Yoga With a regular yoga practice, you will experience the following.
-you will reduce and release stress -you will learn ‘tools’ to help you in stressful situations -your concentration and memory improves -your immune system is strengthened -your blood pressure is strengthened -your anxiety and depression will decrease -you can recover from injuries quicker -your strength, flexibility, balance and muscle tone increases -your weight will normalize -you will sleep sounder and wake refreshed -you will look and feel younger -your posture will improve, through body awareness and core stengthening -you will feel more confident and healthy -you will gain a positive out-look on life -you will have better body awareness
- Remove shoes at entrance of yoga room, an ancient custom from the East. This also keeps the floor clean to practice on.
- Cell phones off during class.
- Bring a towel and water. Although, drinking water during practice may reduce body heat and move energy in a downward flow (apana). The focus in an asana practice is on upward flow (prana). Drink plenty of room temperature water after class.
- Wear comfortable clothing, in layers, to provide warmth and cool the body as needed. Bare feet during practice.
- Practice on an empty stomach and empty bladder and bowels. (A full stomach is a hindrance to breath and practice; Refrain from eating 2-3 hours before class time.)
- Honor your edge, staying aware of your physical limitations and strengths.
- Inform instructor before class of pregnancy, injuries, recent surgeries, neck or disc challenges, diseases, retinal/glaucoma challenges, blood pressure challenges. This is the only way for the instructor to know how to adjust you and give modifications.
- During the menstrual cycle, inversions are generally not recommended. Take modified versions of inversions, for example, legs up the wall.
- Be considerate of the sacredness of the yoga room. Roll mats up nicely and put all props back in place. Leave the space in better shape than you found it.
- Arrive to class on time and if you must leave early, do so in a manner that is undisruptive to others.
- Enter fresh and clean: Do not wear perfume and cologne. (Taking a shower before and after practice refreshes the mind and body.)
- Regular practice is necessary to receive the full benefits of yoga.
Bandhas (locks) When learning and practicing pranayama, it’s important to learn the 3 bandhas, which are essential for practicing more advanced pranayama and for awakening kundalini shakti. During the practice of pranayama, the yogi unites prana and apana with the help of these bandhas. The 3 bandhas are: Jalandhara Bandha (chin lock): Jala refers to brain and the nerve passing thru the neck. Dhara refers to an upward pull. Press chin firmly into the jugular notch at the chest as far as possible. This exercieses an upward pull on the spinal column and on the nerve centers which in turn work on the brain. Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal contraction): This bandha should be performed at the end of an exhale when the lungs are empty. This is usually practiced as an independent exercise. Because prana (vital energy) enters sushumna in this bandha (goes up the sushumna: uddiyates) it is called Uddiyana. With a strong exhale, the lungs are emptied and driven against the upper part of the thorax, drawing the diaphgragm to the thorasic cavity. Moola Bandha (anal contraction): Sitting on a folded blanket press the perinuem with the left heel and place the right heel on the left inner thigh. Forcibly contract the anal sphincter while the perineum is closely pressed with the left heel. While contracting the sphincer muscles draw the apana upward by contracting the abdominal muscles and unite apana with prana by locking jalandara bandha. Jalandhara bandha and moola bandha are practiced togther during retention (kumbhaka) to unite pran and apan. New students should practice these alone and once comfortable with, then only practice them together. Asanas stabalize the body and enable pranayama to proceed smoothly. It’s through pranayama that yoga practitioners will unite prana and apana. Mudras seal this union of pran and apan, so that the union will not be disturbed. Bandhas lock this marvelous effect. When pran and apan are thus held in union, a great mysterious and powerful spiritual current is generated with in. It cannot be discribed by words, but must be experienced to fully understand.
