fbpx
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.

View Profile >

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.

    Yoga Teacher Training Course

    Check out our 200-hour Yoga Alliance certified Yoga Teacher Training Courses offered twice a year in California, 3x in Vietnam, once in China and once in Japan.

    Foundational Courses

    Choose from upcoming courses for beginners and intermediate level students.

    Yoga Vacation

    Rejuvinate your body and mind. Experience and progress with daily Yoga classes. Learn the 12 basic asanas and pranayama. Enjoy daily meditation, chanting, and organic vegetarian meals.

    Rejuvenate Your Being

    A Yoga vacation is an ideal getaway to change perspective towards one’s life and become healthier, more relaxed and connected.

    Yoga and Permaculture Ethics

    Yoga and Permaculture Ethics

    Yoga and Permaculture Ethics

    Colin Eldridge (Krishna Das)

    Colin Eldridge (Krishna Das)

    Yoga Farm Staff

    Krishna Das teaches and helps coordinate Yoga and Permaculture programs at the Sivananda Yoga Farm.  

     View Profile >

    “Yoga is permaculture and permaculture is yoga life.”

    – Swami Sitaramananda

    There is a strong ethical congruence between Yoga and permaculture. Both disciplines are sciences that bolster the philosophy of non-violence, non-greed and right livelihood.

    Living in positive relationship with everything and everyone around us is the foundation of yoga life and permaculture practice. In this article, we will examine the links between the ethics of both permaculture and yoga. 

    Circle of Earth Care, Circle of People Care, Circle of Fair Share Conneecting together in union

    The ethics of permaculture are earth care, people care and fair share (or set limits and redistribute the surplus).

    Earth Care

    Earth care means tending to Mother Earth’s ecosystems and supporting the balance of all life. In other words, Earth Care is about living in symbiosis with natural systems, with the understanding that our survival depends on the health of the whole.

    In order to support this ethic, humans must stop polluting and destroying the planet. Furthermore, this ethic points out that we have a responsibility to heal the damage that has already been done using ecological restoration and regenerative design.

    People Care

    From a permaculture perspective, the way we treat the earth is inextricably linked to how we treat fellow humans. From this understanding, we learn that people care is about dismantling oppressive power structures and building resilient communities.

    Fair Share 

    Fair share is also called “future care”. It is often explained as setting limits to consumption and redistributing the surplus. It implies not only sharing with those who need it when resources are abundant, but also applying self regulation now so that future generations can prosper.

    Two people are digging in the earth with their hands to harvest salad greens in the permaculture garden at the Yoga Farm.
    Nurturing the Earth and each other is key to a permaculture lifestyle. 

    The Ethical Foundation of Yoga

    The ethics of Yoga are called the “Yamas and Niyamas,” or restraints and observances. For some, the first step on the spiritual path is disciplining oneself to follow the ethics, which ultimately comes from a place of incredible compassion for all beings.

    Yamas (Restraints) 

    1. Ahimsa: Non-Violence

    Ahimsa teaches that all life is sacred. All beings share the same life force, so it is important to cherish and protect all life. This applies socially (people care) and ecologically (earth care). When you hurt or destroy life, you are destroying an opportunity for survival and joy.

    Oppression is violence. Hurtful words are violence. Social control is violence. Ahimsa asserts that when you oppress another, you traumatize not only that person, but you hurt every other being in the universe and you hurt yourself as well.

    “Although initially we can see how helping our family and friends assists us in our own survival, we may evolve the mature ethic that sees all humankind as family, and all life as allied associations. Thus, we expand people care to species care, for all life has common origins. All are ‘our family’.”

    – Bill Mollison, Permaculture: a designer’s manual

    2. Satya: Truthfulness

    Truthfulness means not only abstaining from telling lies, but also aligning words and conduct with the highest Truth, which is that we are all one. It means only speaking words that lead or point to that one Truth. Following people care means making sure that there is mutual understanding rather than falsehood and lies.

    Truthfulness applies to business interactions, in communities, and with ourselves. Truthfulness means never trying to confuse or convolute a situation, or hide the truth by covering things up. As long as your words are used to uphold justice and peace, you are following truthfulness.

     

    3. Asteya: Non-stealing

    Non-stealing as it relates to permaculture means leaving enough for all other organisms in nature, not taking land, resources or culture from other people without asking, and never taking more than you need in any situation. 

