KaivalyaDhama

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.