Anxiety disorders, which include panic disorder, are the most common class of mental disorders present in the general population. The estimated lifetime prevalence of any anxiety disorder is over 15%, while the 12-month prevalence is more than 10%. One study estimated the annual cost of anxiety disorders in the United States only to be approximately $42.3 billion in the 1990s.
Specifically, panic disorder, whose key element is an increase in anxiety level, is also a common mental disorder with significant clinical manifestations and socioeconomic impacts. Panic is characterised by the repeated occurrence of discrete panic attacks that features a variety of physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, perspiration, dizziness, dyspnea, trembling, and uncontrollable fear (fear of losing control and going crazy, fear of dying).
Between attacks, patients might also develop persistent apprehension or anticipatory anxiety, regarding the possibility of another attack. In addition, about one-half of these patients eventually develop agoraphobia.
The magnitude of the short-term societal costs of anxiety estimate in recent studies is surprising. Greenberg et al. estimated that the annual total societal costs of active anxiety disorders in North America alone over the decade of the 1990s exceeded $42 billion.
This estimate excludes the indirect costs of early-onset anxiety disorders through adverse life course outcomes (e.g., the documented effects of child–adolescent anxiety disorders in predicting low educational attainment and consequent long-term effects on lower-income) and through increased risk of other disorders (e.g., anxiety disorders predicting the subsequent onset of cardiovascular disorder). Therefore, it has become urgent the need for effective low-cost strategies that provide the right tools for patients to cope with anxiety themselves, in order to reduce the economic cost of mental disorder in society.
WHAT IS ANXIETY
Anxiety is an emotion that, in itself, would not be inadequate to feel because it is a necessary response to stress. Anxiety is a defensive mechanism aimed at anticipating the perception of danger even before it has clearly manifested itself, it sets in motion physiological mechanisms that lead to exploration, to identify the danger and address it in the most appropriate way.
In the course of daily life, situations that activate anxiety are frequent. In most cases, they resolve themselves positively. Overcoming these experiences, as a physiological phenomenon, represents a fundamental element in the development and maturation of the personality. If, however, we are unable to overcome positively (by deactivating the defence mechanism) a situation of real danger, that is, if the state of alarm does not correspond to a real danger to be faced, anxiety becomes an inadequate or unrealistic response, assuming the connotation of a real psychic disorder. Instead of representing an element of growth and maturation, it becomes an element of the disintegration of the personality.
Integration and adaptation to the external environment are regulated by the nervous system. The nervous system is similar to the hardware of a computer, like a computer, the nervous system analyzes data from outside and inside and then distributes information to various districts and apparatuses.
The functions of the nervous system are:
sensations about the internal and external environment
voluntary and involuntary activities
– Adjust and
control peripheral structures and equipment
THE ANXIOUS PERSON
Feeling anxious is
unpleasant. You feel like people different from everyone else, inadequate,
strange, those who suffer from anxiety try to hide it, often you are teased by
other people. The anxious person lives himself as a person different from
others, represses his fears by taking refuge in his loneliness, the
manifestation of this state is to restrain his breath.
The breath represents an access door, it is the connection between the inner world and the outer world. It represents a bridge between the heart and the brain, that is, between the deep, emotional part and the rational cerebral part. It is a key to access the labyrinths of the unconscious. In moments of anxiety and fear, as an act of protection, the breath becomes superficial (almost freezes), the body stiffens the muscles contract.
When the anxiety takes over, the breathing accelerates and increases the anxiety itself. There is an increase in oxygenation of the blood, too high a level of oxygen in the blood prevents the tissues from absorbing the oxygen they need. It seems a paradox, yet too high levels of oxygen in the blood, do not allow the tissues to receive the oxygen they need, while on the contrary, a higher level of carbon dioxide, would allow the oxygen to pass through the tissues.
The Study observed significant improvement in panic symptomatology following both the practice of yoga and the combination of yoga and psychotherapy.
Yoga acts on both
the outer and inner spheres of the human being. Yoga is able to recompose the
state of dispersion and tension, integrating all the systems: the bodily,
emotional and mental system. The ultimate goal of yoga is to sever the
connection with what causes suffering.
The yoga practice normally taught concerns the practice of technique. Yoga applied as a resolution of anxiety, on the other hand, must be oriented towards the individual rather than the technique. When we speak of an individual we mean an indivisible being made up of:
1- a material body
2- a functional
3- an emotional
4 – an
5- an existential
We move from the
material, visible, to the invisible, immaterial, thinner aspect
against anxiety is different from any other therapy. In conventional therapy it
1- The Therapist
2 -The Technique
3- The Patient
therapy, the person can be treated, consciously or unconsciously. With yoga it
is we who treat ourselves: the path is individual. The yoga teacher is not a
doctor who does everything for us.
The yoga teacher
only acts as a guide (this explains why it is not enough to bend well to be a
In yoga, each individual has to take responsibility. With yoga, we can only work with a conscious person who actively participates in their “treatment“. The essence of yoga applied as anti-anxiety is based on the use of the only function of the body that we can modify and experience with the will: breathing.
Pranayama, the yoga practice that uses breathing. But pranayama cannot be considered as a simple breathing exercise, it is a deliberately controlled breathing. It has as its purpose the control of the upper brain centres.
In the ancient
yoga text Hatha-Yoga Pradhipika cap.II v.2: “When the breath is irregular the mind is unstable, but when the breath
is quiet so is the mind”.
So learning to
breathe properly in a deep way helps our body to function better, helps our
mind to have more clarity and greater control over our emotions, especially
over emotional states such as stress and fear.
To be effective, yoga must be practised in its entirety. Integral yoga consists of both external practices, on the muscles, on the joints (Asana) and on the organs (Pranayama), on the mind (Meditation) that is.
In yoga what is really important is the inner aspect, to reduce the suffering of the person is necessary an inner workable remove the cause of anxiety, not a kind of temporary sedative that soothes the symptom. The whole of the practice of Asana, Pranayama and Yoganidra is what can lead to a new consciousness, to the awareness of being but also of power, of one’s own strength, an inner force that takes us beyond fear and anxiety.
relationship between breathing and mental states, for a yoga teacher it is
essential to know how pranayama works in the human being, even before knowing
the techniques of pranayama. Especially when dealing with anxious students, who
are becoming more and more frequent today.
Practising and knowing in-depth pranayama, for the yoga teacher, today is the ingredient to make a yoga lesson truly healthy.
The knowledge of yoga has been handed down since ancient times orally from master to disciple, a transmission chain called Guru-Parampara. This “chain” over the centuries has ensured yoga of preserving its original identity, the authenticity and the authority of the Masters or Gurus of the past, has meant that none of them derived their teachings from their own imagination, but based it his teachings on his personal experience, matured following the instructions of his master, instructions coming from the texts unanimously recognized as the only authority on the subject and for this considered “the truth”.
Given that a teacher is absolutely necessary
for every aspirant involved in the yoga path, as only the teacher is able to
identify and remove the defects of the student. The ancient sages affirm “the egoistic nature of the human being is
such that it does not allow him to find his faults on his own, just as a man
cannot see his back, so he is not able to see his mistakes, so he is necessary
the guidance of a teacher to eradicate the bad qualities and the defects ”.
The aspirant who is guided by a teacher is sure not to be misled by his mind. The association with a tutor is like an armour, a fortress able to defend against all temptations and adverse forces. All the great Masters of history have had their Guru.
Let’s see then how the texts written by
realized define a Guru: For a sincere aspirant yoga, the Guru is like the sun.
It is the Guru who awakens from the sleep of ignorance. It is the Guru who,
through his enlightenment banishes the darkness of ignorance, brings the right
reasoning, the right perception, the right thoughts. It is the Guru who shows
the way, through his instructions and his high personal life. It is the Guru
who emphasizes the pitfalls and dangers along the path, warns and makes alert.
Just as the sun arouses activity, in the same way the guru inspires and awakens
the search for knowledge. All this and much more is done by the Guru .
The method used by tradition to transmit the
teachings has always been to use real-life stories in order to make it easier
to understand the principles they want to impart. In this regard there is a
nice story used to describe the fundamental quality that must distinguish a
old lady went to Ramakrishna Paramahansa (1836-1886) one day, bringing her
10-year-old nephew with her. She prostrated herself in front of him and said:
“Master! I need your help. This boy is my nephew and has been an orphan
since the age of 5, and since then I have been taking care of him. Now I have a
big problem. The boy eats too many sweets, so many that his health deteriorates
from day to day. I have been to the doctor who severely warned him, but he does
not listen to him. The boy, however, has great admiration for you, and I am
sure that only you can help him!” Ramakrishna replied:” Mother, don’t
worry, come with your nephew in a month, in the meantime I will think about
what to do to convince him that health is very important, even more important
than wealth!”. The old lady thanked him and left.
a month, the woman came back on time with her nephew and they both greeted the
master with great reverence. Ramakrishna sat the boy next to him and said,
“My dear boy, remember that true wealth is health. If you do not take care
of your health you will not be able to grow strong and healthy; you will not be
able to do anything great in this life if you are a weak and sick man. When what
we eat harms our body, we must give it up. So don’t eat sweets any more tomorrow!
