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Archive for the ‘Fall cleansing of mind and body’ Category

When the contemporary Christian musician and Grammy Award winner Matthew West’s song Forgiveness is passed around Jain homes during the holiest week of Paryushan ending in Samvatsari (the most important day of universal forgiveness), we may be moved by this essential human commonality. Many thanks to Malini for sharing the link to the song.

We now come to the holiest day of the Jewish faith–Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews ask for forgiveness for sins against God as well as fellow humans. My Jewish friends and I have sometimes talked about the similarities (the most important religious time, fasting, intense prayers, time spent at the temple) as well as differences (Jews asking forgiveness from God versus Jains asking forgiveness from all living beings, from life with one sense to five senses, and ending with personally asking forgiveness from all relatives and those who have been hurt).

No human life is possible without inflicting or receiving hurt (as we discussed in our special session Insight into Problems in July), whether it be done knowingly or unknowingly. We ask for forgiveness for our sake, to release the pain and sorrow that keep us from moving ahead. It is  often difficult for all of us to appreciate that we forgive wholeheartedly to be free. Nothing is altruistic (or very little is!) and so this can be a rational act, not sentimental emotion, in our self-interest. Sometimes we are not able do it when the hurt is too deep. But those who have strong religious faith may be able to forgive through the love of God, or a higher entity. And so we have the Grace of God, the Mercy of Allah, the compassion of Buddha, the micchami dukkadam of the Jains, the forgiveness embedded in all faiths and cultures.

Our Fall Mindful Meditation session this year begins with understanding and meditating on forgiveness. It is the most potent mental and emotional cleanse, an essential release in meditation. A mental cleanse as part of our mental well-being may be even more essential than the intense preoccupation with the body. There is some research to back the benefits of forgiveness.

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Free Fall Pictures - Yellow Trees is a printable photo

Source: http://freebigpictures.com/autumn-pictures/fall-yellow-trees/

Spring and autumn are times to reset the body and mind by doing some type of cleanse. This post is about a specific program from www.rebootwithjoe.com developed by Joe Cross (he made the documentary Fat Sick & Nearly Dead). I heard about it from Rajen P. and he has generously shared the information. We have seen how visibly this program has worked. But that does not mean that it is for everyone. As always, please consult your doctor before undertaking a specific diet.

Reboot offers several programs ranging from 3 to 15 days. There is a shopping list for the ingredients, recipes, and a guide to choosing the right juicer. The site also has numerous recipes on soups, salads, smoothies, and main courses. The food is all plant-based–so it is vegan and gluten-free (from what I have seen so far!)

Another good resource from Rajen is Forks Over Knives–a documentary and also a website with tons of recipes.

Some readers may want to review previous blog posts on fall and spring cleaning–these include the digestive and respiratory systems as well as the mind. Here is a link to one:

https://yogamedblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/spring-cleaningdigestive-system/

Guided meditations act as mental diets to nourish and clean the mind. They complement the food diets. There are several free audio tracks on www.mahasriyoga.com/pranayama and www.mahasriyoga.com/meditation/index.html (for Yoga Nidra and Trataka).

Happy Autumn!

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As the days get cooler, it is time to resume the practice of surya namaskar (sun salutations) which may been stopped for hot summers. It is also a good time to review the sequence and move into deeper aspects. A good number of visitors to this website come through the search on this sequence of 12 positions.

For detailed instructions, pretty much a transcript, the chapter on surya namaskar in Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda is an excellent resource. It not only lists benefits, it also gives contraindications. The book Surya Namaskara, also by the same author, expands upon the sequence. It demonstrates how this is a complete practice to which progressive layers can be added.

Readers are cautioned that the practice is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, hernias, and intestinal diseases. Hernias and sciatica can be aggravated. Back issues may require modifications. Past blog posts on this blog are good resources for more information:

Questions on how to practice:

https://yogamedblog.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/qahow-to-practice-surya-namaskar/

https://yogamedblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/updates-on-surya-namaskar-practice/

Research on fast and slow surya namaskar:

https://yogamedblog.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/physiological-effects-of-slow-and-fast-surya-namaskar/

Surya Namaskar part of fall routine:

https://yogamedblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/adjusting-mind-and-body-to-fall/

One chair yoga version I do with seniors:

http://mahasriyoga.com/asana/chair.html

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The aching yearning for Spring makes the birdsong sweetly joyful. It seems like the world rejoices in the song of life with the holy week for billions–Passover, Easter, Holi.