    When you eat more than you need to survive, it is basically like stealing from a starving person. We live in a society of over-abundance of food, consumer products, and non-renewable resources. Yet there is still too much waste and people who lack resources. The earth is bountiful – the problem is uneven distribution, not scarcity. 

    Bowls of kale, leafy greens, cucumber and lemons

    When we take only what than we need, there is enough bounty for everyone.

    4. Brahmacharya: Chastity, sublimation of sexual energy

    Brahmacharya is a vital practice for the ethic of people care. It is about redirecting our vital energy towards selfless service and spiritual practice rather than constantly chasing worldly pleasures.

    Interestingly, Brahmacharya means much than just celibacy. It is a moral code of conduct that teaches to never objectify or take advantage of others. Following brahmacharya means treating everyone as members of one divine family.

    5. Aparigraha: Non-greed

    Greed is one of the main causes of harmful economic development and ecocide, so obviously non-greed is congruent with earth care. Aparigraha can also be translated as non-acceptance of gifts of bribes

    This doesn’t mean that we should never accept gifts form others, but to not accept gifts with ulterior motives. This ethic relates to fair share in that we learn when giving to others, not to expect something in return but to just give in the spirit of giving. 

    Children holding plants in the permaculture garden at the Sivananda Yoga Farm.

    When we share our abundant gifts, it brings more joy into our own and others’ lives.

    Niyamas (Observances)

    1. Saucha: Purity (Internal and External)

    Saucha can also be translated as purity or cleanliness. External purity is keeping the body and the environment clean, which helps to prevent disease and keep the mind stay clear and positive. The implications are simple: don’t waste and don’t pollute.

    Internal purity means working towards purifying the heart and mind by removing anger, greed, hatred and jealousy. All of your actions will be for the betterment of the world when internal purity is attained. 

    This ethic is inspiration to design a life that produces no waste, both internally and externally . In these ways, purity relates to the permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair share.

    2. Santosha: Contentment

    Santosha teaches to be content with what we have. When we learn to desire less, we will suffer less. As a result, we will hurt others and the planet less, thus following earth care and people care.

    2 Female yogis smiling and enjoying lunch at the ashram.  Bowls of rice, soup, vegetables, spingrolls fill the picnic table.

    We never know what life will bring us. Practicing contentment helps us cope with whatever comes our way – good or bad.

    3. Tapas – Austerity

    All practices of Yoga are Tapas. In Tapas the mind and body are trained to do things they might not initially like. Eventually the practitioner overcomes likes and dislikes and enjoys everything. Austerity also implies discipline and purposely living with less than you may be used to.

    Application of this ethic supports people care in that it leads a person to have fortitude, cheerfulness, and simplicity. Fair share is more easily applied when people follow austerity because when we all live with a little less there is more to go around. When we consume and use less, the earth is damaged less.

    4. Swadhyaya – Study of Scripture / Self-study

    Svadhyaya encourages us to actively work on seeing our true nature as spirit through self inquiry and study of scripture. When we feel spiritually connected it will bring inner peace, which will allow our actions to bring more harmony to the world.

    Study of spiritual scripture and introspection bestows the nectar of eternal knowledge and wisdom. It supports one on the path towards liberation. It will inspire the aspirant to keep treading on the spiritual path.

    This adds a spiritual dimension to the permaculture ethics, helping us to connect with the Truth and the rich teachings of Yoga.  Additionally, it adds meaning to our life, which keeps us going happily as we apply permaculture to the world.

    Woman sitting on a bench reading the "Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga"

    Taking time to learn from scripture and look within helps us feel more connected and inspired.

    5. Ishwara Pranidhana – Surrender of the Ego

    Surrendering the ego means to let go of the selfish and separate nature and contemplate on pure consciousness. One experiences pure consciousness when all phenomena are observed as a silent witness, without attachment, and one rests in a state of pure bliss.

    When Ishvara Pranidhana is practiced perfectly, one sees themself as part of everything else. The universe is an organism and your body is just one cell of it. Instead of trying to control things or do everything for your own gain, you devote yourself to humbly serving the bigger picture.

    Humans commit atrocities only when they forget their spiritual connection to oneness; only when they identify with the limited Ego. How can you hurt anything or anyone if you know that they are your own Self?

    “Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of existing life systems and of future survival.”

