Introducing Yoga

The word yoga means to unite, to join together or to integrate. In regard to the practice known as Yoga, there are several spheres of reference – integration of the physical with the emotional nature –to co-ordinate emotional and mental aims – to integrate mind and body – and to join the individual soul to the Universal Life Source, or God.

The system known as Yoga is an integral part of the classical systems of Indian Philosophy, all of which stem from the ancient and profound Vedic teachings that are considered to have their origin in antiquity. The Vedas refer to all aspects of human life and the natural sciences, including those involved in the spiritual evolution and advancement of mankind.

yoga

It is believed that all our great western philosophers over the centuries have dipped into and adopted these Indian wisdom teachings with the result that many similar ideas permeate their doctrines.  Both the philosophic and the practical guidelines of old are a valued source of information that continues to inspire earnest scholars as well as all those who question life today.

What follows will help you, whether you are a beginner seeking to improve your physical and mental health, or you are an exponent seeking for new insights to encourage your continuing practice of Yoga.

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The Guru

Of all Gurus, Nature itself is supreme.

…………….

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AHIMSA

Ahimsa or the principle of non-violence is the first of the ethical teachings of classical Yoga.
It is expected to be applied directly in the life of an individual, in thought, feelings and in action.

Some ethical factors would seem to require common sense and others require a little conscious consideration, importantly remembering that gentle persuasion is not weakness.

Commencing with our own physical training it relates to an attitude of quiet persuasion rather than a bullying of muscle and sinew. It is believed that the body intelligence responds to kindness and will co-operate to extraordinary extent to please in physical exercises and controls. This is why we should take care to elect the wisest path in the goal to control the
body and have a constructive purpose behind mastering Asanas, for instance. To do otherwise can open the door to mindless performances of physical skill.

In this present outer world of material ambition, hostility, aggression and violence beyond reason, gentleness is a rare quality and remains predominantly to be nurtured to expression in the female nature, through the Moon aspect of Hatha Yoga, just as strength is the province of the male.

Ahimsa is adopted in attitude towards others that can also be acceptance of differences but is not to be applied with sacrifice of one’s own values and freedoms. We must seek for wisdom in dealings with others and most of us need to find time to meditate upon the complexities social life presents.

Ahimsa symbolises the dissolving of any idea of hurting, harming or wishing to hurt, kill or harm any living creature whether by thought or action. This is sometimes resisted by our reluctant emotions or feelings in the course of self culture and self control encourage by the yogic teachings.

Ahimsa can be applied to indirect actions of others, such as the killing of innocent animals and creatures which have the capacity to give comfort on one hand when considered ‘pets’, or to provide food when eaten. However, it is not a conscious decision of an animal to offer itself for our table,so must be considered in the light of the human, its custodian. Those who understand and love animals wish no part in their slaughter and consumption refrain from eating meat,as demonstrated by the vegetarian who understands the spirit of Ahimsa.

Loving kindness inspires the life of spiritual people and is the heart of all human growth in culture. In this, we must be also kind to our own self and avoid harshness and cruelty of any kind and yet deal with the outer world that has different values.

In the face of all the concerns of material life, it is good to know that gentleness and kindness can pave the path to eventual peace, both within and without.

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KNOW YOUR OWN HEART

All that you love will belong to you …….the richer and wider your love for life …the richer you will come as you embrace the Whole world.
This is the inspiration of the Bhakti – to grow in emotional capacity to love the whole world, in an embrace that does not alter or falter but is closest a human being can become aware in consciousness of the Mighty Reality of the Creator.
The sacred teachings of the ancient wisdom make us aware that our hearts must stretch and expand as far as we find possible; our hearts must also be strong and capable of contracting to focus in devotion upon tasks or in helping other beings just as the muscles of our body preparations aim at flexibility and strength.
The passive and constant state of the heart should reflect feelings of loving kindness that allows us to slip deeper to our core where the soul is anchored in the permanent atom of the heart where we find limitless light, wisdom and truth of our source of being.
What one loves, one can relate to with open heart and mind, generous and unstinting in affection. And thereby we grow. We grow by expansion just as by adverse contraction in thoughts of ourselves alone will make us shrink in human qualities and make us mean.
Knowing and experiencing sincere love for life, for people, things, creatures, nature, our country throughout all facets of human existence brings us closer to the great Heart absolute.

