Yoga Therapy International News

How to Make your Yoga Practice Stable and Strong

Sun, 11/03/2013 - 08:25 -- admin

This month, we will be discussing how to stay grounded/centered in our mind-body (tannirodhaḥ) (YS I, 13-16) and what that transformative process looks like over time (YS I, 17-18).

PatanjaliPatanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s (YS) I-13
Tatra sthitau yatno’byāsaḥ
There (tatra) in that centred and grounded state (reached in YS I-12 = tannirodhaḥ), we must practice (abyasaḥ) with constant effort (yatno) to stabilize it (sthitau).

Stay on it – Keep Practicing! Patanjali warns us that the benefits of our Yoga practice cannot be maintained without constant vigilance. It is human nature to take our healthy balanced state of mind-body for granted after we have been practicing a while. We start to lose the motivation to practice when things are going well.

Indulgence Rules When I started practicing Yoga daily in 1995, my neck and back would start to hurt again if I didn’t practice for even a day. Pain was a big motivator to get me to the mat every day. Now I have days and weeks when my body and mind feels great, even with my severe arthritis in my neck and my history of anxiety-depression. Why should I practice when I feel so good? I have to remind myself that if I don’t continue to practice, I will lose the benefits. I will regress and not progress.

As one of my Capilano University Yoga students told me today, “I almost didn’t make it to class again today. I have so much work to get done. Each week is the same. But after I come to class, I remember how good I feel and how much more efficient and focussed I will be all afternoon. Why do I always forget?”

How can I Strengthen my Yoga Practice?  

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s (YS) I-14 Sa tu dīrghakāla nairantarya satkāra ādarā āsevito dṛdhabhumiḥ

And (tu) that (sa) abhyāsa (practice - YS I-13) only gains a strong (dṛdha) foundation (bhumiḥ) when it embraces (āsevito) these four qualities:

    •    Dīrgha (long) kāla (time) We need to practice over a long period of time. It can take years to get a strong practice established. Now in about 5-15 minutes, I can drop into a yogic state. It used to take 2 hours, 20 years ago! I hope one day I will be able to stay in it continuously!

    •    Nai (nothing) rantarya (in between) We need to practice without a break – every minute of the day. Ideally, practice is not limited to our mats. We are practicing being present both on and off the mat.

    •    Sat (truth) kāra (action = practice)
 We need to believe that in truth our committed practice will help us reach somewhere we have never reached before. Otherwise, where is the motivation to keep practicing?

    •    Ādarā
 We should adore (ādarā) our practice! We should enjoy it! This intrinsic motivation is key to finding the will to keep practicing.

Practicing Self-Care is a Yoga Practice Practicing Yoga is not just about doing postural, breathing, and meditation practices. It is also about developing more discernment in all aspects of our lives, so that we can identify which lifestyle practices bring us more Joy and less dis-ease.

For example, I generally eat very healthfully, watching food quality, amounts, and meal timings. When I am satisfied with my weight, energy levels, and health, it is easy to start indulging in poorer eating habits. How quickly we forget that we feel good today because of our disciplined self-care choices that have been keeping us healthy and happy!

Think about other lifestyle/self-care practices such as sleeping hours, exercise routines, work-life balance, and time for social support (see Tools of Support, October 20th). How can these practices be strengthened and stabilized to promote more Joy and less dis-ease?

Yoga Sutra Question How can I make my Yoga and other self-care practices stable and strong? Which of the four strengthening qualities can I implement right now?

Letting Go

Sat, 10/26/2013 - 23:54 -- admin

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s (YS) I-12
PatanjaliAbhyāsa-vairāgyābhyām-tannirodhaḥ
That centred, grounded state (tannirodhaḥ) can be reached both by letting in something new (abhyāsa) and by letting go of something old (vairāgyābhyām).