    – Bill Mollison, Permaculture: a designer’s manual

    Theory into Practice

    “A ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory” – Swami Sivananda

    While all of these ethics are nice ideas to think about, they only do good if they are applied vigorously in daily life. And to put it frankly, nobody said it would be easy. Applying the ethics takes a lot of dedication, hard work and perseverance.

    The ethics require us to be stewards of our actions in every moment. In this day and age of unprecedented ecological destruction and social chaos, applying the ethics is vital for not our survival but also for our happiness in life. 

    We can radically transform the world by transforming our inner landscape through the Yamas and Niyamas. Similarly, the permaculture principles will help us change the world by guiding our interactions and relationships to be more mutually beneficial. 

    Yoga and Permaculture offer the tools, knowledge and wisdom to transform the world to embody our highest ethics. Through the regular and sustained practice of yoga and permaculture, together, we can manifest a truly peaceful paradise.

    “A person of courage today is a person of peace.”

    – Bill Mollison, Permaculture: a designer’s manual

    What is Yoga Meditation?

    What is Yoga Meditation?

    What is Yoga Meditation?

    by Swami Sitaramananda

    I’m so surprised to know that more and more people are understanding that yoga is meditation and meditation is yoga. Now people become more educated, and know that yoga is not just only exercise. With this kind of exercise, or yoga exercise and yoga asanas, are actually leading you to meditation, because it is accompanied by breathing.

    Conscious breathing and also conscious relaxation. So conscious breathing, conscious concentration, conscious relaxation, and a steady pose will bring you to the state of meditation.

    What yoga meditation is and what it is not

    • Meditation is a process, resulting from a successful turning inwards of the mind and a conviction that there is a truth higher and more satisfying than what the mind and our intelligence can come up with. Usually people have to come to a dead-end in their search for happiness and solutions in the mental and sensual realm to start meditation seriously.
    • Meditation is not separated from life. It can not be expected to work right away. It is a culmination of a purified and sattvic life. Best is to let go of all expectations and to keep oneself open and steady in the meditation practice.
    • Attempts to withdraw the senses and to calm down the mind often lead to meditation. These are the 4th and 5th steps on the ladder of Raja Yoga. Meditation is the 7th If you can not meditate yet, attempt to stay quiet, withdraw the senses and concentrate the mind. This is already very helpful.
    • Asanas and pranayama practice are the 3rd and 4th steps towards meditation. Stabilized meditative postures and regulation of the breath help tremendously in calming the mind down.
    • Meditation requires lots of prana and mental concentration. Regulating of lifestyle is helpful to conserve prana for the inner search and realization.  This article goes in detail about How to Use our Prana Energy.
    • A sick person with low prana has more difficulty to gather the rays of the mind and have enough prana to meditate. Resting in prayers at that time is helpful.
    • A habitual practice of japa, repetition of mantras, keeps the mind fit for meditation. Mantras give prana to the mind and bring one directly in connection to pure transcendental energy .
    • Success in meditation is seen in mental strength and calmness in daily life, not in experiencing fantastic psychic phenomena.
    • Important realization: Depending on the guna and the person, meditation can lead the person to devotion to the Supreme, in whatever form or name, also the faith or conviction that there is a Truth or Light beyond one’s darkness or confusion. Help the meditator to Connect wholeheartedly with the secure and fulfilled divine love. Bhakti Yoga is helpful to channel emotional energy and bring acceptance, humility and an attitude of self surrender necessary to balance out the mental concentration and will of a meditator. Meditation cannot be just a technique, separated from love and devotion.
    • Also Meditation is not ungrounded imagination, seeing things, flying up in the air, astral travelling, going through walls, reading people ‘s thoughts. The only goal of meditation is to achieve mental peace and balance.
    • Meditation is not opening oneself to all subtle influences.
    • Meditation is not building castles in the air, meditation is not drifting in a dream state.
    • Meditation is not expectation of any kind.
    • Meditation is not “spacing out” and abandoning one’s responsibilities.  This article goes into detail about Yogic Guidelines for Good Conduct.
    • Meditation is not escaping into an inner world, disconnecting with others and isolating oneself. This is very important point, as people resort to meditation to escape from pain in the duality world of imperfections without actually doing anything to bring back balance and purity to the mind. Therefore meditation needs to come with service to others, forgiving others and oneself and opening one’s heart to love and compassion. Meditation comes easier with karma yoga.
    • Meditation is not relinquishing one’s intelligence. It is consciously using intelligence to know the difference between illusions and reality and eventually going beyond the limited intelligence to tap into the intuitive source of knowledge.
    • Meditation can not come with fears or desires. Courage and faith are needed to face and experience the unknown and tread new territories of the mind.  This article talks about Transforming Fear into Courage and Faith.
    • The mind needs to be healthy and strong to meditate. A disturbed, neurotic and fearful mind should not meditate. It is better to resort to asanas and pranayama and to therapeutic counselling to overcome the negative tendencies of the mind, before attempting serious meditation. Regularly sitting quietly, trying to calm the mind down, is already helpful.
    • Self-enquiry and self-awareness, the regular habit of observing one’s thoughts are stepping stones in the process of meditation.
    • One can not meditate if one is not attempting to separate oneself from the mind. Knowing that the mind is not the Self, and detaching from the mind’s activities is already a big step in meditation. Small daily conquests to control the lower mind and exercise the higher mind are already big steps.
    • Self-awareness is a stepping stone to meditation, which is the step of merging with the background, the consciousness within. Self-awareness starts with the purification of thoughts (learning to think correctly or nourishing sattvic thoughts and sattvic diet) and diminishing of mental activity (which means increasing the concentration on the divine).  This article talks about what is Self-Awareness and Intuition.
    • The Self is always there, it is the mental turbulences that prevent us from seeing the Self.
    Swami Vishnu sitting meditating
    Swami Sita practicing yoga meditation

