Sep 252016
 
shiva

Anandamaya Kosha or Equanimity or Bliss

shiva

Anandamaya kosha

The fifth kosha is Anandamaya kosha. The Anandamaya kosha or ‘sheath made of bliss’, or ananda is in Yoga and Vedantic philosophy the most subtle or spiritual of the five levels of embodied self. 

It is not possible to exactly translate the word ananda; its meaning is closer to equanimity than bliss. There is unified experience and that experience does not change. It is peace, joy, and love that is underneath, beyond the mind, independent of any reason or stimulus to cause a happy mental reaction.

Taittiriya Upanishad says:

Hidden inside it (Vigyanamaya Kosha) is yet a subtler body, composed of pure joy. It pervades the other bodies and shares the same shape. It is experienced as happiness, delight, equanimity and bliss.

It further defines anandamaya kosha as having the shape or form of a person with love as its head, joy as its right wing and delight as its left wing, bliss as its trunk and Brahman as its support or foundation.

Anandamaya kosha is the most interior of the koshas, the first of the koshas surrounding the Atman, the eternal center of consciousness. It is the subtlest of the five koshas. In the silence of deep meditation, this too is let go of, to experience the center.

This is a state of mind which does not change, despite anything that happens in life. With that state of mind you can live with all the conditions of life. You are where you are, firmly rooted in your own self, but at the same time you can interact with everyone. You can do anything, but still not be affected. Death cannot change that experience; birth cannot change it; love and hatred cannot make your experiences swing. When your mind becomes steady in experience and does not fluctuate under any condition, that is ananda. So, anandamaya kosha means the kosha which comprises homogenous experience.

Satyam Loka, the plane of ultimate bliss, corresponds to anandamaya kosha, which is none other than pure consciousness. 

The anandamaya kosha is extremely important in yoga because it’s the final and thinnest veil standing between our ordinary awareness and our higher Self.

Moksha Gita says:

anandamaya-kosha

The Anandamaya Kosha or this bliss sheath is Avidya (ignorance), a modification of Prakriti (Nature). It is the effect of past deeds. It is endowed with changing attributes. It is Jada or insentient. Therefore you are not the Anandamaya Kosha. You are the witness of this sheath. Understand, therefore, that ‘I am not the Anandamaya sheath. I am Brahman.’

The Anandamaya Kosha is made of Mula-Agyana or the core-ignorance. It is the Karana Sharira or the causal body which is the substratum of all other sheaths which are external to it. Its three attributes or Dharmas are:

  1. Priya, or affection
  2. Moda, delight,  and
  3. Pramoda, , or intense happiness.

It is the indescribable, beginningless Avidya or ignorance, the nescience of the Atma, and is composed of Malina Sattva, or that state of Prakriti in which Sattva is predominated and sullied by rajas and tamas. It is inanimate, beginningless, but has an end in Atma-Gyana.

Prakriti, the cause of ignorance, is made up of three Gunas, and carries with her the reflection of that transcendent Reality, Satchidananda. This Prakriti is divided into two aspects, called Maya and Avidya:

  • Maya is Shuddha-Sattva-Pradhana or that state of Prakriti in which the principle of Purity or Sattva, predominates over the other two, Rajas and Tamas.
  • Avidya is Malina-Sattva or that state of Prakriti in which Sattva is predominated and sullied by the other two – Rajas and Tamas.

When that pure Intelligence, Chit, is reflected through Maya or Shuddha-Sattva, the reflected Consciousness is called Ishvara. It is one only, and controls Maya.
When that Chit is reflected in Malina-Sattva or Avidya, the reflected Consciousness is called Jiva. Due to the multifarious nature of Avidya, Jivas are too many, and being individualised and separated from one another, they are swayed by Avidya or ignorance. And this ignorance leads them to identification with the five sheaths and the three bodies. Thus, there is activity, pain and suffering for the Jiva.

The aspirant should endeavour to rise above the five Koshas to realise the identity with Pure Consciousness. 

From Vigyanamaya to Anandamaya Kosha

Ananda is steady state of being, no matter what circumstance arises. The state of wholeness, of integration with the moment and with yourself, encompasses the inner sheath of anandamaya. This bliss state is usually experienced in fleeting moments, but can remain for longer periods. Importantly, anandamaya is still a sheath, a layer that can be peeled back. When anandamaya is peeled away, we reach atman—our very center. Atman is our direct connection with the divine, with the essence of all that is. It is our pure consciousness.

Anandamaya pervades each of the previous outer sheaths, but is only experienced once we are able to peel the illusions of each sheath away to reveal our true nature. Anandamaya can be experienced in those moments when you are fully immersed in that which you are doing—when you no longer separate yourself from your experience.

The transition from Vigyanamaya to Anandamaya Kosha is such an important stage in the ascent of awareness that the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras has devoted an entire section to this event, when the consciousness is able to perceive the four dimensions of time – past, present, future and eternity. Patanjali has termed this event when siddhis manifest as vibhooti. He calls it the accomplishment of yoga and has cautioned the aspirant against becoming distracted by this accomplishment. It is the state equivalent to paroksha anubhuti, or awareness of only one point without consciousness of one’s own self. Deepening awareness of paroksha anubhuti leads the practitioner to aparokshanubhuti, which correlates to the bliss of anandamaya kosha.

So, Vigyanamaya Kosha may be the conduit to Anandamaya Kosha. The experience of Vigyanamaya Kosha gives you a glimpse of what is in store for you as your awareness begins to experience equanimity, but the experience again drops due to the appearance and disappearance of vikshepa (distractions) and one-pointedness of mind. All siddhas and saints must pass through this stage before they attain enlightenment. The account of the forty days and forty nights when Christ encountered temptation before he experienced God, as well as tales of Buddha, where prior to nirvana he encountered the demons and bewitching damsels, indicate vikshepa.

