With regular practice it is possible to attain a healthy body and mind, and to realize the Self, our innermost soul, which in its nature is eternal peace, limitless freedom and happiness.
It is important for students to practice asana (yoga postures) in the correct order and to follow the exact vinyasa method. It is in this way that the body, mind and spirit can develop intelligence and harmony.
Ashtanga Yoga s a practice and philosophy that develops one's psychological and spiritual health. This yoga tradition connects us to the life-force that flows through all beings, and most importantly, remains grounded in a deep sense of respect for the gurus, for it is they who uphold and form the knowledge made accessible to us through practice.
It took nearly seven years of dedicated practice for me to feel my body transform into lightness and softness, which in turn carried my mind along for the ride.. likewise softening and lightening it up.
In terms of pronunciation, Pattabhi Jois used the words samasthiti, utpluti and santi in the nominative case, that is, ending with a visarga (so it is pronounced samasthitihi, utplutihi and santihi).
I realized not only how fundamental a guru is for a student's development but also how the guru is essential in keeping the yogic tradition alive.
The practice aims to clean and strengthen both the body and the mind, encouraging the practicioner towards a positive lifestyle. Coming to the practice with the right intention, one can find peace, happiness and self-acceptance, even in the first session.
By practicing with awareness of breath, correct use of drishti (gazing points) and bandhas (energetic locks), one can develop a sense of consciousness in both the body and the mind. Yoga is a path that leads us to our own spirit, to our very nature.
Parampara or lineage: the authentic process of giving and receiving the teachings of the yoga tradition. A noble, desireless action (the practice of yoga) which has been passed down, in an unbroken tradition, since time immemorial.
Pattabhi Jois firmly believed that practical training is the only way to cleanse the body and mind of blockages and obstacles, and to activate the physical, mental and spiritual renewal processes which lead to freedom and happiness.
The innerheat that is created generates a cleansing process which affects everything from the muscles, organs and nervous system, to the mind, intelligence and spirit; all that is found in the physical and energetic kosas (sheaths (omhulsel) of being) as well as in the more refined layers.
The best time to practice is in the morning, when the air is richest in prana (life-giving energy), the mind has not yet become activated with excessive thought, the body is rested and the stomach is empty. Doing asana in the morning will open and energize the body and mind for the rest of the day. Traditionally, there is no practice after sunset.
Yoga should be a source of support and strength for your everyday life, and should improve the quality of your life on all levels.
Resist the urge to compare yourself to others, as everyone benefits from this system of yoga in his or her own way.
Ashtanga Yoga opens the body up in a safe and natural way. In addition to the healthy development of the body, Ashtanga Yoga will purify and calm the mind. This system works on deep and subtle levels an, at times, certain memories or experiences from the past will arise. In order for us to be freed from these experiences, we must let them resurface again and go through them once more, in a final farewell. Keep breathing and remember that as each experiene is brought up and passes through us, we create more peace and clarity for the mind.
With the right attitude, yoga is a genuine path towards meeting your true self, where you are happy and already content with the present moment, as it is.
In Ashtanga Yoga the word Vinyasa refers to the system in which each movement is linked either to an inhalation or an exhalation.
Yoga asana and the traditional system of Indian medicine, ayurveda (ayur=life, veda=knowledge) go hand in hand.
You will notice over time that your body will effortlessly turn towards lighter food and your mind will make healthier lifestyle choices in an attempt to maintain the sattvic (pure, clean) feeling one receives from consistent practice and through leading a simple yogic life.
Guru: gu=darkness, ru=lightness, the Guru leads the student out of the dark and into the light, from ignorance to awakening. The wisdom within yoga had been kept secret among the brahmin families before the appropriate time came to spread the teachings out in order to serve and benefit humanity.
The six obstacles which inhibit the goal of sel-realization: kama (desire), krodha (hatred), moha (delusion), lobha (greed), mada (envy) and matsarya (laziness, sloth).
One begins Patanjali's eight limbs with asana, the third limb. Once firmly established in this limb, one can then pursue the fourth limb, pranayama. Through the efforts of these third and fourth limbs, understanding the first two limbs, yama and niyama will naturally arise.
One's body and mind must be strong, clean and balanced before one is mindful enough to truly begin following yama and niyama.
The first four limbs are called the external practices, for these take place mainly on the physical level and with the world around us. The last four limbs are the internal practices that govern our relationship mostly with our inner self.
Yama: it is concerned with self-control and ethical thinking and behavior. It teaches the student to cultivate an atmosphere of peace and respect within oneself, extending this towards other people and all beings. An individualistic mindset can often lead to indifference for others, whereas yama teaches us that we are all equal parts of this universe, which we all share.