    Meditation techniques protocol

    • Meditation techniques are simple. Instructions need to be clear and simple. Not too many words or leading people into an imagination journey.
    • Daily 10-15 minutes meditation is a good start. Increase to half hour daily, twice a day.
    • Place: clean, quiet, airy.
    • Time: early 4-6am or 6-8pm or first thing when wake up.
    • Posture: cross legged, comfortable with back and neck straight. Use props or pillows to elevate buttocks to help keep the spine straight. People unable to sit cross legged on the floor can sit on a chair either with both feet firmly on the ground, or crossing the feet. Hands are on the knees, thumb and index fingers touching in “chin mudra”, palms turning upwards or on the knees downwards, arms slightly bent or straight. Better not to lean on back of chair or against a wall. Sit independently. Eyes closed. Command the body to be still and relax, turning inwards for a specific length of time.
    • Breath : 3 kinds. First, three long inhalations to bring more oxygen to the brain and three long exhalations to completely relax and let go of the day. If more stress, then exhalation longer than inhalation. Next is regulating the breath to the count of 3 – om 1 – om 2 – om 3. Inhalation and exhalation are same length. This will help the regulation of prana and of thought. Then as you sit still, the breath automatically will slow down even further to an imperceptible rhythm, where the breath hardly comes out of the nostrils and one feels very comfortable. This is when the mind leaves the physical external reality to settle in the inner state of meditation
    • Point of focus: Either the point between eyebrows or point at middle of chest. These are subtle high energy centers. To find one’s point of focus, one needs to follow one’s habits. Either point leads to same place. Because the focus of the prana will lead the prana into entering into the sushumna, and the moving upwards of energy through different levels of consciousness and realization. It is not remaining in the dual state of being emotional or being intellectual. We do not focus at lower chakras.
    • Object of focus: The mantra om is the universal sound of unity and of creation. It can be used by all. If the student wants to use a personal mantra, the teacher needs to guide him/her to find the ishta devata, then the mantra will correspond to the ishta. It is a rigorous practice of concentration on mantra exclusively to bring about one-pointedness of mind. The devotion helps the concentration. The mental repetition of a mantra needs to be coordinated with the breath. The mantra should be part of the breath. Mental repetition is stronger than verbal repetition.
    • The practice: if the mind wanders, step back (or detach) from the thought and gently bring it back to focus, i.e. to the breath and the mantra. If confused between breath and mantra, focus on the mantra. After sometime, the mind will become still and the mind enters deeply within. One feels lighter and more expanded. At any point in time, do not force the process, rather surrender to the process.
    • Eventually thoughts become pure, seem to be devoid of meaning, however it just means that the mind is thinning out and the ego has lost its grasp over the mind. Keep the process going without expectation.
    • Come out of meditation after the fixed period of time. Do not try to go beyond limits as the mind will revolt and will kick back. Better to leave some interest in the mind and start over again with zeal and enthusiasm the next session. Continue to purify the mind in daily life. The more the mind is pure, the more the process of meditation is easier and faster.
    • The words used to describe the meditation are: the meditator, the object of meditation and the process of meditation become one. The thinker, the thought and the process of thinking become one. The lover, the beloved and the love become one.
    • The meditator guiding meditation to a group needs to have the meditative integrated experience him or herself. The voice tone needs to be warm, neutral, the instructions are clear, facilitating focus and calmness, inducing the internalized journey. In the voice, the prana is transmitted. Less words and precise words are better.
    group of 3 practice yoga meditation