When there is awakening in Vigyanamaya Kosha, siddhis begin to manifest. The practitioner becomes more intuitive and telepathic. He begins to know many things about people and events before they happen. He develops the power to read others’ thoughts or he may develop healing powers. A person exhibiting such powers could easily be mistaken for God, which perhaps many did who were unaware of the manifestation of siddhis through the power of yoga when there is awakening in Vigyanamaya Kosha.

Yoga clearly tells that you are not just the body you perceive with the eyes, nor are you just blood, bones, muscles, nerves, heart, brain and other organs that keep you alive. You are much more than that. In fact, what you see with the eye is sustained by what you do not see. This unseen part of you is composed of the five koshas as mentioned above. 

In the tantric tradition, spirit is often symbolized as Shiva, the transcendent Lord who is ever immersed in divine consciousness. Matter or energy is called Shakti, the Supreme Goddess whose divine body is this entire universe. They love each other with unspeakable intensity. Their supreme love is experienced in the Anandamaya kosha, where spirit and matter embrace each other.

Reaching Anandamaya Kosha

Anandamaya Kosha is revealed when we have come through the outer sheaths and have released any form of mind control over it. Anandamaya is a deeper experience than that which can be contemplated. Striving to reach anandamaya kosha in any other way directly is a futile attempt. 

We can help awaken Anandamaya Kosha through three practices:

  1. The first is seva, selfless service. This opens our heart to our innate unity with other beings.
  2. The second is bhakti yoga, devotion to God. This opens our heart to our unity with the all-pervading Divine Being.
  3. The third is samadhi, intensely focused meditation, which opens our heart to our own divine being.

When the identification with the sheaths ceases, the self realises the Infinite Being and gets liberated beyond death.

Koshas – Yogis Sheaths of our Being

Annamaya Kosha or Physical Body

Pranamaya Kosha or Energy Body

Manomaya Kosha or Mental Body

Vigyanamaya Kosha or Intellectual or Wisdom Body

Anandamaya Kosha or Bliss

To delve deeper into this important topic in Yoga, please check different courses at SAVY. 

Contact Us

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

 

President and Director of Teaching

Please contact us to learn more about Yoga. We would love to hear any suggestions or comments that you might have. Space is limited in courses and participation will be on a first-come-first-served basis. So, respond early to participate in this exciting, life-transforming Yoga experience. 

Jun 112016
 
Moon Salutations or Chandra Namaskar

Moon Salutations or Chandra Namaskar – Yoga Fundamentals Series

SAVY Yoga has been serving the city of London and surrounding areas since 2011. To serve the people London in a better way, instead of serving some run-of-the-mill pseudo-yoga routines, we offer some very useful, true Yoga/ Pranayama routines, ranging from gentle to very challenging routines, for a beginner to an advanced student alike. Here, we bring to you a new series of classes on Yoga Fundamentals which introduce you and clarify to you the benefits of authentic traditional ashtanga Yoga.

Through demonstration, discussion and experiential movement, you will gain key understanding of proper posture and how to keep your body safe. As common sense dictates, one can function properly only if one is disease-free and is in a healthy state of body, mind and spirit. So, for us, your health and disease-free state comes first of all. We firmly believe Yoga is much beyond mere gymnastics and sauna!

London Yoga Classes at SAVY bring you the taste, values and expertise of the true traditional Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga from India. Inspired adherence to eight pillars or steps of yoga bestow one with a calm mind and fit body and lead one towards attaining moksha or liberation for an emancipated life. In more physical or materialistic  terms, Yoga is more than capable of keeping one physically and mentally fit and disease-free. It has become the new hot and favored way to sweat it out. Yoga Fundamentals is a step in that direction.

Moon Salutations or Chandra Namaskar

Moon Salutations or Chandra Namaskar

Yogic texts have long acknowledged that the body has both heating and cooling energies and that yoga and pranayama (breathwork) can help bring them into a balanced harmony. Although, Chandra Namaskar or the moon salutation is not as popular as Surya Namaskar, it has wonderful benefits of its own. Chandra Namaskar is a series of 17 yogasanas, which form a good warm up session, before beginning yoga practice, or can help you in unwinding after a long day at work, and can be practiced as your evening restorative yoga session. Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar builds up heat in the system, and Moon Salutations or Chandra Namaskar cools it down. It is yoga postures, breathing, mindfulness, meditation, bandhas, gaze, alignment etc – all rolled in one! It can help to replenish our vital energy. Shiva Samhita calls Chandra Namsakar a source of immortality!

As the name suggests, Chandra Namaskar is a soothing and quieting sequence that invites you to bow to and cultivate the moon’s soothing lunar energy. This kind of practice is beneficial for men and women who are under any stress. It is a great way to balance your energy before you get to the point of exhaustion. Chandra Namaskar is a quieting practice and it is done with mantra chanting. The associated mantras work with feminine, creative, cooling lunar energies, recognising their importance and paying homage to them. In the body, they run in the ida nadi, or left channel representing consciousness and mind.

It is essential that you prepare your mind and body before you begin. Stand straight and keep you feet together. Your hands should be by your side and you should breathe gently, focusing on your inhalation and exhalation. Bring your awareness to the pattern of your breathing. All the yoga postures should be in sync with your breath. Avoid any kind of discord between your breathing and the asana. Gradually bring your awareness to the point between the eyebrows, at the level of agya chakra. Visualise the moon and its soft, gentle light there. Slowly, let the awareness fade away and gradually bring your focus to the body.

Sequence of Poses in Chandra namaskara

One of the more common variations available is described here.

