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Journey of Self Development

Journey of Self Development

International Yoga Day Mon, 6/21 by Swami Sitaramananda

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

Sadhana practice, yoga, life, self-development, learn, emotion, mind, people, spiritual progress, feel, prana, teaching, healthy, happy, conscious choices, conscious living, yoga life, self-growth, life skills.

Happy International Yoga Day. Practicing yoga is very important for the world nowadays. We pray that more and more people will practice yoga around the world.

To practice yoga is to feel that we are progressing

It’s not nice to feel stuck in life. If you feel that things are not moving and you are stagnant, the best way is to practice. Go back to your yoga mat, to your meditation cushion, to your diary, to your journal and try to renew your practice. What does it mean to practice? What to practice? And how do you develop yourself and not feel stuck?

Conscious practice is the key

The key is to be conscious in whatever you do. Self development has to come consciously. We call it yoga, we call it sadhana. Sadhana is a conscious practice. This is not something you do without thinking. Because the goal of all practices is to transform and renew yourself. Transform what? Transform consciousness. Transform the way you feel about yourself and about the world. You are growing towards physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Self-development requires conscious effort

First, for you to self-develop, you need to make an effort, a conscious effort. And second, it is important for you to receive guidance. You need to follow a system of teaching or teachers. Why? Because you want to self-develop but you don’t know what to do and therefore you might waste a lot of time. We have the system from Swami Vishnudevananda, and Swami Sivananda, which we call the five points and the four paths. You need to practice this in a systematic, uninterrupted manner, for a long time to change the old habits. Let’s say you do asana three, four times a week, satsang meditation, three, four times a week. It is fine, but you need to do it consistently, for a long time to achieve the transformation of body, of head, of heart, of energy.

And you need to have guidance from teachers but also from scriptures. That means you need to spend time studying a little bit from scriptures. Ideally, you have a teacher that speaks the language that you understand. Swami Sivananda wrote 200-300 books. Until now, we are not able to read all his books. But it’s the same idea, same system. Try to study his books. And we are trying to translate for those that don’t understand the language. The teachings coming from the Vedas are very old teachings about the Self and about the lifestyle that help you to tune in and help you to feel that you are progressing. We call it classical yoga, and follow the lineage of teachers and follow scriptures.

Here are the five points of yoga that you need to practice daily

The first point is proper exercise, the asanas done in a certain manner. The way we perform the asanas is also meditative. Then proper breathing – pranayama, proper relaxation – savasana, proper diet – vegetarian sattvic diet and positive thinking and meditation, which is Vedanta, Jnana Yoga and the Raja Yoga meditation system.

One ounce of practice is equal to tons of  theory

One important thing to remember, if you want to feel that you are progressing, self-transforming and self-developing is that you need to practice more than learning only theory.

This is what Swami Sivananda said, “one ounce of practice is equal to tons of theory”. You can read books, you can hear satsangs, but mainly what you need is to practice so then you can have direct experience of the teaching. The teachings are practical, sometimes technical, but we also try to keep the overall view. Sometimes you learn and apply the technique and you forget the whole picture. You have to understand how the practice fits into the big picture, how it influences your overall life. It’s like a puzzle game. Piece by piece, slowly. You don’t quite understand the picture yet. But piece by piece, you put it together and all of a sudden, the whole beautiful landscape or picture emerges. Therefore you need to practice for a long time, and have guidance, so that you don’t lose heart. And then the whole picture will come about.

The eight limbs of yoga

Besides the five points and the four paths, the other system or guidance is the eight limbs of yoga. You need to practice the whole eight limbs of yoga, not just asana or not just pranayama. But you need to practice yamas and niyamas. That means the ethical foundation: nonviolence, sense of control, no stealing, no accumulation. Practice purity, contentment, austerity, practice of self- study and self- surrender.

Before every little thing that happened, you get very irritated and angry and blame yourself and have self-pity. But now you need to practice self-surrender, which means the idea that you don’t really know everything. You have to accept the cosmic intelligence, that’s also part of the basic practice in order to keep your mind calm. You practice steady posture, that means not just running around all the time, but sitting still. Practice the control of vital energy – the prana, control of the senses, concentration, meditation, contemplation, and eventually the last practice is Samadhi. This is the goal when there is no more sense of separation and when everything comes together.

Take care of your physical health

So in this system of practice, it is very important that you are aware in the beginning to take care of your physical health. You practice the asanas to be healthy. And when you are healthy, you need to understand that the practice of asanas strengthens all the systems of your body.  First, the musculoskeletal system:  You work on your alignment so that when you sit, when you stand, when you walk you have a better alignment. Keep your spine healthy. Second, the digestive system: If you digest well then you’ll be healthy. Third, the respiratory system:  If you breathe well you’ll be healthy. Fourth the cardiovascular system: You need to move the body. And finally, the nervous and endocrine systems need to be strengthened.

Turn inward

And in order for you to self-develop, you need to know that you need to turn inward, you cannot carry on with the life outside, all the time active externally. You need to balance your life with time that you spend on turning inward. So, that means that you will become more aware. You have to become more aware of your emotions and your state of mind and you need to slow down in order to be aware. You need to slow down. Sometimes you need a temporary withdrawal from your busy life, your emotions, your work life. You can be more alone, one hour a day, one day a week and you go to the retreat at the ashram three days minimum one month if you are close by, but the idea is you need to program your life so that you have time to recharge and to be with yourself.

Mental and emotional health

Part of your self-development training is you need to make sure that you are mentally and emotionally healthy. We are not aware of that, but we do not know that we are not really mentally and emotionally healthy. What does that mean?  That means you need to develop a balanced personality and you are not going to extremes.

So you observe yourself and you see that you go to extremes. You like something very much and you dislike something very much. Yeah, for a yogi you need to remove the word hatred from your vocabulary.  Also, intense attachment towards something does not help you.  Develop a balanced personality.

Don’t be a victim of the past

And also you need to take time to heal from past hurt and past trauma. You must not become a victim of the past, you need to live in the present. The more that you are able to do that the more you feel that you are on top of yourself, you are developing and you’re not stuck. Because something that is unresolved from the past will make you feel that you are stuck. Develop peace of mind and strength of mind and calmness of mind all the time.

You need to also develop the capacity to love selflessly, to concentrate and not be distracted, and to have your heart open to enjoy life. So if your life is miserable, something is not right. You need to be able to enjoy life. There are lots of reasons for you to enjoy life. You look at the tree, the sunrise you are happy, the wind blows and you’re happy. You notice that sometimes if you are in a good state of mind, just a very small thing, seeing little flowers that come out makes you happy. This is called a healthy mind. Live fully in the present. You notice you are aware of everything happening in the moment. You don’t just go through life in a sleep-like state.

You need to also have a clear intellect. The way you eat, the way you think helps you. If you are on the internet watching games and other  things, then you see that your mind will fall very far down.  You need to keep your intellect very clear so that you can make your decision more clearly.

Transform your emotions

The big portion of emotional health is knowing how to transform your emotions, how to elevate your emotions, instead of being controlled by emotions such as fear and anger.

 Why do people want to see horror movies? And you know, horror movies are very popular. Why? Because they want their emotions to be excited, because when they are emotionally excited, then they feel that they are more alive. But this situation is not helping you to progress. This actually makes you go backward. You need to elevate your emotion, all this fear, anger, resentment, and turn the emotion into pure love or devotion. In order to do it, you have to learn to surrender your personal idea about things. Let go of the expectation of your ego. You need to know that there is something more than you that is there. It’s very important that you practice self-surrender, acceptance, flexibility of mind, a non-egoistic approach to life. And chant the Divine Name, it’s called “kirtan”. Practice every day, open your mouth and chant. That will regulate your emotion right away.

Learn to listen

There are nine kinds of practice in bhakti yoga, slowly you have to learn, but start first with the practice of listening. If you try to listen, then you will not be so self-centered. And you’ll be able to understand a rich world out there of different people, different personalities, different animals, and then you’ll become more enriched instead of being stuck.

Learn to detach from your attachments

Attachment will make you feel stuck. You need to be detached, and experience true love and experience more faith. And then you will have more joy. You need to learn to forgive also. You need to learn also from your painful karmic lessons. Life is not just a straight line, as sometimes very painful. Actually you develop yourself a lot in the most difficult time of crisis. That’s when you develop a lot. You have all the chances to become better. You’re always learning. The purpose of all these painful lessons is to help your evolution. So have a larger perspective and don’t feel down when life doesn’t go the way you want. Stop blaming every circumstance, it is actually perfect for your growth. Slowly you are working out your karma. But know that whatever circumstances in which you find yourself, you are more than your experience. You experience things then you can understand from them but inside of you, you know that you are more than your experience, you are perfect inside. That’s what it means.

