Tag Archives: Five points of Yoga

Dharana & Dhyana – concentration & meditation

11 Jan My Altar January 2019

Based on the “Five Points of Yoga” as outlined by Swami Vishnu-Devananda-ji.+

5. Meditation (Dhyana) and positive thinking

Here is the most important point of all, we become what we think. Thus we should exert to entertain positive and creative thoughts as these will contribute to vibrant health and a peaceful, joyful mind. A positive outlook on life can be developed by learning and practising the teachings of the philosophy of Vedanta. The mind will be brought under perfect control by regular practice of meditation.

Meditation is a natural state of consciousness that isn’t learned, any more that you learn to sleep. It just happens. When the mind becomes one-pointed and steady, it will naturally go beyond the normal mundane awareness into the state referred to as meditation.

Before meditation, practice concentration, one – pointed thinking. Then this practice will lead to a meditative state of the mind. Train the mind in a variety of ways in concentration in the beginning. Sit in a quiet place, or in nature focus on your breath. Inhale – Exhale …… mentally repeating a Mantra “OM” or “Soham”. Concentrate on any concrete image: a flower, a candle, the blue sky. Concentrate within on one of the Chakras.

In meditation do not strain the eyes. Do not strain the brain. Do not struggle or wrestle with the mind. Relax. Observe the thoughts like a cloud passing by. Gently allow the divine thoughts flow.

Meditation practice – Concentration on a flower.

Through regular meditation, the mind becomes clear and the motives pure. The subconscious mind release hidden knowledge that allows a better understanding of oneself and our relationship to the world. the limited personality slowly dissolves into an expanded consciousness. Ultimately, the super-conscious or intuitive forces are released, leading to a life of wisdom and peace.

Swami Vishnu-Devananda

Sunrise Meditation in nature – yoga weekend retreat September 2018.

Proper diet – vegetarian 

30 Jul

Based on the “Five Points of Yoga” as outlined by Swami Vishnu-Devananda-ji.

4. Proper Diet (Vegetarian)

Besides being responsible for building our physical body, the foods we eat profoundly affect our mind. For maximum body-mind efficiency and complete spiritual awareness, Yoga advocates a lacto-vegetarian diet. This is an integral part of the Yogic lifestyle.

The yogic diet is a vegetarian one, consisting of pure, simple, natural foods which are easily digested and promote health. Simple meals aid the digestion and assimilation of foods. Nutritional requirements fall under five categories: protein, carbohydrates, minerals, fats and vitamins. One should have a certain knowledge of dietetics in order to balance the diet. Eating foods first-hand from nature, grown in fertile soil (preferably organic, free from chemicals and pesticides) will help ensure a better supply of these nutritional needs. Processing, refining and overcooking destroy much food value.
There is a cycle in nature known as the “food cycle” or “food chain”. The Sun is the source of energy for all life on our planet; it nourishes the plants (the top of the food chain) which are then eaten by animals (vegetarian), which are then eaten by other animals (carnivores). The food at the top of the food chain, being directly nourished by the Sun, has the greatest life promoting properties. The food value of animal flesh is termed as “second-hand” source of nutrition, and is inferior in nature. All natural foods (fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains) have, in varying quantities, different proportions of these essential nutrients. As source of protein, these are easily assimilated by the body. However, second-hand sources are often more difficult to digest and are of less value to the body’s metabolism.
Many people worry about whether they are getting enough protein, but neglect other factors. The quality of the protein is more important than the quantity alone. Dairy products, legumes, nuts and seeds provide the vegetarian with an adequate supply of protein.
A healthy motto is: “Eat to live, not live to eat”. It is best if we understand that the purpose of eating is to supply our being with the lifeforce,or Prana, the vital life energy. So the greatest nutritional plan for the Yoga student is the simple diet of natural fresh foods.
However, the true Yogic diet is actually even more selective than this. The Yogi is concerned with the subtle effect that food has on his mind and astral body. He therefore avoids foods which are overly stimulating, preferring those which render the mind calm and the intellect sharp. One who seriously takes to the path of Yoga would avoid ingesting meats, fish, eggs, onions, garlic, coffee, tea (except herbal), alcohol and drugs.
Any change in diet should be made gradually. Start by substituting larger portions of vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts until finally all flesh products have been completely eliminated from the diet.
The Yogic diet will help you attain a high standard of health, keen intellect and serenity of mind. To really understand the Yogic approach to diet one has to get familiar with the concept of the 3 Gunas * or qualities of nature.
*(I’ll explain the 3 Gunas in a future post)

I eat and thrive on a vegetarian diet since many years, including raw vegan. 