The same sun shines over all life without distinction
The water flows with no attempt at prejudice
The earth holds us all without labels
The tree gives fruit and shade without judgement
The breath flows from one to another giving life to all
The sky covers us with the umbrella of infinite space
Rich or poor, dark or light, man or woman
No East, West, North, or South
Seeing no country or religion
Just Being
Why let the mind divide what Nature does not

Happy Holidays and Spring to all!

Here is Richard Blanco‘s gift to all in his inaugural poem “One Today” (January 2013) copied here from NPR:

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores, 
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces 
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth 
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies. 
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story 
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors, 
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day: 
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights, 
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows 
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us, 
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did 
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through, 

the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day: 
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined, 
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain 
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent 
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light 
breathing color into stained glass windows, 
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth 
onto the steps of our museums and park benches 2 
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk 
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat 
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills 
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands 
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands 
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane 
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains 
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it 
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs, 
buses launching down avenues, the symphony 
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways, 
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling, or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open for each other all day, saying: hello

shalom, buon giorno

howdy

namaste or buenos días

in the language my mother taught me—in every language

spoken into one wind carrying our lives

without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed 
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked 
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands: 
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report 
for the boss on time, stitching another wound 3 
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait, 
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower 
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes 
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather 
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love 
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother 
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father 
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight 
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home, 
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon 
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop 
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars 
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it, 
waiting for us to name it—together

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The War of Lanka by Sahibdin. It depicts the monkey army of the protagonist Rama (top left, blue figure) fighting the demon-king of the king of Lanka, Ravana in order to save Rama’s kidnapped wife Sita. The painting depicts multiple events in the battle against the three-headed demon general Trisiras, in bottom left–Trisiras is beheaded by the monkey-companion of Rama-–Hanuman.

The holiday season has begun for many. The ritual of story telling can be engaging, entertaining, and a very effective learning tool in every culture and religion. The stories may have a clear and practical message for a peaceful mind. Mental turmoil is clearly not just a contemporary affliction!

The mythical tale of the popular Indian festival of Dussehra also known as Vijaya Dashmi, like other major world holy days, is seen as a metaphor of mental reflection and clarification of our own minds. Swami Satyananda wrote in Yoga Magazine, October 2008:

“In the present day, the demons that we need to deal with are ignorance, corruption and terrorism that are rampant in the entire world. They are the Ravanas of today. Therefore, the destruction of Ravana should not be seen as a mere symbol. Ravana or Mahisasura should not be simply relegated to Puranic tales or history; their annihilation should be real for us. That is the significance of this festival. It denotes that you will remove ignorance and lack of awareness from your mind. That is when you will be truly able to say that Ravana or Mahisasura has died.”

The aim is to get rid of attitudes, thinking, behaviors that become obstructions to a peaceful, harmonious, and joyful life. These are universal concepts and the stories help bring them to life.

There are many stories of Dussehra.  All Indians know the story of Rama and Ravana. For our readers who do not know the story, we give a very brief summary. Rama was the king of Ayodhya who had been sent into exile (accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshman).  Ravana was the king of Lanka who abducts Sita.  Rama is the symbol of light and harmony, or sattwa. Ravana is darkness and disharmony, or tamas. They battle at Lanka when Rama goes to rescue Sita.  Ravana has ten heads and is finally vanquished. The day of conquest is celebrated as Dussehra (destruction of ten heads–dass/ten,  hara/ cut or destroy).