After a while you will be able to eat in moderation. Are you a good boy and I’m
sure you will listen to what I told you, isn’t it?”, The boy nodded and
promised that from that moment on he would never eat sweets again.
old lady sent her nephew to walk and remained alone with Ramakrishna and asked
him: “Master, why didn’t you give this advice to my nephew a month ago?
Because you told me to come back in a month, I don’t understand!”.
replied with a sweet smile: “Mother, I myself ate many sweets, how could I
tell the boy to do something that I myself couldn’t do? No one has the right to
preach to others if they do not practice what they say before. This is why I
asked you for some time. I have not eaten sweets this month, and I have
acquired the right to advise your nephew.
The woman marvelled at the rectitude with which the Master had behaved, he prostrated himself at his feet as a humble acknowledgement of his authority and then left “.
SIKSHA GURU AND DIKSHA GURU
The human being has a dual task here on earth:
to preserve his life and realize his own self. To preserve his life he must
work for his daily bread. To realize one’s self, one must serve, love and
meditate. The Guru who teaches him the knowledge of the arts of the world is
the Siksha Guru. The Guru who shows
him the way to realization is the Diksha
Guru. The Siksha Gurus can be
many, as many as the arts they wish to learn. The Diksha Guru can be only one, the one that leads him to Moksha, or
to free himself from suffering.
STAY FAITHFUL TO THE
In this regard, I think the words of my venerated Guru puja Swami Chidananda maharaji (The Divine Life Society) are illuminating, and he speaks thus: “Do not dig here and there to be shallow to get water. The pits will run out soon. Dig a very deep hole in one place. Centralize all your efforts there. You will get the good water that you will need throughout the year. In the same way, try to absorb the teachings (all the more spiritual) from a single tutor. Absorb deeply by one master. Sit at his feet for a few years. It makes no sense to wander from one teacher to another just out of curiosity, thus losing confidence in a short time. Do not have the changing mind of a monkey. Follow the instructions of one master. If you go to different people and follow the instructions of many people, teachers and teachers, you will be confused.
An Indian saying says: “From a doctor, you get a recipe, from two doctors you get a consultation, from three doctors you get your own cremation”. Similarly, if you have many teachers, you will be confused. One teacher will tell you one thing while another will do something different and so on. Remain loyal to a master, obviously after pondering and choosing among many, follow his instructions. Listen to everyone, but follow one, respect everyone, but abandon yourself to one. Acquire knowledge from everyone, but adopted the teachings of a Master, only then will there be rapid physical, mental and spiritual progress “.
According to tradition the Guru has a dual
function, the first fundamental function is the overcoming of the ego by the
disciple, if the disciple understands this, the relationship works, otherwise
it will not work. So the understanding of the Guru-disciple relationship,
traditionally, is not based on a romantic or sentimental idea to be directed
towards an idol.
The second function of the Guru is to ensure
that we get rid of the concept of disciple. Its purpose is to introduce us to
the inner guru, to ensure that we place all our trust in that invisible
presence that we cannot mentally understand. This is a very delicate question,
because the ego is always inside us to reaffirm that we do not really need an
external Guru, and that therefore, we can look after ourselves on our own. It
is a very delicate balance between knowing that in the end we must be
self-sufficient and at the same time consider that until we recognize who our
external Guru really is, we will never be able to recognize who the guru really
is within ourselves.
Until we think that the Guru is a body and a
mind, we do not really understand the Guru. The Guru is not a thing; it is not
an object. The Guru is the whole; the Guru is Spirit; the Guru is a principle. This
is what, according to the classical tradition, we must recognize in the
external Guru, and it is what we must find within us.
The Guru ever die. The guru never dies because he lives in the disciple. He lives in the disciple through his teachings. For a disciple this is an honor, this is a privilege, this is a great fortune but, It is also a responsibility, a duty: to be what the guru taught him and to be what the guru was”. Thus the guru continues to live.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE GURU
Puja Swami Chidanandaji says: “If
you feel at peace in the presence of a Mahatma (great soul), if you are
inspired by his speeches, if he is able to clear your doubts, if he is free
from greed, anger and lust, if it is altruistic, loving and without ego, it can
be taken as Guru. He who is able to clarify doubts, he who is suited to your
sadhana, he who does not disturb your convictions, but helps you from where you
are, and in his presence feels spiritually inspired, he is your Guru “.
The etymology of the word “Master” derives, in fact, from the Latin “magister” (from magis, more); in
Hebrew the master is “Rabbi“,
which means “great” and in
Sanskrit “Guru”, heavy in
dignity and prestige …
The master is, therefore, the one who guides,
paving the way, a delicate task, characterized by the full sharing of what he
teaches. Indeed, the true master is the one who first tries to improve himself
and then directs his intervention to others.
The history of pedagogy teaches us that the true masters are those who know how to establish a significant relationship with the student and represent a valid reference model for him. To be masters it is, therefore, necessary to have an idea of life and, through teaching and example, to produce in the student the desire to share it. Because no master can impose, but in respect of individual freedom, he must only lead the student by the hand on the paths of life, direct and not coerce, share and impose. The teacher in addition to providing the “bread”must also provide the “recipe”, otherwise, he failed as a teacher.
The Sadhaka (one who practices a sadhana) must feel this dynamic realization in the master and reproduce it in his own nature, must not strive to imitate the external attitude of his teacher, this simple emulation makes his practice sterile, instead of producing real and spontaneous fruits.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE A YOGA
No matter what the scope, there is no more appreciable quality in this world than wisdom. Many people have the knowledge, other people have a great practical experience. But a wise person is that person who combines both knowledge and experience. If a person has only the knowledge of a subject, very often it is not at all a concrete knowledge and his theoretical knowledge often badly addresses himself and others.
It is better if a person has practical experience but, even in this case, with only practical experience, without theoretical knowledge, one does not have a complete vision, this means that the benefit of their experience is limited to practice alone. Thus, whether we refer to a profession or a teacher in any field, what is appreciable is a combination of knowledge and practical experience.
This is valid for both a yoga student and a teacher. Knowledge is one thing, practical experience can be a completely different thing. Some may have a great knowledge of the scriptures and yoga philosophy, but these people are not at all different from ordinary people, as they do not make the knowledge their own, they do not carry it within themselves. They are teachers who have never really discovered what the scriptures mean. On the other hand, there are practitioners who have done years of practice (sadhana) and perhaps they have changed considerably from the physical point of view, they understand the inner workings of the mind. But even these, without the knowledge of the scriptures, their physical ability is not enough, their ability to help others is limited.
The Yoga Vasistha says: “Just as birds are able to fly by means of
both their two wings, in the same way action and knowledge together lead to the
supreme goal of liberation”.
The Master yoga is the one who combines both:
knowledge and practical experience. These are the people that every researcher
must desire and seek as a guide. They are considered authentic sages and true
Teacher means to be continually called and
re-called to express himself, his freedom, his knowledge and method; to be
attentive and vigilant about the reality of those in front of him, because if
his humanity does not take into account the other one he is facing, delivery by
interaction is not possible.
Attention, interest, participation,
resourcefulness, are just some of the factors of learning linked to the human
being: only if one adheres to the reality of what one is proposing, it is
possible to learn, the teacher as a person has put himself in the game of
facing reality. The teacher is the one who teaches you how to bring yourself in
front of reality, even if of an objective, like a lesson in history, and reminds
you, with his, of your humanity. “Things do not become familiar only with
explanations, but risking … an experience … because otherwise these things
are not understood. The beginning of knowledge is an event; things are
understood when they happen, living them “.
To have an experience is fundamental to
know, because if I don’t “move” a part of me, if the adhesion of the
person does not take place, “I don’t understand”; this is true for
those who learn, but it is equally true for those who teach, if the teacher
does not “explore” himself, teaching does not become experience, and
therefore not even the possibility of conveying actual knowledge.
The role of the modern yoga teacher is much more than assisting the practitioner by showing him a sustainable yoga path or guiding him along this journey of personal discovery. The fact that one person does not exist the same as the other makes this task a more difficult and demanding challenge.
