Yoga pathways part 5

Submitted by Bijam on Thu, 06/03/2014 - 22:35

Raja Yoga – the Yoga of mind training.   The word Raja means Royal.  Raja yoga is a about methods of meditation  to guide us through the self-inquiry needed to make personal changes.  It is also known as Classical Yoga as expounded in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (approx. 200 BCE).    Each of the 196 sutras or verses, in four chapters, contains a wealth of dense information requiring deep thought and practice.  In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali we find terse instructions for calming the mind and preparing it for meditation practice.  In the second chapter there appears perhaps the most well-known part of the system, known as ashtanga yoga (not to be confused with the modern structural flowing asana practice known as  ashtanga vinyasa) because it describes a method of 8 (ashta) branches or limbs (anga).  The first two are called the 5 yamas – guidance for our behaviour towards others- and the 5 niyamas- guidance for our personal development. More details on these in the next blog - but they are the work of a lifetime.  

The remaining 6 stages are

  • Asana - in Patanjali, means the sitting posture for meditation
  • Pranayama - breathing practices
  • Pratyahara - withdrawal of the involvement of the senses in engaging with the world
  • Dharana - concentration practices
  • Dhyana - complete absorption, or the state of meditative awareness
  • Samadhi - enlightenment or realization

Despite being called the eight limbs of yoga, suggesting we tackle them one by one, I prefer the analogy of a wheel with Samadhi at the centre and the other 7 limbs radiating out like spokes.  This to me represents what I've found - that you have to work on all of them, they're not like a step-ladder.

“Yoga is experienced when the mind has settled into stillness. When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness.”

Yoga Sutras Chap 1 verses 2-3

Raja Yoga also includes:

  • Nada Yoga (of sound)
  • Mantra Yoga (of liberation)
  • Laya Yoga (awareness of changes in consciousness)
  • Kundalini and kriya yoga ( awakening and experience of the chakras and nadis)

Yoga pathways part 4

Submitted by Bijam on Sun, 02/02/2014 - 19:58

 Karma Yoga is defined as  perfection in action; action performed with meditative awareness; the yogic path of selfless service; or, as it's often expressed, work without thought of reward or considering the fruits of one's actions.  It's one of the four yoga paths described in  the Bhagavad Gita (approx. 500 BCE), an allegorical dialogue between Arjuna, the seeker of truth (aka us) and Krishna, the Lord.  Down the millenia echoes the controversy as to whether it is better to retreat into silence and meditation or to stay and act in the world.  The Gita says it's not either/or, it's both.  Arjuna, a warrior, had quailed and become depressed, refusing to fight because it involved killing family members.  Krishna points out that

"He who shirks action does not attain freedom, nor does he gain perfection by abstaining from work.......But they excel who control their senses through their mind and use them for selfless service.   Fulfill all your duties; action is better than inaction."

"Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work a man attains the supreme goal of life"

Bhagavad Gita, chap 3, various verses

Mahatma Gandhi is a shining example of a karma yogin. 

In June 2010 I was initiated into karma sannyasa - spiritual life for the householder - by Swami Satyasangananda.  It was for me such a powerful experience that I can't remember as much of her talk as I'd like; but I recall she said that karma yoga is to do everything perfectly!    I did know that becoming a karma sannyasin and receiving the geru (orange) dhoti was symbolic of renunciation (sannyasa) and dedication to  leading one's life according to yogic principles.  It was also a stage in the spiritual journey that began for me some years previously when I received the name Bijam.  But you don't have to become a karma sannyasin to practise karma yoga.  Or even a yogin.....ask any parent of young children, or other unpaid carers who do it for love, about selfless service!  It's open to all of us to perform our work with a higher level of concentration and awareness.  On any Satyananda Yoga retreat or in the ashram karma yoga is included in the programme; indeed, as in Rikhia, karma yoga is the programme.

A final quote: 

"My mother was a teacher for 32 years and she said if you can help somebody, you do it.  And it's free - no strings attached.  That was the way I was brought up."  From "They just say: there goes that crazy Scottish guy"

The Herald Magazine 01.02.14

Further reading: 

"Karma Sannyasa"  by Swami Satyasangananda

"The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living "  by Eknath Easwaran

Yoga pathways part 3

Submitted by Bijam on Sat, 25/01/2014 - 13:47

    Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of devotion.  Finding inner stillness by transforming our basic nature, making love pure, transcendental and focused,  providing a  direction for the emotions.  Bhakti Yoga is a very powerful            tool for the creation and expression of love without boundaries - universal love.  The faculties of the heart are cultivated by following the yogic path of Bhakti. The process sounds simple - the practices include  kirtan     (joyful led chanting usually in Sanskrit); mantra; cultivation of an attitude of love (bhava) and so on.  But of course it's not easy as it requires a transformation of our basic personality. I find it comforting that  we can           transform our personal difficulties by practice.  That's why it's called practice of course because we're not perfect!  

          Have a look at a new FB page www,  Lots of photos and teachings from Satyananda gurus.

      Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

         The mind becomes clear and serene when the qualities of the heart are cultivated: friendliness towards the joyful, compassion towards the suffering, happiness towards the pure and impartiality towards the impure"

          The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Chapter 1 verse 33


              The Bhagavad Gita  has some of the most beautiful expressions of bhakti in classical texts.  For example:

             “He who works for me, who loves me, whose End Supreme I am, free from attachment to all things, and with love for all creation, he in truth comes to me.”

              Bhagavad Gita, chap. 11


            “Bhakti softens the heart and removes jealousy, hatred, lust, anger, egoism, pride and arrogance. It infuses joy, divine ecstasy, bliss, peace and knowledge.”

              Swami Sivananda


              And here's an extract from "How does it feel to be a man?"  by the Sufi poet Hafiz, full of expressions of divine love:

              My dear, 

              A better question for Hafiz, 

    Would have been

    "How does it feel to be a heart?"

    For all I know is Love,

    And I find my heart Infinite and Everywhere


    Send me some of your favourites by email and I'll add them to this blog






    Scottish Satyananda Yoga Retreat May 2014

    Submitted by Bijam on Mon, 13/01/2014 - 12:43


    We are delighted to present a residential weekend retreat

    Yoga of the Heart


    Swami Satyaprakash Saraswati

    “Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the Heart,……

    Realize the Self, Hidden in the Heart, and cut asunder

    The knot of ignorance here and now.”  (Mundaka Upanishad)

    Friday 9th – Sunday 11th May 2014

    Gillis Centre, Edinburgh

    Swami is a very popular teacher, so early booking is advised. The programme is suitable for practitioners with at least two years’ experience of yoga practice, who wish to delve a little deeper.

    Cost: £185 (£65 deposit and two instalments of £60)

    Application forms and further details from: Carol Godridge or Tel. 01848 200681

    Yoga pathways part 2

    Submitted by Bijam on Fri, 10/01/2014 - 13:35
    • Hatha Yoga – probably the main form known in the West.  Sometimes it may seem that it comprises only vigorous bendy asanas.  I've even had people say worriedly to me that they can't possibly do yoga as they are too stiff.  Fortunately I can usually offer an alternative view. 

    "In The Yoga Upanishads hatha yoga is described as a means of attaining physical and mental purification and balance.  Although hatha yoga is the most commonly known yoga, there is a great misconception about its meaning. Hatha is generally translated as "force" whereas in the yogic literature the word hatha is a combination of two mantras, ham and tham, which correspond to pingala and ida nadis repectively.  So the term hatha yoga means the yoga through which these two forces are balanced.  Ida nadi is one of the three major pranic (energetic) channels within the body and represents the mental force.  Pingala nadi represents the solar, vital energy which manifests in the physical body.  According to this description, hatha yoga is the yoga of channellling the pranas in the body."

    Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati  - from "Yoga Darshan - Vision of the Yoga Upanishads".

    "Hatha yoga concerns two important and vital systems in the physical body – the solar and lunar forces.  In tantra and in hatha yoga these are known as ida and pingala, representing the mental force and the pranic force.  In the body these forces interact with one another, respectively controlling, guiding and directing the senses of action and of knowledge (shakti and shiva)”.

    Swami Satyananda Saraswati

     In Western physiology could it be that pingala nadi represents the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system;  and ida nadi corresponds to the parasympathetic system or relaxation response?  Most busy and/or stressed  people have an excess of adrenaline.  So the yoga through which these two these two forces are balanced does seem very relevant here and an excellent introduction to yoga practices.