Posts Tagged With: Sanskrit

I am (NOT YET) a Successful Yogini

Often if I tell a stranger that I am teaching yoga. The conclusion is drawn quickly; then you are probably very flexible and relaxed. Yes and no. In certain poses I can appear more flexible than average, while in other poses I can look more stiff than average. The better question is flexible compared to whom? There will always be people who are less flexible and people who are more flexible. So why not just stop comparing ourselves with other yogis and yoginis who have different bodies and are on completely different journey.

And no, you don’t have to be flexible at all to practice yoga. Sometimes a stiffer body is way better, since your body will let you know clearly when you are going too far/too deep. A stif(fer) body can make you feel more humble and grateful as well. Full lotus pose in headstand is not on your goal list, instead you just want to feel better in your body and relief your ache muscles.

A relaxed and calm person? Oh yes, I definitely am if I am on a holiday with loved ones and having nothing to worry about. No seriously, my close friends and family won’t define me as a relaxed person. While I can appear calm and focused on the outside, as soon as you start to know me better you realize that I am a normal human being who probably stresses slightly more than average. This is one of the reasons why I started practicing yoga at the first place.

Does this make me less of a perfect yogini? Again you could ask yourself compared to whom am I more stressed? What really matters to me is how my yoga practice makes me feel. What do I experience? What do I feel? How is my yoga practice helping me to discover who I really am.

That is why a home practice can be such a wonderful learning experience. I have only myself to deal with. If no one else is watching how does my practice look like? Do I nurture and nourish my body, mind and soul? Through my own personal practice I start to feel more grounded and more connected to my authentic self.

These strong roots allow me to practice with others while maintaining a connection with my inner truth and the signals of my body and mind. In this way, we can use a yoga class as a way to connect with others while keeping our own connection. In that way we truly become one.

While trying to define how a successful yoga practice looks or feels like, I first started to write down what it doesn’t mean to me;

–          You have been meditating (in an isolated cave) for (a couple of) years.

–          You are able to do that perfect difficult ………………… (to be filled in by you) pose which could be used as the cover photo of the Yoga Journal

–          You look like a super model and/or have achieved your ideal body composition

–          You’re always happy and everyone is your friend

–          You’re never mean to others or yourself

–          You are a vegan/vegetarian

–          You are drinking green juices

–          You don’t have a television

–          You practice yoga/asanas EVERY DAY

–          Your alignment is ‘perfect’

–          Your Sanskrit is fluent

–          You ‘AUM’ everywhere and everyday

–          ‘Namaste’ is your new “hi, how’re you doing?”

–          ………. ( to be filled in by your own critical self)

For me being a successful yogi/yogini means you are able to change your life, attitude and relationships in a positive way. It means you are making progress with moving towards living your authentic self 99.9% of the time. You don’t pretend you are better or worse than others. You are just you and you dare to show yourself to the world. You realize you are unique and there is only one person like you in the world. And that is real awesomeness!

PS: This has been writing while I was on a positive relaxed feminine high. So no, I am not there yet and still working and I will keep on working to be me and to let go of the labels I stick to myself on how I should look like, how I should dress, how I should eat, how I should behave and how I should feel. And I realize I am already perfect with all my beautiful imperfections. Let’s reach out to others and work together to make this world a more beautiful & positive place.

X

Perfect imperfect yogini

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Namaste

Most yoga practitioners and/or India-lovers have come across the greeting or prayer: Namaste. I love to end my yoga sessions with ‘Namaste’ while bringing my hands together in front of my heart and bowing my head. In India it is used as an everyday greeting such as ‘Hello, How’re you?’ So what does it mean precisely? It is a Sanskrit word with Nama meaning ‘bow’, as meaning ‘I’ and te meaning ‘you’. Therefore the literal translation is ‘I bow to you’. The deeper spiritual significance refers to the belief that the life force or the divinity in me and in you is the same in all. If you use the Namaste to greet another person, you acknowledge this oneness or union with the meeting of the palms for the chest and you indirectly express:

  • The best and highest part in me greets the best and highest parts in you.
  • Your spirit and my spirit are ONE.
  • The light within me honors the light within you.