Develop your selflessness

And a very important thing that we cannot forget: You need to develop selflessness, selflessness in Karma yoga, it’s a practical step. So you need to change your attitude towards your actions, towards your life. Learn the attitude of non doer-ship, of egoism and open yourself up, to give yourself to others. Mahatma Gandhi says, the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Therefore, you need to become a role model for yourself. That means you need to have an idea of the self that you want to become and the best way to become a role model for yourself is to teach yoga. Because when you have to teach yoga for other people, you have to practice yoga. So, learning Yoga means learning to teach yoga selflessly. The best way to learn Yoga is to learn to teach yoga, selflessly. So those who have not taken the Yoga teacher training course, please do.  

Become curious about yourself

Then one thing, I noticed that people feel stuck or feel down, because they are not interested in themselves. It is a strange thing to notice. Throughout the years that I deal with people, I notice that people are not curious about themselves. They are not interested. They’re very lazy. They’re interested in politics and about what to buy and what to shop and you know, what’s happening in the market. All these they know in detail. But about themselves, about their personality, their life, why they think that way, they are not interested. So the first thing you need to do is be curious about yourself. Know that you don’t know your inner being, know that you do not know about yourself. Because people are like that because they think that they know, but actually they don’t know. When you know that you don’t know then you start to be more seriously looking to know the truth. You become humble. At that time you become open. And when you open up to new ideas and you start on your yoga path, you become curious about yourself.

You are much more than your body and mind

The reason our knowledge is so limited is that we get our knowledge through the senses and through the idea of self-identity that is attached to the body in the mind and the ego and through the fabricated opinion that people have about us.  You live in that world of the senses, of the mind, of the ego, with the opinion of others, all the time. That’s why you are not able to know yourself. You need to start a yoga life to purify yourself. Because all these thoughts are there in your mind, opinions about other people, opinions of people about you, your mental stimulation habit, all these are there. You need to start to learn to purify and the yoga practice is very, very powerful to purify yourself and make you become more what we call sattvic or clear. So then you will start to love your own Self instead of loving everything else around and neglecting yourself. Yeah, so now you start to love yourself. Because you realize that the truth is within, the power is within, the answer is within. You realize that the body and mind is only your instrument, and it is not you, you are much more than your body and mind.

Take care of your prana level

In this journey, I remind you it’s very important for you to have prana. Every day when you wake up, check your level of prana. Your level of prana depends on what you think and what you eat and your lifestyle. What do you practice to increase your prana? Through pranayama and asana practice, you balance your prana, you resupply your prana, you conserve your prana, you save up your prana because prana will make you feel progressing. Practice of Hatha Yoga will help you to balance your two flows of energy, Yin and Yang, heat and cold, male and female. And that in itself will make you feel you are progressing. And everyday day, when the prana is high, learn to keep your mind concentrated. Because if your mind is distracted, you lose prana very quickly. But if you keep your mind concentrated through the practice of yoga, practice a mantra, then you have strength, calmness, peace, it leads you to successful meditation and helps you not to be so restless. Restore your sense of self, knowing the healthy holy sense of inner strength, inner knowledge and inner power within you.

Develop yourself spiritually

That’s part of your spiritual health. It means number one, recognizing that the body and the mind are your instruments and they are not you. Just that will give you a feeling of detachment, of spiritual health. Number two, leading a conscious life. Whatever you do, try to be conscious, just to be conscious. That is called self-development or leading a spiritual life.

And know that when you connect to yourself, your consciousness within, you connect also to nature. It is very important to connect to nature, live in harmony with others, everybody around you, it’s a must, that you live in harmony with them, and live in harmony with nature. Therefore, connect with yourself and live in harmony with nature and others. That is your most important task.

Learn to think properly

And last, in this long list of different things that you need to do to self- develop, is to learn to think properly. Earlier we said learn to feel properly, to live properly, to behave properly, but also learn to think properly. So worrying is not thinking. Thinking of the past and rehearsing the past is not proper thinking. Dreaming about the future is not proper thinking.

Discrimination

So in yoga Vedanta, we say try to develop the power of discrimination, which is the deep thinking about what is changing and what is not changing, what is real and what is not real, what is the Self and what is not the Self.

Let’s say you eat the coconut bliss ice cream, and you feel very happy. But at the same time inside your mind, you have to know this is a temporary happiness, and you don’t live your life for this experience. And you enjoy the coconut ice cream but you have to eventually let go of it and you’ll be fine. Learn the proper way of thinking, making the choice between what is temporary and what is permanent. Then,

don’t be attached to what is temporary, and try to dwell on what is permanent.”  Please think about this.

Detachment

That is the number one and then number two is learn to detach. Detach is also another way of thinking. That means instead of thinking about something and jumping into that 100% with all your body, your mind, your senses, your emotions, everything and losing yourself in it, try to be detached. Do what is necessary to do in your life but don’t give it all. Don’t lose yourself in it. Keep yourself for yourself, be detached from everything else. The more you are able to be detached, the more you’ll be in connection with yourself. and you will not lose the big picture. Whatever you need to do, do it. But at the same time, don’t lose the big picture about yourself development, and don’t lose yourself. Learn Vedanta philosophy and some techniques of self-inquiry. That is wisdom.

Learn Self reliance

And a very important thing is to learn self-reliance. Self reliance is a capacity to be self sufficient. Self sufficiency means you’re not needing anything. You’re happy just being yourself. If somebody helps you, fine. If somebody doesn’t help you, you don’t get angry, upset. You do it yourself. So, self reliance also means you are tuning to your own true self. And you know that you are perfect. And you know, that if you do your own self effort, everything will improve. Many things are involved in the quality of self reliance.

Learn to be patient

So last, be patient. You need to be patient. Because you make a little effort and you think that you will get there. It’s like you just learn a little bit of exercise and you want to run a marathon. It is not possible. So go on your journey, day by day, bit by bit.

Be patient. And have a sincere desire to know the truth about the Self. Qualify yourself, learn with a teacher, but know that the teacher cannot do everything for you. The teacher can guide you. But you have to do everything.

Conclusion

That is my long list of advice for international Yoga Day. Again, Happy International Yoga Day for all the Yogis of the whole world. The more people practice yoga, the more the world will be a better place. Now we pray for the world. And we pray for your health, for your success in life and self realization. If you know the prayer, please repeat it together.

OM Tat sat

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda 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 program, an 800 hours program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is the author of Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy (translated in Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese) Positive Thinking Manual, Karma Yoga Manual, Meditation Manual as well as two poem books. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of The Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda. Some of her audio lectures on Yoga Life, articles, and webinar presentations can be found on the website.

Yoga Health Education: Importance of Proper Breathing

Yoga Health Education: Importance of Proper Breathing

Breath is life. We can live for days without food or water but deprive us of breath and we die in minutes. In view of this, it is astonishing how little attention is paid to the importance of proper breathing.

According to Yoga, there are two main functions of proper breathing: to bring more oxygen to the blood and thus to the brain; and to control prāna or vital energy, leading to control of the mind.

Prānāyāma – the science of breath control – consists in a series of exercises especially intended to meet these needs and to keep the body in vibrant health.


Re-learning Abdominal Breathing
Most people have forgotten how to breathe properly. They practice only chest and clavicular breathing, breathe through the mouth and make little or no use of the diaphragm – either lifting the shoulders or contracting the abdomen when they inhale. In this way, only a small amount of oxygen is taken in and only the top portion of the lungs are used, resulting in a lack of vitality and lowered resistance to disease.

The practice of Yoga demands that you reverse these habits. Breathing correctly means breathing through the nose, keeping the mouth closed, and involves a full inhalation and exhalation, which brings the full capacity of your lungs into play. As you exhale the abdomen contracts and the diaphragm moves up, massaging the heart; when you inhale, the abdomen expands and the diaphragm moves down, massaging the abdominal organs.

What is strange is the fact that abdominal breathing is the most natural type of breathing: children generally breathe with their abdomen, and both children and adults breathe abdominally during sleep. So what causes the body to lose this natural ability for abdominal breathing during waking adult life?

