contemplative meditation.”

– William Mahony, ‘The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination’ [Source: Wikipedia]

Dhyana is an integral part of yoga – the ancient Indian discipline which unites the body, mind and spirit to achieve union with God (or the divine Self) through a philosophy and a set of practices and techniques for living a pure life leading to enlightenment. It could, perhaps, be said that dhyana and yoga together help to raise levels of awareness of body, mind and spirit, and bring harmony within the human consciousness in an attempt to align it with the far-more profound divine consciousness.

This is, of course, a simplistic explanation. There is a great deal more to these words and concepts than what is said here. But, it should come as no surprise that the words dhyana and yoga are closely connected to concepts and practices related to spiritual living. Their purpose is to help us find answers to the question ‘who we are’ by going deep into our hearts.

In essence, dhyana or meditation is meant to fuel change within us and transform our lives. But the process can be long and arduous. Attaining enlightenment through meditation as the Buddha did close to 2,500 years ago may be our goal but, historically speaking, not many have achieved this. Some have found peace and harmony in their lives through the practice of meditation, bringing them happiness from self-discovery and a sense of satisfaction. And countless others have been able to resolve personal problems connected to their bodies, minds and spirit.