The bowing down of your head can be considered as a gracious form of extending friendship in love, respect and humility.

 Ram Dass states it beautifully: “I honor the place in you where the entire Universe resides. I honor the place of love, of light, of truth, of peace. I honor the place within you where if you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.”

For me, this one word brings together the true meaning and purpose of yoga. It implies letting go of all our identification layers or ego patterns, instead we connect with each other on a more authentic level. We see and meet the very best in ourselves and in others. We acknowledge that we all look different and act differently, but we are the same deep inside or on a spiritual level. This realization brings me to a peaceful state; we are all humans and all connected and all having the same love inside us. We all would like to love and to be loved.

As a human, I make mistake and I not always act like I would like to act afterwards. I judge people from the outside and forget about our oneness. It can be challenging to see the good in everyone, especially if others are confronting and challenging you. Yoga can bring you back to that place of peace and bliss, time after time. You receive a second chance to start fresh, again and again. At the same time remember to acknowledge your own light and divinity.

 

Namaste

 

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Samsara

05_mursi

Have you seen the documentary Samsara yet? It is a non-narrative film of 99 minutes which combines visual and musical artistry. Samsara is filmed over nearly five years in twenty-five countries on five continents. Samsara is a Sanskrit word that means ‘continuous flow’ or the ‘the every turning wheel of life’. It is the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth or reincarnation. This film brings us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites and natural wonders. For sure, Samsara is not a traditional documentary, more a guided visual meditation. The powerful images stay with you for days and you’re encouraged to develop your own interpretations of the images.

After being in a ‘visual guided meditation’ for 99 minutes, I was still, impressed, almost shocked. Samsara made me a bit sad, seeing how we humans live our lives and how we treat the earth and ourselves. The film started a bit slow; with nature images flowing by slowly, but before you know the pace goes up and you’re drawn into the images and actually grateful for that slow and steady start. People are filmed in the same close-up during the movie with no smiles appearing. It makes you wonder how they feel; are they sad, happy, lonely, desperate or angry? Do they feel anything at all? I was shocked to see with my own eyes how different people in the world life; in slums, in factories, in prisons. I loved the images of the babies and the monastery, it gave me the feeling that there is something good in life as well, something to live for. I felt relieved to be a vegetarian most of my life when I saw images of meat factories and factory farms. I recognized the surprising creative coffins from my stay in Ghana. At times I had difficulties looking at persons, because of scars, burns and piercings. My partner and I were both wondering where the images where taken. If you have seen the movie and are curious as well, have a look: SAMSARA and BARAKA

Above all, it made me realize what is really important in life: Family & Friends and following your passions. Life comes and goes. Opportunities come and go. So let’s enjoy Life NOW!

If you haven’t seen this interesting documentary, have a look at the trailer:

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The integration of Yoga in normal day life

The Sanskrit word ‘Purna’ means integrated, complete or ‘full’. Purna Yoga represents a holistic approach to yoga integrating all eight limbs of yoga the way it was originally taught in India. The focus is not just on the physical postures, but also on the other seven limbs including philosophy, meditation, pranayama and yogic personal and social code of ethics (yamas and niyamas). The postural instruction is based on Iyengar’s precision and alignment. Purna yoga is suitable for both beginners and advanced students, since the sequences range from gentle restorative to dynamic vinyasa. While yoga philosophies, such as ahimsa (non-violence) are threaded throughout Purna Yoga classes, students are encouraged to build flexibility, strength and stamina of body, mind and spirit. It creates the ultimate mind-body challenge and encourages you to adopt a yogic living: “The art of loving yourself by living from the heart.” 

