Is Yoga Against Sex?

Yoga Sex

There is mention of the word “Bhramacharya” in Patanjali’s yoga sutras. “Bhramacharya” is a word that relates to sex and understanding this word will provide us insight on what yoga thinks about sex. But before we go there we must first step back and make sure we understand what yoga is about. The core idea of yoga is that it is a journey out of the ego and into a mental state where there are no thoughts and the mind is completely still. When we reach this state, Patanjali says, our consciousness resides with our true Self or the “Seer”.

So what are the obstacles to Yoga? One big obstacle is our obsession with sex. Studies show that we may think about sex hundreds of time during the day. Even when our thoughts are not directly about sex, it can still be the underlying root. This is because so much of our ego-identity is a product of our sexual behavior. So thoughts about what others think of us, or how we look can have their origins in sex. This begs the question: can we really put our minds in a state where there are no thoughts when so many of our thoughts are driven by sex?

This leads to another question: does this mean that to be a true yogi one must abstain from sex? To answer this one must understand the beautiful way in which yoga is structured. Patanjali realized that “having no thoughts” was something that did not get achieved overnight, so also is the case for freeing up from sexual thoughts. This is why he used the technical word “Bhramacharya”. This word is folded into the eight limbs of yoga. And just as the limbs of a tree grow slowly and simultaneously, the limbs of yoga allow you to make gradual progress in each limb.

The word “Bhramacharya” has sometime been interpreted too rigidly. Its interpretation as “complete abstinence from sex” for the previous few centuries led to the decline of yoga in India. This is because it meant that married people could not practice yoga. However in modern times we have seen a revival of yoga, and this has come about by interpreting the word “Bhramacharya” correctly. T Krishnamcharya’s teacher was married and he insisted that T. Krishnamacharya also get married too. (T. Krishnamacharya is widely regarded as the father of modern yoga as practiced in the west.) Also all key students of T. Krishnamacharya were married. This single fact has allowed the flowering of yoga in modern times as it correctly interprets Bhramacharya as a journey.

For those who are married or in a relationship, the word Bhramacharya simply means faithfulness. This means one has to be faithful in both deed and thought: Do not entertain any thoughts of sexual relationship with anybody other than your current partner. As your journey into yoga slowly unfolds and you practice all eight limbs simultaneously you will find that it becomes easier to control the sexual urge. Indeed you may find that at the outset it may increase your sexual urge but it will nevertheless allow you to channel it properly into your current relationship and remain faithful. But as you progress you will find that while love blooms in your life the desire and urge for physical sex may slowly diminish. This is a natural unfolding process and there is nothing forced about it. Patanjali realized that spiritual progress cannot be forced nor can the desire for sex be curtailed by force. Each of the limbs of yoga is like a staircase. You make progress one step at a time. Trying to rush things only backfires.

If you are in a relationship and serious about pursuing the broader aim of yoga then it helps that both partners are similarly committed. If on the other hand your yoga practice has a limited objective of improving your health and well being then this discussion of Bhramacharya and sex does not apply to you. You will find that your physical and emotional health will improve and your sexual urge becomes healthy and strong. It is only when all eight limbs are practiced simultaneously that the journey of Bhramacharya begins.

Yoga is about growth. This growth is with respect to becoming beings. The journey of yoga shows that while activity and action is part of our daily life, it is best done when it is centered on a calm internal being. The journey of yoga is about finding this inner calm. And as we integrate our identity with this calm center, we slowly realize that we are not the body, we are not our mind or our ego, and we are also not our sexual self. We are simply beings.

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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The Hero Lunch Ladies!

Jarrett Krosocza had a chance encounter with his “lunch lady” during a visit to his school. The insight he gathered during this encounter led to amazing results as this video illustrates. This shows us the importance to acknowledge and thank others for their help.

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The Mind, Body, And Spirit Are Inseparable

Mind Body Spirit

This is a continuation of Bob Weisenberg’s essay: Six Big Ideas Of Yoga. This is the fourth of the Six Big Ideas:

The mind, body, and spirit are inseparable.

Yoga in America is best known as a popular exercise program and health club fitness class. This is what many people think of as Yoga in the U.S. However, just because Yoga poses and movements are popular doesn’t mean they’re not important to Yoga philosophy.

