Saturday, March 14, 2020

Parenting with Yoga - Yoga for Stress & Anxiety

- by Sannyasi Gyanhira
I think this is a topic that needs no introduction right now. So, let's just get right into it!
Here are some practices that are so powerful yet so simple that you can start right now. It won't take long, and they pack A LOT of punch. They are all practices that I know from doing myself. Try it for 3 days and see the result. 
1. Bhramari Pranayama (breathing exercise)
Why: Anxiety reliever.
How: Sit in a comfortable, upright position. Gently press the ears closed with the index fingers, so that your voice echoes inside your head when you speak (do not insert fingers inside the ears). Raise the elbows to the sides, and up to the level of the shoulders. Inhale. As you exhale, make an "mmmmmmmm" sound, keeping the lips closed, until all the breath is exhaled. Repeat 7 times.
It is this gentle humming sound which gives this pranayama its name of "Humming Bee Breath." It is so powerful! The gentle vibration creates a very soothing, calming, relaxing effect.
2. Om Chanting
Why: Om chanting has been shown to reduce emotional tensions, reduce fear, and promote resiliency of health. Om chanting increases intuition. Benefits can be experienced after just 5 minutes of chanting.
How: Sit in a comfortable, upright posture. Chant Om in the most comfortable way for you. Play with it and see what feels best to you, ie what pitch and what speed.
3. Sing!
Why: Relieves emotional, mental and physical tensions. It actually really does! Firstly, singing is a powerful, rhythmic and regulated breath exercise, or pranayama, in itself. It helps you oxygenate your brain, which reduces anxiety, especially if you’re a breath-holder when you feel anxious. Singing also relaxes the diaphragm and chest muscles, reducing anxiety by allowing you to take deeper breaths. Finally, singing also helps release emotions (especially when you sing songs you really like), as well as gets you out of your thinking/worrying mind. Music and song are powerful in shifting moods. In Yoga, kirtan and bhajan are sung regularly.

Swami Sivananda's 18 Ities: Equanimity

- by Swami Yogatirthananda Saraswati (Switzerland), From YogaMag May 2002

Fatigue and the impatience that may result from fatigue are great threats to equanimity. Awareness of mental and/or physical fatigue helps to restore equanimity either by overcoming the fatigue or by bearing calmly with the situation.
Dealing with one's own needs and desires and those of others sometimes requires a lot of juggling. If there is no balance, no compromise, then equanimity is threatened. The result may be anger, frustration, disappointment, etc.
Reaction to pressure in the form of 'mobbing' is a tremendous challenge to equanimity. Being a witness is a way out. But although there is an outward equanimity, calmness and control towards the other person, inner turmoil and hurt may persist for much longer. On the other hand, there is a reaction to support, trust and kindness. Feeling flattered is pride, is identification and not equanimity. Equanimity refers to a balanced attitude in the face of positive and negative situations. Discernment should determine any reaction to a situation. As soon as judgement creeps in, equanimity is at stake.
I was giving a language class and in the room next door a saxophone rehearsal for a concert that same evening was taking place. I had to juggle the discontent of the students, my own fatigue due to having to speak loudly, the nervousness of the young musicians before their concert and the organizers who were ill at ease. Being aware of the time factor (the situation would not last forever, but only for thirty minutes) and the fact that there was nothing that could be done to help me stay calm, I found the prayer that had helped already with absence of vanity was also very useful here:
  • To have the patience to endure what cannot be changed,
  • To have the courage to change what can be changed,
  • To have the wisdom to know the difference.

YogaMag Inspiration - Adapting to Increasing Stress

- by Dr. S.V. Rao, M.D., Gandhi Medical College, Bhopal, From YogaMag June 1977

The neo-industrial age, also called the age of anxiety, is introducing newer forms of stress into the everyday life of common man. His life is full of subtle psychological plagues- worries, value conflicts.

Loneliness, disillusionment and doubts as to whether he can weave a successful course through the complex maze of freeways and blind alleys that make up modern existence.
Tremendous growth of knowledge, coupled with scientific and technological discoveries, has provided the opportunities for a higher life, health, happiness and leisure. But our distressed generation is obscurely aware that the present crisis is a spiritual one. What we need is a healing of the discord between the outward resources of power, which are assuming frightful proportions, and the inward resources of spirit, which seem to be steadily declining. To redeem and recreate our civilisation, we need a recovery of spiritual awareness, a new transforming contact with the inner springs of life, a sense of values. Despite the extraordinary achievements of affluent countries in art and science, intellectual and political life, hundreds of thousands of young people flee from reality by opting for drug-induced lassitude. Millions of parents retreat into video stupors or alcoholic haze. Legions of elderly folk vegetate and die in loneliness. The flight from family and occupational responsibility has become an exodus. Masses tame their raging anxieties with a score of tranquillisers and psychic pacifiers. Affluent nations, whether they know it or not, are passing through a stage of acute stress. All developing countries wedded to industrial progress are passing through similar phases differing only in degree. Man today is not standing on an enviable pedestal as a builder of a civilisation; he is lying low as a victim of a civilisation which is growing at an unbelievably rapid pace beyond his comprehension.