Yama challenges us to follow five observances pertaining to moral conduct with other beings: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth and honesty), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacarya (harnessing and wise use of life-power) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness, moderation).
Ahimsa: to respect all life through observance of non-violence. It means acceptance and tolerance of all of life's differences: religion, skin color, appearance, socials status or class. Ahimsa's teaching encompass forgiveness and humility, it also includes practicing kindness: ensuring that one does not injure others (or be the cause of injury) with words, thoughts or actions.
Asana is an effective way to observe your own relationship with ahimsa. Moving forward in the physical postures without violence but rather with humility, ease and forgiveness towards both yourself and others.
Satya: being truthful in thought, word and action. It requires that one speaks the truth, albeit with discriminative kindness and non-violence. In the end, all lies harm us and others, and a well-timed truth is always kinder in the long run.
In asana-practice, it behooves the student to accept the truth with regards to his or her body and how one can, or cannot advance in the practice. Be truthful to yourself and others about where you realistically are in the asana series, and about what your are ready to do or not.
Asteya: not stealing. On a more psychological level it means that one must not take advantage of other people, in effect stealing their energy of generosity, thoughts and feelings. For example: to win over another's trust and then break that trust is not in accordance with asteya, which teaches us to behave kindly, honestly and unselfishly.
When you feel envious of another student: Bring your focus back to the breathing and enjoy the meditative movements, experience the joy that comes from cultivating a more positive attitude and extend gratitude for both your own, and all the other students' small steps forwards in the practice.
Sexual fluids are one of the seven dhatus (The seven dhatus are the seven tissues of the body. In English they are plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow / nerve, and reproductive tissue. In Sanskrit, they are rasa, rakta, mamsa, medas, asthi, majja, and shukra respectively. These are the structures that make up the body), and we must be respectful of these energies. By losing one's sexual fluids, which contain life energy, the energy of the body and mind can be weakened, whereas retaining these fluids and the life-energies contained in them causes the body to grow stronger and the mind to function clearly.
"To constantly think of the higher self, even during intercourse, unavoidably leads us to the state of brahmacarya, increasing our life-force and connection with the Divine."
"If you happen to find yourself unwittingly drawn towards someone (in the shala), return to your inner awareness, focus on your drsti, and concentrate on the breath and meditative quality of the movements."
This literally means non-grabbing or non-holding, but in certain situations it can also means release and letting go. We should long for nothing, and only receive rewards and acceptance thanks for that which we truly deserve. We also aim to avoid pleasures that are clearly destructive.
In our asana-practice: we advance forwards by cultivating patience and moderation. One of the biggest obstacles in moving forwards is that one wishes to advance too quickly, yearing for more asana, or starting intense pranayama or meditation before the mind and nervous system are ready.
The more the body or mind holds onto an asana, the less space there is available for the asana to do its work by opening up and deepening within the body.
It outlines five observances to follow in order to develop one's inner power and insight:
svadhyaya (self study of sacred texts)
isvara-pranidhana (surrender to God)
means purity and applies to both inner and outer purity.
Bahih-sauca means outer purity and refers to the literal cleansing of the physical body.
Massage your sweat back into your body, so that the minerals in our sweat can be incorporated back into our blood stream. Wait for 15 minutes after practising and before bathing, to ensure that the minerals have been recirculated into your system.
Antah-sauca means inner purity, which is the cleansing of the deeply rooted mental impurities (chitta mala) and pollution (dukha) from the mind.
a state of deep, sustained contentment, accompanied by an acceptance of what is, regardless of one's particular circumstances. This comes when one can truly direct the mind inwards and towards the higher self. It is present when one can experience mistakes, disappointment or despair as teachers and find fulfillment in the continual learning process.
Tapas challenges us to exercise greater self-restraint. Tap=heat, through the practice of ashtanga yoga's eight limbs heat is generated to burn away the impurities of the body and mind,
To put tapas into action is first of all to show up for your asana and/or pranayama practice consistently, and secondly to eat simple, clean veg food.
The studies towards realizing the Self through reading sacred texts, gaining awareness of speech and chanting mantras.
Full surrender of oneself to a higher power, in both thought and deed, without any expectation of a particular personal result, reward of benefit. This way the student cleanes the subtler more sensitive nadis (energy channels) in the heart's energy center.
Only then can prana flow freely all the way up to the center of the head.
