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Fear, Anxiety, and Stress

Fear, Anxiety, and Stress

satsang by swami Sitaramananda Aug 2021

Thu, 8/19 11:36AM • 47:34

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

mind, fear, Covid pandemic, people, prana, anxiety, faith, life, stress, stress responses, energy, mantra, relaxation, detachment, attachment, crises, mental health, physical health, spiritual health, yoga teacher, emotions, positive thinking, meditation, yoga lifestyle.

The topic is fear, anxiety and stress.  It’s a topic of our time.  Some countries are experiencing the COVID situation, they are in lockdown.  In some other countries, like in the US, it’s not currently locked down, but still the increase of COVID cases is very big and there is a different situation that creates anxiety and fear.  So it’s very important for us to understand what is  fear and anxiety, their symptoms, and also a few methods on how we can deal with this.  It’s a short talk, but we also have some other videos and articles that we can share on the topic.

What is fear?

Fear is a primitive emotion. It is  a very basic emotion for survival.  We are afraid when there is a sense of threat, imaginary or real, and we feel that we are being threatened.  We develop fear as a way to protect ourselves.  We have different ways of stress response.   For some people, it will be to fight, for some people it will be to run (flight), and for some people it will be to freeze.  Fight means you go against, flight means you run away, and freeze is when you cannot do anything.

I remember one time one of my students was visiting India with me, and she opened the closet and a big rat climbed into her hand and walked up her arm.  And she looked at it, and she didn’t scream, she didn’t move.  She didn’t do anything. And she just looked at the rat moving on her arm.  So, that is the freeze response, she could not do anything, she was paralyzed.

Different people have different reactions depending on their  temperament, their type of nature. You need to recognize how you function and recognize how the people around you function so you understand them.

Fear and anxiety can happen any time. You develop fear when you encounter an unfamiliar situation. Normally, you have a routine, you go to work, everything is orderly. Now everything changes, your routine changes. So already that creates a certain kind of anxiety and then your imagination aggravates the emotional condition. You have a lot of imagination. Your mind starts to create different scenarios and different imagined outcomes, then you believe in it, because you believe in the mind.  You do not have the practice to be detached from the mind and to be the observer of the mind and to know that what is in the mind is not necessarily true.

If you have not developed this technique of yoga to observe the mind, then you believe what the mind says. And at that time, you know it will be cascading, that means the thought which is in your mind and your imagination will be cascading into something more and more serious. The entire mind will become distorted. 

The drama when the mind becomes distorted is that you lose the connection with your True Self. When you lost this connection,  you don’t know what to do.

Manifestations of fear and anxiety:

The main thing that you know about fear, please remember this point, is that fear paralyzes you.

 It means normally you have a lot of inner resources or creativity and you know what to do, but when you have fear, all of a sudden you don’t know what to do.  You are paralyzed.

Let’s say you are watching TV or something and it happened to be a horror movie and you are very afraid. So the TV is just about three feet away, or one or two meter away, but you cannot switch it off. You cannot move, you cannot switch it off. You are there completely frozen, not able to breathe, because you are so afraid.

Then you react and you do things that are not reasonable when you are afraid.  I heard somebody says that in Vietnam, some people are so afraid of catching COVID virus that some people go and tape their doors and windows, as if they can prevent the virus from entering. Obviously, they did not have the right information to know how to deal with COVID . When they tape the doors and windows or hold their breath so they do not breathe, what happens?  They will not have sufficient energy, prana, life force and will get sick. So it’s a completely wrong reaction. In the contrary, you need to breathe deeply and you need to open the windows so that air, new air, can come in and change the air in your room. This is one of the examples when your faculty becomes paralyzed and then you make wrong decisions.

You also can have other kinds of impulses that also come from fear.  For example, you will be hoarding, buying, buying, buying, to prepare yourself in case something happens.  Another possibility is  you will be in isolation, you don’t want to talk to anybody.  You think people are a bother and you don’t want to talk and you’re afraid of people.

You also become blameful.  You blame yourself, your father, your mother, the government, etc. If you are blameful, you have become negative.

 You develop shame and guilt as well. This is quite common that you think that you’re not doing enough, you blame yourself for not taking enough precautions. You are afraid for your children and you want to protect everyone, so you develop a guilty feeling. 

Then the other negative reaction is that you become depressed. You lose your motivation to live, because things are different, and then you don’t know what life is about, and then you become depressed.  You’re not coping very well.

You can also develop what we call “ hyper-vigilance”. Hyper-vigilance is when you have extreme intensity in your mind, checking and double checking all of the information surrounding you. In an intense manner, you try to control everything around you.

This extra vigilance and control takes a lot of your energy.  It makes you very tense, and then you imagine all kinds of things. Eventually, hyper-vigilance will take a toll on your system because you spend a lot of energy in tension.

The other problem of reaction coming from stress and anxiety is addiction.  Addiction is a self-destructive habit. When you have addiction, you lost your sense of self control and you indulge in things that you did not do before.  You can eat tons of sugar for example, which is an addiction, you can drink more alcohol, or you drink more coffee, something that you already have a certain weakness about. Addiction and over indulgence in self destructive habit is another side effect of fear.

Sometimes we don’t know that we are afraid, but we say that we are stressed. It’s the same phenomenon. So with stress you can see that you cannot solve the problems, you cannot be very clear in your mind because you have low prana, low energy and your negative emotions are plenty, you have a lot of negative emotion, for example anger.

Stress takes your prana away and consequently,  you cannot adapt to a situation.  Your mind fixates on a certain scenario, what you like to do. When things are not the way you like or expect and you cannot adapt, it creates a blockage in the flow of prana, and makes things worse.

The fear that you already have at the bottom of your mind which we call existential anxiety comes up.  Normally when you function in daily life,  you can control more or less this existential anxiety by having a life, a kind of a normal life, where you do things or you produce things, and then you enjoy yourself, more or less.

But when something happens that makes this fear , this anxiety of living comes up to the surface. Existential anxiety comes not just because something happened, but just because you are born in this body, and you don’t know,  “Who am I? Where am I going and what is this life about? What is life? What is death? Why are so many people dying? And why are so many people suffering?” So all of these existential questions all of a sudden come up in the mind. If you can follow them and relate to them and you understand them, this is good. But sometimes you cannot formulate them, and this unknown anxiety attacks you. Then you can be depressed and do wrong things. At that time, it’s good for you to have some counseling, some kind of spiritual counseling. To deal with existential anxiety, you have to use spiritual counseling and philosophy of living.

Karma and stress:

There are certain life situations that you are experiencing which we call “karmic situations”. These difficult situations that normally you are already trying  to manage, might come up to the surface and become aggravated in stressful situation.

Let’s say that your karma in this life is already having difficult relationships with people.  But when you’re stressed out, yeah, this relationship issue becomes more serious as  it takes more energy from you. You then go back to your old pattern, your negative pattern of reaction and  you get things more entangled.

Stress resilience skills:

You need to build stress resilience, i.e. learning  how to become stronger to face difficulty. You need to:

1. learn  the basic skill of how to increase prana, how to have more prana, more energy, more vitality. For example: 1. going in nature and eating natural good food will give you more prana. 2. doing nice exercise like yoga exercise will help you to move your energy even though you think that you’re just moving your physical body. It’s not true, when the body moves, the energy will move the mind and the mind will become more flexible and will become more flowing when the body is moving.

You don’t have to go and run excessively, you just have to take some walks, move the body, do some asanas and breathing.

 It is very important to have prana. So very important that you learn, that when you breathe with your diaphragm, you double the capacity of your lungs, you double your oxygen intake, and you also increase your prana, your vitality.  And when your vitality is there, your mind will be uplifted, immediately, it changes wavelength.  Instead of having the fear and the anxiety and the frozen rigid state of mind at its very low wavelength, now your mind will change wavelength and go higher.

So understand that prana intake is  part of the breathing, not just intake of oxygen, but also the vitality, the life force that come into your system.  And when life comes into your system, then your intelligence starts to work, your mind starts to think and then you know how to do and what to do, how to take proper decision.

So you need to learn to increase the prana, the life force, you need to build up your resilience, your strength and how to resist the stress so that you are not stressed and fearful, yeah, so that you can have some positive thoughts in your mind.

2. Skill of Adaptability:

Adaptation is an important skill to learn to reduce stress. As example, the situation of Covid virus is constantly requiring us to adapt to new situation.

For example these days, one day you close the business, then next day you open the business, and then you have to close the business again, and you have to open it again. You thought that you could be free to travel and then you cannot be free to travel, you have to cancel your journeys and your traveling plans, your meeting with friends plans or your meeting with family plans, you have to constantly change. This situation can become very unsettling. But that is how we exercise adaptability. 

3. increase faith:

Faith allows you to have a vision because when things change, you don’t have a vision, you cannot see. When you are in the normal situation you can see.  I can make the plan that in three months I will do this, in six months I will do this, in one year, I will do this. You have some long term plans. But with a situation of stress, negativity and fear, you don’t have long term plans, you have to do a few days at a time, one day at a time. That’s part of adaptability. Some people are more flexible, they change, they change, they change, and they are fine. And some people cannot change, they are slow in changing by nature. So when you deal with family members or friends, you have to know, you cannot expect people to be on the same level as you. Some people will change and some people will not be able to change, because of their nature. So don’t blame them.  Don’t be upset.

Anxiety taxes your system:  

Anxiety is a form of fear.  Anxiety is a fear that has no name.  It is the same as fear for survival and perceived threat, perceived danger. Perceived means it’s a subjective thing, it’s not certain that it is there.  And then you become very anxious that you are hyper-aroused, that means that all your systems are on alert.  The nervous  system is built in order for you to save yourself. For example, when the system is on the alert, then all of a sudden you cannot digest your food because all of the energy goes to the extremities to get ready for running, and then you cannot digest food that normally you can digest, because there is no energy going to the digestive system. That’s called hyper-arousal, hyper-vigilance when you monitor the internal and external environment intensely.  There is not necessarily any cause.  Fear will can create a paralyzed state for the body (which means that you are not moving), but also a paralyzed mind which means you do not have resources, you cannot think.  Normally, when you are relaxed, you know this and that, and you will always have some solution because the solution comes from inside, but when you are in that fear and anxiety, you have no solution, you panic!

Attachment is the root cause of fears and anxieties:

 If you feel that you are desperate, that you have no solution for your life, and you have all kinds of negative thoughts, yeah, you need to know that you are

afraid. It is helpful to just being able to be aware of that state of mind and be able to name it, be aware that “for some reason I am very stressed and I’m very fearful”. The second thing very important for you to please understand is the yoga teachings say that fear comes from attachment.

Do enquiry: Why you are  afraid? Of course it’s because of your survival instinct. It’s for the preservation of your life, but also it is because of your attachment to some aspect of this life. “Attachment is the root cause of fear and anxiety.”

What is attachment? Attachment is the identification, with something that you think that you will not be able to live without.  That means that you are losing yourself in the thing you are attached to. Attachment doesn’t have to be equated with love.  You still have love without attachment.  Sometimes we make a mistake, we think that love and attachment are the same. They are not.

