Gifts for Yogis

Here are some great websites if you are looking for gift ideas for yoga enthusiasts:

  • For beautifully made cotton and natural fibre yoga clothing check out Gossypium
    clothing www.gossypium.co.uk  As every item is made individually to order  they can offer custom hemming to your preferred leg length. Ethically produced clothes, all made in the UK.
  • For women’s yoga clothing that is stylish, feminine, durable, and eco-friendly shop at Wellicious www.wellicious.com/yoga-clothing.html ethically made in Europe from super-soft, long-lasting, natural and organic fabrics.
  • For yoga clothing and accessories try Asquith, all fabrics are chemical-free, ethically grown and eco-friendly  made with positivity and great love!  www.asquithlondon.com
  • For anything related to yoga this is a great website, it has equipment, books, dvds,
    cds, reading material, clothing and gift ideas check out yogamatters www.yogamatters.com
  • The Yoga Shop online store is run by yoga teachers that have been running yoga studios for over 22 years!  Fast, friendly and ethical shopping, supplying and helping yoga teachers, studios and gyms:  www.theyogashop.co.uk for all yoga equipment, clothing and supplies.
  • Sarasvati Yogi-Craft is a shop based in Shrewsbury that specialises in Yoga accessories such as mats, carry bags, blocks and belts etc. They also sell a wide range of handicrafts from the mystic East including genuine Tibetan jewellery
    made by refugees and Nepalese sacred jewellery. A wide range of BAFTS registered Fair Trade Handicrafts such as ethnic musical instruments, sound healing tools, Tibetan bells & hand made singing bowls, Buddhist and Hindu
    sculptures and statues.
    http://www.shrewsburyshopping.co.uk/shop_det.php?shops_id=9

Author: Jojoba

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Can Yoga help you lose weight?

Yes it can!  Let me explain…..

Many yoga practices can burn fewer calories than traditional exercise (e.g. jogging, brisk walking); however, yoga can increase one’s mindfulness and the way one relates to their body. So, individuals will become more aware of what they are eating and make better food choices.

Excess stress can be a big factor that contributes to weight gain.  Regular yoga practice can not only be an effective stress reliever, but also a way to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and keep you relaxed in daily life, and therefore help with weight loss.

There are various types of yoga and some are more vigorous than others, so if you do want to join a class with the aim of burning calories then look out for Ashtanga yoga. But even if you choose a less demanding style, such as Hatha yoga, in which postures are performed at a slower pace, you may be surprised by how much of a workout you feel you have done. With regular practice you will become toned and flexible. Your energy levels will be raised, too, motivating you to take on other forms of exercise.

Yoga also helps to reduce back and joint pain, so many people find it enables them to get into, return to or try out more physically demanding sports and activities. A perfect workout for example could be combining yoga and running into your exercise routine. It shouldn’t be an either/or question.

If you would like to find out more about yoga, or book a class (Shrewsbury area) then contact Yogaspirit here

Author: Jojoba

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MOVEMENT FOR NEW MOTHERS CLASS JULY / AUGUST 2014

*** MOVEMENT FOR NEW MOTHERS CLASS JULY / AUGUST 2014 ***
Hi everyone, I have a brand new class available over the summer holidays for new mothers and their babies.
Wednesdays 6pm – 6.45pm The Lion Hotel, Shrewsbury, 5 weeks = £25.00, drop in – £6.50 per class
Dates: 30th July, 6th August, 13th August, 20th August, 27th August 2014
This class will give you focussed and effective abdominal toning; light cardio through simple dance routines specially designed for mothers holding their babies in a sling; improved flexibility through Yoga and relief from back and hip ache through a variety of specially chosen techniques.
• Everything is designed to be easy and comfortable for new mothers who can carry their baby in a sling or other comfortable baby carrier;
• Light exercise will release endorphins and oxytocin – your baby will pick up on this and become more relaxed and peaceful
• You will feel better physically, and benefit from meeting other new like-minded mothers
• You’ll enjoy some beautiful quality time with your baby in a safe female only space
Having practiced Yoga and a variety of plyometric, dance, cardio and weight training regimes for over 24 years, Catharine has been teaching Yoga and other fitness styles for over ten years. Catharine has also bounced back from four rounds of major abdominal surgery, as well as her own two pregnancies, so has encyclopaedic practical and theoretical knowledge of abdominal, lower back and hip recovery.
In order for this class to go ahead I need a minimum number of people to sign up for the five weeks, so I have set up a payment system through paypal. To book in advance, pay through paypal through this link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=S4NKYXS74DFYA

