Sunday, May 9, 2010


The whole purpose of meditation is to make you aware of your kingdom, to make you aware of your highest potential,” writes Osho in Contemplation Before Sleep. The corporate world is fast waking up to the concept of connecting within as the best means to meet external targets. You do not need emotional intelligence or psychometric tests to assess your potential. Just quieten the chatterbox mind. Listen to yourself. And you have an instant antidote to all problems.

Param Ajjan, a corporate trainer and CEO of The Matrix, a training organization, says: “I include meditation in all my workshops on emotional intelligence. I have observed remarkable results. The work environment becomes charged and relaxed.”

Rishi Prabhakar, founder of the Bangalore-based Rishi Samskruti Vidya Kendra and Siddha Samadhi Yoga (SSY), propagates ‘true leadership’ and ‘automatic management’ through SSY. “The thinking process exhausts the body. The level of rest gained during SSY is about three to four times more than that acquired in a state of deep sleep. It enhances creativity and intelligence.” In a study, the practice of SSY recorded a marked improvement in team spirit, productivity, sales and profits. In some cases there was a phenomenal improvement of 600 per cent in sales and 250 per cent in profits—all in a short duration.

Today, General Motors incorporates SSY in its basic training programme for recruits. Some of the organizations that have benefited through this meditative technique include Bhandari Industries, Kirloskar Oil Engines, Thermax, Otis Elevators and Sangola Spinning Mills.

Binay Kumar, director (personnel), National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), speaks about the positive influence of meditation: “At Corporation Grid of India, I designed a training programme for the CMD in which he would start the day with yoga and meditation. This proved to be an effective way of managing stress.”

His viewpoint is shared by Vinod Gulati, IT and HRD head at NHPC: “Our target is to provide power to everybody by 2020. To face this challenge, we need to be properly equipped. Two years back we had introductory sessions of Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living and noticed a remarkable difference in the output.” Now all training programmes begin with meditation and yoga.

At the Steel Authority of India (SAIL), meditation and yoga have found success in its regional training centres. Vipassana, a 10-day rigorous residential meditation course for business executives, was also held at its Ikatgiri centre recently. The grand success of this course promises more in the offing.

R.V. Shahi, secretary in the Ministry of Power, incorporated meditation and yoga in the 10-day capsule course for the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) during his tenure, a decade back. This course saw its centennial celebration at the Power Management Institute, NTPC, Noida.

Going by the popularity of meditation in the corporate sector, Fore School of Management in Delhi conducts Vedic management workshops before its MBA programme.

Dr Rajni Arya, director of Amity Institute of Behavioral and Allied Sciences, feels: “Few management schools have been able to strike the right balance between modern management techniques and insight from Shastras.” At Amity, they have been able to straddle the divide by introducing certain modules in their curriculum, which are drawn from Indian scriptures and their practical applications. “It is our experience that meditation helps students de-stress, improves their concentration and focus, and helps them to be in harmony with themselves,” Dr Arya adds.

During meditation they teach students to connect with the core of their being, which helps them get in touch with the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of their actions.

Dr Arya says: “The students then feel ‘I am you and you are me’, that it is okay to have problems, biases and negative emotions so long as one is willing to work on them and learn ways to manage them. Since our profession is a part of our lives, values at the place of work cannot be fragmented from perennial values, which are necessary for the unfolding of the individual’s personality.”

This ensures that the future managers coming out of their institute have a vision based on value-based management (dharma), value-based work (karma) and ultimately a value-based life (samyama). He says: “Our conviction is that if our students are empowered it will automatically find manifestations in their organization and will lead to an awakened society.”

Buddhism - in social transformation and yogas

In recent times, the social implications of Buddhist practice have become well known as 'socially engaged Buddhism'. Far from being a new development in Buddhism, it goes right back to the Buddha himself, who exhorted his first 60 disciples to go out and work for the welfare and happiness of all beings, "Bahujana hitaya, bahujana sukhaya." The rest of his life exemplified this spirit. He spent 35 years walking the pathways of north India, going to people and helping them in whatever way he could. He was a critic of social ills, the caste system, unjust government, wrong forms of livelihood, and all kinds of violence and exploitation, including the neglect of the girl child.

Buddhist practice will express itself in, and affect the world, in one way or another. For the last 27 years, I have been working amongst Buddhist followers of Dr B. R. Ambedkar, most of who come from socially deprived backgrounds. Buddhist spiritual practice has empowered them, bringing about more confidence, a greater sense of responsibility, and enhanced capabilities such that they feel empowered to make a positive social impact.

The process of spiritual development is described in Buddhism as consisting of the path of vision and the path of transformation. Without a vision of the higher life or a feeling for it that draws us on, there is no possibility of inner transformation. Vision can arise in different ways, such as through deep aesthetic or mystical experience, grief, friendship or social work resulting in selflessness, disillusionment, inner emptiness, a yearning for deeper meaning in life, and so on.

The Buddha exemplifies what a human being can do with his or her life if they make the effort. He is shown meditating, teaching, giving courage and strength, walking mindfully, but however he is shown, he always communicates peace, confidence, compassion and energy. In some Buddhist traditions this vision includes other archetypal Buddha figures that represent various aspects of enlightenment, thus making this great vision of Buddhahood accessible to us. There is also the vision of a pure land where all beings are shown sitting on lotuses, listening blissfully to the Buddha teaching. This vision encompasses the whole of humanity; it envisages a world in which life conditions support all humans in practicing the dhamma.

