Live free yoga

Liberated living through the sadhana of yog; enlivened by the grace of my satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.


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From Yog to Yoga

From yog on rustic cotton mats laid out on an earthen floor under a hay roof to Yoga in swanky über temperature controlled yoga studios with branded accessories, this practice has leapt to a different level altogether. The multi billion-dollar yoga industry today is a far cry from the simple akahada gurus who would sweep the floor and lay out the mats to make the space ready for the students and accept calmly what now seems a paltry remuneration for the teaching. A routine and disciplined study, it involved much more learning than developing a beach ready body or a flawless facade.

Yoga today has taken on many hues and those who develop a particular style of Yoga hugely define its practice today. A 200-hour teachers training gets a certificate and a traditional Hindu name for a practice that took yogis lifetimes to even make progress. Patanjali and his yoga sutras, each of which can be pondered upon for months is taught in five easy lessons.

Though elated at the status this practice has achieved in the world today one has to wonder whether somewhere along the way a very scientific and well documented practice to realise the Self has been diminished to a glamour quotient for movie stars and studios.

For many born in India in the 50’s and 60’s and earlier, yog sadhana was a way of life, learnt often from watching our parents. Formal training sometimes started in school and study of the first two tenets of yama and niyama by example from adults around us.

The five Yamas are, Satya (truthfulness), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (honesty), Brahmacharya (popularly sexual restraint) and Aparigraha (non hoarding).

The five Niyamas are, Shaucha (personal hygiene), Santosha (contentment), Tapa (austerity) Swadhyaya (self study) and Ishwar Pranidhan (surrender to divine will).

Yoga instructions today often either ignore or gloss over the yamas and niyamas as do’s and don’ts. Rather they may even be subverted in the race to achieve ‘success’ in this field. To build a brand, to lease out franchises, to woo students, to manufacture products, to become popular, to weed out competition, yoga practitioners and teachers may and often do trample upon many of these tenets with impunity.

These two tenets however become a natural way of being for the sincere practitioner of yog sadhana, herein lies the beauty of yoga to transform the sincere practitioner despite poor instructions from unqualified yoga teachers.

Yoga today popularly refers to the practice of asanas and to some extent pranayama. Little surprise as most often the step towards yoga is taken either for reasons relating to physical health and or mental stress both of which are taken care of by the practice of asanas and pranayama. Here ends the journey of many who venture into yoga as a practice today.

It’s a disservice to yog though to divest it of its purpose that of uniting the individual spirit with the universal spirit. In their passion to keep out the mystical or the unexplainable yog has been stripped of its real purpose. It’s like giving few ingredients of an exotic dish and keeping away the others. The dish will neither be cooked nor eaten. This may also be because the teachers are restricted by their own progress on this path, which stopped at perfecting the asanas.  

The fifth stage of yog sadhana pratyahar is the withdrawal of sense organs from sense objects. But for many modern practitioners of yoga there is a feeling of discomfort when the word detachment is mentioned. The attitude is of not being ready to give up sensory pleasures yet; they don’t want to venture that far. Systematic practice of yoga stills and reduces the clinginess of the mind to external stimuli, freeing the soul to experience its own divine nature. So once again regular practice of pranayama will get the practitioner to this very exhilarating state sooner or later.

Many practices of Dharana, the art of concentration the sixth stage of yoga is taught by experts, especially to sportspersons and high achievers. These practices taken from yoga texts are separated from the other steps that lead to it. The concentration then becomes a wish to succeed in one’s field rather than a one pointed attention to realise ones innermost core of bliss.

Dhyan and Samadhi being in the purview of a true master, a satguru often is not realised easily by many on this path.

There’s a reason for this very elaborate and codified practice of yoga laid down by Patanjali. The steps followed systematically lead you without fail to the state of self-realisation, no matter what your race, colour, gender or caste is, whether you are an atheist or a believer. Yoga does not discriminate; the sincere is rewarded with results.

Yoga is self-regulatory and an inward path. It involves a bond between the teacher and the taught that is based on an ethical behaviour where they alone judge and witness their motives. The redeeming fact is that since every one who practices any of the eight steps of yoga is evolving along this path, eventually the chitta and the vrittis -fluctuations of the mind will be overcome and Patanjali’s Sutras will bear fruit for that yogi.

This article was first published in the The Pioneer in December 2018.

http://www.pioneeredge.in/the-journey-from-yog-to-yoga/


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Do we find the Path or does the Path find us??

Fortunately for me, the Satguru (Yogiraj Siddhanath) and the path (Kriya Yoga) both found me. Blissfully ignorant of Babaji and Kriya Yoga and the other Kriya masters in the lineage in spite of having read the Autobiography of a Yogi, I was happily cruising along in my ‘normal’ life when my Satguru appeared in a vision and guided me to him and the forest ashram in Pune, India. For me it was like waking up from a deep slumber of thirty-six years in this life. My constant association with Him and his wife Gurumata Shivangini and steady practice for over 16 years has brought back memories of past lives practicing this sacred evolutionary science and my many lives in his service. There are many who are guided in a similar manner to their past Masters, even if some of them are not aware that this has happened.

