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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.

Forgiveness:  A talk given by Dr. Fred Luskin

Forgiveness: A talk given by Dr. Fred Luskin

This talk is part of the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) course, and was done on a zoom call.

Dr. Fred Luskin

  • Consultant
  • Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects
  • Associate Professor at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology

Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center, Dalat Vietnam, 15 January, 2020

In this talk Dr. Luskin outlines the procedure for forgiveness.  This talk was transcribed (with some editing for clarity and brevity) almost verbatim from a video which was recorded on a zoom call.

Introduction

Dr. Luskin is a psychologist and for over 20 years has run the forgiveness program at Stanford University in Northern California, USA.  In this talk he explains the process of forgiveness as he is teaching around the world with many different groups.  He is helping the SYHET students develop skills for counseling people with health concerns.  Please see his biography at the end of this transcript.

Story of Pain

I had a terribly painful experience of being abandoned and betrayed by a friend who was very close to me.  One night he brought his new girlfriend for a dinner party at my home, and then suddenly cut off all connection with me. 

I held this negative event in my mind for several years, and later realized that I was ruining my life, missing all of the good things in my life because of it.   I was arguing with my wife, not appreciating my child, hating my job, and I was miserable, because I was holding on to the story of this event. 

In one extreme moment of anger, I noticed that my whole body was strongly affected by the reply of my ex-friend when I tried to reach out to him with a sincere letter and he sent a very short and casual reply on a post card.

Choosing what is right

Then came a painful (but also very helpful) moment with my wife when she strongly pointed out my problem to me.  Some time later, while at the supermarket, after being frustrated beyond my capacity with a relatively small problem, and having another intense physical reaction, I had an amazing flash of revelation. 

I recognized that I have a choice of paying attention to what is wrong in my life, or paying attention to what is right in my life, and no one else owns that choice except for me.  The moment that I had this realization, I told my wife that I was sorry that I had harmed her so much with my bad mood.

Blaming a friend

Then I got in touch with my friend and agreed to meet him, and basically tell him the same thing, that neither of them were responsible for my bad mood, but rather that I was responsible for my bad mood.  When we met, we had a very interesting experience, because I had already forgiven him.  I realized that he harmed me, and that harm lasted for a year.  And then I harmed myself, and that harm lasted for the next two years!

Those two years were not his responsibility, but I had blamed him for my misery.  I had blamed him because I could not handle my own life.  When I recoginized that fact and I saw him, we did not actually talk about his abandoning me.  He was open to me, I had forgiven him, and we had an uncomfortable half hour, but since that half hour we have again been best friends for the next 25 or more years.

Stanford Forgiveness Project

I had let go of blaming him for harming me, because I saw that when he cut off contact with me, I used the situation badly and harmed myself.  We then developed these insights into the Stanford forgiveness project, I have written the best-selling book on forgiveness, and we teach people all over the world how to do it.  What I will try to do with you is lead you through some of the processes.

Practice Session

First, please think of something in your life of something that you have not forgiven that continues to haunt you in some way. 

Then you can turn to someone near you, and talk about what it is that you have not forgiven, and why you have not let it go. 

It does not have to be anything very serious, and not something that is so overpowering that you will become emotionally overcome talking about it. 

Just choose something that you have not forgiven, describe it, explain what it was, and why you have not forgiven it and can’t let it go.

practice…..

Understanding Homeostasis

What we came to understand over all of those years is that forgiveness is mainly a story-telling problem, a matter of dealing with the stories we create about our life events.  What you have is a “default network and setting” in your brain that tries to keep you in what is called homeostasis, where all of the body’s functions can continue in the normal manner.  This homeostasis keeps you “level,” meaning in the proper balance. 

Depending on the level of tension that you have, and depending on the level of stress that you have experienced, you have a homeostasis which is anywhere from very calm to very anxious.  The important point here is that you consider your current state “normal,” even though it may be quite angry, anxious or disturbed.

The more sensitive, angry, anxious, etc. that your homeostatic point is, the more you have mental verbal stories that are designed to keep that homeostasis in tact.  So if you are an angry or anxious person, then many of the stories that you tell about your life are designed to keep you from changing.  The stories are keeping the body the as it considers normal.

