Category Archives: History

11 yoga documentaries worth your time

  1. Y Yoga: Filmmaker Albert Klein takes up yoga the week of 9/11, falls in love with it, and goes on to make one of the greatest yoga documentaries to date.  This is my personal favorite, and if you only have time for one, this one is it. It’s primarily about the California Yoga scene, but that’s where it all starts anyway.
  2. Enlighten Up!: A skeptic’s journey into the wide world of yoga.  This film is very well put together, and with a lot of colorful characters, like international yoga superstar, Diamond Dallas Page. It is particularly good, I feel, because it raises more questions than it answers. You can watch some of this one on Youtube, and it’s full version is on Netflix.
  3. Yoga Unveiled: This is a great introduction to the deeper dimensions of yoga, especially the history and philosophy of yoga that often gets neglected. It is perfect to watch at the outset of a yoga teacher training program. You have to pay for this one, though you can find some clips on Youtube.
  4. Yoga Woman: Among other things, delves into why yoga is now still primarily practiced by women, even though for most of yoga’s history it was not. I saw this when it premiered on Maui in early 2012. It’s not my favorite, but definitely worth your time.
  5. Shortcut to Nirvana: It’s now been almost 12 years since this film came out, which features the 2013 Kumbha Mela, the  largest religious festival in the world, which happens every year in India. So if you want to get some sense of what it’s all about before it happens, this is a good place to start.
  6. Sita Sings the Blues: This is a brilliant, funny and ironic modern re-telling of the ancient Hindu epic The Ramayana, which relates the possibly tragic story (depending on how you look at it) of Rama & Sita. You can watch this for free online.
  7. Titans of Yoga: This documentary is a good introduction to some of the major figures on the contemporary yoga scene. It is helpful to hear what they have to share with us about the yoga journey.
  8. Yoga Is: This is a very sweet introduction to the world of yoga.  It is one woman’s journey while coming to terms with her mother’s death from cancer.  It is especially good for those new to yoga and is very inspiring.
  9. The Soul of India: This is not a yoga documentary per se, as yoga is only touched upon only briefly, yet it gives some very good insight into Mother India, the birthplace of yoga.  My students have loved this video  Rick Ray also has another great documentary for yoga people called “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama.”
  10. Ayurveda: The Art of Being: Explore Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, as it has been traditionally practiced in India for centuries. Students have found this to be one of the most fascinating films we’ve shown.
  11. Fierce Grace: This is a touching, insightful film about the life and work of Ram Dass, author of the famous book” Be Here Now” and recently featured by Oprah on her online network.

Gaiam TV Article by Alan Lowenschuss

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nāda yoga

nadayoga

Nāda yoga (नादयोग) is an ancient Indian metaphysical system. It is both a philosophical system, a medicine, and a form of yoga. The system’s theoretical and practical aspects are based on the premise that the entire cosmos and all that exists in the cosmos, including human beings, consists of sound vibrations, called nāda. This concept holds that it is the sound energy in motion rather than of matter and particles which form the building blocks of the cosmos.

Nāda yoga is also a way to approach with reverence and respond to sound. Sound and music is in this context, something more than just the sensory properties and sources of sensuous pleasure, sound and music is considered also to play the role as a potential medium to achieve a deeper unity with both the outer and the inner cosmos.

Nāda yoga’s use of sound vibrations and resonances are also used to pursue palliative effects on various problematic psychological and spiritual conditions. It is also employed to raise the level of awareness of the postulated energy centers called chakra.

Music has been used by most Indian saints, prophets as an important and powerful tool in the quest for the achievement of nirvana; notable name to be mentioned here include Thyagaraja, Kabir, Meerabai, Namdeo, Purandaradasa and Tukaram.

The Nāda yoga system divides music into two categories: internal music, anahata, and external music, ahata. While the external music is conveyed to consciousness via sensory organs in the form of the ears, in which mechanical energy is converted to electrochemical energy and then transformed in the brain to sensations of sound, it is the anahata chakra, which is considered responsible for the reception of the internal music, but not in the way of a normal sensory organ.

The anahata concept refers to one’s own personal sound vibrations, which is thought to be so closely associated with one’s self and the self that a person can not share their anahata with another human being. In other words, this inner sound is sacred and once reached will open the practitioner’s chakras, which ultimately will unite the body to the divine/cosmos.

With continued sounds, a focused mind and controlled breath, the individual can, according to Nāda yoga, “listen in on” their own anahata, their own “inner sound”, which can take up to nine different forms. Such a process of inner awareness and sensitivity leads to increased self-recollectedness and finally to awakening.

To concentrate on this inner sound as a support for meditation is very helpful to tame the mind, and when it has been clearly recognized, used for self-recollectedness in outer life as well. Eventually, it can be experienced as penetrating all matter and indeed vibrates eternally throughout the Creation.

In Nāda yoga, one of the main breathing sounds is ahaṃ, where each part of the word (a ha ṃ) is focused on and spoken individually. The echoes produced by each of these spoken letters is a time where the yogi should immerse himself and rest. Now, because of imbalances within the human body, Nāda yoga begins by removing the ailments and impurities by “awakening the fire in the body (jāṭhara)” (Timalsina 212) with the use of a sound resembling that of a bee. It is important to note that when the yogin is forming sounds, his/her mind should not wander off to other entities.