Here is a part of the explanation from Dasara–An Exposition from Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba:

Symbolism Of Ravana

“Ravana is depicted as the king of Raakshasas [demons]. He is said to have ten heads. He was not born with ten heads. Who is this Ravana and what are his ten heads? Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Moha (delusion), Lobha (greed), Mada (pride), Maatsyasya (envy), Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (will) and Ahamkara (the ego) -all these ten constitute the ten heads. Ravana is of all the ten qualities. Each one can decide for himself whether he is a Ravana or Rama according to his qualities.” Sai Baba, SS. SS. 11/91. p. 285

Symbolism Of Rama

“Rama is the destroyer of the bad qualities. When engaged in this act of destruction of bad qualities, He manifests his Rajo-guna [action, motion, energy]. But his Rajasic quality is associated with his Satvic [light, purity, harmony, clearing, sentience] quality. Even in cutting off Ravana’s ten heads, Rama showed his love. This was the only way that Ravana could be redeemed.” Sai Baba, SS, 11/91. p. 285

The redemption suggested in yoga is abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (non-attachment) as explained by Swami Satyananda in Satsang at Rikhiapeeth, Yoga Magazine, October 2008 issue:

“Vairagya…. is the ability to disconnect the present from the past. Past events disturb one’s present life. All that you ever see or hear accumulates in your mind. Your grandfather may have died five years ago, but you still think of him. The connection of the past with the present needs to be determined by every individual for himself. We are not able to do this, and therefore our minds remain disturbed.”

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Adaptation to seasons, external circumstances, as well as situations is integral to yoga philosophy. As the season changes, this post is a reminder to begin the adaptation phase. Holidays become markers to remind us to clean our house–homes, bodies, minds. Here are some suggestions to start the process.

Shatkarma: These are cleansing kriyas or practices. See the blog post Yoga Spring Cleaning: Digestive System (March 20, 2011). Cleaning the digestive system can be gentle or moderate through varied detoxification methods.  From partial fasts, to high-fiber diets, to shankhprakshalan, there are many ways.

Asana: A gradual switch to more active routines from the relatively passive summer asanas is now appropriate. Active routines counter the slowing winter metabolism and help keep the body warmer.  As the digestive system becomes more sluggish, a practice of surya namaskar/sun salutations can invigorate and improve the digestive process by toning and stimulating peristalsis.

Pranayama: The cooling summer breaths of sitali and sitakari give way to kapalbhati and bhastrika. The active breaths gently pump the belly and stimulate the heat-generating manipura chakra. The abdominal organs get a work-out. The respiratory system is flushed and strengthened.

Meditation: These practices remain steady. A greater inner focus begins.

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Once the foundation is laid and the body prepared with the practices listed in the previous two posts, the next step is balanced breathing where the breath is comfortably paced. This breath is also called equal inhalation and exhalation and samavritti pranayama. It calms the mind, making it quiet. The breath will gradually become deeper and longer.

The exercise begins by relaxing the body and making it still. Then the attention is drawn to the belly. The breath is observed as an inhalation and exhalation. The inhalation and exhalation are measured by counting 1, 2, 3, etc. from the start to end of inhalation and then the exhalation. Or if it is easier, count how long it takes for the belly to softly rise with the inhaled breath and fall with the exhaled breath. The two are then made even or equal–for instance it could be three seconds to inhale and three seconds to exhale. So there is a gentle and active control. (Kapalbhati and bhastrika are intentionally not given here as I do think that people need direct guidance from an experienced teacher to determine if it is suitable for them, and if so at what pace and rate. A teacher must also observe these two breaths to make sure the breathing is done correctly, that there is no hyperventilation and elevated blood pressure.)

All these steps help make the mind still and focused to prepare it for meditation.

Here is a free audio track for balanced, paced breathing (requires no iTunes or MP3) from www.mahasriyoga.com that anyone with Internet service can easily access:

Samavritti Pranayama

Samavritti means equal or uniform movement. In this breathing the flows of inhaled and exhaled breaths are of equal duration and intensity. The breathing is paced, but it is paced to your own comfort and not to a given count–usually four to six seconds. As the breath is observed with uninterrupted awareness over an extended period of time, the inhalation and exhalation spontaneously become equal. The breathing pattern becomes more rhythmic and this has a calming effect on the body and mind. This is an important step in pranayamaSamavritti pranayama is soothing and creates a feeling of equanimity. As you get more comfortable with it, you can add one more second to each inhalation and exhalation to slowly make the breath longer and deeper, gently increasing the lung capacity. Never go beyond your comfort level–there should be no shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, any discomfort. Notice the changes in your body and the mind as they change with the rhythmic, balanced breathing. Breath retention should be done under expert guidance after the initial stages are completed and is not included here.

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