First half of the series:

  1. Pranamasana / prayer pose
  2. Hasta utthanasana / raised arm posture
  3. Padhastasana / hand to foot pose
  4. Ashwa sanchalanasana / equestrian pose
  5. Ardha chandrasana / half moon pose
  6. Parvatasana / mountain posture
  7. Ashtanga Namaskara / salutation with eight parts of the body
  8. Bhujangasana / cobra posture
  9. Parvatasana / mountain pose
  10. Ashwa sanchalanasana / equestrian pose
  11. Ardha chandrasana / half moon pose
  12. Padhastasana / hand to foot pose
  13. Hasta utthanasana / raised arms pose
  14. Pranamasana / prayer pose


Second half of the series:

The backward stretched leg positions in Ashwa sanchalanasana are done by reversing the earlier sequence. This means that in the second half, instead of stretching the right foot backward, stretch the left. And the second time in the sequence, bend the right leg and bring the right foot between the hands.    

  1. Pranamasana
  2. Hasta utthanasana
  3. Padhastasana
  4. Ashwa sanchalasana
  5. Ardha chandrasana
  6. Parvatasana
  7. Ashtanga namaskara
  8. Bhujangasana
  9. Parvatasana
  10. Ashwa sanchalasana
  11. Ardhachandrasana
  12. Padhastana
  13. Hasta Utthanasana
  14. Pranamasana

Moon salutation is best practiced outdoors on moonlit night.

Benefits of Chandra Namaskar

  • Practise of moon salutation on full moon days can help in balancing and calming down fiery energies.
  • It helps to channelize creative energies. 
  • Stretching and strengthening of the thigh muscles, calves, pelvis, and ankles, mainly the lower body.
  • It also helps activate root chakra.
  • Moon salutation is beneficial to people under stress and anxiety.
  • It helps balance your energy before you reach a point of exhaustion, as it is a quieting practice. 
  • It promotes balance, digestion, tones the spine, expands lungs and opens the Heart Chakra.
  • It improves blood circulation
  • Brings mental clarity by oxygenating the blood more effectively
  • Benefits all the visceral organs
  • Keeps intestinal tract well regulated and healthy
  • Stimulates spinal nerves
  • Stretches leg and back muscles
  • Cures sexual ailments 
  • Improves flexibility prior to childbirth.
  • It also relaxes sciatic nerves
  • Improves confidence
  • Tones pelvic muscles
  • Regulates functioning of adrenal glands
  • Relieves constipation and anger
  • Helps in maintaining balance ida and pingala
  • Helps develop a healthy sense of poise and respect for mind and body.

Difference between Surya Namaskar and Chandra Namaskar

One of the major differences in the sun and moon salutations is that the latter is always performed in a rather slow and relaxed manner, while the former is done in several different forms. The Chandra Namaskar is done only for a limited number of times.

The Chandra Namaskara begins on the left side and then continues on the right, as the left side represents the ‘ida nadi’ or the moon, while the right side represents the ‘pingala nadi’ or the sun.

You are most welcome to  learn this routine and stay healthy.

This series will be held every month. Here are the details of the workshop:

    • Location:
      • Physical Location : SAVY International North London Studio at 163 Concord Road London ON N6G 3H9, Or
      • Online – You’ll be sent routine for each day.
    • Formats: 3-Class Series
    • Batches: One batch in the month it is offered.
    • Days & Time:
      • Group Sessions: Fridays, from 04:45 PM – 05:45 PM, or
      • Private Sessions: By appointment
    • Cost:
      • Group Sessions: $150 for all 3 group sessions (+HST), or
      • Private Sessions: $499 for all 3 private sessions (+HST) 
    • Commitment:
      • A firm commitment to complete the program without missing any class (except in an emergency).
      • At the end of the one month program, incorporate the techniques learned in your practice. You may also sign-up for another month. Continue routine Yoga classes if you are already coming, or join classes at SAVY Studio.
    • Components of Program:
      • Chandra Namaskar
      • Mantra
      • Pearls of Ancient Wisdom

    The same program is also taught on one-on-one basis and online. Please book your appointment for ‘Meet and Greet’.

    Please check the exact schedule and time below.

    Through demonstration, discussion and experiential movement, you will gain key understanding of proper postures and how to keep your body safe. As common sense dictates, one can function properly only if one is disease-free and is in a healthy state of body, mind and spirit. So, for us, your health and disease-free state comes first of all. We firmly believe Yoga is much beyond mere gymnastics and sauna!

Established benefits of Yoga:

  • Improved General Health
  • Longevity
  • Anxiety Relief
  • Stronger Bones
  • Healthier Heart
  • Healthy Weight
  • Lower Stress Levels
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Improved Lung Capacity
  • Improved Brain Function
  • Greater Sense of Balance
  • Better mind-body connexion
  • Better Sexual Function  & Libido
  • Lower Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics
  • Relief from Chronic Back Pain and Neck Pain
  • Better over-all quality of life & much more…

Learn all that directly under expert guidance of one of the most qualified faculty in the world! 

Please fill up your Registration and Waiver Form through London Yoga Classes page. Sign up today and live life to your full potential.

Call or email for any inquiries.

Sign up today and live life to your full potential.

Book your spot today!

Contact Us

 

*HST applicable on all payments.