You can be loving but not necessarily attached.  When you become very attached, that’s when you become very fearful.  If you want to lower your fear and anxiety, you need to lower your attachment.  But when you are strongly attached, and you identify yourself with it, it’s very difficult to detach, because you feel that you are losing your life.

When you feel that you have to detach, it’s like you are losing that which is your life itself, so then you cling on to it even more. That’s the reason why you have hyper vigilance, you want to control everything and you cling on to the thing that you are attached to. You go in the opposite direction of what will lead you to your well- being, you develop an opposite reaction.

Affirmation of courage:

So, there are a few things that you need to do.  You need to know that the mind is imagining different things and projecting different ideas and reacting. You need to feel courage, do self-affirmation of courage, write it down or repeat it out loud, “everything will be fine.”  You know, “I am fine.” and affirmation of courage, “I can do it.”

Let’s say you lost your job.  If you have the courage and the inner resources, then you know that you can create a new way of living.  But if you are feeling completely desperate and hopeless, then you will not be able to, and then you will fall down even more with the situation.

The power of now:

Fear and anxiety, often time, come because you’re thinking of the past, your mind is in the past, and then you project your future. When your mind is in fear, it’s either in the past or in the future.

So what do you need to do then?  You need to be in the present.  You need to know the power of now.  Yoga techniques are helping you to have less fear and anxiety, by bringing you to the now.

How to be in the now?  You have to be able to control the mind and put the mind in a concentrated state.  Concentration of mind needs to be on  something that is positive in order to bring you to the present.  For example, repeating a mantra, which is a sacred sound, is very positive. 

So instead of worrying and worrying, thinking of 10,000 scenarios, running here, running there, or running here, running there in your mind and lose energy,  you can repeat your mantra with faith, devotion and concentration. You’ll be in the now, because your mind is not moving in the past, nor projecting into the future, because when the mind is calm, it can be in the present.

When the mind is calm, it can be in the present because it can look at something without zooming on something,  then it just relaxes. When the mind is calm and relaxed, the prana is flowing, you are connecting to yourself and everything is working. Then you can be in the now and then when you are in the now, you can have resources.

Relax in the power of being:

Trust in what is called the power of being.  The power of being comes when you are not all in your mind, your mind is not you.  The power of being comes when you are relaxed.  Yoga helps you to relax and to be yourself.

Improved breath and body awareness:

When you practice yoga, you need to be more aware of the relationship between breath and movement.  So also, the yoga teacher will help the student to be more connected to their breath coordinated with  their movement.  The more that you’ll be able to do that, then the more that you will be able to regulate yourself in the breath and the movement.

It’s very important, this will bring in relaxation, because when you are stressed and when you are fearful, you have much tension in the body, and you cannot really relax. That’s why doing asanas is a  very important practice. Then eventually you can do savasana relaxation which is successive series of tensions and releases.  

So number one in being aware of  body and mind is to slow down, slow down. Improved awareness happens only when body and mind slow down. When your mind is racing, you cannot slow down.

Elongate exhalation to switch the mind to relaxation state:

When you are breathing,  the exhalation has to be longer than the inhalation in order to bring about relaxation. If your inhalation is for three seconds, then your exhalation will be for six seconds, if your inhalation is for four seconds, then your exhalation will be for eight seconds.

You can put a pillow or something heavy on your belly, so you can connect with the most important and basic aspect of life, which is your breath.  You feel when you inhale and you feel when you exhale. Something heavy on your belly will help you to really exhale as it pushes on your tummy and helps you to exhale. You can do restorative yoga, which is basically the same.  You put yourself in a very comfortable posture, breathe, relax and allow all the tension in the body to release. 

Balance the prana with pranayama:

You also need to balance your prana.  The best way is to do “anuloma viloma”, the alternate nostril breath.

What ratio, with retention, or no retention, and how long retention?  For that you can ask your yoga teacher, but you need to balance the flow prana (that will directly influence your emotions) and balance your right and left brain activity.

Increase awareness and be gentle:

Increasing awareness means to be very gentle with yourself and others. When you are in a stressful situation, when your family member is in a stressful situation, or fearful, or paralyzing, you need to be very gentle with them. Be aware that they actually are very anxious and don’t force them. The one thing is don’t force them in anything,

When people are strong and healthy, yoga teacher can push them a little bit to break through their limitations, but not when they are anxious and weak. At that time, yoga teacher needs to give a lot of encouragement: “You are doing well. It’s very good.”  And then, “Relax, you are fine.” 

Increase Ojas, the power of sustenance and endurance:

How to increase Ojas Shakti, i.e. the power of sustenance and immunity?  Increase  immunity through breathing, relaxation, through deep good sleep.  When people are anxious they cannot sleep. 

Also, Ojas Shakti or the power of sustenance of life, comes from your deep heart when you have faith. When people are anxious, they are cut off from their faith, they don’t have faith, they only worry.  You need to give them good quality food, that’s very important, good quality food, in order for them to nourish themselves and nurture Ojas, avoiding nervous eating which aggravates anxiety even more.

Gratitude and faith:

The general attitude to encourage is the attitude of trust and devotion, of love for God.  When people are anxious, they do not think that God exists so they will be hyper vigilant and super controlling thinking that they are going to solve their problems that way.

Yoga teachers can help people to relax and encourage them to increase their faith.  Because the moment faith returned, the fear and anxiety disappear. The feeling of gratitude is a good stepping stone to the feeling of devotion. Replace doubt with gratitude.  As homework, ask to make a list of gratitude and repeat it daily. The heart will change.  

Let go of desires, adopt attitude of contentment:

A very good attitude to adopt in the time of restlessness is the attitude of being content. Normally the mind is always restless motivated by desire. Now, the mind is content and  turning inward. Tune into the heart and feel contentment, gratitude and relaxation.

Group of students practice proper relaxation or savasana

Create security and emotional relaxation:

In Yoga practice,  use props, blankets, pillows, to create the security, the warmth, the quiet and the support of you and your family members. Do comfortable posture and experience emotional relaxation.  Listen to some nice music.  For those who have a connection with a mantra, you can play the mantra such as, “Om Trayambhakam Yajamahe Sugandim Pushtivardanam Urvarukamiva Bhadanan Mritror Mukshia Mam Mritat”, the mantra that says that everything is happening by the will of the universe, everything is evolving, and it’s a prayer to help you health, healing and liberation. It’s a good mantra for disease, for healing, for everything!  So you can play at very low volume the recording of this mantra, all day long, even when you’re sleeping.  all day long, in a low voice, not loud. It will become the  background of your mind and you will become  reassured that everything is okay, everything is as it should be, you do not have to worry about this.

Detachment and remembrance of Self:

You can learn detachment when you can remember your true Self. In the beginning, if you cannot remember your true self, then you can do self-affirmation so you can eventually remember, because the Atman or your Soul is untouched by any kind of diseases, any kind of separation, any kind of threat.  Affirm “I am satchitananda (existence, knowledge and bliss absolute), I am eternal. I am present all the time. I am knowledge and light, there is nothing that is in the dark for me.  And I am bliss and happiness. You use the language with which you can connect and you assert your healthy Self, instead of thinking of disease.

The power of autosuggestion:

What you think is what you become”.  Instead of thinking:  “I might get the disease, I will die and I will lose everything”, keep repeating, “I am healthy in body and mind.”  The healthy thought that you repeat to yourself will help you to be healthy because the body listens to you. 

The body is the subconscious mind. It listens to the order of the boss, and you are the boss.  So you have to say,  “I am healthy.”  And the subconscious mind will say, “Oh, really?”  And then it will start to produce, to work, to connect and do all these things that make you healthy.  The moment that you give the auto suggestion to your mind, “I’m not healthy and I’m going to die,” this kind of thought is not going to help you.  Do use the power of auto suggestion, of positive thinking, and know that at the bottom line, you are healthy all the time.

Cultivate the faith. 

Faith is not blind faith, but it’s the knowledge that everything is fine. There are 3 aspects of faith.

First is faith in yourself, faith that you are not hopeless.  Second is having faith in the Yoga practice. If you do pranayama and you don’t believe that it will do anything, it doesn’t help you. If you do breathing exercises, relaxation exercises, and you don’t believe that it will work, then it will not help you. So you need to develop the faith towards the practice. Now is the time for you to practice more.  It is not the time for you to be worrying and to be criticizing or blaming.  It is a time where you need to just really focus on the practice. Third, you trust inside that you know the answer.  You have faith in the Divine Mother or in the universe, in Mother Nature.

Trust Mother Nature:

Of course the epidemic and the virus are here for whatever reason, but it doesn’t matter. You do what you can, use faith but also use the logical mind, the scientific mind, wear a mask and use social distance. Many people have studied all this. Now open the doors and windows to have air.

Be in nature. Be in the sun. It is very important to be in the sun,  for 10 to 15 minutes a day, be in the sun.  If you are not able to go out, stay on your balcony. If you cannot go to the forest, look at the tree in front of your house. Be friend with your tree. Love nature and  try to see the big picture. Meditate, see the big picture, that everything is in the hands of the Creator and it is not in your hands.

The whole universe is in the hands of the Creator. So you do what you can and then you relax, you trust, okay? Life will never disappear. Life will always be there,  it just changes from this way, that way and you trust and you will find.  Don’t be too attached and let go of your attachment.

Avoid negative company.

 Another thing I want to add to the list is try to avoid negative company.

When you are weak, don’t watch TV all the time.  You do not need to see on news channel everyday that there are how many new cases, how many casualties how many people died.

From time to time, you need to be aware of the news. But if you indulge in news every day, the news become your sacred mantra. “How many people died? How many people got sick?” It doesn’t help you. Stay away from negative company.  Negative company will kill your faith.

Summary:

Try to control your fears and anxieties yourself. Be very gentle with yourself and others. Don’t be angry. Don’t be violent because when you are stressed, oftentimes you cannot control yourself, you become angry, and you are  expecting more  from other people.

Be aware that when people are anxious, it takes all their energy. They may be at home, but then they cannot do anything. Avoid blaming them: “Now you’re useless, you’re at home, you have so much time, why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that.”  But we have no idea that they are consumed by their anxiety.  They’re at home, but they cannot do anything, because they’re consumed by their anxiety, because their life has changed.

Okay, so, live a simple life, because the more your life is complicated, the more you have fear of losing things.

 You’ll notice that your children might be clinging more to you, they become more demanding, because the anxiety of separation might be there in the atmosphere sometimes now, children can pick up the anxiety, and you can pick it up also, because it is in the environment.

You need to be more positive. Any kind of faith that you have will make you stronger, so develop faith, any kind of faith, as it will make you stronger. Any religion, any faith that you have, it doesn’t matter which kind, just have faith that everything is taken care of, and then you will become stronger. The opposite of faith is doubt. So don’t allow doubt to enter your mind.

And ask the experts. Don’t be alone, don’t be isolated, don’t think that you are unique, okay? Use your logical mind because fear is an emotion. So therefore when you have fear you are not able to use your logical mind. At that time you can use the logical mind of somebody else who is logical, who is scientific, to balance out your emotions. So ask for help. We are here to support you.