Not knowing your own tendency

Very often angry people have no idea how angry they are!  People in a hurry have no idea how much of a hurry they are in.  People who are anxious and skiddish have no idea how they appear to others, because it is so normal for them.  When you have suffered or when you have been hurt, you go through a natural period of grieving, where you come up with a story to help explain your experience in a way that will generally fit in with who you are.

If you are a generally kind-hearted person and if someone does something nasty, after a while you will get around to some explanation of “well, you know, they did not mean it, or maybe I took it wrong, or it was just a really tough experience for them.”  If you are an obnoxious person, then you will come up with a story that makes the other person wrong or which has them with bad motives, and you can stay comfortable being exactly who you are.  Some experiences, however, are outside of our normal range, and therefore we have to adjust to them. 

The stories we tell ourselves

The thing that happened to my friend was outside of my normal range.  It was outside of homeostasis, and the way I had organized my mental life.  So I came up with a story that reflected that being outside of my normal range, and it changed me.  The story was that life was not fair, life is terrible, and you cannot trust people.  

The story changed my day-to-day vibration and perspective, and that is what my wife complained about.  She would not have complained if I created a story that fit in with who I was.  But I created a story that changed who I think that I am.  It changed my physiology, and not just my perspective.  It changed my biology, and that is what all of your stories do.

Your stories cement your biology in place, and they are how you change your biology.  So if you are practicing meditation and you have a story that you are not good at this practice, then you will get very minimal results.  But if your story is that I am good a learning new things, I am open to new experiences, you will get much more benefits from the meditation practices and it will take much less time for the meditation to change you.  So if you think that meditation is not anything important, you would have to have very deep meditation experiences before you would be convinced that there are benefits.

Change the Story

With forgiveness, we see that if we create a negative story, we tend to ruin our lives through that story.  The story changes our biology, changes our nervous system, and prevents new information from getting in.  So if our story changes our outlook to “I cannot trust people” then we see a different world than we saw before the story came.  We have now altered the world that we see and the body of the person in that world.

So this is why unforgiveness is so dangerous to us.  These stories tend to either alter who we are.  If we are generally a positive person, we change to a more negative view, or if we are already a mistrusting person, the stories tend to cement this negative view more into who we are.  So ultimately what we understood is that forgiveness is a change in story.  We can change the story, even though we cannot change what actually happened.

The change in our homeostasis makes it very hard to change the story, so many of us are stuck in these stories of what happened in our childhood, a lover that left us, or we are critical of ourselves, and these stories limit our capacity to grow.  If we can see that what happened is not the fault of our past, or the actions of another person, we are will to change our stories, but until then we feel justified in blaming someone else for ruining part of our life, and it is the blame that is so toxic to your well-being.

Blaming is not the answer

Blame is a quality that by itself leads to helplessness.  It also leads to hostility, that is we say, “Because they did something my life is not as good as it could be; it is their fault,” instead of admitting that my current situation is actually due to my own inability to cope, which is the truth.  Because we are not able to cope with the situation, we create a story that keeps us stuck.

Practice Session 2

Now we do another two exercises, this time in altering stories, to help you to be able to change.  Please go back to the first person and tell a short story about what happened to you.  But then take a longer time to explain how that story is now keeping you from creating peace in your life.  So our problem is not about the past, but rather about our inability to create a story right now that will bring peace for our current life.

In my case, I can say that my friend harmed me.  And that was true for some time.  It is not true that my friend harmed me for five years.  But then I made bad choices about how to handle the situation that kept me suffering, I was ignorant about how to grow past the situation, and it took me years to figure that out.  Whole countries and groups of people are getting together and creating stories about how another group of people is responsible for their lives not being peaceful or happy enough. Forgiveness is changing that story.

Practice changing the story

So now you can go to the first person, and give a short summary of the story you have about how they harmed you.  Then begin to tell a different story that will begin something like, “You know, actually the truth is that it is not their fault that I have not forgiven them.”  The truth is I just did not know how to forgive, or I did not practice it, or I had no skills as to how to deal with this.  That is not a crime!