YogaMag Inspiration - Starve the Cold and the Fever

- by Swami Vicharananda Saraswati, From YogaMag May 1981

Most people who follow a yogic lifestyle soon arrive at a relatively disease-free state, where they are no longer troubled by chronic physical complaints. Nevertheless, there are times in everyone's life when extra demands are made on one's physical, emotional or mental resources. Often these periods of high stress precipitate a sudden disruption of physical health. These acute episodes of sickness are often referred to as healing crises. They should not be considered as disease states; in fact they are an expression of the body's healthy response to stress and overwork. The most important thing to remember at these times is to heed the message of the body, which is frantically signalling the need for a complete rest.

Yoga in Times of Uncertainty

- by Sannyasi Shivani

For this newsletter the ‘Niwas crew asked me to write an article on living your fullest potential. However, with the events of the last few weeks developing with the Covid-19 virus sweeping to pandemic proportions around the world, I feel it’s more pressing to take a look at what this virus, and the ensuing chaos means from a Yogic perspective — which surprisingly, is also about living to your fullest potential.

In Yoga there is a fundamental belief that the Divine/Universe, is always bringing itself back into balance, union or Yog. It is the ultimate expression of the oscillation of our dualistic reality. Negative, Positive — Transcend. One extreme — another extreme: peace, happiness, contentment.

Limbo, or the “unknown,” has never been an easy place for humans to sit. We like certainty and control (albeit perceived), solidity, routine, things we can ‘count on’ to ‘make us’ feel calm. In times like right now, the whole world has been thrown into a space of uncertainty. The most accurate words that are coming out of anyone’s mouth at this moment are “we don’t know” and this is not a comfortable place for people to sit. Now bare with me - this is a necessary space to sit. 

As Yogis, we go out of our way to actively create uncomfortableness where we stimulate and push our consciousness into opportunities for transformation. We call it Tapasya. This is a mix of austerity, sacrifice, discipline and uncertainty. Uncertainty is important, because when we engage in a Sadhana that is pushing us to our mental, emotional and physical limits we just don’t know if our efforts through the practices of Yoga (eg. Mantra, Havan, Asana, etc) are going to be successful. We just don’t know. We don’t know if all the uncomfortableness is going to bring us into the experience of more peace, more clarity, more Love. We don’t know and we learn to be ok with not knowing. 

Being ok with not knowing is also called a state of Faith. Faith that every little effort we make, with the intention of stepping into health, balance and evolution in mind, will collectively, and eventually, create an outcome that is good for us. That doesn’t mean an outcome that is necessary pleasant, easy, or enjoyable but an outcome that will ultimately bring us into a more optimal state of balance, of Yog, than we were before. 

Dare I say it, it will bring us closer to living our fullest potential. 

The thing is, the more out-of-balance we are, the more these out-of-the-norm, out-of-our-control experiences hit us hard. If you are attached to having a screaming hot shower, then to have a cold one becomes is a big leap. But if you live a (Yogic) life where you are aspiring for nonattachement - balance at every turn, then a cold shower is a mild (mental) inconvenience only a step away from the tepid norm. 

The key is to SLOW DOWN and WITNESS. Witness ourselves as the media ramps up its hysteria machine. Witness your mind in its balance between making sure that you are doing your due diligence for your own safety, but balancing that with making sure that others around you and in your community are also taken care of. It's easy to slide into the mass consciousness of fear and anxiety and that can quickly fester into self-preservation. But self-preservation has never been the point of life, for the simple fact is that we will all die. LOVE has, and will always be, the point of life.  

It is not a coincidence that Covid-19 is centred around the purification of the lungs and heart centre. Anahata Chakra (heart space) holds Love, but it also holds attachment, and grief. It is these frequencies of mind and emotion that it is trying to recalibrate. And it is also no surprise that the greater ripple of this is creating economic instability for two reasons:  

1) Anahata is the foundation of the 5th Dimension and that mirrors Mooladhara which is the foundation of the 3rd Dimension - which is the home of money and physical stability. These things are going to be rocked to their core — because they need to be.

2) Our whole collective-consumeristic-society is based on attachment.  Mine and Yours. “I need more to feel good and feel safe and I’m attached to those things, because if I don’t have them anymore my emotional and mental well-being, ‘my world,’ will collapse.”

And this, my friends, is our opportunity - To see where we are out of balance in our attachment and to see where the past (grief) is still influencing our decisions for our present and our future. 

I believe that virus’ such as Covid-19 are a reality to help us come into balance. And anything that helps us come into balance is ultimately helping us step into our fullest potential as humans. Now is the time to step up, to love, to help each other, to listen deeply to your soul, to let go of what you want, and focus on what you need. From 'Niwas, we are all sending blessings & mantras to you and to those who are suffering and experiencing loss.

May this time be a softening, of expansion and of deep connection with yourSelf and those around you.

