Thursday, August 31, 2006

Quote of Swami Vishnu devananda

Yoga is not a matter of erudition ; its roots lie in action .It must be lived to be learned .It is in oneself , and not in others , that the rich source of inner development must be sought .Growth comes , but it is gradual .Sincerity , regularity and patience will ensure eventual advancement .

Swami Vishnu devananda

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How are Yoga postures classified ?

We saw that the no of classical postures are 84 in number and they are classified in the following five broad categories :

1) Sitting Meditative Postures eg : Padmasan ( Lotus posture )
2) Forward bending postures eg. Paschi-motan-asan ( Sitting forward bend )
3) Backward bending postures eg . Dhanur-asan ( Bow )
4) Twisting postures eg.Ardha Matsyendra –asan ( Half spinal twist )
5) Balancing postures eg. Kak-asan ( Crow )

These five categories are only indicative in nature and we need not strictly hold on to it . So when ever we do yoga practice we must see to it that our practice has the postures of the above 5 categories . The 12 Basic postures as designed by Swami Vishnu devananda has all the postures that fit in to the above 5 category and hence is a complete system of exercise in itself .

The basis on which the postures are classified is in the way the spine is getting manipulated and exercised completely .It is not only at the spinal level but also at the muscular level the entire muscular system is toned .


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What are the 12 Basic Postures ?

The 12 Basic postures are a set of wonderful asanas set out in a proper sequence by Swami Vishnu devananda , founder Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres ( that has the essence of all the 84 Classical postures .In today’s busy world not everyone has the time to learn and practice all the 84 classical postures and hence Swami Vishnu devananda selected the 12 best of those and formed in to a wonderful sequence .

The 12 Basic Postures are :

1) Headstand ( Siras –asan )

2) Shoulder Stand ( Sarva –anga-asan)

3) Plough ( Hal-asan )

4) Fish ( Matsy-asan )

5) Sitting Forward Bend ( Paschi-Motan-asan )

6) Cobra ( Bhujan-asan)

7) Locust ( Shalab-asan )

8) Bow ( Dhanur-asan )

9) Half Spinal twist ( Ardha-Matsya-asan )

10) Crow ( Kak-asan ) , Peacock ( Mayur-asan)

11) Standing Forward Bend ( Pada-Hatsa-asan )

12) Triangle ( Trikon-asan )

These 12 Basic postures are taught in the Sivananda Centres and Ashram’s world over in their beginners course and these 12 postures form a basic foundation to learning the other postures and their variations .

Before we go deeper in to the postures we must know how these postures are classified and that we will see in the next message .

( Note : Here we use the word postures to mean yoga postures / yoga asanas )


Monday, August 28, 2006

How many Asanas are there and which are most important ?

The no. of asanas in Hatha Yoga are innumerable and we cannot fix a particular number but practically speaking we can see that there are around 84 Yoga asanas .Since learning and practicing these 84 asanas are quite difficult , my Yoga Guru Swami Vishnu devananda ( founder Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres ) has formed an excellent collection of 12 basic postures that has the essence of the Classical 84 postures .For modern day people who have less time to learn & practice yoga , these 12 basic postures along with Soorya Namaskar and some basic breathing exercises are more than enough for their physical , mental and spiritual well being .

What are these 12 basic postures ? We will see it in the next message .


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mental & Pranic ( Energy ) benefits of Yoga Asanas

Last message we saw the physical benefits of Asanas .Today we will see the Mental & Pranic benefits of Asanas .Before that we will just define what Parna is briefly .

Prana is a universal energy ,that is very subtle ,cant be seen with the eyes but definitely felt when we do yoga , pranayama and meditation .It is called as Chi in Chinese and Ki in Japanese . There are various ways to manipulate and store this prana and yoga is one way .The other methods being Tai chi , Qi Gong , Reiki etc .

Now Coming to the pranic benefits of asanas :

Asanas work in the same way as acupuncture or shiatsu , but the Yogic system of pranic balancing is more subtle .To gain the benefit , you must practice asanas regularly over a period of time , but once you feel the benefits ,they will last longer .The different poses put pressure on various points , purifying and strengthening the nadis ( energy channels ) .