But the truth is that I did not know how to make peace with this part of my life, and it would be good to learn how to make peace with parts of my life that hurt.  With the other person you can now talk about how to create a narative that will help you to move past the problem in your current life, rather than talk about what was done to you in the past.  This is just a first pass, but I ask everyone to try.  You can explain what it was about yourself that kept you from moving forward, and how you can now learn to do so.

Perhaps you grew up in a house that did not teach you these skills, or this event was too painful, but you want to recognize that now you need to learn, grow and change in order to improve your life.  That is the deep shift that occurs in forgiveness, from blame and helplessness to “there is something that I need to develop.”  Now please begin the exercise.

practice…..

First step in Forgiveness

OK, thank you for doing the exercise.  Usually it takes longer than the time I am asking you to do it, about one hour.  However, it can be done more quickly than you think, when you educate people and you have them practice different stories.  Because it clicks into people when they realize that, “I have some control of what comes out of my mouth.”  If you have been talking for some time about how bad part of your life is, the first step in forgiveness is to stop talking like that.  It is simply to shut down that talking.

If people have been wounded, and they have never had the opportunity to talk about it, then talking about it is essential.  So if you are a health educator, and someone discloses that they have an issue that they have never told anyone about, never had the opportunity to talk about it, then you need to stop right there and give them the chance to tell you about it.  Of course, you must feel comfortable talking with them about the issue, and be theraputically attuned so you are able to deal with the issue.  If they want to talk about some serious abuse, probably you should send them to a therapist.

Encourage sharing

If they tell you that they are suicidal, you should send them to a therapist.  But if you think their issue is within your scope of practice, which you have to be extraordinaraly careful to maintain, you should give them your attention, because step one is talking about it.  You need to encourage them to share it (but only in a safe place), because you want them to talk.  Research done on people who have had difficult experiences in life shows that people who heal the least are the ones that do not share.  People who hold in their traumas do not heal.

Share with the right people

The second-worst healers are the people who tell everybody about their difficulties.  You may meet someone and they say, “I had a terrible childhood, my ex-husband was a bum, I got fired from my job,” and you have never met them before!  This type of person does not heal either.  It is not quite as toxic as not talking about it, but it is definitely unhealthful.  What is healthful is to get it out, short term, to a small number of trusted people. 

You could say if there was a significant trauma two months ago, it may be appropriate and helpful to still be talking about it.  But if it happened three years ago, the best strategy is to simply stop talking about it.  We can apply the technique of “shut up the next time you want to complain about it.”  This is the way we can forgive and heal.

Don’t let the story become a habit

This formula is simple and obvious, but most people do not recognize how much they influence their physical and emotional reality to keep telling the same stories over and over and over again.  Many people repeat these stories so much for so long that they actually get stuck in the habit, to the extent that they no longer can choose what they are going to say and how they are going to say it!  That is the real danger. 

If you call you ex-husband a bum for six months, it is very hard in the seventh month to think of them as anything but a bum.  If at the age of 15 you started telling the story that you had a terrible mother, then by the age of 30 it will be very hard to change, because by then your whole body has adapted to that story.  You have arranged homeostasis around that story, and that is not a healthy place to be. 

Allow yourself to feel the emotions in order to heal

If people have not talked at all about the trauma, of course they will not be able to heal at all, because they must process the emotions before they can achieve forgiveness.  We call this processing grieving.  And people must go through this grieving to help them move past the hurt in their lives.  So first they must experience the emotions.  If someone hurt you, you may have to experience the anger, if someone left you, you may have to cry, because this is the first step to heal which comes before forgiveness.  But if you are around someone who already grieved, got angry, cried, and told the story for some time, then it is time to stop talking about it.

A story can become an addiction almost in the same way a chemical can become an addiction.  So it becomes a pattern, you have no control, and no way to stop telling the story or changing it on your own.  You do not get any benefit from telling the story again.  The first step to change is to admit that you have a problem.  You say, “I have a bad habit of talking about this with everyone I meet, and I do not know how to stop.  Can you please help me?”

