Svadhyaya and Dhyana

Svadhyaya simply means the study or observance of the self with no attachment and no judgment.

I really appreciate this term, as it allows me to reflect on  myself and others around me, observing and  analyzing  a situation with an almost scientist-like approach. I have found this brought me new insights to situations, but I have to be careful about whether it is applying judgment or discernment and whether it is expressing compassion or sympathy to myself or to others.

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Yoga, how the philosophy got transmitted?

Yoga was 1st mention in the Vedas, during the Pre classical era, thousand of years ago. 

Around 200 BC, classical era. Pantajali wrote the Yoga Sutras, which are the same ones we study today. 

Reaching the modern era, between 200-300 years ago we have Krishnamacharya the father of Modern Yoga.

Krishnamayaria spent 7 1/2 years in a cave learning yoga with Brahmachari. His ultimate purpose was to still the fluctuation of the mind. His conception of yoga was teach what is appropriate for the individual. He became friends with the Mysore Maharaja, which facilitated him to have a school in Mysore. 

He had recognized students, including Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar among others.

Pattachi Jois is the father of Ashtanga-Vinyasa Yoga. He created a method to teach yoga including strict routine and discipline, he got inspire by teaching young boys. He wanted to physical exhaust them to calm their mind.

Ashtanga yoga emphasis the Asana to later be able to meditate.

Ashtanga students are gradually led through a set sequence of postures step by step. There are 6 series, regular people usually reach the 2nd series. The rest are so advance that only a handful of people an perform them.

I hope this little summary helps you research more about Ashtanga yoga or Yoga in general.

So next time you finish your practice you can take 1 minute and thank all the teachers that passed us their knowledge for thousand of years, so we can benefit from the practice.

Namaste!

Luciana

Philosophy has never been my thing… and now maybe…

Philosophy is something I never liked when I was in school as I found it profoundly boring and I could not relate to it in any way. Moreover, I was not motivated as it didn’t count much towards my final exams in school.

I guess that what makes the difference is to find a way to be excited about something you don’t like.

Maybe my way is that I need to study it to pass my test at the end of the course, so it’s kind of motivating enough to drop any resistance I have against it.

A good idea when writing a blog is to recap the concepts you have to study. Writing about a concept is like studying it. You have to make a little research, you can watch videos, you can find lots and lots of resources online. There was not this great deal of opportunities when I was a student in school (no, I am not an old auntie!!!). Once you drop that curtain of resistance, you will surprisingly find yourself enjoying the topic you were so reluctant to dive into.

Back to the topic of philosophy…

Yoga is not a religion, it doesn’t derive from it. Its roots derive from the word “yuj” which means “to bind”. It also means union.

The first ideas about yoga are found in the 6thcentury BCE in the Upanishads, which are philosophical Hindu texts. They record teachings which are for intellectual people such as sages, gurus, or other highly trained people.

Western philosophies considered “the self” as something disconnected from the body (dualists’ vision) or as something nothing more than the activity of the brain, so kind of non-existing (materialists).

Hinduism has a completely different position on this. It saw the body as composed of three parts.: physical, subtle (thoughts, feelings, emotions) and pure consciousness (the atman, the absolute).

Since the atman is one thing with the absolute, when we can dive deeper within ourselves, we can have an experience of being one with the reality of the universe.

Another encounter with yoga can be seen in a section of the Bhagavad-Gita, which is an ancient Hindu scripture about virtue and duty. It tells of a dialogue between Kirshna and the warrior-prince Arjuna. This scripture dates back to the 2ndcentury BCE and it sees a very loyal Arjun torn between being loyal to his duty as a warrior or loyal to his family who he was supposed to kill to respect his tasks. 

The first real encounter with Yoga is in the “Yoga Sutras”, attributed to Patanjali, a philosopher who lived in the 2ndcentury BCE. Someone claims that it is a name used to refer to a group of people, but there is no real proof of that at the moment even though it is agreed that more than one person contributed to the writing of such text.

The Yoga Sutra are a set of practices to promote mental calmness and concentration. Started as a practice for those leading an ascetic life, yoga became more popular later on. Until our modern days where it spread all the way to the Western world.

