Live free yoga

Liberated living through the sadhana of yog; enlivened by the grace of my satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.


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From Yog to Yoga

From yog on rustic cotton mats laid out on an earthen floor under a hay roof to Yoga in swanky über temperature controlled yoga studios with branded accessories, this practice has leapt to a different level altogether. The multi billion-dollar yoga industry today is a far cry from the simple akahada gurus who would sweep the floor and lay out the mats to make the space ready for the students and accept calmly what now seems a paltry remuneration for the teaching. A routine and disciplined study, it involved much more learning than developing a beach ready body or a flawless facade.

Yoga today has taken on many hues and those who develop a particular style of Yoga hugely define its practice today. A 200-hour teachers training gets a certificate and a traditional Hindu name for a practice that took yogis lifetimes to even make progress. Patanjali and his yoga sutras, each of which can be pondered upon for months is taught in five easy lessons.

Though elated at the status this practice has achieved in the world today one has to wonder whether somewhere along the way a very scientific and well documented practice to realise the Self has been diminished to a glamour quotient for movie stars and studios.

For many born in India in the 50’s and 60’s and earlier, yog sadhana was a way of life, learnt often from watching our parents. Formal training sometimes started in school and study of the first two tenets of yama and niyama by example from adults around us.

The five Yamas are, Satya (truthfulness), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (honesty), Brahmacharya (popularly sexual restraint) and Aparigraha (non hoarding).

The five Niyamas are, Shaucha (personal hygiene), Santosha (contentment), Tapa (austerity) Swadhyaya (self study) and Ishwar Pranidhan (surrender to divine will).

Yoga instructions today often either ignore or gloss over the yamas and niyamas as do’s and don’ts. Rather they may even be subverted in the race to achieve ‘success’ in this field. To build a brand, to lease out franchises, to woo students, to manufacture products, to become popular, to weed out competition, yoga practitioners and teachers may and often do trample upon many of these tenets with impunity.

These two tenets however become a natural way of being for the sincere practitioner of yog sadhana, herein lies the beauty of yoga to transform the sincere practitioner despite poor instructions from unqualified yoga teachers.

Yoga today popularly refers to the practice of asanas and to some extent pranayama. Little surprise as most often the step towards yoga is taken either for reasons relating to physical health and or mental stress both of which are taken care of by the practice of asanas and pranayama. Here ends the journey of many who venture into yoga as a practice today.

It’s a disservice to yog though to divest it of its purpose that of uniting the individual spirit with the universal spirit. In their passion to keep out the mystical or the unexplainable yog has been stripped of its real purpose. It’s like giving few ingredients of an exotic dish and keeping away the others. The dish will neither be cooked nor eaten. This may also be because the teachers are restricted by their own progress on this path, which stopped at perfecting the asanas.  

The fifth stage of yog sadhana pratyahar is the withdrawal of sense organs from sense objects. But for many modern practitioners of yoga there is a feeling of discomfort when the word detachment is mentioned. The attitude is of not being ready to give up sensory pleasures yet; they don’t want to venture that far. Systematic practice of yoga stills and reduces the clinginess of the mind to external stimuli, freeing the soul to experience its own divine nature. So once again regular practice of pranayama will get the practitioner to this very exhilarating state sooner or later.

Many practices of Dharana, the art of concentration the sixth stage of yoga is taught by experts, especially to sportspersons and high achievers. These practices taken from yoga texts are separated from the other steps that lead to it. The concentration then becomes a wish to succeed in one’s field rather than a one pointed attention to realise ones innermost core of bliss.

Dhyan and Samadhi being in the purview of a true master, a satguru often is not realised easily by many on this path.

There’s a reason for this very elaborate and codified practice of yoga laid down by Patanjali. The steps followed systematically lead you without fail to the state of self-realisation, no matter what your race, colour, gender or caste is, whether you are an atheist or a believer. Yoga does not discriminate; the sincere is rewarded with results.