OM shanti

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda Ashram Vedanta Yoga Farm, California and the Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center, Vietnam.  She is acharya of China, Taiwan, and Japan as well. Swamiji is the organizer and teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) program, an 800-hour program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Swami Sitaramananda is the author of “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” (translated in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Russian), “Positive Thinking Manual”, “Karma Yoga Manual”, “Meditation Manual”, “Swamiji Said, a collection of teachings by Swami Vishnu” in His Own Words. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of “Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga” (CIBY) and “Meditation & Mantras” by Swami Vishnu. Many of her video & audio lectures on Yoga life, philosophy, and psychology as well as articles and webinars can be found on this website.

Swami Sita is an ardent supporter of the integration of the Vedic sciences such as Vastu, Jyotish, Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta. She is an international teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses and Advanced Yoga teachers’ Training courses, as well as Meditation and Vedanta & Silence Courses both in Sivananda Ashrams in Vietnam and in Grass Valley, CA.

How to prevent future suffering?

How to prevent future suffering?

Recording from webinar with swami Sitaramananda

Thursday, 5/27/21

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

mind, yoga, suffering, self healing, relationships, ego, meditation practice, satsang, wisdom, balance, life, thoughts, stress resilience, emotional intelligence, vedanta, behavioral habit, yoga practices, subconscious mind, positive thinking, healthy lifestyle, mindfulness, awareness, spiritual journey, self realization.

Future suffering is predictable

The topic of today is how to prevent future suffering. It is a very important topic because nobody wants to suffer. This teaching comes from the teaching in the Raja Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from 2,000 years ago, where Patanjali Maharishi explains the nature of the mind and how the mind works. He said: “Future suffering needs to be avoided”.

The point is, how do you know about future suffering? The answer is, if you know how the mind works, you know about future sufferings. In fact, the mind is almost like a tape recorder. It registers all the experiences, all the impressions. These impressions registered in the mind are called the samskaras. The mind will reproduce what it has experienced. This means that what you reproduce in the mind is predictable, It is predictable, because it is is based on what you have experienced. Let’s say you have the experience of pain, due to somebody attacking you. 

Then that experience of pain in your mind will be reproduced again because you already know the experience of pain. This known painful experience will lead you to the tendency to feel that pain again. Why? Simply, because your mind knows it and will reproduce it.

From darkness comes enlightenment

Today we are having this talk after Buddha Poornima which is the day of celebration of Lord Buddha’s birth, and also this day coincides with the full moon of the lunar eclipse. So it’s a very, very interesting time because the full moon signifies a lot of emotions and possibly much clarity. Yet, when it is eclipsed, it is like you cannot see, you cannot understand, you cannot feel and at the same time, it is exactly the opposite, you are using it as an enlightened mind.

Buddha Poornima on the full moon means the birth of the enlightened one on the full moon. It’s a contradiction, darkness and at the same time enlightenment. At the same time, you have a glimpse of darkness in the mind – the mind cannot think, you experience pain and suffering, your mind collapses, you don’t have light, you don’t have any idea of what to think or what to do, but in fact, it is two sides of the same coin. At the same moment, you start to turn inward and start to let go. You start to receive light.

Interesting. All knowledge comes after you suffer, because when you suffer, you think about it. When you think about it, then you find the reason why you suffer. It comes from a certain habit, an emotional habit, or the habit of the mind. Or it comes from some past that you keep reproducing in your mind. 

You have to experience suffering and pain over and over and over and over again, before you ask yourself the question, “Is there anything else?”. That means, you ask yourself the question, “How am I going to get out of this mental pattern?” So, the Buddha talks about the truth of suffering. The truth of suffering means it is true that everyone suffers, and we need to find ways to be free from suffering.

The truth of suffering

We suffer because of birth, we suffer because of old age, we suffer because of disease. We suffer because of death. So now the whole world is suffering, because a lot of people are afraid of death; because there is a pandemic going on. A lot of people suffer from tension, from anxiety, from being afraid.

They are afraid of disease, afraid of the virus, afraid to lose their loved one, afraid to lose their job, afraid to lose money, afraid to lose their habit. Yes, your habit. Let’s say you have a habit to go out and eat in a restaurant. Now in pandemic time, you cannot go out to restaurants and you have to stay at home. So some kind of suffering and tension and stress is there because of some change.

At birth, we are crying. And then when we have disease, crying… when we lose our faculties, when we have old age, we will be crying. And ultimately, when we are not ready to meet the next step, death, we also suffer.

Yoga is essential knowledge to free you from suffering

That’s why Yoga is essential knowledge. Yoga philosophy, yoga psychology, yoga teaching is essential for you to practice. Do not wait until you are diseased to turn to Yoga. Some people turn to yoga because of disease, because they are suffering. When there is a lot of suffering, the ashram is full, because people remember yoga, remember the discipline.

At that time, they want to turn inside. But otherwise, if everything is okay, they want to enjoy life. They have no time for yoga. Yet, they have time to go to restaurants to enjoy life. They have time to spend chit-chatting with friends. They are going here and going there all the time, they always have a new idea, new places to go. They think distractions and entertainment are the way to solve the problem of suffering. But they do not realize, they carry with them their same mind.

But yoga sees things differently. Yoga says the more that you distract yourself, the more you satisfy your desire, the more you will suffer because no desire can be satisfied. Desire is insatiable, it cannot be satisfied. And when the mind is restless, not contented, that’s when you suffer.

This is why yoga always talks about “purification”. Purification means that we realize that the light, the knowledge, peace and happiness are already within us, but there are some impurities and wrong thoughts, wrong habits in the mind that prevent us from realizing this peace and happiness. That’s why you need to purify these impure thoughts. All yoga practices are for the purpose of purification.

Ayurveda, which is a science of health linked to yoga, says you need to balance the doshas (or your innate constitution and innate conditions of the mind). Yoga talks about purification and Ayurveda talks about balance. 

Going from tamas, rajas to sattwa is the way

We need to purify the mind and balance the mind if we want to prevent future suffering. Yoga and Vedanta teaching give you a very nice concept of the gunas.  Guna means a quality of nature or you can say the qualities of your mind.  One is Tamas, it means the force that is in your mind and in the cosmos that is pulling down, making things stagnant, not moving, not changing and pulling down.

This force of inertia is called Tamas. If you are subject to Tamas, are you going to be happy? No, you can say for sure, no. If your mind is tamasic and if you live in a tamasic environment, you will be unhappy. So also, you will not be happy if rajas is the dominant force.  Rajas means action, activity, passion, movement and that would make the mind move restlessly, desirous, and egoistic, fighting, comparing, competitive. This rajasic mind will lead you to conflict, to dissatisfaction, to disappointment. 

It will lead you to extremes, to conflicts.  You will like something and you will dislike something. You might feel happy for a little bit, but then you will suffer from the opposite swing. You will not be happy. So, the tamasic mind will not make you happy and the rajasic mind will not make you happy.

The mind also receives influences easily from the environment. If you live in a tamasic environment, even if you are not tamasic, then you will not be happy. In the same manner, if you live too close to rajas – example, all the time in noise, in passion, watching news, terrible sensational news and dramas, this will not make you happy. It will make you suffer. It’s good to have news, from time to time, but good to avoid if it’s completely full of negative news that you cannot do anything about. Therefore, you need to guard your mind against the mass media, the rajas.

Now, the good news is, there’s another kind of mind called a sattvic mind, dominated by the quality of sattva. This third quality (sattva) happens when the mind is balanced, peaceful, contented, compassionate, loving, knowledgeable, wise, moderate. This mind doesn’t go to extremes. If you are endowed with this kind of mind, your universe will be calm, your attitude will be calm, balanced, wise, peaceful, content. This mind will not create suffering. 

We just have to make sure that our mind and our life and surrounding become sattvic. How do you do this? Yoga teaches the Five Points of yogic lifestyle. What you need to do is to have a routine to regulate your energy and to move your energy, not letting your energy become stuck. If the energy becomes stuck, you are stressed and tense and you will have tamasic thoughts of depression, fear, anxiety, and so on. So do asana to activate your tamasic energy and to slow down your rajas.

In proper breathing, you do the pranayama in order to balance your energy. Again, to make your energy flow, to purify your nadis (energy channels), and to cleanse all the previous blockages in your energy system. It is very, very important to do pranayama when you are emotionally upset, when you’re emotionally imbalanced. You have learned the technique of breathing; it is in your hands. You just have to sit down and do pranayama: Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing) and Kapalabhati to bring yourself more energy as well as to cleanse and to balance your mind. This practice is very essential.

The third important practice is proper relaxation. This practice implies that you are able to recognize when your mind tenses up when you are stressed out. When you lose energy, and everything is added on, added on, and added on, the same negative thoughts are repeated, repeated, and repeated. Then you become stressed and you suffer. It is very important for you to learn to balance, to practice proper relaxation.

Proper diet is very important. Because the food you eat will influence the mind. So do not eat too much sugar. Do not eat too much spicy food, and not too much salt. Try to eat calm food, alive food, cooked with love, with kindness. Actually, not being able to go to a restaurant because of Covid is very good. So you can cook at home for yourself and your family. Try to see the positive aspect of things.

And the last point is the practice of meditation or positive thinking, which you need to do every day. Every day for a few minutes, 10 minutes, it’s easy. You can just sit quietly, turn inside. If you can sit longer, if you have a mantra to repeat, It’s excellent because it helps you to keep your mind strong and steady.

Building up Resilience to the Suffering coming from self, others and the environment

Yoga scripture says that suffering comes from the interaction between the gunas and the mind. It means that you are not alone, you live with different people and you have different relationships as well as you live in an environment, and this in itself, creates suffering. If the people you live with suffer, then you also will know.

The Bhagavad Gita talks about three types of affliction. First, Adhyatmika, afflictions caused by one’s own body. The body is thirsty, is hungry, is sick, and your own body is a very complex system, that’s why you need to keep yourself healthy. The second cause of affliction is Adhibhautika, it means the affliction caused by beings around you, by people that you are connected with. And the third one is Adhidaivika, suffering that is caused by the forces of heaven or divine forces. For example, cyclones, hurricanes, floods, drought, or excessive rain. You cannot control the forces of heaven.

One thing you can do is increase your resilience. Please mark that word resilience. Resilience means your capacity to resist stress and to resist negative thoughts. It’s like when you build your muscles, if you carry a heavy weight then your muscles become stronger. At times, when your life is very easy, your muscle becomes weak, because you are not working hard. In a time of difficulty, you have to carry weight, i.e., you have to resist stress and the negativity that comes from the environment. You cannot change the situation outside, but your muscles become stronger, the muscles of the mind.

You become more calm, you go more inward, you find inspiration from inside, you find the positive thoughts from inside and then you bear, you have forbearance. What I mean is you develop the capacity to go through the conflict or challenge or crisis without collapsing, without adding more of your own negative thoughts that make the situation become more difficult. In case you cannot change the situation outside, then at least you have to keep yourself very positive so that you are not collapsing under negativity that is coming from the environment, when the surrounding environment is attacking you in some way. You do not add on to your own negative thinking.