Don’t become the victim

Only you create a “victim.”  When you talk about the event in terms of, “there is nothing I can do about this” you become a victim.  This is what we do in forgiveness work.  We tell them that there is absolutely no value in telling the story again.  You are actually laying down more neuro-pathways, making it more difficult to change.  This stuff is so simple that it was hard to believe that it came as news when we started using it.  And many therapists actually argued with us!

Positive Intention

Here is the way we approached it:  we call it “positive intention.”  It is asking yourself the question, “In that particular situation what was I looking for, what did I want from it?”  For example, you were trying to get a job or perhaps a romantic relationship, which is probably the most common situation that causes people to need to forgive.  More people have stories about ending of relationships than any other situation.  The vulnerability we have with intimate partners is the most sensitive that we experience.  These events are outside of our normal homeostasis. 

Let us say that you have had a terrible breakup of an intimate relationship.  The approach here is to ask yourself what it was that you were looking for in that relationship.  For example, “I wanted this relationship to have someone to enjoy life with, share with, have fun with, grow with, etc.”  You want to be honest about that reason.  It does not matter what the reason is, but you want to be positive about what you were looking for.  “I am not giving up on wanting to get that because this time it did not work out.” 

In my example of losing my intimate friend, I have to say, “I loved the situation of having such a wonderful friend, but it did not work out.  However, I am not going to give up on having a wonderful friend just because this particular friendship did not last.”  And so the story shifts from the past to the future.  The story shifts from this was what was wrong, what I did not get, to this is what I am now working to get.  So this statement is our positive intention.  We say, “Why should I give up trying to get what is important to me?”  We can still reach the goal but in a different way.

Practice session 3

So now please go to a different person, and this time, work on telling the positive intention story.  You can start with, “OK this difficult thing happened and it was very bad, very painful.”  But then you state the positive intention:   “This is what I was trying to get, and instead of spending much time obsessing about how I did not get what I wanted, I want to learn how I can get it in a different way.”  The unforgiveness story looks backward whereas the forgiveness story looks forward.  The unforgiveness story is blaming the other person for not getting what you wanted.  The forgiveness story is moving forward to get what you originally wanted.  It says, “I will not let this event stand in my way!”  It is a complete difference of mental representation.  Your body, not just your mind, shifts.  You develop an entirely different neuro-architecture.

Meditation to quiet the nervous system

Now I will have you do some very simple meditation practices.  The reason for these practices is that if you do not quiet your nervous system, it is hard to cement the result of the other exercises. 

  • So now please get into a position so that you can sit comfortably for five minutes.  From my stress management purposes, I suggest that you not have a perfectly straight posture, but rather focus on having soft shoulders and a relaxed body. 
  • The main thing is to be able to breathe properly and easily, with a relaxed abdomen. 
  • Please bring your awareness to your lower abdomen.  The key here for stress management is that when you inhale your abdomen expands, and when you exhale, your abdomen contracts. 
  • Now bring an image to your mind of a person that you simply adore.  Bring an image to your mind of a human being that you just love.  You actually feel the love.  You want to cultivate your own heart.
  • And now let go of that experience and allow your eyes to open.

This is the other thing that we teach about forgiveness, that you just touched where it lives.  Forgiveness lives in your open heart.  And you never get there by arguing about the past, by blaming people, and being full of self-pity.  You get there by opening yourself up to love, beauty, kindness and gratitude.  When your heart is open, you pretty much already know how to forgive.  That open heart of yours can already do it.  It is not complicated, not a big deal. 

Go to the love in your heart

But we never go there.  We do not go to the part of us that loves anywhere nearly enough to solve our life’s problems, and so we stay stuck and unhappy.  But when you touch that part of you, and you open your heart, and you trust, even if it is just for 10 seconds, for those 10 seconds you have forgiven.  You are at peace and your life is OK.  You have touched the place in you that does not need an enemy.  It is in you.  You just never looked for it.  Most of the time we look in the wrong place to try to heal, and so we do not find it.

So what we teach is many different ways to just connect to your own heart.  So you practice being in that state, so you want to talk from that state.  And when we practice forgiveness we say, “I want to tell a story that does not yank me out of my own heart.  By telling the same bitter, life is not fair, life is terrible stories I am making it impossible to feel good.”  Forgiveness means that you still have access to your heart.  But you cannot find that if you are telling bitter stories all of the time.