Yoga
Traditional Yoga classes on a Wednesday night 7pm – 8.30pm, at the Lion Hotel, Shrewsbury. Booking, information and blog: www.yogaspirit.co.uk
Connect on:
** Twitter: https://twitter.com/C_Hinton
** Instagram : http://instagram.com/the_henna_cat
** LinkedIn : http://www.linkedin.com/in/catharinehinton

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Siddha-siddhanta-paddhati of Goraksanatha

(ISBN 81-901617-1-7 ), Critically edited by: Dr. M. L. Gharote & Dr. G. K. Pai, with english translation, transliteration, footnote, index, glossary etc.

Salient Feature:

‘For a student of Yoga, Hathayoga provides the practical ground.  The tradition of hathayoga is a valuable gift given by the Natha Tradition to the world.  The cult of the Nathas is deeply rooted in their own philosophical doctrine.  Gorakshanatha was one of the most prominent of the Natha Siddhas who authored Siddha-siddhatna-paddhati.  The text chiefly deals with the philosophical doctrines of the Natha Tradition in a vary systematic manner.

The book explains the different layers of the phenomenal creation and the Yogic understanding of the body and the method of union of microcosm and macrocosm.

It further outlines the characteristics of an Avadhutayogi.  Special feature of this book lies with its emphatic statement regarding the futility of all the yogic techniques if undertaken in a mechanical manner.’

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Hatharatnavali by Srinivasayogi

(ISBN-81-901176-96)

The Hatharatnavali of Srinivasayogi is a little known but nevertheless important text on Hatha yoga. It was first published in 1982 in an edition by M Vekata Reddy but since that time additional copies of the manuscript have been discovered and become available.

About a third of the verses are direct quotes from the Hatha yoga pradipika with additional explanation or contextualisation. In addition to this there are other special points in the text which make it significant In it’s own right including:

* Conceptual definition of Yoga;

* Astakarmas – 8 cleansing techniques rather than the usual six;

* Additional Kumbhaka described;

* New information about mudras;

* Presents an independent outlook on yamas and niyamas

* Actually lists the 84 asanas and describes 36 of them;

* Use of the term ‘sanketa’ which means ‘a key through which secret information behind esoteric practices is revealed.

Chapter one is mainly concerned with defining Yoga. There is a description of ‘Mahayoga’ a combination of mantrayoga, layayoga, rajayoga and hathayoga. The astakarmas (eight cleasning techniques) are described and there are descriptions of suitable places for practice, suitable food and helpful and harmful things in attaining success in Yoga.

Chapter two describes nine kumbhakas (breath retention techniques), 10 mudras and the synonyms for Ida, Pingala and susumna.

Chapter three lists the 84 asanas and gives an elaborate description of 36 of them. There is also information given on the importance, techniques and the effects of pranayama.

Chapter four is mainly concerned with samadhi. Additionally nadanusandhana (hearing of the unstruck sound for mind absorption) is explained. There is a description of the four stages of Yoga and a 14 nadis are explained. Pinda (the human – microcosmic body) and brahmanda (the macrocosmic body) are mentioned. The chapter ends with philosophical statements from different schools of Yoga

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An Introduction to Yuktabhavadeva of Bhavadeva Mishra

(ISBN-81-901176-8-8) Edited by Dr. M. L. Gharote and Dr Vijay Kant Jha

The Lonavla Yoga Institute has been working on this critical edition of Yuktabhavadeva of Bhavadeva Misra for the last three years and its subsequent publication makes a valuable contribution to the available traditional literature on Yoga. Yuktabhavadeva of Bhavadeva Misra was written in the 17th Century and it is an exhaustive compilation of Yogic principles and practice which also brings together trends from different Yogic traditions. The author, Bhavadeva Misra refers to a total of 38 reliable and famous works and renowned authorities and this fact alone makes it an important text for the serious student of yoga to study.

A short introduction is followed by a very substantial summary of the text and then a critical appraisal of the text, the full text in Sanskrit, useful general glossary, glossary of botanical terms, glossary of deities and holy places, indexes and photos.