For affliction due to the body, you need to do all the yoga practices to keep yourself healthy, as much as possible. Eat the right food, the right exercise, the right breathing. Practice relaxation to keep yourself healthy.

Regarding the mind of other people, try to forgive, try to forget, try to see your part of the problem. Yes, we need to change our thinking and expectations, because all suffering comes from your mental emotional pattern and comes from your habits of relationships from the past. Your problems in relationships come from you, so cease the blaming, cease the comparison and look within. Know that you have the capacity to change your mindset into something more positive, in order for you not to find the same emotional negativity in different situations that are being repeated.

In general, try to remove yourself from tamasic and rajasic thoughts and try to cultivate positive sattvic thoughts to prevent suffering.

Higher thinking to be free from suffering

If you want to live a life free from suffering, it requires high thinking, you need to cultivate an elevated positive way of thinking, and you cannot go on with the same way of thinking. Except all the thinking that come from the media, the social media, from our hours spent in watching Facebook and so on.

Social media, mindless following, gossiping is not positive. Wasting time is not positive. We need to cultivate high thinking, that means positive thinking. This requires your mind to be very focused. You cannot be distracted and expect yourself to be free from suffering. You need to keep your mind very healthy by focusing the mind and by avoiding distractions. You need to have a concentrated mind, higher thinking, conscious awareness. Cultivate awareness instead of unawareness. Being unaware means you just do things without thinking. You live life without knowing what you are doing.

You don’t spend time to meditate, to watch your mind, to observe your thoughts, to contemplate. You just run out and do things. That unconscious kind of mind will not lead you to happiness, this is a hundred per cent sure.  That’s why the teacher is so strong because they have studied the mind and they know how it works. They say categorically, 100%, if your mind is all the time running outwards, running after sensual pleasures and being distracted, you will suffer sooner or later.

You need to develop conscious awareness to overcome the lower mind, the habitual mind. This lower mind forms a big part of your mind. You would have to learn resistance. Like I said earlier, you need to practice in order to resist that mind that is formed by habit, by patterns, by samskaras. Samskara is the impression in the mind from a very long time. In yoga, we said, don’t live in the past, let the past go. You cannot make a better past. At the same time, don’t live in the future. Don’t worry about the future.

The future is not there. If you don’t repeat the past, and you can be aware in the present, your future can be changed. You live in the present when you can keep your mind focused and strong, The more you focus the mind, the more you live in the present. And the present will save you from the past and will save you from the future, the present will bring you peace, happiness. So please keep your mind very busy focusing on positive thoughts, such as a mantra. You need to keep your mind very strong and healthy. Don’t just allow your mind to run wherever it is, whatever it is, to do whatever it is. As a Yogi, you learn to master your mind.

You have capacity of choice

The last thing you need to know is that you have the capacity of choice. You want to be wise. So you have the capacity of choice in making decision. As human beings we are born with our intellect, that is part of our make up, we need to use it. The truth is we don’t use our intellect enough. We use too much of our subconscious mind, our emotions, our habits. Why? Because we are lazy. Yes, it’s easier to just keep doing the same thing, than to think about ways how you can choose better. When you want to make a conscious choice, your life is more difficult.

How do you become wise and choose wisely? You need to use your intellect. The Sanskrit term for intellect is “Buddhi” . Buddhi means your intellect.  The Buddha is the one that has an enlightened intellect.  If one’s intellect becomes fully enlightened, one is called a Buddha. To use your buddhi means to use your faculty of thinking. You would have to develop your thinking capacity, not worrying capacity, but thinking capacity. If you are parents, try to develop that in children, not just only indulging the emotions of the children, but also teach them how to reason and how to think. Later on, they will be successful, if they can control the emotions, if they are not spoiled by the parent and become weak.  

Cultivating emotional intelligence

Try to cultivate their emotional intelligence. There was an experiment about emotional intelligence.

They told a group of children in a closed room if they do not eat the cake, they can have some kind of reward. The researcher watches through an invisible glass window to observe the behavior of the children. There are those kids who cannot resist even for a moment to jump on the cake. There are those who try to resist, they bite their hands and turn their heads, and close their eyes. There are those who run away hiding in the corner so that they don’t have to look at the cake.

There are those who can calmly resist the temptation and not jump on the cake. Later in life, researchers found out that the kids who cannot resist temptation are those who fare worse in life. They experienced failure as they did not have resistance and endurance. The kids that have more emotional intelligence become more successful in life because they are stronger, they have the capacity of resilience.

What we need to do is to cultivate our emotional intelligence and not allow our mind to collapse.  When you do something difficult and your mind gets tired and you want to walk away, resist, relax, readjust yourself and carry on. Resist that, okay? When there is something that you don’t like, and you know it is unpleasant to you, don’t just walk away and escape or become angry and upset. Try to resist that temptation of reaction, of negative reaction. When you encounter difficulties, stress and conflict, try to balance between pressure and adaptation.

You don’t have to follow everything. When the pressure mounts, you don’t have to yield. You have to be able to adapt to the situation, not losing everything and also not accepting everything. So, try to be balanced between effort and relaxation. You can make the effort but not too much. You can relax but not too much. Try to be balanced and learn to permanently live with whatever that is difficult with acceptance and peace. So then accept it and try to be positive about it.

Let the buddhi intelligence guide your mind and ego

Now, look at the way how your mind works. Your mind is called your inner instrument, your antakarana.

Your inner instrument has four components: 1.The buddhi, the intellect 2. The manas is the mind/emotions that work with the senses, bringing in the information and attempt to figure out what it is that you see and sense or hear or taste?  3. The chitta is the subconscious mind, the storehouse of information containing all your past experiences, all your samskaras, patterns, habits, personalities. And 4. You have the ego; it means your sense of identification. You have the sense of separateness when you identify with certain characteristics in order to learn your karmic lesson.

If you have no sense of “I”, it is difficult for you to learn your lesson. You will have difficulty if you’re clinging to an idea of the sense of “I” that is limited, that belongs to the past, with things are constantly changing. To deal with the ego, try to be new every day, to be fresh every day, practice yoga and meditation every day, in order for you to be centered, to live in the present and to be detached and to be free.

In summary, in your inner instrument, if you become completely controlled by manas, the emotional mind and the senses, you will suffer for sure.  If you are hankering all the time after ice cream, after chocolate that you don’t have, or the cigarette, or the alcohol or the sex, or whatever– if you are all the time thinking like this, then you will suffer. You do not want the manas to dominate your life.

You don’t like the chitta, the information and experiences of the past to dominate your life either. So also, don’t let the ego that is the false sense of self run your life. The only thing left is the buddhi. The buddhi is the power of intelligence that can go get the information from the manas in order for it to think, then get the information from the chitta in order for it to compare and to think proper, and then to consult the ego in order for the ego to be flexible and to be open to a new possibility. And then the buddhi makes its decision.

Conclusion

In summary, you need to be able to use your buddhi to make wise choices, to make decisions about your life that bring you to happiness, to safety, to true self-confidence and not allow your mind, the manas, the chitta, the ego, to dominate your life. Because this will lead you to suffering. You need to develop your buddhi, you need to develop your thinking, you need to find new ways of learning, of spending your time to increase your intelligence, your emotional intelligence, your choice, your awareness, and your wisdom.

You need to develop self-discipline to control the senses which will make your manas, that sensual and emotional portion of your mind unhappy. Yeah, that portion of your mind will pull on your leg and say I want to eat whatever I want to eat. I want to eat a lot of ice cream.  I like this, I like that. I don’t like this kitcharee, I don’t like this vegetable that you give me.

The manas will protest but you need to increase little by little the self-discipline to guide your mind to wisdom. You need to increase the awareness of your chitta, that very big heavy portion of the mind that is full of past experiences. You don’t allow the past impressions to come and take over your mind and your intelligence because it’s part of the past. You can learn your lessons of the past but don’t let your past, your past personality, your past negative experience overwhelms you and takes over your life.

You have to discriminate and to be aware that this is a past tendency and just the fact that you are aware, things will become better slowly, slowly. Thus, you free yourself from that heavy weight of the chitta subconscious mind of the past. You know that the thoughts from the past will come up in your mind for you to be aware and to learn from them. That’s the whole job.

Let’s say you have a traumatic experience and you’re not dealing with it. Your subconscious mind makes it so you will not be able to sleep well, and you will behave strangely towards people, and so on. So you need to be aware of these thoughts and experiences and let them go. You need to let them go, just watch them and let them go. That’s cleansing. It’s like you clean a dish and there is some dirt on the dish.

You clean it normally, and it doesn’t go, then you have to focus and you have to take a brush and you have to have friction there, and then you let it go. Yes, you would have to let go consciously. Consciously say, “Thank you, you are not serving me anymore. Bye, bye. I love you very much but I let you go. Thank you, bye, bye”. And you let the thought go. That is what you need to do to be free from future suffering.

Regarding your ego, you need to know for sure, at least consciously now, when you are thinking about it with me, that the ego is a non-entity. That means it is not real, it doesn’t have a reality to itself. The reality is, it is temporary, it is only for you to understand lessons, but it keeps changing. So it has no real reality. But if you identify with the personality, with a certain trait or character, that you think is you, that’s when your ego becomes an obstacle for you.

Yoga practices help you to detach from your ego. The ego is not fixed. Some people are more fixed than others, that depends on your personality, on your makeup. Some people are more flexible, they are changing more. That is not necessarily good, because they are not always facing the issue, they just keep changing, running, changing, running.

What you need to do is just to be more aware.  All the Vedic teachings help you to be aware of your instrument. Do not to make the mistake that you are your instrument. In the same manner, you drive a Toyota and you say, “I am Toyota. I am red and I am worth $10,000. And I’m Japanese”. You have mistaken yourself with your vehicle. You need to detach yourself from the instrument, the body and the mind.

What is a good way to develop self awareness? Through Satsanga. During Satsanga, company of wise minds, you learn to listen to higher thoughts, to higher teaching to bring new ideas and to educate your mind. Satsanga is helpful. In a spiritual Yoga community, you live in Satsanga. All the time, you are being reminded, of your tamasic mindset and your rajasic mindset and you keep yourself inspired to stay on the right path and not go back to the past.

You also need self-study and self-observance. That means take time to slow down and study and observe your mind. Read helpful books (not novels and Facebook), but really study Swami Sivananda’s 200 books, for example. Don’t be afraid to study over and over. Repeat again and again because your mind forgets. So, you need to create that positive impression in your mind to help you to think properly.

Let us pray for world peace and health.

OM TAT SAT,

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda Ashram Vedanta Yoga Farm, California and the Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center, Vietnam.  She is acharya of China, Taiwan, and Japan as well. Swamiji is the organizer and teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) program, an 800-hour program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Swami Sitaramananda is the author of “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” (translated in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Russian), “Positive Thinking Manual”, “Karma Yoga Manual”, “Meditation Manual”, “Swamiji Said, a collection of teachings by Swami Vishnu” in His Own Words. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of “Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga” (CIBY) and “Meditation & Mantras” by Swami Vishnu. Many of her video & audio lectures on Yoga life, philosophy, and psychology as well as articles and webinars can be found on this website.

