Wellness

FEBRUARY 27, 2014

The Tiny Hatha Yoga Philosophy

Posted by Dorothy under Community Interests, Interesting Reads, Philosophy, Wellnessno responses

Shannon Frances is a freelance technical writer who is currently living in Nibong Tebal, Penang, Malaysia. She is a yoga enthusiast who has decided to write and publish ‘The Tiny Hatha Yoga Philosophy’. Below is a snippet of the contents of her book which can be bought at www.lulu.com

Is Buddhism a kind of yoga?

Before becoming the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama studied yoga with at least two yoga masters, who apparently emphasized extreme self-discipline of tapas (see “What are the eight limbs of Patanjali yoga?”). He eventually abandoned these yoga practices as being too harsh and damaging to the mind and body. Instead he developed his own method, referred to as the Middle Way, which avoids the extremes of over-indulgence and intense asceticism. Although Buddhism was eventually driven out of India, the teachings and methods of Gautama Buddha influenced the subsequent development of yogic philosophy and practice, particularly with respect to meditation. In fact, many scholars speculate that Patanjali’s eight-limbed path was based on the Buddha’s eight-fold path. As Buddhism is based on yoga and has influenced the development of yoga, it is considered by many to be a kind of yoga. Notably, yogachara is a Buddhist philosophy that emphasizes meditation and other yogic practices. Some have argued that current yoga practices are more similar to the teachings of the Buddha than to the kind of yoga practiced in India at the time he lived.

Buddhism was driven out of India, in part, as a result of the teaching of Adi Shankara (800 CE), who argued that any religion not based on the Vedas should be abandoned. In contrast, Gautama Buddha implored his followers not to blindly follow any teaching but instead urged them to investigate his methods and determine their validity directly. Both of these trends — following scriptural tradition and relying on personal experimentation — have been very important to the development of modern yoga practices. How do you respond to each approach? Do you favor one? Can you embrace both?Compare the eight limbs of Patanjali (see “What are the eight limbs of Patanjali yoga?”) and the Buddha’s eight-fold path (right understanding, right thought, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right mental attitude or effort, right mindfulness, right concentration). Do they describe the same things in different language? Or are they fundamentally different? Which would be more effective for you to follow?

Is yoga a religion?

Yoga practitioners are not required to hold any beliefs. Thus, yoga can be practiced as a religion, as a supportive activity to a specific religion or as a completely non-religious activity. Yoga is currently being practiced by members of many religions (including Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Rastafarians) as well as agnostics, atheists and people who do not care one way or the other.

The goal of yoga is often described as union with the absolute. Depending on the school, the absolute can be the one true God, a specific god or any divine aspect of the universe, including absolute consciousness, nature, etc.

Although some Veda-based religions (Hinduism) have narrow and restricted definitions of the absolute, most are astonishingly inclusive. For example, many contemporary sects consider Jesus as a Hindu saint. The absolute may be described as vastly as the universe and all its contents, real and unreal.

Many religious sects that practice yoga generally embrace both monotheism (belief in one god) and polytheism (belief in many gods) simultaneously by explaining that all gods are aspects of the one God and the one God can be understood only through a multitude of gods. Some even go as far as claiming that everything is God (pantheism) and it is only delusion that prevents us from realizing this.

However, many contemporary hatha yoga schools conceive of a yogic union that does not concern the divine or the supernatural. For example, some schools teach that yogic union is the attainment of your highest self, in other words, being the best you can be. Others teach that yogic union is the state of respecting all life or is simply a desired state of mind — a neurological phenomena that does not extend beyond the encasement of the skull.

While specific sects and schools may accept only limited definitions of yogic union, the practices of yoga do not. Thus, religious and non-religious practice of yoga is equally valid.

What is your opinion of religious and non-religious schools of yoga? Are you attracted or repelled by spiritual teaching? Does it matter to you if your teacher and fellow students have different beliefs than you?Some people feel that taking yoga out of its cultural and religious context dilutes it and, in fact, renders useless thousands of years of valuable teaching. Others feel that a modern approach to yoga must free it from superstition, racism, social injustice and sexism. Where do you stand on this issue?In 1893, Swami Vivekananda argued at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago that Hinduism (and, by extension, spiritual yoga) should be considered a world religion with the same status as Christianity and Buddhism. His passion for this argument was fueled by his strong nationalistic and ideological feelings. Some have argued that modern yoga is more or less a product of the Indian nationalism that culminated in the partition of British India. How does this opinion agree with your own beliefs about yoga? Is it relevant?

Can people of non-Hindu religions practice yoga?

As most religions encourage yoga-like practices, such as prayer, meditation, chanting and ritual movements, there are many opportunities for religious people to incorporate the specifics of their religion into their yoga practices.

For example, many forms of prayer and ritual include specialized movements, such as kneeling, making the sign of the cross, symbolically holding the Qur’an, bringing palms together at the forehead, symbolically washing smoke over the head or kissing a piece of cloth. According to some teachers, when these movements are united with the breath and performed mindfully, they constitute a yoga practice as well as a religious one.

