The Guru – The Master and The Yoga Teacher

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by Master Yoga Teacher  Felice Vernillo founder and owner Shakti  Integral Yoga – Italy

Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo

Master yoga (Teacher Felice Vernillo Founder and owner Shakti Integral Yoga – Italy

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.

THE 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 Guru.

“An 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.

After 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.

The 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!”.

Ramakrishna 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 PRECECTOR

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 MASTER

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 MASTER

 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 masters.

THE TEACHER

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 aspects.

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 cultural aspects.

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, Meditate, Realize”.

Shakti yoga - Italy
Shakti Yoga Founded by Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo

Om Shanti Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo owner Shakti Yoga Italy and book author https://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/yoga-shakti-manuale-teorico-pratico/libro/9788894108118

Asana Yoga Not Just Fitness

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by Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo founder and owner Shakti  Integral Yoga -Italy

Master Yoga (Teacher Felice Vernillo Founder and owner Shakti Integral Yoga – Italy

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 world.

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 mental attitude.

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 SCIENTIFICALLY

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 yoga tradition.

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 System.

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 tendons?

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:

Y.S. 2nd – 47: “Prayatna Shaitilya Ananta Samapattibhyam”

“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.

Patanjali: Y.S. 2nd – 48: “Tato Dvandva Anabhighatah”

“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.

Y.S. 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 Cangalaghavam”

“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”

Y.S. 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 external Yoga

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 structure”.

For yoga the greatest victory is the victory over oneself, over one’s weaknesses, over one’s fears, over one’s afflictions


To find out more about Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo (Arjun Yogi)
please visit his website: www.shaktiyoga.it/

A Yogi’s Brief Guide to Moving Through Loss by Way of the Chakras by Denise Payne

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Yoga Alliance (Australia/International) Master Yoga Teacher Denise Payne (Ubud-Bali)

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

The energetic 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.

Pro tip: 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. 

4th chakra, 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 naturally.

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 properly. 

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

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Source: doorofperception.com-michael_oneill-yoga-book-taschen-cover2

Praise of Yoga Gymnastic article by Paolo Proietti Tantra Yoga Teacher, books author-Rome, Italy

Yoga “gymnastics” will be the new tag from now on, to introduce all my classes, courses and seminaries.

This definition 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.

Somebody else, 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:

Paolo Proietti in 1978

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

Source: doorofperception.com-michael_oneill-yoga-book-taschen

Let’s talk about Yoga Upanisad.

Honestly, have you ever heard of them? And if the answer is yes, have you ever studied one of them?

Traditional 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 universal principles.

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, details apart.

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:

Cakrasana
CHAKRASANA Source: doorofperception.com-michael_oneill-yoga-book-taschen-
padamasana
PADAMASANA Source: doorofperception.com-michael_oneill-yoga-book-taschen
kumasana
KUMASANA Source: doorofperception.com-michael_oneill-yoga-book-taschen
mayurasana
MAYURASANA Source: https://paoloproiettiyoga.blogspot.com
kukkutasana
Source: https://paoloproiettiyoga.blogspot.com

These are 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:

“Pranayama 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 Sarasvati”. (5,24-26)

“The following ray is Hastijihva, finally there is Visvodara.

In 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.

Yoga a Noble Tradition

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Yoga – a Noble Tradition by Sadhviji Bhagawati Saraswati

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji

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.

Biography

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.

Sadhviji serves as:

Meet  Sadhviji at the IYF 1- 7 March 2019 Rishikesh – Parmarth Niketan Ashram 

Yoga Alliance (International/Australia Proud Media Partner International Yoga Festival 2018/2019

Yoga Alliance (Italia/International) -Media partner International Yoga Festival 2018/2019

Yoga Alliance (Italia/International) proud Media Partner of the International Yoga Festival 2018/2019