Friday, January 22, 2010
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Sutra, meaning thread, or suture in sanskrit, the Yoga Sutras are a series of threaded together phrases, or aphorisms explaining the 8 limbed practice of Yoga. These sutras were classically passed down through one on one oral teachings, directly from teacher to student. Yoga as we know it today, in all its forms, began to take shape as these magical ideas and practices were systematized and compiled by Patanjali.
It is not really known EXACTLY when Patanjali lived, or if perhaps he was even several people using the same title (hmmmmm sounds similar to someone else I know and love: Lao Tzu). Estimates range from 5,000 B.C. to 300 A.D. but, in any case, he is known as the "Father of Yoga" and the teachings contained within the four books ("Padas") are so valuable to the evolution of your Yoga practice, or ANY spiritual practice for that matter. Void of dogma that is present in so many other paths and religions, in the Sutras invite each individual to embark on a spiritual journey all his or her own. The ideas and suggestions put forth here are universal and open to interpretation. This is why I am adding Sutra Study to my blog. Each week I will present a new Sutra for contemplation. I will be taking the Sutras directly from the tanslation by Sri Swami Satchitananda, founder of Integral Yoga Institute and the famous Yogaville Ashram. You may also know him as the Yogi who gave the opening invocation at Woodstock in 1969. An extremely inspiring, funny and enlightened being; you will enjoy his take on this sacred text.
1.2: Samadhi Pada (Portion on Contemplation). Second Sutra
sanskrit: Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah
english: The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.
Swami says, "For a keen student this one Sutra would be enough because the rest of them only explain this one. If the restraint of the mental modifications is achieved one has reached the goal of Yoga."
Sounds pretty easy, right?
Wrong. And that is why there are three more Padas: The Portion on Practice, on Accomplishments, and on Absoluteness. The mind is powerful, and as you will discover in the next series of Sutras, it is encouraged by strong forces to identify and obsess over the vrittis, "modifications of the mind-stuff" (thoughts, basically). We obsess constantly about what happened before, what might happen now, or in the future etc etc etc. This obsessing takes us out of the present and generally makes us uneasy, unhappy, paranoid. When you have control over these thoughts, you are not ruled by outside phenomena, and you have the presence and capability to make a reality that is joyful, luminous, content.
Swami says, "That is why the entire Yoga is based on chitta vritti nirodhah. If you control your mind, you have controlled everything. Then there is nothing in this world to bind you."
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
Posted by Nicole Benisch at 9:53 AM
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
So, this may be an unlikely master for a Yoga blog, but bear with me :) This quote is from one of my favorite, if not my all time favorite novels. Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins. If you haven't read it, DO! It's really wonderful and the themes draw heavily from Yogic philosophy, Tantra especially.
"Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures and rides it, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life's bittersweet route."
I think Robbins' use of individuality here refers to that unwavering, everlasting divine light within us all, and the quote harkens to the Tantrika belief that ALL moments, ALL things, ALL experiences...ALL is divine. "From peculiar station to peculiar station", what does this remind you of? It makes me think of the phrase; "vinyasa". Vinyasa means "step by step" in sanskrit and is also a style of asana quite popular in the West. Whatever style of asana you practice, vinyasa is something very important to cultivate on the mat...and off! Step by Step, try it! Maybe soon you'll find yourself riding from peculiar station to peculiar station with grace and laughter in your heart!
Posted by Nicole Benisch at 12:16 PM
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall) is said by many to be THE most therapeutic yoga posture of them all. Donna Farhi calls it "The Great Rejuvenator", and says "If you have time for no other practice, I recommend this one." All you really need for this puppy is your beautiful self and some wall space. If you've got rrrrrrrreally tight hamstrings, you may want to have a chair handy. If you'd like to use your mat for cushion, great, if you don't have a mat that's fine too. I prefer to practice any pose I possibly can without a mat because I feel like it gives me a deeper connection to the surface that I am practicing on, which is representative of the earth. Also, for this particular posture practicing without a mat makes coming out of the pose much, MUCH easier.
To come into the posture, sit with your right side flush against the wall, knees bent and curled into your chest, soles of the feet on the floor. Wiggle yourself as close to the wall as you can and then place your left palm in front of you and your right palm in back on the floor for stability as you come into the pose. Rotate your body toward the wall as you simultaneously extend your legs up the wall and lay your back down onto the floor. Now here is where it may be more beneficial to NOT use a sticky mat, because you want to wiggle your bum as close to the wall as is comfortable for your hamstrings and lower back. So the idea here is to comfortably have your entire spine flat on the floor. For my yogis and yoginis with tight hamstrings getting close to the wall may not be available for you at this time so you can have your bum a little bit away from the wall so your legs will be resting against the wall at a bit of an angle. If even THIS is not available to you, then you press yourself gently away from the wall, roll to your right side, press yourself up to sit and grab your chair. Drape your calves on the seat and lay back just like you did against the wall.
Ok, so now we are all comfy in whatever version of the pose that feels SUKHA, sweet, for your body. You may place your folded hands over your belly, or one on your belly and the other over your heart center, or in "cactus": arms out, palms facing up to a "T" then bent to a 90 degree angle.
Now close your eyes and hold for AT LEAST 5 minutes, 15 minutes would be ideal. It's natural for the legs to fall asleep in this pose as you're flushing out the build up of lactic acid and reversing the flow of blood. If this happens you can fold your legs in a cross legged position as if you're sitting on the wall for a moment, the extend them back up the wall after you feel the blood circulating well again. Also, remember as with all restorative postures, once you get comfortably situated, there should be NO effort, only surrender. Ahhhhhhhhh, sukha, so sweet!
To come out of the posture: Place the soles of your feet on the wall and gently press yourself away, so that you can bring the soles of your feet to rest of the floor with your knees bent. Stay here for a few moments so to allow the blood to circulate normally again. Now roll to your right side, pausing for a moment in this fetal type position, and then press yourself up to sit. You may choose to fold your palms in front of your heart, close your eyes and chant the syllable "Om" to close your practice.
The benefits of this posture are DIVINE. It's a passive inversion that relieves edema, or fluid retention in the legs and ankles. Stimulates the adrenal glands, and kidneys, as well as increasing circulation to the abdominal organs. It increases circulation to the lungs, facilitating deep breathing and relaxation response and reverses the effect of gravity on the ENTIRE body.
Namaste yogi's and yogini's!
Posted by Nicole Benisch at 9:20 AM