The main reason is simply stress. When you become stressed, the solar plexus (located in your abdomen), which is a major control center for the nervous system, becomes tense, as do the abdominal muscles, which then hinder the natural movement of the diaphragm. Fixed mental images may be another reason for compromised breathing, such as the concept of ‘manhood’ causing you to project a body image in which the chest is expanded and the abdomen is tight.

Inhale – Abdomen rises Up
Exhale – Abdomen back down towards the spine


Change your Breathe, Change your Life
Proper Breathing, one of the 5 Points of Yoga, is an important tool in the Yoga Health Educator’s practice. The Yoga Health Educator often begins by assessing the mechanics of a person’s breathing to see if they are breathing correctly. Are they breathing through the mouth or the nose? Chest breathing? Reverse breathing? Is it a rhythmical breath? How is their lung capacity? Is the breath strained? Is the person aware of their breath? Are they aware of their state of mind?

There is a direct relationship between the quality of the breath and the quality of one’s thoughts. A slow, steady and rhythmical breath pattern indicates a calm mind. In this case, the person is relaxed and has greater capacity to make positive choices. A shallow and short breath pattern indicates stress and anxiety, often with the person breathing into the upper chest (not breathing into the abdomen) and with tightness in the upper back and shoulder region. Under stress, we are less likely to make positive choices, we are prone to reactions, and will remain stuck in old habits.

The Yoga Health Educator helps to bring awareness to the breath with simple breathing exercises beginning with conscious abdominal breathing.


1. Abdominal Breathing Exercise
Lie down in savasana. Place your right hand on your abdomen or use a pillow on the abdomen. Inhale, feel the abdomen rise; exhale, feel the abdomen descend. Count to 3 with each inhale and exhale to create a steady rhythmical breath pattern. Practice 3-5 minutes.

2. Full Yogic Breath
If you are comfortable with the abdominal breath, you can try the full yogic breath. A full yogic breath combines abdominal (deep), chest (middle) and clavicular (shallow) breathing with a deep breath and continuing the inhalation through the intercostal (ribs) and clavicular areas. Inhale the abdomen expands, then ribs, then finally the upper chest. Exhale abdomen first, then ribs, then chest. Full yogic breath utilizes the full capacity of the lungs. Practice 3-5 minutes.

After some time, you are ready to add the pranayama practices of kapalabhati and anuloma villoma to your daily routine.

Inhale – Abdomen out, raise the chest | exhale – ab in, chest down

Benefits of Abdominal Breathing

  • Activates parasympathetic “rest and repair” response
  • Lowers the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Lowers heart rate
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves oxygen intake (efficiency)
  • Slows the rate of breathing
  • Reduces stress – 80-90% of all doctor visits are due to stress-related health conditions. Stress weakens the immune system. Chronic stress can lead to depression, fear and anxiety, and can have further debilitating effects on immune system response.
  • Increases awareness of one’s breath and thought patterns.
  • Conscious breathing is an important aspect of meditation practice and helps to calm the mind, regulate the flow of prana, and to balance the emotions.

Breathe and Relax!
Proper Breathing is one of the 5 Points of Yoga. Combined with asana, savasana, vegetarian diet, meditation and positive thinking, the 5 Points of Yoga give us the energy to live a healthy and harmonious life and to connect to our innate wisdom to consciously overcome the negative karmic tendencies that cause stress. Take time every day to breathe and relax. Make it your daily routine. You can practice abdominal breathing and full yogic breath several times each day to calm your mind, come back to your center, increase awareness of your breath and your thoughts, thereby bringing you peace, health and happiness.

The Yoga Health Educator is dedicated to empowering each person in their own self-healing journey through the teachings of classical Yoga. For more information about the Sivananda Institute of Health and Yoga and the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training, please visit https://sivanandayogafarm.org/800-hour-yoga-therapy-program/

What is Forest Bathing?

What is Forest Bathing?

In a time when our dependence on technology and our separation from the natural world is becoming more and more apparent, taking time to unplug and practice forest bathing has never been more important. But what is Forest Bathing?Here’s a hint – it’s not taking a hike into the woods and plopping yourself into a bubbly bathtub.

Forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, is about bathing the senses in the natural world. Since we receive healing energy, or prana, through our senses, it is no wonder that people feel great after doing the practice. And there’s science to back it – studies have shown that Forest Bathing not only reduces stress, but uplifts the mood, reduces inflammation, pain, blood pressure, and induces an overall sense of well-being. 

Add all of those benefits to the fact that trees can enhance your blood oxygen levels and give you immune-boosting phytoncides, and you’ve got a pretty simple way to improve your health. 

 Forest Bathing, and Nature Therapy in general, can be integrated into any holistic healing regimen. It works synergistically to supplement the healing effects of Yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, breathwork, and proper diet/lifestyle.  

How to Practice Forest Bathing

Anyone can practice forest bathing, regardless of your age or background. The steps are very simple, but they may take some practice to perfect.

1. First, turn off your phone, put it on silent, and/or put it away if you feel safe doing so. This will get rid of unnecessary distractions.

2. Get into any area with trees, the more secluded from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the better.

3. Let go of any agenda what-so-ever. There’s no destination. No running, no journaling, and no thinking about your to-do list. No planning. If you have a restless mind, a good session of breathwork and/or meditation before your practice can help calm the mind

4. Walk slowly. Pauses to sit or relax are encouraged.

5. Spend time mindfully observing in each of the five senses. What can you smell, feel, see, hear, or taste?

6. Focus on deep, abdominal breath throughout the practice. This helps keep you grounded in the present and reduces stress. 

7. If you are in a group, practice silence or mouna as much as possible. Talking can be a distraction fro the wonders of nature around you. 

8. Lastly, spend as long as you comfortably can in nature. Start with short intervals and build yourself up to two hours or more for a complete practice.

Next Steps

Spending time outdoors is not just a hobby; it is an essential human need. Humans actually get sick if they spend too much time indoors and away from nature. That’s why connecting with nature in any capacity is beneficial for your health.

If you live in a city, desert, or anywhere far away from a forest, you can still experience the benefits of nature immersion. While the specific practice of Shinrin-Yoku traditionally requires a proper forest with trees, the above principles can be applied in any ecosystem. You can even practice nature awareness indoors with house plants!

If you seek further guidance in forest bathing, the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy offers a list of certified guides. Here are some additional tips for beginners: “Your Guide to Forest Bathing”.  The Sivananda Yoga Farm also offers outdoors and nature programs and retreats.

That’s all there is to it! There’s nothing to do, and nowhere to be. The goal is to just be fully immersed and connected with nature. Side effects may include deep relaxation, weight lifting off of your shoulders, feelings of awe, gratitude for being alive, and positive life-changing experiences.


Colin Eldridge (Krishna Das)

Colin teaches and helps coordinate Yoga, permaculture and outdoors programs at the Sivananda Yoga Farm. He is a trained Sivananda Yoga instructor, permaculture designer, and Yoga Health Educator.

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Breathe and relax! Live in the world and out of the world!

Breathe and relax! Live in the world and out of the world!

A satsang on line with swami Sitaramananda

05/10/2020

Preparation:

The topic of today is highly philosophical, yet practical. It is essential to understand it so we know what to do to be healthy and free. Please be ready during this presentation to be able to do 6 practical breathing and relaxation lessons. Make sure you have space to lie down, and that your room be ventilated.

1. Lie down in sarvasana posture and learn to breathe abdominally, without pillow or with pillow. Get a pillow ready, the more it is heavy it is better.

2. sit up either on chair or cross legged on the ground and learn to breathe and relax sitting up.

3. while sitting up, learn Kapalabati breathing (cleansing of the lungs) .

4. learn basic Anuloma Viloma basic, alternate nostril breath, without retention and with retention.

5. lie down again, and learn to breathe and relax  along with positive affirmations. 6. Last, learn tense and release and complete guided relaxation.

Why the topic of today?

The truth these days of Corona virus pandemic is we loose ourselves and our minds drifted in confusion. We are stressed and we have tendency to not breathing correctly. We  panicked and reacted this way or another.  The news of the world took our well being away, thought by thought, breath by breath. We are caught up in the alarming and contradictory news. The world seems to be negative and conflictual. The focus nowadays  is “disease”, not “health”. Our key words are “ death count”, “wear masks!” , “wash hands!”, “social distancing”, “ go back to normal”, “ the old normal”, the “new normal”.

Today I like to introduce you two new key words:  “breathe and relax”! a new motto “breathe and relax!”