Asana In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are only a few sutras that even refer to the practice of asana. The most recognized of all the sutras referring to asana is in Book Two, verse 46. It says ‘Sthira Sukham Asanam’, which means that asana is a steady and comfortable posture. In Sanskrit, ‘sthira’ means steady and ‘sukham’ means easy/ease, therefore, each posture we practice should embody these qualities. In the following sutra, Patanjali jumps from talking about asana to meditation, trying to emphasize that we can work on the outside with physical asanas that have a very slow but steady and very exciting effect on the channels and then we can also supplement that from the inside through our mediatations on kindness, and serving others and on stilling the mind. So, in Book Two, verse 47, it says ‘Prayatna saithilyananta samapattibhyam’, meaning that as we lessen the natural tendency for restlessness and by meditating on the infinite, posture is mastered. This mastery is done through a balance of effort and relaxation and through endless forms of balanced meditation. In the Yoga Sutra translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda, it explains “because the senses want to taste many things, we load the system with toxins. Instead, we should control these things. Also, we can achieve steadiness through meditation on the infinite-anything great, huge, well-settled and well established. Tiny things always shake. So, we can think of the earth or how huge a mountain is.” If the body is still, it is easy to make the mind still. Through the body we can put a brake on the mind. This is the benefit of asana.
Pranayama (The process of regulation of breath) The Sanskrit word ‘pranayama’ can be split in two, to understand it’s meaning. Prana refers to the breath, but more accurately it is “vital energy” or “life force” that permeates the universe at all levels. It is a subtle invisible force that pervades the body and everything around us. Prana is the connecting link (the medium) of the mind and the body. The second half of the word ‘pranayama’ is ayama, which is described as ‘extension, expansion, regulation, and control’. Thus pranayama can best be understood as the extension, expansion or control of the movement of prana, which we find as our breathing. A pranayama practitioner receives prana on inhalation, savors the energy of prana by retaining the breath and empties all thoughts and emotions on exhalation surrendering the individual “I” energy to the universal energy. Pranayama practice influences the flow of prana through the 350,000 nadis (channels) that run through the gross and subtle (spiritual) bodies. The pranayama practice requires preparation of a strong basis in yoga asana and a new practitioner should consult an experienced teacher before beginning their own practice. By practicing proper asana with effort towards the regulation of prana, there is an enormous benefit from pranayama. The two go together; There is an intimate relation between the activity of the physical body and that of the prana. The mind and the breathing or prana have close relationship, as the great South Indian Saint Thirumoolar said “Where the mind goes, the prana follows”. If you regulate the prana you regulate the mind automatically. This is why when you are agitated, frustrated, worried, or disturbed, you should take a few deep breaths, placing your attention on the breath. Within a few minutes you should feel a calmness. It is a very useful tool to remember to use on a daily basis. The breathing process, inhalation, exhalation and retention does not constitute the prana itself, but is an indication that prana is working. Prana is really a single energy, but appears to be diverse when viewed from the standpoints of it’s different functions. The breath is intimately connected to the inner winds within our channels and our thoughts ride on the inner winds. Understanding of the vayus (winds) will establish a clear path for an individual. A practical way of practicing pranayma is by remaining with a sense of ease and absence of discomfort at every step.
Meditation (Silent Sitting) Meditation, also know as dhyana, one of the 8 limbs of yoga, is the practice of relaxed breath awareness. Meditation lightens the emotional load, creating needed distance from gloomy thoughts allowing for emotional stability and an inner focus. There are many misconceptions about meditation. Meditation is not about not thinking at all, or stopping your thoughts. Rather, it’s identifying with the part of your mind that is doing the watching….the part of your mind that is observing everything that you say, everything you see, everything you do. This part of the mind is the essential part of ourselves to begin to understand, as it is the part of the mind that will rescue us anytime we ask it to. For example, any challenge that you are put into, if you bring your awareness back to the breath and come back to this place of observer then you will free yourself from any pain of suffering you may be experiencing. During your silent sitting, just watch, and when thoughts do arise, as they will, just watch them come and go, come back to watching the breath. You can sit any way you need to in order to have comfort in your seat. That can be in a chair, on the floor, or on a prop like a cushion, yoga