Letting Go – Vairāgyābhyām Letting go of something or someone we are attached to is one of the hardest human endeavours.  The power of attachment, which we often call love, can blind and bind us, creating much suffering for ourselves and others.

Vairāgyābhyām means to cut away (vai-) any desires or attachments (-rāgyābhyām) that are not allowing us to practice being present (abhyāsa) and fully experience that centred, grounded state of Being (tannirodhaḥ), the precursor to experiencing Yoga (YS I-2).

Attachments in themselves are not the problem The Yogic tradition uses attachments and relationships as practice tools (abhyāsa) for healing and transformation. Whatever we link to, we become like for better or worse. It all depends on whether the attachment centers or distracts us from bonding with our authentic Selves.

For example, nourishing relationships (sat-sanga) with friends, family, and Spirit can provide us with much strength and Joy. They can also be the source of much transformation since we often attract friends into our lives with qualities we admire and hope to own within ourselves.

In traditional Yogic meditation practices, we likewise link with objects that have qualities we hope to mirror. For instance, TKV Desikachar in 2002 asked me to pick a mountain to meditate upon to create more stability and groundedness in the face of life’s many changes and challenges. I picked holy Mt. Kailash and to this day, this is one of my main objects of meditation. As a result, over time, I have become more grounded, less shakable, and more committed to whatever direction I have chosen. Another example is the Sun. I meditate on the Sun daily to remind myself of the light (jyoti) shining in my heart (YS I-36). Patanjali says by meditating on the Light in our hearts, our minds become light and clear. We become like that object to which we attach.

So when is it important to let go or detach from our attachments? When an attachment takes you off course or makes you ungrounded and uncentered, you know it is getting in the way of you experiencing tannirodhaḥ (grounded, centered mind-body). You know it is time to let it go because it is keeping you from being able to practice being present (abhyāsa). It is keeping you from living the life that you are being called to live in this moment. It is keeping you from following your Bliss!

Think about your daily Yoga practice (sādhana/ abhyāsa) What keeps you from getting to your Yoga practice or other commitments of self-care? For me, it is email, Facebook and Twitter first thing in the morning. I have to use discipline (tapas,YS II-32) to cut this impulse because it is interfering with my daily self-care.

Think about your relationships After four months of us trying to let go of a deeply attached relationship, we are both finally ready to make the final cut (vairāgyābhyām). We have both realized that the relationship in its present form has been throwing us off course. We need to let it go to get centred and real with what is true in this moment.

Letting in and Letting go are a process. They do not happen overnight just because we decide to do so. It takes time to develop new healing habits and relationships so that we can let go of old ones no longer serving us.

Next month, we will discuss how to stay grounded/centered (tannirodhaḥ) (YS I, 13-16) and what that transformative process looks like over time (YS I, 17-18).
 
Yoga Sutra Question What do I need to let go of right now so that I can get more centred and grounded in my Truth, my Heart?

Tools of Support

Sat, 10/19/2013 - 20:33 -- admin

PatanjaliPatanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s (YS) I-12
Abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyām-tannirodhaḥ
That centred, grounded state (tannirodhaḥ) can be reached both by letting in something new (abhyāsa) and by letting go of something old (vairāgyābhyām).

Tools of Support - What Yogic Tools of Support can we Let In to Let Go?