Inner to Outer
In the early 1960s, as a teenager in London, I began to become socially aware. Racial discrimination, the dangers of nuclear weapons, and social inequality were some of the questions that engaged me. Like so many others, I wanted a better world, a safer and more equitable place to live in, but I soon became disillusioned with politics as a means to bring about that change. In the early 1970s, desperate to know how I could channel my unruly emotions and make better use of my mind, I took up Buddhist meditation under the guidance of Sangharakshita, an English Buddhist who, before founding the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) in the late 1960s, had spent 20 years in India where he had become known as a meditator, Buddhist scholar, poet, and for his work teaching those followers of Dr Ambedkar who had converted to Buddhism.

Although Sangharakshita presented Buddhism at first in the language of individual spiritual development, he soon introduced the glorious vision of the Bodhisattva, the being who is devoted as much to the welfare and enlightenment of others as to his or her own - indeed the Bodhisattva sees no ultimate difference between the two. He showed how the transformation of the individual and the world are inextricably interrelated; such that we cannot work on ourselves without affecting society. And we cannot help society unless we are working on ourselves. This teaching drew together in a higher harmony the two seemingly conflicting and disparate areas of my life - personal growth and social emancipation.

Vision is not enough. To realize it we need to work on ourselves and follow the path of transformation. Sangharakshita started by teaching meditation, the most direct way of working on the mind. As we tried to practice we soon realized that meditation was not just about peace, love and bliss, it was not a miracle cure for the emotionally disturbed. Rather, by taking us inward, it opened up the real state of our minds and emotions, and showed us the task before us.

Sangharakshita made it clear what transformation meant in practice. Sometimes he would speak in terms of the Noble Eight-Fold Path in which transformation consists of working on many fronts, our emotions (so they support and not undermine our vision), speech, actions, relationships, livelihood, awareness, energy, and mental states. Sometimes he would speak of the three-fold way of ethics, meditation and wisdom, each supporting and augmenting the others.

We soon realized that developing skillful mental states through meditation made us more aware of our behaviour, speech and attitudes towards others - we became more ethically sensitive. We also realized that we could not go from a gross or unethical state into meditation, which made us aware of the need for an ethical base for meditation. Meditation prepared the mind to cultivate wisdom or insight into the nature of reality, while deeper reflections supported the practice of meditation and ethics. Ethics are inevitably bound up with how we relate to others. Meditation is concerned with cultivating awareness and highly positive mental states such as loving kindness and compassion. Wisdom involves understanding in a direct way that there is no ultimate difference between oneself and others. All three are intimately connected with how we relate to others.

Sangharakshita would also talk of the path in more obvious Mahayana terms, as the 'Paramitas'. These involved the cultivation of generosity, ethics, patience, energy, meditation and wisdom, so that one would be able to help others more effectively, minimizing one's weaknesses and maximizing one's strengths. There was no doubt that the path involved thorough transformation of body, speech and mind, necessarily involving one's behaviour, speech, and attitudes towards others.

The radical, integrated nature of spiritual life slowly became apparent and led us into the unknown. We would go on retreat for long periods of time, immersing ourselves in dhamma practice and spiritual fellowship, experiencing a new and higher kind of existence. We began to wonder how this experience could be continued back in the everyday world. Some of us experimented with living in residential spiritual communities, creating an environment that stimulated and encouraged our practice, even though we had little or no money.

There was the question of livelihood. Could we work in a way that allowed us more contact with others practicing the spiritual life and gave more time for dhamma practice or helping dhamma activities? What we do and how we do it, especially when it occupies such a large proportion of our lives, affects not only our own mental states, but also others whom our work affects. If we are producing anything that is directly or indirectly harmful to others, we are partially responsible for their suffering. The same goes for consuming things that involve exploitation of beings in their production. What we did had to be of benefit to other beings, and certainly not harmful.

Journey to India
I visited India in 1977 and met Sangharakshita's Ambedkarite disciples. I caught a glimpse of Dr Ambedkar's great vision of a society in which everyone was free to develop themselves to the fullest, and all related to each other on the basis of equality and friendship, not by political means but through Buddhist practice. Devoting his life to the eradication of untouchability, he had, after a long and arduous journey, realized that effective social change will only come about through change within the individuals, deep attitudinal and ethical changes. In a talk in Kathmandu in November 1956, he said, "The greatest thing that the Buddha has done is to tell the world that the world cannot be reformed except by the reformation of the mind of man, and the mind of the world." So inspired was I by this vision that I wanted to be part of it, and encouraged by my teacher, Sangharakshita and his Indian disciples, decided to live in India.

In the West most people come to Buddhism for psychological reasons. In India it is different. Dr Ambedkar's followers were moved by his vision of a new society brought about by the practice of Buddha dhamma. However, he died just six weeks or so after the great conversion in October 1956, which had sadly been ignored by the Buddhist world. Being amongst the most socially deprived in India, they had little chance to develop without guidance. I met people everywhere, and still do, who are desperate for spiritual nourishment, who want to know in practice how they can contribute to this social revolution.

Based on the premise that one cannot help the world unless one is working on one's own mind, we started with meditation classes and Buddhist study. Despite living in poor and often overcrowded conditions, people tried to practice regularly, even though it meant doing so after everyone had gone to bed or before everyone awoke. I knew that once people had begun to editate regularly and study the dhamma, as well as meet with others likewise committed, their inner lives would gradually open out, lotus-like. Their inner explorations would begin to affect their behaviour, speech and deepest attitudes. They would begin to be less dissatisfied with material matters and have more energy available for spiritual endeavors.