block or blanket. Adjust your body to get as comfortable as you can, extending the spine in length. Feel the roof of the mouth align over the diagram, over the pelvis and feel the sit bones press down into the earth as gravity is received, lightness is given upward. This will allow for freedom along the channels in and along the spine. I heard Amrit Desai say one time, that you “become an empty vessel for God to move in- purging, clearing, cleansing, and letting go.” Just quieting the monkey mind is a spiritual act, in that we can start to glimpse deeper into our own true, loving, selfless natures. The more glimpses we get, the more we can remember ‘that’ is who we are, ideally lessening our dramas, and ego games. The most famous sutra that Master Patanjali wrote about, is in his first book, verse two. It says, ‘Chitta Vritti Nirodaha’, which explains the importance of learning to stop, to end (Nir) how the mind turns things around. This verse is talking about the seeds within our minds that cause this constant churning of the mind. The whole point is how do we stop our tendency to see things wrong all the time? We make things what they are based on the seeds within our mind. The impressions that we have taken in, allow us to see what we are seeing, which may be different from other people or animals. This knowledge that what we see is being projected from the seeds of our own mind, provides us a better understanding of why we label, judge, attach to something, etc. Then we can purify and clear away any negative seeds thru visualization, and loving attention given to all of life thru kindness and compassion to ourselves and to everything. There is a bigger picture to all of this, and when we connect to this dynamic understanding, the true gift of yoga is realized. It takes some time for this to even make any sense at all. It’s all a part of the journey. Go at it with steadiness and ease, and as Master Patabi Jois says, “all is coming”. The mind is often compared to a cup of dirty water. When it is shaken, the water is cloudy, but when it is still, the sand settles down to the bottom of the cup and the water is clear. The practice of meditation is like letting the cup of water, your mind, be still. Another way to look at it, is, to see the reflection of your thoughts, your mind, as a still picture of the reflection of the moon across the lakes surface. As the Old Testament says, “As the sensual eyes close, the spiritual eyes open.” Through the practice of meditation, one can begin to maintain a state of consciousness where feelings of being separate from the others, thoughts, and feelings, are removed and the oneness of all of life is known. When you live from this perspective of peace, you can only create peace in your presence. Namaste.
Eight Petals of Yoga There are 8 petals, a.k.a. branches and limbs, to Yoga. Each of these petals serves as a map for transformation, bringing balance of the inner and outer life. All of these petals combined together forms One Beautiful Whole.
First Petal: Yamas (External ethical – moral disciplines) – In other words, control over our actions in the external world. There are 5 restraints that beautify the heart.
- Ahimsa (Non-violence)
- Satya (Truthfulness)
- Asteya (Non-stealing)
- Brachmacharya (Sexual responsibility) Observe chastity in thought, word and action with restraint in desires.
- Aparigraha (Non- grasping – greedlessness)
Second Petal: Niyamas (Internal ethical – moral observances) Below are the 5 ways one can aid in self-purification.
- Saucha (Cleanliness)
- Samtosha (Contentment)
- Tapas (Discipline – austerity)
- Svadhyaya (Self study and spiritual study of texts)
- Ishvara pranidhana (Merging with God in all areas of your life – attunement to spirit)
Third Petal: Asanas (Postures) Strengthening and enhancing the health of the body, creating balance and maintaining harmony with nature. Iyengar says, “asana helps us to sculpt the mind”. It is thru asana that we learn the physiology of the following virtues: contentment, tranquility, dispassion, and unselfishness.
Fourth Petal: Pranayama (Breath extension, restraint, control) Pranayama is about feeling the breath and the breaths capability. As the breath becomes steady, the mind does as well, allowing us to cultivate a deeper awareness, witnessing the inner self, pursuing the energy of the 5 sheaths of our energy body. Mark Whitwell adds that pranayama practice serves to bring our male and female aspects into balance, a merge of our polarities, allowing us to be more available to receive love, in all it’s forms. To learn more about Mark Whitwell’s teachings, check out his book, Heart of Yoga.
Fifth Petal: Pratyahara (Sensory withdrawal and control) Iyengar says, “Pratyahara is the hinge of the inner and outer quest”.
Sixth Petal: Dharana (Concentration) An unbroken thread of consciousness or a sustained flow of concentration.
Seventh Petal: Dhyana (Meditation) True meditation leads to wisdom. This is a place within where you are one with yourself (purusha). There is no duality, no attachment, no conflict, and no pain.
Eighth Petal: Samadhi (Total absorption – Bliss- Union with God) this is where the individual self with all its attributes merges with the divine universal self. (The last three of the petals are known as Samyama Yoga: The yoga of final integration.)