Remember the wonderful possibilities

So you need to stop sabotaging your own happiness by bitterness and complaining, altering your biololgy so that the bitterness becomes “normal.”  Some grieving is helpful because we can release the negative emotions in a positive way with people who are close, and learn from the experience.  But the problem with most of us is that we give too much attention to the small negative events and not enough attention to the rest of our lives, which many times have wonderful possibilities. 

When you forgive, you make a big change in your life.  When you will not forgive, you are not saying that you will not forgive just one little thing.  You are saying that because of that event your whole life is ruined.  No matter what happens, if you have enough gratitude like the saints do, then you would not lose your heart.  If you were a very strong meditator, with a long practice of compassion, you would not be so upset by these negative events.  But most of us are completely yanked out of our hearts when people do something that hurts us.

Conclusion

We cannot find our own heart.  We have found that people have to practice finding their own hearts, and stop telling stories that keep finding their own hearts impossible.  What you need is much more energy given to appreciating the positive aspects of your life, and less energy given to the negative stories. 

We remind people who have a basically good situation, with enough food to eat, water to drink, etc. that they can focus on these positive aspects to help keep up the balance of negative and positive.  They can tell the story about how terrible some event was, and they may have had something quite bad.  But then we ask them to add to the story something like,

“Yes I had some bad things happen, but my life is actually quite good because I am not going hungry, thirsty, etc. (like some people) and I have much to enjoy and appreciate.”

Dr. Fred Luskin Biography:

Dr. Fred Luskin has completed extensive research on the training and measurement of forgiveness therapy. His research demonstrates that learning forgiveness leads to increased physical vitality, hope, greater self–efficacy, enhanced optimism and conflict resolution skills. It also shows that forgiveness lessons the physical and emotional toll of stress, and decreases hurt, anger depression and blood pressure. 

He has worked with men and women from both sides of the violence in Northern Ireland who have had family members killed and with different groups of financial advisors after the stock market crash of 2000 to enhance their conflict resolution and stress management skills.

Dr. Luskin is the author of the best seller Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness and Stress Free for Good.  He has worked with many organizations and has trained lawyers, doctors, church leaders and congregations, hospital staffs, teachers and other professionals to manage stress and enhance forgiveness all over the United States.  Dr. Luskin’s work has been featured in Time magazineO magazine, Ladies Home JournalU.S. News and World ReportsParadePrevention as well as the New York TimesLos Angeles TimesChicago TribuneU.S.A. Today and the Wall Street Journal

Frederic Luskin, Ph.D. is the Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects and an Associate Professor at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.  He also serves as the Co Chair of the Garden of Forgiveness Project at Ground Zero in Manhattan.  

6 Ayurvedic Tips for Winter Wellness

6 Ayurvedic Tips for Winter Wellness

This time of the year, colds are common in people. Symptoms include runny nose, cough, congestion, headache, drowsiness, and an achy body. In Ayurveda, colds are viewed as a kapha and vata disorder. Kapha is due to the congestion qualities (cool, moist properties in excess) along with high vat, manifesting as a decreased appetite, chills and body aches.

Here are 6 tips to deal with a cold according to Ayurveda:

  1. Rest – slow down and give your body the time to heal and balance. We have less energy during these winter months. It is a time when our energy wants to go inward so honor this and give yourself the space to relax and restore.
  2. Avoid dairy Products – dairy increases kapha, which manifests as mucous. If you are feeling congested then it is best to avoid all dairy so you don’t add to this congestion.
  3. Sip warm water – this will help you to flush your system as well as keep you warm throughout the day.
  4. Eucalyptus Steams – in a large pot boil water with either eucalyptus leaves or add a few drops of eucalyptus oil once the water is steaming hot. Cover face with towel and bend over pot. Breath in the steam for several minutes. This should help clear up congestion.
  5. Neti – Using a neti pot with salt water will help to flush out excess mucous from your nasal passages follow with breath of fire and alternate nostril breathing.
  6. Ginger – This is one of the best remedies out there for cold because it combats the kapha and vata qualities out of balance. We suggest using fresh herbs such as ginger root, turmeric root, and cinnamon sticks if these are available to you. If not powdered can work as well. 
Herbal medicine is an important aspect of Ayurvedic Healing.