Classical yoga requires study of the scriptures, stipulating no limitation on the scriptures that can be studied. Any study that inquires into the nature of God or the individual soul is yoga.

Mantras and chants can be modified to include religious words and phrases. For example, OM can be replaced with “Allah,” “The One Who Can Not Be Named,” “Jesus,” “Jah,” or other names of God.

Many members of theistic religions have used yoga to enhance their other religious practices and several groups are dedicated to exploring this synthesis. If you are interested in using yoga in your own faith, you might search the Internet or at your local library to see if such a group is available in your town.

If you belong to a religion that prohibits acknowledgement or signs of respect to gods of other religions, talk to your yoga teacher about any images or texts that he or she uses that might be in violation of your faith. Help sensitize the people you practice with to your issues and cultivate tolerance and understanding within the group.

Can atheists practice yoga?

The concept of yogic union does not require a belief in God. Many atheists choose to recognize the absolute in non-theistic terms, such as nature, higher power, love or realized consciousness. The spiritual aspect of yoga can be honored as an historical component of the practice without requiring that it be embraced personally. Most religious images and texts can be interpreted or replaced with secular concepts. For example, many yoga studios contain images or statues of various Hindu gods or spiritual leaders. These are often considered representations of desirable qualities, such as generosity, creativity and compassion.

Of course, hatha yoga is currently practiced primarily as a form of exercise, without reference to religion or spirituality. Yoga practitioners can validly focus strictly on the physiological and psychological benefits of any yoga practice, including postures, meditation, chanting and gestures.

If you practice with a teacher or group that uses religious images or texts that you are resistant to, you can make them aware of your issues and explain why you wish to interpret them differently. Help sensitize the people you practice with to your issues and cultivate tolerance and understanding within the group.

Copyright Shannon Frances, 2014


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NOVEMBER 28, 2013

Force Coupling Of The Hips

Posted by Dorothy under Community Interests, Interesting Reads, Wellnessno responses

 

 

A force couple relationship in simple term is where muscle groups around a joint move together to produce force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. This in turn ensures muscle balance with proper lenght and strength of each muscle around a joint. However, for various reasons in life, some of us go through changes in structural alignment, neuromuscular control and movement patterns, contributing to bad posture due to overactive and underactive muscles.

One of the most common scenario of muscular imbalance is around the lumbo-pelvic-hip region, aka  the “core”.  It is important to acknowledge that what goes on at the  pelvis affects the entire body. Imbalances around the pelvic region can easily be noticed with the pelvis being anteriorly (images 3 and 4) or posteriorly tilted (images 1 and 2).

A neutral pelvis can be seen in image 5. The muscles of the posterior region:  the erector spinae, gluteus and hamstrings and anterior region: rectus abdominis and hip flexors in a neutral scenario produces equal force and hence works efficiently and will not be prone to injuries. When these muscles are imbalanced, some will shorten and some lengthen. Shortened muscles will need to be stretched,whereby lengthened muscles need to be strengthened.

An anteriorly tilted pelvis in images 3 and 4 can in simple terms be described as ‘chest and butt sticking out’, resulting in an overarching of the lower back. In such a position, the rectus abdominis, gluteus and hamstrings are lengthened and therefore needs to be strengthened. Whereas the hip flexors and erector spinae are shortened therefore requires stretching.

When the pelvis is posteriorly tilted as shown in images 1 and 2, resulting in a flat back, the rectus abdominis, gluteus and hamstrings are shortened and requires stretching. On the other hand, the hip flexors and erector spine which are lengthened will need strengthening.

Yoga poses which can be of help to neutralise an anteriorly tilted pelvis are:
a) To strengthen rectus abdominis, gluteus or hamstrings
1)  Utthita hasta padangusthanasana
2) Utkatasana and Garudasana

b) To stretch hip flexors or erector spinae
1) Virabadhrasana  1
2) Setu bandha sarvangasana
3) Urdhva Dhanurasana

Yoga poses which can benefit a posteriorly tilted pelvis are:
a) To strengthen hip flexors or erector spinae
1) Bhujangasana
2) Matsyasana with arms and legs lifted off the ground

b) To stretch rectus abdominis, gluteus or hamstrings
1) Karnapidasana
2) Supta Virasana
3) Natarajasana

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SEPTEMBER 29, 2013

A Quick Guide To Mudras

Posted by Dorothy under Natural Highs, Philosophy, Wellness1 comment

Mudra is a spiritual or symbolic gesture which helps manipulate prana or energies in our physical body (anamaya kosha), mental body (manomaya kosha) and pranic body (pranamaya kosha). Mudra can also be translated as a seal, or circuit by pass as it helps to create barriers within the body and direct the energy within. These energies, if not manipulated with the intention to retain them within the body will otherwise escape from the body. In scientific terms, mudras start electromagnetic currents within the body which balance various constituting elements and restore health.