The text is divided into the following chapters

Chapter 1 – Prinicples of Yoga

Chapter 2 – Rejuvination Treatment

Chapter 3 – Structure of the Body

Chapter 4 & 5 – Yama and Niyama

Chapter 6 – Asana

Chapter 7 – Pranayama

Chapter 8 – Pratyahara

Chapter 9 – Dharana

Chapter 10 – Dyana

Chapter 11 – Samadhi

This really is a fascinating book which introduced to me many aspects of yoga which were either new or not really understood by me, particularly in the first five chapters.

The first chapter introduces various Yogic principles and the author refers to a variety of different texts to help make the subject clear to his reader. The healthy body plays such an important part in Yoga that great lengths were gone to in order to achieve vitality and these are described in Chapter 2 in what can only be described as an introduction to Yogic herbalism and alchemy! Recipies for age defying medicants and treatments are given and various methods of ingestion and application are suggested. Though as most of these are based on the use of mercury I wouldn’t advise you to try any of them at home, and of course only under the direction of a guru! (The additional information in the critical appraisal of this chapter makes just as fascinating reading!).

The anatomy and physiology of the body in Yogic terms (Chapter 3) sounds strangely contemporary and seems to me to be the result of scientific investigation rather than eosoteric interpretation. The structure of the body, development, nadis, charkas, jiva and elements are described The marmas and their locations are discussed as is the prognosis associated with damage to each particular marma. There are useful diagrams to explain the information given in this chapter.

The Yamas and Niyamas are discussed in chapters 4 & 5. Ahimsa (non-violence) is given great importance and discussed in full with different gradients of ahimsa described. This makes me keen to find out if other yamas and niyamas are dealt with so completely elsewhere.

The subsequent chapters continue to be thorough and informative and as the editors write in their introduction ‘once the reader starts studying this treatise, he experiences the depth and breadth of Yoga in it’. The only problem with this publication is that I can predict that I am going to buy even more books to find out more about the subjects raised in this treatise!

This book would benefit anyone wishing to find out more about Yoga, beyond asana and panayama practice. Students and teachers will find the book very useful, in particular the chapters on yogic anatomy and physiology as well as all the references to other yogic texts.

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Antaratma Sadhana – The innermost quest

The last three limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga are often studied together and are called Antaratma Sadhana, or the innermost quest. We will consider them in turn.

Dharana

The practice of pratyahara prepares us for the sixth limb, dharana, or concentration. Pratyahara relieves us of outside distractions to enable us to turn inward and focus on self observation.

Dharana involves slowing down the thought processes by concentrating on a single object, physical or mental. This can be an energetic centre of the body, an image of a deity or sacred symbol, a natural object or even a sound. Although the previous limbs develop concentration through fine tuning, awareness and self-observation our attention travels. Dharana is different, our attention is one-pointed, a single thread to a single point.

 These extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.

In chapter III, verse one, Patanjali explains concentration as the ‘binding of consciousness to a [single] spot.’

In asana practice, pranayama and meditation we actively seek out this depth of concentration but dharana can be achieved whenever a person is fully present and focused on an object or activity.

Dhyana

The seventh limb of Yoga is Meditation or contemplation, which can be described as uninterrupted flow of concentration.

Dharana and dhyana are very similar but where dharana  practices one-pointed attention, dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. The state of dhyana has a quiet and still mind, few or no thoughts are produced at all. Far from requiring a lack of action, this stage requires a lot of physical and mental strength and stamina (hence the preceding  steps!).

Samadhi

The final stage of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga is described as a state of ecstacy. The meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the self realizing that they have a connection to the divine, an interconnectedness with all living things or a sense of bliss and feeling of being at one with the universe.  This final stage might seem a little ‘far-out’, a little lofty, but when you examine what you really want out of life most people would say joy, fulfillment and freedom.

 Samadhi can relate to daily life. It brings with it the possibility of hope about the future of human beings, the possibility of every one of us experiencing Samadhi, becoming whole and fully present. Even just understanding this is an understanding of our true nature.