Mental benefits of asanas:

Steady postures (asanas ) free the mind from disturbances caused by physical movement , promoting steadiness of mind , balancing the emotions , and improving your outlook on life .

Although asans seem to be physical exercises ,they have profound effect on the energy body .


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Benefits of Yoga Asanas

Yoga Asansa have 3 types of benefits :

1) Physical Benefits 2) Mental Benefits and 3) Pranic / Energy Benefits

Today we will see physical benefits :

Asanas initially focus on increasing and maintaining flexibility of the spine , toning and rejuvenating the nervous system .The gentle stretching , twisting , and bending movements bring flexibility to the other joints and muscles of the body , as well as massaging the glands and organs . They improve the immune system of the body .Circulation is improved , ensuring a rich supply of nutrients and oxygen to all the cells of the body .Basically Asanas have an extraordinary capacity to overhaul , rejuvenate , and bring the entire system into a state of balance .

We will look at the Mental & Pranic benefits in the next messages .


Friday, August 25, 2006

What are Asanas ?

are yogic postures and form the third step in Raja Yoga . In Hatha Yoga they form a very important part and in modern context practice of Yoga means practice of Yoga asanas or Yoga postures .

According to Yogic texts there are 84 lacs of Asanas . Basically this is an exaggerated figure but given to explain that every creation and object in the world can be expressed in the form of a yoga asana . But practically speaking we can say that there are 84 Classical Yoga postures . But since it is difficult practicing all of them , my Yoga Guru Swami Vishnu devananda , founder Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre has formed a brilliant sequence of 12 basic postures that reflect the essence of these 84 postures . These 12 Basic postures along with Soorya Namaskar are enough to give a wonderful exercise to any busy person in day to day life .

What are the benefits of Yoga Asanas ? These we will discuss it in the next message .


Thursday, August 24, 2006

What is Hatha Yoga ?

Raja Yoga is the scientific psychological approach focusing on concentration and meditation . Hatha Yoga , is actually an aspect of Raja Yoga .It starts with the physical body and goes on to work with the energies of the astral body .The main components of Hatha Yoga are :1) Asanas ( Yogic Postures ) 2) Pranayama ( Yogic Breathing Exercises ) and 3) Kriyas ( Yogic Cleansing exercises ) .

In modern world Yoga practice means mostly Hatha Yoga practice as everyone involved in Yoga are usually practicing Asanas and Pranayama .Hatha Yoga acts as a base for Raja Yoga and Raja Yoga acts as a base for Jnana Yoga .So the spiritual journey actually starts with Hatha Yoga and this is the following route :

Hatha Yoga leads to Raja Yoga leads to Jnana Yoga .


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Eight Steps of Yoga

We saw last message that the science of Yoga had been codified into 196 sutras or short verses by Maharishi Patanjali in his work “Ashatnga Yoga or Patanjali Yoga “ .Maharishi Patanjali has divided the entire science of yoga in to 8 steps . They are :1) Yama ( External discipline ) 2) Niyama ( Internal Discipline )3) Asana ( Postures ) 4) Pranayama ( Breathing Exercies ) 5 ) Prathyahara ( Withdrawing the senses from outside ) 6 ) Dharana ( Concentration ) 7) Dhyana ( Meditation ) and 8) Samadhi ( Super conscious state )

These 8 steps are Universal and are applicable to every individual at any place and time .No matter which country / race / caste / language or religious beliefs a person belongs to he/she have to go through these 8 steps to progress on the spiritual path .This Universality of Yoga Sutras is what has made the Science of Yoga the most popular and respected science the world over .

We will be discussing Yoga Sutras in detail in the coming days .


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What is Raja Yoga / Patanjali Yoga ?