Swami Sita is an ardent supporter of the integration of the Vedic sciences such as Vastu, Jyotish, Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta. She is an international teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses and Advanced Yoga teachers’ Training courses, as well as Meditation and Vedanta & Silence Courses both in Sivananda Ashrams in Vietnam and in Grass Valley, CA.

Yoga Guidelines for conscious self healing and healing of the Earth

Yoga Guidelines for conscious self healing and healing of the Earth

A satsang with swami Sitaramananda

May 3rd 2020 edited

Introduction:

The talk today is about Self Healing and Healing of the environment using Yogic principles. The word Yoga here implies classical Yoga taught holistically in a philosophical traditional background and not just modern urban commercial exercise Yoga taught in a hectic stressful environment. This is an appropriate topic in the context of our public and personal health and immunity crisis due to the outbreak of Corona virus. We just celebrated the 50th Earth day in the middle of the pandemic. We also face more and more Mother Nature protests in forms of global warming, tidal waves, droughts, forest fires and floods.

Our urban and artificial societies are more and more sick and dependent on drugs and medication, feeding on processed food with little prana and creating health problems such as obesity, cancer, cardio vascular and digestive problems, and most recently respiratory problems. Our minds are full of disturbed media scenes of sex and violence, instead of experiencing mountains, sky, water and plants around us. Our world leaders are themselves alienated from nature and our corporations motivated by short term profits, lead us away more and more from our peace and health.

Overall we are externally driven, feeling unstable and empty. Again, we revisit the the old idea of the correspondence between individual health, public health and health of the planet we live in and what can we do about it? How do we balance ourselves in a world out of balance? How to keep our faith and hope and do the right thing in this world in crisis? Together let’s explore the philosophical and practical foundation for a life in Total Harmony with Nature and let’s face our spiritual ignorance(avidya) at the root of our mistaken identity and mistaken perception of the environment we live in. 

There will be a few sections to our talk today:

  1. What is Health according to classical Yoga? What is Healing? what is Self Healing?
  2. What are the principles to follow and certain behaviors to abstain from in order to address the root causes of our physical-mental spiritual ill health? 
  3. What are the behaviors to adopt in order to improve our energy and our body-mind-spirit health?
  4.  How do we apply these principles to the environment? How do we harmonize with the world of nature and with the Cosmic Spirit behind it? Let’s get familiar with some examples of restrictions and observances we can follow when come to the environment.
  5. Vedanta philosophy applied to the environment.  Is there any difference between the inner and outer reality? The individual and the collective energy? How to reconcile material universe and spirit? How do we solve the problems of division, separation and lack of unity? How do we practice unity in diversity?

What is Health?

Swami Sivananda said that “the laws of health are the laws of nature and they should not be violated. He said that there is an intimate connection between the mind and the body. And all diseases take their origin in the mind. The pains that affect the physical body are called secondary diseases, while the vasanas that affect the mind are termed mental and primary diseases. If bad thoughts are destroyed, all bodily diseases will vanish. Treat the mind first. Mental health is more important then physical health. “

Ayurveda says that the prime cause of disease is forgetfulness of our true Nature as Spirit. This means that when we are forgetful, we identify with body and mind vehicle as ourselves and make wrong decisions about lifestyle or about our path to happiness, thus we bring upon ourselves stress and tension leading to diseases. Yoga talks about holistic healing, i.e. healing of body mind spirit.

What is Healing? What is Self Healing?

Yoga talks about the free flow of prana and changing our vibratory level. Ayurveda talks about restoring balance and health getting back to Nature. Vedanta talks about rememberance of our True Self (the Atman) as the ultimate Truth and to have an attitude of detachment towards what the body and mind can come up with as reality. Healing means ceasing to forget ourselves in our constant identification with the body and mind. 

Healing means to realize that we are Pure consciousness behind all things including our body.  

Healing means ceasing to identify with our separated-ness but to see the Oneness. Healing means to cease to identify with our vehicles, and to see

through the veils of consciousness (our body, our prana, our mind, emotions and senses, our intellect and ego). At the same time, healing means connection with Nature and not just indulgence in technology. The Healing journey is a long way. In that journey, we need self aware teachers and leaders who have found the way to peace themselves.

Self Healing means Self Realization, realization of our divine connection with nature and spirit in nature.  It implies changing of one’s own consciousness and lifestyle to come closer to the Truth.

The opposite of it is, getting lost in the habits and mental grooves of the past, getting lost in the restlessness and the desires in an unceasing pursuit of external happiness, and getting lost in the promise of more power in a more advanced technological society. The yogic guidelines for conscious self-healing help us to correct our thinking and isolated feeling, alleviate our sufferings, become clearer in our perceptions of our own self and love of others, and bring us closer to true Health, Peace and Self realization.

Self Healing success is when we are able to break through the chain of karma. In other words, success is being able to retrain ourselves not to repeat the same pattern of conditioned behavior which binds us. The reason why we are not happy comes from the fluctuations of the mind and the constant replaying of its unhealthy patterns. The mind keeps projecting thoughts and emotions that were gained through past experience and reacts to them, thus keeping us bound in the mirage of its own creation. We experience the roller coaster of our mind and emotions and miss out on the rewarding and fulfilling experience of being our own peaceful, loving, happy, present, blissful Self.

2. The foundations of Yoga: the yamas (restrictions) and niyamas (observances).

The yoga masters have given us guidelines for conscious self-development that go to the root cause of our suffering by consciously correcting the course of our actions. We train ourselves in two ways: on one side guarding ourselves not to misbehave, thus repeating our patterns leading to suffering (these are the yamas); and on the other side, actively cultivating positive attitudes and helpful conducts (these are the niyamas). Thus we straighten out our mind, squeezing the impurities out of our mind from both sides, the “not to do’s” and the “to do’s”.

The mind in its pure state is capable of reflecting our beautiful Self or Atman in all situations, in ourselves and others. By purifying the mind, we alleviate our ups and downs, our inner turmoil and conflicts, and we feel free. Otherwise we struggle to remember ourselves and spend our energies in distractions and forgetfulness. The ideal is reached when there is no more forgetfulness of Self and one relaxes in the Peaceful Being.

The Yamas and Niyamas are universal guidelines that if followed will improve our lives in the long term and help remove obstacles stemming from our karmic tendencies, character defects, and bad habits. These guidelines address the fundamental egoistic and desiring nature of ourselves. One might find a character defect more dominant than another but working with one will bring light to the others as well. No one can be exempt from working on oneself.

In the same manner, we expect everyone to follow the rules of traffic, driving on the proper side of the road and observing traffic signals. The Yamas (restrictions) and Niyamas (observances) are to be consciously practiced in thought, word and deed. However, it is important to realize that these self healing guidelines do not turn into judgment to be interpreted as rigid moral rules.  In Truth, the Self is One. The bottom line is that we are one Universal Spirit in myriad expressions.

3. What are the principles to follow and certain behaviors to abstain from in order to address the root causes of our physical-mental spiritual ill health? 

  • Yamas: Restraints (The Things Not to Do)

1/ – Ahimsa:  Ahimsa is the practice of controlling the emotion of anger. Anger comes from selfish desires or expectations unfulfilled. Selfish desire comes from our failure to recognize our fulfillment in the True Self, and our looking for happiness in external objects or situations. Ahimsa means restraining oneself from the reactive tendency to be angry when one’s desires are not met, or the tendency to abuse others and enter into conflicts or wars.

Raja yoga methods to deal with anger: The antidote of anger is contentment or letting go of expectation, accepting that, “It is not my will, but God’s will”. The practice of Non violence requires calmness, courage, self control, self restraint and the practice of serenity. Practice of ahimsa leads one to develop good quality of the heart and leads one to develop mercy, kindness, unselfishness, patience, forgiveness, pure Cosmic Love, compassion, perseverance and peace. If we practice ahimsa, we will be able to maintain durable, positive and loving relationships. To note that one can act out of dharma-righteousness in the spirit of selflessness without being violent or selfish.

Karma Yoga methods: Do service to others to develop love and equal vision instead of basing one’s life on one’s needs, desires and egoism.

Bhakti Yoga methods:  Connect with the secure and fulfilled Divine Love. Trust that the Divine has a plan for each person and surrender to the Divine Plan. Contemplate and glorify the Divine Mother, God, Nature, the Universe. Find acceptance. Practice of listening, giving, serving, humility, remove pride, cultivate devotion and practice friendship with all.

Jnana Yoga methods:  Do self enquiry. Remind of the SatchitAnanda Atman beyond desires. Discriminate and detach from situation that causes irritations. Seeing the big picture.

2/. – Satya:  Satya means truthfulness– It deals with our fear of not meeting our goals, in the eyes of ourselves or others. Fear comes from attachment. We will not be afraid if we do not have any attachment. In truth, we can not gain nor lose anything externally – either name, fame, prestige, position or love because we are already perfect in ourselves and we can not be greater or smaller then what we already are.

Applying Satya, we refrain from the tendency to exaggerate, to manipulate others, or to tell lies in order to achieve an egoistic goal. Sincerity, honesty and straightforwardness will help to simplify and clear the mind, thus achieving inner peace. Purity, Peace and Truth are synonymous terms. Truth comes in the form of righteousness, justice, harmony, ahimsa, harmlessness, forgiveness, impartiality, transparency, desirelessness, modesty, goodness, renunciation magnanimity, nobility, devotion, compassion.

The opposite of truth is deception, falsehood, dishonesty, exaggeration, twisting, egoism, lies, crookedness, manipulation, meanness, dissimulation, cowardice, fear, lack of courage.

Benefits of truthfulness: Health, fearlessness, freedom, clarity, wisdom, strong faith and absence of anxiety. Lies and fearful living create blockages t the flow of prana.

Raja Yoga methods: Calm and clarify the mind through the 8 limbs to discern the truth within that is beyond all concepts of the mind.

Bhakti Yoga methods: Be transparent and humble. Surrender to God’s will. Keep love and faith while cultivating Satsanga with truthful and virtuous people. We count on God to give us what we deserve or need and not what we desire. Making amends, atonements, confessions asking for forgiveness and humble attempts to come closer to the source of Being that is Truth.

Karma Yoga methods: Surrendering of doership and offering of the results of one’s actions, staying even in success or failures will remove fears and anxieties which can lead to lies. The motivation is being kept pure.

Jnana yoga methods: enquire into the nature of ephemeral gains. Examine the attachments and the tendencies of the mind of likes and dislikes. Contemplate and discriminate between the truth and untruth, the real and the illusory, the Self and the Not self. It is the beginning of Healing.

3/ – Brahmacharya:  

Brahmacharya is control or sublimation of the sensual and sexual drive and deals with the emotion of Desire and Lust. Through practicing brahmacharya, we can restrain the tendency to seek sensual pleasures as the goal of life, and to misuse our sexual energy–which is be converted into spiritual energy. This guideline advises us to avoid sexual misconduct and to regulate our impulses, question our motives, and help bring clarity to our human interaction. Applying Brahmacharya in our dealings with others, we will be able to transform our emotional and desirous nature into a fulfilling relationship with the Divine, based on devotion and pure love.