Why breathe and relax are two important practices to remember at all times?

Breathing is life affirming. It reminds us to stay healthy, body-mind-spirit while living.  

Relaxation is be detached from the illusory world of our mind. So…breathe and relax!

Disclaimer:  right breathing and right attitude towards life will not prevent you from getting the virus, but it will boost your immune system and your quality of life and even if you get sick, you will be stronger to heal and you will be more equipped to know what to do to help yourself.

Switch it around: Think of Health and not of disease!

  • Health is our birthright! We are the master of our health, we are not victim.
  • Our life is worth living, therefore struggle to attain true health and to remain positive. This inner affirmation about our worthy life is a good start to help us struggle for self improvement. Breathe for your life! Relaxation gives us life !
  • Life is sacred, need to see the sacredness in our life and in life surrounding us. This right attitude will bring health in our life.
  • You are equipped and supported by Mother Nature, remember her, go back to Nature. Happy Mothers’ Day!
  • Go back to basics… and build up resilience and increase our immunity the natural way! We are equipped with the Power of conscious intention.

Our Thought power is in our hands! Negative thoughts spread like virus. But we are Master of our destiny.

  • Focus on Health and not on disease. You can build your health !
  • We are essentially free. Focus on our innate freedom! All is good. We are strong and courageous. Everything happens because we have lessons to take away!

Think of the analogy of the lotus flower :

The lotus is a beautiful and very fragrant flower that grows out from the mud. The lotus is the symbol well used by meditators. The lotus represents spiritual life It is the theme of this webinar: “ How to live in the world of pains and sufferings and be free!” In other words:” how to live out our karmas and be free!”

What is the true nature of the world?

  • There is no objective world. The world seems to be external to ourselves. But the world is in fact a projection of our mind, according to the yogis. The world is the stage where our karmas will be played out.

We are not living in the same world. Depending on our karma we will perceive the world differently.

From another point of view the world is a creation of God. Both ways of explanation say that it is not material or objective, not something we can control or see with our worldly mind but it is a matter of consciousness.

  • Our mind’s projections are called “the world”: We are attached to our projections of our ideas about people outside of ourselves. Our repeated mind projections create an idea that the world is solid and real.
  • As we keep remembering our past experiences as recorded in our minds and as we keep projecting them out or as our consciousness keeps choosing the same outcome, we replay more or less the same scenario and the world appears as objective.
  • This projected world seen as solid and real outside of ourselves consists of objects. We live in the world of objects and we forget that they are the products of our minds and consciousness at the first place. These objects are perceived by our senses therefore the world we live in is termed a “sensual world”.

Who am I? I am not the objects of my perception and attachments.

The objects of our perception (and attachments) can be:

  • Our body
    • people or things: people can be our family and friends,  things can be our home and work environment, familiar landscape or our possessions.
    • phenomena of nature, made of the five gross elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether). These gross elements exist in their subtle form in the mind.

But Who is the subject, the perceiver?

I am. We are, our True Self is. Objects are multiple, but the Self is One: The key to find peace at all times is to remember the One consciousness in all people, things and phenomena of nature.

Objects change while consciousness remains same. The body changes, ages and dies but consciousness remains untouched.

How to live in the world, find the subject and be free?

  • The idea of the world creates duality and separation. Unless we develop equal vision and see that it is all One, all God, it is better to not be lost in the world. We need to rethink our concept of the world to be free from separation. This is why yogis turn inwards in the beginning of the journey. They are not being egoistic but need to start from their own consciousness.
  • Our lesson is to detach from objects to realize our inner truth or Atman. The Atman is the Self present in all. It is not changing, stable and ancient, perfect and free, all pervading and all knowing. Sensual world is not real: Yogis turn inwards and transcend the sensual world to perceive the Self beyond the projections of the mind.
  • The Self is the subject: Realize your Self at all times as the consciousness underlying all things. The subject is beyond the senses, beyond duality and is Sat-Chit-Ananda.
  • The Self is found in the here and now: In the here and now we can access our consciousness, free from the imprints of the past or the projected future.
  • As a result of karma, we never lived in the here and now: Meditation frees us from karma by bringing us to the here and now. The play on the stage of the world is our karma.
  • Lessons from Master Sivananda (photo)

Swami Sivananda says that the world is your best teacher. There is a lesson in everything.

His last words: “remember, forget! “ (remember the Self, God and forget everything else)

He sees the world with one eye and contemplates the Self with the other eye

  • Lessons from Siva, the first Yogi: (photo)

He is often depicted with eyes half closed and half open. This represents an ideal state of mind that yoga practitioners want to achieve, of being “in the world and out of the world”, seeing the world of names and forms and changing phenomena that we live in, and at the same time seeing the essence of it, as opposed to seeing the manifested world as devoid of spirit and intelligence.

He also is depicted with the third eye open. This means that we are encouraged to see the world with our eye of intuition, or with a mind that has been purified of its lower propensities such as anger, greed, lust, hatred, jealousy and envy. Intuition is higher than intellect. Intuition can be developed only when we transcend duality, or the left brain/right brain split. It includes devotion, or pure love, while intellect might miss half of the picture if there is no pure love in the thinking, or when the thinking is motivated by the ego. 

  • Lessons from Mother Nature! Happy Mother’s Day!

Nature even though is outside of ourselves is close to our hearts: We can easily commune with Nature and find our Oneness with Nature. We feel less lost in the world of nature than the world of our mind. We have a symbiotic relationship with Her. This is our spiritual relationship with God or with the Divine Mother.

Tuning to Nature is a positive way to live in the world: It is easier to find ourselves in the world of nature out of the busy-ness of cities where chaotic and confused human thoughts are bouncing on each other. Nature is God’s mind Projections: Tuning to Nature makes us humble and opens our hearts. It helps us to surrender the egos and calm our minds. (For example a disturbed mind gains much by working in the garden, walking in the sun or swimming in the river).

Nature is powerful (example storms, floods, snow fall, extreme weather conditions) but it is easier to surrender to Her and accept that she is the teacher of our ego. Modern science tried to control and manipulate Her at high prices.

The Sivananda Yoga of synthesis is the wonderful way to attain that sublime state of mind. 

  • It combines in daily life the yogic techniques from the classical 4 paths of Yoga.  We just need to immerse ourselves in the theory and practice of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga, plus the philosophy of Vedanta and the techniques of self enquiry of Jnana Yoga. Tools for living in and out of the word: Serve, give, love, purify, meditate, realize.
  • However, remember what Swami Sivananda said: ” one ounce of practice equals tons of theory!“. 

Let’s practice!

1. Breathe and relax lying down: In sarvasana posture and learn to breathe abdominally, without pillow or with pillow. Get a pillow ready, the more it is heavy it is better.

2. breathe and relax sitting up: sit up either on chair or cross legged on the ground. 

3. Lungs cleansing exercises: while sitting up, learn Kapalabati breathing .

4. Balancing breath exercise: learn basic Anuloma Viloma basic, alternate nostril breath, without retention and with retention.

5. Breathe and relax either lie down or sit up again, along with positive affirmations applying  the 4 paths of Yoga

  1. Karma Yoga

Breathe and relax! May all karmas become Selfless service.

Breathe and relax! I detach from the results of my actions.

Breathe and relax! I Purify my thoughts and emotions to be free from karma.

Breathe and relax! I am not doing anything.

Breathe and relax!I am not  running away. I am doing my duty while I breathe and relax.

Breathe and relax! I Stop doing actions confirming my separateness.

  • Bhakti Yoga

Breathe and relax! ILove God in all!

Breathe and relax! I accept and Self surrender to everything as God’s will . Breathe and relax! I sublimate my emotions and I am detached from my emotions.

Breathe and relax!  I amPure Love and I open my Heart to all of Creation. Breathe and relax! My devotion to the Divine makes me see beyond the objects to see God. I see God in the world.

Breathe and relax! I am free from all emotional identification and attachment.

Breathe and relax!  I have faith. I am humble and capable of letting go of my own ego.

Breathe and relax! I am compassion for others and for my self.

  • Raja Yoga/ Hatha Yoga

Breathe and relax! I am free from efforts in all of my postures or asanas.

Breathe and relax! I balance and purify my prana and calm down my mind.

Breathe and relax! my understanding and intellect are becoming clearer. 

Breathe and relax! I am dissolving my sense of separateness of Body/Mind in this Meditation.