The third anga: asana
Practicing asana daily develops a light, strong and pure body, which is required for spiritual development since it is much more difficult for a sick or weak body to create a stable mind or to live a long and vital life.
Asana also removes ailments (kwalen) that distract the mind as well as the body, while detoxifying the inner organs and nervous system.
By practicing asana with the proper vinyasa technique and meditative focus, the mind becomes clear, strong and peaceful.
It is only through the process of asana that we can transform the body into a temple for the soul.
Primary Series (yoga-cikitsa or roga-cikitsa (roga: illness, cikitsa: therapy)
Yoga-cikitsa contains the sequence of asanas that removes existing illness and ailments from the body, prevents new illness from arising and creates a strong and healthy body. The body is restored to its natural state of strength, flexibility, balance and relaxation.
The Primary Series also alleviates chronic pain, removes excess fat from the body, improves blood circulation, and cleanses the inner organs, while developing one's ability to focus the mind.
The fourth anga: pranayama
The process of purification and stilling of the body and mind that starts with the asana continues with pranayama. Prana is the life-force found in all elements.
It is considered safe to start with pranayama only once strength, flexibility and an understanding of the bandhas, not to mention the purification of the organs and nervous system, are evident in the body.
The main thing is that the body should not be an issue while doing pranayama. There are enough obstacles and challenges to overcome, so the body must be ready to act in full compliance with this subtle yet powerful purification process.
sense withdrawal. It is concerned with enhancing a more profound level of control over the mind.
Obstacles of the mind such as distraction associated with the five senses drop away as the aspirant becomes more and more aligned with a pure, inner awareness. Once established, this inner focus results in the aspirant's ability to overcome and distance oneself from often unconscious and automatic reactions, triggered by the senses and habitual conditioning in relation the the external, material world.
The sixth anga: Dharana
Dharana continues to refine our mind control, working towards maintaining a steady, stable and reliable mind.
The seventh anga: dhyana
Meditation is a process that eliminates identification with the ego, thus deepening and stabilizing the presence of God in our hearts.
In order to enter a deep state of meditation, one should be able to hold Padmasana comfortably for up to three hours, without feeling pain or any other distracting sensations in the body. This requires a strong, supple, calm body, which is the result of a dedicated asana practice.
"A quiet mind is a strong body"
The eight anga: samadhi
Step by step, in this expansive awakening state of samadhi, we uncover what has been there all along and peel away the layers to experience our true nature.
Samadhi is described as a state in which the mind is deeply focused on one point and all thoughts cease to exist and disappear from consciousness. The mind is absorbed fully with the object of contemplation. This can be called the same (sama) state, or the highest level of meditation. It is the result of a long and dedicated commitment to the practice of all eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.
Yoga is not bound to any religion. It is a philosophy and a systematic training that purifies and strengthens all people who practice it, and its foremost goal is for humanity to uncover discriminative knowledge and to understand the pure nature of spirit, both seen and unseen.
Prana: universal spirit, pure energy, cosmic energy, breathing
Nadi: energy channel
Vayu: air, rich with prana
Cakra: ring, circle, disk: vibrating energy center
Prana is the seed of the practice; it is the spiritual fuel.
The body and mind start to become purified through the first four limbs of Ashtanga Yoga (Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama), which build the foundation for a deeper state of consciousness to awaken (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana). As a result of this, the body's energy flows are strengthened and balanced, which allows for prana to move freely through the energy channels (nadis) and energy centers (cakras) in its most fundamental form.
Prana is also strongly linked to the mind, and is led wherever the mind directs it. It is thus very important to direct our focus inwards by reciting mantras, practising meditation, gazing at the proper drsti and observing yama and niyama while leading a sattvic (pure and wholesome) lifestyle.
Unhealthy food and drink, too much careless talk and excessive sex can also drain prana out of the nadis and into the body, and in this way, one can eventually fall sick. Even too much yoga practice is unhealthy, especially if done under stress, or with attachment to accomplishment and other selfish motives.
Nadis are channels along which prana travels to the brain, sense organs and various parts of the body. By consistently leading a healthy, yogic lifestyle, the nadis are cleansed from the toxins and impurities that can accumulate in the organs.
With the help of asana, one can stimulate the nadis and build a firm ground for the purification process.
Cakras: Yoga asana with a focused mind and the proper quality of breath, cleanses the nadis and makes it easier for energy to flow through to the cakras and through the entire body. We can affect how this energy flows through breath awareness in pranayama and kumbhaka, holding the bandhas while we do asana, as well as by maintaining a yogic lifestyle that optimizes our life-force.