The sexual instinct is the strongest instinct in us, stemming from the instinct of reproduction. It involuntarily prompts a person to the sexual act for the preservation of his species. It is in reality, the creative force in man. It comes from Rajas; Sexual energy can be transmuted into spiritual energy by pure thought. The practice of Brahmacharya is the practice of Purity, to be practiced along with ahimsa, and satya. It is a dynamic conversion process, not a matter of suppression or repression. The reproductive energy is transmuted and transformed into Ojas Shakti or spiritual power.

Truth can not dwell where passion lives. The Atman is sexless.

Raja Yoga methods: By right diet, asana, pranayama, turning inwards of the senses, concentration on sublime thoughts, meditation, japa, worship, the sexual energy is converted into Ojas Shakti.

Bhakti Yoga methods: By intense devotion to one’s pure ideal, the energy of desire for union can be sublimated into pure love.

Karma Yoga methods: By dedicating oneself to the service of the ideal divine beloved, one can elevate this instinctive self-serving energy of desire into the selfless impulse to do good for a larger whole.

Jnana Yoga methods: By seeing the other as one’s own Self, one can disassociate with the idea of a desirable mate. Through the sophisticated development of pure intelligence, we can discriminate between the mental habits of accumulated instinctual lifetimes and the Atman. The practice of Purity allows us to aspire to taste the super sensual Atmic bliss. Healing of the Mind and the emotions that leads to the recovery of the True Self often starts with the calming of passion.

4/. Asteya:  non stealing, not taking what doesn’t belong to you.

It is also non-covetousness. It deals with our tendency towards jealousy and envy. Observing this guideline will counteract our tendency to give in to our desires, or think that satisfying material desires is the goal of life. It will help us to be content, knowing that what is supposed to come to us by our own karmas and merits will come naturally, without our manipulation or intervention.

Raja Yoga methods: be content with simple life, count your blessings, practice of giving instead of taking or stealing.

Bhakti Yoga methods: See someone’s happiness as your own. Keep good relationships and pure love. Surrender the ego.  

Karma Yoga methods: Accept our karmas, and do our duty, let go of results. Understand that it is better to work through one’s own karma rather than someone else’s karma.

Jnana Yoga methods: Know that all is impermanent and desires are illusory and changing. 

5.- Aparigraha:  

Aparigraha means non-accumulation or non-acceptance of bribes. It deals with our tendency towards greed. Observing this guideline counteracts our tendency to think that the more we attain or possess, the more we will be safe and secure. It further guides us not to forfeit our soul to the material life, and to cultivate an attitude of detachment towards material possessions. Leading a simple life allows the spirit to remain light, detached and self-reliant. It also helps us in our dealings with others to be strong and free as others can manipulate our weakness by bribery.

Raja Yoga methods: The opposite of greed is charity, austerity, sacrifice, simplicity and renunciation. Avoiding distractions, keeping discipline and focus will help avert the tendency towards indulgence in what one’s likes.

Bhakti Yoga methods: connect with the secure and fulfilled divine love. The sublimation method is to give in charity to spiritual or humanitarian institutions.

Karma Yoga methods: Actively helping the downtrodden, the poor, lonely and forgotten.

Jnana Yoga methods: Patanjali said that the conquest of greed leads to one’s true meaning of life and the knowledge of the purpose of birth. The purpose of birth is Self Realization, to see Spirit in Matter. Accumulation of matter and negligence of Spirit lead us away from this truth.

  • What are the behaviors to adopt in order to improve our energy and our body-mind-spirit health?

5 Niyamas: Observances (The Things to Observe or to Do)

1, – Saucha:  Saucha is purity. This observance will help us to counteract impurities in our bodies, minds, and outer environments, and help us come into deeper contact with our true selves. By purifying the emotions and thoughts, which are like coverings over our eyes, we can begin to see more clearly and gain a truer perspective.

Raja Yoga methods: The practice of the 5 points Yoga life(asana, pranayama, relaxation, diet, positive thinking, meditation) nurtures sattva and purify the mind and heart.

Bhakti Yoga Methods: Devotion and humility purify the heart and bring pure love. Devotion and love help one to overcome hatred, guilt and grief. 

Karma Yoga methods: Selflessness purifies the ego and its likes and dislikes, its attachments and aversions. By helping people with the same problems as yours, one gains perspective and regains the sense of Self Worth.

Jnana Yoga methods: We can be lost in the feelings of guilt, shame or grief. However, difficult it might be, remember the pure, the brilliant, the limitless, the stainless atman, untouched by any happenings and impurities. Try to forgive the past and feel strong in the present.  Remember that the mind is a distorted, imperfect instrument for seeing the true Self and reality. Remember the false self, the ego, that is attached to its own impurities. Remember not to forget ourselves, to turn within and to remember ourselves. This will dispel darkness and brings about light.

2/.  Santosha:  Santosha is contentment. This practice will help us counteract the tendency to look externally for happiness and become dissatisfied with our lots in life, rather than counting our blessings. Through practicing Santosha, we begin to realize that God’s grace is always with us.

Raja Yoga methods: The 5 points Yoga Life helps to calm the restless mind and turns it inwards. Concentration and meditation thin out the mind activities.

Bhakti Yoga methods: Praise the wisdom of the Supreme and know that all is taken care of. Surrender to God’s will and accept all as Prasad.

Karma Yoga methods: Serve others less fortunate then yourself, think of others who are more sick then you, this will keep the mind contented.

Jnana Yoga methods: See the whole world as your own home, and the wealth of Nature as your own wealth. Remove the I and mine and you will be contented.

3.- Tapas:  Tapas means austerity. This practice will help us to counteract the belief that comforts of the body and mind are the goals of life. It will help us avoid imprisonment in the sensual, limited life that is governed by the mind and the senses. Tapas will help us to assert our supremacy over the mind and emotions, freeing us and give the power back to the spirit. All practice of self restraint to turn the mind inwards is tapas. The world under lock down is practicing tapas. There are many forms of tapas. Bear insults, injury persecution, discomfort and fatigue are all forms of tapas.

Raja Yoga methods: all 8 limbs of Raja Yoga can be considered as training tapas. Meditation is the highest form of tapas.

Bhakti Yoga methods: Keeping the emotions controlled for the sake of Pure Love is emotional tapas. Keeping faith and loyalty instead of doubts and changing loyalty are mental tapas. Listening to scriptures, mantra chanting are tapas.

Karma Yoga: Serving all, willingly, at any time, all the time is tapas. Adapting oneself to the needs of service is tapas. Doing any kind of service whether one likes it or not is tapas.

Jnana Yoga methods: Keeping vigilance in Self Enquiry is tapas. Keeping discrimination, detachment, self remembrance are all forms of tapas.

4. – Swadhyaya and Ishwara Pranidhana: Self Study and Self Surrender: Swadhyaya is the study of scriptures. Doing this will help us to counteract the idea that only what we can see and what people tell us about ourselves is true. The scriptures, on the contrary, tell us of a reality beyond the normal perceptions and glorify the true Self; they will inspire us in our search for Truth.

– Ishwara-pranidhana:  Ishwara-pranidhana means self-surrender to God or a higher power. Self-surrender counteracts our tendency to think that we are the best and the top, that we have all the powers and that we are controlling our lives. With this egoistic bend of our mind, we do not have to adjust or accept something that is not to our liking, so we blame and resent instead of trying to see the big picture. Practicing self-surrender will help us work through our karmas by practicing acceptance and knowing that everything happens for a reason.

  • How do we apply these principles to the environment? What is the relationship between self healing and healing of the Earth? Examples of restrictions and observances when come to the environment.

The prana that we bring through Yoga practice has a healing effect upon our environment as well as ourselves. Self healing and healing of the Earth happen simultaneously. Yoga framework, the Yamas and niyamas, can become the spiritual guidelines for the ecological movement.

Yoga can contribute an integrate way of working with the forces of life to aid in the process of purification (Saucha) of the planet, as people become more still and content (santosha) , less indulgent and weak, being able to cooperate with Nature (Tapas), becoming more and more aware of the interdependence of things ( through study of sacred scriptures) and last but not least, by being able to surrender to the Supreme Being, thus not thinking that we as specie is the Master of the Universe (ishwara pranidhana).

As we elevate ourselves, and align ourselves with yogic principles, we as a collective can act responsibly and respectfully, abstaining from creating harm to the environment and others (ahimsa), we come close to the truth of Oneness of all Beings (satya), we control our desires and passions (brahmacharya) , we become content and respectful, not  taking what doesn’t come to us naturally (asteya) and most importantly we are refraining from greed (aparigraha) which is at the root of so many environmental harmful activities .

By bringing in these higher sattvic energies, and staying away from rajasic and tamasic energies, Yoga has the potential to help the world. The most remarkable things I have seen being reported during these days of global lockdown are the diminishing of city pollution (Himalayas ranges are being seen from Delhi!), the appearance of wild animals even though apparently the dancing dolphins in the canals of Venice was fake news, they were being spotted nearby in the waters but not in the canals of Venice.

Yoga movement hopefully is moving from just simply self concerned exercises to conscious improvement of our lifestyle, our way of eating, sleeping, entertaining ourselves and consumption. Yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle automatically connect all with Natural methods of self healing by elevating our consciousness how to increase our supply of prana through the elements and how to balance ourselves.

Automatically Yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle will reduce the impact upon the environment when people follow vegetarian diet and stop the cruelty to animals and exploitation of our natural environment. Yogic lifestyle value simplicity and self restraint and automatically affect the way we consume and the excesses that come from a consumer society. Hopefully, the days and months under locked down, help us to curb our desires and needs for more stuff and help us realize that we can survive on the bare minimum and be healthy and happy. We need to contemplate on the meaning of what is “essential” need and what is “non essential”.

Classical Yoga teachers and Ayurveda lifestyle counsellors can promote the distancing from artificial living, the returning back to nature and to Earth as well, the simple living and high thinking in ashrams and retreats out of town, in beautiful nature, the self sufficiency on the land, the gardening and producing of our own food from our organic garden.

     Examples of what we can do to observe Yamas and niyamas and positively influence our environment:

Ahimsa: avoid injuring the environment, adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, driving, flying and traveling less; buying local organic food or producing our own, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle, compost, buying bulk, avoiding packaging.

Satya: follow up as much as possible in thoughts, words and deeds the ecological considerations by examining daily our choices.

Brahmacharya – do not indulge in the senses and sexual abstinence.

At the base of our desires for consumption is our instinct of reproduction. The problem is we never have enough reproductive success as we are never satisfied with our reproductive success. People desire limitless wealth, status, and power because those instincts helped our ancestors survive & achieve reproductive success. We can’t depend on how we feel (by doing what comes naturally) to achieve satisfaction. Modern society innovations intensify competition for wealth, status and power causing greed, crime, grief, hatred, disappointment, depression, and environmental destruction.