Train your mind

Train your mind

I’m currently being trained to be a yoga teacher under the Purna Yoga umbrella by Byron Yoga Centre. For me, it brings yoga back to its origin and away from the fancy exercise focused yoga classes in the gyms. It brings me back to simplicity. For now, no fancy arm balances or inversions, but first of all learning the basic postures safely and correctly. The main aim of asana is to train and discipline the mind. I know for myself, it is often way more challenging to sit still or to do a pose very slowly then going to a fast-paced Vinyasa flow. Like most people nowadays, I’m used to rush through life as well as through my yoga practice. My challenge is to shorten my asana practice and lengthen my pranayama and meditation practice. The meaning of asana is not without reason ‘comfortable seat’, the preparation for meditation. Once again, I learn that yoga is not at all about flexibility and beauty, these are just two positive by-products.

The power of meditation

The power of meditation

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The Sahasrara Chakra

The seventh and last chakra is the Sahasrara chakra or the ‘crown chakra’. This chakra resides at the crown of the head and connects you to higher consciousness and pure awareness. The Sanskrit word Sahasrara means ‘thousand fold’ and therefore this chakra is also known as ‘Thousand Petaled Lotus’. This lotus burst open when you remember your true nature and experience enlightenment. The crown chakra is the foundation of your spiritual body and links you to the highest spiritual consciousness. This chakra relates to spiritual will, inspiration, idealism and intuitive knowing. It is about integrating your consciousness and subconsciousness and living in the NOW. The associated glands and body parts are the pineal gland, brain and central nervous system. The element of the seventh chakra is thought or cosmic consciousness. This cosmic consciousness can feel like an ultimate intelligence and a sense of all knowing. The associated colour can be violet or white, a combination of all colours. This is in line with the chakra as an integration center of all the other chakras.

A white lotus, the symbol of the crown chakra

A white lotus, the symbol of the crown chakra

A blocked Sahasrara chakra

A blocked crown chakra can result in the following physical and mental problems: diseases of the muscular system, skeletal system and the skin, depression, chronic exhaustion, headaches, coordination difficulties, poor balance and clumsiness, sensitivity to light, sound or the environment. Emotional issues related to an out of balance seventh chakra can be; lack of purpose, loss of meaning or identity, trust, selflessness, lack of devotion, inspiration, values or ethics. If you have a closed crown chakra, it is highly likely that you are unable to live in the present and unable to gain closure on unfinished business. You always seem to be either revisiting your past or looking ahead to the future. You are normally confused and have no purpose in life. You may live on poor quality food, exhaust yourself and are probably ignoring your bodily needs. Fear of religion or spirituality and frustration can also be experienced. There is little joy in your life and you are afraid of things that cannot be understood with the physical senses. It can lead to unwise decisions, unhappiness and a sense of indecision. You can feel alone and separate and feel cut off from spirituality. An excessiveness in the seventh chakra can appear as being overly intellectual and feeling superior to other human beings. It can be described as ‘being in your head’ and you may possibly show some hysterical, psychotic and/or manic-depressive behaviour.

In the Here and Now

In the Here and Now

Yoga and other stimulants

There are different ways to balance your crown chakra for example through prayer, (chakra) meditation or colour and sound therapy. The Tibetan Bowl creates sounds that can help you to achieve a balanced seventh chakra. In terms of nature, viewing mountain tops can be helpful. Supporting yoga poses to balance this chakra are Padmasana (Lotus Pose), Salamba Sirsasana (Supported headstand) and all meditation poses. Since meditation is the yogic practice for this chakra, it clears and quiets the mind and connects you with the higher self. A daily head massage is also a good method towards balance of the crown chakra. In addition, you could focus on your dreams and write down your visions. You could also consume violet foods and drinks, wear violet clothing and use violet oils such as lavender or jasmine essential oils. Foods that can help to open up the seventh chakra are foods that generate space, for example raw green veggie juices. Moderate fasting can also activate the seventh chakra. One of the most important elements of physical, emotional and spiritual health is being inspired by your own life and live in the present moment.