 Bibliography

 The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda, Integral yoga Publications (2003)

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Georg Feuerstein, Inner Traditions (1989)

BulletThe Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Christopher Chapple and Yogi Ananda Viraj, Sri Satguru Publications (1990)

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The significance of Om

Om is unequivocally regarded as the oldest mantra known to the sages of India. However it’s origins are obscure, not helped by the fact that Vedic and Yogic traditions were based on verbal transmission of secret knowledge and only written down relatively recently, and it was even more so with such a powerful and sacred sound such as ‘OM’. In his essay ‘The Sacred Syllable OM’, Georg Feuerstein describes various speculations about the origins of OM which I shall briefly summarise here:

Max Müller – (editor and translator of the Rig-Veda) – OM might be a contraction of the word avam, which is a prehistoric pronominal stem, pointing to distant objects.[1]

Swami Sankarananda – OM derives from the Vedic word soma. Through the influence of the Persians, who did not pronounce the letter s, the word soma was changed to homa and subsequently was shortened to om. This relates to accepted relationship between soma and om. There is more information about Soma in Appendix 2.

Vihari-Lala Mitra – Equated the Greek word on (“being”) with Om. This can be accepted philosophically as Om is the symbol of That Which Is, or Brahman, but is a weak argument linguistically.

Traditionally – Most spiritual authorities regard Om as the vocalisation of an actual sound, or vibration, which pervades the universe and is audible to those in higher states of consciousness. It is also known as the shabda-brahman or sonic absolute[2].

Patanjali explains that Om is the symbol of the Absolute: tasya vãcakah praņavah – ‘His symbol is the praņava (om)’ and that taj-japas-tad-artha-bhavanam – ‘the recitation of that [syllable] [leads to] contemplation of it’s meaning’. And the reason why we would want to recite Om: Tatah pratyakcetana-adhigamo’py-antaraya-abhavas-ca – ‘thence follows the attainment of habitual inwardmindedness and also the disappearance of the obstacles.’

The Upanishads

Chandogya Upanishad:

OM was traditionally only used in the context of ritual worship, a secret sound, it was only communicated by word of mouth from teacher to student. The early Upanishads often only referred to it indirectly as udgîtha (up sound) and the pranava (pronouncing). However the Brihad-Âranyaka, Chândogya, and Taittirîya Upanishads occasionally mention Om by name as om (or aum) and om-kâra (“om making,” meaning the “letter om”).

The Chândogya Upanishad is the first to spell out the equation between udgîtha and pranava. Georg Feuerstein comments in his essay, ‘The sacred syllable OM’, ‘Perhaps these two terms came in vogue because for unknown reasons om had, by that time, spread beyond the sacred domain and begun to be used in the sense of “Yes, I agree.” The first record of this usage is in the Brihad-Âranyaka-Upanishad (3.9.1) itself, where Om is employed seven times in this manner. Indeed, the Chândogya-Upanishad (1.1.8) clearly states: “That syllable is a syllable of assent, for whenever we assent to anything we say aum [= om].”.

Mândûkya-Upanishad: 

In the Mândûkya-Upanishad the three constituent parts (mâtrâ) of the syllable Om are explained: Namely a + u + m, symbolizing past, present, and future, as well as waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. He also spoke of a fourth part that transcends the other three and concludes with the statement that Om is the Self (âtman), saying, ’He who knows this enters the Self with the self-indeed, he who knows this!’

Atharva-Shikhâ-Upanishad:

This scripture begins with the question: What should one meditate on? The answer is: the syllable Om, which symbolises the supreme Absolute (brahman). The text describes four constituent parts of Om, each having its own symbolic correlations as follows

1. the sound a — earth – ric (hymn of praise) — Rig-Veda — Brahman — Vasus (a class of eight deities) — gâyatrî meter — gârhapatya fire — red — dedicated to Brahman;

2. the sound u — atmosphere — yajus (sacrificial formula) — Yajur-Veda — Vishnu — Rudras (deities governing the region between earth and heaven) — trishtubh meter — dakshina fire — bright — dedicated to Rudra;

3. the sound m — heaven — sâman (sacred chants) — Sâma-Veda — Vishnu — Âdityas (deities connected with the Goddess Aditi, symbolizing primordial infinity) — jagatî meter — âhavanîya fire — black — dedicated to Vishnu;

4. “half-part” (ardha-mâtra) — Atharvan songs — Atharva-Veda — fire of universal destruction — Maruts (deities of the mid-region who are especially associated with the wind) — Virât — lightning-like and multicolored — dedicated to Purusha.