One of the first things I noticed was the effect those practicing meditation began to have on their old friends. Their attempts to cultivate skillful speech and mental states overflowed into their social interactions. They began to emerge more truly as individuals, and their friends and relatives found that they would no longer just go along with the old 'group' attitudes, but began to think and act for themselves. Their positivity became stronger and they were more able to give support in difficulties.

Problems and Solutions
Problems of the world did not disappear. At the beginning of our work in 1978, terrible atrocities took place in Marathwada on Dalits just because the government of Maharashtra had announced a university to be named after Dr Ambedkar. People were killed, women raped, and hundreds of homes burnt in casteist violence. People would ask me how they should respond.

I found it hard to find a suitable answer, having just come from such a different environment. By the time of the reservation troubles in Ahmedabad in 1981, we had a few people who had been practicing for several years. Every night we went around Dalit localities encouraging people not to respond to violence with violence, not to seek revenge, but to find a peaceful and creative way forward, as would have been the Buddha's and Dr Ambedkar's advice. Many people attended our meetings, some of them with grave injuries, but they all listened attentively.

I have traveled extensively, especially amongst followers of Dr Ambedkar and Dalits. I have found invariably that those who are following a spiritual practice through Buddhism avoid the two common extreme reactions to caste discrimination and violence. Not only are they less likely to be inflamed, but they are also unlikely to go to the other extreme of being cowed and intimidated. They are able to take a more individual and creative approach to their centuries-old oppression.

Within a few years we had a flourishing wing of the FWBO (Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha in India) with about 20 Buddhist teaching centers, as well as a retreat center and publications wing. We held frequent meditation retreats, some very large. These were important because at home, often in crowded and noisy localities with entire families living in one room, it was difficult to get down to regular practice. With no distractions, and just practicing the dhamma, most would experience a joy they had never experienced before. They understood from their own experience that they could change their mental states through dhamma practice. Although many did not meditate regularly, they would go away changed. They would carry with them confidence, born out of personal experience, that the dhamma worked, that it did bring about changes in the mind. They would give up old unhelpful practices such as alcohol abuse, and would become more sensitive to the way they treated others, especially women, and to social practices such as dowry.

We have held many lecture tours in the towns and villages of Maharashtra. I personally traveled extensively throughout Marathwada, Konkan and Vidharba throughout the 1980s. Everywhere people wanted to hear the dhamma presented in practical terms. What whetted their interest was the presence in our teams of Buddhists like them (apart from me all originally so-called Dalits) speaking to them about the dhamma, confident, inspired, from understanding born of practice and not just books. Deprived of spiritual nourishment, they were infected by our confidence and inspiration. It is not that we played any tricks, or beguiled them. We just presented the dhamma in as rational but meaningful manner as we were able to.

We found we could not practice meditation on loving kindness and compassion and close our eyes to the appalling conditions in which so many people amongst and around us lived. As a response we developed social work projects that consisted of hostels for school children from socially deprived backgrounds of which there are about 25 at present, as well as health and education community centers in slums, of which there are over 70 today. While most of these projects are in Maharashtra, there are some in five other states.

We have also been able to conduct relief and rehabilitation work in the aftermath of the Maharashtra (1993) and Gujarat (2001) earthquakes and the December 2004 tsunami, and at the time of writing, of the Mumbai floods. These have been spontaneous responses born out of spiritual practice to the difficulties of those around us, and have developed a greater sense of responsibility in those organizing them. With a confidence born out of their dhamma practice, they do not feel overwhelmed by, and passive to, difficult situations, but on the contrary feel empowered. This is proof that spiritual practice does bring about not only individual change, but can also lead to social change.

Sangha Matters
Social activities provide those engaged in them right livelihood in the sense that the work is not harmful to them or others, and is ethically and socially positive. The opportunity to work with other practitioners is crucial. It is hard to progress in one's spiritual life if most of the people we are in contact with are cynical about spirituality, and emotionally gross, reactive, and negative. The importance of close contact with co-practitioners is the principle of sangha, which along with the Buddha, the ideal of human enlightenment to which we aspire, and the dhamma, the path of teaching that we follow, form the Three Jewels of Buddhism. The essence of sangha is spiritual friendship, spiritual friends being those with whom we share our highest values, are totally open, and who want the best for us without consideration for personal gain.

Dr Ambedkar talked of the sangha (lay people as well as monks) as consisting of individuals devoted to transforming themselves in body, speech and mind. Dedicated to cultivating skillful mental states, they would be able to help others effectively, and work with awareness, clarity, energy, and genuine concern, without attachment, and in harmony. Helping others would be a spontaneous and organic part of their practice. Clearly, the sangha constituted for him a model society. He said, "Positively my social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: liberty, equality, and fraternity. Let no one however say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. …I have derived them (sic) from the teachings of my master, the Buddha."Many questions remain that have largely to do with identity and old conditioned attitudes, amongst both new Buddhists and caste Hindus, that perpetuate old polarizations as well as terrible social deprivation. Though our dhamma and social projects have benefited many, especially children, our most valuable contribution is the example we give to others of working as a spiritual community. Not only do those who are involved in this work find their spiritual practice strengthened so that their work and example is even more effective, but as a spiritual community in action, they exemplify that it is possible to live a higher and more meaningful social life. From their experience, and their communication with each other, they have discovered the seeds of social transformation that may ultimately lead to a new, caste-free society.