  1. Yoga Practices (abhyāsa/sādhana) – A daily Yoga practice is a dress rehearsal for our lives. The more we practice being present on the mat, the more we are present to all that shows up in our lives, which leads to radical love of self and others.
  2. Accepting What Is (Īśvara pranidhānā – see YS II-1) – On the road to accepting what is, we often experience anger (dveṣa kleśa– see YS II-3) as a means of detaching from what isn’t. Both sadness and anger help move us out of unhealthy clinging to what was (rāga kleśa– see YS II-3) to equanimity (upekṣa – see YS I-33) and acceptance of what is (Īśvara pranidhānā – see YS II-1).
  3. Self-care (Niyama) - Part of practicing Patanjali’s the eight-limbed path (aṣta anga-s, YS II-29) of Yoga is self-care (niyama-s, YS II, 32), which also carries us to self-love.
  • Śauca – Cleanliness – How can I freshen up my body-mind as well as my environment to promote self-care?
  • Santoṣa – Contentment – How can I feel at peace with myself and others? My teacher DV Sridhar said to me one day 10 years ago, “Live as if everything in your life is perfect. See what happens!” – radical acceptance of self and others.
  • Tapaḥ - Purification – How can I purify my body-mind right now through lifestyle changes that challenge me to grow? How do I commit to these disciplines?
  • Svādhyāya – Self- study – What can I learn from this situation to take responsibility for my emotions, thoughts, and actions moving forward?
  • Īśvara pranidhānā – Linking with what is Highest for you such as human values, family, and spirituality/Īśvara (Divine Love) – How can I link to Divine Love for support as I learn to let go and let be?
  1. Social Support (satsanga) – True (sat) community (sanga) heals our hearts with endless Joy (Ānanda) and fulfills our essential need for social support. Healing, loving relationships are prime transformers in our lives. The more intimate the relationships, the more healing their potential. We need to let down our guard on a daily basis with our loved ones to keep our hearts soft and open to receiving Life’s many transformative lessons.
  2. Mentor/Teacher/Counselor (Gu-ru) – In the Yoga Sutra-s (YS), IV 3-4, Patanjali emphasizes the role of a mentor/teacher in removing “gu” (darkness/obtacles) so that “ru” (light/new energy fields) can flow in. The power of an outside reference, guide, counselor, mentor, or teacher is crucial, especially when our minds are veiled in darkness (āvaranam, YS, IV-31) and cannot see clearly.

In my case, I have the support of both my teachers in India as well as my counselor in Vancouver, who have all helped me transmute life’s many challenges into lasting personal transformation, step by step. As DV Sridhar once wrote me, “You are being purified into gold by the fire of your life experiences. Go through them and trust the process!”

That centred, grounded state (tannirodhaḥ) can be found by practicing (abhyāsa) these tools of support that help us let go (vairāgyābhyām)of whatever is no longer serving us.

Yoga Sutra Question

What tools of support can I practice to get grounded and centred?

Letting In Something New

Fri, 10/11/2013 - 14:39 -- admin

PatanjaliPatanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s (YS) I-12 Abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyām-tannirodhaḥ
That centred, grounded state (tannirodhaḥ) can be reached both by letting in something new (abhyāsa) and by letting go of something old (vairāgyābhyām).

What is Abhyāsa?  Practicing Something New Abhy+ās, to practice being (-ās) fully present (abhy-), begins with committing (atha, YS I,1) to letting in new patterns of thinking and behaviour (samskāra-s) that replace old, dysfunctional ones no longer serving us.

In 2001, when I first started studying with my teachers DV & Radha Sridhar and Viji Vasu at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India, I was introduced to their basic Yoga Therapy teachings. One of the first lessons learnt was that when designing a Yoga practice for someone with addictions like smoking, the student was never asked to give up the addiction before starting the practice. He was only asked to do one new thing, to start practicing what had been prescribed. The openness of this allowing process created a paradigm shift for me.

As I studied further, I learnt that my Yoga teachers/therapists weren’t interested in digging around the past, releasing old traumas from our childhoods. The main goal was to fan the flames of enthusiasm/trust (śraddhā, see YS I, 20-22) so that our trust in them and our Yoga practice grew. The therapeutic relationship and practice itself would heal us by promoting self-love with which addictions would just naturally drop away in their own time.

How do we let go? We are all addicted to something in life. We all have those dysfunctional patterns that just won’t let us off the wheel of futile behavior. How do we find the strength to let them go (vairāgyābhyām)?

