self practice

keep it simple

truth is one, paths are many

ganesh

the lord of good fortune who provides prosperity, fortune & success

yoga = 99% practice & 1% theory

yoga

what is yoga

yoga is a sanskrit word translated as “yoke” or “union.”

yoga is an ancient system of physical, mental and spiritual practices that have been passed down through the generations from teacher to student and it is a meditative process of self discovery & liberation.

the goal of yoga is self realization, that is, to shift the identification from body and mind towards the eternal self.

systems of yoga

hatha yoga

yoga of force

raja yoga

it aims to ‘control’ the intellect & thoughts through meditation

jnana yoga

the yoga of ‘knowing’, of realising the truth of oneself

bhakti yoga

based upon the heart, love & devotion towards a chosen deity

karma yoga

based upon selfless service & acting without expectation of benefitting

tantra yoga

explores all aspects, sensations & energies that weave through the body & mind

lineages of yoga

ashtanga yoga

asanas in a precise & strict order with initial & final mantras

iyengar yoga

detail, precision & alignment during asana & pranayama practice

dharma yoga

a moving meditative sequence composed of static & dynamic asanas, pranayama & dhyana

bikram yoga

asana sequences in a room heated to 40 degrees

vinyasa yoga

move from one asana to another by synchronizing the movements with the ujjayi breath

yin yoga

stillness in asana

kundalini yoga

based on "kriyas" & using mantras in gurmukhi language

maya • illusion

illusion preventing us from infinite state. this semicircle does not touch the point, which means that the highest state of consciousness point is not affected by maya.

turiya • infinite state

absolute consciuusness. this absolutely silent, peaceful and blissful state is the ultimate goal of all spiritual activity.

history

the real guru resides within oneself

patañjali

the sage patañjali  (0-400 ad) in his yoga sutras identifies 8 steps to follow as the backbone of yoga practice.

for anyone who practices yoga, the yoga sutras (aphorisms on yoga) of patanjali they are an essential text in one's journey. sutra, which we translate as "aphorism", actually has the sense of thread in its meaning.

this collection of sutras (195 aphorisms) packs extremely pragmatically what is the spiritual journey of each of us, which in practice is uniting the jivatma, the individual soul, with the paramatma, the universal soul.

patanjali indicates what the ashtanga yoga system is: where "ashta" means eight and "anga" means steps.

to understand the path you need to understand the steps to follow, and here is this practice. it begins with an external work, and then moves on to the relationship with oneself, to then arrive at the body through movement and refine the technique more and more through breathing, abstention from external stimuli, concentration, meditation to then reach enlightenment.

yoga sutras of patañjali

samādhi pāda • 51 sūtra

path of contemplation

describes the final stage of yoga

sādhana pāda • 55 sūtra

path of practice

concerns the more practical part of yoga and it is the section in which Patanjali describes the first 5 steps of yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, prathyara.

vibhūti pāda • 56 sūtra

path of realization

includes the remaining 3 steps of yoga: dharana, dyhana, samadhi • focus, meditation, unity.

kaivalya pāda • 34 sūtra

path of the absolute

describes how someone on the yogic path can free their consciousness from the movement of the gunas and allow it to rest in the light of its own nature.

yoga sutra 1.1

atha yogā ‘ nuśāsanam

"then comes the right time to take up the practice of yoga"

now, when the sincere seeker approaches, with the right attitude, free from preconceptions and prejudices, and full of intelligent faith and receptivity, and with the right spirit of inquiry, at the right time and in the right place, the communication of yoga takes place.

all we need for yoga practice is a body & an attitude of open inquiry and receptivity. Working with the body & mind, we move through the different levels & stages outlined in the yoga sutras.

yoga sutra 1.2

yoga chitta-vrtti-nirodhah

“yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”

everything that patanjali expounds in the continuation of his yoga sutras is encapsulated in this sutra. we quickly learn what yoga is and why we practice it. the goal of studying the perfect science called yoga is simple, but not always easy.

