What is Yoga?

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a way to restore our lost wholeness, our integrity as complete human beings, by unifying the personality around a center that is silent, unbounded, spacious, and joyful.

The techniques of yoga are methods of purifying the nervous system so that it can reflect a greater degree of consciousness and our lives can become an increasingly positive force in the world.

If these techniques are correctly practiced, the whole nervous system is revitalized – the body enjoys better health and more energy, the rested mind is freed from the burden of past experience, and perception is restored to its primal freshness. Thought and activity become coherent and integrated, life becomes richer and more fulfilling.

Yoga is not a religion. Its techniques, however, will gradually lead you to the direct experience of those truths on which religion rests. Yoga is a catalyst that allows us to grow in whichever direction is natural and life supporting.

By: Alistair Shearer, from his book, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Recommended Reading

I have just finished reading this. Rinzler’s relaxed writing style makes understanding Buddhist teachings easy, even for me.
Now the application into daily life is the difficult part.
Here is what others had to say…..

“The cool kid’s Buddhist.”—Boston Phoenix

“It’s easy to be confused when you spot a book called Walk Like a Buddha—does Buddha even walk? But its author, Lodro Rinzler, has practiced Buddhism since he was 11 and might convince you to adopt some of the Buddha’s holy moves. Food for thought for your next stressful subway commute, day at work, or moment at home.”—Metro New York

“Though its title refers to the Buddha, this book is an effective guide for helping readers reevaluate how they live life, disengage the autopilot, and be compassionate to others and themselves. The young Buddhist teacher [Rinzler] does not offer a universal answer to the pitfalls of worldly existence but rather engages with real issues asked by his column readers and friends.”—Publishers Weekly

“Walk Like a Buddha tries harder than almost any other dharma book to be contemporary, taking on Facebook use, online shopping, and challenges like how to overcome ‘fomo’ (‘the fear of missing out’) on a potentially epic Friday night outing. For those who yearn for dharma books with Arrested Development references and musings on brunch, this is likely the first and only.”—Tricycle

Yoga for Depression

Article on how Yoga can help with Depression


Yoga on the Beach

Here are some photos of us doing yoga At Sunset Beach, Cape Town!

Thought for the day

There is no waiting and no delayed gratification because yoga is both the means and the result, and the seed of all that is possible is present at the very beginning. This experience of stillness is possible in the first ten minutes of your first yoga class. It is possible in this very breath.

DONNA FARHI, Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit
Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/f/farhi_donna.html#0HxPt8eAWQOzgHTF.99

Book Recommendation

The Hero’s Contemplation
A comprehensive and remarkable account of teachings inspired by BKS Iyengar (who wrote the preface) and Kashmir Saivism.

The unknown, invisible hero of the ordinary goes through life like a whisper, pouring out his heart in every moment. At each instant he contemplates the eternally quivering, vibrant wheel of energies. By resting at their source, he remains at the centre of all things, of the Whole, savouring the caress of the Absolute.

His contemplation is the reverse flight of the Yogi, the motionless race towards and within the primary wave of energy, the supreme Spanda, source of all activity. A hero stripped of qualities who, at the end of desire and doing, devours all limitations so he may be immersed in the ultimate place of rest, the vibrant Heart of Bhairava.

Christian Pisano narrates the intuitive longing that pulsates behind our own personal story. A book, inspired by the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and Kashmir Saivism, that at last places postural practice into the broader subject that is Yoga! It is a comprehensive and remarkable account of teachings, often unknown legends and hidden symbolisms behind the names of asana, accompanied by insightful quotations and wonderful illustrations and pictures.

Like a finger that points towards the moon, these precious ingredients point towards the Absolute.”

Immunity Yoga Sequence

Transcribed from Notes taken by Chris Saudek, in October 2009. The following sequences were given to students of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India. The institute was closed for a week during the summer due to an excessive number of cases of the flu in Pune.

Asana to be practiced to increase your immunity
Morning Practice
Uttanasana, 5 minutes (crown of the head supported)
Adho Mukha Svanasana, 5 minutes (done with ropes or 2 minutes, rest, 2
2 minutes)
Prasarita Padottanasana, 3 minutes (crown of head on floor or block)
Sirsasana, 10-15 minutes with 5 minutes straight and 10 minutes variations
(in class we did 5 minutes in middle or at wall and then 10 minutes
of rope Sirsasana)
Viparita Dandasana on your bed with head down, 5 minutes (in class we did
this on a chair with feet on a tall block at the wall, hands holding the back legs of the chair)
Sarvangasana, 10 minutes
Halasana, 5 minutes
Sarvangasana cycle, 5 minutes
(for the above 3 poses we did chair Sarvangasana, 5-7 minutes, Ardha Halasana, 5 minutes, came back to Sarvangasana and did a few varia-
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana,5minutes
Viparita Karani, 5 minutes
Savasana with Viloma or Ujjayi Pranayama, 10 minutes