In my own life, as I try to let go of a major relationship attachment (rāga kleśa – see YS II-3), I am opening myself up to new ways of being in the world to replace the hole that this break up has left in my heart and life. I am also looking for new practices and activities (abhyāsa) to strengthen my ability to let go (vairāgyābhyām).

Next week, we will explore many yogic tools of support that guide us home to that centred, grounded state (tannirodhaḥ) called Yoga.

Yoga Sutra Question What can I let in to let go?

Let in to Let go - Let go to Let in – The Two Sides of Practice

Fri, 10/04/2013 - 16:54 -- admin

PatanjaliLast month, we discussed the meaning of Yoga in Yoga Sutra-s (YS) Chapter I-2. Patanjali goes on to explain that there are five ways to experiencing that state called Yoga:

1. Abhyāsa– By practicing – YS I, 12-16
2. Vairāgya – By detaching - YS I, 12-16
3. Bhavapratyayo – By birth (naturally born in a state of Yoga) – YS I, 19
4. Śraddhā – By trusting in your goal - YS I, 20-22
5. Īśvara pranidhānā - By surrendering to the Highest - YS I, 23

In the months to come, we will be focusing on these five routes to experiencing Yoga, starting with YS I-12.

I-12 Abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyām-tannirodhaḥ That strongly centred state of mind-body (tannirodhaḥ), carrying us towards Yoga, can be reached through the continuous practice of being Present (abhyāsa) by letting go of anything standing in our way of that Presence (vairāgyābhyām).

Let in to Let go - Let go to Let in – The Two Sides of Practice One of the hardest things in life is letting go of the old to let something new move into our lives. How do we find the strength to do that?

Patanjali says that these are two sides of the same coin. On one hand, we need to let go to let in. On the other, we need to let in to let go. We need both to transform. For example, for months, I have been trying to let go of a very deep relationship that is no longer serving either of our lives in its present form. How will I find the strength to do that?

In the next month, we will be diving deeper into both abhyāsa (letting in something new) and vairāgyābhyām (letting go of something old) to experience tannirodhaḥ (centred, grounded mind-body).

Yoga Sutra Question What do I need to let go of right now in order to let something new in? How will I find the strength to do that?

Reining in the Mind

Sat, 09/28/2013 - 08:05 -- admin

PatanjaliI-2 Yoga Citta-Vtti -Nirodha - CVN

The state called Yoga naturally arises when we continuously practice directing (nirodha) the cognitive processes (vtti-s) of the mind (citta) in a positive direction for a sustained period of time.

What is Nirodhaḥ? Learning How to Rein in the Wild Horses of the Mind

We learn how to reign in the mind (citta) by focussing its wild horses (vtti-s) in a positive direction for a sustained period of time. We need to learn how to direct these wild horses of the mind (vtti-s) by putting blinders on their eyes and keeping them focussed on where they are going (nirodha).These blinders (nirodha) keep us on track, moving us towards our goal of experiencing that natural state of mind-body-spirit called Yoga.

There is so much that bombards us in life. There is so much coming at us all the time as we navigate ourselves on a path leading to Joy. We need nirodha to help us focus so that we don’t get distracted by the many choices of the Disneyland world that we live in. It is so easy to get lost in the outside world of our jobs, families, relationships, activities, desires and to forget our-Selves, our radiant Selves that are calling us Home to that Heart of deep-seated Joy called Yoga.

The brilliance of Patanjali’s definition of Yoga is that he doesn’t define it in a spiritual way at all, but rather as a practice of learning how to focus the mind. All we have to do is practice reining in our mind’s wild tendencies (nirodha), to practice retreating inside of ourselves to uncover our own unique experience of spirituality. All we have to do is to go Home to rest, retreat, and be with our-Self that is just waiting to be heard, acknowledged, and revealed in all of its awakened joyful brilliance.

Yoga Sutra Journal Questions

What activities help you focus the mind to experience your radiant, joyful Heart? Can these activities be called Yoga?

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