Category Archives: What is Yoga

mandala

mandalabw 14-Kalachakra-mandala-b

Mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल Maṇḍala, ‘circle’) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the Universe. The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T. Mandalas often exhibit radial balance.

The term is of Sanskrit origin. It appears in the Rig Veda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in other religions and philosophies, particularly Buddhism.

In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.

In common use, mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.

Forms which are evocative of mandalas are prevalent in Christianity: the celtic cross; the rosary; the halo; the aureole; oculi; the Crown of Thorns; rose windows; the Rosy Cross; and the dromenon (labyrinth) on the floor of Chartres Cathedral. The dromenon represents a journey from the outer world to the inner sacred centre where the Divine is found.

mandala bw rose window

mandala bw celtic

In his pioneering exploration of the unconscious through his own art making, Carl Jung observed the motif of the circle spontaneously appearing. The circle drawings reflected his inner state at that moment. Familiarity with the philosophical writings of India prompted Jung to adopt the word “mandala” to describe these circle drawings he and his patients made. In his autobiography, Jung wrote:

“I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,…which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp 195 – 196.

“The mandala serves a conservative purpose—namely, to restore a previously existing order. But it also serves the creative purpose of giving expression and form to something that does not yet exist, something new and unique….The process is that of the ascending spiral, which grows upward while simultaneously returning again and again to the same point.”

—Jungian analyst Marie Louise von Franz, C. G. Jung: “Man and His Symbols,” p. 225

mandala woman

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According to the psychologist David Fontana, its symbolic nature can help one “to access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises.”

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mandalaCalendar_Wiki_Maya_Calendar_001

Text excerpts from Mandala at Wikipedia

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explore yoga styles

types-of-yoga

Ashtanga Yoga

What to Expect: The inspiration for many vinyasa-style yoga classes, Ashtanga Yoga is an athletic and demanding practice. Traditionally, Ashtanga is taught “Mysore style”: Students learn a series of poses and practice at their own pace while a teacher moves around the room giving adjustments and personalized suggestions.

What It’s About: The practice is smooth and uninterrupted, so the practitioner learns to observe whatever arises without holding on to it or rejecting it. With continued practice, this skill of attentive nonattachment spills over into all aspects of life. This is one important meaning of K. Pattabhi Jois’s famous saying, “Practice, and all is coming.”

Teachers and Centers: Founded by K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), this system is taught around the world. Jois’s grandson R. Sharath now leads the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. There are teachers everywhere around the globe.

Find out more at kpjayi.org and ashtanga.com

 

Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga

What to Expect: This is a physically challenging, flowing practice that will get your heart pumping while also encouraging you to find your authentic personal power in life. Classes feature a vigorous 90-minute sequence, performed in a heated room and designed to condition the whole body.

What It’s About: The aim of Baptiste Yoga is to create freedom, peace of mind, and the ability to live more powerfully and authentically right now. The physically challenging practice is a training ground for facing emotional and philosophical challenges that arise in your life.

Teachers and Centers: Baron Baptiste, son of yoga pioneers Walt and Magana Baptiste (who opened San Francisco’s first yoga center in 1955), began practicing as a child and studied with many Indian yoga masters. The Baptiste Power Yoga Institute is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are more than 40 affiliated studios.

Find out more at baronbaptiste.com

 

Bikram Yoga

What to Expect: Rooms are heated to 105 degrees, and classes consist of 45 minutes of standing poses and 45 minutes of floor postures. You do the same series of two breathing exercises and 26 poses in each class.

What It’s About: This practice is designed to work your body and requires full mental concentration. The overall objective is to create a fit body and mind, allowing the physical self to unify with the spiritual self.

Teachers and Centers: Bikram Choudhury was born in Calcutta and introduced his system in the United States in 1971. His main teacher was Bishnu Ghosh (1903-1970). The Bikram Yoga College of India in Los Angeles serves as headquarters. There are now more than 5,000 certified Bikram teachers throughout the United States.

Find out more at bikramyoga.com

 

Forrest Yoga

What to expect: A strong, hot practice designed to help you release physical and emotional tension and pain, and celebrate the strength of your own body.

What It’s About: Working with the premise that clearing stored emotions makes room for your spirit to come home, the practice combines physically challenging sequences with deep emotional exploration.

Teachers and Centers: Ana Forrest began teaching Forrest Yoga in 1982. She studied various systems of yoga, healing, and native ceremony but credits her own pain and suffering, her students, the elements, and “the great mysterious” as her primary teachers.

Find out more forrestyoga.com

 

Integral Yoga

What to Expect: A gentle practice based on chanting, postures, deep relaxation, breathing practices, and meditation.

What It’s About: Integral Yoga focuses on returning us to our “natural condition,” which includes health and strength, a clear and calm mind, a heart full of love, a strong yet pliable will, and a life filled with supreme joy.