Dharmachari Lokamitra (born Jeremy Goody) has guided Buddhist activities under the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha, Sahayaka Gana (TBMSG) and Bahujan Hitay since 1978. He is helping develop the Nagarjuna Institute in Nagpur, a residential center for training in Buddhist practice and application of Buddhist principles to social situations.
Recently, he has been involved in rehabilitation work among the tsunami-affected in Tamil Nadu and poorer victims of Mumbai floods. He continues to lecture on Buddhism and teach Buddhist meditation


Hala means plough. This posture is generally performed after Sarvangasana and therefore is often considered its extension.

1. Go into Salamba Sarvangasana.

2. While exhaling, lower your legs over the head, one by one.

3. Inhale, then exhale, extending your legs over the head without bending them at the knees. Place toes on the floor.

4. Stretch arms on the floor in the direction opposite to the legs.

5. Interlock fingers and turn the wrists, so that thumbs rest on the floor. Tighten arms at the elbows. Extend them away from the shoulders. Also extend palms along with the fingers.

6. Stay in this position for about five minutes, breathing normally. Increase the duration gradually to about 15 minutes.

7. To come out of the posture, bend the legs, take the buttocks back, and slowly slide down, keeping palms alongside hips.

Special Instructions
• Those suffering from hypertension or migraine should perform Ardha (half) Halasana. In Ardha Halasana, the legs are not taken all the way down to the floor. Instead, the thighs rest on a stool in such a way that they are parallel to the floor and perpendicular to the chest. You can stay in this position for a duration of 10-15 minutes. Throughout the asana, keep your eyes shut and inwardly try to look at the tip of your nose. This pose is especially beneficial when you are tired.
• If you have heavy hips or find difficulty in breathing during Halasana, then you should perform Ardha Halasana instead.
• If there is any pain in the neck while performing this pose then keep the shoulders elevated from the floor. In order to do that, the shoulders must be placed on four to five double-folded blankets.

• This pose is beneficial for headaches and fatigue.
• It is good for arthritis and stiffness of the shoulders.
• It soothes the nerves.
• Abdominal organs are also rejuvenated.
• It helps relieve backache.
• Cramps in the hands are cured by interlocking and stretching palms and fingers.

Yoga SAVASANA Sava means a corpse. Savasana is thus the posture of emulating the dead. Though this apparently simple posture is the most difficult to master, it is also the most rewarding and refreshing. Savasana is a precise method of disciplining both body and mind. It connects asana and pranayama and leads one to the spiritual path.

1. Spread a blanket on a clean floor so that the body can lie full-length on it.

2. Sit on the blanket and extend legs in front of you. Lie down by making the spine convex and lowering the body, vertebra by vertebra, on the floor so that the entire spine rests on the floor equally and does not tilt to the side.

3. Bend legs at the knees, place feet on the floor near the hips. Slightly lift hips from the floor and, with your hands, move the skin of the buttocks gently towards your feet. Bring hips back onto the floor and slowly extend feet away from the hips, one by one. Keep feet together and extend heels in such a way that the inner legs are stretched.

4. Both the buttocks should rest evenly on the floor.

5. The body should be evenly balanced on the spine. If an imaginary line is drawn from the toes to the forehead then this should pass through where the big toes meet, the inner knees meet, as well as from the anus, the navel, the sternum, the throat, the chin, the bridge of the nose and the center of the forehead.

6. Relax legs and allow the feet to drop to the side.

7. Bending arms at the elbows, touch your shoulders with the fingers and gently extend the back of the upper arm towards the elbow so that it is evenly stretched on the floor.

8. Lower hands to the floor, palms facing upward. The arms and hands should not form angles of more than 15 degrees with the sides of the body.

9. Eyes should be shut, feeling as if they are descending passively towards the bottom of the breast bone. At the same time, feel your eyeballs pleasantly withdrawing deeper inside the sockets.

10. Stretch the back of your neck towards the crown of the head, so that you feel energy from your nape move towards the crown.

11. Now direct this flow of energy downward from the top of the nose. The bridge of the nose should be parallel to the ceiling and the floor.

12. In Savasana, energy flows in a circular motion over the head, down the nose, towards the toes, and then back to the crown of the head. In this way, energy is retained within the body.

13. Control of breath is necessary for good relaxation. In a proper breathing pattern, inhalation should be of normal duration and exhalation should be longer in duration than the inhalation


'Ustra' means a camel. As the name suggests, this asana is so called because the pose resembles a camel.

1. Kneel on the floor, knees and thighs together and toenails resting on the floor. Extend the toes backward.

2. Rest palms on buttocks so that the fingers point towards the feet. The elbows should point backward and you should feel the sternum bone lifted to the front.

3. Stretch the thighs and curve the spine backwards, extending the ribs.

4. Exhale. Lower the left palm on the left heel and the right palm on the right heel. Try to rest the palms on the soles of your feet. press feet with the palms. Keep your ankles in touch with the floor. Throw your head back and push the spine towards your thighs, which should be perpendicular to the floor.

5. Contract buttocks and stretch the spine further, keeping the neck stretched back.

6. Remain in this position for half a minute, breathing normally.

7. Release your hands one by one and rest them on the buttocks. Then sit on the floor and relax.

Special Instructions
Initially, if it is difficult to touch the heels, keep knees slightly apart. This gives better movement to the spine and there is no pain in the thighs.

• People with drooping shoulders and hunched backs specially benefit, since the whole spine is stretched back.
• This pose is useful for elderly people and those suffering from spinal injuries.

Yoga URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA 'Urdhva Mukha' means facing upwards. 'Svana' means a dog. The pose resembles a dog stretching itself with its head up.