This is why we need physically prepared teachers, even teachers who put passion and dedication into their work, who are able to inspire, suggest, stimulate, push the student towards the search for his personal path. Teaching yoga is an act of generosity in which passion and love for what you do are decisive, a mission before a job. For this reason, it is an indispensable condition for a yoga teacher to have lived a personal practice (sadhana), that is to say, has already had the experience, before being able to transmit it. A teacher will have to express a condition of harmony and inner centring, through his way of being; through his thoughts, his words and his actions.
A yoga teacher must know, because lived, the
two fundamental aspects of the yoga path, the technical aspect and the aspect
of perception, the technical aspect is of an external type (Bahiranga), while
the perceptual aspect is of an inner type (Antaranga). Knowing these two
aspects, he is aware of what kind of yoga he is teaching, without forgetting
that a serious and complete yoga practice must include both of these two
A good yoga teacher has a strong ability to
observe himself and others, in order to interpret the condition and needs of
the students. It teaches with the awareness of transmitting a personal
experience with the heart, it is not a simple activity carried out to cultivate
one’s pride, one’s fame, one’s ego. A sincere yoga teacher does not use yoga to
affirm himself but, rather uses himself to affirm Yoga. The example is more
powerful than teaching, but it is not just the example given by formal external
acts that it matters, what will most stimulate the aspiration to
“flight” in the students, will be the realization in the inner state
of the teacher.
To sum up: The characteristics that a Yoga
Teacher must possess in order to be able to correctly guide the development of
their students are:
Human qualities – empathy, the ability to not judge, the ability to listen, compassion,
a sense of responsibility, patience, perseverance, authority. Qualities that
develop only by working on themselves.
Technical skills– Knowledge of human anatomy. Mastery of the techniques of Asana,
Pranayama, Bandha, Mudra Kriya and Meditation. In practice, knowing how to
practice Yoga in all its parts at a good level.
Deep knowledge– knowing Yoga in its philosophical, scientific, metaphysical and
Teaching – Knowing how to teach. The ability to make simple what is difficult to
understand or understand to a first approach, the ability to keep the students’
interest and enthusiasm alive, to know how to customize a learning path based
on the specific needs of the students.
There are certainly many other aspects that
make a Yoga Teacher effective in his task of guiding the student but these are
certainly those that cannot be missed. It may take a long time to have them all
but, the path to becoming a good yoga teacher is surrounded by light when
commitment is sincere and born of the motivation to give in the absence of ego.
Swami Sivananda Maharaji summarized these principles in
one sentence:” Serve, Love, Give, Purify,
Yoga is a patrimony, a treasure for the whole of humanity, within which is contained all that can serve to complete the path towards self-realisation, in the awareness of unity with the whole. However, in the process of the discovery of Yoga by the Western mentality, as often happens in the rational and consumerist approach, the meaning of the ancient discipline is being distorted, giving rise to a somewhat distorted and reductive use value of this powerful instrument .
Today “we do” Yoga to get better, to relax, to release tension and cope with the discomforts of an unbalanced life. There is no doubt that Yoga helps in this: ” It’s the least” that such an ancient and wise discipline can offer the fragile and disoriented contemporary human being. Most of the people who come into contact with Yoga today, profusely poured from gyms, spas, hotels, holiday villages and so on, see themselves offered a sort of pill, a symptomatic medicine to break down a fever coming from a much deeper unease.
Thus, Yoga becomes a soothing as another, like a good massage, a sauna, a morning run in a park. More over the proven effectiveness of the postures related to the practice of Yoga has meant that dozens of “new yoga” were born, with exotic and bizarre names, that have nothing to do with the sacred and ancient tradition born of passion, desire and dedication of millions of practitioners at all times. This is why I believe that Yoga should be restored to its original intent, to the spirit of those individuals, practitioners, masters who have strongly desired and wanted to forge a powerful research tool, which could give a concrete answer to man’s eternal questions. To ask questions about one’s own existence is a duty of every human being, and it is his full right to be able to make a free search to become aware of the truth of his being.
Hatha yoga is the most popular
aspect of yoga, but at the same time the most misunderstood. More and more
often mistakenly considered as a simple exercise of positions, not only by
adventurous practitioners but, above all by little or not qualified teachers.
Asana is a term that in yoga
indicates assuming a body posture. However, asanas are something more complex
than a simple position. Asanas being an integral part of yoga are not just a
physical exercise, but involve both physiological and psychological processes.
They are connected to all the other aspects of yoga: they are rooted in the
ethics of Yama – Nyama and have their purpose in spirituality (Samadhi). Yoga
uses the body to exercise and control the mind; in the most advanced stages,
the body and mind together harmonize with the soul.
The hatha-Yoga of which the Asanas
are the base, have purification as their primary objective. Purification means
the removal of what does not belong to the true reality of what we want to
purify. The whole yoga path consists in keeping our being free from all kinds
of impurities, physical, mental, emotional, intellectual.
The practice of Asanas, first of
all teaches us to communicate with the body.
Patanjali defines Asana as a
stable, comfortable and effortless position (Sthira-Sukham Asanam). Therefore
Asana is a position of the body but also a mental condition, a precise attitude
held during the practice.
The etymological root of
“Asana” is “ASA“,
ie: Where I Am Connected …
ASANA … means what helps to take
a stable and comfortable yoga position; it is the third aspect of Yoga,
according to the scientific scheme of Patanjali. Literally it means: Where I am … and in what state I am …
Speaking of Asanas, according to
Yoga, the body is only the starting point for accessing the individual. For any
type of activity, a position is required. Yoga defines the position of the body
in two ways:
1. Pavitra – It is that situation
in which the body takes a certain position that has to do with the outside
2. Asana – or Posture when we do
not carry out an external activity, through the use of arms and legs but, we
assume that posture to be able to start the “inner perceptions“. That is, when we do something that
concerns ourselves, inside. Asana is a physical posture but can also be a
If the body can assume a certain
position, the mind can also assume its positions and its attitudes; depending
on what we have to do, the mind is stable in a certain type of attitude, in
this case it is a mental asana.
The term Asana implies the concept of stability; strengthen the ability to be stable, practicing long and consistently. The guidelines have already been scientifically defined by Patanjali who represents the undisputed authority on the subject. Nothing needs to be invented in this regard.
Y.S. 2 °-46: “Sthira Sukham Asanam”
“What is stable (Sthira) and
comfortable (Sukham) is Asana”
When we talk about Asanas, in
relation to the body, it means that there is no effort at the cortical level
but there is an action that takes place at the level of the cerebellum (lower
or proprioceptive centers).
The posture thus practiced, allows
the mind to be involved in something else that in yoga is the conscious
experience of respiratory movements.
As long as it remains at the cortical (voluntary) level, there is
involvement and attention cannot transcend into universal or perceptive states.
THE ASANA OPERATE
The central nervous system uses its
lower centers of integration to
maintain posture and balance. These lower
centers are located in the medulla oblongata (varolio bridge), in the
cerebellum in the midbrain and in the ganglia. Numerous reflexes are integrated
by these lower centers, which operate
below the level of consciousness to maintain position. Postural reflexes occur
unintentionally following the stimulation of different proprioceptors and visceroceptors,
in the muscles, joints, tendons, under the soles of the feet. The rhythm of
muscle tone can be regulated by the lower
centers completely independently and with absolute efficiency, while the upper centers of the cortex do not
interfere in the least.
Every voluntary effort on the part
of the body and mind means activity on the part of the higher centers, which prevail over the lower centers of integration. This disturbs the normal activity of
the lower centers with regard to
postural reflexes, this is due to the fact that the motor impulses are
transmitted directly to the skeletal muscles.
When the learning of the asanas is
started, a little effort is required for the muscles, joints and tendons. Then
gradually, the maintenance time of the asanas is increased. During this phase
the will plays a dominant role on the lower
centers, it is engaged in the stretching of the muscles, in their
contraction, in the abdominal compression, also feeling some discomfort here
and there. Many people, since they consider the asanas of simple physical
exercises, practice them in the form of isometric and isotonic exercises. It is
obvious that, by changing the execution method, the results will be different.
Let us consider the isometric and
isotonic elements that are introduced in the practice of asanas, then later we
will deal with the mode of execution envisaged by the fathers of the classical
Voluntary efforts are made to reach
the final stage of an asana. The muscles and joints are activated and kept in
position for a certain time, in fact the maintenance of the asanas constitutes
the final stage. This prolonged contraction of the muscles is nothing more than
an isometric exercise. An active stretching of the muscles produces an active
contraction, as a result of the stretch reflex. The tension increases and this
increase is felt by the joints, tendons and muscles, if it exceeds a certain
limit, it causes discomfort and pain. All of this produces muscle fatigue and
even tremors. This isometric activity increases the commitment of circulation
and breathing, as the muscles’ need for oxygen is increased. Such an execution
acts above all on the superficial muscles, rather than on the deep ones and on
their nerves. Internal pressure changes and proprioceptive mechanisms (lower centers) hardly have time to
affect the nervous system.