Tibetan Singing bowls

Tibetan singing bowls

Balanced crown chakra

If your crown chakra is balanced, you are released from ego driven desires and you are able to trust in your highest guidance. Your sense of empathy and unity expands and your consciousness raises. You can experience another person, place or object as if you are inside of them or as if you are ‘being’ them. You will have wisdom, trust, selflessness, humanitarianism and the ability to see the bigger picture in a spiritual life. You feel calm, deeply at ease and fully aware with a gentle and compassion nature, free of worry. You show the ultimate goal of every human being: inner peace and satisfaction. You are truly in the present moment, living in the ‘Here and Now’. You reach a state of ‘being’, rather than a state of ‘doing’. There is no longer a sense of division, the macrocosm becomes the microcosm and all is in unity and you are in optimum balance. Compassion is the main sense that develops if you crown chakra opens. This ‘crown compassion’ is more about perception and communication, compared to ‘heart compassion’ which is more about emotions and empathy.

Union or Yoga

If all your energy centers are open and balanced, all selfish desires disappear. You are grounded, grateful, peaceful and visionary. By opening your crown chakra, you have reached the highest state of consciousness. Through firm grounding into the earth (first chakra), opening up your creative energy (second chakra), manifesting your dreams in the world (third chakra), opening your heart (fourth chakra), expressing your true voice (fifth chakra) and connecting with your inner knowing (sixth chakra), you are finally experiencing total unification or yoga by activating the seventh chakra.

Compassionate communication with lightness

Compassionate communication from the heart and with lightness

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The Ajna Chakra

The sixth chakra is the Ajna chakra, but is also known as the ‘brow chakra’ or the ‘third eye’ and is located between the eyebrows. The Sanskrit meaning of Ajna is ‘command, knowledge or monitoring center’. It is the center of insight and also called ‘the eye of intuition’ and it is the place where you integrate all the information and intuition in your life. The qualities of the brow chakra are inspiration, intuition and inner vision. In the Indian philosophy the third eye is the symbol for enlightenment and also referred to as the ‘eye of wisdom’ or the ‘eye of knowledge’. The Ajna chakra has control over seeing, not only in the physical sense, but also in terms of intuitive seeing, clairvoyance and other paranormal forms of knowing. The symbolic representation and the mantra of the Ajna chakra is the syllable Ohm which represents the beginning and end of all things. The associated colour is the indigo which represents self-mastery, spiritual realization and the attainment of wisdom. Light is the element most associated with the sixth chakra, but some say it is time. The gland associated with this chakra is the pituitary and pineal gland. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the ‘master gland’, because it secretes a hormone that controls the activities of the other glands of the body. For example the pituitary gland controls your growth, skin coloring and the contraction of a woman’s uterus during childbirth.

Ajna Chakra

Ajna Chakra

Balance

When it’s open and clear, you feel deeply connected to your inner wisdom, trust and intuition and it guides you in your choices. You’re able to see yourself and others as energetic and spiritual beings and you can create your own reality by using your imagination, freedom of choice and enhanced insight. You can rely on your self-reflection, perception, interpretation, telepathy and past life experiences. An open Ajna chakra results in compassion and forgiveness. This energy center is directly related to mind. If you awaken this chakra, your mind is able to gain information by subtle means, rather than by the experiences felt by the sense organs. In general, you gain knowledge through the information that senses conducts to the brain. Though, the Ajna chakra has the power to gain knowledge directly without the help of sense organs and thereby the mind becomes purified and evolved. This requires discipline, firm belief and persistent effort. It is about understanding how training can change your behaviour to always be open and loving to everyone, not just close friends and family. There is no ego involved, instead our conditioning, habits, false ideas and misidentifications are dissolved as a result of a healthy active Ajna chakra. Notice really extraordinary people and become aware of their humble character. A great way to open and balance the third chakra is through meditation and visualisation. The sixth chakra is all about reconnecting to the wisdom that is available to all of us from within.