Following an Ayurvedic routine can also help maximize wellness and also boost immunity to help ward off colds.

According to Ayurveda, each organ is at its highest functioning power during certain times. Reflect on different times in your day and utilize healing and balancing tools to bring clarity, routine, and ease mind this fall/winter season.

  1. 6-8 am Lunch (kapha) try gentle yoga, pranayama, or walking.
  2. 8-10am pancreas (kapha) have a breakfast, and allow digestion to occur.
  3. 10-12pm stomach (pitta) digest.
  4. 12-2pm heart (pitta) have a lunch and digest.
  5. 2-4pm spleen(vata) digest
  6. 4-6pm colon, kidneys, Bladder (vata) enjoy dinner
  7. 6-8pm lungs (kapha) walk outside.
  8. 8-12pm pancreas, small intestine, stomach (kapha+pitta) rest, digest, and sleep.

      Adding simple things to your daily routine, such as practicing self abhyanga (warm sesame oil self massages). An hour before shower or any form of exercise. Eat a seasonal warm cooked meal on time. Avoid cold drinks and food during cold winter months.

Ayurvedic oil massage (Abhyanga) is another important aspect of a health and wellness routine.

Jalpa Patel (Jagadamba)

Jalpa Patel (“Jagadamba”) is a knowledgeable Ayurveda Practitioner who is passionate about integrating Ayurveda and Yoga for health and healing. View courses with Jagadamba >

Healing with Medicine, Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish, and Vedanta

Healing with Medicine, Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish, and Vedanta

Healing with medicine, yoga, ayurveda, jyotish and vedanta

Swami Sitaramananda

Swami Sitaramananda

Yoga Farm Director

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

I want to share with you a true story of karmic disease and karmic healing. Disease can be karmic, i.e., not sure of the cause, but meant to happen for self-transformation and growth.

When we have disease, we always asked ourselves the question, “Why? Why me?” It is difficult to see that disease can be an opportunity, an opportunity to slow down, to reevaluate oneself, and to reconnect with what is essential in one ‘s life.

In the best case scenario, we also reconnect with the healing spiritual force within us and within Mother Nature, we reconnect with our natural ability to pray. Disease can make us strong in some way, restoring our faith, and teach us that there are higher forces at play that govern our lives, thus teaching us to surrender, accept, to become humble, and to contemplate life and death.

The other possibility is that disease can challenge our faith, awaken not our spirit, but our anger and hatred, the accumulation of all bitterness, desires unfulfilled, and disappointments of the past. Disease brings lots of negativity to the surface. Disease is purgatory and painful, detoxifying.

Spencer teaches with students standing nearby observing in the sunlight

A young lady named Hannah discovered she has breast cancer. She is in her 40s, a mother of two, happily married, manager at a bank, and normally a joyful person. She has never done yoga or meditated before. She tried to keep her composure during the days between the discovery of the lump and the confirmation that it is cancer. Her mother and sister are yoga teachers. So at that time, she took the trip to the ashram and asked for an appointment with the head teacher, the swami in charge, i.e., myself.

I looked at her and felt her anxiety. I even checked her Vedic astrology chart, which normally will reveal some karmic reasons for something happening. The chart is actually quite positive and balanced, there are no clear causes, no terrible imbalances, no long-term negativity, no big inner drama which would explain cancer. I am actually perplexed. She is in her Jupiter period of life which is a good period for learning, not a Saturn period where we have to pay our karmic debts.

A PDC student observes a flower in our permaculture garden.

Doctors diagnosed cancer and prescribed breast surgery and a course of chemotherapy. She lost her hair, became weak and pale. I prayed for her but did not know what to do besides following my intuitive advice as a yoga therapist: rest, recharge prana, take time, do Ayurvedic pancha karma . Her mother had a lot of faith. One day, She asked me to pull a fortune message card, the kind in a Chinese fortune cookie or on your yogi tea bag. The message said, “You will make a difference in somebody’s life”. The mother immediately said, “It is Hannah, you will save Hannah! I kept silent. Such expectation of cure of the number one disease killer placed on me!