8 limbs of yoga

8 limbs of yoga

yama

ethical principles

niyama

discipline

asana

comfortable poses

pranayama

breath regulation

pratyahara

control of the senses

dharana

concentration

dhyana

meditation

samadhi

ultimate connection with the divine

hatha

yama

niyama

asana

pranayama

pratyahara

raja

dharana

dhyana

samadhi

yoga

yoga without the yamas

is like spaghetti without the sauce

yama

ahimsa

not causing harm to anybody by mind, speech, action

satya

being truthful in one's thoughts, speech & action

asteya

non stealing

brahmacharya

stay in conduct within one's own self

aparigraha

non possessiveness, non grasping, or non greediness

niyama

integrity

saucha

cleanliness of body, mind, spirit & surroundings

santosha

contentment, satisfaction

tapas

self discipline, self control, perseverance

swadhyaya

self study

isvara pranidhana

surrendering the self fully to the Divine

mantra

what is a mantra

man means “mind”  & tra means “free from” so mantra means tool to clear the mind

mantra is a sequence of words that is repeated numerous times, as a meditative practice & in order to obtain a precise mental, physical, energetic effect.

it can be recited aloud, whispered or even just mentally stated, in the silence of meditation.

the value of mantras does not lie in the words themselves, but in the vibration, intention behind those words.

om mantra

om is the cosmic sound

when we chant om, the sound passes gracefully & dissolves into silence. silence is important, to hear the echo of the cosmic vibration. sometimes written aum to represent the three planes of union in yoga:

om vs aum

om when it’s chanted with another mantra e.g. om namah shivaya

aum when it’s chanted single

 

mudra used

chin mudra or jnana mudra

unification mantra

ham sa so ham • so ham ham sa • so ham ham sa • ham sa so ham

so

inhale from the spiritual heart towards the third eye center

ham

exhale from the third eye center towards the spiritual heart

so ham can be translated as "i am that"

 

mudra used

as i inhale i open the hands, as i exhale i close the hands

liberation mantra

lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and deeds of my life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all.

 

mudra used

anjali mudra

purification mantra

om apavitrah pavitro và sarva-vasthâm gato'pi vã yah smaret-pund arikäksam sa bahyäbhyantarah shuchih

may we, pure or impure, in all situations & circumstances, be able to attain inner & outer purity by remembering the divine name of the all pervading lotus eyed deity

 

mudra used

anjali mudra

gayatri mantra

om bhur, bhuvah, svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

gayatri means "she who protects the singer"

gayatri is a prayer & a mantra

as a mantra, it is a set of sounds used by meditators to bring about a higher state of consciousness, symbolized by the sun.

as a prayer, he asks God for guidance, "Direct my mind."

 

mudra used

anjali mudra or jnana mudra

visualization

bija mantra

mantras & colors to visualize, while repeating the mantra, to harmonize the main 7 chakras

subtle body

kosha

what is a kosha

kosha means "sheath"

koshas are the five layers of awareness that veil the atman, or true self. discovering each layer is believed to bring the individual, closer to oneness with the universe & the true self.

the 5 koshas

1st annamaya

composed of skin, muscle tissue, bones & organs

 

2nd • pranamaya

first of the "subtle body", "body of vital energy", prana transmitted through the nadis

 

3rd • manomaya

the "mental body" because it is expressed in the form of a thought

 

4th • vijnanamaya

body of intelligence, wisdom, consciousness

 

5th • anandamaya

spiritual body in which one experiences "ananda", the bliss

nadi

what is a nadi

nadi means  “channel” or “pipe” delegated to collect & circulate the prana

the nadis are not visible to the naked eye, as they are energy pathways that are not observable on the physical plane even if they influence it. the set of nadis in the human body forms a real circuit in which the energy assimilated through the breath flows throughout the body. together with the chakras, prana and nadis form the subtle body, an energy field that coexists with the physical body, nourishing it and providing it with energy sustenance.

physical body & subtle body are closely related and influence each other; the stagnation of mental & emotional energy are in fact reflected on the physical sphere.

traditionally it is believed that the number of nadis in the human body to be more than 70,000.

main 3 nadis

chakras

what is a chakra

chakra means “wheel” or “circle” delegated to "receive & distribute" vital energy

chakras are the energy centers of the body. they are located in the astral body, along the spine, starting at its base and running upwards to the crown of the head. the chakras radiate a specific colour and energy. each one coincides with a gland in the physical body.

since each chakra relates to specific spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical aspects of our being, it is believed that their blockage or malfunction can lead to physical, psychological, and emotional disorders.

the conscious awareness and balancing of these energy centers, on the other hand, is believed to lead to well-being and good health. 

main 7 chakras

7th • sahasrara

meaning thousand petaled • position crown • mantra om • color purple • function spiritual connection • gland pineal

6th • ajna

meaning unlimited power • position between the eyebrows • mantra om • color indago • function sixth sense • gland pituitary

5th • vishuddha

meaning purification • position throat • mantra ham • color blue • function communication • gland thyroid