Cherish the humble things in life

Cherish the humble things in life

Blocked Ajna chakra

However in most of us, this ‘inner eye’ remains closed. You have a sense of self-doubt and you don’t trust your inner voice. You are convinced that there is not something like a non-material world, since this is beyond your capacity to reach. A blocked Ajna chakra can result in the following physical symptoms; migraine headaches, eye strain, blindness, brain tumors, strokes, learning disabilities, spinal dysfunctions, nightmares, panic attacks, deafness, insomnia, high blood pressure and seizures. Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, fear of truth, confusion, judgment issues, lack of concentration or discipline are also connected to a sixth chakra imbalance. If the energy in your sixth chakra is not flowing freely, you can become quite superstitious and afraid of your own thoughts and everything you can’t explain with logic. You have difficulties making decisions, procrastinate a lot about any plans made and you don’t know what you want. You strive for routine and are vulnerable to developing depression. If you third eye chakra is overactive, you may be unable to be practical in your daily life and irresponsible. You’re not connected or aware of the world and yourself, everything seems to be external and not part of you. There can be a victim mentality; you will blame everything that happens of a negative nature on someone or something outside yourself. Just as the pituitary gland is the ‘master gland’, the Ajna chakra governs all other energy centres. If the sixth chakra is out of balance, all others chakra won’t be perfectly aligned either.

The power of intuition

The power of intuition

Yoga

Postures that support the opening and balancing of the sixth chakra are Balasana (Child’s Pose) or any other posture in which the forehead touches the ground. Other helpful postures are those in which the gazing point or drishti calls for movement of the eyes such as Marichyasana (Sage Twist). Alternate nostril breathing is a supporting pranayama exercise to activate the Ajna chakra. If you are practicing your asana, pranayama or meditation, notice when your mind becomes quiet. This quiet, clear and peaceful space will allow you to experience a glimpse of the possibilities of the Ajna chakra. This chakra can shine an insightful light on your life that you were previously not aware of. You can concentrate and focus and imagine something and bring that idea into reality.

Turn inwards for stillness, peace and clarity

Turn inwards for stillness, peace and clarity

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The Anahata Chakra

The fourth chakra is called the Anahata chakra and is sometimes referred to as the ‘heart chakra’, because it resonates in the heart and relates to compassion and love. Anahata means ‘stillness’ or ‘unhurt’ in Sanskrit. This name implies that deep beneath our personal stories of brokenness and the pain in our heart, wholeness, boundless love and compassion reside. When the fourth chakra is flowing and open, you feel deeply connected to everyone in your life and feelings of compassion arise. This fourth energy center governs intuition and love. Glands, organs or body parts associated with this chakra are the heart, thymus, lungs, chest, arms, circulatory system, shoulders, upper back and breasts. The primary colour is green and the element for the fourth chakra is air. The sense for this chakra is touch and the emotion is compassion and joy.

Anahata Chakra

Anahata Chakra

Center of the Seven

The Anahata chakra is a powerful chakra and is referred to as the center of the seven, since there are three chakras above and three below. The fourth chakra lies in the core of our spirit, the center of the body and is directly connected to the third eye and the crown chakra. This chakra is the balance point, integrating the world of matter (the lower three chakras) with the world of spirit (the upper three chakras). Through the heart chakra you open to and connect with harmony and peace. The health status of this center represents the quality and power of love in your life and it is the seat of balance within the body.

Living in your head

If your heart chakra is obstructed, you can experience feelings of loneliness and a sense of alienation. Other signs if you fourth chakra is out of balance can be; feeling sorry for yourself, paranoid, indecisive, afraid of letting go, afraid of getting hurt or unworthy of love. You may live your life mainly in and with your head and not with the heart, with the result of being overly focused on thought and the tendency to cut yourself off from emotions and your body. Physical illnesses related to a blocked fourth chakra are heart attack, high blood pressure, insomnia, asthma, difficulty in breathing and other lung diseases. If the heart chakra is deficient, you may experience feelings of shyness and loneliness. Since the heart chakra is the center of the being, blocks in this center can throw your entire system out of alignment. It can cause emotional detachment, inability to love or show affection or self hatred and loathing. You are not able to connect with other humans, experience self-love or true happiness and intimacy. A blocked heart chakra can lead to despair, jealousy, hate, unrealistic fear and rage. Our lives and intimate relationships will suffer unless you can find a way to connect with the heart center and achieve healing and harmony. Yoga is a perfect method to achieve this.