Yoga has always taught that whatever we think affects our body, and whatever our body feels affects our mind. The poses of Yoga are nothing more than a unified meditation involving both the mind and the body. And much of Yoga literature describes the body as though it were one big brain, with its “chakras” (energy centers) and energy flows.

Today the “mind-body connection” is pretty well accepted as part of our thinking about psychology. But it was still a fairly radical idea 15-20 years ago, much less 5,000 years ago when first proposed by Yoga gurus. (Actually, maybe it wasn’t a radical idea back then. Maybe it just became a radical idea more recently with all our emphasis on the intellect.)

Before this starts sounding too abstract, let me give you a very down-to-earth example. Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little stiff, stressed, or worn out, I get up, spread out my Yoga mat and just run through some basic Yoga poses for ten or fifteen minutes, focusing on the present moment.

This leaves me feeling completely invigorated in mind and spirit. My Yoga routine is like a cup of coffee for me. It works every time, no matter how lifeless I feel before I begin.

Let me give you another simple example, this time how the mind affects the body.

I am a serious tennis player. You might recall that all this Yoga stuff started for me when I took Yoga classes to improve my flexibility for tennis. Yoga was great for this. I did become much more flexible and it did improve my tennis.

What happened next was unexpected. I found that the philosophical practices of Yoga, especially focusing on the present moment, and detaching my ego from the results, had a far more beneficial impact on my tennis than the flexibility. The Yoga of the mind had a bigger effect on my tennis performance than the Yoga of the body.

Many religions (and even some Yoga traditions), treat the body as though it is something to escape from, into the purer world of the spirit. The body is treated almost like the enemy to be overcome in one’s spiritual quest, particularly in the ultra-traditional Catholicism I grew up in and struggled with as a kid.

Yoga is the opposite (at least the branches of Yoga that appeal to me). The mind, body, and spirit are inseparable and the same. We are unified beings, and our physical presence and actions are an integral part of our quest for happiness, not separate and distracting.

Continued next week: Experiencing Wondrous Self Leads To Abundance!

Credit: This has been written by Bob Weisenberg. He is Editor of Best of Yoga Philosophy and former Yoga Editor & Assoc. Publisher of elephant journal. He is the author of Yoga Demystified and Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell, as well as Co-editor of Yoga in America. For more details visit: http://bobweisenberg.wordpress.com/

Related:
Six Big Ideas Of Yoga
Each Of Us Is Already Wondrous!
Our Wondrous Nature Is The Same As The Wondrous Universe!
Fully Experience The Present Moment

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Eight Reasons Why Yoga Does Not Work

Missing Yoga Benefits

There are millions who sing praises of yoga, yet for many the benefits are only partial or none. You can make yoga work for you by avoiding these pitfalls:

1. Not practicing enough: There is a saying that goes as follows: “You need to meditate for 20 minutes every day, but if you are too busy then you must meditate for an hour!” Saying you are too busy for yoga is the same as saying a thirsty man is too busy to drink water! The key to accrue yoga’s benefits is simple: regular practice. The benefits of yoga unfold gradually. But erratic practice can greatly hamper benefits from showing up. So how do you answer the question about lack of time? The answer may be that you keep a short sequence with you in your back pocket. On days when attending a class seems impossible, just quietly unfurl your mat at home and do a quick 20 to 40 minute practice.

2. Do it in the right sequence: The sequence in which you do your yoga postures is important. Each posture prepares you for the next. Doing the postures in random order may prevent you from getting their full benefit because if you are not properly warmed up you will not be able to fully stretch into a pose and get its full benefit. The other problem is that doing a pose without preparing for it may lead to injuries.

3. View yoga in isolation: The full benefits of yoga happen when you view yoga holistically. This means yoga should be accompanied with life-style changes and changes in diet. You may also want to integrate Pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation into your life along with yoga. It is true that doing yoga will help you with making changes in your life. But it is also true that making changes in diet and lifestyle also aids and improves your yoga practice, and together they accelerate the flow of health and happiness in your life.