Last 2 messages we were dealing with 2 broad types of meditation – Raja Yoga Meditation and Jnana Yoga Meditation .We also saw that Jnana Yoga Meditation will only successfully lead us to the end of the spiritual journey but being very subtle and tricky not everyone can practice it and hence must first start with Raja Yoga Meditation .

Now what is Raja Yoga Meditation ? Raja Yoga Meditation is also shortly called as Raja Yoga / Ashtanga Yoga / Patanjali Yoga . It is an 8 step process for preparing the body and mind for higher spiritual quest ( i.e Jnana Yoga ) . The entire science of Raja Yoga has been codified and systematized by Maharishi Patanjali 2000 years back in his work “ Raja Yoga Sutras “ also called as “Patanjali Yoga Sutras “ . All the instructions here are in the form of short verses called “Sutras” . The entire work consist of 196 Sutras divided in to 4 Chapters .Each Chapter is called a “Pada” and the 4 Padas are 1) Samadhi Pada 2) Sadhana Pada 3) Vibuthi Pada and 4) Kaivalya Pada . Maharishi Patanjali has wonderfully systematized these 196 sutras in an 8 step process called as “Ashtanga Yoga “ ( Ashta means eight ) . Each of these eight steps fits in wonderfully in to the other and are inter-related . Just like we have tools to measure any parameter these 8 steps offer and excellent tool to the Yoga practitioner as to where he stands in the spiritual journey .These steps are so scientific and universal that none can bypass the same and have to follow the same route . This universality of Yoga Sutras is what has made Yoga a very popular science world over and everybody looks to Maharaishi Patanajali’s sutras for their spiritual inspiration . Now what are these 8 steps ? We will look at it in the next message .


Monday, August 21, 2006

About Jnana Yoga Meditation

Last message we saw about Raja Yoga Meditation and how it involves 2 things – the subject ( meditator ) and the object ( i.e object of meditation ) .In Jnana Yoga Meditation the subject and object are one and the same i.e the object of meditation is not a breath , a mantra or deity etc but “ an enquiry in to the meditator himself “ . This type of meditation is a very tricky one and is suitable only for advanced spiritual aspirants and not for beginners .It is tricky or difficult because we are always used to focus on things outside or apart from us and here it involves “re-directing” the focus to ourselves . Here meditation is not just a 15 – 30 mts activity but a continuous 24 hr activity and we have to have “eternal vigilance” of ourselves . But to do this type of meditation a person must have had thorough knowledge of “Advaita Vedanta “ where the subject of “Self or Atma “ is dealt elaborately . Bhagawan Ramana Maharishi also gave a refined form of this Jnana Yoga Meditation in his technique called “Atma Vichara or Self Enquiry” . Modern teachers like OSHO , J Krishnamurthy , Eckhart Tolle Nisargdatta Maharaj , Papaji ( Poonja ) have talked about the same in different tones . They may differ in their way of interpreting it but they are all quite clear in the fact that “Meditation is not just an exercise in concentration “ but “ an enquiry in to the meditator himself” . They believed that meditation is successful only when you can transcend the mind permanently .This is quite difficult to understand and I am just giving it to help people understand the broad 2 categories of meditation .

But before a person involves in “Jnana Yoga Meditation” , he must thoroughly prepare himself for the same through an “intense practice of Raja Yoga Meditation “ to keep the mind pure and one pointed .Only very few people have the natural ability to start directly the Jnana Yoga Meditation right from the beginning and those are exceptions and it is better that every spiritual aspirant starts with the path of Hatha or Raja Yoga to prepare himself for the higher spiritual journey .

For those who are interested in the Path of Jnana Yoga Meditation , more specifically the path of Self Enquiry of Bhagawan Ramana Maharishi and other Masters like Eckhart Tolle , Lakshmana Swamy , Annamalai Swamy , Papaji etc may kindly follow an exclusive blog maintained by my friend at .This is also listed in my links under “ More spiritual links “ .This blog of my friend focuses mainly on the subject of Jnana Yoga / Atma Vichara / Self Enquiry / Nonduality .