This Upanishad further states that the om sound is called om-kâra because it sends the currents of the life force upward (ûrdhvam utkrâmayati) and that it is called pranava because it makes all the life currents bow down (pranâmayati) before it. The text concludes by stating that the Om sound is Shiva.

Om is the original seed syllable, the source of all others. The Mantra-Yoga-Samhitâ (71) calls it the ‘best of all mantras,’ adding that all other mantras receive their power from it. Thus Om is prefixed or suffixed to other mantras:

    * Om namah shivâya. (Om. Obeisance to Shiva)

    * Om namo ganeshâya. (Om. Obeisance to [the elephant-headed] Ganesha.)

    * Om bhûr bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhîmahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayât. (Om. Earth. Mid-region. Heaven. Let us contemplate the most excellent splendour of Savitri, so that He may inspire our visions.) – This is the famous Vedic gâyatrî-mantra.

    * Om sac-cid-ekam brahma (Om. The singular Being-Consciousness, the Absolute) – The Mahânirvâna-Tantra (3.13) calls this the most excellent of all mantras, which is said to bestow not only liberation but also virtue, wealth, and pleasure. Unusually It is said to be suitable for all practitioners and does not require the usual rituals and practices (including numerous repetition) before it is given. The Mahânirvâna-Tantra (3.24,26) claims ‘Merely by receiving the mantra, the person is filled with the Absolute…guarded by the brahma-mantra and surrounded with the splendour of the Absolute, he becomes radiant like another sun for all the planets etc.’

The rishis, or ancient seers, taught that all of creation is a manifestation of the primordial sound Om. Reflected in an interpretation of the word universe—’one song’—Om is the seed sound of all other sounds.

[1] While ayam pointed to nearer objects.  Avam may have become the affirmative particle om, just as the French oui arose from hoc illud.” This obscure comment refers to the fact that om, in addition to its sacred significance, came to be used in the prosaic sense of ‘Yes, I agree’

[2] Chândogya-Upanishad (2.23.3), is ‘all this (idam sarvam).’ OM is the universe as a totality, not a conglomerate of individual parts, as we experience it in our ordinary state of consciousness. Thus Om is the primordial sound that reveals itself to the inner ear of that the adept.

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Traditional Yoga – the 4 ancient schools of Yoga

As Yoga has increased in popularity, the relative position of the postures has become elevated, leading many people identify Yoga ONLY with postures and believing that the aim of Yoga is physical fitness. However, the postures (known as asanas) are only a part of ‘Hatha Yoga’ which in turn is only a small but important part of a complete spiritual system.

Traditional Yoga (Sanskrit. yuga, “yoke” or union), is actually one of the six classic systems of Hindu philosophy. Traditional Yoga affirms that through the practice of certain disciplines one may achieve freedom from physical limitations, freedom from delusions of the senses, freedom from the pitfalls of thought and ultimately attain union or enlightenment with the either the universal spirit Brahma or for atheist Yogis, perfect self-knowledge.

Traditional Yoga is a combination of four ancient schools of Yoga:

1. Karma Yoga: The Yoga of action, of fulfilling your duties in the external world, doing Yogic practices. For example in class we’ll discuss how you can find time to practise Yoga techniques along with all the other things life needs you to do.

2. Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of knowledge and self-enquiry, knowing  yourself through reflection. For example in class I’ll bring along inspirational books, DVDs etc to share with you.

3. Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of devotion, practiced in ways consistent with your own religion or way of life. For example in class I’ll discuss how you can incorporate yoga into your way of life.

4. Raja Yoga: The meditative school of Yoga, such as that explained by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras and includes ‘Hatha Yoga’ – the postures. This is the basis of the class, the asanas, pranayama, meditation etc,

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What is Prana?

Prana is sometimes translated as ‘breath’ and that the action of breathing enables prana to enter the body. However this is just one of the many manifestations of prana in the human body. Prana is a theoretical concept of a subtle, invisible energy rather than a tangible system or object and as such it is quite difficult to find an all-encompassing definition of prana.