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Quinoa salad, zucchini fritters, roasted vegetables with yogurt dressing + and raw vegetables / mixed salad with avocado dressing. 

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Vegetables from my garden: sauteed greens (silverbeet+spinach), rocket or rucola,  cherry tomatoes and homemade sauerkraut. 

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Raw Vegetable plate at my sister’s place in Switzerland, made with organic vegetables fresh from the farmers market.

Savasana – proper relaxation 

12 Dec

Based on the “Five Points of Yoga” as outlined by Swami Vishnu-Devananda-ji.+

3. Proper Relaxation (Savasana)

Long before the invention of cars, planes, telephones, computers, social media, freeways and other modern triggers of stress, the Rishis (sages or seers) and Yogis of yore devised very powerful techniques of deep relaxation. As a matter of fact, many modern stress-management and relaxation methods borrow heavily from this tradition. By relaxing deeply all the muscles the Yogi can thoroughly rejuvenate his/her nervous system and attain a deep sense of inner peace.

When the body and the mind are constantly overworked, their natural efficiency to perform work diminishes. Modern social life, food, work and even the so-called entertainment, make it difficult for modern people to relax. Many have even forgotten that rest and relaxation are nature’s way of recharging. Even while trying to rest, the average person expends a lot of physical and mental energy through tension. Much of the body’s energy is wasted uselessly.

More of our energy is spent in keeping the muscles in continual readiness for work than in the actual useful work done. In order to regulate and balance the work of the body and mind, it is best to learn to economize the energy produced by our body. This may be done by learning to relax.

It may be remembered that in the course of one day, our body usually produce all the substances and energy necessary for the next day. But it often happens that all these substances and energy may be consumed within a few minutes by bad moods, anger, injury or intense irritation. The process of eruption and repression of violent emotions often grows into a regular habit. The result is disastrous, not only for the body, but also for the mind.

During complete relaxation, there is practically no energy or “Prana” being consumed, although a little is keeping the body in normal condition while the remaining portion is being stored and conserved.

In order to achieve perfect relaxation, three methods are used by yogis: “Physical”, “Mental”, and “Spiritual” relaxation. Relaxation is not complete until the person reaches that stage of spiritual relaxation.

1 – PHYSICAL RELAXATION

We know that every action is the result of thought. Thoughts take form in action, the body reaching to the thought. Just as the mind may send a message to the muscles ordering them to contract, the mind may also send another message to bring the relaxation to the tired muscles.

Physical relaxation first begins with the toes and then moves upward. The autosuggestion passes through the muscles and reaches the eyes and ears at the top. Then, slowly, messages are sent to the kidneys, liver and the other internal organs. This relaxation position is known as Savasana, or the Corpse Pose.

2 – MENTAL RELAXATION

When experiencing mental tension, it is advisable to breathe slowly and rhythmically for a few minutes. Soon the mind will become calm. You may experience a kind of floating sensation.

3 – SPIRITUAL RELAXATION

However one may try to relax the mind, all tensions and worries cannot be completely removed until one reaches spiritual relaxation.

As long as a person identifies with the body and the mind, there will be worries, sorrows, anxieties, fear and anger. These emotions, in turn bring tension. Yogis know that unless a person can withdraw from the body/mind idea and separate himself from the ego-consciousness, there is no way of obtaining complete relaxation.

The yogi identifies himself with the all pervading, all-powerful, all-peaceful and joyful self, or pure consciousness within. He knows that the source of all power, knowledge, peace and strength is in the self, not in the body. We tune to this by asserting the real nature, that is “I am that pure consciousness or self”. This identification with the self completes the process of relaxation.

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Savasana – corpse pose – classic yoga relaxation posture.

 

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Relaxation lying on the abdomen.

 

“The practice of relaxing the muscles of the body will bring rest to the body and to the mind also. The tension of the muscles will be relieved. People who know the science of relaxation do not waste any energy. They can meditate well. Take a few deep breaths and then lie down flat on your back as in Savasana. Roll on to one side and then relax as thoroughly as you can do. Do not strain the muscles. Roll on the other side and relax. This is naturally done by all during sleep. There are various exercises in relaxation, for the particular muscles of a particular part of the body. You can relax the head, the shoulders, the arms, forearms, wrist, etc. Yogins know the science of relaxation thoroughly. When you practise these various relaxation exercises, you must have the mental picture of calmness and strength.”

Sri Swami Sivananda-ji

 

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Savasana in the back yard, December 2017.

Pranayama – proper breathing

16 Apr Anuloma Viloma - the alternate nostril breathing is one of many yogic breathing techniques or exercises.
Based on the “Five Points of Yoga” as outlined by Swami Vishnu-Devananda-ji.
2. Proper Breathing (Pranayama)

Yoga teaches us how to use the lungs to their maximum capacity and how to control the breath. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. This increases vitality and mental clarity.