    Benefits of yoga meditation

    It is important to remind the beginners/meditators of the benefits of meditation so they can keep the practice going. It is better to be conservative to start slowly, regularity of practice is more important. Increase the length of meditation proportionately to the purification and calmness of the mind. Watch the diet and the activities/ lifestyle. Increasing Sattwa is the key.

    • Meditation helps to bring one to the here and now.
    • Meditation helps to alleviate the subconscious from its loads of impressions of the past, samskaras, addictions and habits.
    • Meditation will bring self-awareness, develop the consciousness and discriminative intelligence .
    • Meditation will develop intuitive faculties, the inner knowing and sensing of what is right and wrong.
    • Meditation brings clarity to the mind.
    • Meditation calms the emotions and opens the heart to forgiveness and love. Meditation heals relationships. Meditation is connecting wholeheartedly with the secure and fulfilled divine love.
    • Meditation brings one in touch with the true, perfect and secure Self, the consciousness within and thus releases stress, anxieties and recharges one’s self with new faith and love.
    • Meditation lowers heart rates, improves the immune system, heals the body and mind.
    • Meditation rejuvenates

    Questions on Yoga meditation

    1. Describe the techniques of meditation.
    2. What should be prescribed if a person can not meditate or sit still?
    3. How can you distinguish between escaping from reality, and clearing out the mind from past samskaras and realizing the Self? What can you do to improve the process and achieve balance?
    4. What are three things achieved during meditation?
    5. Why is courage an important virtue in meditation?

    Learn to Focus with Yoga Psychology

    Learn to Focus with Yoga Psychology

    Learn to Focus with Yoga Psychology

    by Swami Sitaramananda

    8
    SEPTEMBER, 2018
    Yoga psychology analyzes different mental states to find ways to overcome the distracted mind and learn to focus.  If we can do this it will lead to peace, bliss, and true freedom.
    Yoga psychology understands that the mind is only our instrument of perception and it is not ultimately our-self. Therefore, improving the quality of the instrument of perception will improve our outlook on ourselves and the world around us.  Therefore, this will ultimately lead to a clearer vision, where we learn to focus, have a connection to our purpose, and experience true freedom.

    Meditation at Siva Hill Temple.

    Gathering the Toughts

    Learning to focus is the mental process of gathering of the thought waves and letting go of distractions. The waves of the mind-lake and the distractions are still there but there is an attempt to remain focused and not to completely lose oneself. As a matter of fact, Yoga Psychology states that if we can remain in that focused state of mind, we will get to a one-pointed, super-concentrated state.  Moreover, this super-concentrated state will not come if we do not commit ourselves to choose the real Self as opposed to the distractions or illusions.

    Yoga Psychology states that if we can remain in that focused state of mind, we will get to a one-pointed, super-concentrated state.
    In that super focused state of mind, we can eventually transcend totally the waves of the mind – the illusory projections, desires and reactions- and move from that one conscious thought of “I” to a state of being, merged with the background of thought, which is this ocean of uninterrupted, unconditioned bliss. Of course, this is a sentence charged of meaning and we would need to understand this very clearly.
    Above left: Swami Vishnudevananda

    Above right: Swami Vasishtananda

    Yoga Psychology

    You cannot go from the scattering distracted state of mind to the absolute stillness – absorbed state. In fact, from the jumping state you can’t go directly to the suspension of thought, perfect contentment or to the state of one-pointed focus on purpose and of Self. Actually, you must first go through the gathering state where we have to calm down and gather the thoughts. Why can’t people do this? Right there you have a hurdle. You know the mind is jumping, so why can’t you just come to a one-pointed state? Why is it so difficult?