Asteya- do not steal: Simply taking what we think we need, without thinking about how it arrives to us, what may be destroyed as a result, how we may be taking from others, including future generations, is stealing. Try to find healthy, green products, ethical products according to scientific ratings. Example www.goodguide.com  Each product is given health, environment and society scores 1-10

Aparigraha – do not be greedy:  Live simply, avoid accumulating things, de-clutter, recycle what you do not use, live beneath your means.

NIYAMAS (OBSERVANCES) APPLIED TO THE ENVIRONMENT:  

Saucha – cleanliness and purity,  both inner and outer. We are what we eat, so we are encouraged to only eating fresh, organic food, preferably grown ourselves or nearby. Working to clean up the oceans, the lands, and our environment, reduce production of trash, abstain from non recyclable trash.

Santosha- be contented: Avoid over consumption.Avoid falling for illusory differences between products. Accept and appreciate that which is provided by nature, eat local seasonal food; Know your local herbs; Wait for the sun to shine to clean clothes so it will be possible to line dry them; Appreciate abundance of power on sunny days and avoid activities that require power on overcast days, use a solar oven to cook food on sunny days.

Tapas – perform austerities: Austerity means curtailing the insatiable demands of the senses. Fasting. Only eating local seasonal food. Adjusting to seasonal temperature changes instead of using air conditioning. Avoid bottled water which is convenient but bad for the environment.

Swadhyaya: self study and study of scriptures: Become more and more aware of our collective wrong doings and our karmic imprints:  learn how things are produced, merchandized and consumed, trashed or recycled, and try to find alternatives.

Ishwara Pranidhana: keep being humble and realize the interconnectivity of things in nature. Surrender to God’s will for us in everything and live respectfully and in harmony with the powers of the divine mother in Nature, instead of willfully create for ourselves a discarded, isolated, egoistic, unaware, sensual, lack of devotion, artificial life. Realize higher powers of consciousness present in all things. Keep connection with it and find peace and contentment is the key to yogic ecological living.

  • Vedanta for Ecological living:

Remember unity of life. -Unity in diversity. – Remember our mental habits to repeat our tendencies (in this regard, yamas and niyamas help to rebuild our course of actions). Remember the illusory nature of our perceptions which keep us in the same cycle of reactions (story of seeing the snake instead of seeing the rope). Remember that we are Satchitananda Atman, not a victim, not a consumer, not separated and alien, but the peaceful, powerful, supported at all times by Divine consciousness, self reliant and self delight Self. 

Vedanta philosophy applied to the environment is sustainable bridging our well being with the well being of Nature and others. There is no difference between the inner and outer reality. If we elevate one, we elevate the other. If we become self conscious, we will elevate the environment and heal the Earth. If the Earth is taken care of, we will also be taken care of. Individual efforts influence the collective energy and collective awareness influences our personal effort.  

Vedanta philosophy by addressing the root cause of our individual and collective suffering and recognizing our spiritual ignorance the source of it, solve the problems of division, separation and lack of unity between groups and nations.  The root cause of our suffering is our false identification with our culture, national boundaries, political leaderships, gender and race and forget our common oneness.

Bringing out the ecological and planetary importance of Yoga and Ayurveda is the real mission we need to undertake. This will benefit all of us now – our societies in stand still under lock down, but also will benefit our future generations. At this poignant time, let’s practice the yamas and niyamas as guidelines of high thinking and high living and not as dogma and moral rules which bring divisiveness, arrogance, judgment and holier than thou attitude. 

Let’s become compassionate and forgiving. Let’s teach more Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta to the masses. And let’s bow in gratitude for favors and support received from the Divine Mother seeing each other and all beings as brothers and sisters sharing the same earth, same sky, same water. Let’s celebrate our unity in diversity!

Let’s pray to the forces of Nature… This is the classical vedic mantra:

Shanti Mantras:

Om sham no mitrah sham Varunah  ̣(may the sun be good to us)

     Sham no bhavaturyamà (may the God of the Waters be good to us)

  • … you are indeed the visible Brahman. I shall call Thee just. I shall call thee Truth. May that protect me. May That protect the teacher. Om Peace, peace, peace.
Prana, Thoughts, Emotions and Immunity

Prana, Thoughts, Emotions and Immunity

March 23 2020 satsang on line. 

Happiness, Health and knowledge requires energy. Lack of prana brings depression, stress and darkness. In this time of pandemic , it is critical to know how to increase prana, how to not loose prana and to prevent infection and diseases and how to heal.

What is Prana?

Prana is life force, vital energy that allows you to be alive and function in this world.

When prana departs from the physical body, death comes.

Prana is necessary to live and to progress in life. It is prana that you are attracted to in a person. Everything is alive at different degrees. There is more prana in a real flower compared to a plastic flower. There is more prana in live food fresh food than in canned food or old food.

It is prana that makes you feel enjoyment and feel fulfilled. Your quality of life improves through improving the quality of  prana.

What is important to know is Prana is all-pervading in Nature.

So if prana is everywhere and abundant, then why at times, do you feel dead or deprived? why some people got disease and some did not ? People says that it is age, that some age group people are more subject to disease but may be it is the condition of their immunity and the level of their prana?

May be because they do not know how to plug-in to the universal source of prana and recharge. And may be because there are blockages in the flow of prana through thoughts and lifestyles.

5 things everyone needs to learn to do with prana:

  1. Increase
  2. Conserve
  3. Balance
  4. Channel
  5. purify

1 & 2  How to increase and conserve your prana.

You need to know that it is not sufficient to increase prana but also you need to conserve and limit the expenditure or wastage of prana to be healthy happy. It is the same as with money, you can make money but you spend it all and is always with no money or with debts.

Time to look at our lifestyle now more than ever, how do we use our senses and what do we do.

Learn that You can get prana from the senses or deplete prana from the senses .

You can get prana from your actions and deplete prana from your actions.

From the knowledge of Yoga and Ayurveda , please see the table showing the correlations between the elements of nature, the sense organs and their functions and the organs of action and their functions

Smell Nose EARTH Anus Elimination Taste Tongue WATER Genitals Reproduction Sight Eyes FIRE Feet Moving Touch Skin AIR Grasping Hands Hearing Ear ETHER Tongue Speaking

Increase prana through the earth element.

Do: Live in Nature, live in natural houses, respect nature, do gardening.

Walk on earth, touch earth, hug trees, look at mountains, forests.

Make sure that you eat prana food, fresh products from earth.

Limit: Spending too much time in cities, concrete buildings, sidewalks, cars, high rises, plastic materials,  environmentally harmful products, trash.

Action to avoid: too much eating . Make sure that you eliminate well. 

Increase prana through the water element.

Do: Drink clean pure water. Our body is made of 70% water. Our body is sensitive See research of Dr. Emoto. Eat sweet fruits, honey, pure milk. Avoid dry food.

Wash with clean water; Bathe in oceans, rivers, springs.

Limit: Beverages such as sodas, coffee, alcohol

Know that you spend prana in sexual activities.

Increase prana through the fire element.

Spend time daily outdoors in the sunshine. Open doors and windows to let sunlight in.
Drink warm water.
Eat warm food.
Good digestion requires the fire of digestion being strong.

Avoid cold food, being exposed to cold.

Avoid too much looking at computer screen and get artificial energy from eyes.

Avoid too much moving (quarantine and not travel is actually very good for health)

Increase prana through the air element.

Live in clean fresh air as much as you can.

Ventilate rooms, houses.

Stay away from pollutants like traffic smoke, cigarette smoke.

Breathe deep. Do pranayama breathing exercises daily.

Avoid artificial air like in airplanes, air conditioned rooms.

Touching baby to give prana to baby. Therapeutic touching is giving prana. Careful of sensual touching to conserve prana.

Avoid grasping, hoarding, shopping, as these depletes you from prana. In the contrary, giving gives you prana. 

Increase prana through the ether element.

This is the subtlest element and the most powerful .

Yoga taught that Prana is in our subtle body and is connected to thought.

Positive thinking gives prana, negative thinking or emotions drain your prana

Chant kirtan, repeat mantras, exercise positive thinking, indulge in prayers, search company of the wise, visit of temples, places of pilgrimage (of course now in quarantine you might  not be able to visit your church, temple, places of worship)

Avoid loud music, bars, clubs, crowds, undesirable company. (Amazing, many countries start first with closing unessential places like bars and clubs.)

Avoid negative thinking, selfish thoughts, base thoughts (try not to blame and have racists thougths in this time)

Pay attention to what you say. Try to say helpful words in writing or verbally.

Repeat mantras is the best action.

IMPORTANT to remember:

Prana deficiency seeks stimulation.

Beware of the spiral downward movement when you are lacking prana. Many diseases, addictions and bad habits start with prana deficiency

Prana debt brings stress.

Stress makes you reach out for instant gratification through self-medication or compensation which lead to Pains.

Stress is the cause of many diseases.

3. Prana needs to be balanced, not just increased

The main focus in Yoga practice either in asanas practice or breathing practice is  balance. We can also exercise balance through changing our attitude and our way of functioning. The goal is to attain a state of integration, called equanimity.

To be healthy and happy, we need to learn to balance our energies individually and also collectively. The world is imbalanced and stressed.

When we are imbalanced, it is like we see reality lopsided because we have a lopsided vision. The imbalance is often times between the emotions and the intellect, that means a person would be left brain dominant or right brain dominant. Our modern western dominant societies are left brain dominant.

What to do?

First we need to recognize that our unhappiness comes from our imbalanced state or split state and not coming from anyone else. Grief and blame come from our lack of recognition that this difficulty comes from our own outlook . Classical holistic Yoga practice gives you a little bit of reprieve because it balances the two hemispheres of the brain and awakens the Self Knowledge . Yoga practice by helping you to recognize your strength and weakness, by regulating your energy , acts as a pain  preventative measure and a self renewal tonic. Start to practice balance trying to reinforce your weakness .

  • Hatha is balance between Sun energy and Moon energy.
  •  Right brain functioning /Left brain functionning
  •  Yin energy/Yang energy
  •  Female energy/ Male energy
  • passive, receptive/active controlling side of our personality
  • emotional, intuitive feeling /intellectual rational thinking
  • Cooling (left nostril) / Heating (right nostril)
  • Para sympathetic nervous system and Sympathetic nervous system
  • Relaxation response and defensive Fight and flight response to stress
  • Decrease heart rate/ increase heart rate
  •  Imbalance of prana creates personality problems and stress.

4. Prana needs to be channeled.

In the same manner with your choice to waste money or investing money in order to  give you more money , You can gain more prana by using it wisely and you can also deplete yourself from prana by being fearful to use it or by wrong investment.  Right use : Use prana for meditation and Selfless service. The more you apply your energy correctly, the more prana you will get.

Wrong use: You waste energy through selfish endeavors, sensual pursuits and laziness. Gossips, blaming, back biting are waste of energy.

  • Prana needs to be purified.

Prana moves through the subtle channels (nadis) in the subtle energetic body.

Yoga science knows the art of purification of nadis to allow higher energy to flow and induces higher wavelengths of thought and feeling.