Teachers and Centers: Founded by Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002), a student of Swami Sivananda, Integral Yoga is taught at the Satchidananda Ashram (Yogaville) in Virginia and the Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan as well as at smaller centers and in studios.

Find out more at iyiny.orgyogaville.org, and iyta.org

 

Ishta Yoga

What to Expect: Classes include alignment-based vinyasa sequences, with meditation, Pranayama (breathwork), and kriyas (cleansing techniques) to create specific energetic effects.

What It’s About: ISHTA stands for the Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda, and its aim is to balance the human organism to create a strong and stable platform for spiritual growth.

Teachers and Centers: Alan Finger laid the foundations for Ishta Yoga with his father, Kavi Yogiraj Mani Finger (a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda and Swami Venkatesananda) in South Africa in the 1960s. The Ishta Yoga School in Manhattan was opened in 2008.

Find out more at ishtayoga.com

 

Iyengar Yoga

What to Expect: Often, you’ll do only a few poses while exploring the subtle actions required to master proper alignment. Poses can be modified with props, making the practice accessible to all.

What It’s About: For beginners, the primary objective is to understand the alignment and basic structure of the poses, and to gain greater physical awareness, strength, and flexibility.

Teachers and Centers: B.K.S. Iyengar (a student of T. Krishnamacharya) founded the style. His children Gita and Prashant Iyengar teach in Pune, India, and around the world. There are four Iyengar institutes in the United States: in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

Find out more at bksiyengar.com and iynaus.org

 

Jivamukti Yoga

What to Expect: A physically vigorous and intellectually stimulating practice with a focus on spiritual development. Expect to encounter flowing asana sequences along with Sanskrit chanting, references to scriptural texts, eclectic music (from the Beatles to Moby), yogic breathing practices, and meditation.

What It’s About: One of the predominant principles of Jivamukti Yoga isahimsa (nonharming), and classes often explore the link between yoga and animal rights, veganism, and activism.

Teachers and Centers: Jivamukti means “liberation while living.” Sharon Gannon and David Life founded Jivamukti Yoga in 1984, choosing the name as a reminder that the ultimate aim is enlightenment. Find centers in New York, Toronto, Munich, London, and Charleston, South Carolina.

Find out more at jivamuktiyoga.com

 

Kripalu Yoga

What to Expect: Through asana, pranayama, meditation, and relaxation techniques, you’ll learn to observe the sensations in the body and mind, and thereby discover how well a pose, or a life decision, is serving you. Classes can be physically demanding or extremely gentle, such as chair yoga.

What It’s About: The primary objective is to awaken the flow of prana—the natural life force that will enable you to thrive in all aspects of life.

Teachers and Centers: Swami Kripalu (1913-1981) was a Kundalini Yoga master who taught that all the world’s wisdom traditions stem from a single universal truth, which each of us can experience directly. The main center is the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Find out more at kripalu.org

 

Kundalini Yoga

What to Expect: A 90-minute class typically begins with chanting and ends with singing, and in between features asana, pranayama, and meditation designed to create a specific outcome. Expect to encounter challenging breathing exercises, including the rapid pranayama known as Breath of Fire, mini-meditations, mantras, mudras (sealing gestures), and vigorous movement-oriented postures, often repeated for minutes, that will push you to your limit—and beyond.

What It’s About: Kundalini Yoga is sometimes called the Yoga of Awareness. The primary goal is to awaken kundalini energy, the psychoenergetic force that leads to spiritual elevation, and kick-start the process of transformation.

Teachers and Centers: Kundalini Yoga was founded in the United States in 1969 by Yogi Bhajan. There are more than 5,000 certified Kundalini Yoga teachers in the United States.

Find out more at kriteachings.org3ho.orgyogibhajan.com, and kundaliniyoga.com

 

OM Yoga

What to Expect: Medium-paced vinyasa sequences combined with alignment instruction and Tibetan Buddhist concepts like mindfulness and compassion.

What It’s About: The aim is to cultivate strength, stability, and clarity and integrate mindfulness and compassion into your whole life.

Teachers and Centers: OM founder Cyndi Lee has practiced yoga since 1971 and Tibetan Buddhism since 1987. The OM Yoga Center is in New York City.

Find out more at omyoga.com

 

ParaYoga

What to Expect: Combining Tantric philosophy with dynamic practice, classes include challenging asanas with an emphasis on the practices of pranayama, meditation, mudras, and bandhas (locks).

What It’s About: Rooted in ancient texts and modern life, this practice reveals how asana affects and transforms energy. Its aim is to manifest spiritual and worldly success through increased Self-awareness and the refinement of prana.

Teachers and Centers: Rod Stryker, a student of Kavi Yogiraj Mani Finger and Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, founded ParaYoga in 1995.