I would personally define yoga as a lifestyle, religions have very strict and rigid rules, so does yoga, nevertheless it is a godless way of approaching this.

The structure offered by Yoga is set out in 8 steps called limbs of Yoga. Yama, Niyama, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.

The first two give a context for Yoga to be effectively practiced in its integrity.

  • Yama, (social discipline):

Ahimsa– non violence. The way we treat ourselves is the way we treat others. Key words to this are gratitude, caring for the others.

  • Satya – truthfulness. It requires integrity to life and to our own selves. The key is to be real rather than nice, be self-expressed.
  • Asteya– non-stealing. On top of the obvious meaning of this there is also the concept of focusing on ourselves for satisfaction without looking for it somewhere outside of us. Avoiding self-abusing behaviors such as lack of confidence, criticism, perfection…
  • Bramacharya– non-excess. It’s about not overdoing, it’s a letting go experience of the unnecessary. It’s about “walking with God”. This is often confused with celibacy.
  • Aparygrapha– non-possessiveness. Non-attachment, non-greediness. Tuning into the moment. Appreciation.
  • Niyama (personal disciplines):

Saucha– purity. Cleansing of body, mind and actions. Things like exercising, drinking water, fasting and keeping our closet tidy are examples of this practice

Santoshacontentment. We can never be content if we think that satisfaction comes from an external source. Be grateful.

Tapas self-discipline. Anything that helps us change leads us into either breaking down or breaking open.

Swadhydya self-study. Study about ourselves, our true identity

Ishwara pranidha surrender. There is a divine force within which drives us. Trust it.

The next three focus on controlling the body and senses

  • Asana (physical postures to control the body)
  • Pranayama (controlled breathing)
  • Pratyahara (disengagement from the sense). Every time our mind focuses on the stimuli received through our sense we lose our connection to the inner bliss.

The last three are pure mental steps

  • Dharana (being focused) focus on one idea or object and everything else disappears.
  • Dhyana (meditation)
  • Samadhi (state of absorbed concentration) state of bliss. A no return way.

When Dharana Dhyana and Samadhi come together we have Samyama.

 

 What we, as human beings could do, is to go on the hunt. Hunt for any kind of discrepancy between the 8 ways into the path of Yoga and our own life.

 

When we are on the hunt of what doesn’t work in our life, without making ourselves wrong, without blaming anyone, but with compassion, feeling a sense of being as perfect as we are, without getting overly attached to the result, focusing ourselves on what is important, by trusting the process in a calm state of mind and practicing our postures… we are doing Yoga!

 

NAMASTE!

Chiara G. (May 2018)

Yoga philosophy: DOs and DON’Ts ?

After a physically intense first week that focused more on the asanas, this second week led my understanding of yoga to a more philosophical level. Master Paalu spent hours sharing personal stories to explain the 8 limbs of yoga, and all its concepts of self-awareness, kindness, selflessness, contentment and so on that would eventually bring us closer to our goals, no matter what they are. I am way to immature on this philosophy to elaborate here but a lot of it resonated deeply in me, although I was not prepared for it.

I come from a family of non-believers and growing up in this world of racism, war and terrorism made me reject any kind of religion which I believe are the cause of people animosity towards each other. I was therefore anticipating yet another list of metaphorical stories to convince us to believe in the spiritual side of yoga as well as lots of rules. I was happily surprised to hear Master Paalu mocking certain aspects of religions and emphasizing the differences between yoga (which came first) and the later religions. Who knew that, since its creation 5000 years ago, yogis consider three categories of genders (male, female and non-binary) ? Why is modern society only just recently starting to accept a third category despite the criticism of Christianity (to name only the one I am most familiar with) ? Who knew that the first yama concept ahimsa (“non-violence”) should not be misinterpreted to prone vegetarianism ? And the fourth concept brahmacharya (“non-sexual energy”) is not asking for sexual abstinence but actually encouraging oneself to remove sexual perversion towards others so that every person is respected like a God.

There are no rules, no DOs and DON’Ts, only guidelines for a better life full of self-love and love of others.