Apr 092016
 
Vigyanamaya Kosha

Vigyanamaya Kosha

Vigyanamaya Kosha

Vigyanamaya Kosha refers to the intellect or wisdom. Taittiriya Upanishad says: “Deeper still lies another body comprised of intellect – separate from the self comprised of mind, and self comprised of intuitive knowledge. It permeates the three denser bodies and takes up the same form. This one is also like the shape of a person like the preceding koshas. Those who establish their awareness here, free themselves from unhealthy thoughts and actions, and develop the self-control necessary to achieve their goals.  Tasye shraddhaiva shiraha, Faith is its head; hritam dakshinah pakshaha satyamuttarah pakshaha, righteousness its right wing and truth its left wing; yoga atma, yoga is its soul, and maha puchham pratishtaha, maha its foundation.” Koshas - The SheathsThis fourth kosha is Vigyanamaya Kosha. Vigyana means psyche or knowing or intellect, the faculty which discriminates, determines or wills. Vigyana is a Sanskrit word from the prefix vi, meaning special, and gyana, meaning knowledge or awareness, inner perception or experience. Gyana means knowledge but vignana is a specific knowledge which is acquired by shraddha, dharana, manyata (beliefs) and anubhuti (experience). We know that atma is immortal, imperishable and is different than the body. It is a part and parcel of brahman who is a form of truth, mind and bliss. But we have no experience of this reality. Vigyanamaya is the determinative knowledge (Nishchaya). This determinative knowledge (Adhyavasaya) is an attribute (Dharma) of the intellect (Buddhi). It is the determinative faculty which guides the mind and comes to right conclusion or determination. Vigyanamaya kosha or pragya (wisdom) sheath is part of sukshma sharira (subtle body). It is the sheath composed of intellect, associated with the organs of perception. It is the vehicle of higher thought, vigyana — understanding, knowing, direct cognition, wisdom, intuition and creativity. During sleep it gets involution or Laya along with chidabhasa or the reflection of Pure Consciousness. During waking state it is the doer. It is an effect like a jar and is inanimate. It shines in borrowed feathers. It borrows its light temporarily from its source, just as the moon borrows its light from the sun. It is not the eternal Self. Vigyanamaya Kosha rides on the wings of vairagya and viveka, and requires ichha shakti, kriya shakti and gyana shakti to realize.

This knowledge sheath, which seems to be followed by a reflection of the power of the chitta (mind-stuff), is a modification of prakriti (nature). It is endowed with the function of knowledge and identifies itself with the body, organs etc. This knowledge sheath cannot be the Supreme Self because:

  • it is subject to change
  • it is insentient
  • it is a limited thing
  • it is not constantly present

Vigyana has two meanings: external science and also inner experience. It is the sheath of wisdom that is underneath the processing, thinking aspect of mind. It knows, decides, judges, and discriminates between this and that, between useful and not useful. It is also the level of ego consciousness, meaning the powerful wave of ‘I-am-ness’. This ‘I-am-ness’ itself is a positive influence. 

Maha loka, the plane of siddhas and saints, is the foundation or support of vigyanamaya kosha. It is from here onwards that the superstructure of heightened awareness is constructed. If the siddhis which begin to manifest become the object of focus or enjoyment, then the Yogi will surely fall back to lower planes of consciousness. However, if he does not allow them to distract the awareness, especially when he is in a state of samadhi, then ascent of awareness to higher lokas known as janah, the realm of rishis and munis, and tapah, the realm of liberated souls, the jivanmuktas and videhamuktas, is definitely assured.

When the Yogi is in the state of annamaya kosha; he considers himself based on sex, age, characteristics and others. When he reaches pranamaya kosha, his assessment is based on guna (qualities) like – I am a musician, scientist, writer, fool, intelligent, rich, poor etc. When he reaches manomaya kosha the criteria shifts to swabhava (nature) like greedy, arrogant, atheist, theist, selfish, generous etc. When our attention is focused on these, we are considered to be in the third stage of atma-unnati (spiritual progress). When the Yogi reaches the fourth level of vignanamaya kosha, he starts experiencing that he is different from the physical body; he is not what his properties and nature depict – he is a part of Ishvara and imperishable, indestructible, immortal atman.

An atma-gyani is one, who has strong vishwas (faith) and complete shraddha in his experience of being the atman. He knows for sure that he is vishudha atman and nothing else. This body is my vehicle, prana is my weapon and manas is my slave. The interests of atman are different than the interests of physical body.

A major part of sadhana, or spiritual practice, is gaining ever increasing access to this level of our being. It is the level that has the higher wisdom to seek The Truth, to go within, in search of the eternal center of consciousness.

Subjective experience is a consequence of vigyanamaya kosha. Whatever you are dreaming is a projection of vigyanamaya kosha. Vigyanamaya kosha is related to a very unknown part of the universe and it is a link or sutra between the conscious mind, the individual mind and the universal mind. Universal knowledge comes to the conscious mind through vigyanamaya kosha. Vigyanamaya kosha does not depend on time, space and causation factors.

Dimension of Intuition

Vijnanamaya kosha transcends intellect and enters into the dimension of intuition, where the mind does not work. Mind and intellect do not function in vigyanamaya kosha. Each one of us operates at the level of instinct, intelligence, intellect and intuition. Till the level of intellect you are under the influence and in the field of manomaya kosha. It is when you are able to transcend intellect that you will experience an intuitive flash about something or the other. All of us have at some time in our life experienced this intuition, which comes in flashes due to a sudden contact with the vigyanamaya kosha. But we are not able to hold on to that state of awareness and once again regress to the level of intellect and intelligence.

Focus of Yoga is to master howto connect with this level of intuition and to use it as a tools, just like intellect, mind or intelligence. The practices of yoga are designed to take you to this point. 

Refinement and Development of Vigyanamaya Kosha

Like manomaya kosha, vigyanamaya kosha can be reached with regular yoga asana, pranayama, and meditation practices. Once there, we shall experience a deeper peace that comes by way of freedom from thoughts, actions, and speech. It is highly unlikely to maintain this awareness all the time. Rather, it should come in waves and flashes, gradually increasing over time until you are much less likely to get caught up in the daily dramas. As your yoga practice deepens, take notice of the subtle changes that occur and you will notice aspects of your awareness that exemplify the development of this kosha.

