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.

You may also like: Six Things Not Yoga

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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Fully Experience The Present Moment!

Experience Present Moment

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

The way to experience our wondrous self is to fully experience the present moment, since each moment of consciousness is infinitely wondrous in itself.

One of my favorite Yoga stories is the one about the young American who makes an arduous journey to the farthest reaches of the Himalayas, seeking to learn the secret of life and happiness from one of the greatest Yoga gurus.

Once in the Himalayas, he travels five days up into the mountains, through many trials and difficulties. Finally he reaches the high mountain pass where the great old man in a white robe and long flowing grey hair sits in lotus position, staring peacefully off into space.

The young man sits down next to the guru and assumes a similar pose, waiting for his words of wisdom. An hour goes by. Then several hours. Then a day, then several days. He feels extraordinary bliss and peace. Finally the young man says to the old man, “What happens next?”

The guru answers, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”

Every moment of life is precious and magical. We experience this not by striving to be happy, but by focusing, in a relaxed way, on the present moment. Most unhappiness comes from regrets about the past or worries about the future, both of which are greatly diminished by gently focusing on the present moment.

Yoga makes no attempt to change the regrets, worries, or other suffering we face, but merely to provide a different perspective on them by making us aware of the wonder of life beyond our current preoccupations, no matter how important or serious they are.

Focusing on the present moment, we cannot help but become tuned into the wonder that is just being alive and conscious. No effort is required, just a relaxed shift in consciousness–a simple receptivity to the indescribable wonder of being alive and conscious at this very moment.

We don’t need to try to force ourselves to feel good, as in “positive thinking”. When regrets and worries occur, we don’t need to fight them. Instead, feel them just as they are, without judgment, then gently refocus on what’s going on right now in the current moment. The current moment is rarely unhappy in and of itself.

You might say, this is all well and good if one is already content and happy, and one’s problems are relatively small. But what about the truly serious pain and anguish that happens in everyone’s life, to one extent or another?

It would appear that the more stressed and troubled one is, the more helpful Yoga might be. Yoga and Yoga-like techniques are being used today for the treatment of even the most overwhelming grief and health problems, including tragedies like terminal illness and the loss of a loved one. Like acupuncture before it, “mindfulness” meditation is starting to be studied and proven scientifically in the West.

You might think if one is “present-focused”, one would just sit around like a wet noodle all day and do nothing.

Surprisingly, I find the opposite is true. Since my regrets and anxieties are reduced to relative insignificance (still all there, but put into perspective by the awareness of continual wonder) I find myself with more pure energy to do everything.

I’m able to give myself more completely to other people in conversation. I find myself enjoying or easily tolerating things that would have made me very unhappy before. I am more objective and creative about solving problems.

And, without being false, forced or even effortful in anyway, I do have a much more constant and abiding appreciation of the everyday incredible magic that is being alive.

Continued next week: The Mind, Body, And Spirit Are Inseparable.

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!

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The Yogi Healer

Paramahamsa Yogananda

Paramahamsa Yogananda

This is a story that unfolds when the legendary Yogananda had returned to India from the US to visit his Guru. Yogananda accompanied by his younger brother and a few others decided to visit the “Kumbh Mela”. This story is related by his younger brother Sananda Lal Ghosh who refers to him as “Mejda” or “Middle brother” in Bengali. We see in this story how some people are blessed with remarkable healing powers:

Our guide then took us to the other side of Ganges to visit another remarkable sage who, it was said, had healed many persons of incurable diseases. He was seated on a hillock in front of a ceremonial fire, and was surrounded by his devotees. We climbed the mound and seated ourselves near the sage. Mejda asked about his healing power. The sait replied in Hindi: “What is unusual about it? You are also healing others with the same power.” Mejda remained silent. After a short time we bowed respectfully and left. Mejda remarked: “He truly has the power of God.”

While we were resting at Prasad Ghosh’s home one afternoon, his second daughter, Chaya, about eight or ten years old, was either playing on the high wall surrounding the house or climbing on it in order to pick the fruit from a nearby tree. She slipped and fell, uttering a piercing cry. We rushed outside and found her lying on the ground, unconscious. She was carried into the house. From her posture, and from the swelling in the spinal area near the waistline, it was feared that she might have fractured some vertebrae. They were going to rush her to the hospital.

Mejda came into the room and asked the weeping mother and relatives to step aside: “Let me see her back.” Laying the child face down, he began to offer silently some prayer or chant as he sprinkled cold water on her back. This process lasted about fifteen or twenty minutes. Then he sat down besides the still form, placed his hand over the injury, and meditated for about half and hour. We all stood silently around them. Suddenly Mejda stood up and took hold of the little girl’s hand, and with a sharp jerk, lifted her to her feet. “Get up!” He said. “Nothing has happened. You are all right.”

Fully conscious now, Chaya saw everyone staring at her; she became shy and ran over to her mother and buried her face in her mother’s sari. Mejda quietly left the house.

Editor’s note: Though this story is about healing powers, we must be extraordinary cautious in taking recourse to these. Our first choice should always be to take normal medicine, as Yogananda, and his followers did. Healings as described here are extremely rare.

Credit: This account is provided in the book Mejda written by Sananda Lal Ghosh.

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