Do you end your yoga class or practice with the ‘Aum’ now and then? How do you feel about it? Do you feel awkward and inhibited while chanting the sacred sound Aum? Or is it part of your standard yoga practice and do you feel incomplete without it?
Either way, it is interesting to know more about the Aum. Personally, I quite like chanting and I don’t have any problems with inhibition or awkwardness. As a teenager while in my mother’s yoga class, I was always curious how long I could make my ‘Aums’. For some reason, the chanting brought me in contact with something deeper, something steady, still and strong.
Aum is the most sacred of holy words, the supreme mantra and symbolizes and embodies Brahman, the Absolute Reality. According to the Hindu and yoga philosophy, Aum is the primordial sound from which the whole universe was created. Another word for Aum is pranava, which means ‘the best praise or the best prayer’. The Aum mantra is constantly repeated in unison with the breath and the purpose is to become free from suffering and limitation. The symbol AUM is composed of four elements: the first three are vocal sounds: A, U, and M. The fourth sound, unheard, is the silence which begins and ends the audible sound, the silence which surrounds it.
- The letter ‘A’ resonates in the center of the mouth and symbolizes the conscious or waking state. This is the level of mechanics, science, logical reason and the lower three chakras.
- The letter ‘U’ transfers the sense of vibration to the back of the mouth and symbolizes the dream state. This is the realm of dreams, divinities, imagination and the inner world.
- The letter ‘M’ is created while humming with lips gently closed and resonates forward in the mouth and buzzes throughout the head. This sound represents the dreamless sleep state of the mind and spirit. Only pure consciousness exists.
- The entire symbol stands for the fourth state, which combines all these states and transcends them. This is the state of Samādhi.
The three letters A, U and M also symbolize the absence of desire, fear and anger, while the whole symbol stands for the perfect man, one whose wisdom is firmly established in the divine. They represent the three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter and the three tenses – past, present and future – while the entire symbol represents all creation together with the Creator.
The symbol AUM
- Om- Symbol of the Absolute (hinduismforchildren.com)
- Om-Aum …. again!!! (hrexach.wordpress.com)
Categories: Chakra, Inspiration, Yoga
Tags: anger, Aum, consciousness, creation, Creator, desire, Divine, divinities, dream state, dreamless sleep state, dreams, fear, genders, Hindu philosophy, humming, imagination, inner world, limitation, logical reason, mantra, mechanics, mind, pranava, primordial sound, samadhi, science, silence, spirit, suffering, tenses, waking state
Karma yoga is the yoga of selfless (altruistic) service or the ‘discipline of action’. It is based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture of Hinduism. Karma is derived from the Sanskrit word kri, meaning ‘to do’ and refers to the universal principle of cause and effect. It is the path of doing the right thing and following ones’ personal dharma or life purpose and accepting destiny as it comes. This includes acting without being attached to the fruits of one’s deeds. If you do your work without selfish expectations it purifies your mind.
Karma yoga is performed by right means and does not harm anybody or anything. The so-called ‘doer’ is dropped from the action, since you are a mere tool of the divine. If you practise karma yoga, you’re expressing the unity and the divine, ego plays no part. A karma yoga teacher is aware that the result of the teaching is out of his/her hands. You are an instrument, a servant of truth or love. Unique about karma yoga is the focus on the spiritual and the philosophy behind the process you experience on your mat. Karma yoga can assist you with living your role or dharma in life without actively seeking any remuneration in the shape of wealth, satisfaction or fame.
How do you inspire?
Then I start to wonder, what is my dharma or life purpose? I can easily think of aspects of my dream job; freelance writing, teaching yoga, counselling, inspire people. Not sure how, when and where yet. I find it challenging to disconnect this with remuneration. Once I made a vision board about my future wishes and without thinking I wrote down the word famous. Why? Maybe it is a wish to be seen and heard, hidden behind my introverted character. Or a deep desire to accomplish something extraordinary in life. I guess – as long as you are not obsessed with your goals and enjoying ‘the ride’- it is okay to strive for them.
For me karma yoga and the associated dharma means; go with the flow in life. You certainly can have specific life goals and at the same time you’re flexible or willing to change your path, while listening to the dedicated signs the universe provides you with. I am the owner of a strong will and I am ‘blessed’ with an abundance of self-discipline and perseverance. Though, at times these characteristics are not very helpful. I tend to ignore my intuition and I don’t listen to the small signals life throws on my path. Whilst the average person already has decided to take another direction, I am still trying hard to go where my rigid mind thinks I have to go to. Yoga is a perfect way to reconnect with my inner world. Practicing yoga allows me to start fresh – like a beginner – with learning to listen and follow my breath. This rhythmic flow of the inhalation and exhalation teaches me to flow more with life and brings me to undiscovered places. I realize once again how wonderful and subtle life is.