Amrta-bindu: nectar of immortality
Everything that pulls the mind away from the higher self eventually weakens the mind and depletes it of its natural state of purity.
Through practice, the yogi is said to be able to prolong life and reach self-awareness, which is considered unattainable for the common man. If one focuses entirely on the outer world, or is lead by lust and desire, one cannot attain union with this ever-growing energy that yoga provides.
When amrta-bindu's life-force accumulates in the brahma-randhra, the yoga student begins to feel refreshed and uplifted, mental processes are strengthened, and a youthful energy comes back to life.
Explanation in Dutch
Prakriti en Purush
Volgens de yogische filosofie kan het gehele universum worden verdeeld in twee hoofdcategorieen: Prakriti (Maya of illusie) en Purush (de realiteit). Volgens deze filosofie is alles wat veranderlijk of niet oneindig is een deel van Maya. Purush staat daarentegen voor de enige realiteit, het enige element in het universum dat onveranderend is: de Ziel.
Enkel de ziel is oneindig en echt, Maya of Prakriti zijn veranderbaar en deel van de illusie. Het ultieme doel van yoga is om verder te zien dan de illusie en de realiteit waar te nemen. Een persoon die in staat is de realiteit te zien, heeft de mogelijkheid om Samadhi of verlichting te bereiken.
De drie gunas zijn Sattva (puurheid,, clearity and balance, which shows itself as health, purity, cleanliness, clarity, lightness, peace, spiritual awareness, compassion and love), Rajas (bedrijvigheid, the actice and aggressive quality which is constant shifting and changing. It gives us the impetus to change and transform ourselves, pushing people forwards, away from old habits, illnesses or prejudices that weaken our enthusiasm for life) en Tamas (duisternis, vernietiging, the dark, still, low-energy force, which presents itself as sluggishness, heaviness, ignorance, lack of feeling and selfishness. It balances out the active energy of rajas, permitting us to slow down and restore ourselves when needed). Gunas zijn aanwezig in alles: personen, voedsel, objecten… Het is mogelijk om het niveau van de gunas in de geest en het lichaam continu te veranderen. Door het aanpassen van de aanwezigheid en de invloed van externe objecten, levensstijl en gedachten, kunnen we de drie gunas vergroten of verkleinen. De guna die overheerst, zal invloed hebben op hoe we de wereld om ons heen vernemen. Het beinvloedt ons gedrag, houding, acties, enzovoorts. Bijvoorbeeld: als er sprake is van een overheersende tamas, dan zal deze persoon de wereld als negatief en destructief beschouwen. Wanneer er sprake is van een overheersende sattva, dan zal de persoon in kwestie het universum als positief ervaren en plezier en geluk vinden in de wereld. De geest is echter erg onstabiel en kan gemakkelijk van de ene dominante guna naar de andere omslaan.
vinyasa (linking breath to movement)
bandha (muscle and energy locks)
drsti (gazing points)
Through the use of tri-sthana, one can deepen the experience of asana on both the physical and mental level, lessen or eliminate distraction from the outer senses (pratyahara) and direct the self inwards, towards a one-pointed meditative state (dhyana).
Literally translates as victorious breath. More accurately it is called sound breathing. It is a smooth, even and audible breath that begins at the start of the practice and continues throughout, to the last asana.
Effects of sound breathing
1. By listening to the smooth, even sound, the mind becomes calm and focused
2.By listening to the breath while inhaling and exhaling evenly, one can be sure that the breath is supporting the asanas correctly
3. By adjusting the asana to the rhythm of the breath, the practice becomes precise, smooth and meditative
4. The prana that is collected through sound breathing fill the body with energy and gives the strength needed for asana
5. Observing and calming the breath directs the mind inwards to a meditative state
6. Strong, controlled breath cleanses the throat, air passages and lungs, clarifies the voice and strengthens the heart
7. The deep breathing that is developed transforms the way we breathe when we are not engaged in asana, pranayama or other yogic activities. We naturally learn to breathe through the nose in a calm and conscious way during our daily routine.
Bandhas direct the body's inner energy flows, prana and vayu, to the proper nadis and function as support mechanisms for the physical body.
Bandha means lock, which works as a physical and energetic support for the body.
They bring lightness and strength to the body, so that the asanas and pranayama can be performed properly and with less forceful effort.
The bandhas also stabilize and strengthen the body, while facilitating its flexibility and alignment. And in addition, the bandhas protect the inner organs as well as balancing and cleansing the digestive system.
