By Mallika Nagarjan
Here is a form of yoga that brings together techniques and approaches from various yogic systems to create a powerful tool for transformation
Supplement your yogic routine with these simple yet effective exercises drawn from various forms of yoga. Integrate them into your daily life – both professional and personal – to achieve the ultimate aim of yoga which is transformation of our consciousness, mind and energy, at all levels of our being.
• Breathing exercise for centering: As soon as you wake up in the morning, sit up on the bed and, before any of the day’s plans come crowding into your mind, close your eyes and focus on your breath for a while. Enjoy the sensation of breathing, and observe the cool air that is inhaled and the warm air exhaled. As you get into the rhythm of this activity, watch your thoughts too as they rise and fall in your mind. Don’t engage them, but simply let them come and go. As you remain in the peaceful stillness of your centre, your thoughts will fall into place with great clarity. Try to carry this feeling of ‘centredness’ with you through the day.
• Chanting exercise for sourcing: When we go to bed, often our physical body sleeps, but our mind keeps working because of the many thoughts and pressures we take to bed with us. We wake up in the morning, still feeling tired and not fully recharged. When we sleep, the outer consciousness of our four bodies (physical, vital, mental and psychic) needs to rest in its Source deep within our heart, so it can regenerate. One technique to reconnect our outer bodies with our infinite, inner Source, is to sit up calmly in bed and chant ‘Om Sri Ma’, focusing on your heart centre and feeling the peaceful vibrations expanding outwards into your whole being. Do this for about 2-5 minutes or as long as you feel necessary and soothed.
• Anger management: When you are suddenly very angry or emotional, go to a place where you will not be disturbed, then clench both fists very tight and bring them together at the navel and do short sharp exhalations (kapalbhati breathing as it is called in yoga) for about 30 secs to a minute. Feel the tension clear out. Take a couple of deep, steadying breaths and then repeat the action if necessary.
• Conserve your vital/pranic energy: Do this exercise when engaged in an activity that can exhaust you mentally and emotionally (e.g. watching TV for long hours, or working at the computer. First, switch into a partially detached mode by consciously relaxing your whole body, and allowing your breathing to fall into a steady rhythm. Relax the muscles around your eyes and let your eyelids half close. Observe simultaneously the other person/object, and your own self. This may not be easy at first, but it will become easier with practice.
• Stress relief: Find a private place with some clean floor space. Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels (vajrasana pose). Bring all your worries and stresses up to your forehead. Lift your arms up to heaven, and bring your forehead and hands/palms down to the floor in a posture of deep surrender to Mother Earth. Consciously think of Mother Earth as your divine mother from whose physical elements you have been created. Feel a great comfort in your head resting in Her lap, and offer all your tension and anxiety to Her. Feel yourself grounded to Her, and feel the stress draining out of your whole body through your forehead into Her. After a while when you feel lighter and clearer, more peaceful and comforted, sit up and get on with your day.
Perform action, O Dhananjaya, being steadfast in yoga, abandoning all attachment to success and failure. Evenness of mind is called yoga. (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 48)
The other day, a friend with whom I attend yoga classes told me about a nasty encounter she’d had with a DTC bus, which resulted in extensive damage to her car. Instead of the usual hue and cry she would have raised, she handled the entire incident in a very calm manner, and got even better results. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the yoga classes that I’ve been going to. I would have reacted in a completely different manner earlier!” she said. And that is very true. As rajasic by nature as I am tamasic, she would have worked herself into a state, and raised her stress levels high enough to make her ill.
Evenness of mind, perhaps always an elusive quality even in ancient times, seems to be almost impossible to achieve today, given the stresses and strains prevalent in our fast-paced contemporary lifestyles. The equanimity for which all yoga practitioners strive is becoming increasingly recognized as the one important, liberating quality that can allow us to experience complete wellness. And while it makes no promises of instant gratification or an immediate panacea, there is no doubt that the gentle yet powerful art of yoga promotes a state of calmness that combats the effects of stress on both the mind and the body.
Whenever I do my surya namaskars early in the morning in my tiny back garden facing the park, and feel the healing rays of the sun warm on my back, or when I practice shavasana or Yoga Nidra and visualize a happy memory from my past (it could be anything – for instance, walking in Delhi’s beautiful Nehru Park, with my two adorable dachshunds, Caramel and Pixie, happily frisking about), I may not experience “satchitananda,” but I do come close!
There are many schools of yoga, and people usually choose the one that suits them best: “All life is yoga,” as Sri Aurobindo said. Among these, Transformational Yoga is gaining increasing popularity today.
Transformational Yoga attempts to integrate all the rich and diverse systems of India’s great yogic heritage, and offers a unique synthesis of yogic techniques drawn from different schools which allows you to integrate, in a practical manner, effective exercises and techniques of yogic living into your daily routine. It aims to create in its practitioners, a rapid transformation of consciousness, mind and energy, that allows them to live in balance and harmony within themselves and with others.