1. Lie flat on your stomach.

2. Keep both feet a foot apart, toes pointing backward. Keep elbows raised. Place palms on the floor by the sides of the waist, the fingers pointing to the front.

3. Inhale. Raise the head and trunk and let the palms bear your body weight. Stretch the arms completely and push the head and trunk as far back as possible, lifting knees off the floor.

4. Keep legs straight. Tighten the knees without resting them on the floor. The weight of your body should rest on the palms and toes.

5. While contracting buttocks, stretch the spine, thighs and calves to their full extent. Push the chest forward, stretch your neck and throw the head as far back as possible.

6. Stay in this pose for about a minute, breathing deeply.

7. Exhale. Bend elbows and rest your thighs and knees on the floor. Lower the head and the trunk and lie flat.

• This asana rejuvenates the spine and is specially recommended for people suffering from a stiff back.
• It is also good for people with lumbago, sciatica, slipped and prolapsed discs.
• The lungs gain elasticity due to chest expansion.
• Blood circulates in the pelvic region, keeping it healthy


O Sun, your golden body covers the door to truth in the manner a lid covers the mouth of a vessel. Please open this door and lead me to the truth
Surya, the sun, is venerated because it is the central source of energy in our solar system. Its warmth, brilliance and purity take the form on Earth of vital life energy. Since the beginning of history, man has looked towards this radiant star in awe, and longed to imbue himself with its energy and its radiance.

Yoga believes that just as we are all a part of this unfathomable universe, we too have a universe within us. It is for us to explore this universe within and find its sun, the central source of energy and wisdom, which governs us. Surya Namaskar, or Salutation to the Sun, is a sequence of 12 asanas, to draw in peace, harmony and strength in the body.

Each step flows into the next in a graceful and continuous movement and is performed facing the rising sun, in the spirit of devotion. This series of exercises activates the endocrine glands and the chakras (vortexes through which the vital life energy or prana is channeled into us) energizing the entire body in a balanced way. Surya Namaskar accords overall strength and flexibility to the body, which is why it is generally performed before other asanas. The simple exercises fight aging and rejuvenate the entire body.

They nurture the higher  emotions of love, peace, and compassion, bringing about a sense of harmony and well-being. While performing the steps,  breath  coordination and awareness of the chakras is required. There are 12 mantras or alternatively 12 seed (beej) mantras, which may also be mentally repeated with each step. In the initial stages, try to coordinate the steps with breathing. Proper breath  control is essential for the flow and control of prana. Once you are comfortable with the flow of the asanas, awareness of the chakras and mantra recitation can be incorporated at each step. Often, we are hard-pressed for time on weekdays for a complete yoga  session. On such days seven or more rounds of Surya Namaskar followed by savasana will suffice.

YogaA complete yoga session can be done on the weekend. This way you build flexibility, strength and balance without investing too much time. Ideally, these exercises should be performed early in the morning, exposing your body to the sun's rays. But if, for some reason, it cannot be performed in the morning you may do so in the evening on an empty stomach, in a well ventilated room. Initially, you may start with three rounds and gradually build up the stamina for 10 to 12 rounds. Practice the exercises at the pace you feel comfortable with. If you feel tired after a few rounds, rest by lying down with eyes closed for a few minutes.

Avoid jerks and never push your body into a state of discomfort. Unlike Jane Fonda's much touted phrase "Go for the bum", in yoga  pushing your body beyond its limit is not recommended, and you yourself are the most qualified to define your limit. But be honest in discriminating between a lack of will power and bodily discomfort to ensure that you pull through the exercise plan. It is advisable, therefore, to keep it regular, at a fixed time and location, else you will find your laziness getting the better of you. Gradually your system will gain strength and you will be able to perform these exercises almost effortlessly, and the days you skip the routine, you will feel as if you have missed out on your daily dose of energy. Remember, Surya Namaskar is more than an exercise plan, it is a form of devotion to the Central source of life on Earth, and more importantly, the source of light within us.

Exhale and told your hands in front of your chest in the gesture of a prayer, bringing your awareness to the    heart center. Om Mitraya Namah.

Inhale deeply and raise your hands up and stretch backwards with your eyes open. Bring your awareness to the throat center. You may not be able to bend back very far initially, so go as far as you can without discomfort. To avoid feeling giddy keep your eyes open and focused at a fixed point. Hold for a few seconds and gently move into the next step. Om Ravaye Namah.

Exhale and bend down completely to touch the floor with the palms of our hands. If you are not able to bend completely, bend as far as possible and then bend your knees to rest your palms on the ground. Slowly your body will gain flexibility to accomplish this step properly. Bring your awareness to the root of the spine. Om Suryaaya Namah.

Inhale and bend the left leg while stretching the right leg backward with your toes and knees touching the ground. Lift your gaze towards the sky, bringing your awareness on the forehead center. Do not release your breath. Om Bhanave Namah.

Retain the breach, move the other leg back and lift both knees off the ground. The heels, hips, head moves in one line, in a push up position. Bring your awareness to the neck center. Om Khagaya Namah.

Exhale and bring our body to the ground. In this position, known as ashtanga namaskar, or eight curved positions, only eight parts of the body touch the ground two feet two knees, two hands, chest and forehead. The abdominal region is raised and if possible the nose is also kept off the ground, with only the forehead touching it. Bring your awareness to the navel. Om Pushne Namah.

Inhale while slowly raising your trunk, straighten the arms and bend your head backwards. Bring your awareness to the root of the spine. Om Hiranyagarbhaya Namah.