“Practice the necessary means to achieve the necessary end,” says my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, a very practical and profound advice to the novice seeker. In todays era of excessive information we often come across people flitting from practice to practice and ‘gurus’ to ‘gurus’ looking for a quick fix to life’s problems. It has become very fashionable to say, all gurus preach the same things and all paths lead to the same goal. Really?? There is a market out there promising from the art of loving to living to dying, from material abundance to freedom from disease, from finding your ‘soul mate to ridding yourself of the present one, from sewa to satsang, old wine in new bottles and new wine in old, you can pay a fee and choose the path leading you to your hearts desire. So definitely all paths don’t lead to the same end and most definitely all gurus don’t preach the same thing. So the first step is to identify what one wants to achieve and choose. Whether you get what is promised in the promo is another ball game altogether 🙂

And even if the goal is not material but self-realization or spiritual evolution you have to find the right path and the right guide (satguru) for YOU!! Its like getting to the top of a mountain, some may want to take the tough trek up the most difficult path, others may want to meander by a more gentle slope, still others may want to try out many of the different tracks branching out, yet others may want to stop at every bower and meadow, read a book and talk to every flower and its all OK. Out there is a Path and a Satguru perfectly suited to You and you have to find it. No easy task left to our limited and normally confused mind. Of course just like the game we played as kids we keep looking till we find.

But there are certain yardsticks, first of course is, have you got what was promised? How much time have you devoted to practicing the given technique before you make this evaluation? On a spiritual path some of the indication are a freedom from earlier fears and insecurities, an awakening of spiritual compassion as compared to human charity, feeling of contentment in any life situation, calmness and equanimity in the face of turmoil, a constant joyous demeanor, a non judgmental (not indifferent) attitude to others etc. If you achieve even a modicum of one of these qualities after a couple of months then you are probably on the right path, for you. Of course like in the corporate world this evaluation can be done periodically to check progress. But watch out for the mind and the ego, it’s a devious thing and can lull you into many delusions…even the delusion of being fearless or joyous or compassionate. It is especially so if you are involved in an organization with a large number of followers where the ego is stoked and stroked and even in service to others there is pride, in compassion pity and a feeling of superiority in general to the rest of humanity that has not ‘found the way’ that we have been so fortunate to have been guided to.

Whatever path you may have chosen and whichever guru you may be following; there is a video by Yogiraj that I find very helpful to a seeker.

Now as promised below is the article from 2005 about various yoga systems available to us. Of course since then many new ones have emerged, the latest being Naked Yoga. Is it really the clothes we have to drop? I would think it should be our ego with all its accompanying paraphernalia, eh? Does Living Free entail wearing no clothes? Maybe they start with the clothes and will move inwards…in any case good luck to them in their endeavor.

Next post will touch upon the much ignored and misunderstood first two tenets of yog sadhana- yam and niyam more popularly, observances and restraints.

LIFE POSITIVE
Connecting to one’s sacred self with Yoga
The Tribune, Friday, October 14, 2005, Chandigarh, India

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Yoga trainer Jyoti Subramanian elaborates on the various branches of Yoga.

Good health is not just related to the physical body. Complete health has to permeate the physical, emotional and mental. This is where the practice of yoga plays such an important role. The practitioner not only cures the physical ailments but also moves in to cure the emotional or mental reasons for the disease and progresses to understanding his innate divine nature.

Often novitiates are perplexed by the variety or branches of yoga available and propagated-Patanjali yoga, Kundalini yoga, Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Raja yoga, Kriya yoga, Hamsa yoga, Iyengar yoga and now Bikram yoga- the list is endless.

Patanjali codified yoga in the treatise ‘Yoga Sutras’ in the year 200 BCE. Even then, he is not the originator, the knowledge of Yoga having come from the Mahayogi Shiva himself.

All yoga that is taught today, which includes the ones mentioned above has its origin in Patanjali who has systematically recorded all the practices of yoga. So we can visualise Patanjali as this big umbrella from where all forms of yoga come.

Ashtanga means ‘eight limbs’. Now according to Patanjali the Tree of Yoga has eight limbs, yama (restraints) and niyama (observances) are the first two and comprise the following qualities taught to children by their parents and teachers through example: non-violence, truthfulness, freedom from greed, control of sensual pleasures, non-stealing, compassion, moderate eating, austerity, contentment, belief in divinity, charity, company of men of wisdom.

Third comes asanas, for steadiness of posture, good physical health and lightness of body.

Fourth is pranayam, a technique to make the respiratory organs move intentionally as against automatic habitual breathing. One learns to harness the mind via the medium of breath.

Pratyahar being the fifth limb is a process of reversal of energy. Our sense organs, always attracted to the external, are drawn inwards seeking their own divinity.

Dharana, Dhyan and Samadhi are final three stages; a single point attention with the mind unwavering and unruffled, a merging of the one meditating and meditated upon- the true state of meditation and finally the state where the yogi realises the individual self to be a part of the universal self. Therefore all yoga has to be part of ashtanga.

Hatha Yoga ignores the first two: yama and niyama and concerns itself with the practice of asanas, pranayam and pratyahar. Raja yoga concerns itself with dharana, dhyan and Samadhi.

Most yogis normally practice a combination of Hatha-Raja yoga. The former to maintain the physical body as a fit vehicle and the latter for spiritual evolution leading to union of the individual self with the divine self.

By tradition, Kriya yoga was never taught publicly, normally communicated verbally by master to disciple. Even today though many masters are authorising their disciples to teach this practice it is essential to be initiated by the master to enliven the process. Kriya yoga is the practice of Kundalini yoga and both are part of Raja yoga. Hamsa yoga, a special form of yoga practiced by the Himalayan yogis is also part of Raja yoga.

– Hamsacharya Jyoti Subramanian was introduced to yoga in 1972. She teaches the New Life Awakening techniques of Hamsa Yog and Babaji Kriya Yog.