Mantra meditation helps tremendously. This soothes and balances, and helps release blocks of energy. Yogis who spend a great deal of time in meditation often have very little need for sleep, in part because their mental vehicles are functioning optimally. It is possible to develop Vigyanamaya Kosha through the following methods:

  • Tantra is specifically related to vigyanamaya kosha and can be used to develop it. Vigyanamaya kosha is inherent within you but it is hidden like energy is hidden in matter. You have to separate it; you have to release your vigyanamaya kosha to experience it.
  • Vigyanamaya Kosha rides on the wings of vairagya and viveka, and requires ichha shakti, kriya shakti and gyana shakti to realize.
  • Harmonious and supportive environment is an ideal diet for this kosha.
  • Take sattvic food. It helps keep all kosha healthy.
  • Practice meditation. Pranayama, mudras, pratyahara will help tune it up for meditation.
  • Mantra meditation has a positive influence on nadis. Chant or sing mantras suited to you. Beej mantras have a profound effect.
  • Practice mauna (noble silence). Try making meals in silence, or while chanting or singing uplifting mantras.
  • Releasing what you don’t need is as important as adding what you need; spend less time on the activities (or relationships) that are toxic.
  • Practice good intention and repetition; you can change the energy of your inner and outer environment.
  • Marma Therapy acts on marmas and can remove blocks.
  • Traatak, dhyana, dharna are very useful.

 When there is awakening in vigyanamaya kosha, siddhis (special powers/ skills) begin to manifest –

  • the practitioner becomes clairvoyant and telepathic; he begins to know many things about people and events before they happen, which come to him in the form of dreams, thoughts or visions.
  • he may be able to appear at many places to many people at the same time
  • he develops the power to read others’ thoughts and also to influence them
  • he may develop healing powers. His words, touch or glance can heal the deadliest of diseases which no doctor can cure.
  • In some exceptional cases, depending on the extent of his advent into the level of vigyanamaya kosha, he may even be able to resurrect life or enter another person’s body. A person exhibiting such powers could easily be mistaken for God!

Koshas – Yogis Sheaths of our Being

Annamaya Kosha or Physical Body

Pranamaya Kosha or Energy Body

Manomaya Kosha or Mental Body

Vigyanamaya Kosha or Intellectual or Wisdom Body

Anandamaya Kosha or Bliss

To delve deeper into this important topic in Yoga, please check different courses at SAVY. 

Contact Us

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

President and Director of Teaching

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Please contact us to learn more about Yoga. We would love to hear any suggestions or comments that you might have. Space is limited in courses and participation will be on a first-come-first-served basis. So, respond early to participate in this exciting, life-transforming Yoga experience. 

Nov 142015
 
Chakrasana

CREATING RIGHT CONDITIONS FOR YOGA

Chakrasana

Yoga is about discovering your real inner self, about re-inventing or re-designing yourself. To achieve that, right conditions for Yoga have to be there. Yoga means you are moving towards expanding your consciousness, towards connecting yourself with the Super Consciousness or Super Intelligence. You have to create the necessary atmosphere to let this happen. When you were created the first time, it was not your choice – it happened from memory stored in inherited DNA! But now that you are reinventing yourself through Yoga, you can choose to go step-by-step, moving towards how you want yourself to be.

You expand your consciousness through Yoga. I’ve been asked many times how to do that – well, you don’t have to be explained when you are ready! This is something to be experienced. When you connect with the source of creation, you practically connect with a huge source of intelligence, the kind of intelligence that you won’t think is possible, which we mortals perceive as genius. To allow this to happen, there should be no obstacles. Some of the common obstacles can be removed easily. The Yoga teachings and methodology provided here have been perfected over thousands of years not only to optimize the benefits, but also to reduce any dangers and risks associated with awakening Kundalini Shakti prematurely. This approach helps avoid many of the difficulties involved with the premature awakening of Kundalini that one sometimes comes across. Please follow the following advice and feel the difference.

 

Cold Water Bath

Before beginning your practice, especially in the morning, it is better to take a bath with cold water which is about five degree Celsius lower than room temperature. This will open up the pores of your skin. This is important for practicing yoga because we want the cellular and energetic structure of the body to be charged with a different dimension. Also, it washes away the physical and emotional negativity accumulated over the preceding time. Why one person seems to be far more alive than the other is essentially because of energy. Once you are charged with energy, youthfulness stays for a very long time.

Yoga Attire

Yoga is generally practiced barefoot. Clothing should generally be loose and comfortable. It is advisable to keep the shoulders and spine covered, so practicing without any covering the upper body is not recommended. This has to do with the awakening, flow and distribution of Kundalini via the 3 main energy channels (ida, pingala and sushumna) that lie in and along the spinal cord.

A blanket can be used to cover the body after Yoga, especially after meditation, during the relaxation period. Keep the body covered and warm. Most Kriyas are followed by a period of relaxation that is usually done in corpse pose (shav-asana) and during this time the body temperature tends to drop, so a blanket can be used to keep the body warm and comfortable.

Yoga With Full Awareness

Keep your full focus on what you are doing. Try to be as aware as possible of every posture and movement you are making during your practice. Check throughout your yoga session where your mind is; if it has wandered, gently bring it back and focus again on the poses and the breathing. This is the most essential requirement of yoga, regardless of whether you are a beginner or a master. In addition, if certain feelings or energies awaken within you, bring your attention to them and just observe them taking their course as you progress through your practice.

Breathing

There is no Yoga without Pranayama! Yoga significantly relies on the Science of Pranayama (breathing exercises). Unless specified otherwise, all breathing should be done through the nose. 

Jal Neti (washing the nostrils with saline water) is recommended for cleaning the nasal passageways to help maximize the benefits of pranayama.

Safety

Some Yoga Kriyas can be quite challenging and it is recommended to always do warm-ups first before doing these tough sets and asanas. There are several good easy kriyas and sets, which work very well as warm-ups to the tough kriyas. It is especially important to do spinal warm-ups as charging the cerebrospinal fluid within the spinal cord and brain assists in the flow of awakened Kundalini Shakti. Don’t overdo it. Try to walk the middle road. This goes for both – your overall practice and also for each kriya and asana you do. In other words, each exercise you do should not be too easy and not too hard, and your overall practice should be equally balanced, between being ridiculously ambitious or excessively easy. With regard to your practice, try to establish a steady, long-term daily practice, rather than doing 10 hours a day for 2 weeks and then nothing after that.

