Cover Shot for Blog 6.

Disease & Effect Of Prana

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So why is so important to increase the intake of prana in our food & what kind of effect will this have on the mind, hence the body & its internal systems? What is the effect of prana within the mind once digested & how can this influence disease? “The quality of the prana obtained, and therefore the relative chaos or harmony of the body & mind, is determined by the quality of the food consumed.” (Svoboda, 2002, p62).

According to yoga & ayurveda, it is within the mind & mental body (manomaya kosha) that imbalances start. Our likes & dislikes influence our choices, often incorrectly. Once amplified these imbalances result in mental illnesses (Adhis). These stress related imbalances are further amplified by our inherent desires which begin to manifest externally towards physical secondary diseases, known as Vyadhis (Dr Nagarathna & Dr Nagendra, 2015).

Yogamudra removing diseases.

The Adhis (primary causes) are as follows:
1) Samanya – common/ordinary; psychosomatic as in stress related
2) Sara – essential/genetically inherent; due to previous lives & congenital diseases

The more subtle causes (sara) which can have an influence on the physical body are removed as one transcends the koshas, eliminating cycles of birth & death. Needless to say let’s not concern ourselves with this cause at present, primarily let us deal with the “here & now” (stress related). If the correct food is ingested, body & mind exercised appropriately without discontent (stress), psychosomatic illness can be eliminated, hence removing any connected physical symptoms.

Prana measuring Huntington’s disease.

 

These common types of mental imbalances (samanya) cause traumatic fluctuations in the flow of prana throughout the body & within the nadis. Prana may flow inharmoniously; creating instability, causing the nadis to shake & fluctuate (like a finely vibrating tuning fork). Prana is then restricted, blockages occur. Due to this unsteadiness in the nadis, food cannot be digested correctly. I’m sure many of us experience the following symptoms after assimilating food?:

  • Conscious breath.Kujirnatvam – wrong digestion & irregular breathing
  • Atijirnatvam – non digestion & excessive breathing
  • Ajirnatvam – over digestion & poor breathing

This incorrectly digested food then settles into the body and of course is stimulated & subjected by further internal turmoil. This manifests as the psychosomatic type & transformed into incurable diseases. (Laghu Yoga Vasistha, 1937). Therefore most diseases do originate in the mind & can be eliminated if the correct choices are made prior: by choosing ‘natural’ fresh food high in prana; by taking the time to nurture & assimilate food correctly (self masticating by chewing slower & longer – e.g. ‘liquidising’ food); by breathing correctly & calming the mind – all lead to primary causes being annihilated & hence eliminating disease (Dr Nagarathna & Dr Nagendra, 2015).

The Vyadhis (secondary ‘ physical’ diseases) are as follows:

  • Adhija – psychosomatic stress related; hysterical/neurosis
  • Anadhija – unrelated to stress; infection/contagious disease; injury

The most common type of secondary physical disease is that of adhija (psychosomatic stress related) which we’ve already covered. The second category of injury/contagious diseases doesn’t originate in the mind & can usually be treated with ones choice of conventional medicine/alternative therapies (allopathic/ayurveda). Additionally purifying the mind (exercising that dormant muscle) through mantras/mindfulness or ones preferred choice of meditation towards Satvaguna, allows the even distribution of prana throughout the body & hence improve the assimilation of food. Through time disease will vanish (Laghu Yoga Vasistha, 1937).

Therefore the origin of disease is now more widely understood, rather than just some random occurrence that suddenly ‘appears’ within the body one day. The remedy for disease is to be found in the cause, as cause is effect concealed and effect is cause revealed (Vimalananda, citied in Svoboda, 2002). Providing ourselves with the correct food (diet/lifestyle/exercise & bodywork) becomes the correct medicine, this medicine in turn becomes our food. The old saying “we are what we eat” has even greater relevance today with so much “junk” food available; bear in mind whatever can affect the body can in turn affect the mind and vice versa. Finally don’t forget to leave our ‘previous life’ diseases until our ‘next birth’, as things will be a lot easier that way!