One group to incorporate yoga, Nāda yoga specifically, and the practice of sound into the spiritual transformation is the Josmanĩ. The Josmanĩ are identified as a Sant tradition, and they are a blend of Śrī Vaiṣṇava Bhakti tradition with the Nāth Yoga tradition. Yoga is used in “personal and social transformation” (Timalsina 202). The Josmani’s spiritual quest interlinks the practice of Kuṇḍali and Nāda Yoga.

In the West, detailed indications and advices have been given by Edward Salim Michael in his book : the Law of attention, Nada Yoga and the way of inner vigilance. Ajahn Sumedho, from the Thai Forest Tradition teaches also the practice of this inner sound.

Primary literature

Nada Bindu Upanishad

Shurangama Sutra

The Śūraṅgama Sūtra, often spelled Shurangama Sutra or Surangama Sutra in English, is a Mahayana sutra and one of the main texts used in the Chán school in Chinese Buddhism. In the Surangama Sutra, Avalokitesvara says that he attained enlightenment through concentration on the subtle inner sound. The Buddha then praises Avalokitesvara and says that this is the supreme way to go.

From Wikipedia


solar year vs lunar year

Hindu_calendar_1871-72

Hindu Calendar 1871-72

Ancient people had two reliable ways of measuring time—the length of a day and the length of a lunar cycle.  Figuring out the length of the solar year was more complicated and required close observation of natural events, such as the cycling of the seasons and the movement of the stars in the heavens.  A lunar month is approximately 29.5 days, and twelve lunar months equals 354 days—approximating, but not equaling the length of a solar year, which is 365 days.  The seers of ancient Egypt are credited with first accurately figuring out how long it takes the Earth to orbit around the Sun.  They did this by observing the movements of the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky (currently visible in the eastern sky a couple of hours after sunset—down and to the left from Orion’s Belt).  In first century BC Rome it was discovered that the existing Lunar Calendar was three months off in relation to the seasons.  This was due to the eleven-day discrepancy between the Lunar and Solar Calendars that had been playing out over time.  On the advice of Sosigenes, a learned astronomer from Alexandria, Caesar added 90 days to the year 46 BC and started a new calendar on January 1st 45 BC.  Sosigenes tells Caesar that the length of a year is actually 365 days 6 hours, and advises him to add a “leap year” every fourth year.  We have been using this same calendar ever since.  The ancient Romans developed a custom of setting aside the period of 11 days at the end of the year, which constitutes the difference between a Lunar Year and a Solar Year, and designating it as a period of holiday, when time stood still and people feasted, celebrated, and partied, and absolutely no work got done.  This time period corresponds roughly to the Winter Solstice through New Year’s Day.  It makes sense to devote our time at the end of the year to celebration rather than to work.  At the Winter Solstice we have the least amount of Solar Energy to warm us and invigorate us, and many people suffer from SAD—seasonal affective disorder.  During Christmas we spend time with our family and many emotions are evoked.  The year has been long and we have worked very hard living our lives, because being a human being is not an easy thing.  Certainly there were some things we could have done better during the course of the year, but we are imperfect beings, after all.  The important thing is that we learned something during the year that will make us wiser and more compassionate and loving as we continue forward into 2015.  The living of a year is something like a yoga practice, with all the different asanas serving as metaphors for all the different situations we encountered.  Some of those asanas were better than others, but it was all sadhana, and sadhana is always worthwhile.  In reference to keeping our sadhana in the proper perspective, Patanjali says:  Abhyasa vairaghyabhyam tannirodah—“By practicing diligently, with devotion and no interruption over a long period of time, and with nonattachment to any particular outcome, we will have peace of mind.”

December 30th Post from Tim Miller’s Blog Tuesdays with Timji


the great oom

Image

Yoga, that mystical art that’s become a regimen for 15 million Americans, came to this country from the East.

Eastern Nebraska, to be precise.

That’s where, back in 1889, a 13-year-old named Perry Baker met his first yogi, and American-style yoga was born.

The Iowa-born teenager soon remade himself with a new name — Pierre Bernard — and his exploits, and yoga’s sometimes-rocky journey to respectability, are chronicled in the new book The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America.

Author Robert Love tells NPR’s Guy Raz how Bernard weathered early rumors of rampant sex and drug use, and later an arrest, to lay the foundation for an empire.

“He was so far ahead of his time that it is no wonder that he was lost to history,” Love says. “People didn’t know what to do with him. We want our gurus and our holy men to be soft-spoken aesthetics — here is a true American rough-and-tumble original who happened to be a mystic as well.”

“I think he is a missing link in the great story of how yoga moved from East to West. And Bernard was merely laughed off as a kind of a footnote. I hope my book at least puts the record straight and sets up an argument for him as a real pioneer in bringing yoga to America.”