Five Principal Pranas Vayus (The 5 Types of Vital Force and Inner Winds/Nerve Impulses) According to Yogic philosophy, all visable and invisable happenings in the universe and in the body are the functions of one prana, which manifest in various forms. The activites of the human body automatically come under the control of prana and this cosmic prana as it functions in the body is named pancha pranas or 5 vital forces, according to the nature and function it performs. These 5 pranas function through the 5 subsidiary nerve centers in the brain and spinal cord. (Prana: respiration, Apana: excretion, Samana: digestion, Udana: deglutation (swallowing of food) and taking individual to sleep, Vyana: circulation of blood.)
The 5 pranas are governed by 5 vayus or nerve impulses. Named the same as the 5 Pranas. Vayu in Sanskrit is used to describe a particular nerve impulse or current (wind). The word vayu in the Yogic literature is used to describe a particular nerve current or impulse, which is one of the properties of a nerve. These vayus or nerve currents are either received or generated by pranas located in different plexuses of the sympathetic portion of the ANS. Each plexus is an independent nerve center, which can receive and generate a nerve impulse. During pranayama exercises, prana vayu is generated by the inhale and apana vayu is generated on the exhale. The prana vayu is an afferent impulse going to the brain or nerve centers and pana vayu is an efferent impluse that moves away from the brain and nerve centers. During retention time in pranayama, the yogi unites pran and apan (afferent and efferent nerve impulses) at the muladhara chakra (pelvic plexus, lower spine), then this center will act as a dynamo, sending tremendous amounts of pranic energy to stimulate the colied power kundalini lying dormant at this center. When the kundalini becomes active it will try to move upward through the canal in the sushumna (astral nerve tube: cannot be seen with the physical eye except during meditation). This is the 1st awakening of kundalini shakti. Over time, as purity of mind is attained through devotion and selfless service, pranayama, and meditation, then alone does the awakened kundalini move upward and impart different kinds of experience, powers, and bliss.
Sheaths of Being Most likely when you where introduced to yoga it was thru the asana (postures). This is true for many people, and our daily yoga journey is no different. We begin at the outermost sheath (from the periphery) the physical body, and work inward to the more subtle (center of the soul). When the mind begins to slow we begin to move inward on a new journey. Each practice being unique as we connect to the present in each breath. Below is a description of the energy sheaths of the body known as the Koshas. Each practice is an exploration of these energy layers. I like to think of the koshas like panes of glass, each one being cleaned and harmonized during the yoga practice and thru the practice of all 8 petals of yoga, so that I may see thru “all” to the inner most core, the true self. Integration of these sheaths allows the inner divinity to shine out creating union.
Physical Body (Annamaya Kosha) Leads to stability – Where we begin our inward journey
Energy Body (Pranamaya Kosha) Leads to vitality – Where the emotions and breath reside
Mental Body (Manomaya Kosha) Leads to clarity – Where thoughts and obsessions can be mastered
Intellectual Body (Vijnanamaya Kosha) Leads to Wisdom – Where intelligence and wisdom can be found
Blissful Body (Anandamaya Kosha) Leads to Bliss – Where the universal soul can be glimpsed
Namaste The light (divine) in me, honors the light (divine) in you, In truth, We are one, The Great I AM The ‘namaste’ gesture acts as a simple yogic asana, balancing and harmonizing our energies-keeping us centered, inwardly poised and mentally protected. The ‘namaste’ gesture closes our aura, shielding us psychically. This mudra (seal to contain energy, prana (life-force, vital energy) within the body) keeps us from becoming to externalized, thus we remain close to our intuitive nature, our more expanded being. Namaste draws us inward to our true self for a moment.