Now that we have got a broad idea of the types of meditations , we will maintain our focus on the Raja Yoga Meditations itself from the next message onwards .


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Two Broad Types of Meditations

Before we go deeper in to meditation certain things have to be clarified . There are various techniques of meditation available world wide and every seeker is confused which technique should be chosen . Some say focus on mantra / God , focus on breath , focus on light etc and some insist on daily meditation for fixed time etc while some other teachers ridicule this whole thing and say that meditation is not just a 15- 30 mt activity but a 24 hr activity etc . Some teachers say meditation should involve God some say it need not and this debate goes on .

So as a spiritual aspirant what should one look out for .We can be more clear if we understand that all meditations world wide are divided in to 2 broad groups :

A) Meditation involving "focus / Concentration" of an object- Raja Yoga Meditations

B) Meditation involving "understanding" the meditator - Jnana Yoga Meditations

Almost all the major meditations of the world come under type A i.e Raja Yoga Meditations .This involves "focus/concentration" of a mantra / deity , breath , light, a chakra or any other pleasing object .Those who believe or have faith in God can use a mantra or an image of a deity for concenration and those who do not beleive in God can use their breath , a light or any pleasing object as the "object of concentration " .

This is mostly an exercise in concentration and it will give the following benefits :

1) a mind that is one pointed and restful

2) a mind that is quite calm

3) it gives him great rest and relaxation and that keeps his mind clear and he can take proper decisions in life .

4) Intense practice of these meditations leads to a samadhi state i.e a state of mental suspension like deep sleep also called in yogic language like "Nirvikapla Samadhi"

5) Intense practice of these meditations also leads to him developing siddhis or powers like ESP , Thought reading etc .

But the big question is whether these Type -A or Raja Yoga Meditations lead to the end of the spiritual journey .The answer is NO . But at the same time we cant dismiss it because on the spiritual path one needs to start first with Raja Yoga Meditations and go to the next step of Jnana Yoga Meditations to complete the spiritual journey .

What is Type B or Jnana Yoga Meditations we will see in the next message .


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Inspirational Quote for Today

“There can be no happiness if your daily commitments are misaligned with your deepest convictions.”
Robin Sharma

Friday, August 18, 2006

Reasons for not posting

Dear Friends

As I had problem with my net connection for the past 3 days ,I could not maintain my daily postings on 15,16,17 August .Since the net connection is restored now , I will continue to post the messages without fail .

Monday, August 14, 2006

Health for Meditation

A healthy body is essential to the development of one’s full potential .If the physical machinery is not in optimum condition ,it will not be a fit instrument for daily work , meditation, and service to others . Proper exercise , proper breathing , proper relaxation , proper diet , and positive thinking are the requisite attendants of meditation .

. Swami Vishnu devananda , Meditation & Mantras pg. 12

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What is needed to make Meditation more conducive ?

Much has been said and written about meditation , yet it takes years to understand its nature .To still the mind and enter into the silence requires daily practice . Yet there are certain steps that can be taken to establish a foundation and insure success .

Before beginning , have a proper environment and attitude .Your place of meditation , schedule , physical health , and mental state should all reflect a readiness to turn inward .Many difficult obstacles are removed by creating a setting which is conducive to meditation .

Swami Vishnu devananda , Meditation & Mantras pg. 9

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Benefits of Meditation

Through meditation one learns to understand how the mind operates and thus is able to begin the growth process .Through meditating regularly , the mind becomes clearer and motives more pure .The subconscious releases hidden knowledge that allows better understanding .The ego is slowly eradicated .Ultimately the super conscious , or intuitive forces, are released , leading to a life of wisdom and peace .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book “Meditation & Mantras “ page 8

( Note the benefits given here is only a sample . A more detailed discussion of the benefits of Meditation will follow later )

Friday, August 11, 2006

Karma and Reincarnation

Meditation unleashes immense potential .We gain mastery of the mind by bringing a halt to its incessant chatter and teaching it to focus in a concentrated manner .Awareness of thought patterns helps to give the power to project thought to others .But we must be careful to send only vibrant , positive thoughts . According to laws of physics “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction “ .This is applicable to our thoughts and actions also . Whatever thought or deed comes from a person will return to him .It may not come in the same form, but sooner or later each will confront the results of his own actions .This is the Law of Karma .