Excerpts from NPR Article and Interview with Robert Love, Author of ‘The Great Oom’: Yoga’s Wild Ride To Respectability’


awake: the life of yogananda


vedanta

Sankaracharya

Shankara, also called Shankaracharya (born 700?, Kaladi village?, India—died 750?, Kedarnath), philosopher and theologian, most renowned exponent of the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy, from whose doctrines the main currents of modern Indian thought are derived. He wrote commentaries on the Brahma-sutra, the principal Upanishads, and the Bhagavadgita, affirming his belief in one eternal unchanging reality (brahman) and the illusion of plurality and differentiation.

Vedanta, one of the six orthodox systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy and the one that forms the basis of most modern schools of Hinduism.

The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = “Veda-end” = “the appendix to the Vedic hymns”. It is also said that “Vedānta” means “the purpose or goal [end] of the Vedas”.  Vedanta can also be used as a noun to describe one who has mastered all four of the original Vedas.

In earlier writings, Sanskrit ‘Vedānta’ simply referred to the Upanishads, the most important and philosophical of the Vedic texts. However, in the medieval period of Hinduism, the word Vedānta came to mean the school of philosophy that interpreted the Upanishads.

Vedānta is also called Uttarā Mīmāṃsā, or the ‘latter enquiry’ or ‘higher enquiry’, and is often paired with Purva Mīmāṃsā, the ‘former enquiry’. Pūrva Mimamsa, usually simply called Mimamsa, deals with explanations of the fire-sacrifices of the Vedic mantras (in the Samhita portion of the Vedas) and Brahmanas, while Vedanta explicates the esoteric teachings of the Āraṇyakas (the “forest scriptures”), and the Upanishads, composed from the 9th century BCE until modern times.

All sub-schools of the vedanta propound their philosophy by interpreting the Prasthanatrayi, literally, three sources, the three canonical texts of Hindu philosophy, especially of the Vedanta schools. It consists of:

The Upanishads, known as Upadesha prasthana (injunctive texts), and the Śruti prasthāna (the starting point of revelation)
The Brahma Sutras, known as Nyaya prasthana or Yukti prasthana (logical text)
The Bhagavad Gita, known as Sadhana prasthana (practical text), and the Smriti prasthāna (the starting point of remembered tradition)

The Upanishads consist of twelve or thirteen major texts, with total 108 texts. The Bhagavad Gītā is part of the Mahabhārata. The Brahma Sūtras (also known as the Vedānta Sūtras), systematise the doctrines taught in the Upanishads and the Gītā.

All major Vedantic teachers, like Shankara, Rāmānuja, and Mādhvāchārya, have composed often extensive commentaries not only on the Upanishads and Brahma Sutras, but also on the Gita. While it is not typically thought of as a purely Vedantic text, with its syncretism of Samkhya, Yoga, and Upanishadic thought, the Bhagavad Gita has played a strong role in Vedantic thought.

No single interpretation of the texts emerged, and several schools of Vedanta developed, differentiated by their conceptions of the nature of the relationship and the degree of identity between the eternal core of the individual self (atman) and the absolute (brahman). These range from the nondualism (Advaita) of the 8th-century philosopher Shankara to the theism (Vishishtadvaita; literally “Qualified Nondualism”) of the 11th–12th-century thinker Ramanuja and the dualism (Dvaita) of the 13th-century thinker Madhva.

The Vedanta schools do, however, hold in common a number of beliefs; transmigration of the self (samsara) and the desirability of release from the cycle of rebirths; the authority of the Veda on the means of release; that brahman is both the material (upadana) and the instrumental (nimitta) cause of the world; and that the self (atman) is the agent of its own acts (karma) and therefore the recipient of the fruits, or consequences, of action (phala). All the Vedanta schools unanimously reject both the heterodox (nastika) philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism and the conclusions of the other orthodox (astika) schools (Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, and, to some extent, the Purva-Mimamsa).

The influence of Vedanta on Indian thought has been profound, so that it may be said that, in one or another of its forms, Hindu philosophy has become Vedanta. Although the preponderance of texts by Advaita scholastics has in the West given rise to the erroneous impression that Vedanta means Advaita, the nondualistic Advaita is but one of many Vedanta schools.

Excerpts from Vedanta Articles on Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica


yoga philosophy

mythpatanjali

The tradition of Patañjali in the oral and textual tradition of the Yoga Sūtras is accepted by traditional Vedic schools as the authoritative source on Yoga, and it retains this status in Hindu circles into the present day. In contrast to its modern Western transplanted forms, Yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or discursive thought, and of eventually attaining a state where consciousness is unaware of any object external to itself, that is, is only aware of its own nature as consciousness unmixed with any other object. This state is not only desirable in its own right, but its attainment guarantees the practitioner freedom from every kind of material pain or suffering, and, indeed, is the primary classical means of attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the Indic soteriological traditions, that is, in the theological study of salvation in India. The Yoga Sūtras were thus seen by all schools, not only as the orthodox manual for guidance in the techniques and practices of meditation, but also for the classical Indian position on the nature and function of mind and consciousness, for the mechanisms of action in the world and consequent rebirth, and for the metaphysical underpinnings and description of the attainment of mystical powers.

Excerpt fron Article The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy