Scottish Satyananda Yoga Retreat May 2014


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

  • 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.



Yoga pathways part 1

Yoga is an experience, a state of being with potential for action.  It can be translated literally as union, a coming together of body, mind and spirit to a point of balance.  English words such as “yoke” are derived from the same root word. When we are “doing” Yoga we are actually practising some form of technique to bring us to this state of union.  So Yoga is both the aim and the pathway.

Anna Yoga – the yoga of awareness of what we eat and drink and its effect on our inner balance, physical and mental – hyped up, torpid or balanced.  Linked to Ayurveda, the ancient science of healing that is the partner of Yoga.

Jnana (pronounced gyana or like the Spanish ñ)the yoga of Self - enquiry – what life is about, what death means; what the human being is and the nature of the Ultimate Reality; the Self as pure consciousness.  Consider the soaring beauty in the Upanishads, some dating back 3000 years:

“Smaller than the smallest particle of an atom, and yet more vast than the whole expanse of space, this Self resides in the heart of all beings.  …….One who meditates on that Self which is formless in the midst of all forms, eternal in the midst of the momentary, which is everywhere at once and great beyond compare- such a one will know that Self and finally cease all grieving.”

Katha Upanishad Part 1 (2)

To be continued......

Adventure in India - The World Yoga Convention

Ganga Darshan (image from www.

In October 2013 I was one of a group of yoga enthusiasts- mainly, but not all, yoga teachers - who travelled from the UK to India for a double celebration - the World Yoga Convention, held every 20 years, and the Golden Jubilee of the setting up by Swami Satyananda of the Bihar School of Yoga.  Four of us from Scotland joined the UK group led by Swami Satyaprakash Saraswati, who is based in Birmingham.  The theme of the Convention was summed up as "Immersion in Yoga - serious, sincere and committed".  I'd never been to Ganga Darshan, the Bihar School of Yoga ashram situated just outside Munger, but apparently it had grown substantially in the last ten years.  Security was tight and rules such as no mobiles, no cameras, not being allowed out of the ashram except at permitted times were strictly enforced.  The need for this came home to me when we heard reports, on the final day, of bombs going off in Patna, the capital of Bihar state.  Something to do with elections I think.

The Convention was huge: 22, 000 delegates from all areas of India and a substantial number of overseas delegates heard 5 days of academic presentations focusing on all aspects of yoga, especially some very interesting scientific studies on the benefits of yoga practice.  The speakers came frrom many different traditions of Yoga. Every session was preceded by a kirtan;  mantra meditation as song, led in a call-and-response way so thousands of voices were raised in chant. It almost always resulted in dancing and clapping as well as chanting!   Swami Niranjanananda presided over every session and did most of the translating, either from English to Hindi or vice versa. There were lunchtime workshops too but unfortunately for one reason or another I didn't manage to get to any so I can't report on those.  The Golden Jubilee was celebrated in parallel, with a large fire ceremony (havan) burning all day accompanied by deep-voiced pandits chanting in Sanskrit.  There were all-day kirtans by various national groups, evening entertainment programmes and a specially commissioned DVD of the life of Swami Satyananda.  One of the highlights for me was called the Kundalini Awakening Centre or KAC for short.  It was a short film in 5D (don't ask!) made by the sannyasins, with great effects illustrating the five senses and the awakening of the primal energy of kundalini, ascending up the spine- brilliant graphics!  

As is traditional at Satyananda gatherings we also participated to some extent in the life of the ashram, contributing karma yoga for example in the kitchen, or cleaning bathrooms.  Cleaning duty was 5-6 am; on the first morning I hadn't quite realised this but I did wonder why there were so many people in the shower area as I tried to complete my morning ablutions.  Someone kindly explained so I then knew I should be working, not showering at my leisure.  Karma yoga takes priority so when we were summoned to the kitchen  area to help prepare vegetables we just had to drop all other plans.  

The sannyasins based at the ashram had obviously been working very hard, under the direction of Swami Niranjanananda, because BSY published new or revised editions of 350 books (!)  We were allowed to choose as many as we wanted, given away to us as prasad - gifts - so my luggage coming home was very heavy.  Actually I had to post most of them back and they've just arrived, so I'll have a lot of reading to do.  





What are Mudras and Bandhas?

Mudras and bandhas are subtle techniques usually introduced once students have some experience of yoga practices.

A mudra is a specific gesture, shape or attitude.  The subtle physical movements that make up the gesture can alter the flow of energy in the body in order to bring about changes in mood and perception, deepening awareness and concentration.  Most commonly mudras are made by adopting certain positions of the fingers and hands - these are called hasta mudras (hasta = hand in Sanskrit).  They are used in meditation practice.  You're quite likely to meet chin mudra  - index finger and thumb touching, or index finger sitting into the fold of the thumb, quite early on in a Satyananda class as we sit for a brief meditation at the beginning and chin mudra will be explained to you.   For more experienced students a mudra can involve the whole body in a particular asana, with breath awareness, bandha and visualisation techniques.

Bandhas aim to lock prana in particular areas of the body and redirect it for the purpose of spiritual awakening.  The Sanskrit word bandha means to hold, tighten or lock.   Bandhas can be used in asana work but are more often associated with pranayama practice because their action is to enhance energy or prana with a view to progression in pranayama and meditation practice.