Yoga & Yogananda

“God Talks With Arjuna – The Bhagavad Gita”  Paramahansa Yogananda

Chapter IV The Supreme Science of Knowing God, The Historical Basis and Esoteric Essence of Yoga

Verse 3 – I have this day informed thee about that same ancient yoga, for thou art My devotee and friend.  This sacred mystery (of yoga) is, indeed, the producer of supreme benefit (to manhood).

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I wrote this in February of 2010:  Today has been a dream realized.  We visited SRF – Self Realization Fellowship, the international headquarters in Los Angeles.  I can’t describe the emotions.  There was an aura of love permeating the grounds.  We sat in the meditation room awaiting a guide.  Over the altar were pictures of Babajii, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteshwar, Jesus, Krishna, and Paramahamsa Yogananda.

A nun greeted us and gave us a personal tour, telling us a little about the history of the building and pointing out some of Yogananda’s personal possessions.  She took us to the meditation areas on the grounds.  The view was breathtaking.

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This Old Body – Ploughing Along

Today, I’m thrilled and thankful that I did my first plough pose.  I’ve been working on uninterrupted days of yoga since August, and am now up to day 177.  Still, I have a long way to go before becoming really flexible.  Each day is a new stretch into and out of pain.  I’ve been incorporating the shoulder stand in my routine for a few months now.  Several times I tried to slip into the plough from there, but never made my feet touch the ground.  Today was touch down.

Also known as  Hala-asana (Plow or Plough Pose)  The Sanskrit word Hala means plow, as in a traditional plow that is drawn by a horse or oxen.  When performing this pose the body resembles a plow.

The benefits of this posture are numerous. All of the muscles and ligaments in the calves and thighs are stretched resulting in greater leg flexibility. People suffering from leg cramps will find relief from practice of this pose.

Contraction of the abdominal area during this pose compresses blood out of the area releasing toxins.  The pose is good for relieving gas and stimulating the digestive system.  Similar effects take place as the neck and chest area is compressed effecting the throat, thyroid, parathyroid and lungs. Upper and lower back pain or discomfort is relieved due to the forward stretching of the spine.

I am always intrigued by the mystical benefits of yoga poses. Besides helping the digestive organs and developing the abdominal muscles, this pose works on the naval chakra. It stimulates the heart chakra as well as improving the respiratory, circulatory and immune systems.  While toning the thyroid and para-thyroid glands it helps to activate the throat chakra.

It took me awhile to ease into this pose.  I would definitely recommend this only be done under the instruction of a qualified yoga teacher.

 

 

 

 

What Is Yoga

Our friend, Jeff Hippler, yoga instructor

Several years ago I managed to do “yoga” for 120 days straight.  Then I skipped a day.  The number of skipped days eventually were higher in number than the actual practice days.  I’m referring to Hatha yoga – A form of yogic exercise that emphasizes specific postures in combination with controlled breathing. This is the most  widely practiced form of yoga in the West.

I have restarted the exercise or asana part of yoga.  In August I vowed to myself that I would do my best not to skip days with the goal of surpassing the 120 record I once had.  I’m thankful I have met that goal plus more.  Today made day 167.  I hope I’m not jinxing myself in stating this.  I’m still very much a novice.  Yoga is so much more than what we in the West usually associate with it.

What is the true essence of yoga?  Most will think of it as the stretching exercises.  It’s a very loosely used term.  It can be different things to different people.  Yoga means to yoke, join, or unite with that field of Origin which we have termed God.

My belief is that yoga is a practice of life and finding out who we are in this life and what our purpose is, and how it all relates to God, and how it all actually is God, which may be the conclusion drawn if you are successful in the yogic quest.  I see yoga as relating to all life and how we handle ourselves in all of our relationships in this life – relationships of not only the human kind but of our relationship to all life, what’s on our planet Earth.  A thing called time, the laboratory or theater or school where we can experiment, play out our dramas, and study the lessons in finding our answers, will roll out and unfold for the yogic journey and then will roll back up and disappear when not needed.

