Yoga Overcomes Anxiety

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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:

– Providing sensations about the internal and external environment

– Integrating sensory information

– Coordinate 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.  

Scientific search results: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25538634

YOGA FOR ANXIETY

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 body

3- an emotional body

4 – an intellectual body

5- an existential body

We move from the material, visible, to the invisible, immaterial, thinner aspect

Yoga applied against anxiety is different from any other therapy. In conventional therapy it exists:

  1- The Therapist

  2 -The Technique

  3- The Patient

During medical 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 yoga teacher).

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.

Given the 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.

Om Shanti

Felice Vernillo (Arjun yogi) owner https://www.shaktiyoga.it/ Author of Books of Yoga https://www.shaktiyoga.it/shakti-yoga-books.html 

Felice Vernillo-author Yoga Shakti Theory and Practice

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