One of the most straightforward descriptions of prana comes from page 127 of ‘The Complete Idiots Guide to Yoga with Kids’:

“Yoga has a name for the life force energy in our bodies. This energy flows in and out of us, moving through certain channels (according to Yogic thought), and also fills our environments. Yoga calls this energy ‘prana’. The theory goes that we take in prana when we inhale, suffusing our bodies with this energy. We release prana when we exhale, letting it carry with it negative energies and impurities. The movment of prana in and out of our body is akin to a kind of purification system and when prana gets blocked in the body, or we don’t take in enough, our bodies become unbalanced and don’t work as well.”

BKS Iyengar gives a comprehensive definition of Prana on page 12 of ‘Light on Pranayama’:

“prana is the energy permeating the universe at all levels. It is physical, mental, intellectual, sexual, spiritual and cosmic energy. All vibrating energies are prana. All physical energies such as heat, light, gravity, magnetism, and electricity are also prana.” He goes on to say “vigour, power, vitality, life and spirit are all forms of prana”.

Georg Feuerstein gives prana three definitions in the glossary of ‘The Yoga Tradition’ (Pg 458):

“i) Life in general

  ii) the life force sustaining the body, which has five principle forms;     prana, apana, samana, udana and vydna.

  iii) The breath as the external manifestation of the life force.”

In the ‘Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga’ Feuerstein explains that “In secular contexts prana denotes ‘air’. However in the sacred scriptures of Hinduism, prana almost invariably signifies ‘Universal life force, which is a psychophysical energy similar to the ‘pneuma’ of the Ancient Greeks.”

In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika Chapter 2 Verse 3 continues this theme: “As long as the Vayu (air and prana) remains in the body, that is called life. Death is when it leaves the body. Therefore retain Vayu.”

 In this case the vayu means air but it actually indicates pranic air. Prana Vayu moves throughout the whole body like waves of energy, likened to an electromagnetic field where the energy is in constant motion.

The theme that Prana is a life giving force continues in the commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Commenting on the above verse (ch2 v3) Swami Muktibodhananda explains on pg156 “When prana leaves the body there is no force left to animate it. As long as prana is retained the body will not die. Life is generated with inhalation; and with exhalation there is loss of prana. When the breath is held, the prana does not move out or in, it becomes stabilized.”

Pranic absorption takes place on a major scale in the thoracic region and is a function of the prana vayu. In the Upanishads, prana vayu is also called the ‘in-breath’, apana the ‘out breath’, samana the ‘middle breath’ and Udana the ‘up breath’. The linking of the concept of prana with the breath is succinctly put by Swami Muktibodhananda on pg 156: “Prana is the basis of life and can be directly controlled by the breath”.

 Patanjali describes Prana as “Vital energy” in Chapter1 verse 34 and Chapter 2 verse 50.

Swami Muktibodhananda states on pg 157 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, that : “Prana is the physical manifestation of the highest self. Hatha Yoga uses prana as the key to expand the awareness of consciousness and realise the self”.

Prana in the Ancient Texts

The Taittiriya Upanishad

One of the oldest Upanishads is the Taittiriya Upanishads, the wisdom of which goes back to the teacher Tittiri (Who’s name means Partridge). The Taittiriya Upanishad explains the mystical implications of the Vedic chants and sacrificial rituals.

The Kaushitaki Upanishad

The Kaushitaki Upanishad is named after the old Brahmin family Kaushitaki and contains details about rebirth and the path to the ‘World of the Absolute (Brahma-Loka). There is a lot of discussion about Prana, including a long disclosure on the ‘life force’ being identical with the ‘Absolute’.

Chapter 3 verse 2 describes prana thus:

“Life is prana, prana is life. So long as prana remains in the body, so long as there is life. Through prana, one obtains, even in this world, immortality”.

In chapter 3 verse 3 Prana is equated with consciousness (Pranja) as Feuerstein explains on page 133 of ‘The Yoga Tradition’:

“It is by means of consciousness that a person acquires the resolve (salya-samkalpa), the whole body desire to transcend the finite world and thence achieve immortality. Thus through the cultivation of the conscious life force, the sage attains the universal prana, which is immortal and utterly joyous”.

The Shvetashvatara Upanishad

Shveta – ashva – tara is the title given to a person whose senses are completely purified and under control. This Upanishad recommends and describes meditation. Here the Upanishad explains that when the prana in the body has been quietened down, conscious breathing should begin as a prelude to mental concentration.