Evening Practice
Sirsasana, 10 minutes
Sarvangasana, 10 minutes
Halasana, 5 minutes
Setubandha Sarvangasana, 10 minutes
Savasana with Viloma or Ujayi Pranayama, 10 minutes

Reading from Class, 1. OCT 2013

The daily readings that follow are an invitation to get into the canoe of your practice and flow down the river of yoga. You may go deep, into uncharted waters: you will surely encounter challenges and delights along the way. But first you must get into that canoe and let go. In class I say: let your practice be a refuge from your need to control. And I suggest the same to you: get out of the driver’s seat for a while and enjoy the scenery. let the river of yoga take you where it will. If you hit whitewater, stay in the canoe and keep paddling. When you enter calm pools, do the same.
At a native American gathering in Arizona for the 1999 summer solstice, a Hopi elder said: There is a river flowing now, very fast. It is so great that there will be those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do that, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves; banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for.”
Now, go to your mat and push off from the shore.

From: Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates, Katrina Kenison (2002)

What are Surya Namaskar?

The Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, is a sequence of āsanas performed in a vinyasa style i.e. with continuous flow from one āsana to the next. Surya, in Sanskrit refers to a Hindu sun deity, and Namaskar, means ‘I bow to you’. The sun salutations are believed to be derived from the ancient ritualistic Vedic worship of the sun which can still be seen in the daily morning ablutions of the Hindu Brahmin. Many of the movements in these early morning rituals, such as the raising of the arms together in anjali mudra and the reverential bowing forward and touching of the earth are incorporated in the sequence of Surya Namaskar. The āsanas included differ from tradition to tradition, but a classical example of a sun salutation or Surya Namaskar sequence would be: Tadāsana, Urdhva Hastāsana , Uttanāsana , Adho Mukha Svanāsana, Urdhva Mukha Svanāsana, Chaturanga Dandāsana, Urdhva Mukha Svanāsana , Adho Mukha Svanāsana and then Uttanāsana, Urdhva Hastāsana and finally ending with Tadāsana.
As the sun is the ultimate sustainer of life itself, the Surya Namaskar, like the morning rituals of the Brahmin, can be seen as a sacred and reverential gesture in which one pays homage to the sun before engaging in daily activities. Traditionally it is practiced at the start of the day and facing east, to greet the rising sun.
The origins of the Surya Namaskar sequence is somewhat uncertain, as none of the traditional yogic texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika mention anything resembling the sequences we follow today. The oldest-known yoga text to describe a Sun Salutation sequence, the Yoga Makaranda, was written in 1934 by T. Krishnamacharya, who is considered by many to be the father of modern hatha yoga. It is unclear whether Krishnamacharya learned the sequence from his teacher Ramamohan Brahmachari or from other sources, or whether he invented it himself. Krishnamacharya taught a sequence to his students, most notably K. Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar and Indra Devi. These students went on to become internationally prominent teachers themselves and inspired much of āsana practice in the West. As a result, Sun Salutations have become an integral part of modern āsana practice even though its origins are somewhat obscured.
In a yoga class setting, a Surya Namaskar sequence is often used as a warm-up practice. It acts to unify a class, as everyone is breathing and moving in unison. In her book, Sun Yoga, Juanita Stenhouse describes 25 variations of Surya Namaskar. It is possible for even beginner students to follow a modified Sun Salutation sequence and it is a useful way of learning to transition smoothly from one āsana to another and develops yet another aspect of one’s practice. A sharpness and acuity of body and mind is cultivated in practicing this way.
Reference: yogajournal/practice/2746, the yoga tutor/sun-salutations, wikipedia/ Namaste, Image Reference

What are Asanas?

The āsanas are the poses or postures of the physical yoga practice. It is the part of yoga with which we are most familiar in the west. Āsana comes from the Sanskrit ‘to be’. The english translation of the word āsana is therefore not wholly accurate, since ‘pose’ or ‘posture’ implies that it is static. In fact āsanas are anything, but static, there is movement of blood, movement of breath and flow of energy present within each āsana. According to the philosophy of Yoga, the physical body is a manifestation of consciousness. It is a crystallization of karmic (behavioral) patterns created by the mind. The key to working with the body, therefore, is to understand the consciousness behind it, much of which lies outside our ordinary awareness. This requires that we practice asanas aware not only of the technicalities of the postures but also of the mental and emotional states that they create within us.
For more information follow here.