Opening Ashtanga Yoga Mantra OM VANDE GURUNAM CHARANARAVINDE SUNDARSITA SVATMA SUKHAVA BODHE NIH SREY ASE JANGAL”EE” KAYAMAN A SUMSARA HALAHALA MOHASANTYA A ABAHU PURUSAKARAM SANKHA CAKRASI DHARINAM SAHASRA SIRASAM SVETAM PRANAMAMI PATANJALIM OM I bow to the lotus feet of the guru who awakens insight into the happiness of pure Being, who is the final refuge, the jungle physician, who eliminates the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of samsara [conditioned existence]. I prostrate before the sage Patanjali who has thousands of radiant, white heads [in his form as the divine serpent, Ananta] and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man holding a conch shell [divine sound], a wheel [discus of light, representing infinite time] and a sword [discrimination]. om
Closing Ashtanga Mantra, Mangala Mantra OM SWASTHI PRAJA BHYAH PARI PALA YANTAM NYE YENA MARGENA MAHIM MAHI SHAHA GO BRAHMANEBHYAHA SHUBHAMASTU NITYAM LOKAHA SAMASTHA SUKHINO BHAVANTHU OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI OM Let prosperity be glorified Let Rulers (Administrators) rule the world with law and justice Let Divinity and Erudition be protected May all beings everywhere be happy and freeand may our thoughts and actions contribute to the well-being for all. Om, Peace, Peace, Peace, Om Peace, Peace, Peace
Gayatri Mantra (Short Version) Om bhur bhuvaha swaha Tat savitur varin yam Bharga devasya dhi mahi; Dhi yo yo nah prachodayat My favorite, the Gayatri Mantra, one of the oldest Mantras of the Vedas. Used for celebrating the miracle of Divine light outwardly and inwardly and aligning one’s intelligence with the evolutionary power pervading all life. The mantra frees one from the fruits of Karma, leading us towards Moksha (liberation). It vitalizes life force to express itself through the body, thus establishing longevity, courage, strength, understanding, confidence, contentment. This mantra embodies all the divine potencies. Through the coming (future), going (past), and the balance of life (present) The essential nature which illuminates existence is the adorable one (Adoration of God) May all perceive through subtle intellect The brilliance of enlightenment May the divine light illuminate and guide my intelligence. Meditation and prayer to the Lord To center all powers and talents Connect to God within us Realize that everything is within and thereby develop confidence in the self. Oh Lord, embodiment of vital spiritual energy and remover of suffering May you enlighten my intellect and may you give me wisdom It is said that the Gayatri Mantra purifies the listener as well as the singer.
(Long Version) Translation and enunciation: Om Bhur – Om Bhoor Translation: Om and Salutations to the Earth Plane 1st chakra Om Bhuvaha – Om Bhoo-vah-hah Translation: Om and Salutations to the Atmospheric Plane 2nd chakra Om Swaha – Om Swah-hah Translation: Om and Salutations to the Solar Region 3rd chakra Om Maha – Om Mah-hah Translation: Om and Salutations to the First Spiritual Region Beyond the Sun 4th chakra Om Janaha – Om Jah-nah-hah Translation: Om and Salutations to the Second Spiritual Region Beyond the Sun 5th chakra Om Tapaha – Om Tah-pah-hah Translation: Om and Salutations to the third Spiritual Region Beyond the Sun 6th chakra Om Satyam – Om Saht-yham Translation: Om and Salutations to the Abode of Supreme Truth 7th chakra Om Tat Savitur Varenyam – Om Thant Sah-vee-toor Vah-reyn-yahm Translation: Om and Salutations to the realm which is beyond all human comprehension Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi – Bhar-goh Dey-vahs-yah Dhee-mah-hee Translation: In that place where all the celestials of all the spheres Dhiyo Yonaha Prochodayat – Dhee Yoh-nah-hah Prah-choh-dah-yaht Translation: Received enlightenment, kindly enlighten our intellect Translations are from Thomas Ashley-Farrand (Namadeva)
Sahana Vavatu (Teaching Manta, Hymn of Thanksgiving) Saha nau bhunaktu Saha veeryam karavavahai Tejaswi nava dheettamastu mavidvishavah Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shantihih
May He protect both of us. May He nourish both of us. May we both acquire the capacity (to study and understand the scriptures). May our study be brilliant. May we not argue with each other. Om peace, peace, peace Or May we be protected as we study together May we enjoy our studies together May we have the energy to both teach and learn May there be clarity and no misunderstandings May we have peace in our thoughts, words and actions Om peace, peace, peace
Final Blessing Om asatoma sut gamaya tamaso ma jyotir gamaya mrityor ma amritam gamaya om shanthi, shanthi, shanthi!
From illusion lead me to the truth from darkness lead me to light from death lead me to immortality or Take us from the false to the truth From darkness to light And from poison to nectar Om peace, peace, peace (Useful in transitional times of life, especially in preparation for the ultimate transition, death itself)
Primary Series Asana Names
The Lord’s Prayer Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13