Opening backbend

Opening backbend

Yoga

For an excessive heart chakra, forward bends are recommended, because they are grounding and foster introspection. Asanas that enliven the heart chakra include passive chest openers in which you arch gently over a blanket or bolster, shoulder stretches such as Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) and Garudasana (Eagle Pose) and backbends or basically any pose that opens the chest. By practicing backbends you develop trust and surrender and you heart opens fully. If you feel fearful, then there will be no room for love and your body will contract. Love can melt away fear and bring joy to your practice. In addition, in many back bending poses the heart is positioned higher than the head which is wonderful to let the mind drop away from the top position and instead lead with the heart.

Bring joy to your practice

Bring joy to your practice

Pranayama

The element for the fourth chakra is air. This air is essential for life as the breath brings oxygen to your cells via the lungs and the heart muscle then pumps the blood throughout the body and thereby giving and sustaining life. Like the element water, air assumes the shape of whatever it fills, yet it is less subject to gravity than water. Air permeates breath and therefore pranayama practice can help to balance and tone this chakra. Basically all forms of pranayama can assist you to use more air, more prana and thereby increasing your vitality and enthusiasm for life.

Love

The challenge of the heart chakra is to remain open and balanced in a world which can be emotionally painful. This center is the place of unconditional love, forgiveness and utter devotion. The most effective and powerful way to open, energize and balance not just the heart chakra but all of your chakras is to love yourself and others. It sounds so easy: allow yourself to love and show compassion towards others, since love is the greatest healer. Though, it is a challenge and obstacle for most of us. Besides love; heartbreak, grief, pain and fear are all emotions that are felt intensely within this energy center. All of us have to deal with disappointment, greed, conditional love of others and loss from an early age onwards. Therefore a deficient or excessive heart chakra is so common. Definitely, learning self-love is an amazing tool to develop and maintain a healthy heart chakra. Remember, that there is a never-ending supply of love in the universe and there to be used in any moment. You can first start with opening yourself up to love by giving your love to others. Slowly, you can learn to treat yourself with love, patience, compassion and kindness and replace judgments with acceptance. Unconditional love can be a creative and powerful energy that may guide and help you through the most difficult times in your life and you can use it to free yourself from your limits and fears. In addition, if you keep yourself in a loving space, you will have a positive and healing effect on your environment.

The true gifts of life

The true gifts of life

Relationships

The first three chakras are the chakras of the self. The fourth chakra is the energy center of relationships and refers to giving and to receiving. To keep this chakra healthy you need to maintain a balance between giving and receiving and in your relationships. It is good to remind yourself that life without other beings would be empty, dull and worthless. It is the love for your family, friends and other people in your life that keeps you here and keeps you going. You could see life as a celebration and a celebration without your loved ones is not complete, but fruitless and aimless. Also, it is just as important to give as it’s to allow yourself to receive. In order to give love fully, you must allow yourself to receive love fully. You can use this beautiful affirmation:

“I am loved.
There is an infinite supply of love.
I love myself and others.
I love everyone.
I invite love into my life.”

Put your heart into it

The third chakra represents fire, passion and personal power. Though, without air, a fire will burn out. In the same way, without heart, you cannot have true will power. Without this passion supplied by the heart chakra, true transformation is difficult. The saying “put your heart into it”, illustrate this beautifully. As said before, the heart chakra is a powerful energy center, since it is the center of all energies and unifies our being as a whole. An imbalance in the heart chakra will adversely effect all the other centers. Therefore a clearing of the heart chakra will improve the interaction of all other chakras. The more balanced the chakras are, the more balanced you will be in all walks of life. With a healthy heart chakra you will approach all situations with wisdom, love and equanimity and you feel compassionate, empathetic and see the good in everyone. Sounds worthwhile to balance your Anahata chakra, isn’t?