Yoga is self-regulatory and an inward path. It involves a bond between the teacher and the taught that is based on an ethical behaviour where they alone judge and witness their motives. The redeeming fact is that since every one who practices any of the eight steps of yoga is evolving along this path, eventually the chitta and the vrittis -fluctuations of the mind will be overcome and Patanjali’s Sutras will bear fruit for that yogi.

This article was first published in the The Pioneer in December 2018.

http://www.pioneeredge.in/the-journey-from-yog-to-yoga/


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Am I a Hindu if I practice Yoga?

This blog was inspired by an online post on social media by a western yoga teacher who was postulating how yoga was not religious and could be practiced by anyone from any other faith whilst adhering to their own religion without fear of conversion.

Does practicing yoga make one a Hindu? As a yoga teacher who teaches westerners I come across this oft asked query to which I have a counter question. Do they think of Hinduism as a religion and Hindus as a class of people practicing a set discipline? My reply is based upon their response to this question.

If Hindusim is a religion, yog cannot be divested from it just because people from ‘other’ religions want to practice and reap the benefits of this time tested ancient technique without getting out of the comfort zone of their belief sysytem. They have to understand that yog is part of a great spiritual philosophy now known as Hinduism. It is a culmination of rigourous self-study, self-imposed austerities, deep reflection on the nature of the self and is based on a solid foundation of sustained practice of thousands of years.

Many who are called Hindus today believe the ‘ism’ and the term Hindu was imposed upon them by the Greeks, Mughal and Colonial marauders to put them in a box they could comprehend, as comprehending the diversity of this land they overcame with brute force was impossible for their small limited minds. The present day hindus themselves believe their roots are deep in the Sanatana Dharma philosophy, an eternal way of life that evolved/is evolving, is alive and is the result of extensive study, introspection and realisation into the nature of humankind and their relation to the divine, with many paths and movements branching out from this study, of which Yoga is one. There was never a need to give this a limiting lable of an ism. This system accepts even atheism as a philosophy and they are free to adopt, refute and challenge belief systems of scholars.

This is proof of an enlightened spiritual tradition not an excuse for marketing Yoga as not a religion and giving examples of atheists practicing yoga to draw in students.

Therefore to understand that yog is not a religion you have to yourself be realised to that extent. To frivolously mouth yoga is not a religion and that one can continue being a christian or muslim or jew while practicing yog is insulting the universality of yoga and in extension the religion now called hinduism of which its a part.

So yes if you think Hinduism is a religion then Yoga is hindu. But if you have broken the shackles of religion in all its limitations then not only yoga but all the paths that have come out of this deep reflective philosophy is not religion but an invitation to explore and realise.

“The pilgrim, the path and the goal become one- LOVE,” says Yogiraj Siddhanath a realised Kriya Master, a foremost example of how versatile and evolving Sanatana Dharma is.


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You are what You Eat?

This post, spearheaded by current discussions on social media by friends, is nevertheless a result inspired by my personal experiences. It is not an argument for or against any particular food habits and does not endorse a lifestyle choice on food, which I believe is very personal and depends upon one’s own understanding of ones body and its needs. Finally, a ‘disclaimer’ – all opinions expressed here are mine alone and anyone is free to disagree. With these views  I may disappoint some people, inspire some or pass by others without a ripple and thats fine.

Early learning.

From childhood I have heard there are three types of people, tamasic, rajasic and sattvic. The day I was lazy, didn’t have a bath, comb my hair or was generally lolling about my grandma would say, “what a tamasic child she is today!” Stale food was a no no at home, even refrigerated food was considered tamasic. Meat?! even garlic and onions were used sparingly, for medicinal purposes only lest they evoke rajasic qualities. Forget the fact that being apparently tamasic i was actually immersed in books reading stories from the Bhagavatam, the Panchatantra or stories of Krishn, Prahlad or Ayyapa, a clearly sattvic activity even if done in ones pyjamas.