Use common sense. For the difficult asanas and exercises, ease off a little if you feel you are risking injury. Also, feel free to increase the relaxation time between exercises or reduce the time suggested for doing a particular exercise to suit your pace. Yoga practice is all about you and only you. It is not a competition. So, listen to your body and let your inner voice guide and direct you.

Yoga Teachings

It is immensely important to initially learn Yoga from a knowledgeable and experienced teacher, the Guru, who can ensure that the understanding is accurately disseminated. Safety is a big concern. If possible you should at least try to attend a few live yoga classes so that you can get a feel of the asanas and pranayamas. Guru is very important. Later on, in absence of Guru, the Guru within is always available to guide you.

Good literature and websites can also provide some guidance for practicing yoga.

When to Practice Yoga 

In general Yoga should be practiced in the early morning hours. Early morning is called Brahma-Muhurta in Sanskrit. It literally means ‘The Divine Time’. This is the time of the day when the spiritual energy on our planet is at its highest. The air at that time is fresh and contains the greatest amount of prana (cosmic life force). The mind is also fresh and unburdened with the worries of everyday life. This will help in the practice of concentration and meditation. This is the time of day when you are least likely to be distracted by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The stomach is empty, which is necessary before practicing many of the Yoga asanas and pranayamas.

But if you can’t do your practice at that time, it is acceptable to practice at other times of the day as well. Choice and intensity of Yoga postures is better optimized to the designated time.

Where to Practice Yoga

It is important for the place where you practice Yoga to be neat, spacious and clean, but more importantly, it should be well ventilated. You can also use a fan to keep the air fresh, but make sure it is not pointed directly at you. Practicing outdoors is even better, although direct sunlight should be avoided.

Yoga Diet

Try not to eat at least 3 hours before doing your Yoga practice. While practicing yoga asanas, you should not only be on an empty stomach, your bowels should also be empty. Anything that is not the body should be out of the body if you want to move your energies beneficially. Though they act on the physical body, or the annamaya kosha, as well, Yoga practices are not mere physical exercises; they act at the energy bodies as well. To achieve that, nothing should be there other than your body. So, the food you put in or the waste you produced, both these things should be out.

Given that Yoga uses many different bandhas (body locks), pranayamas (breathing exercises), asanas and vigorous movement, you could be quite uncomfortable if your stomach or bowels are still full. 

Although Yoga in general recommends a Sattvic diet (foods that promote calmness and clarity), and not Rajasic foods (energetic foods that promote activity) or Tamasic foods (foods that promote heaviness and dull the mind), due to the nature of Yoga, including some Rajasic foods in your diet is permissible. Still it is recommended that the bulk of your diet be Sattvic. Sattvic foods are generally fresh and sweet such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey etc. Rajasic foods are generally spicy and stimulating, such as onions, garlic, eggs, fish, tea etc. Tamasic foods are fatty foods, stale food, meat, etc.

Yoga Kriyas are designed to force the organs, tissues, nerves and vessels to expel buried toxins out into the elimination systems of the body. So some time after any Kriyas or tough yoga set, one should drink plenty of water to help cleanse the body of the toxins and waste that have been released.

Keep Your Eyes Closed

Just closing eyes reduces 75% of alpha wave activity in brain. So, for us humans, shutting down the visual apparatus is quite important to quieten the mind. You see this world with your eyes, and you hold a lot of energy in your eyes. When eyes are closed, the outer world disappears. The eyes naturally close for any internal experience because the visual apparatus connects us with the outward. If you just close them, you can still hear, smell and feel, but much of the world is shut out. So, focus on internal experience happens best when your eyes are closed. When you’re doing Yoga, you want to internalize everything. So, keep your eyes closed during yoga.

Speaking

Not talking during the asana should not be just a norm in Yoga classes, it should be a rule! Asanas are dynamic meditation – because you are not yet capable of staying still, you’re doing something else to become meditative, that which is absolutely comfortable and stable is your asana. When your body is at ease, your mind is at ease and your energies flow freely, in complete vibrancy and balance. If you sit still, you are naturally meditative. To come to a state of natural meditation, the preparatory step is asana.

If you speak, many disturbances happen physiologically and energetically. You must never speak in postures because your focus, breath and what happens to your energy system are most important; otherwise you will disturb the system. If you have to speak, come out of asana and then do it. 

Using Mirrors/Listening to Music

Ideally, there should never be a mirror or music when you practice Hatha Yoga. This culture of using mirrors has come from body-building and gymnasia because, there, people want to admire their physical bodies. In yoga, that is not recommended at all. If you look at yogis, their physical structure is not like that of an athlete – they are quite ordinary; some are even plump! For Yogis, the only thing important to them is their consciousness which must grow. If you want to get the involvement of that which is the source of creation within you, your body, mind, and energy must be absolutely involved and aligned. And your mental focus is most important while practicing asanas.

Classical yoga demands aligning your body, mind and energy, and the innermost core. You have to give your one hundred percent for the source of creation, which we usually refer to as the divine, to yield. If you hold back or deviate a little, it will not be there for you.

Frequency of Practice

The Yoga Sutra says – sthira sukham asanam – an asana should be comfortable and stable. The goal of asana practice is to achieve a state where your asana is comfortable and stable; even if you remain in a posture for hours, it should stay the same, without eliciting any disturbances internally. That is when your perception starts expanding.

The intention of Hatha Yoga practice is to knead the body in such a way that we can remold it. So, whatever time you want to devote, should be done with one hundred percent involvement. In true spirit of Yoga, doing yoga every day or twice a week – that doesn’t really matter!