References and Bibliography

Dr. Nagarathna, R. & Dr. Nagendra, H.R. (2015). Integrated Approach of Yoga Therapy for Positive Health. Bangalore: Swami Vivekananda Yoga Prakashana
Pandurnak, J. (1937). Laghu Yoga Vasistha. digitallibraryindia: DLI.
Svoboda, S. (2002). The Hidden Secret of Ayurveda. Alburquerque: The Ayurvedic Press.

Intention, Attitude & Awareness towards Yoga?

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In recent years Yoga has become rather fashionable, moving away from a holistic systematic practice for complete health & wellbeing (both mentally & physically), & now gravitating towards a more popular form of exercise throughout the entire world. With so many different forms of yoga available, how do we determine which type or style is suited to ourselves?

The more holistic styles of yoga (static) tend to hold postures (asana) longer with breath awareness; the more physical driven styles (dynamic) verge towards sequence of postures with more fluidity. Both styles stimulate various areas of the nervous system. The static styles of yoga allow us to predominantly activate the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest & digest function), allowing us to feel more relaxed & nurtured, bliss-ed & spaced out.

The dynamic styles of yoga stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight response), making us feel rather energised & invigorated, at times even exponentially; hence the obsession recently for this more popular style of yoga, the ‘buzz/rush/hit’ is almost addictive.

However, in today’s society we are primarily governed by our ‘fight or flight’ response. Modern technology doesn’t allow the mind respite – no time to recuperate; it is continuously bombarded by various forms of stimuli ensuring the mind is even more active & stressed. The nervous system becomes overloaded, hence creating imbalances throughout the immune & endocrine systems as excess cortisone & adrenaline are released. We then lose our awareness, forgetting to “switch off” & feeling ourselves continuously chasing our tails; thought processes become very random & erratic. We are governed by our thoughts rather than governing the thought process itself. Sound familiar?

Therefore, when coming to our mat we could try to determine what it is we would like to achieve from our practice – our intention? If we experience low energy & feel that we would like to energise ourselves by invigorating the entire body & mind, a more dynamic practice may be advised? Nevertheless, at times the mind requires a reprieve (in addition to the body); hence perhaps a more static practice would be suitable? Furthermore, if we want to experience the more holistic benefits of yoga (yoga therapy) then static styles are favoured where the internal organs & systems are nurtured via the breath/prana rather than stressed through strenuous flowing asanas. Alternatively if we are drawn to the more physical aspect of yoga then yes, a well toned & defined body may be experienced through time by the more dynamic/flowing styles available.

Regardless of which style we chose upon, our attitude during our practice is also important. If we push against our bodies forcefully, even aggressively, we aren’t respecting the yama of ahimsa. Our non-violent thoughts can start with ourselves as opposed towards others. In respecting our own bodily limitations & working gently with our own range of movement (ROM), we cultivate a softer/compassionate approach to our practice.  Of course effort must still be prevalent within our inherent attitude. Such an approach allows us to practice gently, safely & humbly – rather than forcefully, recklessly & driven by ego.

Awareness should of course be present during our practice regardless of whichever style we choose. The more dynamic styles appear to be more popular these days, here it is easier to maintain awareness on the breath whilst flowing between postures, & then afterwards the mind can feel refreshed/invigorated & stimulated due to being one pointed. During static practices the mind has to be continuously coerced & brought back to the breath (like a form of mindful movement), leaving the mind experiencing stillness/space & clarity afterwards. Without awareness of the breath yoga loses its essence & then becomes just plainly exercise.

We could determine what our body requires physically at that given moment in time & adjust our practice to suit accordingly by selecting the correct intention – can we listen internally to our mind state prior to practise & determine what our nervous system actually requires? Also, if we take the correct attitude towards our practice not only will we experience less discomfort during our practice, we can accelerate healing of ongoing injuries & prevent further ones from arising. We could ensure our practice benefits us further by maintaining our awareness on the breath & body throughout.

Still experiencing nervousness about yoga? Don’t be; let your body & mind decide.