Om and Prem.

Sannyasi Śivani

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Shivani’s December 2019 Satsang - The Coles Notes

Shivani’s December 2019 Satsang

Below are the coles notes taken from the recorded Satsang in December 2019.  
They relay Shivani’s experiences from her trip to RIkhiapeeth and bought forth some of the themes and teachings that Sw Satsangi relayed in her Satsangs while she was there. 

  • The experience this year was really strong. The Devi, the Ganesha and the Shiva Aradhana’s were razor-edged and potent. It gave a good experience of being able to tell when you were functioning within the flow and when you were not.

  • During the Sita Kalyanam Yajna, over 15 people working in the Bhet department putting together the prasād. The emotional or personality experience could be put aside for the duty. Everyone was focused on working together as efficiently and correctly as possible with love and light-hearted banter as they worked. The moment of purification is when you acknowledge where you are, emotionally and have enough discernment to choose the right action.

  • During the Ganesha Aradhana, the Pundits were responsible for chanting the Ganapati Atarvashirsha 108 times in two hours. It was really an altering experience of what we are capable of and the efficiency and the clarity that we are able to act in when the mind has that focus that is not coming from the ego but is focused on the mantra or the divine.  

  • Question: Is there any specific order to the Aradhanas? If yes, what are they and why? Answer: The first Aradhana is Sita Kalyanam to Devi and then the next one is to Ganesha and the next one is to Shiva. Swami Satsangi spoke about Sandhi; Sandhi is the point of connection. Ganesha is the point of connection between Devi and Shiva. Like a child is the point of connection between the mother and the father. Looking for and acknowledging the quality of that connection and honoring that connection is Sandhi; becoming aware of the bridges in your life and to honor those connections.

  • Swami Satsangi also spoke a lot about Faith. She said that Faith is an inherent quality in human nature. Everybody has Faith; it is not something you have to cultivate; you already have it. We have to become aware of how and to what we direct that Faith.

  • Swami Satsangi spoke about Living Yoga, and Living Yoga is Satyam, Sevam, and Swadyaya.

  • There are so many people in the world that do not have the tools.  This is where Hatha Yoga and Karma Yoga bring us into balance. These practices - asana, pranayama, bandha, mudra - get us to ground zero; these are third-dimensional practices. Once we are at ground zero that’s when we start to evolve.

  • Swami Satsangi said we need to become “mindless” not “mindful”...she said to focus on emptying oneself while in the presence of Truth and Divine energies. So any opportunity to be in this presence and then have the courage to humble ourselves enough to empty in the presence, it changes your world.
To watch the Satsang for yourself check out this link.  

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Swami Sivananda's 18 Ities: Simplicity

- By Sw Yogatirthananda Saraswati, From YogaMag Nov 2001 

After the hard month of sincerity I was looking forward to an easy time with simplicity. In regard to the previous ITIES simplicity meant not to complicate or overdo the study and practice of the ITIES. Simplicity implies spontaneity.

Simplicity in regard to life itself meant a simple yogic lifestyle - I use italics as it is such a wide concept. I think I do lead a simple life, trying to do with the minimum of consumer goods required in Western Europe and by a teenage son.

I do consider myself a simple-minded person. My interaction with people is spontaneous and honest. If it gets complicated, I withdraw. So with this view of myself and the lifestyle I lead, I was very confident about the month of simplicity.

Yet, as I soon found out, the test was not to be simple, as comes easily to my nature, but the challenge was to live up to the reactions of others. Simplicity in our society is equal to stupidity. It takes great humility to accept the mockery and sneers with which simplicity is met in the world today. Scheming and doing things in a twisted way is the more accepted way of interacting. At work, I realized that simple, unpretentious interaction is considered as silly or even stupid behaviour. Gossip, behind-the-back plotting and manoeuvring are the tricks and methods that are accepted, highly regarded and rewarded.

The test for me therefore was to keep on being simple, and above all to accept in all humility the judgement of others. Not wanting fortune or fame, or career or a smart car is an attitude that is considered by many as downright stupid. I got hurt, laughed at in many ways, taken advantage of without even noticing because I did not know the game that was being played, or if I did, I refused to play it.

So, the month of simplicity was anything but easy. It was the first time I had to defend quietly an ITY in the face of the social environment I live in. It was a painful experience and an incredible challenge to humility. I could see that for others a month of simplicity might be completely different, might imply giving up ambitions, cutting down on luxuries, relating more frankly with friends and colleagues.

For me it meant upholding an idea, an ITY, I believe in. Of course, this is based on the values and priorities I have set in my life. Simplicity is one of these values, and at the same time living simply gives me space and time to work on other values. Simplicity is an incredible energy-saving and stress-preventing ITY.

  • Simplicity
    Is nothing else but
    Mindfulness in constant
    Practice - for the
    Love of all.
    Inside, outside, this and that
    Come together once again,
    Inspired by the only
    Truth, that
    You and all are simply one.

Originally Posted Here