There are generally 5 types of mudras:

a) Hasta / Hand
Prana emitted by the hands are redirected into the body with this mudra

b) Mana / Head
These mudras are important in kundalini yoga and some are meditation techniques as the utilise the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and lips

c) Kaya / Postural
Kaya mudras are commonly practised during asanas, with concentration of breath in mind.

d) Bandha / Lock
This is a combination of mudra and bandha

e) Adhara / Perineal
These mudras are usually used to redirect prana from the lower centres of the body to the brain, aiding also in sexual energies.

Most mudras can be done as a combination with asanas and pranayamas or just by itself.

In this posting, the focus will be on hasta / hand mudras as it is the most commonly used gesture. There will be 8 types of mudras and their benefits listed out. One can perform it for about 15 minutes each.

1) Chin Mudra
- join the tips of the thumb and index fingers together, middle , ring and index fingers together and extended
- generates prana flow below the navel to the toes

2) Chinmaya Mudra
-join the tips of the thumb and index fingers together, middle, ring and index fingers to fold towards the palm then keep the elbows close to the body
-prana flows above navel to the throat

3) Adhi/Tse Mudra
-fold thumb towards the palm, then fold all the other fingers to the palm with the thumb under them
-prana flows from the throat to head

4) Merhu danda Mudra
-thumb towards the sky, fold all the other fingers to the palm
-generates prana flow in the spinal column

5) Brahma/Poorna Mudra
-fingers like in adhi/tse mudra
-palm to face up to the sky, knuckles together, gently press towards the lower abdomen
-helps generate prana to the entire body
-helps in fatigue

6) Panchabutha/5 Elements Mudra
Our physical body is made up of 5 elements:
-thumb=fire
-index=air
-middle=space
-ring=ether
-little=water

a) Prithvi/Earth Mudra
-join the tips of the ring and thumb fingers together, extend the other fingers
-
the earth element represent  the solid contents in our body ie: musculoskeletal
-
this mudra helps strengthen the earth element

b) Agni/Fire/Surya Mudra
-fold the ring finger towards the palm, fold the thumb on the ring finger,  the other fingers to stay together and extended
-helps increase heat in the body
-can be of help with indigestion, obesity and hyperthyroid

c) Vayu/Air Mudra
-fold the tip of the index finger to the base of the thumb, keep the thumb on the index finger while extending the other fingers, keeping them together
-
helps to regulate air in the body and encourages movement
-can be of help with gastric, stiff joints, athritis

d) Jala/Water Mudra
-join the tips of the little finger and thumb, extend the other fingers, keeping them together
-maintains moisturisation in the body
-helps with dehyration, hormonal imbalances, urinary problems, sweating problems, increased or decreased production of mucus

e) Akash/Space/Shunya Mudra
-join the tips of the middle finger and thumb, extend the other fingers
-akash mudra is more effective when practised with shunya mudra (fold the tip of the middle finger to the palm, then place thumb on the middle finger, extend the other fingers, keeping the ring and little figners together)
-helps with ear,nose and throat problems or any sicknesses caused by any imbalance to the ear, nose and throat ie vertigo and travel sickness

7) Prana Mudras
Our body consists of 5 koshas and one of it is called the pranayama kosha. Pranayama kosha is also composed of 5 pranasEach of the 5 pranas can be activated with mudras.

a) Prana aka Bhu Mudra
-join the tips of the thumb, ring and little fingers together, extend the others
-benefits the respiratory and cardio system

b) Apana Mudra
-join the tips of the thumb, ring and middle fingers together
-benefits the excretory system

c) Samana Mudra
-join the tips of all fingers
-benefits the digestive system

d) Udana Mudra
-join the tips of all fingers except the second finger to be extended
-benefits the upper chest and throat area

e) Vyana Mudra
-join the tips of the thumb, index and middle fingers, extend the others
-balances the entire body

8) Chakra Balancing  Mudras

a) Mooladhara Chakra-Bhu Mudra
-R hand: join the tips of the thumb, ring and little fingers together, placing the tips of the index and middle fingers to the ground
-L hand: in chin mudra

b) Swadhisthana Chakra-Yoni Miudra
-interlock the 3rd – 5th fingers, join the tips of the thumb and little finger together
-place it at your swadhisthana chakra

c) Manipura Chakra-Matangi Mudra
-interlock all fingers except the 3rd finger to be stretched out
-place it at your manipura chakra

d) Anahata Chakra-Kamala Mudra
-form fingers like a lotus petal joining tips of thumb and little finger
-Place slightly on the right side of the heart as the heart is a sensitive organ

e) Visshudha Chakra-Shunya Mudra/Akash Mudra
- refer to #6(e)
-place on the knees

f) Ajna Chakra-Chin Mudra
-refer to #1
-place on the knees

g) Sahasrara Chakra-Hakini Mudra
-join all the tips of the right fingers and the left then spread them
- place at manipura chakra

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