Sometimes asanas are deliberately
practiced as isotonic exercises. In this type of execution the dynamic phase
predominates, and leaves no room for maintaining posture. This type of exercise
causes heating and profuse sweating, and excites the activity of the Sympathetic
Nervous System, produces cardiovascular exertion, waste of energy with
consequent fatigue of the whole body. It is easily understandable that such a
practice for an individual suffering from a permanent state of severe stress or
anxiety (a very common condition in contemporary society) not only does not
help but actually fuels these forms of disorders. However, if a subject is in a
state of hypotonicity and depression, active stretching and prolonged
contractions will develop tone and muscle strength, producing energy, activity
and enthusiasm in the person, thanks to the action on the Sympathetic Nervous
What happens instead when the
asanas are practiced in the right condition of muscle relaxation, or with
voluntary reduction of effort and absence of tension in the joints, muscles and
Attention is directed to the
breath, with a detached observer attitude (Sakshin), this attitude allows to
relax the body further, releasing the tension of voluntary efforts. The mind is
emptied of thoughts, in the absence of mental activity and voluntary efforts
there is no cortical activity (higher
centers) for the whole time of maintaining the position. The lower centers that regulate posture and
balance are free to act effectively, without interference, however, the type of
postural reflexes that are determined with the related stimuli depend on the
particular postural model, or on the specific asana performed.
We have seen that muscle tone is
the basis of posture and can be influenced by emotional states or the person’s
mental condition. When muscle tone is reduced, due to the passive stretching of
joints and muscles, a sedative and calming effect on the nerves results.
Emotions cannot manifest themselves in a pronounced way: in this way it is
possible to face one’s own emotional load, reducing emotional tensions and
relaxing more and more deeply. There is therefore the absence of internal
disorders (vikshepa) or conflicts (dvandva) and it is therefore possible to
eliminate states of physical or mental instability. In a relaxed and stable
posture, internal awareness not only calms the mind, but also conditions it
through the functional connection of the cerebellum-hypothalamus postural
reflex. Sympathetic activity is suspended while parasympathetic activity
restores stability to various levels. Now the body begins to “speak”
to the mind through various sensations that are perceived by proprioceptors and integrated
involuntarily by the lower centers.
This explains why, in the long run, we see the effect of such an execution on
the postural model of the subject.
According to the principles of
yoga, the most profound changes occur when the forces that hinder change
diminish. In the case of intrinsic balance, a deep level of internal support is
needed, this support exists and takes shape when any extraneous muscular effort
ceases to hinder it. The unconscious muscular effort we make to constantly
counteract the force of gravity requires a lot of energy. Consequently, when
this effort ceases, the experience is that of an energy that is released,
because of this we can define the intrinsic balance as a source of energy,
precisely because of the profound sensation of vitality that distinguishes it.
This explains why yoga asanas help to release the potential energy of the axial
skeleton by identifying and loosening the foreign muscular effort that hinders
the innermost and deeper forces.
Patanjali clearly indicates how the
practice of an asana should be conducted:
“The absence of effort
(Prayatna Shaithilya) leads the mind to orient itself (Samapatti) towards
(Bhyam) the infinite (Ananta)”.
In asana there is the concept of
being able to put oneself in “contact
with the infinite” but, if the being remains tied to the physical
experience, if it remains within the limits of the body, it will never be able
to transcend the state of awareness limited. The “Knowledge” comes
when one comes out of the dual game of “effort” and
“tension”, the mental state becomes more open and the thought more
global; with the absence of effort, the mind enters a state of emptiness.
“Then (Tato) the tension
(Dvandva) disappears (Anabhighatah).”
Speaking of Asanas, in relation to
the body, muscular tensions can be released only if one has the capacity to
abandon oneself and transcend.
2nd – 49: “Tasmin Sati
Svasa Prasvasa Yor Gati Vicchedah Pranayamah”
“Asana is reached, in a stable
and comfortable way (Tasmin Sati, comfortable for the body and for the
individual), one becomes aware of the movements of one’s breath (Svasa and
Prasvasa), of the energy (Prana) that produces the movement (Gati) and how this
energy acts within us.
H. P. 1 ° -17: “Sthairyamarogyam
“Asana is a factor that
contributes to achieving stability, health and lightness of the body”
The result of the state of
“Asana”, when we transcend it, is to be able to enter the
“awareness of the breath”
II-49: “Tasmin – sati
svasa – prasvasa – yor – gati – vicchedah pranayamah”
“You can proceed only if you
have the ability to experience” Svasa “and” Prasvasa
a) Svasa: the conscious
experience of the movements that follow the inspiration.
b) Prasvasa: the conscious
experience of the movements that follow the expiration.
As long as it remains at the
cortical (voluntary) level, there is involvement and attention cannot transcend
into universal or perceptive states.
During a physical exercise, the
mind is concentrated on something that happens outside while in
“Asana”, the mind must move inward.
It is essential for a yogi to know
“how” the mind must move inward, during a particular Asana.
For example: I could also put
myself in perfect Padmasana position and continue to chat happily: while the
body is in Asana, the mind is out of practice.
The concept of “asana” is linked to
that of “posture” which is completely different from the concept of “physical
exercise”. Maintaining a “posture” is the way that allows us to analyze
ourselves and remove from ourselves what disturbs us and does not allow us to
remain in balance.
This is why Patanjali tells us that
there are two ways of practicing Yoga:
1. Bahiranga Yoga: Literally means
2. Antaranga Yoga: Internalization of our faculties, Yoga facing inward
Given the person’s two abilities,
both to turn outwards: “Bahiranga”,
and to return to himself and remain in himself: “Antaranga”, it is fundamental for Yogis to know that they must set
their practice on these two aspects.
Working with the individual, as
Yoga asks of us, means “working with his conscience”, not only with the “physical
For yoga the greatest victory is
the victory over oneself, over one’s weaknesses, over one’s fears, over one’s
Two years ago, I was in Indonesia preparing to lead a yoga teacher training beginning in 72 hours. My phone rang. On the other end, I was told my sister had just died from a heroin overdose. Speechless and gutted, I pulled my arms in front of my chest. I dropped my head into my hands and felt paralysed.
From my previous experience with loss, I knew these actions were causing a “shaking in” of the trauma. The best thing to do in this situation is to run around, move the limbs and yell— “shake out” the trauma. However, we’ve been conditioned to intellectualise the sadness first. This makes navigating and unravelling the inner workings of our feelings difficult, yet an understanding of the Chakras can help. This knowledge was integral in helping me deal with the loss of my sister. I hope it can serve you in your own unique grieving process.
Grieving Through the Chakras
system of the chakras defines how we move. Grief affects each chakra
individually and the system as a whole. Each chakra (energy center) has its own purpose and
receives energy or information from the outside world. Chakras assimilate and
integrate this energy, combine it with their particular states and expresses this
combination back into the world.
1st chakra, Muldhara– stability and survival: Healing from loss and grief here comes through grounding practices. Silence and slow and methodical movements nurture it. Sink into the support of gravity.
garden, get your hands in the dirt.
2nd chakra, Svadisthana – fluidity and emotions:This chakra likes flow of all kinds. Nurture it by experiencing pleasure through all of the senses. Eat delicious and nourishing foods. Look at the beautiful blue sky. Flow in your yoga practice—combining breath and movement supports the relationship between the first and second chakras.
Pro tip: dance.
3rd chakra, Manipura –power and self-discipline: Nurture this chakra by caring for your first two chakras daily. Consistently roll out your yoga mat and move. This ignites the fire this chakra needs to thrive.
Pro tip: care
for your first two chakras, even when you don’t feel like it.
4thchakra, Anahata – breath: Grief affects
this chakra by making the breath shallow or causing it to be held. Heal here through deep breathing—especially
through the mouth in the early stages of grief. Notice how the body moves with
each inhale and each exhale. Let the space between the two begin to lengthen
Pro tip: match the rhythm of the breath with the rhythm of your heartbeat.
5th chakra, Vishuddha – creativity, speech, and listening: When grieving, listen to others share their stories of loss and heartache. Meet with people who can relate to your experience without judgement or sympathy, heard by people that understand that it’s your journey, your own healing timeline.
Pro tip: sing.
6th chakra, Ajna – perception of ourselves and others:We can easily
allow the perception of a loss to define us. Who are we once someone is gone?