Exhale and form an inverted 'V' as done in step five, bring your awareness to the neck center. Om Marichaye Namah.

Inhale and come down in to the posture at step four, folding the left leg and stretching the right leg. Bring your awareness to the forehead. Om Adityaya Namah.

Exhale and raise your body into the bending position as in step three, bringing your awareness to the root of spinal column. Om Saavitre Namah.

Inhale and raise yourself completely stretching backwards as in step three, and bring your awareness to the neck center. Om Arkaya Namah

Exhale and bring your hands in the same position as in step one. bringing your awareness to the heart center. Om Bhaskaraya Namah.

This concludes one round of Surya Namaskar. Bring your hands down to the side after each round. Relax and observe your body with your eyes closed. Begin the next round only after you feel prepared. Notice that the position of hands on the floor remains at the same spot throughout one round.

What is YOGA??????????

Yoga is a way of life. It is predominantly concerned with maintaining a state of equanimity at all costs. All Yoga schools of thought emphasize the importance of the mind remaining calm, because as the saying goes, only when the water is still can you see through it. Yoga  Darshan or Yoga Philosophy also happens to be a valid discipline of Indian metaphysics (Brahma Vidya). It is the result of human wisdom and insight on physiology, psychology, Ethics and spirituality collected together and practiced over thousands of years for the well being of humanity.

The basic idea of yoga is to unite the atma or individual soul with the paramatma or the Universal Soul. According to yoga philosophy, by cleansing one`s mind and controlling one`s thought processes one can return to that primeval state, when the individual self was nothing but a part of the Divine Self. This is the sense encapsulated in the term samadhi. The aim of the yogi is to be able to perceive the world in its true light and to accept that truth in its entirety.

In Sanskrit, the term `yoga` stands for `union`. A yogi`s ultimate aim is to be able to attain this `union` with the Eternal Self with the help of certain mental and physical exercises. It is often said that Hiranyagarbha (The Cosmic Womb) Himself had originally advocated the traditional system of yoga, from which all other        yoga schools have evolved. But for all extant knowledge of  yoga and its practices, such as yogasanas and pranayama, the entire credit goes to Maharishi Patanjali.

Patanjali systematized the various yogic practices and traditions of his times by encapsulating them in the form of aphorisms in his yoga Sutra. In this momentous work, he describes the aim of  yoga as knowledge of the self and outlines the eight steps or methods of achieving it. These are:

• Yamas or eternal vows,
• Niyamas or observances,
• Yogasanas or yoga postures,
• Pranayama or breathcontrol exercises,
• Pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses from distractions of the outside world,
• Dharana or concentration on an object, place or subject,
• Dhyana or the continuance of this concentration-meditation and
• Samadhi or the ultimate stage of  yoga meditation.

Basic YOGA techniques


                                                Ashtanga Yoga

Yamas and Niyamas
Yoga is more than just a physical discipline. It is a way of life—a rich philosophical path. And the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances) are ten good common-sense guidelines for leading a healthier, happier life for bringing spiritual awareness into a social context. They are for you to think about and ponder over with a rational mind, because yoga is not about mindlessly accepting externally imposed rules—it is about finding the truth for yourself—and `connecting` with it.

There are many interpretations of and opinions about the yamas and niyamas. While the ancient Indian text, the Bhagavata Purana assigns 12 yogic restraints the Parashar Smriti, another text, puts forward ten. But the yamas as described in Patanjali`s Yoga Sutra are only five, which are also known as the great universal vows or the sarvabhauma maha vratas, because they are not limited by either class, creed, time or circumstances. They are the guidelines for how we interact with the outer world, the social disciplines to guide us in our relationships with others. These five are:

• Ahimsa (non-violence),
• Satya (truthfulness),
• Asteya (non-stealing),
• Brahmacharya (celibacy) and
• Aparigraha (non-covetousness)

According to the Yajnavalkya Samhita, ahimsa or non-violence is the awareness and practice of non-violence in thought, speech and action. It advocates the practices of compassion, love, understanding, patience, self-love, and worthiness.

Patanjali describes truthfulness as: "To be in harmony with mind, word and action, to conduct speech and mind according to truth, to express through speech and to retain it in the intellect what has been seen, understood or heard." A perfectly truthful person is he who expresses in his speech exactly what he thinks in his mind and in the end acts according to it.

Non-stealing or asteya is the third constituent of the yamas of Ashtanga Yoga. It upholds forgoing the unauthorized possession of thought, speech and action. Asteya stands against covetousness and envy. It advocates the cultivation of a sense of completeness and self-sufficiency in order to progress beyond base cravings.

The Vedas, Smritis and Puranas all glorify the fourth constituent of celibacy. It is believed to be a behavior, which brings man nearer to the Divine. This yama believes in avoiding all sensual pleasures, whether mental, vocal or physical.

The literal meaning of apigraha, the fifth yama, is the non-accumulation of worldly objects, caused by covetousness and attachment. The commentator Vyasa says that this last state of yama is attained when one remains totally detached from sensual pleasures of all kinds and so effectively refrains from committing himsa or violence of any sort.

The niyamas are the second constituents of Ashtanga Yoga. How we interact with ourselves, our internal world. The niyamas are about self-regulation—helping us maintain a positive environment in which to grow. Their practice harnesses the energy generated from the cultivation of the earlier yamas. According to sage Yajnavalkya, there are ten niyamas and the Bhagavad Gita lists 11 constituents. But Patanjali names only five:

• Shaucha or purity,
• Santosha or contentment,
• Tapa or austerity,
• Swadhyaya or self-education and
• Ishwar-Pranidhan or meditation on the Divine

Shaucha implies both external as well as internal purity. In the words of sage Manu, water purifies the body; truthfulness the mind; true knowledge the intellect and the soul is purified by knowledge and austerity. It advocates the practices of intellectual purity, purity of speech and of the body.

