Archive for Yoga – Page 2

Connections

Mudra

Mudra is a Sanskrit word denoting connection and direction of subtle energies.  This discussion is not a detailed presentation of one of the main divisions of Hatha Yoga called Mudras.  Just using this idea to talk about how important connections are in yoga.

Yoga Connections

Sometimes yoga can be viewed as a pre-eminent method for coming into ones true nature.  Now the popular view of yoga is mainly from asanas.  How many times have you heard how hard or wonderful yoga class was on a particular day.  Meaning that we are only emphasizing the physical part of using asanas (sadly just for exercise).

The richness of yoga is developed through these subtle connections.  Starting with our own energy systems and pranic flows and moving into connections through initiation.

Mantra

When one develops a deep relationship there is an actually felt connection.  Take when you in love with someone.  You can feel without words or actions how the other person is doing.  Sometimes there is a tandem of thoughts and small movements that are not rehearsed or overtly noted.  There is just this strong connection on the inside that is shared both from within and without.

This is how a mantra works that is given in initiation of a tradition.  This connection of the mantra is internal and subtle.  This relationship is to that which is eternal and true.  This is love.  Without this connection it becomes very difficult to find your way in this journey of the revealing Self.

Get connected

Having a guide is immensely helpful.  In this case a mantra given by a master acts exactly like a guide.  It helps in this subtle differentiation between what is real and what is not.  This knowing only comes about through practice and grace of this connection.  For some this connection is a deep knowing and experience which continues to shine within like a beacon.  There is always something of great and often subtle importance that takes place within ones experience that leads one inwards.

Trying to do yoga from the mind or body is incomplete.  The ego of ourselves often confuses the direction of what is truth.  So many things get in the way that we easily can be come distracted.  It is important to consider giving up ones egoistic self.  To consider coming with open hands and heart into this deeper connection within.  This connection is made through initiation.

Initiation is only being introduced here.  It is a much larger topic.  Many people have an aversion to the concept of it as it appears to resemble a cult like behavior for some.  Here initiation is compared to finding a lover that takes us to sublime places and spaces that we otherwise would miss and avoid.  This lover is love itself.  The path is not always pleasant.  The richness of yoga through this connection of love .  Great effort, focus and practice is the work of preparation for this journey.

Guru Purnima

Guru Purnima

Today the Full Moon on Monday, July 26th, is the festival day honoring the Guru.  Your first Guru is your mother.  It doesn’t matter if you have or don’t have a mother at this time.   It doesn’t matter if the relationship was good or not.  What matters is this force of the mother that has brought us into this world.  The guidance and love of this same force contained in the being of the mother is what is important.   This Guru in yoga then is that force which leads one from unreality to reality, from darkness to light, from mortality to immortality.  This is a very special day which often has been preceded by 40 days of self-purification.  This cleaning up can be started even now, just in case you might feel that you have missed out.  You know mothers are very loving, ALL the time.

There is a longer explanation and many words to express the reverence and connection with this life transforming force of the Guru.  Just so happens that the first one for most of us is our mom’s.

Himalayan Tradition

Swami Rama of the Himalayas spoke eloquently and briefly about Guru Purnima.  Please see the AHYMSIN site for this article (http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/06_0709/#a).  There is also more information at the main landing page in the above Ahymsin link.

Full Moon Meditation

Today July 26th is a world wide full moon meditationSwami Veda sits at different times to cover all the different time zones.  Please consider sitting for any length of time at the hour in your respective time zone.  There is not special experience needed.  Just come into a comfortable and stable sitting position, close your eyes, relax and be aware of your diaphragmatic breath.  Keep returning your minds focus to the breath and let all other sensations, thoughts and feelings take a back seat in the mind.

If you miss this full moon date, there is a sitting meditation every full moon with Swami Veda.  Sitting with Swami Veda, even though he is many miles away makes a difference.  This mind-field is not fettered by location and distance.  Try it!  The above links will guide you to the appropriate times.

Let me know if there are any questions or comments.

Shantih, Shantih, Shantih–Peace, Peace, Peace

Science and Consciousness

Swami Veda Bharati

Just a small clip of one of the current living yogis of the Himalayas.  There are literally thousands and thousands of hours of recorded lectures by this sage.  See the sidebar resources for follow up links.

East and West Cultural Exchange

My Yoga is better than your yoga.

Which yoga or which technique is best?  The way that we do it today is so much better than before.

Really, are these thoughts uncommon.  Haven’t you ever had similar thoughts or expressed words like these above?

There is a quote from the great Yogi, Swami Veda Bharati in 2005.

In Western cultures the old is replaced by the new.
In Indian culture the new comes alongside of the old.

I have seen exactly what he is talking about on the roads of India–there you see both the modern day cars as well as the old style wagons, being drawn by a water buffalo.  These paths and roads of India go from what we are all use to in the West to what we are not use to or familiar with in the West.

Inclusive vs Exclusive

Accommodation of both is facilitated.  Sure there is a bit of a battle on the roads, and the bigger the vehicle the more lesser size vehicles must do the accommodating.  So here, size does matter.  It just doesn’t exclude the other.  A very important point in today’s Western viewpoint that maybe lacking much of the time.

Deciding on the best yoga or technique or practice to focus on

First be familiar with what has been practiced and is currently being practiced.  Read More→

Perennial Yoga

Om asato ma sad gamaya

tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

mrityor ma amritam gamaya

Om shanti, shanti, shanti

This Shanti (peace) quartet or patha, is a traditional introduction to several of the Upanishads.  It is a beautiful prayer that many recite daily.  Do you know that it is in sung in one of the movies of the Star War Trilogy.