It is only in recent times, from the 1970s onward, when people saw the opportunity of commercial gain, that Yoga started to be branded as ‘hot Yoga’, ‘cold Yoga’, ‘power Yoga’, ‘this Yoga’, ‘that Yoga’, representing neither the intent nor the spirit of Yoga. The way that Yoga is being taught in the twenty-first century does not reflect the true Yoga, as the asanas have been modified…this modified Yoga is not Yoga, because this modified Yoga is being done as exercises.   – Swami Niranjanananda

Modern Diet & Lack of Prana

Modern Diet & Prana

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What's Wrong With The Modern Diet?Modern Diet & Prana

This article sees us discuss the ‘modern diet & prana’ (or lack of prana in most cases). However, before such, we’ll briefly mention the gunas. According to Yoga and Ayurveda there are three inherent qualities, which on one end can manifest as wisdom (expansion) or at the other end ignorance (contraction). 1: Sattwa (purity); 2: Rajas (activity, passion, the process of change) & 3: Tamas (darkness, inertia). These gunas are extremely subtle qualities of nature that consist of matter, life & mind. Once energy manifests towards form, one quality of the three will begin to prevail. Thus with fresh fruit, some of the fruit is ripe (Sattwic), some already ripening (rajasic) and some overripe (tamasic). But no matter which quality dominates an element of each of the other two will always be present as well. Even if the fruit appears entirely ripe some of it will be rotten, even if not detectable by the naked eye whereas the remainder will be changing from one state to the other. The Three Modes of Existence

Everything that exists within this universe can be perceived through various combinations of the three gunas. Evolution depends on the mutual interplay between such & can assist us towards recognising our mental patterns, spiritual nature & our relation to perhaps a bigger picture? The gunas determine our spiritual progress as well as maintain bondage to the external world. So what have they to do with the ‘modern diet & prana’, most are probably wondering by now? Here they will be used to describe certain food groups / types or diets, to give us a general understanding how they affect the physical body & hence pranic field; thereby our thoughts, feelings, emotions & even our spiritual nature.

Sattwic diet – fresh energising foods; pure & wholesome; natural; mildly spiced; savoury; plant based oils; neither over or undercooked: e.g. [organic] sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit, land and sea vegetables, pure fruit juices, nut / seed milk, cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey & herb teas. Sattwic foods are highly concentrated with prana & tend to be those which do not agitate your stomach at all. Sattvic Diet Rich in Prana

Rajasic diet – bitter & sour; salty; steaming hot / burning; rich; creamy; hot & spicy: e.g. green chillies / red peppers; sharp spices or strong herbs; stimulants – like coffee & tea; fresh meat of animals & fish, eggs, salt & chocolate. Rajasic foods still contain prana but are more likely to create imbalances within the nervous system due to their stimulating effect; eating too quickly is also considered rajasic & causes indigestion. Rajasic Diet Moderate in Prana

Tamasic diet – stale (canned / stored); tasteless; cooked overnight; preserved / fermented foods (vinegar); foul smelling; left-over food; contaminated / overripe substances; onions; garlic; treated meat of animals & fish; alcohol & cigarettes; stimulants. Tamasic food is practically devoid of prana & makes us sluggish, irritated & tired. Overeating is also regarded as tamasic.

Tamasic Diet Low in Prana

As by now you’ll already be aware that the modern diet is predominantly lenient towards a tamasic diet & occasionally rajasic, very rarely sattwic. With the pressures of modern living, most people don’t take time to cook meals with fresh ingredients; the preferred option is reheating prepared meals / pre-cooked meals. Not that this type of food is off in any way but it has already been cooked or prepared, therefore several hours later once cooled it becomes devoid of prana & then either packed or frozen, eventually becoming tamasic (stale & past it’s best). Nowadays we even buy fresh veg & meat but then don’t eat it as such, we then freeze it again!? However, we don’t usually detect how bland this food actually tastes, as our awareness is usually on some form of media or engaging the palette verbally, rather than assimilating food.Processed Food