Proper diet and lifestyle purify nadis

To get prana and be able to retain it in the system, it is important, not only to keep pure thought and a pure environment, but also make sure to take proper food. Avoid substances like drugs, intoxicants which clog the nadis and create damage to the pranic system.

Conclusion: Now is the time to Re-charge your  battery.

When you spend time in retreat, limit your outgoing senses and your worldly activities, do regular Yoga practices, you recharge your battery.  You can re-charge your prana like re-charging a battery. Excess Prana is stored in the solar plexus of the body.

What to do:

  1. Join a Yoga class daily, if you can not go out, join a class online. Practice of Yoga Asanas unblocks harmful blocked energy and moves prana.

To do so, the sequence of the asanas needs to be respected and proper concentration, and relaxation in between postures be observed. www.yogafarm.org

2. Do daily Pranayama:

Pranayama is controlling prana through breathing exercises. There are many types of pranayama or control of prana through breathing exercises. You need to join a class with a teacher. It is better not to smoke and take drugs if you intend to do pranayama.

The regular pranayamas to be done daily recommended by the Sivananda organization are: Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma.

3. Concentration gathers prana and changes wavelength

A distracted mind is weak and has low prana. Practice of concentration of mind helps gather the dispersed prana and brings health, vitality and peace of mind. A concentrated mind feels stronger and is more effective and gives satisfaction and contentment. Keep yourself busy on doing positive things.

4. Meditation is merging your personal prana and universal prana

Meditation is like a pranic tonic, it recharges powerfully the whole system. A meditator is shining with new prana.  Join a satsang or a meditation course on line to know what to do.

5. Pranic Healing. Become a healer !

Yoga heals through holistic  practice integrating Mind-Body-Spirit and

includes the 5 points of health (asanas, breathing, relaxation, vegetarianism, positive thinking and meditation). It is the most important system of preventative medicine.

Many modalities such as therapeutic massage, acupressure, acupuncture, energy medicine are working on restoring the helpful flow of energy. However, Yogis go to the cause of disease and impart prana with their consciousness, thoughts and prayers. They connect to the Supreme Healer .

You can do it too, by recognizing that the primary cause of disease, according to ancient yogic and ayurvedic  scriptures, is the forgetting of our true nature as Spirit, thus bringing blockages of energy, mistakes in lifestyle choices, indulgences in the senses and feelings of being lost .

When a person regains their sense of purpose they feel stronger and the life force flows. When a person is forgetting one’s Self and when the ego propensities become uncontrollable, the disease process happens.

By remembering the Inner Healer, you will radiate helpful prana around and bringing comfort, joy, solace and peace to all. May you become great healers in this time and send your healing energy to the whole world.

“The laws of health are the laws of Nature”  Sivananda
Health is Wealth, Peace of Mind is Happiness, Yoga shows the way “ Swami Vishnudevananda.

What is the Mind and How to Control it

What is the Mind and How to Control it

When the mind is still our internal vision becomes strong and we can experience peace.  There is a direct relationship between our state of mind and our connection with self.

In yoga we understand mind as a vehicle that we drive.  The mind should not be driving us.  Thoughts are invisible but very real as they lead to action. When the mind is distorted, it is like an ocean with waves and leads us to a distorted vision where we misidentify, feel disturbed, and uncentered.

Instead, we want to control the mind so we can be harmonious. Through the practice of yoga and self discipline we can find what we really want.

Listen in for Divine Wisdom

Yoga and the Koshas for Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health

Yoga and the Koshas for Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health

Yoga and the Koshas for Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health

by Swami Sitaramananda

Swami Sitaramananda

Swami Sitaramananda

Yoga Farm Director

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda and acharya of the US West Coast centers and Ashram.  Swamiji is also the acharya of the Sivananda mission in Asia, especially in Vietnam, where she hails from.

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Yoga Heals on the Spiritual, Mental and Physical Levels.

Here’s how – Yoga works on all three bodies: the physical body, astral body, and causal body. In this article, we will learn about three bodies and how Yoga heals them.

Each person has a physical body made of matter, an astral body containing prana and thoughts, and a causal body which contains the quality of spirit.

The three bodies are made up of the five “koshas” or sheaths. Below is a breakdown of the three bodies and their corresponding koshas:

Physical Body – The Vehicle for the Soul

Annamaya Kosha – The Food Illusion Sheath

  • Made of food
  • Composed of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
Astral Body – A Subtle Body that the Eyes Cannot See

Pranamaya Kosha – The Energy Body

  • Made of prana or vital life force
  • Physical body is able to live and act because of prana

Manomaya Kosha – The Mind

Vijnanamaya Kosha – The Intellect

Causal Body – The Core from Which Your Karma Originates

Anandamaya Kosha – The Bliss Sheath

  • A thin veil of ignorance
  • Subtle identification with separateness
  • Here you experience your true blissful nature

To help you understand, it’s good to know that the sanksrit word “maya” means illusion and “kosha” means sheath. All of the five koshas are illusory sheaths that are veiling the reality of your true nature as Satchitananda—Existence, Knowledge and Bliss Absolute.

A graphic illustrating the three bodies and the five koshas: Physical Body, Astral Body, Causal Body. Annamaya kosha, Pranamaya kosha, Manomaya kosha, Vijnanamaya kosha, and Anandamaya Kosha.

How to Purify the Three Bodies

Yoga is purification. That is why in Sivananda Yoga we focus primarily on the purification process. The purification process means you have to clean out the gross veils, all these aforementioned maya sheaths (the koshas), in order for you to see through to the Self.

The good news is that there are many different ways to purify. Below are the ways you can purify each kosha. Then you can experience health and peace of mind.

How to Purify the Physical Body

Firstly, you purify the gross physical body and identification with it. This can be accomplished through asanas (yoga postures) and the practice of proper vegetarian diet. If you eat a proper diet then your body will function properly and will not be a hindrance.

Proper Exercise – Asana
  • Removes blockages and toxins in the body
  • Increases strength and flexibility
  • Tones organs, tissues and muscles
  • Reduces stress
  • + many more health benefits
Proper Diet – Vegetarian
  • A proper diet is Sattvic or pure
  • Avoid foods that dull or overstimulate the mind
  • Food prepared with digestive spices
  • Food that is not overcooked or undercooked
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol
  • Organic, whole, unprocessed foods
  • A vegegtarian diet follows the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence)
  • Heals and prevents disease and toxic buildup in the physical body
  • Provides full range of nutrition for optimal function

How to Purify the Astral Body

Secondly, the pranamaya kosha is purified through pranayama, or control of prana. Pranayama involves breathing exercises that help remove blockages and regulate the flow of prana in the pranamaya kosha.

Pranayama – Proper Breathing

Complete Yogic Breath

  • Control of Breath = Control of Prana
  • Use the full lung capacity
  • Inhale and exhale into the diaphragm, ribcage and chest
  • Reduces stress; activates parasympathetic nervous system

Kapalabhati

  • Forceful exhalation, passive inhalation
  • Removes stail air from the lungs
  • Clears blockages in the Nadis or energy system
  • Increases mental clarity, concentration and focus

Anuloma Viloma

  • Alternate Nostril Breathing
  • Balances prana, mind and emotions
  • Increases pranic energy and overall vitality
  • Leads to mental and emotional health

Thirdly, you can purify the Manomaya kosha through meditation, positive thinking, proper behavior, karma yoga (selfless service), bhakti yoga (devotion), yamas and niyamas (yogic ethics). The Manomaya kosha is the mind, emotions and the senses, and in it you also have the subconscious.

Dhyana – Meditation
  • Connects us with a Reality beyond thoughts and emotions
  • Brings inner strength and peace of mind
  • Provides clarity of purpose in life
  • Increases concentration
Positive Thinking
  • Being aware of negative thoughts
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
  • Practice positive affirmations
  • Over time eradicate negative and wrong thinking
Yamas and Niyamas
  • Ethical foundation of Yoga
  • Yamas include: Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity, and non-greed
  • Niyamas include: purity, contentment, austerity, scripture study, and surrender of the ego
  • Purifies the mind and the heart, removes selfishness

A plate of delicious, organic, vegetarian food at the Sivananda Yoga Farm.
Bhakti Yoga
  • Sublimates the emotions to devotion
  • Opens the heart
  • Surrender to God
Karma Yoga
  • “Do your best, surrender the rest”
  • Let go of attachments to results of action
  • Purifies the heart and the ego
  • Overcome likes and dislikes
  • Gain a flexible mind

    Fourthly, in order to purify the Vijnanamaya kosha, you have to purify the intellect and ego. In order to purify the ego you need get the selfishness out of the way through selfless service or Karma YogaMorever, you can purify the intellect through self inquiry, jnana yoga techniques, and meditation.

    Jnana Yoga
    • The Study of Vedanta (Yoga Philosophy)
    • Highest level of knowledge
    • Knowledge passed down by Rishis or enlightened sages
    • Teaches unity of life
    • Proclaims the common Self in All
    • The limited ego or “little s” self makes you feel separate
    • Your true nature, or “Big S” Self is one with everything
    Self Inquiry
    • Self inquiry is a Jnana Yoga technique
    • Always inquire: “Who am I?”
    • Assert the you are Brahman, the imperishable supreme soul
    • Brahman is one with everything
    • Brahman is Sat (existence) Chit (knowledge) Ananada (bliss) absolute
    • Happiness is your true nature

    In order to practice Jnana Yoga and self inquiry, you must always ask “Who Am I?”. In addition you negate any attachment to the limited, illusory world or false sense of self. Meditation will show you that the intellect is also limited.

    Eventually with practice you will know the intellect is limited because you have the experience of the absolute, infinite, primordial Self. This experience is known as Samadhi. 

    Finally, through Samadhi you transcend the Anandamaya kosha. Meditation already leads you to anandamaya kosha, but your view of the Self is still being obstructed by a thin veil of spiritual ignorance.

    The thin veil of spiritual ignorance is burned when you experience Samadhi, or complete absorption of the mind. Only at that time do you know that the reality is more than the anandamaya kosha, and you go beyond that kosha and merge with the Supreme.

    Conclusively, the four paths of yoga lead to the unveiling of the five koshas and heal on a spiritual, mental and physical level. The four paths of Yoga are karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga (which includes Hatha Yoga) and jnana yoga.

    In other words, practicing the five points and the four paths of yoga will lead the three bodies to be healed. When you remove spiritual ignorance,  you come closer your True Nature. That is to say you experience spiritual, mental and physical health.

    Self-Realization

    The classical Yoga teaching is always about Self-realization, with nothing else but that realization as the end goal. However, spiritual ignorance makes us believe ourselves to be something other than Self, which is when we are identifying with the vrittis (thought waves).

    Alternately, we identify with our thinking in the mind and then the thinking becomes solidified and it manifests as karma. After that, the soul is born in the physical body in order to work through solidified karmic tendencies that come from the spiritual ignorance in the first place.  

    For the healing aspect of yoga, we have to go into the deep root cause of the wrong thinking in the first place. Because of this, Yoga primarily focuses on spiritual progress. In order for spiritual progress to take place, there must be removal of the impurities in all three bodies. 

    © Swami Sitaramananda 2018 – No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.

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