Category Archives: What is Yoga

breath of the gods


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


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


yoga posture vs. ego posture

“This yogic technique is how to bring the light of consciousness to the edge that dispells the darkess without ever having to fight with it.”

Amrit Desai


teaching yoga

backbend birds

“My goal as a teacher is to inspire a passion for practice. The practice itself, done consistently and accurately, is the real teacher.”

Tim Miller


thanksgiving

gratitude pose

The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.

-Yogi Bhajan


yoga lesson 1: just show up

balasana just show up

When renowned Ashtanga practitioner/instructor, David Swenson was in Seoul for an Ashtanga workshop, he said something like this:

“The hardest part of yoga is to just show up.  Once you are there, the rest happens.”

He went on to say that if you just get up, put on your yoga clothes and stand on the mat, you’ve accomplished something. What naturally tends to happen is that once on that mat, you figure you may as well do the sun salutations which lead to the standing series and then a few sitting poses—and it just keeps going. Sharing this piece of advice through his gentle, humble and kind demeanor, David’s message stuck for me.

Yeah, there are days when I feel heavy or lethargic or just “don’t wanna.” By just showing up, I find that I move beyond my projections and end up feeling great after the practice. Guess that’s what Swenson meant when he said, “I’ve never regretted practicing.”

Just show up. Seems simple. In what other areas of life can this be applied?

  • Communication with your spouse is currently challenging. Just show up; keep trying to find ways to understand one another.

 

  • You’ve just finished eating a donut at a meeting while you’ve pledged to a new diet. Just show up; from this moment on become more mindful of your snack choices.

 

  • That project, book or blog post didn’t get the feedback you anticipated. Just show up; keep working at it. If there’s passion behind what you do, it will get noticed.

I don’t expect those days when I just “don’t wanna” will vanish. It’s very human to have lapses in motivation. But having the intention of moving forward—of rolling out the yoga mat, so to speak—is the first step that may lead to more.

Excerpt from Elephant Journal Article My First Yoga Lesson: Just Show Up by Christine Martin


indo yoga board

The Indo Yoga Board simulates unstable yoga on a Stand Up Paddle (SUP) board.

The Indo Yoga board can be used for both Asana Yoga and Vinyasa Flow Yoga.  The key to feeling comfortable on the Indo Yoga Board is to take the time to understand and feel the movement of the board, and to slow down and focus on engaging the core and other stabilizing muscles that may not be used in traditional yoga.

The Indo Yoga Board has varying levels of progression and instability.  The wooden rockers on the bottom of the board provide a basic or beginning level of instability.  Placing three Indo Board IndoFLO inflatable cushions underneath the board will increase the level of instability and increase the challenge.  The inflation of the IndoFLO cushions changes the instability of the Indo Yoga Board.

The Indo Yoga Board is meant to challenge all levels of yogis.


smart yoga mat

smart mat

Can a nearly $300 yoga mat help improve your downward dog? A tech startup is saying yes, it can.

SmartMat, a tech-infused yoga mat developed by three entrepreneurs, is raising thousands of dollars by claiming to be the world’s first mat that can help users achieve that perfect pose with audio and visual cues sent via a smartphone, or tablet.

Here’s how it works: The SmartMat has a layer of thin pressure sensors embedded within a traditional yoga mat — sensors that link with a smartphone or tablet to provide vocal feedback about your poses. The mat will work best if users input some basic details, such as gender, height and weight, as well as arm span measurements and other details that can help the mat get a better sense of the yogi’s body type. SmartMat’s founders claim the mat can be used effectively by both enthusiastic yogis and beginners.

The fancy yoga mat would cost a consumer $297 if they back the Indiegogo campaign today, a price that could increase to as high as $447 as more orders come in. Launched in late September, SmartMat has already raised over $187,000, more than the stated $110,000 goal. The campaign on the crowdfunding website, which has already courted over 700 funders, ends on Oct. 30. SmartMat is hoping to ship the mats in July 2015.

Excerpts from A $300 yoga mat wants to teach you a proper warrior pose by John Kell


awake: the life of yogananda