– Stephanie –

 

What did I learn from story of Osho

Over the past years, i have came across Osho’s public speech when I was browsing Youtube to learn skills of public speaking and influencing. I got very interested at him and watched lots of short video clips of his talk. His ideas were very contemporary, he’s interpretation about sex, money, love etc, are unconventional but liberating. He’s no doubt a man of wisdom and full of charm.  And he has been one of the most commercially successful Indian Guru in the world.

Below are what I have learned from Osho:

  • He’s not a religious man, he’s a spiritual man, a philosopher. This appeals to wider audience especially intellectuals around the world, while religions always have their restrictions in terms of race, culture, geography, education etc.
  • It’s very smart of him utilizing the specific energy of human being: sex. Sex is a very powerful concept. It is innate desire, and psychologically relates to SHAME in most of the dominating cultures, and the desire of sex are always supressed. Osho tells people to enjoy the sex, release the energy, don’t stay in miserable marriage just because of the society expect you to. I can imagine how powerful and liberating this concept must be to those wealthy and educated people, the decent people.
  • He knows money is important, and he found the organization as a corporation. He’s financially successful. I respect that. Money is always useful.
  • He chose women admirer to be his secretary. Women who admire him, worship him, in love with him and are willing to do anything for him (especially at the beginning). He chose Sheela, he saw her energy, her passion and obsession towards him, her drive, and her determination. This crazy girl will do anything to impress him. He chose her, he gave her power, she worked her ass off for him, but he’s always above her, he’s never hers.  She’s crazy, but it’s ok. Because later she got into trouble, he blames everything onto her. “She betrayed me, she committed the crimes. It’s all her fault.” So convenient.
  • I have noticed lots of people describe him as: “a beautiful human being”. He’s a bald man with long hair and long beard, always in glamourous long traditional dress, shiny diamond watch, always looking calm and smiling. He moves slow, he moves his hands, but not his feet or head, I imagine that helps.
  • Osho is not saint, nor God, he’s a very smart human being but he has his limit, he has achieved as much as his ability allows.

In the future when I have time I will read more investigation and studies about him to understand better. his life story is Amazinggggggggggggggg.

 

 

What is Yoga?

Yoga is the alignment of mind, body and spirit. The word “yoga” originates from “yuj” in Sanskrit, which means “coming together”. In the modern context, yoga is often associated with gymnastic-like movements and beautifully designed spandex clothes. Yet while we spend the most time in perfecting our yoga poses in fancy yoga studios with these beautiful people and bodies around us, the true essence of yoga is about finding this union of mind, body and spirit. When you experience freedom and consistency in your thoughts and actions, you can be said to be practising yoga.

The free-spirited yoga philosophy sets no specific moral rules or regulations, and dictates nothing to be right or wrong. What it has is a guide showing practitioners of yoga how to attain “Samadhi”, the final super-conscious state of enlightenment that lets us all find peace and harmony within ourselves. To help my friends outside of yoga practice understand the true nature of this practice, I have outlined here Patanjali’s guide for achieving the state of Samadhi

(1) Yama: refers to the way of dealing with external stimuli so that it improves your internal well-being. The Yoga Sutra suggests that we practice non-violence to ourselves, embrace the truth, free ourselves from jealousy, find and remove our hidden biases of other people, and stop feeling possessive about things.

(2) Niyama: refers to how we could ideally handle changes and stimuli inside us. We should have the nature to accept everyone for who they are, no matter in what form. We listen to our body and we listen to our inner voice. When we truly understand ourselves, we take actions that are not tainted by negativity for ourselves or for other people. Contentment is not about happiness or sadness, it is about being at peace with ourselves and finding freedom in our thoughts and actions. 

(3) Asana (pose): is probably the most familiar word in modern yoga practice. It refers to the physical movements that we make with our bodies. Ideally, we should find stability and comfort in all the poses that we do. The purpose of asanas is to help our bodies find strength and flexibility, so that we can be free of ailments and find freedom in our movement. I personally find it super amazing that the ancient lineage of yoga practitioners have been so in tune with how their bodies feel, that the poses passed down through the ages are ingeniously designed to be effortless (when done properly) and functional for our emotional and physical health.

(4) Pranayama: “Prana” is the Sanskrit word for life force. Interestingly, while this word originates from Hinduism, I find similar references describing this organic energy in other languages and culture, such as “qi” in Chinese, “mana” in Polynesian, “orenda” in Amerindians, and “od” in ancient German. In yoga practice, “Pranayama” refers to breathing techniques and exercises that are supposed to energise or relax us, depending on which you pick to practice. With reference to achieving Samadhi, I feel it is also about the appreciation of this energy that gives us all life.

(5) Pratyhara: is the practice of moving your consciousness inwards, so you perceive things for what they are, not what they appear to be. We commonly experience events through our five senses – taste, sight, touch, smell and sound. We find clarity in our perception if we could just relinquish the control that these five senses have over us.

(6) Dharana: refers to our mind’s ability to concentrate on a thought. We all lead such hectic lives today that requires us to multi-task. Thoughts flit through our heads rapidly because we are expected to move fast and react faster. In our minds, we think about what we should do now, what we should do next, how we should act, what we should feel, what other people think… that I suppose the ancient yogis would think is a form of craziness if they knew what was in our minds today. Dharana is finding that mental discipline to slow down the appearance of these thoughts, and eventually, to have the ability to hold only one thought for an extended period of time.

(7) Dhyana: When we are able to achieve Dharana (holding only one thought), the next step is to allow this thought to vanish. The boundaries between that singular thought and our mind blur and become one. This point of singularity is the state of Dhyana.

(8) Samadhi: In the state of Dhyana, as you dissolve the boundaries between your thought and your mind, you will recognise yourself becoming one with nature. This frequency formed with nature is known as “Samadhi”. This state takes you beyond the boundaries of your mind, transcending sensory experience, time, space and causation. It is the final goal of yoga practice that brings peace, joy and bliss to the practitioner.

Developed over thousands of years with the relentless pursuit of knowledge and internal reflection, the philosophy of yoga leads its practitioners beyond the confines of well-researched science and modern medicine. Given that it is also written by men of their times (enlightened as they are), it is helpful to take the yoga sutras with a pinch of salt (with reference to point 5 – Pratyhara), and take in what is relevant to the spirit of yoga – which is to find union on your mind, body and spirit. In the course of my yoga study at Tirisula, I am humbled by what I have learnt of the wisdom shown by practitioners of this ancient philosophy, and would encourage everyone to try it for themselves with an open mind and an open heart.

 

– Vanessa Tang – 

End of My YTT Journey, Start to a New Beginning

In our life, we crossed path with many people. Some comes and goes. While others, stays along the way.

In this YTT journey, I have met people from all walks of life. Different nationality, race, gender and religion. But we all have the same mind and goal. We shared stories about our life, worked as a group and cherished the moments as we embarked in the 10 weeks long journey together. We are the March Weekend Warriors.

Though the time spent together are short, we had great fun learning from our masters. They have taught us with their utmost passion and sincerity. And I bet you, their dedications are unlike the others.

From this wonderful journey, I have seen the unseen. I have done the undone that I never knew I could. New knowledge gain with nothing to lose.

Over the 9 weeks training, a word has been etched in my mind even since I was introduced to it. “Dhāraṇā” from the Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra. Somehow, I was drawn to it. Dhāraṇā is the sixth stage or limb of eight as explained by the Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. It’s translated as “concentration” or “single focus”. Somehow, we are always caught up in our daily life, always busy with work and working hard to make ends meet or keeping up with the wants that we start to lose sight of ourselves. We got so engrossed with keeping up with the lifestyles and standards that the world and social media portrays. Over time, we start to realise that we have lost so much time focusing on all the unimportant aspect of life that we forget who we are in the first place.

Dhāraṇā teaches us to focus our attention on the present moment and to bring attention to our SELF. By taking up YTT, I have discovered self-realization. Discovering that sometimes letting go of many of the things associated with our individual identity is needed in order to find our true Self. Take a moment to slow down the pace of your life and start taking the first step to discover yourself.

“Every journey has an end but the start of a new beginning.” Anonymous

 

Patsy Kaye Ang, YTT200 Weekend Warrior – March 2018

 

Gaze, not look! Drishti in comic.