Do we feel guilty moving on? Through experience, I know that the sixth chakra
will feel supported, if the time has been taken to care for the lower five
Pro tip: sit quietly with the eyes closed. Bring the gaze up to the space between the eyebrows and connect to your inner wisdom.
7th chakra, Svadisthana – connection and attachment:The healing journey
encompasses the attachment to our perceptions and the stories we tell
ourselves. Who are we if we are no longer that thing which defined us? Do your grounding
practice. Give the first chakra what it needs to build a foundation, then slowly
work your way up through the chakra system, to find answers.
Pro tip: practice stillness. Commit to one minute at a time, then slowly increase the time.
After my sister died, I found safety in my anger and brokenness. It served me until one day it didn’t. If I had rushed the healing process to suit someone else’s timeline, I wouldn’t feel as whole as I am beginning to feel right now. When grieving, take your time. Go through the process of nurturing your chakras, and the healing will find its way.
Denise Payne Teacher Training School in Bali One Song Yoga has been serving the yoga community as a registered school since 2009. Our guiding principles are steeped in yoga tradition and philosophy and offer bespoke teacher training to fit the growing needs of the expanding yoga community. www.denisepayneyoga.com
Praise of Yoga Gymnastic article by Paolo ProiettiTantra Yoga Teacher, books author-Rome, Italy
Yoga “gymnastics” will be the new tag from now on, to introduce all my classes, courses and seminaries.
has the merit of being simple and honest; nowadays there are hundreds of
different Yoga in the “spiritual market” and most of the time they run into
contradiction. That’s why I think it’s therefore right and proper to get back
to clarity and simplicity.
Yoga is the Art of Human Being; it’s the practical application of Sanatana Dharma teachings’ (the perpetual Indian Philosophy) and it has been turned into a desinence or a suffix that aims at attracting new potential consumers inside the lucrative market of spirituality.
The same happened in the ‘70s with the word Zen: everybody thought to do Zen meditation and they applied it to all sort of activities, from motorcycling to tennis, from theatre to writing. Today it’s Yoga turn.
This fact itself it’s not right or wrong; it’s just a fact, a social phenomenon that we can’t disregard. The consumer who embraces spiritual and holistic arts from the East will look for a particular Yoga, so the market will adapt itself to meet specific demands.
Ashtanga, Power or Acro Yoga will be chosen by someone who has a physical approach, otherwise somebody interested in Western gymnastics with low-impact exercises will find Yin Yoga, Mindful Yoga, Yoga Pilates (or Yogiaates) and Postural Yoga.
with a strong passion for philosophic issues, will be fascinated by Advaita
Vedanta (more often in the reinvented version of American psychologists), they
could also enjoy the Tibetan Yoga and other courses that introduce the word Meditation
in their package, another magic word from the Holistic business.
Then we have the Shamanic Yoga, the Yoga related to symbols, the Five Tibetans’ Yoga rites, the Laughter Yoga, and so on. A Yoga for everyone!!
As I already said before, I personally prefer the definition of “Yoga Gymnastics” (or Gymnosophy) because it’s clear, simple and honest.
During my lessons, we practice a series of physical exercises (gymnastics), positions, sequences, gestures and breathing techniques. We work on perception and the use of Subtle Energies. We study philosophical texts.
It’s the combination of these three components of our work that must or should lead to a series of physical, psychic and mental transformations.Therefore, Yoga Gym.
Then we can discuss between us, in private, about the singularity of Yoga, and we could also talk about the risks of this “spiritual market” and its adhesion. Yes, we speak of risks, because it may happen that many people practice (or even teach) Yoga without ever having read a Yoga Upanisad or an Agama.
They could pass off a simple psycho-physical exercise as an ancient traditional technique; an exercise that might be good for health and state of mind, but at the same time it’s similar to Yoga as the pin-pong is to hunting. This is the risk of inventing new disciplines with techniques and concepts mixed together to meet the taste of the public.
Look at the picture below:
The hippie man in his underwear it’s me in the 70s. It’s supposed to be in Capraia (a gorgeous Italian little Island) looking at the shape of those rocks. I was there during one of the “voluntary Yoga retreats” organised by a very large group, with manifold practitioners. There were some Babaji’s disciples, some “Orange”, a few Hare Krishna, some Sri Aurobindo followers and a group of people just returned from India.
We met periodically in the island, where we spent one or two weeks doing “gymnastics exercises”, meditation and mental visualisations. We also talked at night about the teachings of some masters, in front of the bonfire. The most knowledgeable showed us some readings written in English, that they brought from India, and we talked for hours about Sanatana Dharma, Vedas, Gods, demons and heroes.
Beliefs and opinions were different, but I remember that everybody knew and practiced the basic asanas, we all had precise ideas on chakras and we could sit for hours meditating in the lotus pose. We named it just Yoga and none of us would ever think to ask someone else “What kind of Yoga do you practice?”. Because Yoga is (or maybe it was) only one. Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions
Let’s talk about Yoga Upanisad.
you ever heard of them? And if the answer is yes, have you ever studied one of
Upanisad are 108 and they are divided into 4 groups:
1) main upaniṣad
2) upaniṣad of
renunciation (or surrender upanisad)
3) Yoga upaniṣad
4) upaniṣad on
There are also other groups of religious nature in addition to them, but now we’re going to analyse the third group about Yoga Upanisad.
There are 20 upanisad (or 17 according to some commentators) and they describe the yogic path to Realisation. A very accurate and clear path, with gymnastics exercises, breathing techniques, mental visualisations and meditation.
These are always
and every single time the same and they are described with a simple language,
This language is not absolutely suitable for metaphorical or theological interpretations. Let me give you an example: Parama-Karuna-Devi
is an Hindu master of Italian origin and she made a translation of the 108
upanisad from which I’m going to transcribe some passages.
I really suggest my colleagues and the practitioners of thousands different styles of Yoga to read them. (The author does not use the transliteration of IAST, so for instance upanisad is UPANISHAD, Siva will be SHIVA and so on..)
Here you can read two verses from the Varaha Upanisad (composed between the 13th and 16th centuries CE) :
The (fundamental asanas are 11: Chakra, Padma, Kurma, Mayura, Kukkuta, Vira, Svastika, Bhadra, Simha, Mukta and Gomukha. (5.15 to 16)
It seems to be
clear enough, isn’t it?
According to the varāha upaniṣad, which forms an integral part of Yajurveda, the practitioner must know how to do at least 11 asanas, in order to undertake the path to realisation. They include the following poses:
gymnastics exercises, Yoga gymnastics, which are fundamental for a Yogin,
according to a traditional Indian text.
It must be said that upaniṣad are not manuals made for buskers or for exhibitions of gymnasts, but they are clear instructions to achieve the yogic path to Realisation.
Do you think varāha upaniṣad is an isolated case?
As if, difficult
poses as it’s considered the Peacock one (Mayurāsana) are believed to be basic
in almost all Yoga upanisad.
It explains that
what it was called to be Yoga, was a discipline made of fundamental poses,
without a doubt. Among these essential poses, there were (and there still are)
some movements quite complex, but they are part of gymnastics exercises.
Like for basketball or the boxe; have you ever heard of a basketball player who does not know how to dribble? Or a boxer who does not know how to throw punches? No, and the same is for Yoga.
As far as I could see and read, nowadays there aren’t a lot of people who know how to perform the bridge on their arms, the head stand or the Peacock pose. In many of these thousands types of Yoga, we could even hear that it is not necessary to learn how to do Padmāsana (the lotus pose), because it could be dangerous for the knees. Moreover, the Head Stand (the king of asanas) has become an optional, good only for performances.
So, the new tag “Yoga Gymnastics” is welcomed, considering that essential asanas poses of the upanisad are left to gymnasts.
But let’s read another passage from the Varāha Upaniṣad:
must be practiced repeatedly in the following order: inhale, hold the breath
and exhale. The main work of pranayama concerns nadis, the channels through
which the energies flow”. (5,18)
“The body of every human being is 96 fingers long. In
the middle of the body, two fingers above the anus and two fingers under the
genital organ, we can find the center of the body called Muladhara”. (5,19)
“Nine fingers above the genitals there is the core of
nadis that takes the shape of an oval; it is made of four fingers on each side,
surrounded by fat, meat, bones and blood. There is a nadi chakra in it with 10
rays, it supports the body and it’s where Kundali resides.
Kundali’s face covers up Brahmarandhra (the
“opening of Brahma”) on the channel called Sushumna. At the sides of
the Sushumna there are the nadis called Alambusa and Kuhu”. (5,20-23)
“The next two rays are Varuna and Yasasvini. On the
southern ray of Sushumna there is Pingala.