Breathe and relax! I am detached towards the thoughts in my mind.

Breathe and Relax! I slow down my impulsiveness and my reactive tendencies and my thoughts become clear.

Breathe and relax! I am balanced and content. I practice pranayama to balance myself.

Breathe and relax! I am neither active nor passive. I am neither left brained nor right brained.

Breathe and relax! I am free from stress, I am free from my personality.

Breathe and relax! I amneither logical, linear nor emotional, artistic

Breathe and relax! I am neither male nor female.

Breathe and relax!  I am neither sun nor moonenergy

Breathe and relax! I am not going out searching neither going in hiding. Breathe and relax! I am the lotus. Fragrant and beautiful and free.

Breathe and relax! I am neither referring to past nor future

Breathe and relax! I am in the Here and Now. I am content to be in the present. I Let go of the past story.

Breathe and relax! I am my eternal Soul and I accomplish everything while being. I am One.

  • Jnana Yoga

Breathe and relax! I practice Self Enquiry : who am I?  while relaxing.

Breathe and relax! I detach from my body/mind. I am detach from my false self .

Breathe and relax! I am living, I am alive, I am detached.

Breathe and relax! I am learning my lessons and I am free from ignorance.

Breathe and relax! I assert my own Self in the face of a changing world. Breathe and relax! I assert what is True about my own Self and I get out of the projected world of my mind.

Breathe and relax! I detach from everything. I am the Self that is Pure Love.  It is not rejection.

Breathe and relax! I Amfearless.

Breathe and relax!  I See Divinity in my own Atman – I see the Truth about my own Life

Breathe and relax!  I am pure consciousness in everything, in all situations and all things.

Breathe and relax!  I see with the 3rd eye, the eye of intuition. I see intuitively with my inner spirit.

Breathe and relax! I see unity behind all things. I go beyond the preconceived ideas of the mind about myself, people and things.

Breathe and relax!  I am beyond what I like and what I dislike. I am not seeing what my ego wants.

Breathe and relax! I reconcile the split, the separation inside and outside; here and there; this and that ; me and God; you and me, Good and bad. Breathe and relax! I remain centered dwelling on my own Self. Nothing can touch me, affect me. I am fine, I am perfect. I have always been fine even when I thought I was not fine I was fine.

Breathe and relax!  I AM.

6. Guided relaxation : learn tense and release of muscles and gradual auto suggestions.

Wake up , take away points:

What is the main thing in question here during COVID time ?   Our respiratory system, the very life we breathe in is being threatened.

To deal with it , what do we do? Affirm our life! Our birthright! breathe more! relax more! Be in the world (breathing) and out of the word (relaxing) .

This is the solution to all questions.

We dedicate our breathe to the health and the awakening of all… Om Trayambhakams  …

Hare Om Tat sat.

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.
Stress Relief Counseling – from darkness to light

Stress Relief Counseling – from darkness to light

Satsang on line by Swami Sitaramananda April 8, 2020

Introduction

Today’s topic is a very appropriate topic. It’s about stress relief counseling. The International Sivananda Yoga Centers are offering a service of stress relief counseling for all, in 12 languages. So if you see the announcement, please share with as many people as possible. Because the situation of suffering and stress due to the epidemic is a global situation. So we want people to be able to access the counselors who may be able to support them through this period of stress.

You can imagine the situation. There are all kinds of situations but you can summarize everything under the name of stress. From the person that is a frontline worker in the hospital, trying to save people’s lives; to a person caught up in their apartment living with a few people, with their children and unable to move; to a person who worries about the future, about their livelihood; to a person that is sick and struggling, that is doubting himself and in fear of death; to a person that is separated from the family member, because that family member is in isolation. So many difficult situations that the world is going through. A very very stressful situation that the world is going through.

So we’d like to have more and more people understand stress so that you can help yourself and you can help others as well. Because if you don’t understand the stress phenomenon then you might aggravate your situation through a wrong kind of stress response. The problem is also that you have adapted to stress. This means that your body and your mind may take that as the real thing and lead to chronic stress. And if you are in that stressful situation you don’t really know how to get out of it. The body, the mind will adapt to that kind of stressful situation and response that is physiological, neurological, and that also affects your immunity. At that time, it is just a matter of time that the wrong stress response will perpetuate. Because we are not just talking about now only, but we are talking about the mind. When the mind learns something, it would keep keep repeating the patterns.

The topic is so relevant because it is not just addressing the problems now, but can also help prevent  problems that could occur in the future. When the stress has become numbing, and is not something that you can balance out, it can become a mental health issues. As you know in yoga, we want people to become balanced and clear, because that is how they connect with themselves.

Most of the reason for doctor’s visits are caused by stress. Even before the health crisis was here, more and more people are suffering from stress. We can trace many of our diseases back to stress. Our immune system is weakened by stress. So we are more susceptible to diseases and viruses of different kinds, and we have less capacity to fight them.

Often we are not eating properly. Either we are eating too much or not eating at all or eating anything. We are not aware of our eating and diet. We are not sleeping properly. So many people suffer from insomnia or from nightmares or even agitated sleep. We are not breathing properly. Either we hold our breath in tension, or we are trying to gasp air. The reason is that we have become fixated on the idea that disease causes breathing difficulty. It is said that if we gasp  for air, it’s because we don’t know how to breathe or how to use our diaphragm to breathe deeply, calmly, slowly and in a relaxed way. Thus we aggravate our problems. Let’s say you feel panicky because you feel that you have some kind of disease and you start to breathe wrongly. At that time it’s very important for you to get in touch with a yoga teacher who can teach you how to breathe through the diaphragm and breathe slowly and deeply in order for you to relax. We are stressed and we want to relax. However, we breathe wrongly, so it makes us experience even more stress.

The situation of stress causes us to have difficulties in relationships with people., resulting in all the symptoms, including fear, anxiety, if we can recognize them, also irritability, grief, sadness or even depression. We have talked about this before, so please refer back to some of the teachings in the blog that talk about fear, anxiety and another one that talks about yoga of relationships, and how we can take the opportunity of this time to improve our relationships. We need this help so that we know how to deal with stress and how to help others.

The other point in this talk is about learning how to observe ourselves and the environment and have a strategy to know how to lift ourselves up and to change the environment for the better. That means how to move from darkness to light. We have to understand the theories about the three Gunas- the very fundamental theory of yoga philosophy. How to move from darkness to light then eventually to a place of transcendence or understanding. You cannot really understand anything if you are in darkness. That is the topic of today.

What is stress?

First we will talk very briefly about stress, What is stress? Our stress response is something that is built-in. It’s in our system. In our psychology, nervous system, and in our immune system. All these are all connected together. It’s a mechanism that responds to the perceived threat to our survival. So the stress response is there so that we can protect ourselves in some way. Later on we will talk about a little more how we can protect ourselves and what the cause of stress really is.

  • The mind and the body is very tightly connected. Whatever that we perceive in our mind will affect our body and the body organs and  their functions. So we can develop so-called psychosomatic disease due to stress.
  • There are three different types of stress response, fight, flight and freeze. It depends on the personality. Fight, flight or freeze, but it’s all the same. It depends on the temperament of the person. Some people may have more tendencies to fight when they feel stressed or to control. Some people might have the tendencies to escape the problems. And the other person might have the tendency to try to disappear so that nobody notice. They freeze, become paralyzed, becoming smaller and smaller.These are the three typical types of response to stressful situations depending upon your constitution and personality.
  • You can say that according to ayurveda there are three kinds of personality, the fiery personality (pita), the airy personality (vata), and the more water and earth personality (kapha). So you can say the fight response is for the pitta, the fiery nature. The flight response is more for the vata kind of nature, namely running away. The kapha people will have the tendencies to become inert. it’s just a very rough explanation.
  • If the stress response is prolonged then it will lead to chronic stress and eventually to disease and break-down. Normally we have the relaxation response built into our system. It’s alternate. You can be stressed and you relax. Stressed and relaxed. Sometimes it is impaired, because sometimes you are stressed, stressed, stressed, keep holding the stress and responding to stress and you can never relax. So very important that you learn to relax.
  • The most important thing to understand about stress is that stress is subjective. Something that might stress somebody else might not stress you, or vice versa. It’s subjective, it depends on your mind. An objective stressor, is something that causes your stress, but your personal reaction is due to the habitual thoughts and emotions in your mind depending on your perceptions. It’s your personal way and habitual way.

So the teaching of yoga will help you change your perception. People think wrongly that your ego self is always the same. That is denying the  fundamental essence of life, that we are constantly evolving and constantly changing. Every challenge is an opportunity for us to evolve a little. That means to let go the preconceived ideas about ourselves and about others and to get ourselves out to the light a little more.

  • The more we are rigid the more stressed we are. The more we are open and flexible, the less we are stressed. The general guideline is to try to be open and to be more relaxed. Most people believe it’s an external stressful situation that causes stress. But you can see now you are in quarantine, some people think it’s very stressful because they cannot do what they like. But some people will be welcoming it because they have time to do what they like and to do what they need to do. Because normally they can not. We think that everyone will be reacting in the same way as us but it’s not true. Everyone reacts differently. The outside environment is the same but the reaction is different.

How we perceive an event place a significant role in whether the stressor triggers our stress response or not.

5 causes of stress and how yoga helps:

1. Lack of prana (vital energy) from nature:

People are more stressed when they don’t have prana to deal with the challenge. To think or to understand we need prana, the vital energy. But when the lifestyle is too artificial we tend to spend prana. We are in the economy of debt, so that we all the time spend but we don’t take time to recharge. At that time we won’t be able to deal with stress or challenges because we are already in debt. At that time we might go into bankruptcy. We might feel sick when a thought comes. Like I’ve said, it’s a perceived threat. A thought just comes and suddenly you collapse, because you do not have enough prana due to your lifestyle from before. So the pressure builds up and we cannot handle it, our immune system is compromised. We can imagine that our modern world is very much so. It’s making us more in debt. It doesn’t enrich us. We live in high-rise buildings. We are all the time in the car or in the traffic. We are subject all the time to noise, to pollution and our mind is also very much full of thoughts and desires, so we call it the rajastic lifestyle. We overuse the computer, the cellphone. We don’t eat food properly, we don’t take time to eat, we eat out and we eat frozen food. Of course in the situation that we are now in, we can’t really find our proper supply and that can also add to the question of prana. We have to do the best we can in the current situation. Try to understand that we can supply our prana in certain different ways. From foods and also from our proper thinking. The idea is you need to live in alignment with nature to have more prana, so be in the sun and eat the food that is closer to the sun. We don’t go too much into this part about prana because we have a separate talk about that. Just know that when you counsel people about stress or when you feel stressful you can recognize right away that you are lacking prana. So you are not responding correctly, and you will have to build up prana. There are many different ways to build up the prana according to yoga.

2. Negative emotions create stress:

There are some negative emotions within you or within the person that you counsel or people that are around you that are stressful. You can tell right away there are some negative emotions.
Any unhealthy relationships and expectations will create stress. We have a lot stress due to relationships. Our relationships are not necessary healthy or loving, so we have to understand or help people to understand the emotions and the antidote of the emotions. There is some training possible we can learn and other people can learn. So don’t take the emotions as yourself. The first thing is recognizing and developing the awareness of our emotions. The awareness itself helps. The moment that you know that I’m angry, because I feel let down I don’t get what I want. The moment you know that and automatically by being aware of that, you do not become attached to that thinking or that scenario, and can be yourself. Awareness allows detachment. That awareness already helps to alleviate the problems, so when you are counseling people, you help people to be aware. You don’t have to solve their problems, but just because they become aware of it, automatically, their mind will think correctly and the problems will be solved by themselves. Negative emotions will also drain the prana. So that’s why people go down and down. The negative emotions can also be how people think they are. Because they have been building the personality for a very long time. Like I said, different stress responses vary according to different personalities. A person may be very fiery or might be all the time controlling. The person might be all the time not facing situations and not facing themselves. They distract themselves. They escape. A person might be acting as if they don’t know and not doing anything, because they are used to being fearful and stressed. Sometimes you can live in an abusive family relationship, for example, that makes you feel all the time, since your childhood, maybe unworthy, victimized and powerless. It’s not that simple to help a person to get out of stressful situations. Because the roots can be very deep in the psyche of a person. Yoga helps you to open the heart so then you can become more in touch with the love within you. Everyone has love, but the habitual negative emotions might be veiling you from the love that is true and within you. Yoga makes us open our heart and withhold our judgement of others. We are very quick to judge others and close our heart. But by practicing yoga, we can keep our heart open. Yoga also helps you deal with your emotions by reminding you of your true Self that is untouched and unhurt; that is fulfilled; that is perfect; that is independent; that is transcendent; that is free and joyous; that is non-competitive; that is one without a second. Beautifully said. One without a second. That means when you don’t feel separated from the others, at that time you can go to the essence of yourself that is one. And automatically all your negative emotions vanish. Of course it’s easy to say but it’s something we have to keep working on. We need to identify the negative emotions and use yoga techniques to take care of them.

3. Adaptation problem:

The third cause of stress, which is very relevant now is the adaptability question. We said already, the more you are open and flexible the less stress you will experience. The more you are rigid the more stress you will have. We need to adapt. We need to let go of ownership. Ownership means you identify very much with something, either objects or accomplishments. You have difficulties to adapt because you falsely identify with something that is impermanent. It’s a very big thing. Swami Sivananda says, ”Adapt, adjust, accommodate. Bear insult, bear injury, highest yoga.” That’s how Swami Sivananda talks. We need to step back. When you feel something is difficult, you need to step back. Practice detachment. Stepping back from whom? From our own selves. Our own ideas and identification about whatever we feel, whatever we identify with as the problems, or whatever we identify to be the cause of our miseries. So we need to detach. Step back. Stress happens when there’s a failure of adaptation. When we fail to adapt, it’s because we are attached. Instead of detachment, we attach to something. We attach to who and what we think we are. We attach to our problems or how things should be in relation to who you think you are. The attachment problem is the misidentification. We think or experience something and we might be attached to it. We attach to our past. We attach to our stories. We attach to our dramas. That creates stress. Or when things change we become stressed. You see nowadays things change so quickly, and we are stressed. That’s everybody. Unless you are really trained for a very long time, and you have to be really flexible. When things change we become stressed. When we cannot adapt to new situations and when we are constantly expecting things to be in conformity to our expectations, we are not able to adapt ourselves to them. So yoga says, “ A flexible spine, a flexible mind. “ All the time we are training ourselves to be more flexible in our body and also in the mind.

4. Uncertainty and existential anxiety:

How Yoga helps to alleviate stress by giving us flexibility in outlook about Self and others:
The common problem for our time that causes stress, and the reason why so many people are stressed now, is the idea of uncertainty. Uncertainty and existential anxiety resulting from the fact that you see many people dying around and the disease may come to your door at any time by any body, and in that it’s invisible. At that time you have anxiety. It comes from the fear of death and from disease. When you are there and your life depends on the government that decides if you can move or go back to work or so on, that creates stress. Then we face something we call uncertainty. That creates stress. When you study yoga you have to go deeper. It’s not only about yoga exercise, but you have to go deeper into the philosophy of yoga. Because it helps you to alleviate the stress and give you flexibility of outlook about ourselves and others. Uncertainty has always been there, it’s not a new situation. We don’t really know what can happen. We don’t know when we are going to die. We don’t know. Anything can happen. Earthquakes can happen. Tsunamis can happen. Accidents can happen. So nobody really can predict or control life. We have an illusion that we can control until something happens and we realize that we are not at all in control. So we need to learn how to live this life which is constantly changing. Changing day by day. Even the body is constantly changing. My white hair did not come overnight. It came little by little. The body is constantly changing and we are facing the transition. That creates a lot of anxiety. Because we see people dying and we see more and more which reminds us how fragile life is. We can be taken very very quickly. We turn around and somebody can be taken very quickly. You look at the statistic today, so many people are dying. It’s not like before people didn’t die but now it becomes very clear. So we have to think more about it. Existential anxiety exists all the time, and we have to resort to some kind of deep realization, deep understanding or deep thinking, in order for us to be able to be stable in ourselves.