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HINTS TO RELIEVE ASTHMA

Inevitably we think of the yogi’s conscious study of the art of breathing as an important practice and an integral part of the philosophy of Ahimsa or non-violence that is applied to the discipline.

Modern acceptance of respiration now focuses upon the importance of oxygen but also upon necessity for adequate carbon dioxide. This modifies the western teaching that has been well established in the previous attitude towards these gases that oxygen is ‘good’ and carbon dioxide ‘bad’. Nature requires that these gases are balanced to result in good physical health. Successful remedial programmes demonstrate this point.

Too much emphasis is made by some yoga students upon exertion of the breathing process by straining to achieve mastery. These efforts can sometimes interfere with the natural rhythm that must be seen as the way nature generally works. In this case, when at rest, the breathing is relaxed and even. Although various techniques are taught and can be used for specific purposes, it must not be at the expense of straining the gentle rhythm that Nature conducts in keeping us alive. We need to inhale life and to express life.

In the case of respiratory symptoms, mainly of asthma, it is soothing to introduce the direct inhalation of natural essential oils that offer a fine selection of different scents, some of which will be found pleasing to the patient and best practised in the privacy of the home when it is possible to isolate one perfume from another.

The yoga system offers techniques to release strain on certain parts of the body.
Asthmatics suffer strain on two major nerve centres and will benefit by the use of the
Uddiyana Bandha or solar plexus lock, and the Jalandhara Bandha or chin lock. These must be demonstrated clearly by the teacher with the purpose of using pressure and release of muscular tension on these centres.

Gentle stretches through spinal movements will help to establish muscular balance on either side of the spine although in many cases massage and the need for adjusting any chronic spinal mal-placement must be also considered as an additional help from a professional.

The nutritional aspect is very important and the diet should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables with reduction of cheese and dairy produce initially, together with a reduction in starchy foods, breads and pasta. When changes in the diet result in easing the respiratory spasms the overall diet can be reassessed. It is a difficult subject on which to generalize too much as each of us has such individual tastes and powers of digestion.
It is advisable to give a trial period without meat.

Because the yogi looks upon breathing being not only a physical health necessity but is the lifeline that not only helps integrate the several aspects of the psyche but is the means
of connection of spirit to body and the spiritual connection of the individual to the universal, so providing our personal lifeline to our Life Source.

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Ahimsa Applied

Ahimsa or the principle of non-violence is the first of the ethical
teachings of classical Yoga. It is expected to be applied directly
in the life of an individual, in thought, feelings and in action.

Some factors would seem to require common sense and others require a little
conscious consideration, importantly remembering that gentle persuasion
is not weakness.

Commencing with our own physical training it relates to an attitude of
quiet persuasion rather than a bullying of muscle and sinew. It is believed
that the body intelligence responds to kindness and will co-operate to
extraordinary extent to please in physical exercises and controls. This is
why we should take care to elect the wisest path in the goal to control the
body and have a constructive purpose behind mastering Asanas, for instance.
To do otherwise can open the door to mindless performances of physical skill.

In this present outer world of material ambition, hostility, aggression and
violence beyond reason,gentleness is a rare quality and remains predominantly
to be nurtured to expression in the female nature, through the Moon aspect of
Hatha Yoga, just as strength is the province of the male.

Ahimsa is adopted in attitude towards others that can also be acceptance of
differences but is not to be applied with sacrifice of one’s own values and
freedoms. We must seek for wisdom in dealings with others and most of us
need to find time to meditate upon the complexities social life presents.

Ahimsa symbolises the dissolving of any idea of hurting, harming or wishing to
hurt, kill or harm any living creature whether by thought or action. This is
sometimes resisted by our reluctant emotions or feelings in the course of
self culture and self control encourage by the yogic teachings.