On the following two rays there are Pusha and
Payasvini, while on the west side of Sushumna there is the nadi called
“The following ray is Hastijihva, finally there is
these rays of the wheel, 10 nadis move 10 vayu in a clockwise direction from
left to right, and they are intersected in various points like filaments of a
fabric. They also have different colors (5,27-28) “
I think the message of the Yoga Upanisad, the practical handbooks of Yoga, is very clear: a yogin, to be a yogin, must be a gymnast and an inner alchemy expert at the same time. This doesn’t mean that psychic and mental well-being cannot be reached in another way; because one’s self could be realise in many manners.
But what it was
used to be called Yoga included the following activities: gymnastics, inner
alchemy, meditation and knowledge of traditional texts.
Today I’d like to
to call it Gymnosophy, or Yoga gymnastics. I’d really appreciate that my
colleagues and friends who teach Yoga and practitioners of disciplines with the
suffix (or “prefix”) Yoga will read the Yoga upanisad too, when they
have enough time.
In order to know what it was meant to be the word Yoga, since ten years ago. When it was considered to be necessary for meditation to tie the legs in the lotus pose while holding the back straight. As well as the head stand was not considered to be the evolution of an exhibitionist, but it was a technique to stimulate precise energy channels, to transform the perception of one’s body and of evident reality.
Greetings Paolo Proietti -Rome,Italy
Paolo Proietti is a Tantra Yoga teacher and books author. Paolo he has been practising yoga and oriental martial arts since 1974. Instructor of ASI / DOS (Discipline Holistic Health – Holistic Arts and Oriental). Member World M.Y.A. (World Movement for Yoga and Ayurveda), World MIFA (World Movement for Indian Fine Arts), E.Y.F. European Yoga Federation.
The Divine Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji Spiritual Leader, PhD, books author, director International Yoga Festival Rishikesh and much more….
The noble traditions of Yoga, Meditation and Pranayama have, over the last three decades, become a catalyst for transformative and positive changes to the mind, body and spirit. As an example, in the United States, yoga practice increased from 9.5% of the population in 2012 to 14.3% in 2017 according to a 2017 National Health Interview Survey. Involvement by children doubled during the same period. As part of this increased participation, people are coming to realize that Yoga is more than asanas and meditation.
Yoga, as taught by Patanjali, is an eight-fold path with each limb flowing gracefully and naturally, one into the other, yet flexible enough the limbs may be experienced ordered in a multitude of variations. The first two limbs of Yoga are the Yamas and Niyamas, or the ethical rules for living and interacting within community. This, by extension, can encompass the world at large. The third limb refers to the practice of asanas for keeping the body healthy and supple. Asanas are also critical for preparing the mind for the more subtle practices that come next. The fourth limb is Pranayama, or control of the breath – the vital energy permeating the body. It is said that the number of breaths we are allowed to take on this earth was written at the time of our birth. Yoga teaches that longevity depends on the rate at which we breathe. As we lower the rate of breathing, we can increase the length of our lives. Pranayama has an effect on both body and mind, and is a means of attaining higher states of awareness and consciousness.
The final four limbs help to refine and discipline the mind. They are Pratyahara or control of the senses, Dharana or concentration, Dhyana or meditation and contemplation, and Samadhi or enlightenment. One very powerful Dharana is envisioning the world completely devoid of our presence. This reminds us that we are not this body and nothing material is of substantial importance. Samadhi is the final state of enlightenment and oneness with the Supreme Consciousness.
Yoga is primarily a spiritual process designed to help the practitioner attain self -knowledge and Samadhi. It is rooted in Sanatan Dharma. Millions of people around the world are involved in the practice and spread of Yoga. From its origins as Ashtanga, many asana variations have been developed. Examples include Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Bikram. The essence of the original practices, however, remains intact because no new asanas have been developed.
Yoga is also a science that has been verified using scientific methods. Tests have been conducted for decades on the effect of Yoga on the body and mind. Studies show asanas, pranayama and meditation in combination with allopathic medicine can be an alternative treatment for many health issues. Research is now being undertaken to determine whether Yoga can cure and prevent cancer. Initial findings are encouraging, and show that yoga improves the physiological and physical symptoms of cancer patients and reduces stress, thereby improving quality of life. Yoga is also being studied to determine its effectiveness in treating issues such as autism, PTSD, trauma, anxiety disorders and issues related to the mind. On the individual level, yoga is an experiential process because the practitioner can directly observe changes in their body and mind as a result of a sustained practice
A whole world of possibilities is available through Yoga, and new opportunities are being discovered every day. Yoga can be considered one of the most important tools in the twenty-first century for health and well-being – physical, mental and spiritual. We humbly request that all teachers and practitioners treat Yoga as their most precious jewel and protect it in the same manner.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Ph.D, was raised in an American family in Hollywood, California and graduated from Stanford University. She was completing her Ph.D. when she left America in 1996 to live at Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh, India. She has been living there for 22 years, engaged in spiritual practice and service.
She was officially initiated into the order of Sanyas (monastic renunciation) in the year 2000, by His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, one of the most revered spiritual leaders in India and the President of Parmarth Niketan.
The largest ever World Championship of Yoga Sports to kick off Saturday December 1st 2018 in Beijing
The Swiss based International Yoga Sports Federation is organising the largest ever World Championship of Yoga in Beijing, China. This is the first time that the competition is organised in Asia after running in London in 2014 and Italy in 2016 (Pordenone Yogah School).
135 athletes from 32 nations and 5 continents will be participating in this exceptional event, the biggest ever from the foundation of IYSF in 2013, raising interest for Yoga Sports all over the world. Each competitor will be evaluated by 10 international judges on a series of 6 asanas, 1 forward compression, 1 backward, 1 stretching, 1 spine twist, and 2 optional postures. This year the whole event will be placed under the high patronage of Rajashree Choudhoury, who has decided to handover her position of Executive President of IYSF at the end of the competition.
Two Italians are the youngest competitors in the Youth category. One is the 2016 World Champion who will defend “Like a Champion” the well deserved title!
We are glad to bring our champions Davide Toneguzzi and Riccardo Basso, students of the Yogah School since they were five years old, at World Yoga Championships, scheduled in Beijing. Davide Toneguzzi, 15, a student of the “Torricelli” sports school in Maniago, is the current world champion in the Youth category and on December 2nd (at 3 pm local time) in the Chinese capital, he will defend the title won in 2016.
Thanks to the Yogah school and its young athletes, Pordenone has received unexpected planetary visibility. The city and the territory have now repaid the boys of the Yogah School supporting them in this new, exciting sporting adventure. “Pordenone responded with great warmth to our appeal – explains Nicola De Simone, who with Gabriella Buzzacchi directs the Yogah School and is the Master of the two athletes – really a choral participation, almost moving.”
Along with Davide Toneguzzi there will also be a club and contemporary partner, Riccardo Basso. Student of the “Grigoletti” scientific high school, he is twice world and European champion of the Youth category. In short, Pordenone holds world leadership among young yogis.
Youngest World Yoga Champions from Italy Yogah School- Pordenone and their Master Yoga Teacher Nicola De Simone
Rajashree Choudhoury President International Yoga Sports Federation
“Welcome Home!” – this greeting is offered to every guest and visitor to Parmarth Niketan Ashram, a true spiritual haven, lying on the holy banks of Mother Ganga in the lap of the lush Himalayas. “Parmarth Niketan” literally means “Dedicated to the Welfare of All.” A friendly welcome and this simple mission statement expand into a vast array of programs and services that are led by or inspired by or driven by, or a combination of the three, the ashram. The ashram runs schools, hospitals, ecological programs and disaster-relief projects with no discrimination on the basis of caste, color, creed, gender or nationality.
I first came to Parmarth Niketan in 2013 on a spiritual adventure, attending the International Yoga Festival. I was hooked – Home! One of the aspects of Parmarth most attractive to me is the charity work. Pujya Swamiji says, “it’s culture, nature, and future” – a culture of love and togetherness, focused on our common nature and this one planet we share, to create the future we desire. This vision is further unfolded in the programs and efforts of the ashram or that are associated with Parmarth. This year I made the personal decision to move to India, to live at the ashram as a sevak, in service to the vision and mission of Pujya Swamiji and the ashram’s various programs.
His Holiness, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji serves as President and Spiritual Head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram. Pujya Swamiji selflessly and tirelessly uses every moment as an opportunity to give and to teach others the gift and value of giving. Every day you will find him participating in a multi-variety of activities: Meeting with government officials, faith leaders, and devotees; leading spiritual ceremonies and community programs; offering darshan and inspiring words; and chanting at the inspiring Ganga Aarti celebration held each evening on the banks of the sacred Ganga River in Rishikesh. From His example, countless others are inspired to action in their own communities in the areas of healthcare, education, the environment, and social justice.