We have to learn to see the absolute. The level of ourselves which is untouched. At the same time we have to be able to live in this world of relativity, at the same time remembering a level of ourselves is immortal and untouched. The yogi develops the capacity to be flexible and to be able to change perspective about him or herself, and to avoid obsession and stubbornness. To try to depersonalize things. Don’t think it only happened to you and dramatize it, but try to understand the reason, that can be quite involved, for any kind of stressful situation. We can very quickly deal with our existential anxiety if we have some kind of faith. You know in a correct manner it’s not blind faith but faith in a correct manner, faith in your true Self and in the supreme intelligence. The more we have faith the more we can deal with our existential anxiety and our uncertainty. Because we don’t know, and we cannot control. But everything is always happening for the best. So you can relax. We know we are supported at all time by the invisible hands of the divine. That is also something we can train ourselves into thinking. The practice of yoga helps to connect to the Divine. And if you remember there’s that level of the soul that is sat-cit-ananda, the Atman. That is free, that is not hurt, and is untouched by anybody and that whatever people think about you, you are perfect. So there’s that level of ourselves that we need to get in touch with.  Otherwise we will be very anxious and fearful. You see there’s already many reasons why we are stressed and we can’t escape it. We have to think about it. The challenging situation is that we have to think about it more. Now we say okay when we have time we will think about it, when everything comes back to normal we can think about philosophy. But that’s not correct. It’s in the challenging time that you need to take the opportunity for wisdom.

5. How Yoga helps redeeming karma:

It’s more or less the same idea that nothing happens for nothing. Something happens always for us to have the opportunity to learn something. What we are experiencing now is the results of our past actions. And what we need to do now to redeem our karma is to see it, accept it and redeem it and not repeat the same wrong thinking again. It is said that we are born to experience the results of our past karma, past thoughts, past desires and these are our lessons. So this is why to some level, our problems and our challenges are inevitable. What does that mean, inevitable for us? That means that whatever happens to us is specific for us. We need to learn our lessons and cannot escape from it. You can blame people and try to deny it. But unless you do some soul searching, and see your own weakness and your repetitive patterns, you would not be able to learn that karmic lessons. It’s said that we are born and our life is set up. It’s all set up. So that we can experience it. And sometimes we think think that somebody set that up. You look at the recent events and you can see. Some people get stuck in some countries they cannot move they cannot go, suddenly they cannot. You see all these are all karma. You step back and see why is it so. You step back and see this is why you need to accept. It’s not that you are fatalistic about it, but you need to face it and make the best out of it. Because it has in it something, a lesson about ourselves. Not the neighbor not the others not our family members but exactly something we need to learn. The same situations and a group of people will experience things differently, will react differently. Because of their patterns. And they need to learn from their patterns. That is called the deep level of karma. That’s why it’s very annoying. When something that we think should not be there is there again, right in front of us, and we think it’s very stressful. So the deeper level of stress is that situation. Everyone has to go through their karma. The karma can be collective karma as well. So we are all together on the planet of earth in this time. So whatever we do to the environment whatever we think it’s civilization and we develop dependency towards technology and our life changes quickly. It’s karma. I myself don’t want to deal with any of these. The cellphone, the internet. But now I found myself on the internet, have meetings on the internet and all these things you know. I studied it’s difficult for the eyes burn your eyes and it drains your prana. I remember the first time I talked in the meeting on the internet or something I feel very drained. Because my world was different I didn’t know the internet I didn’t want to use the internet before. I never used these things. But the whole community the whole life everything the whole world is moving towards that level. And now I have got used to it. So now it’s not so draining. Because somehow we develop a different kind of nervous system. So the whole world is evolving very quickly and who knows what the situation now is preparing us for. We go back to the question of karma and stress. We can share together the collective situation and bear together the results of our collective actions.

So to summarize, stress is an indicator and a teacher that we need to think about a given situation to rethink who we are, about our expectations and our motivation and to remember this is not the real Self. We need to try to lift our consciousness through teaching, through training so that we go to the root cause of the stress. So as a yoga teacher you have to be humble, knowing that you do not know and surrender your will to God’s will. And Yoga life teaches you the different practices that combine the four paths of yoga to destroy the root of karma that comes from wrong thinking and wrong doing, and to give us the positive and sattvic life, that’s the teaching of the Sivananda system, “ Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize. “ the four paths of yoga. That’s the first part of the talk today about stress and the cause of stress. So that you can counsel yourself and counsel the people around you.

The 3 Gunas ( 3 qualities of nature)

Another theory that comes from the yoga philosophy that will help you is the theory of the three gunas. Now we are talking about the theory of the three gunas as the guideline for us to move from darkness to light or to help people move from darkness to light. Regarding the  the topic of stress, there are three types of reaction, depending on the gunas. The gunas are  tamas, rajas and sattva. These are the Sanskrit terms that explain how the whole universe and nature can be seen and characterized through all these qualities. There is the  quality of darkness, tamas; the quality of action and movement is rajas; and the quality of purity and balance is sattva. If you yourself can try to recognize within yourself the qualities and try to recognize the qualities in the person that you counsel as well, if you can really master the way of seeing then you will know how to do, how to counsel a person. The guideline is that people will respond to stress depending on the gunas, so they can have a tamasic response to stress, a rajasic response to stress and a sattvic response to stress. The counselor yourself has to help the other person to move from tamas to rajas and to sattva.That is the key, the main guideline to whatever problems we find in ourselves or we find in others. You will have to break through the tamas, the darkness; calm down the rajas, the agitation and the projection. You would have to cultivate the sattva which is nourishing the quality of balance harmony nourish and balance. That is the main guideline.

But before that we can just try to see a little bit the concrete manners how a tamasic stress response can look like.

Tamasic stress response:

When a person is lazy, slothful, they don’t care. They don’t take baths and even throw the clothings all over, and the room, the house is completely disorganized. They don’t clean and they don’t organize, that is called the tamasic response. That can also come as a stress response. “I don’t see anything, I don’t find a way out, I don’t understand anything anyway, so I don’t care.” So you fall into that idea that ”I don’t care”. And then you become indulgent in food, eating anything. “Why do I care about my life and health, it can be taken away anytime anyway so I don’t care.” You indulge in too much eating, too much sleeping, and being passive. You spend too much time watching movies or watching news. You become passive and no longer participate actively or become aware in your life anymore. You give up your life and you go into watching movies and news. You cannot grasp reality anymore. When people are so much in virtual reality, then they can become depressed. That’s also an expression of tamas. You become depressed and you become fearful. Fear and anxiety is an expression of tamas which make you lose yourself.Then you can become complacent, therefore, you hide and go into denial. You feel you cannot do anything, you deny your happiness as well as your abilities and you live in darkness.

You also notice the tamas when people complain about others. They know something has to be done but they don’t do it.“Why don’t you wash the dishes?” But they themselves don’t wash the dishes.They complain that people around me are this and that. That is the tamastic attitude. The victim attitude means always somebody is doing something to me. So I’m not responsible for what is happening to me.

Living in the past is also an expression of tamas. All the time you talk about the past, you know, living in the past, so that’s is the tamasic attitude. Some people cannot stick to any routine, any schedule. For example now they have to create their own schedule and routine but they cannot do it. They cannot discipline themselves or turn inwards. It’s impossible for them to do yoga or to do meditation, because they cannot follow any kind of routine. They can be suicidal. They can be escape into drugs, these are all tamasic experiences. They think taking marijuana can solve their problems. They become relaxed and think that there is no problem. So it’s also a tamasic attitude. I also see nowadays people drinking bleach. They are afraid of the virus and so they drink bleach to prevent the virus and they kill themselves. These are the tamasic stress responses. You want something quick and you don’t work on yourself but want something external.

Rajasic stress response : 

The idea is the ego is very strong when you are rajasic. When you are the victim of the rajasic view then you separate yourself from the rest of the world. So you become angry because the way things go is not the way you want. So you can become angry. Anger is the rajasic response. If a person is depressed and they are not moving or not doing anything, ie. no eating no anything, then it’s better that you encourage them to be stronger in their opinion about things so they can become angry. But somehow it’s better and afterwards they can calm down. So the idea is to get away from the tamas and calm down the rajas. The rajas is somehow easier because you can calm them down through yoga.

The rajasic expression is they can become angry, and people can become violent. When the situation stays the same and there’s no change, people may start to become angry with the government; become angry with the neighbor and they can even become violent. So that’s the rajasic response of the stress. I learned something that is very disheartening, that many shops are closed in LA but the gun shops are open. They are allowed to open. This is quite disheartening, it means people feel insecure and uncertain. We will talk about insecurity and uncertainty. How they are going to make themselves safe and secure is by buying guns to protect themselves from the neighbors. This is the rajasic response to stress.

There is also the blaming attitude. The blaming attitude is rajasic. You never really look at yourself and always blame somebody that creates the problem to you. Accusing, pointing fingers.