During asana, mula-bandha (root lock) and uddiyana-bandha (abdominal lock) are activated by lifting mula-bandha up, towards the navel, where it meets uddiyana-bandha, which in turn, is lifted upwards and pulled in towards the spine.
Root lock. Root lock describes the origin of enery (prana, kundalini, agni) as the energy channels (nadis) are activated by the very muscles that are used to engage this bandha.
While exhaling, you draw in the anal opening with the external and internal sphincter muscles, and lifts it up towards the navel. The muscles in the pelvis's lower region, including the sex organs and perineum, will be activated to a lesser degree when holding mula-bandha.
Effects of mula-bandha:
1. Conscious engagement of mula-bandha helps calm the mind, which can then stabilize one's level of concentration
2. It strengthens the muscles around the rectum and sex organs as well as the pelvic muscles. Better control of the sexual organs, bladder and intestines are achieved, which means that bindu and ojas (life-force) are strengthened (Ram Dass explained that bindu is sexual energy and ojas is spiritual energy)
3. It strengthens and aids in the relaxation of the pelvic area during childbirth as well as helping to heal and restore after delivery
4. It improves the health and function of the rectum, eliminates hemorrhoids and other intestinal ailments
5. It functions as a support in relaxing and calming the body during challenging asana
6. Drawing mula-bandha together helps keep the pelvis grounded and in contact with the floor.
7. It cleanses the kanda (origin of the nadis) and granthi-trayas (the three energy knots) as well as muladhara-cakra
Uddiyana means upwards-flying and directs prana upwards through the nadis. It is described as an upwards-flying bird of prana, which provides several health effects for the body. While doing asana, it is located four inches (four fingers) below the navel, and it activated by contracting in and lifting the abdominal muscles up towards the diaphragm and the lungs.
While inhaling the entire area of the lower abdomen should remain drawn in, engaged and still, whereas the upper stomach and chest should move freely with the diaphragm and lungs.
Effects of uddiyana-bandha
1. It helps release and direct apana-vayus energy up towards prana-vayu and draw prana into the susumna-nadi and up to the crown of the head
2. It protects the addomen and lower back by strengthening the muscles and keeping them engaged throughout asana practice
3. It relieves tension and works in the stomach, it cleans and massages the organs and intestines
4. It corrects the alignment of the lower back by supporting the spine and lower back muscles
5. It protects the inner organs
6. It improves balance and control by keeping the core of the body strong, bringing consciousness into that area
7. It stretches and strengthens the muscles around the spine and creates expansion in the chest
8. It dissolves unnecessary fat around the hips and develops the stomach muscles
9. It lifts the inner organs and chest up, which helps open the passage for fresh oxygen to travel up to the head
10. It improves blood circulation throughout the stomach and abdomen and aids in generating digestive fluids
11. It activates and purifies the second cakra
Drsti (gazing points)
One of the main purposes is to fix one's attention and focus inwards in order to cultivate deep concentration in the asana, while filling and maintaining the body with radiating prana.
Drsti helps the student to stay present during asana practice.
While drsti is used to keep one's attention from wandering, the student must remain aware of his surroundings and be considerate of others, while simultaneously understanding and following the teacher's instructioins. This awareness of one's environment is important for everybody's safety, first and foremost, as well as in developing communication and a connection between the teacher and student.
Nyasa= to place oneself
It is the art of breathing, moving from one pose to the next and linking asanas together with the rhythm of the breath. The combination of breath and asana enables the stretching and strengthening of the body, while building up heat and sweat.
Agni: the inner fire that burns at the navel region, is activated when the bandhas lift the energy up towards the stomach. In addition, agni activates digestion and encourages an upwards moving along the nadis.
The heat and sweat are the keys to purifying the muscles, organs and nervous system from toxins and blockages. With the heat that is produced in vinyasa, one can eventually approach even the most advanced asana in a safe and protected manner.
Another benefit from vinyasa is its meditative effect, which balances the mind and body's energy systems (vayu, prana and nadi).
Since the vinyasa technique in Ashtanga purifies the mind and body with such totality, it is not necessary to practice other cleansing exercises, such as fasting or the cleansing techniques (kriyas).
These are only recommended if you have a particular problem, such as digestive illness or congestion.
man=to think (manas=mind)
tra=tool, instrument, protection
To explain the goals of human life, heal and generate feelings of purity, to increase concentration and to create a connection to the higher powers.
Some letters or combination of letters, when pronounced accurately, will vibrate in a way that can directly affect the organs, blood and energy circulation and the nervous system. Their function is to help release physical and mental obstacles, such as restlessness, pessimism and energy blockages.