The purpose of this story is share with you some of the charitable work of the ashram, seeking to inspire you to make a difference, and perhaps sparking a fire in you to serve in some way or even to come visit us at Parmarth in Rishikesh, India. I have aligned the work with Swamiji’s theme of “culture, nature, and future”.
From a cultural perspective, Pujya Swamiji is part of a global effort to bring faith leaders together for a more peaceful, healthy and sustainable world – a cultural approach for change that is all about nature – the Interfaith Humanitarian Effort. In addition to faith leaders, the ashram brings together Entertainers for Peace, where the stars are inspired to shine for a more peaceful world.
Entertainers have a unique position and opportunity to influence peace and Swamiji challenges them to rise to the occasion. Efforts to bridge business leaders and political leaders are also a piece of the cultural change efforts – all in the name of peace. Lastly, Pujya Swamiji led a labour of love and intellect to create the Encylopedia of Hinduism, sharing one of the most beloved and lasting gifts of the Indian people to the world. The encyclopedia is 11 volumes of more than 7000 entries from over 1000 scholars, bringing together hindu history, scholarship, and contributions to the development of the world. We are One culture, One world – a world that is about Love and Togetherness – if we choose it to be.
Nature is fascinating, complex, ever-changing, and an endless opportunity to see ourselves in relationship to the world around us. Since coming to the ashram, I have learned of some drastic predictions coming from the United Nations around water, global warming, and the impact of food choices on the health of people and our earth. The ashram’s goal is to awaken us all to the difference we make and the changes required. The ashram’s efforts begin at home here in India, where Pujya Swamiji inspires India’s leaders for a clean and green India and a more peaceful world. The ashram’s specific programs include the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA.org), the world’s first initiative to engage the planet’s many faiths as allies in efforts to create a world where every human being has access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation and proper hygiene.
Nothing short of a behavior change revolution is require to insure health, sustainable WASH for nearly half of India’s population. One of my favorite signs here at the ashram is for the World Toilet College, providing classroom and outreach trainings that cover the entire range of sanitation projects. Plus, there’s WASH on Wheels which brings dedicated social workers, volunteers and performers to all areas of India; the WaterSchool used to train and motivate teachers and students to learn the principles of sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene in order to be agents of social change; and Women for WASH which seeks to develop women entrepreneurs against pollution, hardship and disease right in their own neighborhoods and villages.
I am much more aware today of the significant role women can and do play in making change for the health of communities and our planet – and nature and culture balance and support one another. The Divine Shakti Foundation (DSF) is dedicated to the holistic well being of women, their children, and orphaned/abandoned children, and to all of Mother Nature and Mother Earth. Again, to make is personal, Menstrual Hygience Management was not on my radar screen before getting involved with Parmarth – it is now and the solutions are so simple – but they require me to think differently and to act differently. Creating a clean, green, and serene world means everyone is supported and barriers to health and wellness are removed. The Ashram’s efforts in these areas includes Gurukuls (schools) and Orphanages, education, and a Rural Development Program. There are programs such as Project Give-Back: The Heart of Healing, a health care program with annual free health care camps in Rishikesh.
Nature is a key element to understanding ourselves and I am convinced that any personal spiritual journey requires me to consider nature. What I understand today is that my relationships to people, to Mother Nature, to communities, is beyond borders and boundaries, and beliefs and ideals. It’s a matter of the heart – and about sameness and connection. Hope is our hands, and programs like Ganga Action Parivar (GAP) raise awareness about the need for collective and holistic, solution-based action to address the crucial issues facing the holy river Ganga. And Ganga broadens beyond this sacred river in India to encompass all rivers, all sources of water, all peoples. Briefly, Pujya Swamiji speaks of environmental preservation and 6 T’s: Toilets, Trash, Taps, Tigers, Trains, Trees – you can visit the ashram website to learn more how each of these has an impact on nature, and is influenced by culture and affects our future.
The final call in Pujya Swamiji’s vision is for the future. I think this is where the personal call most comes in – what future do I want? Knowing what I know now, how do my choices change? Choices around water, food, material possessions, care for my body, community, world – and those around me. It’s an interesting path – one that I find support along the way from the community here at Parmarth, through yoga and meditation, and through meeting amazing people from around the world who are involved in the change. So my last thought is – who do I surround myself with? How do I use my senses – what do I watch? what do I listen to? how do I touch? what do I allow my mind to gravitate towards? Ask yourself these questions – and perhaps our paths will cross as walk the path of “culture, nature, and future”.
I feel a sense of pride and I draw inspiration from these programs and initiatives, being called to make a difference in the world. Change really does depend upon each of us – it is a matter of the heart – the heart of me, the heart of you, the collective Heart of one earth! And for me, through the Heart of the One – the Divine – “any name, any form, no name, no form” – together we can. “Welcome Home!”
You can learn more about the ashram’s charitable mission and projects by visiting www.parmarth.org
Article by Ed Fink a sevak at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh (Himalayas), India.
H.H Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji &
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji’s historic participation in the Parliament of World’s Religions 2018
Pujya Swamiji receives prestigious Ahimsa award by Parliament of World Religions TORONTO: Today was a moment of historic pride for India when Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji was awarded the special Ahimsa award by the Parliament of World Religions in Toronto. This evening, Dr. Robert P. Sellers, Chair of Parliament of World Religions, Dr Kirit Daftary, Trustee and representative of the Jain religion, Parliament of World Religions, honoured HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji – Muniji for his exceptional contributions that enhance and strengthen the interfaith community through non-violence, his unparalleled service to humanity, his great example of peace and compassion in action. The award has been sponsored by Jain communities around the world. H.H. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, one of India’s most renowned leaders, is President of Parmarth Niketan, one of India’s largest interfaith spiritual institutions and co-founder of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, the first alliance of religious leaders working for water, sanitation and hygiene, launched by UNICEF at their World Headquarters in New York City during the time of the General Assembly of the United Nations,. He also is founder of Ganga Action Parivar, supporting and dedicated to the Clean Ganga Movement, Divine Shakti Foundation, educating and empowering women and girls, and India Heritage Research Foundation, which conceived and published the historic Encyclopedia of Hinduism and built three historic ashrams in the sacred land of Kailash Mansarovar . The Parliament of Religions, founded in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda came and delivered his historic address has gathered approximately 10,000 people from 50 different religious lineages and from 80 regions of the world at the Toronto Metro Convention center for their 7th Parliament. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, President of Divine Shakti Foundation and Secretary-General of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, disciple of Pujya Swamiji’s spoke about Pujya Swamiji as an embodiment of Ahimsa. She said, “Ahimsa is not simply an absence of violence. It is a fullness of peace, a fullness of embracing and acting from the truth of our highest united humanity. Pujya Swamiji sees not only bombs, guns and armed conflict as violence. He also sees starving children, homeless orphans, women without access to clean water or toilets, death by diarrhea, polluted rivers and felled trees as violence. His life has been dedicated to eradicating all forms of violence, not only armed conflict, but also universal access to safe and sufficient water, access to health care and education. Wherever Pujya Swamiji goes He embodies ahimsa, whether picking up trash on the banks of a river or picking up people’s spirits, whether building schools, women’s centers, hospitals and sewage treatment plants or building bridges between people in conflict.
Yoga Alliance® – Australia and Yoga Alliance® Italia Yoga Industry leaders Introduced New Standards for Yoga Training
As the popularity of yoga in the world grows each year, so does the need for more rigorous yoga teacher training programs. That is why Yoga Alliance® International/Australiaand Yoga Alliance®-Italia/International (sister organisations) believe that yoga teachers and training providers deserve a better support system in comparison to what they have had in the past. Let’s see how…
In 1987 the International Yoga Federation (IYF), the largest yoga organisation in the world, under the honorary Presidency of Indra Devi (a.k.a.The First Lady of Yoga) created standards to celebrate yoga teachings of all traditions and the diversity, harmony and integrity of yoga practices all over the world
The IYF implemented three yoga teacher training systems:
1) The Indian Traditional Gurukula System.
2) The American System or Standards by hours.
3) The European System by Programme and years.
Since 2000, the most significant independent world’s renowned Yoga Alliance organisations (Australia/Italy/International/Canada/UK-Professionals/USA) the yoga community’s primary advocacy organisations and Register of certified yoga schools and teachers, have adopted standards for teacher training by hours. The most commonly used and widely accepted 200-hour YTT international standard was created in 2001 to set forth the minimum hours required to become a yoga teacher anywhere in the world.