Prana as energy

The term ‘Hatha’ is made up from two Sanskrit roots, ‘Ha’ which means Sun and represents prana, the vital force and vitality, and ‘Tha’ which means moon and represents the mind or mental energy of Chitta. Hatha Yoga therefore means the union of the pranic and mental forces, the outcome of which is described by Swami Muktibodhananda on Page 7 of the ‘Hatha Yoga Padipika of Swatmarama’ : “When Union between the pranic and mental forces takes place, then a great event occurs in man. This is the awakening of higher consciousness”. He continues: “The practice of Hatha Yoga enables the fluctuations between these two energies to become harmonious and unified into one force.

Pranic energy travels through Pingala nadi and this governs the right side of the body. Chitta (mental energy) travels through Ida Nadi and governs the left side. If the two separate flowing energies of prana and Chitta are unified, this creates a suitable condition for Kundalini (spiritual energy) to awaken and ascend through the middle, Nadi known as Sushumna.

Bharti Vayas gives a description of prana in the ayurvedic sense in her book ‘Simply Ayurveda (pg 11) “Ayurveda identifies 107 points in an energy matrix throughout the whole body, through which ‘prana’ – the life force – flows. They are known as ‘marmas’ and are also akin to the acupuncture points in Chinese medicine…herbal packs, massage and steam at specific marma points break down the blockages that they (Ayurvedic practitioners) sense in their patient. The belief is that without this intervention the blockages will cause physical and mental symptoms including bowel problems, skin complaints, anxiety, immune dysfunction, chronic fatigue and insomnia.”

The effects of Prana

Swami Muktibodhananda explains on Page 149 of the ‘Hatha Yoga Padipika of Swatmarama’ that “Whatever is manifest is the sthula roopa’ or ‘gross form’ of the subtle, cosmic energy, known as prana”. I interpret this to mean that you are what you eat, drink, do, say, etc.

Prana and Pranayama

Pranayama which means ‘pranic capacity or length’, is practised in order to understand and control the pranic processes in the body. Swami Muktibodhananda explains on Page 149 of the ‘Hatha Yoga Padipika of Swatmarama’ that “Breathing is a direct means of absorbing prana and the manner in which we breath sets off pranic vibrations which influence our entire being.”

In Hatha Yoga the theory is that if you can control prana, the mind is automatically controlled. This is the opposite to Raja Yoga which states that you should control the mind and this will automatically control prana. Both are paths to enlightenment, and show that prana and the mind exert an influence over each other. When the prana is restless it affects the mind and vice versa.

Swami Muktibodhananda explains on Page 11 of the ‘Hatha Yoga Padipika of Swatmarama’ that “Prana can never be motionless. The pranas are always moving, and the mind is ever changing as well.” These two highly mobile energies have to be brought into a steady state and this concentration and steadiness is extremely difficult.

“Concentration is unbroken awareness of one point at all times like one line stretching into the far distance…one idea, no other idea, no other thought. That is concentration and it should happen by itself.” (Swami Muktibodhananda, ‘Hatha Yoga Padipika of Swatmarama’ pg 11)

When pranayama is practised and the pranic energy is aroused it is circulated through the body, mind and spirit. “Then the inner city is illuminated and man is reborn into a new dimension of existence, a new area of experience” (Swami Muktibodhananda , ‘Hatha Yoga Padipika of Swatmarama’, pg 17.)

Bibliography

BKS Iyengar ‘Light on Pranayama’, The Aquarian Press, 1992.

Bharti Vayas, ‘Simply Ayurveda’, Thorsons, 2000.

Georg Feuerstein ‘The Yoga Tradition’, Hohm Press, 2001.

Georg Feuerstein ‘Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga’ Unwin Paperbacks, 1990.

Swami Muktibodhananda ‘Hatha Yoga Padipika of Swatmarama’, Yoga Publications Trust, 1993.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, ‘The Practices of Yoga for the Digestive System’, The Bihar School of Yoga, 1993.

Charaka Samhita

Dr Francoise Barbira Freedman,‘Baby Yoga’, Barrons, 2000.

Eknath Easwaran, The Upanishads, Arakana (Penguin Books), 1988.

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