It is common to hear yoga teachers say during downward-facing dog, “Gaze at your navel.” Erm, by bending my back even more!? Even as I become flexible and comfortable holding in downward dogs, I don’t seem to see my naval center. That’s when one day Master Paalu explained, “Gaze, not look.” Aha! It is about gently looking towards a direction, not to plainly look or stare at the point.

The concept of gaze is so crucial in yoga. The soft focused look at a certain point has been one of the most important turning points for me to have a more centred practice. In Sanskrit, it is known as the Drishti.

As I practice teaching at home, I find myself focused on giving the bodily movement instruction, missing out the gazing point at times. But when I do instruct, it has been pleasing to find the fidgety student focusing the attention back to the practice.

These are the 9 drishtis to incorporate in our own practice as well as our teaching:

1. Nasagra drishti: the nose tip
2. Urdva drishti: upward to the sky
3. Bhrumadya drishti: the ajna chakra, or between the eyebrows
4. Hastagra drishti: the hands
5. Angushta drishti: the thumb
6. Parshva drishti: the right side
7. Parshva drishti: the left side
8. Nabi drishti: the navel center
9. Padagra drishti: the toes

Drishti relates to the fifth limb of yoga, pratyahara, concerning senses withdrawal, as well as the sixth limb dharana relating to concentration. It helps to develop a concentrated intention.

Particularly in balancing and inversion postures, the soft focused gazing point has helped keep my mind from wandering, and stay calm at a spot. Engage the ujjayi breathing, inhale and exhale the ocean’s breathe, and just gaze intently.

A calm Drishti helps to train the mental muscle, and enables our energy to flow where the gaze is focused. This is more so important as we attend large yoga classes. Allow the drishti to remind oneself to focus inwardly, not be distracted and compare our abilities/inabilities with fellow yogis. Yoga is after all a practice for our self-betterment.

Here is a great illustration to learn more about the Drishti by BoonChu Tanti from TheYogaComics. Enjoy! Ying.

 

Working Society Today and The Yamas

When I was introduced the theory of 5 Yamas, it kind of amazed me that even this philosophy exists in Yogic practice. I have been somehow practicing these theories in my life through what I read from law of attraction, we are what we attract. It is inevitable to feel unhappiness and unfairness in our course of work in today’s society, however instead of dwelling on the unhappiness, why don’t we let go and be positive, we would be happier in our lives, at least I can vouch for that. I found the below 3 Yamas especially applicable to our daily working lives.
Ahimsa
Very often in this dog eat dog world, everyone in the corporate world fends for themselves, you get betrayals from people whom you regard as friends. Everyone is often fast to criticised and judge others, but failed to self reflect on themselves. We often fall into the trap of harvesting anger towards that certain someone. Stop and ask yourself, what have you gain from feeling all these anger towards that someone, it doesn’t change anything right? So why don’t we take things with a pinch of salt, be zen and replace those feelings and thoughts with positivity? Nothing is impossible, so always remember, when shit hits the fan, it can always be resolved if you would just let go and not hold on to your stubborn negative feelings.
Satya
We should always be truthful in our way of living, actions and words. In today’s working society, do we see that very often? No? We all know that people love gossiping, people say things to hurt another, to get what they want. We should really refrain from doing that. What do we gain from hurting someone? To me, all it does is bring you bad karma, and remember, what goes around comes around.
Asteya
I believe everyone do encounter someone in that organization who does nothing but takes credit for what others have done. For that someone who does this, they often act in this manner due to their greed for power, recognition. In today’s competitive environment that we are in, many people unknowingly falls into this rat race of fighting for power. So don’t be in that rat race circle.
At the end of the day, it is very important that we are able to control our 1st Yama – Ahimsa, achieving that we will be able to bring the other 4 Yamas into our practice towards a happier, healthier life.

Yoga and emotional intelligence – responding versus reacting to situations

I believe we would be in a much better position as a society if all people learned since childhood what the difference is between reacting to a situation or responding to a situation they are experiencing. 

What is the difference then anyway?

I think that most people would like to act more responsibly, feeling that they acted according to their personality, beliefs and convictions. That however requires that you can create sufficient space between the observation and your response, so that you have sufficient time to consider what you really would like to do. That is the true ability to respond meaningfully. That does not necessarily mean that the delay needs to be long, you just want to be able to think about your response before you act. That is what “masterful living” is all about! 