Karmic reactions are not always experienced immediately .Sometimes lessons are not easily learned , and negative patters may continue for many years .A single lifetime usually is not sufficient for anyone to attain perfection .So each person reincarnates again and again .This is the reason for the apparent inequality between people i.e some are rich ,some are poor , some healthy some sick etc .To blame our difficulties or unfortunate circumstances etc on Parents , God , country etc is not the right attitude .Only when we realize that we are caught up in our own web and begin to spiritualize our lives , do we break out of the wheel of births and death, and find peace and union in the Self .

So how do we break out of these cycle of birth and death ? This is exactly where the Science of Yoga comes . By following a Yogic life style we can slowly eradicate the negative thoughts and actions from our lives and replace it with positive thoughts and actions and in due course be able to come out of the cycle of birth and death .

Condensed and Modified version from Swami Vishnu devananda’s book "Meditation & Mantras" pg.6 & 7

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Self

There is a Power, an Energy , which each person can tap into if he knows it is available .This force inspires , encourages , reinforces , and give strength to those who seek to grow in a positive direction .

This source of wisdom is the Self .The Self is not the individual body or mind , but that aspect deep inside each person that knows the Truth .It exists in each being, and yet it exists independently also .Some call it God .Others call it Jehovah , Allah , Brahman , Cosmic Consciousness ,Atman ,Holy Spirit , or the Universal Mind .The names and paths are many , but there is one Essence which pervades all beings .

The Self is impossible to understand with the limited senses and intellect .The human mind cannot fathom the Infinite and the Eternal .Therefore a visualization is sometimes used to help one focus to the Supreme .Christians may meditate on the image of a cross, or the form of Jesus Christ .Hindus may picture Lord Shiva meditating atop the Himalayas .Those who conceive of the Absolute in more abstract terms may concentrate on a candle flame , a charka ( energy center of the body ), or the sound of OM .But these are only partial impressions of the Truth .

There is no way to intellectually define or describe that which is limitless .It is only through direct experience that Absolute Knowledge can be attained .Through the protracted practice of meditation it becomes possible to still the outgoing mind , develop intuitive abilities , and touch that part of the Supreme that lies within all .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg.5 & 6

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Thought Power

Every person projects some kind of vibration .Some people are a pleasure to be with .They seem to have a certain prana , or energy , that they share with others .Then there are those who are negative and depressed ; they seem to actually draw prana out of others .The reason for this is that there is a power contained in thought .It is very subtle , yet it does exist and is extremely powerful .Whether a person is aware of it or not , he is constantly transmitting and receiving thoughts .

Thoughts control our lives, mould our characters , shape destiny , and affect other people .When the potential contained in the power of thought is realized , it is the beginning of great spiritual growth in the individual ; a great step forward for all of humanity .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg. 4&5

( Note : Here Prana = Universal Energy .It will be explained and elaborated later )

How does Meditation help in subduing the Ego?

Through meditation , the play of the mind is witnessed .In the early stages nothing more can be done that to gain understanding as the ego is observed constantly asserting itself .But in time its games become familiar , and one begins to prefer the peace of contentment .When the ego is subdued , energies can then be utilized constructively for personal growth and the service of others .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg. 4

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What is Ego ( Ahamkara ) and why is it difficult to control it ?

Ego is the self- arrogating aspect of the mind .It is the ego which separates the individual from unity with others and within himself , for the ego asserts “I-ness.” Ahamkara is the greatest obstacle to tranquility , for it is that which occupies the mind with whether we are better or worse , possess more or less , and have greater or lesser power than others .It is attended by desire , pride , anger , delusion , greed , jealousy , lust and hatred .The ego is the most difficult aspect of the mind to control , for its nature is such that it deludes even while one is striving to overcome it .It is that very part of the being that would not be controlled .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg .3 & 4

Monday, August 07, 2006

What does Meditation have to do with Samskaras ?