The hoarding tendency is also the rajasic expression. You want more and more. The greediness, the hoarding of the material stuff. You think it gives you more security.

Also you see that there are some people that don’t hesitate to break rules. They don’t like the rules.

The me and mine attitude. Anything that is about me and mine can cause the rajasic attitude. Try to temper down the rajasic. Any selfish kind of idea, that I enjoy myself and I get what I want. The rest of the world can suffer but I don’t care. This is the rajasic attitude.

Regarding disease, some people may try different kind of medicine that is called the rajasic way. They will try this and that and they will get a cocktail of medicine. The more medicine they get the better it is for the disease. They don’t look into the holistic natural healing that comes from themselves, but for something external.

Now regarding the social distancing. Many don’t think a lot of the whole, which means they only think about themselves. Some people still go and party on the beach while people are struggling in the hospitals. Rajasic means like you cannot refrain from movement and excitement, sensual pleasures and egoism. That’s the rajasic attitude. And constantly you are just enjoying your life with the senses.

Spreading misinformation is also a rajasic way to try to solve about the problem. You blame, and you create a whole theory about the problem, or you try to control completely control. You try to make money when other people suffer. For example you try to boost the price of masks when other people are suffering. You boost the price very high so then you can sell this. You try to take advantage of others to gain name and fame and wealth. This is the rajasic attitude. So try to temper this down.

Sattvic stress response :

This is what we like to cultivate in ourselves and in others. This life in peace, in harmony, in health that would remove us from fear, from reaction so that immediately we gain peace is the sattvic response. So the sattvic response is that we are seeing the bigger picture. Not only seeing the picture that you feel yourself but seeing the bigger picture that everyone is going through. To have clarity and to have knowledge because it’s based on openness of the heart, and so you need to be able to be selfless, to be able to be helpful to the situation. Be charitable. I see that in Las Vegas people are sleeping in a small square that is painted on the ground. They are doing social distancing by staying in their square. It’s shocking to the eyes to see that. At the sametime you know in Las Vegas right now, there must be thousands and thousands of empty rooms in the hotels right now and at the same time you see people sleeping in the parking lot in their little square. So that is called rajasic, it’s not sattvic, it’s not charitable. So we also hear some news of some landlords completely forgiving people for their rent at this time. So these are charitable understanding kinds of attitude, we call it sattvic attitudes, we need to cultivate. So whatever we have we need to share. You might have to sacrifice today not to eat your favorite food, so that you can share in the suffering of so many people. And then you stay at  home instead of not caring and going out to buy your specific favourite food. If you don’t care about consequences this is called the rajasic, tamasic attitude and not a sattvic attitude. In the sattvic attitude, you are charitable and you see the bigger picture. You are prayerful because you recognize there is something that is bigger than anybody and you pray to that. This is sattvic. You are forgiving. People make mistakes and you know it’s because they don’t know or they are stressed. So you forgive them. You surrender to God’s will to see the big picture and accept it. You practice yoga. You practice deep breathing. You practice relaxation. You practice mindfulness, awareness. You practice meditation. You try to get information from authorized sources and not to seeing different kind of news that is going on that can excite your mind. These are all examples of the sattvic attitude. You keep in general a positive attitude about things. You accept that there are events that you cannot control. You exercise regularly. You eat balanced meals, these are all part of sattva. You learn to manage your time more effectively. You set limits and learn to say no to the requests that would create excessive stress. You have to learn to say yes when you can, and that is the balanced attitude. You make time for your relaxation and for your hobbies. Now you can learn to do yantra painting. You can learn how to sew some masks for other people so you can give out for free. You do something helpful and useful. You use your hobby to balance yourself. You can be assertive, it’s sattvic, but not aggressive. Aggressive is rajasic. Assertive, being yourself is sattvic. You assert your feelings, your opinions and your belief, but not becoming angry, offensive, and passive, for example, not saying anything but turning everything inside and getting angry. Everything in this universe is operating through the three gunas. We need to start to see things this way. The gunas operates in the physical and the mental and the emotional level and obscure our true nature. So beyond our true nature, beyond the gunas, beyond the things happening, there is a consciousness of the reality that is beyond denial, beyond the darkness, beyond actions and beyond even the harmony of the balance, which is completely pure, which is ideal. But right now what we want is to nurture at least the sattva. Because in that sattva, in that harmony, we‘re be able to perceive the light within. The consciousness or what we call the Atman is always there. We seeing things as if through crystal. Like the crystal, when you put it by the colors it will take all the colors. It looks like the Self is lost in what is happening, but we need to be able to distinguish that the Self is always there. It can never be lost. The mind is colored by the darkness and by passion so that we cannot see or recognize ourselves.

That is the ultimate counseling for yourself and the others how to recognize the Self. Yoga teaches that you are not the body, you are not the mind because it’s changing, you cannot depend on it. Even our body you cannot depend on. Ultimately, if you can talk to yourself or talk to others the higher level of philosophy, then it’s great. But at least you can move people from tamas to rajas to sattva. From darkness to some level of harmony. Have them have a little bit detachment towards their thoughts and feelings. Because know that thoughts and feelings are always veiling. Like today,the sun is there but the clouds are veiling, so you cannot see the sun.You get a little depressed and think that the sun is not there, The sun is the Self. The sun is always there.

Tamas is the resistance to change, Tamas is the veiling. Rajas is the forceful change. it’s external-oriented and ego-driven. It’s extreme control. It makes us attached. When we attach,  we become fearful. Then at that time you know that you need to calm down. Tamas, you need to move it, shake it up, get out of it. Rajas, you need to calm down. And sattva, you need to nurture. So that’s always the key. You need to do it. Often rajas and tamas are together. When you see fear is there, you become more attached. Fear, is tamasic you won’t be able to see that your Self is there, and you become more attached to things. You think that if I have this thing I will be secure myself. So tamas and rajas go together. From fear comes attachment and from that come defensiveness and then stress. Because the more you have that “me and mine attitude” the more stressed you are. The more relaxed you are the more you are resting in your own Self, and the more you won’t be subject to stress and will not become fearful because of the change. People are also attached to the actions thinking that this is my way. People say, “My way, or the highway. “ If you become dutiful, there’s a different story. Sometimes you know there’s a rigid action, that’s rajas. So we need to calm down. It’s not like you can become a saint or liberated or become free from any of these. But you need to calm down. If you feel that the rajas is going on in your relationship and so on, you need to calm down. Relax is the key. Relax. And if you feel like you are hiding away or getting out of this, you need to do some action, get out of it. You take a walk, you take a shower, you do something. That’s the guideline. I hope so far now you get the guideline. How to deal with tamas, how to deal with rajas, and how to constantly nurture the sattva. The sattva is the wisdom the acceptance. The acceptance in whatever you cannot change and change whatever you can change. Do whatever you can do and accept what you cannot change. That is the sattva. The sattva allows you to be peaceful. Whatever has happened, you can be peaceful in any circumstances and you can make wise choices. And then you become selfless. You carry on becoming devotional. Some people lose their faith because of rajas. Some people who don’t have faith at all, that is tamas. Then some are rajasic. They say that God is doing this doing that and then they are very happy when it happens. But when something changes they blame God. Why did you did this why did you do that. You see that is because they are rajasic, they are attached to their own view of God or what God can do. We use the word God but really, we don’t know. Our ego cannot know God. So if we surrender ourselves we would be able to see the bigger picture. So that’s why the cultivating the sattvic faith is important. Because we cannot control all that we know. There is something that is taking care of things. Keeping the devotion, keeping the discipline to control the mind. Keeping meditation and detachment. Keeping the self inquiry. If you do self inquiry you will never be bored, it will keep you busy and get you out of your habitual way of thinking.

Summary

Our journey is to transform ourselves from negative to positive; from restlessness to peace; from darkness to light. Peace of mind is happiness, but peace is difficult to attain, because our mind is always changing. We have to be steady, regular. We always go and look for the happiness outside. Remember the story of the lady looking for her needle outside when she dropped the needle inside. So the remembrance of the tendencies is sattva. We always look for happiness outside, and blame others for our problems. It’s been our tendency for a very long time. So we have to keep remembering ourselves, keep practising. (Abhyasa Yoga) Know that the truth lies within, so turn inwards.

There’s a quote from Swami Sivananda, “Fear not. Grieve not. Worry not. Your essential nature is peace. Thou art an embodiment of peace. Know this. Feel this. Realize this.”

You will know your own tendencies and know how to guide others and bring a different perspective.