The second niyama is that of contentment, which is described as not desiring more than what one has earned by his honest labor. This state of mind is about maintaining equanimity through all that life offers. Santosha involves the practice of gratitude and joyfulness—maintaining calm at all costs. This state of mind does not depend on any external causes.

Austerity, the third niyama, is described in Yoga philosophy as power to stand thirst and hunger, cold and heat, discomforts of place and postures, silent meditation and ritual fasts. It also maintains that the perfect man is he who practices both mental as well as physical austerity.

According to the commentator Vyas, self-education or swadhyaya consists of scriptural studies. The scripture being, the Vedas and Upanishads together with the recitation of the Gayatri Mantra and the Om mantra.

Commentators describe Ishwar-Pranidhan, the last of the niyamas, as the dedication of all our actions, performed either by intellect, speech or body, to the Divine. The results of all such actions are by definition, therefore, dependent upon Divine decision. The mortal mind can simply aspire to realize the Divine through dedication, purification, tranquilization and concentration of the mind. This Divine contemplation spills over to all aspects of the yogi`s life.

The Benefits of Practicing Yamas and Niyamas:
The yamas and niyamas help in managing our energy in an integrative manner, complementing our outer life to our inner development. They help us view ourselves with compassion and awareness. They help in respecting the values of this life, in balancing our inner growth with outer restraint. In short they help us to lead a conscious life.

Yamas and niyamas are not about right and wrong. They are about being honest with the true Self. Living according to these principles are about living our lives in a better way, about moving towards an understanding, about making it possible to `connect` with the Divine.

A yogasana is a posture in harmony with one`s inner consciousness. It aims at the attainment of a sustained and comfortable sitting posture to facilitate meditation. Asanas also help in balancing and harmonizing the basic structure of the human body, which is why they have a range of therapeutic uses too.

Functions of Yogasanas
Asanas basically perform five functions:

• Conative,
• Cognitive,
• Mental,
• Intellectual and
• Spiritual.

Conative action is the voluntary exercise of the organs of action. The asanas being the main yogic instrument of balancing the body, they consist of various physical postures, which are designed to release tension, improve flexibility and maximize the flow of vital energy. The purpose of the asanas is to create a flow of positive energy so that our concentration is directed within ourselves and the mind is able to perceive (parokshya jnana) the effects of our purposive action. That is cognitive action.

When the earlier two actions are fused, our mind`s discriminative faculty guides these organs to perform the asanas more correctly. The resultant rhythmic energy flow and awareness leads to a mental state of pure joy (ananda). Physical postures, therefore, end up affecting the various interrelated channels (nadis) of the mind-body complex. And ultimately the performance of a perfect yogasana leads to the absolute intellectual absorption of the mind on a single task (dharana), which in turn leads to the fusion of the individual spirit with the Divine Self (dhyana).

Benefits of Yogasanas
The regular practice of yogasanas has an immense amount of therapeutic value. Besides various physiological benefits, they positively affect our minds, our life force energies as well as our creative intelligence.

Regular practice helps to keep our body fit, controls cholesterol level, reduces weight, normalizes blood pressure and improves heart performance. Physical fitness thus achieved leads to reduction of physical stress and greater vitality. Asanas harmonize our pranic ability and mental energy flow by clearing any blockages in the subtle body leading to mental equilibrium and calmness. They make the mind strong thus enabling our human body to suffer pain and unhappiness stoically and with fortitude.

Various Categories of Yogasanas
Consummate mastery over the entire gamut of asanas is no doubt time-consuming, but what is of vital importance is the will to remain in the present moment and to let both the mind and body relax completely.

The various categories of asanas are:
• Standing Asanas,
• Forward Bending Asanas,
• Supine Asanas,
• Inverted Asanas,
• Abdominal and Lumbar Asanas,
•Twisting Asanas,
• Back Bending Asanas and
•Balancing Asanas.

Standing Asanas:
Beginners should start with these as they bring elasticity in joints and muscles and build up stamina and physical stability. This constitutes the most basic training in the early stages of yoga practice. Some basic standing poses are, Tadasana, Utthita Trikonasana, Virabhadrasana, Ardha Chandrasana and Utthita Parsvakonasana.

Forward Bending Asanas:
In these postures the posterior half of the body is stretched. These prepare you to proceed further in yoga and bring consistency in the development of physical and mental pliability. Examples of such asanas are, Upavisthakonasana and Paschimotanasana.

Sitting and Supine Asanas:
Sitting upright and supine extending positions help a sadhaka prepare physically and mentally for pranayama. Some of them are, Baddhakonasana, Supta Baddhakonasana, Supta Padangusthanasana, Padmasana, Vajrasana, Simhasana, Virasana and so on.

Inverted Asanas:
These help recover from everyday stress. They give vitality, mental balance and emotional stability. These are Adho Mukha Svanasa and Urdhva Mukha Svanasa.

Abdominal and Lumbar Asanas:
These tone and massage the abdominal organs and strengthen the pelvic and lumbar areas. Bharadvajasana and Marichyasana are some examples of such asanas.

Twisting Asanas:
It consists of lateral stretching and twisting of the spine, toning the internal organs and reaching new horizons while tranquilizing the mind. These are, Ardha Matsyendrasana and Jathara Parivartanasana.