Samskaras are not necessarily negative .There can be grooves in the mind which are uplifting and those which can bring one down .It is the express purpose of meditation to create new , positive channels in the mind , and to eradicate those that are destructive .It is an absolute scientific process , but at the same time , the goal is spiritual

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg .3


How are samskaras (habits) formed in the mind ?

The mind is like a phonograph record .It contains grooves , or impressions called samskaras, in Sanskrit .These samskaras are formed when certain thought waves , or vrittis, become habitual .For example , a man passes a bakery and sees a chocolate eclair in the window .The vritti arises in the mind ," How delicious ; I will buy that eclair ." If he ignores that vritti , and turns his mind to something else, no pattern is formed .But if he identifies with the thought , he gives life to it ,he buys the eclair , looking forward to enjoying it as dessert that evening .Now ,suppose he finds he must pass that same bakery every Tuesday and Thursday .Each time he goes by , he recalls that wonderful eclair , and purchases another .What was originally just a flash in the mind has become a force in his life , and a samskara has been formed .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg .2

( Note : Here samskara = mental impressions , vritti = thought waves .These terms will be frequently used in Raja Yoga ) .

Sunday, August 06, 2006

How to understand the Mechanics of the Mind?

The mind is constantly conversing with itself - replaying past events , re-arranging them into a better drama , planning for the future , discussing the pros and cons of this and that .By methodically slowing down its continuous ramblings , the internal dialogue , and focussing on positive and uplifting objects , it is possible to begin to understand the mechanics of the psyche and bring about a more effective life .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg .2

How is contenment derived ?

External objects fail to bring happiness .One may acquire new material possessions , a position with more responsibility , and a home in the country ,but there always remains the same mind .The mind may be stilled and at peace for a short time on attaining ,the desired object ,but eventually it tires of its new toy , and seeks pleasure elsewhere .Contenment is derived from the approach and attitude toward the external world , not from the objects themsleves .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg .2

Saturday, August 05, 2006

What is Meditation ?

Meditation is the practice by which there is constant observation of the mind .It involves setting aside a regular time and place for the specific purpose of discovering that infinite well of wisdom which lies within .

Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg .1

( Note : Here Meditation is defined in the context of Raja Yoga and not in the context of Jnana Yoga of Advaita Vedanta or Maha Yoga or Atma Vichara of Ramana Maharishi .Swami Vishnu devananda describes clearly the various types of meditation in his book )

Friday, August 04, 2006

How is the meaning of Life found ?

The meaning of life is found by diving deep , deep within .Very often , it is not until a person reaches a point of great distress that he realizes it is time to stop and take stock of what is happening in his life .
Swami Vishnu devananda from the book "Meditation & Mantras" pg .1

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ramana Maharishi's Quote

Every living being longs always to be happy, untainted by sorrow; and everyone has the greatest love for himself, which is solely due to the fact that happiness is his real nature. Hence, in order to realize that inherent and untainted happiness, which indeed he daily experiences when the mind is subdued in deep sleep, it is essential that he should know himself. For obtaining such knowledge the inquiry 'Who am I?' in quest of the Self is the best means."

-The Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi
(Page 39, Samuel Weiser Edition 1977)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ramana Maharshi's Quote

Wanting to reform the world without discovering one's true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.

From `Happiness and God's Grace'
by Ramana Maharshi

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ramana Maharishi's Quote

"Jnana is given neither from outside nor from another person. It can be realised by each and everyone in his own Heart. The jnana Guru of everyone is only the Supreme Self that is always revealing its own truth in every Heart through the being-conciousness 'I am, I am.' The granting of true knowledge by him is initiation into jnana. The grace of the Guru is only that Self-awareness that is one's own true nature. It is the inner conciousness by which he is unceasingly revealing his existence. This divine upadesa is always going on naturally in everyone."

-Sri Ramana Maharshi