Tag Archives: Patanjali

sthira sukham asanam

sthira sukham asanam

Yoga Sutra 2.46 The posture (asana) for Yoga meditation should be steady, stable, and motionless, as well as comfortable, and this is the third of the eight rungs of Yoga.
(sthira sukham asanam)

  • sthira = steady, stable, motionless
  • sukham = comfortable, ease filled
  • asanam = meditation posture (from the root ~as, which means “to sit”)

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali offers us the opportunity to look at all symptoms, all physical pain, as areas of weakness that need attention and one-pointed perseverance to understand and ultimately overcome.  Here, he is reminding us to go into our pain or discomfort and to use it as an access point to better know the self. Patanjali invites us to meet all that arises, not as an obstacle, but as a messenger that alerts us to a new discovery about ourselves and names persistent practice as the means to getting there.

Patanjali describes asana as “steady, comfortable, and relaxed” and states that the yogi should be able to hold the body in posture for a long period of time without feeling instability.  This is the ultimate goal of asana practice but it doesn’t happen overnight and few of us get there without meeting some challenges along the way.  We inevitably will run into those parts of ourselves, physical, mental, or emotional, that are weak, compromised, or asleep.  Finding stability, comfort, and ease in posture takes time, commitment, and perseverance.  It requires us to accept exactly where we are before we slowly, through consistent and persistent practice, open to a deeper potential. If we push through injury or painful sensation we are acting violently towards ourselves, causing further damage to the physical structure and further disturbance to the mind.  This is not Yoga.

When we are willing to listen to the body’s signals physical pain and injury can help teach us how to most intelligently approach our bodies, our practice, and our lives.

If Yoga is, in its essence, the awakening to the inner reality of our being, than everything we encounter along our path is a messenger that brings us back to a deeper understanding of who we are. So stay interested and curious.   Be willing to face all you encounter.  Modify as necessary but never stop practicing.

As Gurujii (Pattabhi Jois) always said:. “ Slowly, slowly…Do your practice…and all is coming.”

Excerpts from Sthira Sukha Asanam by Devorah Sacks

Yoga Sutra quotation from http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-24648.htm


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


your brain on meditation

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Yoga citta vritti nirodhah.
Yoga is the ending of disturbances of the mind.
—Yoga Sutra I.2

Nothing is quite as satisfying as a yoga practice that’s filled with movement. Whether you prefer an intense and sweaty vinyasa practice, a gentle but deliberate Viniyoga practice, or something in between, all systems of hatha yoga provide a contented afterglow for the same reason: You sync your movement with your breath. When you do, your mind stops its obsessive churning and begins to slow down. Your attention turns from your endless to-do list toward the rhythm of your breath, and you feel more peaceful than you did before you began your practice.

For many of us, accessing that same settled, contented state is more difficult to do in meditation. It’s not easy to watch the mind reveal its worries, its self-criticism, or its old memories. Meditation requires patience and—even more challenging for most Westerners—time. So, why would you put yourself through the struggle?

Quite simply, meditation can profoundly alter your experience of life. Thousands of years ago the sage Patanjali, who compiled the Yoga Sutra, and the Buddha both promised that meditation could eliminate the suffering caused by an untamed mind. They taught their students to cultivate focused attention, compassion, and joy. And they believed that it was possible to change one’s mental powers and emotional patterns by regularly experiencing meditative states. Those are hefty promises.

But these days, you don’t have to take their word for it. Western scientists are testing the wisdom of the masters, using new technology that allows researchers to study how meditation influences the brain.

Using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, Eileen Luders, a re-searcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine, looks for evidence that meditation changes the physical structure of the brain. Until recently, this idea would have seemed absurd. “Scientists used to believe that the brain reaches its peak in adulthood and doesn’t change—until it starts to decrease in late adulthood,” Luders says. “Today we know that everything we do, and every experience we have, actually changes the brain.”

More and more neuroscientists, like Luders, have started to think that learning to meditate is no different from learning mental skills such as music or math. Like anything else that requires practice, meditation is a training program for the brain. “Regular use may strengthen the connections between neurons and can also make new connections,” Luders explains. “These tiny changes, in thousands of connections, can lead to visible changes in the structure of the brain.”

Those structural changes, in turn, create a brain that is better at doing whatever you’ve asked it to do. Musicians’ brains could get better at analyzing and creating music. Mathematicians’ brains may get better at solving problems. What do meditators’ brains get better at doing? This is where it gets interesting: It depends on what kind of meditation they do.

Over the past decade, researchers have found that if you practice focusing attention on your breath or a mantra, the brain will restructure itself to make concentration easier. If you practice calm acceptance during meditation, you will develop a brain that is more resilient to stress. And if you meditate while cultivating feelings of love and compassion, your brain will develop in such a way that you spontaneously feel more connected to others.

As the evidence for the benefits of meditation grows, one of the most important outstanding questions is, How much is enough? Or, from the perspective of most beginning meditators, How little is enough to see positive change?

Researchers agree that many of the benefits happen early on. “Changes in the brain take place at the very beginning of learning,” Luders says. And many studies show change in a matter of weeks, or even minutes, among inexperienced meditators. But other studies suggest that experience matters. More practice leads to greater changes, both in the brain and in a meditator’s mental states. So while a minimal investment in meditation can pay off for your well-being and mental clarity, committing to the practice is the best way to experience the full benefits.

If you do, you may discover that meditation has benefits beyond what science has revealed. Indeed, it will take time for science to catch up to the wisdom of the great meditation teachers. And even with the advances in brain technology, there are changes both subtle and profound transmitted only through direct experience. Fortunately, all you need to get started is the willingness to sit and be with your own body, breath, and mind.

Excerpt from Yoga Journal Article Meditation and the Brain by Kelly McGonigal