Additionally, most prepared or processed food is laced with additives / preservatives / flavourings etc (basically chemicals), which over prolonged periods of time begin to decay within the body & contribute to chronic disease (when combined with lack of exercise, mental stress & tension). Such toxins circulate within the body, irritating the endocrine, nervous & immune systems until secreted.Darwin's Dietary Man

Dietary supplements with added vitamins / minerals barely provide the body what they require in terms of energy & vitality. These are again chemically processed which could be easily substituted by fresh food alternatives, revitalising the body & providing it with all its various quantities of vitamins & minerals, enzymes, proteins & fats etc – alongside prana. What are we actually doing to the molecular structure of our food? How can it retain its ‘original’ energetic compounds after being stressed by such process e.g. cooking / cooling / freezing / defrosting & reheating – even at times using a ‘mild’ form of radiation to defrost & reheat? (microwave). Why, since these types of foods were introduced & modern methods of cooking changed, have chronic illnesses increased epidemically?

We’re not talking about being a ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ or even a ‘non-carnivore’; we’re not even encouraging one to become a tree hugging / hippy loving yogi, all we’re suggesting is going back to basics & back to fresh food daily – which ever food we choose to eat. To many none of this may be of any particular concern, but as Yogi’s we strive to incorporate much of the above within our daily dietary requirements; more importantly, increase the prana intake through the foods we eat – which we’ll look at the necessity of next time.

Sattwic Diet Example

Correct diet is a help to the spiritual aspirant at any stage. Diet is as important as yoga. But if you are only concerned with your diet and are not practising yoga, then you are a food fanatic. So, in relation to diet, there is one important point which you must also remember. Consciousness is above diet. Whether you eat fruit, cooked or raw vegetables, cheese, butter, beef or ham, it makes no difference to the consciousness.  “ – Swami Satyananda Saraswati

BYB Sunset

Attachment vs Non-attachment

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#1Attachment vs Non-attachment

Where to begin when it comes to non-attachment? Why not be attached I hear some ask? What is the problem with attachment & letting the mind cling to sensorial experiences? When should we attach & then detach? (not detaching by pushing away or being repulsed which leads to further destructive behavior, detaching by letting go & seeing things as they really are).

In the grips of intense passion & deep longing to feel loved, how can we replace the most powerful natural drug on the planet [love] to one side & completely detach? Can one love without attachment? Clearly this is becoming quite a dilemma & before one even attempts to manage attachments emanating from the mind of a Klingon, it may help us to understand how the mind desires/seeks/attaches/clings towards entertainment & further pleasures. Swamiji Mandala

Of course if you like your steak raw & sensorial, if you like the illusory world of the senses your experiencing 24-7, just remain cool & calm, stay plugged into the Matrix – no need to even inquire further. However, if we are all brutally honest with ourselves we are ALL attached to something. Usually these minor attachments are disguised as habits therefore justified as excusable; more often than not the attachment forms to the object which is perceived as desirable. Entertaining or stimulating the senses appears to be at the root of our attachments.

Whether constantly checking social media, reliving & duplicating that game on the console until ‘complete’, watching our latest episode on ‘catch-up’, enjoying mild stimulation of the senses via caffeine (or perhaps a more suitably addictive ‘fizzy’ beverage), smoking, placing that current song on ‘repeat’, stimulating the tongue with favourite ‘finger’ foods, planning our next adventurous but ravenous throws of passion with our partner – whichever way the mind chooses to escape its vacuity is irrelevant (or even unimportant to some). What is evident is that the mind always seeks a way to ‘escape’ placidity & replace such with one experience that feeds the boredom, fuels the agitated & distracted mind. KB at BSY

As Ajahn Dhammvidu would assert, this craving or clinging originates with the ego first developing a sense of ‘self’, of a “me/my or I” holding dear to experience (wasting time debating the existence of ‘self’, ‘non-self’ or macrocosmic Self is one we’ll leave for those that way inclined). As Ajahn Dhammvidu clearly & mindfully describes, this sense of self comes into being when the first sensation of mother’s milk is longed for once more. How to locate this warm addictive loveliness? Yes, cry your lungs out until one takes notice & succumbs to the demand! Ego is born, self established & a pattern of behaviour laid bare for time immemorial – the mind will desire/clinging & attach to whatever it desires for pleasure & sheer entertainment.