Ahimsa can be applied to indirect actions of others, such as the killing of
innocent animals and creatures which have the capacity to give comfort on one
hand when considered ‘pets’, or to provide food when eaten. However, it is not a
conscious decision of an animal to offer itself for our table,so must be considered in
the light of the human, its custodian. Those who understand and love animals wish
no part in their slaughter and consumption refrain from eating meat,as demonstrated
by the vegetarian who understands the spirit of Ahimsa.

Loving kindness inspires the life of spiritual people and is the heart of all human
growth in culture. In this, we must be also kind to our own self and avoid harshness
and cruelty of any kind and yet deal with the outer world that has different values.

In the face of all the concerns of material life, it is good to know that gentleness
and kindness can pave the path to eventual peace, both within and without.

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Spiritual Consciousness

Sometimes on lying down on the sward, I first looked up at the sky, gazing for a long time till I could see deep into the azure and my eyes were full of the colour; then I turned my face to the grass and thyme, placing my hands at each side of my face so as to shut out everything and hid myself.

Having drunk deeply of the heaven above and felt the most glorious beauty of the day, and remembering the old, old sea, which (as it seemed to me) as but just yonder at the edge, I now became lost and absorbed into the being or existence of the universe.

I felt down deep into the earth under, and high above into the sky and farther still to the sun and stars. Still farther beyond the stars into the hollow of space, and losing thus my separateness of being, came to seem like a part of the whole.

Then I whispered to the earth beneath, through the grass and thyme down into the depth of it’s ear and again up to the starry space hid behind the blue of the day……

From “The Story of my Heart” Richard Jefferies

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Illumination

Thoughts on Illumination of Consciousness

“Illumination dissolves all material ties and binds men together with the golden chains of spiritual understanding; it acknowledges only the leadership of the Christ; it has no ritual or rule but the divine, impersonal universal Love; no other worship than the inner Flame that is ever lit at the shrine of Spirit.
This union is the free state of spiritual brotherhood.
The only restraint is the discipline of Soul, therefore we know liberty without license; a divine service to God without ceremony or creed. The illumined walk without fear – by Grace.”

from “The Infinite Way” pub. George Allen & Unwin

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AHIMSA IS NON-VIOLENCE

The first stipulation in the system of Yoga that introduces Yama/Niyama, the disciplines of restraint of wrongs and the cultivation of virtues, is to curb and eradicate violence. It is obvious that as long as there is a propensity for violence in any form, there is potential for negative or destructive energies and actions that can harm ourselves, others or other living creatures.
Students of Yoga will be familiar with the application of practising non-violence when dealing with physical practices, even extreme disciplines that require the reminder not to strain or force the body, but rather cajole it. Obviously we must cleanse ourselves psychologically also that we do not wish to harm or hurt others by our feelings or thoughts.
There is never a time in human history to our knowledge, that instead of successful work towards creation of peace and well-being amongst the people of Earth, we are surrounded by violence to an extraordinary and appalling extent. From increased homicides, domestic violence, sexual aberrations and rape, torture and abuses inflicted even upon children, we are contending with the knowledge that our society is in grave danger of total disintegration of our previous values and philosophies of kindness, wisdom and peace. Our freedoms are at risk.
Disintegration is occurring from inside our civilization and from deliberate effort to destroy it from unidentified individuals claiming ‘responsibility’ by group admission, These are groups that however, are not brought to suffer from their admitted evils but have proven to be free as residents in countries other than their own, countries believing themselves to be humane by offering them refuge. That the compassionate suffer as victims of their kindness is far from acceptable and we know that countries are having at last to take a stance to defend the innocent from the traitors in their midst.
That these people are terrorists because of a desire to bully everyone else into ‘believing’ their own religion is a wake-up call that few in the democratic countries have come to realise, but too late, for what it is and responded in the way cowards do by not facing up to issues – in this case, having been persuaded that we must not ‘offend’ Muslims and those of these aggressive religious beliefs. Such an attitude is not applied to Christians, or Buddhists or any other religion and the argument does not comply with reasonable thought.
We must observe the insanity that rules violence and seek to curb it by healthy thought and reasonable methods.
Most of us are not placed in powerful positions enough to ‘do something’ about the traitors masquerading as refugees, or the fact that our nation and others have demonstrated generous harbourage to others at the cost of their own coffers. But we can each mind our own business and be sure that we study to understand all the implications of Ahimsa practised in our own lives and in our circle of society.
Our freedoms are at risk.