Then, at age five I got hurt and the Bengali doctor in his wisdom prescribed two half boiled eggs for me as daily diet. The eggs were boiled outside the house and kitchen in a little stove in a rusty tin can which was washed and dried outside.  But what about me? A brahmin child, fed on ‘sattvic’ food from birth? I waited daily for the eggs like a devotee waits for prasad hands in supplication; I loved it, the flavour, the texture, the fragrance of the runny egg, a new experience for all my senses. And that was a guilty secret I finally confessed to my Amma and Appa who, thankfully for my psychological well being, had a hearty laugh at their child’s predilection. 😀

As i grew up i went through phases of rajasic and tamasic and sattvic habits in food and way of life. Going through the university of life and picking up information and knowledge and gaining wisdom from personal experiences. In 1998 I met my Satguru, Yogiraj Siddhanath and wisdom started to flower into realizations.

Sustained and disciplined yogic practice added its inputs and one major realization that came was motive trumps everything else when it comes to the effect of an action. The energy behind the act decides the resultant fruit of that action.

Today I eat very little, mostly organic vegetarian food cooked at home but without obsessing, eat what’s available…or not.

Outer Sattvicity

Today’s topic is about food, yet I’d like to begin this section with an anecdote I heard as a kid. Kabir the great mystic saint from Kashi was a weaver. While he weaved the cloth he would be immersed in divine love, people of Kashi came in hordes to buy cloth woven at his loom. Apparently when one wore the cloth woven by Kabir one would spontaneously go into a blissful samadhi like state.

Though this anecdote is self explanatory, it reiterates my point that everything we use becomes sattvic or tamasic by the energy and motive that touches it at every stage. The food we eat is effected by the soil that its grown on, the water thats used for irrigation, the mental state of the farmer who is harvesting it, the emotions of the person processing or cooking it. A happy citizenry produces happy benign products, meat, fruits or vegetables, it matters not.

Hence the importance of caring for our environment, our craftsmen and farmers, people who serve and are served, to live with awareness of our surroundings, not to leave large toxic footprints. Without arguments this is the ideal yogic external life too. A true practicing yogi, according to me, is incapable of polluting the environment, is not a glutton, is judicious in consumption, follows a minimalistic approach towards resources.

In India traditionally, there are mantras specifically formulated and chanted, while planting the seeds, before harvest, while cooking, after cooking, and then before taking the first morsel, these mantras by their vibrations are believed to neutralise all toxins, physical and vibrational contained in the food.

Inner Sattvicity

Now about the yogi who has internalised….Yes this blog is for those already part of the way up this path, those who are engaged in purifying the inner.

For moi, internalising the external, the practicing yogi becomes aware of the physical body as a temple that houses the soul and the spirit of the divine, and treats it as such. Every moment understanding the sacredness and sanctity of this body temple theres a reluctance to pollute it intentionally with gross food or thoughts and emotions.

But often the yogi is not supported in this endeavour by the produce that is available. What happens when such a yogi engaged in the purifying of the inner being eats toxic/tamasic, non sattvic food? I know, by experience, that the body of the practicing yogi processes the food, ingesting the nourishing and expelling the toxic naturally and making it sattvic. There’s no voluntary thought process happening here. It’s happened to me there’s a blip in the body, a pause and then course correction, the toxins are eliminated and the body recovers quickly. This happens with emotional and mental toxic vibrations too external and internal….quick jettisoning of all baggage.

The yogi here is not expending any energy on conscious control of the external circumstance, “oh i got a bunch of toxic bacterias in the last bite, um salmonella, oops i think the vegetable/fish/piece of meat i just ate was very sad, was that an aphid that i just swallowed with my raw organically grown salad leaf? I need to go through a detox programme now.” Nope, the body is fine tuned to take care of this while the yogic mind flows in a constant stream towards the divine. It’s all because of the practice, the pranayama, the bandhas, the kumbhaks, the mudras, the intelligence of the pran…the specialised techniques given by the Guru, by the grace of the Satguru.

Fact is we all have all three qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in varying degrees in all of us and in all the food available. As Yogiraj Siddhanath points out these three represent the three humours of  Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which in a practicing yogi transforms to prana, tejas and ojas and then further to hamsa, kundalini and nectar and finally livingness, light and love. So wherein is one superior to the other? When by internal alchemy all three flow towards the divine ultimately.