Find out more at parayoga.com

 

Prana Flow Yoga

What to Expect: “Challenging” and “empowering” are touchstone words for this active, fluid form of vinyasa yoga. After the opening Om, the class is an exercise in near-continuous motion. Sequences are creative, often incorporating elements of dance and moving meditation, and accompanied by music.

What It’s About: The practice is a vehicle to connect with prana.

Teachers and Centers: With a background in dance, yoga, Ayurveda, and Indian martial arts, Shiva Rea founded Prana Flow Yoga in 2005.

Find out more at shivarea.com

 

Purna Yoga

What to Expect: Classes are asana focused, with adherence to the alignment principles of Iyengar Yoga and incorporation of yogic philosophy. Short meditations begin and end class to connect students with the heart center.

What It’s About: The emphasis is on uniting the body and mind with the spirit. There are four limbs to Purna Yoga: meditation, asana and pranayama, applied philosophy, and nutrition and lifestyle.

Teachers and Centers: Inspired by the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Purna Yoga was officially founded by Aadil and Mirra Palkhivala in 2003. The main center is in Bellevue, Washington.

Find out more at yogacenters.com and aadilandmirra.com

 

Sivananda Yoga

What to Expect: Based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda, this yoga style is more spiritual practice than exercise. Each 90-minute class focuses on 12 core poses and Sanskrit chanting, pranayama practices, meditation, and relaxation.

What It’s About: Designed to transform and elevate human consciousness, Sivananda Yoga focuses on five fundamental points of yoga: proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation (Corpse Pose), proper diet (vegetarianism), and positive thinking and meditation.

Teachers and Centers: Sivananda Yoga was founded in 1957 by Swami Vishnu-devananda (1927-1993), a primary student of Swami Sivananda (1887-1963). Large teaching centers can be found in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Montreal, and Toronto.

Find out more at sivananda.org

 

Svaroopa Yoga

What to Expect: Classes include a lot of floor work with ample propping and hands-on adjustments. Classes begin and end in Savasana (Corpse Pose) and focus on releasing tension.

What It’s About: Svaroopa means “the bliss of your own Being.” It refers to the Tantric view of the body as a form of consciousness. The goal is to create “core opening” to remove energetic impediments to inner transformation.

Teachers and Centers: Svaroopa was founded in 1992 by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati, a longtime student of Swami Muktananda (1908-1982), who has been ordained into the order of Saraswati monks.

Find out more at svaroopayoga.org

 

TriYoga

What to Expect: A flowing asana practice, pranayama, mudras, dharana (concentration) practice, and meditation.

What It’s About: The wavelike spinal movements and synchronized breathing are designed to awaken prana.

Teachers and Centers: TriYoga was created by yogini Kali Ray, in 1980. Ray had experienced a kundalini awakening and created the practice in the manner of kundalini-inspired hatha yoga. The main TriYoga Center is located in Los Angeles; other centers are in Santa Cruz, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and around the world.

Find out more at triyoga.com

 

Viniyoga

What to Expect: Tailored to individual needs, classes vary greatly and may include asana, pranayama, chanting, meditation, prayer, and ritual. All classes emphasize mobilizing the spine and coordinating movement with breath.

What It’s About: Viniyoga is a useful therapeutic tool for the body, but it also aims to develop the breath, voice, memory, intellect, character, and heart. The practice views yoga as a means to cultivate the positive, reduce the negative, and help each practitioner achieve discriminative awareness—the key to any process of self-transformation.

Teachers and Centers: Gary Kraftsow founded the American Viniyoga Institute in 1999. His main teacher was T.K.V. Desikachar. Gary Kraftsow and Mirka Scalco Kraftsow are the senior Viniyoga teachers.

Find out more at viniyoga.com

 

Yoga in the Tradition of Krishnamacharya

What to Expect: Classes are taught one-on-one or in very small groups, with a great deal of individualization. In the asana practice, each movement is coordinated with a particular breath (an inhalation, an exhalation, or a hold), and the effects are often felt in the body and breath, but also in the emotions.

What It’s About: Students like to say they practice not to be better yogis for the hour that they are on their mat, but to live more fully and with more ease the other 23 hours of the day.

Teachers and Centers: Sri T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) is known as the father of modern yoga. At the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India, his son, T.K.V. Desikachar, and grandson, Kausthub Desikachar, continue his tradition of making ancient teachings relevant for the modern world.

Find out more at kym.org and khyf.net

 

From Yoga Journal Article What’s Your Style? Explore the Types of Yoga by Yoga Journal Editors

 

See Also Yoga Style Definitions: An Expanded Glossary of traditional and modern yoga styles, yoga schools and yogic traditions


values and beliefs

Belief

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know; it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

-Mark Twain

 

Knowing yourself requires a careful examination of your own values and beliefs.

What are your values and beliefs?

How did they originate?

How do your beliefs align with your values?

How have they evolved over your lifetime?

How do they help you live a gratifying life?

 

Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your character. Your character becomes your destiny.

-Mahatma Gandhi


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