We could go a tad deeper, really breaking down the mind & its sub-constructions, enquiring to where the nature of attachment actually arises based on sense contact; however, at present this information isn’t of relevance here. I’m sure by now we can see how the mind cultivates its desires, longs to cling & repeat once more, then before we know it a habit is born & a firm attachment takes place. We can be quick to point the one finger at others less strong than ourselves (many battle with inner demons & addiction); but really with the one finger pointing, are those other three fingers pointing straight back at us highlighting our own ‘self’ disguised addictions & attachments? Ganges at Munger

We’re building some blocks here, setting some stones – leaving the patio construction till a much later date. For now we can begin to understand the mind & how it constantly looks for stimulation of some form or another. If we have a choice to just sit outside in nature & ‘be’ – watch & listen as the natural beauty unfolds between our eyes – would we choose to do so or would we reach straight for the phone/internet & social media? Therefore why to worry, this is just the mind doing what minds do – relax, the game is being played to fruition & the intellectual elite continue to reap the rewards. However, should we wish to step outside this box, begin by looking towards the inside from outside the box – we endeavour to develop non-attachment/dispassion & correct discrimination.

So, non-attachment is a state of mind which is full of viveka (discrimination). In fact, we can even call it viveka. Have the ability to discriminate and act accordingly. That is the yogic concept of non-attachment. – Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Hanuman

The Spiritual Ego

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Temple of Void [Sri Anandamayi Ma Ashram (Omkareshwar)]The Spiritual Ego

All spiritual practices culminate in annihilating the ego (here the ego represents the internal chatter of the mind; the continuous movement of thought, between here & there / this & that). Many religions also have this goal in mind but whether this practice of eliminating the ‘spiritual’ ego is at the forefront of their concerns is another matter (one which we won’t discuss here).

However, as one appears to make progress on their intended journey, is it not only natural they will want to share their positive experiences with others? This can be where the trap awaits; the spiritual “ego” is already rubbing its hands at the joys of toying with another seekers mind. “Ego” here (in parenthesis) can be related to the sense of achievement, a gladdening of the mind & a feeling of pride.

Deity of Emptiness [Sri Anandamayi Ma Ashram (Omkareshwar)]As one talks of “inner” experiences, giving advice on what to do / what not to do; even distances oneself from others; is there really any reduction in the ego or in fact is it not escalating with its over elaborate claims & statements? Giving advice can be perceived as a form of massaging the “ego” therefore best left alone…or is it?

At times sharing our “inner” experiences may help but it more usually than not confuses & then dissuades others from the validity of their own experiences. Are “inner” spiritual experiences not only for the experiencer? As one tries to substantiate & cross reference it can at times lead to discussion, debate & even arguments – which can be neither productive nor informative.

On the other hand sharing can be extremely productive & beneficial to both parties. As one shares the other grows; then the other imparts & likewise both parties can benefit from the discussion as further insights & confirmations are revealed. However, does it not depend on where the intention is whilst not only sharing but also whilst being receptive? If listeners’ minds are self opinionated & already full, then why have any intention to share at all? Can we actually listen without being comparatively critical?

Emptiness in God [Sri Anandamayi Ma Ashram (Omkareshwar)]Whilst giving advice, one could always ask themselves what their own intention is for administering advice in the first place…one must be careful as the spiritual “ego” can appear in full effect when we are least expecting it. Periodically it can sneak up like creeping Jesus in fact!

Therefore, what the HELL am I doing writing this garbage in the first place? No matter which way you look at the futility of it all, I’m heading for a no-win situation. The main thread of this article is to highlight our intentions & then ask ourselves if they are present, when we realise the spiritual “ego” is manifesting. However, sometimes we don’t have the time or awareness to catch our reactions with the ego firmly embedded & in control. One may continuously witness the mind in reflection but during reaction, of course this becomes rather difficult.

