The word “yoga” means “coming together”. It refers to the coming together of the individual and the higher being, greater consciousness. Yoga is one of the 6 orthodox systems of Indian Philosophy. As a philosophical system Yoga was collated, coordinated and systematised by Patanjali. The sources are not clear whether he or she was a real person or a group of people or an imaginary personality. The general use is that he was a he and a real person. Patanjali summarised the yoga system in 185 sutras – concise and terse aphorisms. This little book starts with a definition of yoga in the second sutra. So, yoga is “citta vritti nirodhah”, that is “calming the distractions of the mind”. The distractions of the mind need to be calmed in order to achieve the level of meditative clarity to come in unison with supreme being. Continue reading
WHAT IS OM & WHY DO WE CHANT IT?
Om (pron.: əʊm or ɒm) is said to be the oldest sound in yogic tradition of Hinduism and Tibetan buddhism. Sometimes spelled and chanted as “AUM”, it contains reference to three states of mind:
- A: Jagrat – Creator –
- U: Swapna – Preserver,
- M: Shushupti – Destroyer.
(some more information on this view here)
In another (not very different) view, the mantra “OM or AUM” represents God, the absolute and the vibration of the Supreme. It is pronounced with a strong nasalised or hummed m.Thus, A-U-M represents the divine energy (Shakti) united in its three elementary aspects:
- A- Bhrahma Shakti (creation),
- U – Vishnu Shakti (preservation),
- M – Shiva Shakti (liberation, and/or destruction).
Maybe, in a more modern understanding, we can think of these letters to represent the beginning/birth, the process of life and the death/end of the universe or all things.
When chanted at the beginning of the yoga practice, it sets the tone of the class and helps bring concentration to the mind, marks the beginning and the end of the class. In order to achieve a state of content, yoga needs to be practiced with focus and presence of mind. So, the resonance that occurs during the chant creates a sense of relaxation and helps with the elasticity needed to expand the lungs further.
I, personally, stick to the latter understanding and that is why I like to chant at the beginning and at the end of each class.
The yoga courses have begun and this week was their 2nd week. In the course, downward facing dog i.e. adho mukha svanasana is usually the first pose that I teach, as I have infinite admiration for the pose.
As a general principle, adho mukha svanasana is (Yes, it is!) the backbone of vinyasa and ashtanga vinyasa yoga practice. Here is a few reasons why I love the pose some much: Continue reading
The traditional “guru” halo and the general position of teaching someone something give the yoga instructor a degree of freedom around the bodies (and sometimes emotions) of the people who attend their class. There is an assumption inherent in every asana class that the instructor can give the practitioners physical assists. Indeed, it is only too easy to find videos of Patthabi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, standing, lying on people in seated forward folds (see pic below), tugging their arms and legs into binds, grabbing them by the bum, etc. In this regard, Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar yoga, was no different. Continue reading