There are moments in the life of each of us, like the one we are living now, when nothing seems to work as it should, moments that come unexpectedly and go to undermine our serenity. With the thought that becomes gloomy, pessimistic about everything. Inevitably, it is inevitable to suppose that misfortune has raged against an “innocent victim”. But the reality, the great sages of history teach us, is another, nothing happens by chance, and since every event happens for some non-random reason, the wise mind reflects on why a situation occurred and tries to take advantage of it, taking advantage of the lesson and taking an important leap towards the path of personal growth.
It is not always easy, this is obvious, but once learned this attitude of “I let events happen and trust in heaven’s will“, each situation will become lighter to bear and clearer in its manifestation, even the apparently harshest one, like the one we have all been experiencing for weeks. It is clear that, however strong and determined our will maybe, what has to happen happens anyway, in one way or another.
Often such events occur in order to make people understand that the road that is being traveled is not the best one (like the blind race to appear, a pathology of which the human being is affected at this moment in his history), blocking channels and putting obstacles along this road to stop a race destined to a certain abyss.
The experience that the human species of the whole planet is living at this moment, is the scream of nature that is calling the human being, to tell him that life is not at all predictable and safe, that anything can happen at any time. The human being is called to become aware that our health is not certain, our financial situation is not safe.
What we can and must do, as a response to this unequivocal truth, is to define our reaction, this is in our hands. We can react in a positive way, or we can simply play the part of the “innocent victim”, waiting more or less passively for someone else to come and save us.
The wisest path for ourselves and for others is that of positivity, but this path is not just to say “everything will be fine”, remaining what we were until January 2020. NO, THIS IS NOT SUFFICIENT! this world event wants to teach us that contemporary man, despite the great technological progress, is not the controller of the planet but rather the controlled. Technological progress without the evolution of human consciousness is not able to make man’s existence healthy, peaceful, and in harmony with creation.
Although we exercise our bodies, we are careful with our diet, we work hard to earn adequate income and, without a doubt, we find some relationship with the Divine to give us some sense of protection and security. All these activities more or less explicitly demonstrate that we recognize or instinctively feel the insecurity of life.
No matter how much we try to control our future, no matter how much we do from a positive or negative point of view, despite all this, we have the feeling that life is not safe after all. The more we try to control the future, the less secure we feel. If we reflect sincerely, we must recognize that the more we try to control life, our insecurity grows rather than diminishes, united by a common emotion, fear.
Perhaps we should listen to nature, integrate with its rhythms, integrate instead of trying to appropriate it with the false illusion of controlling it. If we positively revise the conception of the man-created relationship, this will make things around us take place in a more harmonious way, without harshness and with greater well-being for all. It is time to revise our vision of things because, as we know, once this experience is over, by necessity, all of us will no longer be as we were before.
Yoga also helps us in this: it prepares us
physically and psychologically to face everyday life, even the hard
confrontation with our most superficial part, the one linked to the search for
a happiness that, even if achieved, turns out to be evanescent and not very
The identity principle of yoga is “union”. It represents the end but,
at the same time, also the means. In order to reach the realization of union,
yoga, if practiced in its entirety, guides us first towards the integration of
all our individuality, an individuality made up of body, energy, mind,
intelligence and soul, then to the final realization that man, integrated in
himself, is naturally in union with his fellow human beings.
The current emergency is clearly showing that
individualism makes us weak and dissociated, while union is a fact, human
beings are united, for better or for worse, by the laws of nature, even before
An inner confrontation that, potentially, each
of us can win and whose prize is the discovery of a world, the inner world,
made of communion with our own self, with others, with the universe and full of
that lasting peace, so far sought in the wrong direction.
us: “This world is your body. This
world is your school. This world is your silent teacher.”
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