Yoga Blog

JUNE 27, 2013

Your Sadhana Should Strictly Be A Private Matter

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

Yoga practitioners have always been taught to leave their ego aside not only in the yoga class, but also in all aspects of their lives. But sadly this is not the case with the big revolution of modern yoga. Some practitioners encourage competitiveness in their practice and stroke their ego by boasting about their achievements. These ego filled practitioners tend to forget that yoga is a personal relationship between the practitioner and the practice itself. At the end of their daily practice, one should be grateful with whatever happens, whether there is progress or not, as the focus needs to be in the now. There is no need to beat yourself up if you do not achieve what others in class or people you admire have achieved. On the other hand, you should not get too proud and announce it to others or feel egoistic if you have progressed, but be thankful and  have gratitude. In The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Verse 11 states that:

Hatha yoga is the greatest secret of the yogis who wish to attain perfection (siddhi).

Indeed, to be fruitful, it must be kept secret; revealed it become powerless.

The translation which resonates to my liking is the one by  Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Swami Muktibodhananda of the Sivananda lineage. I will not attempt to summarise the translation as everyone should read the actual text and form their own perceptions and conclusions. So enjoy the following wise words.

This sloka is typical of any yogic shastra expounding higher knowledge, i.e. the science should be kept to oneself. Whatever a sadhaka gains or achieves during the period of sadhana should be a private affair. This may seem a little out of context as the book itself appears to be disclosing the secrets of the practices, but in fact, when you learn under the guidance of a guru, you will find that Swatmarama has only stated the bare essentials as guidelines for the practice of asana etc, so that the science of hatha yoga will be preserved for humanity.

Originally, Gorakhnath had written much about hatha yoga in the form of prose and poetry. traditionally, a shastra must be in Sanskrit; local dialects are not accepted as authentic works. Therefore, Swatmarama is continuing Gorakhnath’s original work. What has been given here is the system of hatha yoga without too much elucidation. It is left up to the practitioner to find out from his guru what is actually involved. Swatmarama is not advocating the performance of a particular sadhana; he merely noted down the system and outline the correct methods of practice. Your specific sadhana is between you and your guru. When your sadhana is mastered, the result is siddhi or perfection, and whatever you have managed to perfect is your own attainment and what the guru has enabled you to become.

Gorakhnath used to tell his disciples that hatha yoga is the science of the subtle body. It is the means by which the body’s energy can be controlled. He said that hatha is the means of controlling the two main energy channels of the positive/negative currents.

The positive-negative nature of energy exists in every part of our being. Hatha yoga not only brings a balance in the energy, but also in the duality of the mind, and between the lower nature and the higher mind, between the individual soul and the universal spirit. It involves your self and the atma, so why bring anyone else into the picture?

In the Shiva Samhita it says that the practitioner should keep his practice secret “just as a virtuous wife keeps her intimate relations between herself and her husband quiet”. This develops the love between husband and wife. Similarly, if you have any respect for your own beloved, the pure atma, whatever experience and power you are bestowed with is your own affair and has to be cultivated privately.

This is a purely logical and scientific process. When you have a small light burning in a room at night, the whole room is illumined. If you take your little light outside into the vast, open space, the light is engulfed by the night and absorbed in the darkness. The same principle applies to the power gained through your sadhana. The power may enlighten your own consciousness, but displayed and dissipated in the magniture of the outside world, it loses strength.

Sadhana is like a seed and siddhis are like flowers. If you want a seed to germinate you have to leave it in the soil. If you dig it up to show your friends and neighbours how it is progressing, it will not grow any further, it will die. Likewise, the siddhi is just the germinating point of your sadhana. If you are trying to cultivate fully bloomed awareness of atma, you will have to act properly. Sadhana is not a biology lesson where you dig up the plant to investigate its roots. Sadhana involves the growth of your own spirit and it is like the process of giving birth. When a foetus is growing in the womb, we cannot peep into the intermediate stage of its development, we have to wait for the final product.