I shall probably be back to add more inputs as the realizations come. In the meantime, if you like to please leave a comment in the box below. Points and counter points welcome, but toxic comments will be automatically purged 😀

 


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Do we find the Path or does the Path find us??

Fortunately for me, the Satguru (Yogiraj Siddhanath) and the path (Kriya Yoga) both found me. Blissfully ignorant of Babaji and Kriya Yoga and the other Kriya masters in the lineage in spite of having read the Autobiography of a Yogi, I was happily cruising along in my ‘normal’ life when my Satguru appeared in a vision and guided me to him and the forest ashram in Pune, India. For me it was like waking up from a deep slumber of thirty-six years in this life. My constant association with Him and his wife Gurumata Shivangini and steady practice for over 16 years has brought back memories of past lives practicing this sacred evolutionary science and my many lives in his service. There are many who are guided in a similar manner to their past Masters, even if some of them are not aware that this has happened.

“Practice the necessary means to achieve the necessary end,” says my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, a very practical and profound advice to the novice seeker. In todays era of excessive information we often come across people flitting from practice to practice and ‘gurus’ to ‘gurus’ looking for a quick fix to life’s problems. It has become very fashionable to say, all gurus preach the same things and all paths lead to the same goal. Really?? There is a market out there promising from the art of loving to living to dying, from material abundance to freedom from disease, from finding your ‘soul mate to ridding yourself of the present one, from sewa to satsang, old wine in new bottles and new wine in old, you can pay a fee and choose the path leading you to your hearts desire. So definitely all paths don’t lead to the same end and most definitely all gurus don’t preach the same thing. So the first step is to identify what one wants to achieve and choose. Whether you get what is promised in the promo is another ball game altogether 🙂

 

And even if the goal is not material but self-realization or spiritual evolution you have to find the right path and the right guide (satguru) for YOU!! Its like getting to the top of a mountain, some may want to take the tough trek up the most difficult path, others may want to meander by a more gentle slope, still others may want to try out many of the different tracks branching out, yet others may want to stop at every bower and meadow, read a book and talk to every flower and its all OK. Out there is a Path and a Satguru perfectly suited to You and you have to find it. No easy task left to our limited and normally confused mind. Of course just like the game we played as kids we keep looking till we find.

 

But there are certain yardsticks, first of course is, have you got what was promised? How much time have you devoted to practicing the given technique before you make this evaluation? On a spiritual path some of the indication are a freedom from earlier fears and insecurities, an awakening of spiritual compassion as compared to human charity, feeling of contentment in any life situation, calmness and equanimity in the face of turmoil, a constant joyous demeanor, a non judgmental (not indifferent) attitude to others etc. If you achieve even a modicum of one of these qualities after a couple of months then you are probably on the right path, for you. Of course like in the corporate world this evaluation can be done periodically to check progress. But watch out for the mind and the ego, it’s a devious thing and can lull you into many delusions…even the delusion of being fearless or joyous or compassionate. It is especially so if you are involved in an organization with a large number of followers where the ego is stoked and stroked and even in service to others there is pride, in compassion pity and a feeling of superiority in general to the rest of humanity that has not ‘found the way’ that we have been so fortunate to have been guided to.

 

Whatever path you may have chosen and whichever guru you may be following; there is a video by Yogiraj that I find very helpful to a seeker.

 

 

Now as promised below is the article from 2005 about various yoga systems available to us. Of course since then many new ones have emerged, the latest being Naked Yoga. Is it really the clothes we have to drop? I would think it should be our ego with all its accompanying paraphernalia, eh? Does Living Free entail wearing no clothes? Maybe they start with the clothes and will move inwards…in any case good luck to them in their endeavor.

Next post will touch upon the much ignored and misunderstood first two tenets of yog sadhana- yam and niyam more popularly, observances and restraints.

LIFE POSITIVE
Connecting to one’s sacred self with Yoga
The Tribune, Friday, October 14, 2005, Chandigarh, India

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Yoga trainer Jyoti Subramanian elaborates on the various branches of Yoga.