 

 

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

I’m a collector of yoga DVD’s and mats.  As far as mats go, I love the colors.  Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of yoga now days it’s like sorting out a crayon box.

My Friend Steven Doing Downward Facing Dog

Maybe it’s just my particular collection of DVD’s, but downward facing dog, aptly named, as I see my own dog doing this pose several times a day, seems to be the most popular or widely used pose by yoga practitioners.  It is also part of the Sun Salutation, a series of gentle flow movements synchronized with the breath.  In yoga asanas I’ve learned that the moves should always follow the breath.

I find myself enjoying wide legged downward facing dog as opposed to the regular stretch.  This pose is often used as a transitional pose between other poses and is sometimes called a resting pose.  In comparison to other poses such as for instance the Camel, one might say so.  However, the only pose I truly consider resting is the Dead Man’s Pose.

I began reading up on the benefits of this particular pose.  Since I suffer from sciatica I was surprised and happy to find that this particular pose relieved this condition.  From various sources here are the benefits I found.

From:  http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/491

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

From:   http://www.active.com/mindandbody/articles/Pose_of_the_Month__Downward_Facing_Dog.htm

  • Stronger hands, wrists, low-back, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon
  • Decrease in back pain by strengthening the entire back and shoulder girdle
  • Elongated shoulders and shoulder blade area
  • Decrease in tension and headaches by elongating the cervical spine and neck and relaxing the head
  • Deepened respiration
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased full-body circulation

From:  “Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss” by Suzanne Deason

  • Calms the Mind
  • Stretches and tones the legs
  • Brings circulation to the torso to aid digestion
  • Stretches shoulders and releases tension

I could not find any mystical benefits specifically for Downward Facing Dog.  It is the eighth exercise out of twelve in a continuous cycle making up the Sun Salutation.  The physical benefits of the Sun Salutation is helping the body to become strong and vibrant while exercising the entire body as well as the organs.  The mystical benefits of the Sun Salutation are that it awakens the kriya kundalini producing visional states of meditation.

I’m thankful for the comfort that yoga has brought to me.

Fibromyalgia and Yoga

Approximately eleven years ago my body seemed to seize up.  I was still mobile but one day just doing the simplest of tasks was painful.  Every muscle hurt, and I hadn’t been to the gym.  It was a little scary.  After just a little thought I remembered that my doctor from years back predicted that I would one day be arthritic and that it would hit me suddenly.  Based on this I started consuming over the counter extra strength arthritis medication.  Still the pain came through.  This went on for months…. no, make that a couple of years.  I was going through a very stressful time, which I will say was the culprit for this condition.  I was actually in denial that I had arthritis.  I kept it to myself.  Fibromyalgia was becoming a hot topic about this time.  It took me awhile to conclude that this was indeed my condition.  Once again, I kept my self-diagnosis to myself.  I’m a firm believer that thinking and talking about something makes it so.  I did my best to visualize perfect health.

Eventually visualization needs a rootedness in reality…. such as healthy habits.  During this time I started dabbling in yoga, only dabbling, mind you.  I took a once a week class.  A little down the road I met my future husband.  We began hiking.  In addition to hiking I began yoga in earnest.  One day I woke up and realized the pain was no more.  I knew it was a combination of things.  I can’t say enough for falling in love.  That can be a temporary cure for almost anything I believe.  There was being out in nature and the exercise and fresh air that went with it.  And, then there was the yoga.  I was losing weight and had totally forgotten about the fibromyalgia.

Then, I slipped.  It was a gradual thing as slipping usually is.  The daily yoga and hiking routine began to fall by the wayside.  The periods between doing both would grow longer.  The being in love part was still there, but life takes over.  One day I felt the pain again.  And, weight during this time had come back on. I was where I started, only older.  Now, I’m on the yoga course again.  Hiking is more sporadic.  On days I don’t hike I use an elliptical machine.  I’m happy to say the fibro has once again packed its bags.

I’m thankful for falling in love, staying in love, hiking out in fresh air, and yoga.