Keeping sadhana and siddhis under cover has a powerful psychological effect. If you talk about and display your attainments, the sense of ‘I’ or ego becomes very acute. ‘I’ have achieved, ‘I’ had this experience, or ‘I’ can do this. If you want to experience cosmic consciousness, ego or ahamkara is the greatest barrier. Siddhis never last long, they are impermanent. After a certain stage of evolution they disappear. If you associate yourself with the feeling that ‘I’ have perfected this and that, you will expect yourself to be able to perform a great feat and so will others. You will be living to meet the expectations of others, otherwise they will not think that you are great. One day when the siddhi leaves you, how are you going to cope with the situation? In spiritual life it is very important to keep ego under control.

Most of the great saints and siddhas who had powers rarely displayed them. Only the people who lived very close to them knew their greatness. many siddhas who did display their powers were persecuted. Therefore, for your own good and for the good of others it is said, as a warning rather than mere advice, that sadhana and siddhis are to be kept secret.

 

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MAY 27, 2013

Leading Your Life The Yin And Yang Way

Posted by Dorothy under Interesting Reads, Philosophy, Wellnessno responses

The yin and yang symbol is normally known to be related to life in a negative and positive manner. Having your yin and yang balanced can also help you fight bad illnesses like Alzheimer, which can lead you to need Home Care Assistance. With yin being the negative energy and yang the positive energy, balance will occur if both arise equally. This wholeness where balance exists is depicted in the outer circle which surrounds the black and white shape within the circle. The interaction of these two energies are constant and is an unavoidable occurrence. On another note, it should also be mentioned that on a closer look, there is a small white dot in the yang symbol and small black dot in the yin symbol. Thus like in life, things are never completely black or white (or right or wrong).

If we take a moment to think about our daily experiences, we will realise that the enrgies of yin and yang exist constantly. For instance: cold and hot, moon and sun, dark and bright, feminine and masculine, contraction and expansion, water and fire, passive and active, below and above.

With this, I would like to encourage my fellow yogis to incorporate the concept of yin and yang in your daily lives. I will explain a few examples of daily life activities which we can look into with the aim of finding balance.

A) Hot and cold drink

Being brought up in a chinese household, my mother always boiled us cooling herbal drinks on hot days or when we fall sick to ‘cool’ the body down. The chinese refers to the body being ‘heaty’ in that situation. It might not be understood by the europeans or westerners as they drink cold water to cool their body down, which is considered a no no in chinese medicine. On the other hand, when the body is considered cold, we will be given ‘heaty’ herbal drinks. hence the balancing of yin and yang of the body.

The symptoms of heatiness are irritability, nose bleeding, constipation, sore throat, fever, rashes, ulcers, indigestion, hyperactivity and rapid pulse. Example of cooling drinks to have is chrysanthemum tea, coconut juice, white tea, boiled barley, boiled sugar cane and lemongrass drink.

The symptoms of excesssive cold energy in the body are weaknesses, tiredness and slow pulse. Example of ‘heaty’ drinks to have is boiled ginger or longan drink.

For a bigger list of cool,neutral and heaty foods, please read further at http://www.rxt.com.sg/tcm-tips-heaty-cooling-food.php

B) Hot and cool breathing exercises

In general, inhalation is yin and exhalation is yang. But when the body is not well in terms of having excesssive cold or hot energy, breathing exercises can help to create balance. This can be done with the sun breath (surya bedha pranayama) or cool breath (shitali pranayama).