Good health is not just related to the physical body. Complete health has to permeate the physical, emotional and mental. This is where the practice of yoga plays such an important role. The practitioner not only cures the physical ailments but also moves in to cure the emotional or mental reasons for the disease and progresses to understanding his innate divine nature.

Often novitiates are perplexed by the variety or branches of yoga available and propagated-Patanjali yoga, Kundalini yoga, Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Raja yoga, Kriya yoga, Hamsa yoga, Iyengar yoga and now Bikram yoga- the list is endless.

Patanjali codified yoga in the treatise ‘Yoga Sutras’ in the year 200 BCE. Even then, he is not the originator, the knowledge of Yoga having come from the Mahayogi Shiva himself.

All yoga that is taught today, which includes the ones mentioned above has its origin in Patanjali who has systematically recorded all the practices of yoga. So we can visualise Patanjali as this big umbrella from where all forms of yoga come.

Ashtanga means ‘eight limbs’. Now according to Patanjali the Tree of Yoga has eight limbs, yama (restraints) and niyama (observances) are the first two and comprise the following qualities taught to children by their parents and teachers through example: non-violence, truthfulness, freedom from greed, control of sensual pleasures, non-stealing, compassion, moderate eating, austerity, contentment, belief in divinity, charity, company of men of wisdom.

Third comes asanas, for steadiness of posture, good physical health and lightness of body.

Fourth is pranayam, a technique to make the respiratory organs move intentionally as against automatic habitual breathing. One learns to harness the mind via the medium of breath.

Pratyahar being the fifth limb is a process of reversal of energy. Our sense organs, always attracted to the external, are drawn inwards seeking their own divinity.

Dharana, Dhyan and Samadhi are final three stages; a single point attention with the mind unwavering and unruffled, a merging of the one meditating and meditated upon- the true state of meditation and finally the state where the yogi realises the individual self to be a part of the universal self. Therefore all yoga has to be part of ashtanga.

Hatha Yoga ignores the first two: yama and niyama and concerns itself with the practice of asanas, pranayam and pratyahar. Raja yoga concerns itself with dharana, dhyan and Samadhi.

Most yogis normally practice a combination of Hatha-Raja yoga. The former to maintain the physical body as a fit vehicle and the latter for spiritual evolution leading to union of the individual self with the divine self.

By tradition, Kriya yoga was never taught publicly, normally communicated verbally by master to disciple. Even today though many masters are authorising their disciples to teach this practice it is essential to be initiated by the master to enliven the process. Kriya yoga is the practice of Kundalini yoga and both are part of Raja yoga. Hamsa yoga, a special form of yoga practiced by the Himalayan yogis is also part of Raja yoga.

– Hamsacharya Jyoti Subramanian was introduced to yoga in 1972. She teaches the New Life Awakening techniques of Hamsa Yog and Babaji Kriya Yog.


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Why Blog??

book cover kindle

Why blog?

Needed to get this clear first. Yes really, do I have time for this blogging in my busy schedule of teaching the practices of the Siddhanath Yoga Parampara, travelling abroad for a couple of months every year, managing my centre in Chandigarh, India, helping out at our Siddhanath Forest Ashram, this apart from other family and farm obligations? What is prompting me to do this? Do I have anything so important to share that others will want to read? Do I even want anyone to read what I write or have to say? Do people really care? Do I care? Questions, questions, questions.

Then I realized that all these thoughts, ideas, words, realizations (mine) are knocking around inside my head and my god, once they are out how much better would be my sadhana (spiritual practice)! And hence the platform of the blog, more for my own benefit than others. See a lot of similarity to writing my book One Master one disciple too which was first written as a journal for myself then published first in 2007 then again now in 2019 updated with fifteen more years of understanding. So enjoy….or not haha

I had written a series of articles for a local newspaper, actually two newspapers way back in 2005. In 9 years by 2014 the Satguru has helped connect many more synapses in the brain and regular practice and association with him has brought many more revelations. I am going to start by producing the articles here verbatim and adding the new stuff, thus tracing the evolutionary path….

Starting next week with the first one- Connecting to one’s sacred self with Yoga.