Of all Gurus, Nature itself is supreme.
Of all Gurus, Nature itself is supreme.
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.
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.
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.
Perfection has to be worked out- has to be accomplished.
Imperfection, limitation, death, grief, ignorance, matter are only the first terms of the formulary; they are the initial discords of the musician’s tuning.
Out of imperfection we have to construct perfection, out of limitation to discover infinity, out of death to find immortality, out of grief to recover divine bliss, out of ignorance to rescue divine self-knowledge, out of matter to reveal spirit. To work out this end for ourselves and for humanity is the object of our Yogic practice.
Because so many have gone before us and are confident enough to offer guidance or give us a hint of what is the key to life’s mysteries, we are injected with certain courage to go in a certain direction or follow a particular method. And because inevitably we must make any method our own if we are to arrive at our own understanding, we must be able to practise and so measure it by the results.
However, because in our culture complexity is the fascination, any philosophy that prescribes simple application of universal principles tends to be neglected, in spite of the thousands of reminders we maintain in our cultural records that teach us otherwise.
In seeking how to be healthy for instance, when once the physical natural laws for health are acknowledged, application must follow and this is difficult enough; to seek in addition to apply the psychological disciplines of emotion and thought that are required for our reason and for our happiness is even more demanding; to feel free to listen to the inner guidance of our own soul and intuition is given less time and attention; to seek to identify with our experiencing soul consciousness that allows us to feel at one with the great Universal Consciousness is the most rarified aspiration and yet the most fundamental Reality a human being needs to know.
It is not by thinking but by feeling that we experience and satisfy this spiritual need to arrive at truth. We may think we are alive – but we must feel we are alive. Our thoughts may guide us but it is only by feeling that we find the key, whether from within our internal world of intuition or by expanding our love capacity to embrace life, we seek for Life to embrace us.
And depending upon aspiration and our capacity to surrender to It, whether from within or without, Life will claim us in equal measure and we will discover the truth we seek…. when we are able to be still and our scattered thoughts are silent.
Swami Vivekananda says –
…”There is a continuity of mind, as the yogis call it. The mind is universal.
Your mind, my mind, all these little minds, are fragments of that universal mind,
little waves in the ocean;
and on account of this continuity, we can convey our thoughts directly to one another.”
The philosophy behind Yoga aims toward practical idealism
Self responsibility encourages keen natural interest in building a healthy body
Loving attitudes develop loving kindness that denies violent action
The Yogi aims to understand and love human nature
Some are dedicated to increase knowledge and satisfy their love of truth
All become enthusiastic to love their work or chosen life avenue to express and to be able to contribute their personal and unique talents.
Yogis love noble souls and respect wise leaders…..
They love and aspire to emulate the virtues and the qualities of those they admire
To Love the Creator above all …..and all Nature as the visible ‘outer garment of God’ is the ideal.
Pratyahara – the word means restraint, withdrawal or detachment.
Regarding Yoga practice it refers to the ability to withdraw consciousness from the dictatorship of the senses at will. The classical definition is that Pratyahara is ‘a restraint from acceptance of the food of the senses.’
It is sometimes mis-interpreted as an ‘indifference’ but this is not the case.
Detachment applies to the aspirant’s attitude to worldly and material things, in order that he may attach himself completely, in the spiritual sense, to God. It in no way should be interpreted as an indifference to things of the earth.
It is obvious that the senses can produce distractions for the mind and can even weaken the will unless one is willing to prove the mind superior to the impulses and waywardness of sensory habits. Pratyahara can be directly related to a need to improve concentration by overcoming sensory distractions. Beyond this basic need, the aspirant aims to withdraw awareness from the material world in order to increase his perception of the spiritual or non-physical spheres. The usual five senses need to be subdued as a prelude to meditation when the extra sensory mechanism or intuitive sense begins to function.
The first discipline of a student is to develop each of the senses in a balanced manner. Only when the 5 senses are observed, developed, then controlled to come under the direction of the mind can an impartial state of detachment be claimed. This will ensure that there is no undue accent upon any of them to cause any bias or distortion to one’s impressions from the outside world, which we seek to register as clearly and truthfully as possible. In seeking truth, it is usually the senses which offer the first distortion or diversion from truth or Reality.
Pratyahara is practised for relaxation purposes in the position known as Savasana.
A degree of pratyahara is necessary before being able to apply mental concentration which in turn precedes meditation. It is often practised in the body position known as the Yoni Mudra. In this follow the directions of your teacher or Guru.
There are different subjects that open up teaching opportunities as to the application of the Yogic philosophy.
e.g. Mention of Astrology could give opportunity to discuss personality types and self control
Stress could lead to causes and techniques to reduce tension
Ayurveda leads to presentation of the ancient science and its long held traditions
Balance – Hatha Yoga
Benefits of Yoga practice
Chakras – and Energy
Colour – and Light
Detachment – attitudes
Emotions and thought
Fate and Free Will
God – concepts
Goodness – virtues
Hygiene – health rules
Importance of the Breath – pranayama
Karma – cause and effect
Love – devotion
Meditation – Mala and Mantra
Nature and its Elements
Natural Laws – defining morals, ethics
Relationships – understanding
Reincarnation – justice, Divine justice
Smiling – habit for happiness
Truth – discussing concepts
Wisdom – what is it?