    In Yoga psychology we say it is because of the illusion of something external from you. This illusion of the external is a projection, which is due to a lack of understanding and conviction. The proof of this is that we are not happy. We get what we want but then we go after another thing, acquire it, and then again go after something else, and still we are not happy. Moreover, we think this is the normal kind of thing, a normal state, just “life”.

    Stick to the Practice

    We think we will miss out on life if we become focused or if we become committed to something. In fact, this is what our society lacks, a sense of commitment. This so-called freedom that we grew up with that says, “If I don’t like something I can dump it and move on to something else.” Never committing to anything is the general mindset. Actually, when you don’t commit to things it makes the mind jumpy and because the mind is so conditioned, it does not know how to focus, and thus we are lost in our own self created illusions.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, by understanding our different mind states, consciously letting go and taking time to learn to focus and refocus, commit and recommit, we can get to what we truly want. Paradoxically, we would have to surrender our sense of freedom to do what we like and keep our mind one pointed, in order to be free.

    Upcoming Meditation Certification Courses for Intermediate level students >>

    Upcoming Yoga Meditation for Well-being courses for Beginner level students >>

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

    Subscribe to the Yoga Farm Newsletter for regular updates, articles, and upcoming events.

    Transforming Fear into Faith and Courage

    Transforming Fear into Faith and Courage

    Transforming Fear into Faith and Courage

    by Swami Sitaramananda
    3
    AUGUST, 2018
    In Yoga philosophy, the teachers or wise people (the rishis) discuss about the relationship between the individual Self and the Absolute Reality.  They help us to understand the mysteries of life which gives us knowledge to understand our own minds and practice emotional intelligence in daily life.
    In fact these teachers declare, out of their own experience and knowledge, that there is a state of perfect existence which is beyond changes, birth, and death. This unchanging state of consciousness is also called Truth (Sat). This state of being is fully aware, all-knowing beyond darkness and limitation. This state of all-knowing-at-all-time is termed Chits. Last but not least, they said when we can attain this state of bliss absolute (ananda), we go beyond any suffering and can live a life of perfect emotional intelligence.

    Modern Stress can be overwhelming.

    Sat Chit Ananda

    This absolute positivity can be achieved by an individual, however, the moment that you achieve it, you no longer remain in an individual existence. At that time, all idea of separation and division would disappear, as the individual consciousness merges with the Supreme Consciousness.

    How we would achieve this sublime state of consciousness without having any concept of it?

    In truth, this absolute consciousness is all pervading and yet is beyond the mind’s concepts. Technically, the mind and intellect are limited and can not perceive something beyond itself, let alone have a relationship with it. This is the reason why, the sages talked about devoting oneself to the highest ideal or form of the divine that the mind can conceive.

    In truth, this absolute consciousness is all pervading and yet is beyond the mind’s concepts.
    This devotion needs to be personal, because we need to experience it in the core of our heart. We need to feel and experience truly the love of that Truth that is unfailing, all existing, all pervading, all knowing. This highest ideal needs to be understood and felt in the core of our being so that we can become it. This is the ultimate emotional intelligence.

    Stress can come on at any time.

     

    Our Highest Ideal

    It is easier for us to love someone and become like he or she.  In fact, being a human being, we need to see the perfection alive in a human being.

    This idea or ideal needs to become embodied for us to relate to and to emulate. The nature of our emotional mind is that it is easier for us to love someone and become like he or she, by the power of love and absorption.

    In fact, we become what we think a lot about. We like to idealize and to be attached to someone we think is morally superior to us. We are ready to follow advice from them.

    Therefore, there is the idea of a personal concept of God, Ishwara, for us to be dedicated to. Different minds need different types of teacher. Therefore, we are encouraged to seek for our own chosen ideal (ishta devata).

    Truth is One

    We do not need to compare ourselves with others who have different paths then ourselves. “Names and forms are many, Truth is one”. “ Paths are many, God is one”.

    Ultimately, not only we have an abstract idea of the Ideal and the Truth, but we have also the live example in human form of this ideal person we can become.  This is the ultimate power of positive thinking.

    Long term negative emotions can go back to before birth and display as certain personality traits.