Om Lead me from the unreal  to the real

lead me from darkness to light

lead me from mortality to immortality

Om peace, peace, peace

These are the ideas that live in the perennial teachings of yoga.  Not this stretching and getting healthy aspect that is often expressed as yoga.  Just look at the reference of these words.

Etymology

Gamaya has it’s root in movement.  Movement here as translated as “leading”.  Leading whom or what?  Moving whom or what? and where?

Moving from this selfish aspect of myself that is mortal  and moving to this self that is eternal never ending.  Moving from this focus on materialism (and gaining knowledge, power, wealth and all the things of this sensing and doing part of life) to or towards wisdom and love where we all are no longer separate beings looking at only what is in front of our external eyes.

Philosophy

This type of yoga is not exclusive to seperating ourselves on the inside from the outside.  It is not to admonish and deride the life we live daily.  Truly yoga is to bring together this life we have been living on the outside and “include” this life on the inside.  Allow this movement of the mind to awaken to it’s being vs always trying to become something yogic or ethically better.

A major aspect of yoga is this movement is a natural tendency of the mind to this state of awareness and light.  Able to see clearly once all the obstacles and grim are removed from the path of moving and seeing.  What is there is this truth, light and immortality of our true selves.

  • Recognize what is truth at the deepest level.  Then the confusions of this vs that fades.
  • Recognize what is dull and dark and simple uncover the light that always shines.
  • Recognize what is limited and live from what is without limit (not the motivational “you can be anything”)

Simply do a practice of cleaning up on the inside and outside.  Let this natural movement lead one into a life that brings together and stops pulling all of us apart.  Listen for the breath that moves through this life.  This force of life, this breath called prana will connect us or reconnect us in our love and wisdom.  It will not happen from finding out something or doing something.  But in not finding or doing, we have to work very hard.  These paradoxes are real and one must stay engaged in ones practice of cleaning in order to truly know this simple truth.

Tasmai sri-gurave namah

3 Observations in Yoga

In yoga class and in physical training, we often advise paying attention, doing it “right”, and make sure you are breathing–“Don’t hold your breath!”  Remember.

We can look at this advise/coaching/key points as 3 essential observations

3 Observations

  • Body
  • Breath
  • Mind

Body

There are many ways to organize the observation of the body.  We could look at it from what is moving or the qualities of the movement, or both.  (There are even more ways of course we will just limit it now)

Try observing the movement of the body from three key areas

  • Shoulder Girdle
  • Trunk/Spine
  • Pelvic Girdle

These areas will help guide your attention and organize your discoveries.  These three places represent keys and key links or relationships.

Breath

Breathing is a key in all activities.  It can be approached from the gross to fairly subtle aspects.  One of the great gifts of yoga is this emphasis on the breath.  Their approach starts at the subtle breath which then organizes the gross breath.  We can more easily start at the gross breath and it’s characteristics first.  The breath is the link between the body and mind.  This is a main point so well described by one of the great Saints of India, Swami Rama of the Himalayas

6 Main Qualities of the breath

  • Nostril vs mouth
  • Diaphragmatic and lower chest vs upper chest
  • Smooth
  • Deep
  • Noiseless
  • Continuous

Mind

So much can be written and has been written on this mind.  Do we mind?  That is the real question–what are we minding.  Observations of the gross mind can be divided into:

  • Sensing mind
  • Thinking mind
  • Pleasant mind

This last observation of the pleasant mind is a question I find missing.  Well not the question as much as the pleasant mindedness.  Whenever I think of this observation, an image of my teacher, Swami Veda comes to mind.  He has spoken so eloquently of this aspect of the mind.   Also he is able to demonstrate it under conditions most of us would never entertain such a pleasant state.

Well–paying attention and what and how we pay attention is key.  Otherwise we will have to pay for not.

Pranayama Question

Advancing one’s alternate nostril breathing practice

I was just asked a question about how to progress a Nadi Shodhanam (alternate nostril breathing) practice.  They already have progressed to doing 9 rounds (108 breaths), they were looking for more refinement now.

For most beginners (all of us regular folk)–all pranayama should be done from gross to more and more subtle.  All advancement of pranayama is at the subtle levels–the basics come first for many years  (just heard an interview-from 2005–by Terry Gross on NPR of Hank Jones http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4710791–he was 87 yo then and still practicing his scales or basics)

I usually start out with

  • ensuring diaphragmatic breathing–first from the belly and then later emphasize lateral costal and full 3-dimensional pattern
  • working towards deeply relaxing on each breath, more and more
  • 4 parameters of breath: Deep, Smooth, Noiseless, Continuous–no pause between breaths, most important–also you can spend more time at the beginning just observing these and later try encouraging and expanding your capacity more directly with each of them
  • same force of breath on inhalation as on exhalation
  • same amount of breath on inhal/exhale–this is a 1:1 ration later after all the above is natural then you can work towards 2 exhale:1 inhale ratio, which may just come naturally later on–but first ensure the above is solid

Each of the above bullet points can be worked on for months–the first three are in order of what i often teach, the last two bullets can be done in any order.  these are pretty much the same guidelines for working with diaphragmatic breathing in any basic centered asana.  Just apply these same guidelines to your Nadi Shodhanam practice.

Of course there is more–but practice is just that–practice

A key to practice is skillful use of your tools and skill comes through practice where one is paying attention and asking questions and progressing.  Otherwise we are just putting in time doing the same thing year after year.  Chronology doesn’t count–improving skills and capacity does.   Start slowly and let time and consistency be also your coach.