Human body is clay. Karma, or the established memory, makes it rigid. . It is because of this memory that the physical, physiological and psychological aspects becomes rigid. Through Yoga, we try to undo that. Then, you can shape it whichever way you want because the energies become fluid.

 Delve deeper into this and many more informative topics in Yoga. Please check different Yoga Education courses at SAVYJitender K Sahdev

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

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Pashchimottanasana – The West Stretch or Seated Forward Bend

 Meditation, Partner Yoga, Yoga, Yoga Posture -Asana, Yoga Therapy  Comments Off on Pashchimottanasana – The West Stretch or Seated Forward Bend
Jul 212013
 
Paschimottanasana

Pashchimottanasana – The West Stretch or Seated Forward Bend

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Pashchimottanasana

Paschimottanasana stretches the length of the spine, and allows the life-force to flow to every part of the body.

परसार्य पादौ भुवि दण्डरूपौ दोर्भ्यां पदाग्रदवितयं गॄहीत्वा |
जानूपरिन्यस्तललाटदेशो वसेदिदं पश्छिमतानमाहुः || ३० ||

prasārya pādau bhuvi daṇḍa-rūpau
dorbhyāṃ padāghra-dvitayaṃ ghṝhītvā |
jānūparinyasta-lalāṭa-deśo
vasedidaṃ paśchimatānamāhuḥ || 28 ||

Having stretched the feet on the ground, like a stick, and having grasped the toes of both the feet with both the hands, when one sits with his forehead resting on the thighs, it is called Paśchima Tâna.

इति पश्छिमतानमासनाग्र्यं पवनं पश्छिमवाहिनं करोति |
उदयं जठरानलस्य कुर्याद उदरे कार्श्यमरोगतां पुंसाम || 29 ||

 

iti paśchimatānamāsanāghryaṃ
pavanaṃ paśchima-vāhinaṃ karoti |
udayaṃ jaṭharānalasya kuryād
udare kārśyamaroghatāṃ cha puṃsām || 29 ||

This most excellent of all asanas, Pashchimottanasana, makes the breath flow through the Sushumna, rouses the gastric fire, makes the loins lean, and removes all diseases.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Chapter 1, verse 29

Pashchimottanasana (Sanskrit: पश्चिमोत्तानासन; IAST: paścimottānāsana), Seated Forward Bend, or Intense Dorsal Stretch, is a yoga posture.

(PASH-chee-moh-tan-AHS-anna)

pashchimottana = intense stretch of the west (pashima = west, uttana = intense stretch)

Together with Padmasana (lotus), Siddhasana (half-lotus) and Vajrasana (lightning-bolt pose), this pose is an accomplished pose according to the Shiva Samhita. It was advocated by 11th century yogi Gorakshanath.

Etymology

The name comes from the Sanskrit word paschima (पश्चिम, paścima) meaning “west” and uttana (उत्तान, uttāna) meaning “intense stretch” or “straight – asana  (आसन) meaning “posture”.

  • Paschima (पश्चिम, Paścima) = Back, West, Back of Body
  • ud (उद्, ud) =Prefix for Verbs or Nouns which indicates superiority in Location, Rank, Power, Intensity.
  • Tana (तान, Tāna) = stretched
  • Uttana (उत्तान, Uttāna) = intense stretch, straight, straightened
  • Asana (आसन, āsana) = Posture, seat

Pashchimottanasana (पश्चिमोत्तानासन, Paścimottānāsana) = Intense-Stretch-of-back-of-body

Classification and Level: Basic seated forward bend

Concentration: On the back and the Manipura Chakra

Step by Step:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. You may support your buttocks on a folded blanket. Press actively through your heels. Rock slightly onto your left buttock, and pull your right sitting bone away from the heel with your right hand. Repeat on the other side. Turn the top thighs in slightly and press them down into the floor. Press through your palms or finger tips on the floor beside your hips and lift the top of the sternum toward the ceiling as the top thighs descend.
  1. Draw the inner groins deep into the pelvis. Inhale, and keeping the front torso long, lean forward from the hip joints, not the waist. Keep the back and neck straight. Lengthen the tailbone away from the back of your pelvis. If possible hold the big toes or take the sides of the feet with your hands, thumbs on the soles, elbows fully extended. Be sure your elbows are straight, not bent.
  1. When you are ready to go further, don’t forcefully pull yourself into the forward bend, even if your hands are on the feet. Always lengthen the front torso into the pose, keeping your head raised. If you are holding the feet, bend the elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor. The lower belly should touch the thighs first, and then the upper belly, the ribs, and the head last.
  1. With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. In this way the torso oscillates and lengthens almost imperceptibly with the breath. Eventually you may be able to stretch the arms out beyond the feet on the floor.
  1. Stay in the pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes initially. To come up, first lift the torso away from the thighs and straighten the elbows again if they are bent. Then inhale and lift the torso up by pulling the tailbone down and into the pelvis.

Anatomy of the Pose

Focus on extending the spine towards head with each inhalation, and try to bend down with each exhalation.

Joint Actions: Spinal flexion (moving towards extension); sacrum nutation; hip flexion, adduction, internal rotation; knee extension; ankle slight dorsiflexion; scapula abduction, upward rotation; glenohumoral joint flexion, slight external rotation, adduction; elbow extension; forearm slight pronation.

Working

Gravity acts to pull the torso towards the top of the thighs.

Spine: Extensors can act to deepen action in the hip joints.

Legs : Vastii and articularis genus to extend knees.

Lengthening

Spine: Spinal extensors (if releasing into pose), latissimus dorsi.

Legs : Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, piriformis, obturator internus and gemelli, gluteus medius and minimus, gastrocnemius and soleus; popliteus works at length (eccentrically) to prevent hyperextension of the knees.