    Faith is positive thinking

    Faith in the Supreme Intelligence comes from an inner feeling that there is something greater than you, a supreme being that indwells one’s essential spirit. When one is enriched with abiding faith one is able to recognize the divine grace operating in all things.  In summary, we are on a journey of self-discovery to uncover the truth of who we are, a journey guided by faith.

    We can think of faith as the power of positive thinking that carries us from one experience of grace to the next.  Fear exists when we don’t know the Self (the Atman).  We must rely on faith to progress on the spiritual path until we have knowledge of the Self from our own direct experience.

    The more we progress and the greater our connection with the truth within, the Atman, the more faith we will have.  Over time we will need less faith as faith is gradually replaced by knowledge of the Self.  Ultimately faith is replaced by direct experience of the Self. It is then we can say, “I know.”

    Above – Learn to relax by spending time in nature and practicing yoga.

    True Knowledge

    Where is knowledge coming from?  In my earlier days, I experience that knowledge can be glimpsed intuitively. At that time,  I observed that people around me were unhappy and miserable.  Even when I was able to help improve their circumstances, they didn’t seem to be any happier.  But somehow, I had the thought that there must be a place that wasn’t like this where people practiced the power of positive thinking.

    I went searching, thinking at first this place must be outside of the city, so I moved to the country.  I found it was not in the country either, and guessed it must be in the ashram. It soon became apparent it wasn’t even in the ashram.

    Where is this Satchidananda, or knowledge?  Of course, knowledge or truth reside inside of us, but it is a long hard journey to turn within to find it, as we are always looking outside of ourselves.  This journey of turning within to find the Highest Ideal within and without must be sustained by considerable faith.

    As a matter of fact, we lack experience in the beginning of our journey. However, although we do not really have a clue where we are going, faith keeps us going.  This is why we need a teacher to help show us the way to face our fears and to understand the power of positive thinking.

    Consciously tensing and releasing our muscles in savasana from the toes, reaching up to the eyes, ears and head, helps to bring our body and mind to their natural efficiency.

    Fear is Unreal

    Fear is a very strong primitive emotion, present in all animals.  Fear serves a very basic purpose: to help us to survive.  If we were Self-realized we would know there is no danger to our survival, since we are not the individual body that we think we are. In fact, fear arises out of an external view of reality.  Fear is caused in us by things that appear unfamiliar or situations beyond our immediate understanding. Fear creates imaginations of darkness, of falling and distorts the mind.

    Therefore, Fear is based in unreality, in Maya.  It comes from our attachment, our grasping on to illusory things and beliefs. We need to think a little about the effect of fear. Being fearful or anxious means we are attached. Being attached means we are stuck, bogged down, we lost our freedom; If we are afraid, we are incapable of letting go of the things that are no longer relevant or helpful to our growth.

    We become paralyzed and lose our faculties when we are fearful.  We freeze, unable to do anything to solve our problem.  There was a time years ago, I stumbled on a horror movie on TV.  I was so scared!  And yet, I could not do anything, not even capable to move three feet to turn off the TV. I was paralyzed with fear. This is a small example but illustrates the point; even the simplest situations that arise can stop us in our tracks because of our illusory fearful thoughts.

    Practicing Meditation and Positive Emotions we can heal ourself.

    Anxiety blocks the way to knowledge

    Anxiety is even worse than fear, because unlike fear we cannot identify its source.  Anxiety is fear that has no name. With anxiety, there is no creativity, no productivity, we are depressed and our minds lose the capacity to think clearly.

    Now, consider the analogy in which the sun is the Atman and anxiety is a storm of clouds covering the sun. There are days when clouds fill the sky and we can’t see the sun. Yet we know it’s there behind the layer of clouds.

    From time to time as the clouds pass overhead we may catch a glimpse of the sun’s brightness or feel its warmth for a moment. In the same way, the Atman is always shining within us, untouched by the clouds of fear and anxiety that we experience.

    Conclusion

    In summary, loose life and indulgent life is not relaxation, but a conscious, content and simple life is true relaxation and happiness.

    The science of relaxation leads to spiritual relaxation, a state of freedom and joyfulness when there is no expectation or desire of anything. Instead of anxiety, we experience detachment, contentment  and fulfillment .

    Upcoming Stress Relief and Relaxation courses at the Sivananda Yoga Farm that teaches these techniques.

    Subscribe to the Yoga Farm Newsletter for regular updates, articles, and upcoming events.