In January 2017, the Yoga Alliance® International/Australia and its sister organisation Yoga Alliance® International/Italia’s Educational Standards Committee (ESC) assembled a diverse range of experts within the yoga industry for a comprehensive review of the existing yoga teaching standards (most standards are voluntary in the sense that they are offered for adoption by people or industry without being mandated in law) supported by both organisations. The decision was based on the proliferation of low quality yoga teacher training, inadequately trained yoga teachers and unscrupulous providers who deliver substandard training,
The two organisations felt that their existing standards were out of date and restrictive in their breakdown of course content and hours. Rather than requiring a specified narrow curriculum, the ESC decided that keeping the bar high for training programs content, structure, the number of contact hours a program should incorporate, the experience of the teaching faculty, the course entry prerequisites and online learning, within a reasonable period of time would increase acceptance and integration of yoga teachers within the industry.
After exploring a variety of existing credentialing models, the ESC proposed to improve the foundation of the existing credentialing system by raising the Standards of Practice and level of professionalism of credentialed yoga teachers and yoga schools and thus provide consumers with independent assurance that yoga professionals who hold Yoga Alliance Credential possess the knowledge, skill, or ability to practice their occupation competently.
Meaningful Standards for Yoga Teaching from Australia to Europe to China
In April 2017, after receiving input from member schools, world renowned yoga experts and experienced yoga teachers,Yoga Alliance® International/Australia added to its existing credentialing system the250-PLUS and 500-PLUShours standards both designed to elevate the profession of yoga teachers a title that has no legal force as there are no legal requirements for yoga teachers and there is no statutory legislation specifically governing the teaching of yoga anywhere in the world.
Although some experts may agree that the 200-hour model is more accessible for aspiring yogis, more studios and experienced teachers welcome the 250 PLUS and the advanced 500 PLUS hour standards instead. The “PLUS” standard enables training providers to incorporate more hours of study, practice and teaching methodologies into their programs so aspiring teachers can go more in depth into the study and teaching of yoga to prepare themselves to teach beginning and intermediate yoga classes.
On September 1st 2017,Yoga Alliance® ItaIia/International signed a “Partnership Agreement” with theC.S.E.N (Italy’s largest National Educational Sport Organisation) and its sister organisation Benessere C.S.E.N to implement the “PLUS” standards in Italy. The C.S.E.Nis recognised by the Italian National Olympic CommitteeC.O.N.I and by the Italian Paralympic Committee C.I.P.
TheC.SE.N aims to promote and disseminate sporting activities with high social value, to establish favourable conditions for a wider development of physical education, sports and health as well as cooperating with autonomous organisations from other countries.
In 2015 as part of the organisation restructure, the C.S.E.N established the National Holistic Sector Benessere C.S.E.Nwww.benesserecsen.it a body engaged in the drafting of national guidelines and reference standards for the training of holistic operators and yoga teachers, defining training courses curriculum and minimum hours. With yoga been practised by more than two million people in Italy, the Benessere C.S.E.N has become Italy’s largest Register of Yoga Teacher and schools.
The agreement between theC.S.E.Nand Yoga Alliance® ItaIia/International has given rise to a series of initiatives aimed at improving many aspects in the international and national Yoga industry. Among the first actions taken was the need of the C.S.E.N to equalise the training standards of the Yoga sector in Italy to the international ones.
Following the important decision by both organisations to raise the minimum training standards from the basic 200 to 250 and 500 PLUS hours,as of September 1st 2017, Italy is the first European country and the second in the world after Australia to have implemented new standards for yoga training courses. Upcoming projects and ongoing initiatives see the two organisations acting in constant and harmonious symbiosis.
The New Standards can be used freely by other Yoga Organisations
Offering new credentials such as: RYS 250 PLUS/350 and 500 PLUS hours and new meaningful standards to those who meet the requirements of the standards means that a registered yoga teacher has met certain criteria and has made a commitment to becoming a safe and qualified teacher.
Yoga Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) IIlustrated Step by Step
Sun Salutation (Salute to the Sun) or more popularly known as Surya Namaskar (Surya is the Sanskrit word for the sun and Namaskara derives from namas: “to bow, obeisance, reverential salutation) is a set/sequence of asanas/postures often practiced in a morning yoga session to aerobically generate heat and warmth in the body, which is helpful as one gradually moves into deeper postures.
Sun Salutation is performed in the morning empty stomach in a graceful flow and linked by breath-a method called vinyasa that massages, detoxifies, and stimulates almost every organ of the human body. It can be practised on varying levels of awareness, ranging from that of physical exercise in various styles, to a complete sadhana which incorporates asana, pranayama, mantra and chakra meditation and it is best done early morning on an empty stomach.
Each Sun Salutation round consists of two sets. These 12 yoga poses complete one set of Surya Namaskar.To complete the second half, you need to repeat the same sequence of postures, only moving the left leg instead of the right.
You might find many different variations of the Sun Salutation. However, it is best to stick to one particular sequence and practice it regularly for best results.
Sun Salutation is important for two reasons. One, it can be a great workout for the whole body – stretching, flexing and toning the muscles, an excellent exercise for weight loss. It also offers numerous health benefits beyond the physical level, relaxing the mind, leading it to meditation. Two, Sun Salutation gives us an opportunity to express gratitude to the sun, without which life on earth would be impossible!
Benefits: It’s a perfect asana sequence; it’s a great way to start your day; generate heat to cleanse your body and mind.
SUN SALUTATION IN 12 EASY STEPS
Stand in Mountain pose with the hands in prayer position, feet and legs together, heals are rooted, firm your legs.
The palms are gently pressed together with the shoulders back and down.
The chest presses in towards the thumbs
Inhale through the nose and raise the arms up above the head with your hands in prayer position. Look up at the thumbs.
Gently Bend back.
Lift out of the waist, reaching up towards the sky.
Exhale into Standing Forward Fold.
Press the palms onto the floor; if necessary, bend the knees slightly.
If you have the flexibility, bring the fingertips under your shoulder in line with the toes.
Inhale through the nose and step the right foot back into High Lounge.
Shoulders are back and down, the chest presses forward, crown lifts up. Keep the front knee directly over the ankle and keep the back leg firm and straight or knee bent.
Inhale and step the left foot back into Plank.
The shoulders are aligned forward directly over your wrists. The body is in one straight lane in a push-up position.
Press the heels back, and reach the crown of the head forward.
Exhale down into Caterpillar/Snail.
Bend the knees to the floor and then lower your chest and chin to the floor. Keep your chest open and your elbows close to the side of your rib cage. Reach the hips up towards the sky, arching the back
Inhale and raise your upper body into Cobra pose.
Roll the shoulders back and extend the shoulder blades down and press them in towards the chest. Your chest should be lifted and open and elbows should stay close to the body.
Your legs and feet should be well extended. As a variation, you can also do an upward dog.
Exhale into Downward Facing Dog.Tuck the toes under, bend the elbows, and lift the hips up and back.
Press firmly into the hands, spread the fingers and press the palms into the mat, they should be shoulder width apart.
Now, lift your hips up towards the sky, lengthening your spine. Gently straighten your legs, pressing your heels down into your mat as far as you can go.
Inhale and step right forward into High Lunge.
Step the left foot forward between the two hands. Adjust the legs so that the knee is directly over the ankle and the toes and knee are pointing forward.
Keep the back leg straight or bent as you sink the hips down. The chest and gaze are forward.
Exhale into Standing Forward Fold.
Press the palms flat to the floor or hold on the fingertips.
If you have the flexibility, bring the fingertips in line with the toes.
Inhale and sweep the arms up with palms together.
Gently arch the lower back
Look up to the sky
Exhale and bring the palms together in Mountain Pose.
Place the feet together or 2-3 inches apart, parallel and facing forward.
The crown of the head lifts up, the chin is parallel to the floor
Bhastrika Pranayama is an empowering chest/thoracic type of breathing technique that has a very important place in hatha yoga. The Standing Heating Breath benefits are numerous, they range from physiological to postural, mental, psychological and emotional. This type of pranayama has been adopted by Bikram as part of the initial warm up sequence and as a mean to energize/detoxify the body in preparation of yoga practice consequently is now associate with hot yoga, however, this technique of forcefully and quick breathe in from nose and breathe out from mouth exists for centuries.
Blower in Sanskrit is called Bhastrika. Hence exhalation of breath forcibly and quickly is the main feature of Bhastrika Pranayama. One should inhale & exhale breath like a blower. It is in a way a combination of Kapalbhati & Ujjayi. Among all the Kumbhakaras, this Pranayama is considered the best.
Contraindications and Cautions: The Standing Heating Breath should not be performed in case of pregnancy, heart disease and high blood pressure. These are the best way to properly prepare for esoteric forms of yoga breathing exercises.