i)Surya Bedha Pranayama

-Right hand in Vishnu Mudra (fold the index and middle finger in towards the palm)
-Left hand in Chin Mudra (tip of the thumb and index fingers together)
-Sit in Padmasana/Samasana position
-Clos the left nostril with the ring finger. Inhale through the right nostril for 4 counts, then release the ring finger and pause before you switch by closing the left nostril with the thumb and exhale through the left nostril for 4 counts
OR
-Close the left nostril with the ring finger. Inhale through the right nostril for 4 counts, then pause and exhale through the left nostril for 4 counts
-Repeat about 4-8 times each set. Once you are used to this practice, you can increase the number of counts and cycles

ii)Shitali Pranayama

-Both hands in Chin Mudra
-Sit in Padmasana/Samasana position
-Curl or roll your tongue into a tube. If you cannot do this, bring the upper and lower teeth together and press your tongue against the lower row teeth
-Inhale through the rolled tongue or teeth for 4 counts, feeling the cool air in your mouth
-Then close your mouth and exhale through both nostrils for 4 counts
-Repeat about 4-8 times each set. Once you are used to this practice, you can increase the number of counts and cycles

C) Yin and yang yoga

In my observation as a yoga enthusiasts, people are more inclined to practice yang yoga which encourages muscle contractions (to work on muscle tissues), high energy levels and perspiration i.e. Hot, Ashtanga and Power Yoga. However, yin yoga is slowly gaining popularity, with the requirement of holding poses longer and having a calm energy. not only that, as yin yoga requires the relaxation of muscles while working on lengthening connective tissues (ligaments, tendons and fascia). Therefore, if you have had a busy day running around doing your job, yin yoga will be beneficial to help you recuperate and wind down towards the end of the day. In general, learn to listen to your body in deciding whether to have a yin or yang yoga session.

I hope that these simple tips to balance your body will similarly help benefit your mind and soul in a greater way. May we all live in a balanced and harmonised environment, not only with humans, but also with other living beings.

 

 

Do you know that:
Many places in China, such as Luoyang, contain the word yang, and a few, such as Huayin, contain the word yin. This is a very old way to assign place names.

Classicaly, when used in place names, yang refers to the “sunny side”. The word “tai yang”, refers to the sun, and literally means “great yang”. In the northern hemisphere, sunlight comes predominantly from the south, and so the south face of a mountain (or a north face of a river valley) will get more direct sunlight. Therefore, yang means a place is on the south slope of a mountain (or on the north bank of a river valley). For example, Luoyang is on the south bank of the Luo River valley.

In the same way, yin would be the opposite, the “shady side”. Yin means that a place is on the north slope of a mountain (or on the south bank of a river). For example, Huayin is on the north slope of Mount Hua.

 

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APRIL 8, 2013

Yoga Nidra-The Blissful Relaxation

Posted by Dorothy under Community Interests, Interesting Reads, Philosophy, Wellness1 comment

Tree camping in Elk California

Most people sleep without resolving their tensions,
This is termed nidra.
Nidra means sleep, no matter what or why,
But yoga nidra means sleep after throwing off the burdens,
It is of a blissful, higher quality altogether.

When awareness is separate and distinct from the vrittis,
When waking, dream and deep sleep pass like clouds,
Yet awareness of atma remains
This is the experience of total relaxation.

Relaxation does not mean sleep.
Relaxation means to be blissfully happy,
It has no end.
I call bliss absolute relaxation;
Sleep is a different matter.
Sleep gives only mind and sense relaxation.
Bliss relaxes the atma, the inner self;
That is why, in tantra,
Yoga nidra is the doorway to samadhi.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

(After finishing his studies with his guru, Swami Sivananda Saraswati, he left the ashram to live as a wandering mendicant and later founded the International Yoga Fellowship in 1956 and the Bihar School of Yoga in 1963. He has authored over 80 books. In 1988, he renounced his mission, adopting kshetra sannyasa and now lives as a paramahamsa sannyasin)

Meaning of sanskrit words

vrittis – thought waves
atma – one’s true self
tantra -”Tantra is that Asian body of beliefs and practices which, working from the principle that the universe we experience is nothing other than the concrete manifestation of the divine energy of the godhead that creates and maintains that universe, seeks to ritually appropriate and channel that energy, within the human microcosm, in creative and emancipatory ways” David Gordon White of The University of California
samadhi
- The highest stage in meditation, in which a person experiences oneness with the universe. Intense concentration or absorption of consciousness, in which distinction between subject and object is eliminated.

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