Back Bending Asanas:
These bring physical and mental sharpness and alertness. The postures are the opposite of forward bends as are the effects. In forward bends the posterior spine is extended, bringing consistency and mental peace, whereas in back bends the anterior spine is extended and stretched. The effect is invigorating and enlivening. Such asanas are, Ustrasana, Bhujangasana and Matsyasana.

Balancing Asanas:
These strengthen the arms and wrists and exercise the abdominal organs. They also make the body feel light and help attain a good bearing. Salamba Sirsasana, Niralamba Sarvangasana and Salamba Sarvangasana are some of the balancing asanas.

`Pranayama` is a compound term (`prana` and `yama`) meaning the maintenance of prana in a healthy throughout one`s life. More than a breath-control exercise, pranayama is all about controlling the life force or prana. Ancient yogis, who understood the essence of prana, studied it and devised methods and practices to master it. These practices are better known as pranayama. Since breath or prana is basic to life, the practice of pranayama helps in harnessing the prana in and around us, and by deepening and extending it, pranayama leads to a state of inner peace.

According to Hatha Yoga, pranayamas can be classified under:
• Sahita Kumbhaka,
• Surya Bhedi,
• Ujjayi,
• Sitali,
• Bhastrika,
• Bhramari,
• Murchha and
• Kewali.

The first is a breath retention technique, which gives agility, strength and flexibility to the body. They also quieten the mind and the sense organs besides enabling the meditator to control his hunger and thirst.

The Surya Bhedi pranayama consists of inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left. This practice promotes good digestion and through perspiration, it purges the body of all its impurities.

Ujjayi pranayama involves the travel of breath between the nose and the heart only. It acts like an expectorant and increases digestion together with removing all impurities of nerves as well as thoughts.

Bhramari pranayama involves a very concentrated and fixed breathing exercise. It helps in strengthening one`s breath besides quietening the mind and increasing the powers of concentration. This breathing technique is very helpful in the last meditative stage of samadhi.

Murchha pranayama is an extreme form of breath retention, which only experienced yogis can achieve. This practice quietens the mind and helps it to reach the near-unconscious state.

The last technique of Kewali pranayama, is a breath retention technique in which, the yogi stops both inhalation as well as exhalation. This form balances inhalation and exhalation besides helping the mind to concentrate better.

Benefits of Pranayama
The practices of pranayama—the correct breathing technique helps to manipulate our energies. Most of us breathe incorrectly, using only half of our lung capacity. Pranayama is a technique, which re-educates our breathing process, helps us to release tensions and develop a relaxed state of mind. It also balances our nervous system and encourages creative thinking. In addition, by increasing the amount of oxygen to our brain it improves mental clarity, alertness and physical well being.

When practiced along with yogasanas the benefits of pranayama are more pronounced. According to Patanjali`s Yoga Sutra, pranayama enables the mind to acquire the capacity to concentrate on any given object of attention. It also says that scientific breathing helps in unveiling true knowledge from the darkness of ignorance. But it is eminently advisable to be aware of all the do`s and don`ts of pranayama before practicing them.

Various Stages of Pranayama
The following are the stages of pranayama:

• Inhalation or puraka,
• Exhalation or rechaka,
• Stambhavritti pranayama and
• Bahyabhyantarakshepi pranayama.
Puraka or inhalation techniques are about regular and controlled inhalation. It also teaches regulating the entire breathing process and reducing the number of inhalations per minute. Rechaka or exhalation exercises teach slow and ordered breathing besides reducing the number of inhalations and exhalations per minute. The third stage consists of retaining the breath after stopping natural inhalation and exhalation. The last stage of pranayama is about converting both exhalation and inhalation into retention and storing the retained breathe in various internal organs for various lengths of time.

Pratyahara involves rightly managing the senses and going beyond them instead of simply closing and suppressing them. It involves reining in the senses for increased attention rather than distraction. Pratyahara may be practiced with mantra meditation and visualization techniques.

Benefits of Pratyahara
It is essential to practice pratyahara for achieving the three meditative stages of dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Perfecting this technique of yoga is also essential in order to break out from the eternal cycle of rebirths.

The last three limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are the three essential stages of meditation. Dharana involves developing and extending our powers of concentration. This consists of various ways of directing and controlling our attention and mind-fixing skills, such as concentrating on the chakras or turning inwards.

Dhyana is the state of meditation, when the mind attains the ability to sustain its attention without getting distracted. Strictly speaking, unlike the other six limbs of yoga, this is not a technique but rather a state of mind, a delicate state of awareness. This state rightfully precedes the final state of samadhi.

Samadhi, or total absorption, is the ability to become one with the True Self and merge into the object of concentration. In this state of mind, the perceiver and the object of perception unite through the very act of perception—a true unity of all thought and action. This is the acme of all yogic endeavors—the ultimate `yoga` or connection between the individual and the universal Soul!

Patanjali`s Yoga Sutra categorizes and grades the levels of samadhi in the first chapter or Samadhi Pada:

• Samprajnata Samadhi or distinguished contemplation and
• Asamprajnata Samadhi or non-distinguished contemplation,
• Savitarka Samadhi or deliberated absorption and
• Nirvitarka Samadhi or non-deliberated absorption,
• Savichara Samadhi or reflective meditation and
• Nirvichara Samadhi or non-reflective meditation,
• Sabija Samadhi, where the mind continues to carry seeds of earthly impressions and
• Nirbija Samadhi, where each seed of earthly impressions have been erased.