4. Proper technique is vital: You can multiply your benefits of yoga postures by employing the right techniques. There are many ways of getting into any given posture. The right way may depend on your flexibility and your ability. Besides getting into a posture in the way that best suits you, care must be taken to breathe correctly while doing so. Breath in while doing certain movements, and breath out for other movements, while using the “Ocean sounding” or “Ujjayi” breath.

5. Lock in your benefits with locks: The benefits of yoga posture can greatly multiply when accompanied with the right “locks”. Generally there are three locks that can accompany a posture, though not all locks apply for all postures. These are the “Chin Lock” (Jhalandhar Bandha), the “Core Abdomen Lock” (Uddiyana Bhanda), and the “Core Lower Abdomen Lock” (Mool Bandha). For most yoga practitioners it may be important to initially focus on the “Chin lock” and “Engaging the core” as appropriate for each posture. The guidance of a good yoga teacher is vital. As the practice deepens your mastery over the locks will help you multiply the benefits of each posture.

6. Losing control of breath: The yoga posture has to be done while in complete command of the mind-body. A key indicator of this control is your breath. If you are doing the postures too fast or your mind is wandering, then you will lose control of your breath and it will get choppy. The corresponding benefits of the yoga posture will be greatly reduced. A Yoga practice is never routine. It is never rushed. You have to bring your complete presence on the yoga mat. This is demonstrated by your mental focus and mastery over breath. If short of time, it is better to do a few postures but with complete calmness, complete surrender, and complete focus.

7. Missing out on a great partnership between Yoga and Pranayama: As you see from many of the points discussed so far, knowledge of proper breathing is vital to success in Yoga. This implies that doing breathing exercises (Known as Pranayama) everyday can be useful when accompanied with a regular practice of yoga. Just 10 to 15 minutes of Pranayama followed after a practice of Yoga can greatly multiply its benefits. Pranayama will improve your yoga practice, and yoga will improve your Pranayama practice, and together they will multiply your benefits!

8. Yoga burnout: Can there be too much of a good thing? When it comes to yoga, the answer is YES. This is especially true when yoga is viewed in isolation. For some Yoga provides extraordinary relief from stress. They feel better, sleep better, and are able to disentangle thoughts and emotions better. So the natural tendency is to do more of it. This works but only to an extent. If corresponding life style changes and diet changes are not put in place, along with pranayama and meditation, then the law of diminishing returns sets in and people claim that they are “burnt out” from yoga. To avoid burnout do not view yoga in isolation. Combine it with following:
a. Simplify your needs and life.
b. Reduce sensory overload. (Disengage from all gizmos for a few hours daily)
c. Get adequate sleep and have regular sleeping hours.
d. Eat fresh, organic, and balanced food.
e. Practice Pranayama.
f. Practice meditation.

The gift of yoga is indeed fabulous. But it is tragic when it leads to injuries or burnout, or if the benefits are partial. Please use the guidelines provided here to multiply yoga’s benefits in your life.

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Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

What is the ice bucket challenge?

Its simple: You pour a bucket of ice water over your head and challenge three other people to do this. It is done to raise funds for and awareness of ALS.

Who started it?

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with ALS last year. He reached out to Pete Frates, who is also diagnosed with ALS, “I want to see if we could connect and fight this thing together.” The two became friends and soon launched the ALS Ice bucket challenge that has gone viral.

What is ALS?

ALS is a progressively degenerative neurological disease that affects the neurons in the brain and the spine. It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It begins with muscle weakness and stiffness and progresses from there. The disease is little understood and life expectancy is short just 2 to 5 years after diagnosis. There is no known cure for this disease.

What is the point of this?

The point is to raise awareness and raise funds. Both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer have benefitted from awareness and funds. The idea is to do the same for ALS. This campaign has gone viral and has been an extraordinary success. Just last week it was confined to the Boston area. It has now gone national all over the US in one week. Donations are already 10 times from past years levels and growing.

Can Yoga help?

Yoga can help reconnect an ALS patients disconnected body. Since 2002 Matthew Sanford is doing excellent work with adaptive yoga for people with disabilities.

What can I do to help?

Don’t wait for somebody to challenge you. Instead take this on and challenge your friends. Dontate money to ALS Association.

Related:
ALS Assoication

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