Our objective in life should be to never regret what we said or did. While this might be a lofty goal, I think you would agree that it would be beneficial if we could get closer to this ideal. Let’s now explore this a bit further.

Let’s start from the beginning. Behaviour is a result of our thoughts and feelings. Every action that you take, even seemingly automatic, has a related thought and feeling attached to it. 

Following that reasoning, if we have full control over every thought, we are able to control our actions, behaviours and patterns that play out in our life.

Chemically the brain’s processes are driven by our thoughts and feelings. Being consciously aware of our feelings is vital. If we are able to label our emotions (called emotional labeling or emotional literacy) we are in a much better position. It is chemically proven that being able to admit out loud or through internal verbalisation the right chemicals are being released in our bodies to cope with the reactions in our body. 

The challenge comes in where we have to train ourselves how to behave in certain situations that might be challenging us either through external (YAMA) or internal (NIYAMA) stimulation. One of the aims of Yoga is to teach us how to be able to respond to these situations rather than just react.

In ordinary day to day life in every situation we have the choice of to react through fight or flight.

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to react in a split second as it would mean the difference between life or death (motor accident, dangerous situation)? As humans our brain has a built in fail safe button (Amygdala) that kicks in if our life is in danger. 

The Thalamus acts like the air traffic controller, the Cortex is the translator and the Amygdala is the emotional headquarters of the brain. Senses enter the brain at the Thalamus which then sends the impulses to the correct places. Normally impulses would be send to the Cortex for processing before it is sent to the Amygdala which would turn the impulse into an action based on prior patterns. Some patterns which could be identified as “high stakes” are stored directly in the Amygdala. The Thalamus sometimes identifies that information needs more rapid response and would send the impulses directly to the Amygdala. The result is action without Thought (mental hijack).

There is also a fascinating scenario called “mental hijack”. Have you ever been in a situation where a conflict ensued and afterwards you had no idea why you behaved so strongly. As a human race we have evolved but we have also been conditioned through past experiences (past lives) which often leads to these mental hijacks. Understanding this opened my mind. I could never understand why I responded so out of character time after time. 

When we REACT our thoughts and feelings merge in split seconds with the action that we deem would save our life (literally or figuratively speaking). 

Each of us have our own mental hijacks. If you spend some time reflecting on your life and experiences you will start recognising those patterns. For e.g. inability to keep a stable job or relationship, unhealthy addictions, consistent conflicts in relationships etc.

Tracing back and reflecting you will find that there is certain triggers which activates thoughts and feelings associated with your behaviour which are steering some of your patterns and behaviours. For e.g. people without integrity, being treated with disrespect, vulnerable people being treated unfairly, etc. 

If you can identify those thoughts and reframe them, you can make changes in your life which will lead you to new behaviours.

Reactions are based on thoughts and feelings that are allowed to lead to unchecked actions and behaviour. In order to change that what is required is synthesising of thoughts and feelings into a best response for a particular situation. 

Normally what is required is a few deep breaths. Oxygen allows the thoughts and feelings to catch up with each other in order to make an informed decision on the course of action to take. 

Yoga teach us to be in touch with our breath as part of the Pranayama practice as well as our Asana practice. Our breath is the life force and we keep returning to that. Hearing our own breath proves that we are present within that moment.

Yoga asanas also teach us to be comfortable with the discomfort we might be experiencing as we know that it’s temporary. It teaches us the resilience (mental, physical, spiritual) we require for the modern day lifestyle and challenges. 

Challenge yourself this week ahead by:

  • Develop a good understanding of your authentic self, how you want people to see you. 
  • Develop an understanding of your own values
  • Start to feel and label your emotions
  • Take stock every morning / evening to see which situations in your day lead you to react      and under which situations you responded. Evaluate how this made you feel.
  • For the situations where you identify that you were reacting rather than responding, try   to reflect on your associated thought patterns with that. Once those thoughts have been identified, try to reframe them to be able to achieve a more desirable outcome. (Thought, Feeling, Action – this method is called the TFA methodology)

Karin Schoombee – YTT200 March 2018