Life flow chart
Categories: Happiness, Inspiration, Yoga
Tags: altruistic service, Bhagavad Gita, destiny, dharma, Divine, ego, exhalation, fame, famous, freelance writing, Hinduism, inhalation, introverted character, intuition, kri, love, mind, perseverance, remuneration, rhythmic flow, rigid mind, satisfaction, self-discipline, truth, Universe, wealth
Pranayama is derived from two Sanskrit words: prana (life force) and ayama (control). So, in its broadest description, pranayama means ‘the control of the flow of life force’. Through the practice of pranayama you can achieve a healthy body and mind. Pranayama is the fourth limb within Patanjali’s Eight-fold path of Yoga. Patanjali says that you should have reasonable mastery of asana first, so you can comfortable sit while doing pranayama practice. It does not mean that you necessarily need to be able to sit in Lotus Pose for thirty minutes, but at least you have to be able to sit in an upright position where you can be relatively still.
In the Yoga Sutras, pranayama is described as means of attaining higher states of awareness. The postures are merely preliminary states of deeper levels of meditation that lead you toward enlightenment or a place where your mind is perfectly still. Pranayama serves as an essential bridge between the outward, active practice of yoga – yoga postures – and the internal, surrendering practices that leads you into deeper levels of meditation. You could say that asana is focused on developing your body and pranayama will develop your mind.
For sure, breathing is an essential part within your yoga practice. Since unconsciously you choose how much you are going to feel by how much you breathe. When you breathe more deeply, it provides you with an opportunity to release constrictions in breathing and focus on what you feel. Pranayama makes you more sensitive and focused. This increased awareness is a real possibility for personal growth and integration.
At the Yoga Centre where I regularly practice (Ashtanga) Vinyasa Flow Yoga an Ujjayi breath or victorious breath is taught and encouraged. A breath practice in which the opening of the throat is slightly constricted and the breath made softly audible by the creation of some resistance to the passage of air. By returning again and again to the subtle sound of this breath – something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out – my mind is forced to concentrate and become quiet. This Ujjayi breath is used throughout the entire practice of Ashtanga yoga.
However, most people start practicing yoga with many pre-existing blocks and holding patterns. The introduction of a controlled breathing regime straightaway could further magnify the blocks. Therefore, it is important to remove the blocks and holding patterns first to allow you to reveal your natural breath. Step by step you can explore the subtle movement of prana during your yoga practice. Above all, listen to your own experiences and feelings to decide for yourself which method directs you closest to yoga’s ultimate gift: ease, balance and inner quiet.
Categories: Freedom, Yoga
Tags: asana, ashtanga, breathe, Divine, integration, life force, meditation, Patanjali, personal growth, prana, pranayama, Ujjayi breath, vinyasa, yoga philosophy, Yoga Sutra's
An English translation of isvara pranidhana would be ‘surrender to the Divine’. The Divine can be described as pure awareness or pure knowing. The last niyama is about letting go of control and surrender to, and love for, the divinity within you. Patanjali defines ‘isvara’ as ‘lord’ and the word ‘pranidhana’ refers to ‘giving up’. Thus, isvara pranidhana can be literally translated into ‘giving up or surrendering the fruits of all your actions to God’. So how do you do that?
The simple advice can be to let go and to stop clinging to the ego, instead trust in the Universe. The ego is the source of frustration, dissatisfaction and tension. This means in practice that you aim to think and act in ways that undermine your ego and bring you closer to pure awareness. It requires that you get out of your head and into your heart. In fact, you can use any activity – from cleaning the toilet to cooking dinner – as a prayer or offering. For each action, it is the intention that is most important. You let go of the outcome and you surrender to the actual action while offering all your work and devotion to the Universe or God.
Another way to practice isvara pranidhana is to completely surrender to the reality of life exactly as it is. This means embracing your life with all its aspects and details with gratefulness. It includes seeing the good in all people, things, conditions and circumstances, even those challenging moments that are associated with pain and loss. Your aim is to act with kindness, compassion and love in all aspects of your life.
Surrendering to your spiritual truth is another approach of interpreting isvara pranidhana. Through intimate listening to your inner voice, you begin to establish a relationship with your inner guidance, your truth. And by means of releasing your fears and hopes for the future, you can be genuinely present in the moment. This requires that you give up your illusion that you know best, instead accept and trust that the way life unfolds may be part of a pattern too complex and beautiful to understand.
Practicing isvara pranidhana means that all your actions – whether body, mind or spirit – are guided by unconditional love and an open heart full of kindness and compassion. It asks you to develop a profound trust in the goodness of the Universe and of all existence within and beyond our limited understanding and existence. So in short: surrender, love and trust.