Transformational Yoga, founded by Delhi-based Swami Vidyanand, a renowned yoga master, is inspired by the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and was developed when he taught yoga for more than a decade at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in New Delhi.
Swami Vidyanand hails from a long line of renowned bhakti yogis. He mastered yoga in the traditional Indian yogic way, through apprenticeships under enlightened yoga masters in India and anonymous ascetics in the Himalayas. His techniques are well recognized today, and amongst the awards and titles he has received, are the Bhaskar award, the highest award conferred by Bharat Nirman. He is also an honorary member of the Vishwa Yoga Samsad (World Yoga Council) of the International Yoga Federation, the world governing body of yoga that provides standards and recognition for yoga professionals internationally. He continues to teach at the Sri Aurobindo Society in New Delhi.
Excerpts from an interview with Swami Vidyanand:
Why do we need yoga today?
We need yoga today, because there are so many stresses and sorrows that hinder our progress in life. A clear vision of who we are, and what we really want out of life, is essential for progress. These days life has become aimless, and most of us follow the doings of others and we don’t think for ourselves. We need to ask ourselves two very important questions every day. These questions are: “What is my aim?” Without a definite aim, we get lost. We need to understand and define our mission – this sets our karmic forces moving. Our second question should be: “Who am I?” In order to gain true progress in life, we need to understand our real nature. Knowing ourselves is the first step, for it helps us understand our connection with and our relationship to our Source, i.e. our centre of Supreme Consciousness. By asking ourselves these questions everyday, we start the process of yogic meditation. This sets into motion a process by which our true purpose in life is revealed to us.
Yoga gives us inner guidance and shakti. It is the process by which we gain clarity and peace of mind, bring harmony and balance into our many levels of being (body, mind and spirit), and help our true personality develop and emerge. Yoga makes our aim in life clear, and brings us true progress.
What is Transformational Yoga?
Transformational Yoga is inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of Integral Yoga as well as the Mother’s teachings. Sri Aurobindo believed that while different schools of yoga focused on different things, what was really required was an integral process that targets everything simultaneously.
Transformational Yoga uses a combination of various techniques from ancient traditional schools of yoga, such as asanas, pranayama, mantra, meditation and yogic healing, and also adds some new techniques and kriyas that take into account the requirements of the contemporary world and our changed lifestyles today.
This course is for all those people who wish to experience their true being, improve their lives, and discover their inner sources of strength. It helps you find balance, growth and self-confidence.
In what ways can Transformational Yoga help us?
According to yoga, the human body consists of five layers or levels – the physical body, the prana body, the mental body, the psychic body, and the spiritual body. It also consists of seven chakras or energy centres that are linked to the five bodies. There are many types of yoga, but they usually focus only on one of these bodies. For example, hatha yoga strengthens the physical body and eliminates disease. Prana yoga works on our life energy and our vital force, and develops healing energy. Anger, fear, and jealousy get controlled. Raja yoga calms the mind, makes you peaceful and develops your inner guidance, while bhakti yoga connects you directly with the Supreme Consciousness. Transformational Yoga uses a synthesis of all these techniques.
What do you mean by transformation?
All of us have within us, a form of pure consciousness, which lies latent. Transformation is a way by which we can make this pure consciousness manifest itself. Our bodies today are unhealthy, and we live in a state of impure consciousness that contains within itself the seed of pure consciousness. By transformation, we provide the means by which this seed can flower. We remove this impure energy from within us, and let our pure energy express itself. We move beyond our apara nature (lower level of being) into para nature (pure or higher level of being).
How does Transformational Yoga work?
While most schools of yoga focus only on one of our bodies, Transformational Yoga works on all the levels of our being, i.e. all our five bodies simultaneously, and enables the development of a completely integrated personality.
Most of our problems today – mental, physical and emotional – are due to the imbalance of energy in our chakras. Unexpressed energies within us become stagnant, and lead to tightness, pressure, and finally blockage in the flow of energy. For example, extra calories will introduce impure energy in our physical body, and induce a state of tamas. Emotions like anger and fear that are not expressed, will cause a blockage of prana energy, and cause a problem. For a complete solution to our problems, all the chakras and bodies need to be healed and brought into balance. Transformational Yoga uses a combination of different techniques including asanas, breathing techniques (pranayama), and the sound energy from yogic or vedic mantras to relax, cleanse and awaken the pure energy in our seven chakras and their associated bodies. It enables us to centre ourselves within our spiritual body or the flame of Supreme Consciousness. The Supreme Consciousness is the highest centre of our body; it controls our spiritual being. Our spiritual body lies frozen within us, and starts to flower, when we clean our four outer bodies. As this happens, we experience good health, emotional balance and mental and spiritual clarity.
What are the steps involved?
• Knowledge and awareness of the five bodies and seven chakras.
• Relaxation of the same
• Cleansing and healing the five bodies, and removing the toxins and impure energies.
• Activating Supreme Consciousness in all the five bodies.
• Using the healing energy obtained to help other people and propa gate Transformational Yoga in the universe.
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