Thursday, November 27, 2014

From ‘Health, Healing and beyond. Yoga and the living tradition of T Krishnamacharya’ by T K V Desikachar with R H Cravens

…..Francis Bacon ….. “the mind can be enlarged, according to its capacity, to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind”

….Yoga….a word from Sanskrit ….derives from the root yuj, which has two traditional, complementary meanings. The first is “to bring two things together, to meet, to unite.” The second meaning: “to converge the mind.”

….the essence of Yoga, was formulated by the great Indian sage, Patanjali, more than two thousand years ago in this succinct definition:
Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively
toward an object and sustain that direction
without any distractions

Each person will have a different starting point, but the fulfilling experience of the Yoga taught by Krishnamacharya will utilize five elements.
The first, and the usual beginning, involves asana, a Sanskrit term for the physical postures of Yoga. The second element is pranayama, consciously controlled breathing techniques. The third element is chanting, partly for its healing effect on mind and body, and partly because it brings us spiritually into contact with something ancient and sacred. Meditation is the fourth element, a means of opening our awareness both inward and outward beyond our usual mental limits. And the fifth element is ritual, so instinctive and universal a human act – and so widely misunderstood

Probably no aspect of Hindu culture has been described more often and more misleadingly than our so-called caste system….. The original division of these functions in society, by divine intention, was to be on the basis of abilities and temperament – not birth. It evolved into an extremely complex system of inherited castes, sub-castes and sub-subcastes handed down from generation to generation. To their credit, the Vedanta schools never had much use for castes…

My father once told me that his guru [at Manasarovar] knew about seven thousand asanas. Of these, my father mastered about three thousand. After more than thirty years of study with Krishnamacharya, I know approximately five hundred or so. My more serious students at the Mandiram will usually teach, perhaps, fifty or sixty postures to their more advanced students. And yet, with less than one percent, so to speak, of what the guru at Manasarovar knew, we witness thousands of individuals developing through Yoga ever greater health, mental clarity, and spiritual capacity.
Still, isn’t it haunting to think of the wisdom once possessed and taught in the Tibetan cave of Shiva’s sacred mountain?

…the path to perfect clarity and freedom… through the practice and mastery of the eight components of Yoga, which are:
1.      YAMA – our attitudes toward our environment;
2.      NIYAMA – our attitudes toward ourselves;
3.      ASANA – the practice of body exercises;
4.      PRANAYAMA – the practice of breathing exercises;
5.      PRATYAHARA – the restraint of our senses;
6.      DHARANA – the ability to direct our minds;
7.      DHYANA – the ability to develop interactions with what we seek to understand;
8.      SAMADHI – complete integration with the object to be understood

YAMA comprises:
·         Consideration toward all living things….simulate friendliness and reduce the anger, dread, and even violent feelings of those around us
·         Right communications ….with sensitivity, without telling lies, and with reflection…..
·         Non-covetousness……
·         Moderation in all our actions….
·         Nongreediness…

NIYAMA comprises:
·         Cleanliness of our bodies and our surroundings…….
·         Contentment, or the ability to be comfortable with what we have and what we do not have. The happiness that comes from acquiring possessions is invariably temporary….
·         Removal of impurities in our physical and mental systems through correct habits of sleep, exercise, nutrition, work and relaxation….

Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation…..There must always be alertness without tension and relaxation without dullness or heaviness. These qualities are achieved by recognizing and observing the reactions of the body and breath to various postures….Through asana practices we can also understand how the breath behaves. Breathing patterns are very individual……..the knowledge of breath gained through asana practice is the foundation. Upon it, we begin pranayama, defined as:
….the conscious, deliberate regulation of the breath replacing unconscious patterns of breathing …it involves the regulation of the exhalation, the inhalation, and the suspension of breath. The regulation of these three processes is achieved by modulating their length, and maintaining this modulation for a period of time, as well as directing the mind into the process. These components of breathing must be long and subtle.

There are many combinations, many techniques of pranayama. These, too, must be competently taught. What is important is that an entirely different experience of breathing appears in a state of Yoga. “Then,” Patanjali tells us, “the breath transcends the level of the consciousness.”

PRATYAHARA, the restraint of the senses, occurs when the mind is able to remain in its chosen direction. The senses disregard the different objects around them and faithfully follow the direction of the mind.

DHARANA is the ability to direct the mind toward a chosen object in spite of many other potential objects within reach.

Once this direction is fixed, the mind establishes a linkage with the object. This is DHYANAM, a state in which mental activities form an uninterrupted flow only in relation to the object. While at first our understanding still is influenced by misapprehension, imagination, and memories, a fresh, deeper understanding occurs.
Dharana and dhyanam lead the individual to SAMADHI – an involvement with the object so complete that nothing except its comprehension is evident. It is as if the individual has lost his own identity and achieved complete integration with the object of understanding ….Through sustained discipline…each individual can refine and adapt the mind for sustained direction without difficulty. In this way, the mind reaches the highest state of Yoga – it is simply transparent, devoid of any resistance to inquiry and free from past impressions of any sort.

If, at the end of a program of exercise, the student is breathing hard or the pulse is accelerated, the rhythm and sequence of movement has been too energetic.
The practice of asanas prepares the body and mind naturally for pranayama.

asanas are needed to open the nadis; pranayama is what brings prana into contact with apana, or dirt, and so removes impurities

….the ancients taught that each individual is allotted 21,600 breaths per day in a lie span intended to be one hundred years long. We can draw upon our allotted breaths like a bank account. Through anxiety, short breaths, and unnecessary exertion we may overdraw our account – and so shorten our lives.

Let me emphatically clear up one widespread misunderstanding. Nowhere in the Vedas or in the ancient teachings is it said that you must be a strict vegetarian. Westerners, in particular, seem to believe that to seriously study Yoga it is imperative to adopt a vegetarian life-style. This is not the case, and for some individuals may even be unhealthy… is not a commandment embedded in Yoga.

In his ninety-eighth year, my father ….a young doctor ….told him he would die very soon …… “Nonsense!” my father said. “I am not going to die now. It is not in my breath … and I know my breath.”
It is one of the most remarkable things I’d heard him say…..

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