Hannah went to India for 3 weeks of pancha karma treatments at the famous Ayurvedic healing village Vaidyagram, near Coimbatore. This is between her 3rd and 4th rounds of chemo. She wore a turban over her head, having lost all of her hair. She took time from her job and from her family, a new course of events. Her husband and his parents took care of the kids. She came back from her pancha karma feeling better, about to resume her chemotherapy.

It happened so, as karma dictated, that , one day I asked point-blank to the Ayurvedic Dr. Ram Kumar, “What should we do for her? Ayurveda pancha karma, but now what?
Dr. Ram Kumar said, “Maybe she can meet me and another cancer specialist doctor that I will meet for an international conference on cancer in Malaysia!

Students have fun in the permaculture garden at the Yoga Farm.

It happened so that the dates of the conference are a holiday, and Hannah was able to take time from work and her sister was able to accompany her.  During the conference, hearing many doctors talking about cancer, hearing stories of healing from cancer patients, Hannah gained strength. The doctors advised her to stop her chemo if hereditary cancer is not in the family, (she did not know that her own mother was a cancer survivor), and she agreed.

Upon return, she quit her high paying bank manager job, and checked into the ashram for a two months stay. She practiced yoga asanas for the first time, twice a day, practiced breathing exercises and conscious relaxation. She ate vegetarian food twice a day, did her one-hour karma yoga chores in the ashram, and took her time walking in the forest. I saw her walking slowly, relaxing and ẹnjoying herself. After a month of yoga vacation, she signed up for Yoga Teacher Training Course and learned yoga philosophy, yoga psychology, and followed the rigorous yoga discipline seriously. Indeed the disease opened a new door of knowledge for her. She was happy!

A permaculture designer tends to the garden.

After two months she came back and the doctor was amazed. There was no trace of cancer! Even her hepatitis of 5 years that was controlled by medicine had disappeared. Her doctor was so amazed that he himself came to the ashram and sent his own parents for yoga retreats.

The reoccurence of cancer is a commonly known fact. After returning home, she took a lower position in the bank and continued with her daily routine of yoga, meditation, pranayama, relaxation and vegetarian diet. Her spirit came back strong along with her faith.  Ten days later she came back impromptu for the Vedanta Self-enquiry course. I hesitated to take her as I did not want to compromise her new-found balance. I gave her a one-day trial and questioned her.

She was ready. I let her follow the 10-days intensive course, during which she fearlessly shared her past trauma, always with an inner smile. She nailed down the idea that, “I am the immortal atman, I am not this body, not this mind.” She is free from fear!

Yoga classes are an integral part of the permaculture design course.

The medicine of karma, Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish, and Vedanta work together for this amazing self-transformation journey.

Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) practitioners are trained to be the health catalyst; in wisdom counseling, prayer, yoga teaching, Ayurveda therapy and working with doctors. Disease is not simple. Life and death are not simple. Consciousness heals. Diseases are opportunities. May all become Yoga Health Educators and may Yoga and Ayurveda therapy be used more alone or with medicine!

Yoga and Healing

Yoga and Healing

This podcast is an a webinar by Swami Sitaramananda from 2016.  Swamiji discusses Yoga and Healing and how holistic healing of body, mind, and spirit can happen through the practice of yoga asana, pranayama, relaxation, and meditation.  Swamiji also discusses the new yoga therapy program that is being offered and how this helps us to return to our true nature.

Listen in for Divine Wisdom

Sivananda Yoga: Health Educator Training – Documentary film by Benoy K Behl

Sivananda Yoga: Health Educator Training – Documentary film by Benoy K Behl

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A landmark event in the field of Yoga and of Health Management is the founding of the Sivananda Institute of Health and Yoga in California, USA. The institute’s first 2-year 800-Hour Yoga Health Educator Training Course was launched at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm at Grass Valley in California in October, 2017. It was followed by the launch of this intensive training course at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Dalat in Vietnam in January 2018. This yoga health education-training course, is a yoga therapy course where we focus on positive health and well-being. We are educating people to approach the person that has disease as a total person, that means their body, their mind, their emotions, the circumstances of their life.

Listen in for Divine Wisdom