Love in the air

Love in the air

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Viniyoga – Personalized Gentle Yoga Style

Personalized Yoga

Personalized Yoga

Viniyoga is an individual approach to yoga which is all about adaptation. Viniyoga is an ancient Sanskrit word with multiple meanings including ‘separation’, ‘use’ and ‘application’. This yoga style is based on a teacher-student relationship and is designed to meet the specific needs of the individual by giving tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation. The goal is to enhance wellness, healing, flexibility and strength of joints. Viniyoga includes asana, pranayama, bandha, chanting, meditation, personal rituals and study of texts. The emphasis of viniyoga is on coordinating breath and movement, in fact each movement is led by the breath. Viniyoga is usually taught privately, one on one or in small groups, since poses and flows are chosen to suit the student’s abilities.

Origin

Viniyoga is created by T.K.V. Desikachar, the son of Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the 1970s. Krishnamacharya prominent students include Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most prominent figures in yoga’s dissemination to the West. His son Desikachar carries on the guru’s legacy as the world’s foremost Viniyoga authority. His conviction is that yoga practice should be adapted to fit the individuality and particular situation of each practitioner. He later distanced himself from the term.

What to Expect

The yoga poses are synchronized with the breath in sequences determined by the individual needs of the practitioner. Since Viniyoga is so adaptable, it makes yoga available to those with physical limitations, whether through injury, illness or age. The postures are modified to meet the needs of the individual student. It can be very gentle, but not necessarily or exclusively so. If a student is more adept, then so will the yoga practice. This adaptable approach requires an understanding of a person’s present condition, personal potential, appropriate goals and the means available. Because of this personal and adaptable approach, viniyoga teachers have had extensive training to create a personal practice for every student based on factors as health, age, physical condition and past or current injuries. Therefore teachers tend to be experts on anatomy and yoga therapy. In addition, they are well trained in creating a practice which addresses every level of your being – not just the body – but also on a spiritual or religious level through for example praying, music, chanting, rituals and intentions. This may also include emotional challenges managed by for example breathing practices.

Compared to other styles of yoga

The flowing movement seen in Viniyoga is similar to Ashtanga Vinyasa’s dynamic series, but it has a much less vigorous pace. There is a strong focus on alignment and poses are held for a consistent number of breaths with rest in between. Though compared to Iyengar Yoga, Viniyoga has a more relaxed approach to placement of the body, the emphasis is placed on lengthening the spine. A standardized program as seen in Bikram or Sivananda Yoga is not used, since the yoga practice is made suitable for the individual. The teacher will usually inquire about your condition, injuries and needs and then create your yoga practice based on your information. For the same reason, a viniyoga teacher will never push you into a posture nor encourage you to use force. The overall aim is to feel energized, strengthened and relaxed after your yoga practice. A yoga practice which is perfectly designed for you and includes the right challenges. How wonderful is that?

Vini Yoga Therapy

Vini Yoga Therapy

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Balance you life and yoga practice with Sthira and Sukha

Patanjali described yoga asana as “Sthira Sukham Asanam” or ‘a steady, comfortable posture.’ Sthira refers to steadiness and firmness in your yoga practise and sukha involves gentleness, softness and ease. Cultivating steadiness and ease in each pose requires a combination of effort and release. These two Sanskrit words are opposite, but equally important. It are qualities to nurture on and off the mat. Sthira and sukha are complimentary poles, like Yin and Yang and they teach us the wisdom of balance. If you find balance, you will find inner harmony, both in your practice and in your life. The way you practice yoga mirrors the way you live your daily life. Therefore, yoga can be a great tool for developing greater insight into ourselves and the world around us.