Arms : Rhomboids, lower trapezius, latissimus dorsi.

Breathing

Breathing can be very helpful while moving into this pose. Emphasizing the action of the exhalation deepens the flexion at the pelvis, whereas emphasizing the action of the inhalation assists in extending the upper spine. This will only occur if the exhalation is initiated with the lower abdominal muscles and the inhalation is directed towards the rib cage.

 

Therapeutic Applications

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings
  • Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis
  • Traditional texts say that Paschimottanasana increases appetite, reduces obesity, and cures diseases.

 

Basic Benefits:

  • Stimulates the Manipura Chakra and life energy.
  • Increases blood supply in the back.
  • Stretches the muscles of the back and along the back of the legs.
  • Activates kidney and pancreas function and aids in achieving a slim figure.

Contradictions and Cautions

Those having the following problems should observe caution:

  • Asthma
  • Diarrhea
  • Back injury: Only perform this pose under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Beginner’s Tip

Never force yourself into a forward bend, especially when sitting on the floor. Coming forward, as soon as you feel the space between your pubis and navel shortening, stop, lift up slightly, and lengthen again. Often, because of tightness in the backs of the legs, a beginner’s forward bend doesn’t go very far forward and might look more like sitting up straight.

Variations

Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana (urdhva = upward; mukha = face)

Lie on your back, exhale, and bend your knees into your torso. Then inhale and extend the heels toward the ceiling. Slowly, on an exhalation, swing your feet toward the floor above your head. You may or may not be able to reach all the way to the floor. Try not to let the back of the pelvis lift very far from the floor—this is an upside-down version of Paschimottanasana, not Salamba Sarvangasana or Halasana.

 

Modifications

Most students may sit up on a folded blanket in this pose. Extremely stiff students can place a rolled up blanket under their knees.

Partnering

A partner can help you release your lower back in this pose. There are various ways partners can help each other:

  1. Have your partner stand behind you facing your back. Perform the pose – then have your partner press his/her hands against your lower back and pelvis. The hands should be turned so the fingers point towards your tailbone. Remember though that the pressure isn’t to push you deeper into the forward bend; rather, gentle pressure (parallel to the line of the back) encourages the back spine and tailbone to lengthen away from the torso. Extend the front torso against this downward action.
  2. Have your partner sit behind you, tailbone to tailbone, back to back. As you deepen your pose, your partner may extend arms up, staying in close contact all the time and release his/ her weight on to your back slowly, almost lying down on your back as you complete the pose. You can do the same for your partner later on.
  3. Another way to get help from a partner is sitting in front of each other, feet apposed, holding hands while getting into the pose and keep holding hands while gravity acts to deepen the pose. You can walk your hands up your partner’s arms to get deeper, while directing your weight down towards thighs.

Preparatory Poses

  • Balasana
  • Janu Sirasana
  • Uttanasana

Follow-Up Poses

  • Ardha Matsyendrasana

 

Tips for Your Practice

Improvement with this pose is a lengthy process! The changes may take years, and you may encounter many roadblocks where your resistance temporarily slows you down.

Focus your mind on relaxing into the pose instead of pushing into it with force and meeting resistance. Relax and let gravity act. Where and how you use your weight depends on how deep your existing forward bend already is. If you are only a few inches from your legs, let the weight of your chest take you down towards thighs. If you can’t get so close to your legs, hold your feet or big toes and gently ease into more depth.

Here again, the mind can intrude, resisting the surrender that is required to fully benefit from this manoeuvre. Explore the mental patterns you’re bringing to the asana—an urge to push or a tendency to give up and space out—and redirect your attention to the sensations of letting go. As you deepen your pose by doing less, you will recognize how emotions stored in the body can tighten the muscles and hold you back. Surrender mentally and you will just ease into greater depth.

Here is another technique to help free your spine. Cup the back of your head in your hands. Drop your elbows toward the floor and let your upper back spread. Then keep your shoulder blades wide as you inhale and raise your elbows, stretching them away from your sides. Press the back of your head into your hands as you open your chest and lengthen your torso forward. Expand this motion for several breaths and then release your elbows, chest, and head down again. You may find your forward bend to be both deeper and more extended.

As you progressively surrender, stop resisting mentally and start easing into the pose, your pose grows quieter, supported by your legs, stay in touch with the form of the pose by sending delicate physical reminders to yourself whenever you feel the discomfort of misalignment disturbing your inner focus. Keep your heels, legs, thighs and tailbone in contact with the earth and active and your hip joints flexed. Continue to deepen the sensation that your torso is at rest on your legs, allowing your belly to stay on your thighs, feeling it as liquid and cool. Let distractions diminish and blur into the background and immerse yourself completely into the inner terrain of the pose.

Sustaining this inner focus is always a challenge. At some point, it becomes meditation. You will become aware of the struggle as you oscillate between effort and surrender, distraction and attention. Slowly, the influence of your mind becomes more and more obvious. You may be surprised by your resistance to prolonging the pose, particularly if you are quite flexible but not accustomed to holding the pose for long. At this point, whatever your tendencies, the mental challenges you encounter are the most likely threats to deepening your practice. A host of emotions will play upon your mind, and you thought this was a mere hamstring stretch! As you deepen your pose, you’ll encounter struggles that create agitation and sabotage a balanced, sattvic experience. You are determined to stay, no matter what, even though your whole being is begging for relief!

Shift your focus to the inner rhythm of your breath. It will be your guide. You can benefit from each insight that accompanies the process. With time and practice, Paschimottanasana will become a prolonged, body-oriented meditation.

Paschimottanasana forces you to deal with your resistance, attachments and habits. It teaches you what to hold on to and strengthen and what to leave. Introspection tells you that the mind does constantly influence your yoga. You learn that asana is a way to develop the psychological hardiness that comes from meditation and enlightenment.

Jun 092013
 
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