Breath is life. We can live for days without food or water, but deprive us of breath and we die in minutes. In view of this, it is astonishing how little attention we pay in normal life to the importance of breathing correctly. To a Yogi there are two main functions of proper breathing: to bring more oxygen to the blood and brain: and to control prana or vital energy, leading to control of the mind.

What is proper breathing?

Breathing correctly means breathing through the nose, keeping the mouth closed, and involves a full inhalation and exhalation which bring the whole of our lungs into play. There are three basic types of breathing: clavicular (shallow), intercostal (middle) and abdominal breathing (deep). A full yogic breath combines all three, beginning with a deep breath into the abdomen and continuing the inhalation through the intercostal and clavicular area. Without lifting the shoulders. The abdomen fills, the chest rises.  When we inhale, the abdomen expands and the diaphragm moves down, massaging the abdominal organs. When we exhale, the abdomen contracts and the diaphragm moves up, massaging the heart. In the beginning it is very helpful to place one hand on the abdomen, and the other one on the chest.

Pranayama literally means control of life force or vital energy. Prana=vital energy, yama=control.

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Anuloma Viloma – the alternate nostril breathing is one of many yogic breathing techniques or exercises.

© Photography Maria Steiner

Asana – proper exercise

15 Apr
Based on the “Five Points of Yoga” as outlined by Swami Vishnu-Devananda-ji.

1. Proper Exercise (Asanas)

Our physical body is meant to move and exercise. If our lifestyle does not provide natural motion of muscles and joints, then disease and great discomfort will ensue with time. Proper exercise should be pleasant to the practitioner while beneficial to the body, mind and spiritual life.

Asanas or yoga postures/exercises focus on increasing and maintaining flexibility of the spine, toning and rejuvenating the nervous system. The gentle stretching, twisting and bending movements bring flexibility to the joints and muscles of the body, as well as massaging the glands and organs. Circulation is also improved, ensuring oxygen to all the cells of the body. The different poses put pressure on various points, which help to relax the nervous system and therefore also helps to release stress.

The Sanskrit word Asana means steady pose, therefore holding the yoga postures is beneficial.  Taking a few deep breaths in every pose, slowing down.

 

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Ardha Matseyndrasana – half spinal twist.

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Halasana – the plough.

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Standing spinal twist in triangle – Parivritta Trikonasana.

© Photography Maria Steiner

Yoga & Meditation Weekend

28 Apr Mount Warning
This year I’m organising and teaching  a weekend retreat again, it has been four years since I offered a yoga retreat last time.

Early morning walk / meditation.

Early morning walk / meditation.

It takes place at the Gunnebah Retreat Centre near Murwillumbah, northern NSW. We have been there before and it’s an ideal location for a yoga weekend, surrounded by most beautiful nature. In the past I used to prepare and cook the meals myself, lot’s of work before and during the retreat for just one weekend. This year the Gunnebah catering team, will provide all our vegetarian meals. So less karma yoga for all of us, no chopping, cooking and doing the dishes. Instead kick back a little. Therefore also the higher cost than in the past.
The Retreat is from Friday 28 – Sunday 30 August 2015.  It is open to newcomers, beginners, if you need to give your yoga practice a fresh boost and experienced yoga students.
The hatha yoga class will be mostly two hours, instead of the usual 90 minutes like in the weekly classes. So more time to go deeper into postures, explain details, more variations and holding postures longer. We practice the silent japa meditation, maybe Tratak (gazing at the flame of a candle) and chant Kirtan (mantra singing), as I bring my harmonium along.
During the lectures we might also cover other topics, than the classic yoga philosophy Vedanta. Wisdom, knowledge, practices, a holistic approach to life, etc. that interest me and I like to share more with you. For example: How the moon influences our bodies, the way it guides the ocean tides. (Saturday 29/08 will be a full moon). The facts and importance of the fascia. Tapping Solution for EFT (emotional freedom technique).  Such interests and similar.
So it will be a very uplifting, inspiring and empowering weekend. Practicing and learning the vast horizon of Yoga, Meditation, Mantras and more. While we are in the middle of beautiful rain forest nature.
For more information please browse through the Retreat section on this website, phone or email me.
Looking forward to hearing and seeing you soon.
Namaste, Maria Prema

Pranayama practice

Pranayama practice

Outdoor eating at Gunnebah Retreat.

Outdoor eating at Gunnebah Retreat.

 

 

 

© Photography Maria Steiner / Ian Grasmeder
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