Sukha

Sukha can also be translated as pleasurable, joyful, agreeable, easy, comfortable, light, happy, prosperous or relaxed. It is the opposite of discomfort, suffering or pain. By cultivating sukha, you incorporate a light, mindful approach to the asanas. Your pose is joyful and soft.

Sthira

You can translate sthira as stable, firm, resolute, steady, alert, motionless or changeless. The pose must be strong and active, if you would like to embody sthira. It also refers to the ability to pay attention and to be present. It is the opposite of agitation. It includes both physical and mental stillness: a controlled, fully engaged body and a focused mind.

The breath

Finding sthira and sukha in your yoga practice can truly take it to the next level. These qualities are accessible in every asana, but it’s up to you cultivate them. The breath naturally embodies sthira and sukha. You can inhale sthira with each breath and channel this new energy into strength and steadiness. There is a firmness to the inhale, since there is an element of strength to the diaphragm filling and pressing downward. With each exhale sukha or release is possible, since the volume of the diaphragm decreases and the pressure moves up and air is pushed out from the lungs. The breath ultimately represents the quality of each asana and is therefore the best place to begin. If you cultivate steadiness and ease of the breath, your yoga asanas will blossom.

In your asana practice

According to Patanjali, an asana is properly performed when – in the muscles and the mind – there is stability and alertness without tension as well as relaxation without heaviness. If you practice yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner it gives rise to harmony with the physical body. You can look for example at warrior II pose. You keep the hips squared forward with proper placement of the feet which requires balance and grounding. The holding of straight arms further increases the intensity of this pose. Sthira is found with the proper foot position and in the ground of the outer back foot, in sinking down into the pose with strong legs and in the breath. Ease can be found with relaxed shoulders, with a gaze upward, a soft forehead and with each exhale.

Integrating in your daily life

The next challenge is to find this delicate balance between the effort of sthira with the comfort of sukha in the rest of your life as well. A lot of people struggle to find balance in their lives. We feel exhausted, depleted, drained and find it hard to unwind during our free time. The first step is self-study or Svadhyaya (the fourth of the five niyamas). If you learn to recognize when you are out of balance, you can start to change this imbalance. If you bring a balance of sthira and sukha into your life you cultivate a habit of facing difficult moments in your life with a soft heart.

Too much sthira

In our busy society we usually have too much sthira or effort. We’re working too hard and we would like to do too many things after work and as a result we feel tired and exhausted. That is why burn-out is such a common phenomenon nowadays. So how do we incorporate more sukha or ease or lightness into our lives? One important thing is the breath, make sure you breathe deeply. Take time to nourish and nurture yourself, rest and be still through for example meditation and/or pranayama. You will drain yourself if you keep on living a faced paced life. It seems like we lost our patience in this society; everything needs to be done quick and easy; eating, cooking, sleeping, driving and so on. Ready made meals and magnetrons are apparent in almost every household and our children need to be joining at least one sport club and an art class. By giving yourself permission to relax, you will give people around you permission to relax as well. Here are a couple of things you could do to incorporate more sukha in your life: 

  • Practice restorative yoga poses (for sure you will develop more patience)
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Read a book
  • Meditate
  • Enjoy the process of slow cooking

You could also try to bring attentiveness to the action you’re doing and at the same time find a way to relax and be comfortable as well, for example while you’re driving in heavy traffic. In regards to relationships, you could focus on being grounded as well as kind, open and receptive to others.

The next level

If you learn to relax your muscles in the yoga asanas, you will be able to achieve greater comfort. As a result this will allow your mind to calm and makes it easier to focus inwards. Through meditation you can access the higher states of your mind. It is not without reason that the meaning of asana is ‘a comfortable steady seat’. The development of sthira and sukha in your asana practice is a great way to guide the physical body toward becoming more open and receptive to the effects of meditation. Your balanced practice of yoga asanas will prepare you for the next stages: pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. So you can focus on the ultimate goal of yoga; a non-physical uniting with the Self or God and reaching ultimate freedom.

 

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