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YOGA – BEAUTIFUL – SIMPLE

To overlook the subtleties of Yoga we are apt to be blinded to the spiritual purpose of a system that offers us a clear indication how to discover for ourselves, through direct experience, the spiritual realities beyond material existence.

The way of Yoga is simple. It begins in seeking to understand and determine to follow the natural laws or spiritual principles that are commonly revered in all cultures and affect our lives. This naturally includes attention to personal self discipline and self culture aided by learning the art of relaxation of mind and body and practices of meditation.

The beautiful system embraces the need for suitable health levels, physical and psychological. This includes a unique system to help master the body by Asanas or physical static positions designed to relate to attitudes of mind as well as body. Without this understanding we could be left as with an empty shell and neglect other more important disciplines related to our self culture and preparation toward spiritual realization.

In time, as we advance in applying the classical teachings we grow by extending our capacity to understand life beyond our own ego and come to identify more and more with our soul self or true centre of our being, sometimes described as the higher self, or the inner self.

Here we begin our own unique journey through life, consciously aware of our energy Source, tapped through our breathing and expressed through our life of activity and chosen work. We will possess increased self confidence and more conscious and careful of the application of our free will toward our clear personal goal.

We can gradually expect expansions of our consciousness that bring spontaneous personal realization of life and spiritual realities, with increased awareness of the immensity and unity of all life in a totality of consciousness or God consciousness.

So we all evolve through a process of natural evolution, progressing as a result of both individual effort and our willingness to surrender to the great life in which we all live and move and have our being, Knowing the ultimate Power that directs us toward light, truth and love.

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Questions of Consciousness

When beginning to question ourselves we seek to be aware of the extent of our knowledge and feel confident to dip into that pool of knowledge we already possess.
When it comes to deeper issues rather than mere practical ones, we are less sure of ourselves. Most of us have not taken time to make a study of human nature and psychology that reveals that we have different layers and degrees of conscious awareness other than the two we are in the habit of describing as states of being “asleep” or “awake” and it is understandably the latter that is our main concern here as the realms of unconsciousness demand much deeper study.
So when we are in what we consider is our normal state of consciousness or wakefulness we are selective and free to choose to focus upon whatever we wish whether it is a mundane task or a serious intellectual study. So there is potential for great differences between us as individuals in our natural inclinations when combined with the power of free will and choice.
Whatever we choose as our focus to study; whatever we choose to consciously think about; we are increasing our self confidence as our knowledge and interest grows and most importantly our direct experiences in applying what we know. This is the hardest of all but is assisted by our ability to prioritise and to concentrate with perhaps the added vital ingredient for success – to add enjoyment to whatever we are doing.
Our first discipline then is to become aware of our thought processes, to understand them and to then learn to channel them as we harness them to our ultimate life aim or aims.
Consciousness expands beyond just being aware, to a deliberate exploration and development of our human mind and its talents and capacities. Our journeying from a degree of enquiry to certainties and from certainties to further paths that in turn promise us a degree of wisdom that allows us to live at peace within our own being.
It is experience that is our teacher as it is our intuition that points the way.
That somewhat misunderstood and mysterious faculty we call our ‘conscience’ is that part of our intelligence that saves us from dangerous or impulsive choices and we must consider as our ever present friend that reminds us to be aware.
Expansion of our awareness develops ever widening sensitivity towards nature and other people so that our personal consciousness or intelligence comes to embrace a wider and wider sphere…and to fulfil the limitless potential of human consciousness to embrace Life in its totality.

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