Ego Exit [Sri Anandamayi Ma Ashram (Omkareshwar)]This process of self-reflection can be taken as a sadhana as we tread carefully along the journey. Swadhyaya is encouraged to understand the Self (inner / larger); however before tackling such a momentous task, perhaps it is easier to understand the ego-self? (outer / smaller). If continuously reflecting on our actions, eventually we begin to monitor our habits & then reform them (SWAN).

On the other hand, I must stop pretending. In the world here the ego is developing its own agenda!!

That I can’t tell you. Every man is different. My benefactor never told me what he learned. He told me how to proceed, but never what he saw; that is only for oneself. “Don Juan

Bihar Yoga Bharati

Inspirers

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Guru’s / Teachers

Without Saints & Rishis protecting the sanctity of yoga over thousands of years, the teachings would have indeed been diluted as they were handed down both orally & in written format. In this first article I’d like to dedicate my respects to inspirers who have made it possible for me (in following my own yogic path). However, as there are many various traditions within the multitude branches of yoga, one which inspires some may not be of the same encouragement to others, in this respect please accept my apologies.

Swami Sivananda SaraswatiSwami Sivananda

The Divine Life Society was established by Swami Sivananda after many years of austere practise (tapasya) by the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh. It wasn’t his intention to found any form of organisation but due to requests by followers & his innate vision to society’s needs, he was driven to establish the Ashram in Rishikesh. Here he became known as ‘The Saint of Saints’, due to many of his disciples attaining the highest goal in life (moksha) & continuing to spread the message of their Guru’s (teacher) vision all over the world.

Swami Vishnudevananda SaraswatiSwami Vishnudevananda

The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta tradition was established by Swami Vishnudevananda, as directed by his own teacher (Swami Sivananda). Currently Senior Disciples of Swami Vishnudevananda are directing the organisation since his departure in 1993. At the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres they continue to impart wisdom to many thousands of students all over the world, by sharing their profound knowledge, inspirational teaching and guidance.

 

Swami Premanand SaraswatiSwami Premanand

Swami Premanand spent many years of service living with his teacher in Rishikesh (Swami Sivananda). He then relocated to Uttarkashi where amongst the Himalayas & forested foothills, he spent many years in isolation performing tapsaya. Due to encouragement from others including those at The Divine Life Society in Rishikesh, he gradually built the Anand Kutir, a Sivananda ashram of incredible beauty on the banks of the Ganga by Ganeshpur (Uttarkashi). Within the ashram grounds are lovingly tended gardens, a community hospital and a Gurukul environment for devotees and young men.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

BSY & Rikhiapeeth

Swami Satyananda established BSY (Bihar School of Yoga) & the Satyananda tradition, again under direct instruction by his teacher (Swami Sivananda). After many years, Swami Satyananda then decided to leave BSY & establish a place for his higher practices – Rikhiapeeth. Here he continued to live the life of a Paramahamsa as well as guide many disciples.

Currently the Satyananda tradition is being directed by two other Spiritual Masters; mainly Swami Niranjanananda at BSY, alongside Swami Satyasangananda (Satsangi) at Rikhiapeeth.

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

 

 

Swami Niranjanananda joined his teacher at the age of four & has worked tirelessly ever since (both in India & overseas). He continues to oversee the development of BSY as well as establishing a training centre for those wishing to explore Sannyasa.

 

 

Swami Satsangi Saraswati

Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

Swami Satsangi left the world in her early twenties to serve her teacher ceaselessly. Since then she has established charities to help impoverished areas; furthermore elucidating ancient texts on the Tantras.

Swami Satyananda gave very specific but entirely distinctive roles for his two Disciples to follow since his departure in 2009; ensuring both the sanctity & evolution of Yoga beyond the 21st Century.

“ Those who teach the theory that a Guru is not necessary and that each one should follow one’s own reason and conscience, forget the ostensible fact that they themselves take on the role of Gurus to those whom they teach the doctrine. They begin to command respect, adoration & worship as great teachers, though they teach that there is no need for a teacher. “Swami Sivananda