4th • anahata

meaning unhurt • position centre of the chest • mantra yam • colour green • function compassion • gland thymus

3rd • manipura

meaning place of shining gem • position solar plexus • mantra ram • color yellow • function determination • gland pancreas

2nd • svadhisthana

meaning place of the self • position lower abdomen • mantra vam • colour orange • function sexuality • gland gonadi

1st • muladhara

 meaning root • position base of the spine • mantra lam • color red • function safety • gland adrenal

everything is cyclical

mudra

what is a mudra

mudra means “gesture” or “seal” deputed to channel energy, preventing its dispersion.

the word mudra refers to all gestures that ame done primarily with the hands, but not only, in various disciplines and religions to achieve physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.

each mudra gives specific beneficial effects, and some act on the digestive system, some on the heart, some on the immune system, and some aim to rebalance a specific element.

mudras establish a direct connection between the body, mind and energy body and are used so that energy is not wasted during practice.

they are generally practiced during asana, pranayama and meditation.

anjali mudra

it means to greet, to offer, to bless.

 

meaning of the gesture

"the god in me greets & meets the god in you."

 

practice

the palms are not completely joined, the fingertips are joined, but there is space between the base of the fingers and the middle part of the palms.

 

benefits

the joining of the hands serves to establish a connection between the two hemispheres of the brain promoting energy balancing, calming the mind and relieving stress.

chin & jnana mudra

chin  means "consciousness" • jnana means "knowledge"

 

meaning of the fingers

the thumb represents universal consciousness, while the index finger represents individual consciousness, the ego. the circle of the thumb & index finger represents the superconscious state of self-realization, turia. the three extended fingers represent the three states of consciousness, conscious state, dream state, unconscious state.

 

practice

fold the index fingers of the hands so that the tip is in contact with the base of the thumb, stretch the other fingers and keep them extended, separated and relaxed, place the hands on the knees.

 

differences

chin with palms facing upward

jnana with palms facing downward

 

benefits

chin increases energy & stamina & improves concentration.

jnana relaxes, relieves & calms nervous tension.

vishnu mudra

it is the gesture of universal balance

 

meaning of the fingers

the index finger represents the ego while the middle finger represents the intellect, so they are the impediment to sadhana.

 

practice

visnhu mudra is practiced with the right hand, which symbolizes receiving

it is performed with the index & middle fingers bent toward the palm, while the other three fingers remain extended

 

benefits

allows very subtle perception of energies.

kali mudra

it represents the power we are not aware we have.

 

practice

let us assume anjali mudra, gently weave the fingers together, gently stretch the index fingers & unite them from the roots to the tips.

 

benefits

decreases stress, anxiety, depression, negative emotions & insomnia.

bandhas

everything depends on where we focus our attention

what is a bandha

bandha means ‘lock’

the purpose of a bandha is to ‘lock’ the energy flow in & to, a specific part of the body temporarily. when the ‘lock’ is released, the energy flows more vigorously through the body.

 

“bandha” can simply be resumed as

the activation & engagement of muscle fibers, in strategic areas in the body, that support in the toning & lifting of the systems of the body against the natural laws of gravity.

 

to be light on this earth, activate & engage your bandhas!

 

benefits

promotes overall health & vitality. 

the 3 bandhas

3rd • jalandhara

 

 

2nd • uddiyana

 

 

1st • mula

mula bandha

mula means "root" • root lock

mula bandha therefore means contraction of the root, that is, of that anatomical part located at the pelvic floor. the purpose of this bandha is to prevent prana from leaving the body, instead directing it upward through sushumna nadi.

it is important to keep this area "active" while performing asanas because the whole body feels more stable, especially when performing standing & balancing postures. engaging the mula bandha, during yoga practice, allows energy to flow upward, giving a feeling of lightness in the body & particularly in the legs.

 

instructions

this bandha is performed by lifting upward the muscles of the pelvic floor

uddiyana bandha

uddiyana means "to raise" • upward flying lock

uddiyana bandha therefore, is a technique by which the muscles, diaphragm & rectus abdominis are stressed, bringing them upward. that's why it also calls fly bandha.

the jump that prana makes with uddiyana is important & transformative.

 

instructions

on an empty stomach and only in air vacuum, that is, after exhaling completely. When you have completely expelled air out of the lungs, you remain in an air vacuum and at the same time pull the entire abdominal region, especially the area above the navel, upward & toward the spine

jalandhara bandha

jal means "throat" & dharan means "flow" • throat lock

jalandara bandha therefore means contraction of the throat. the purpose of this bandha is to prevent prana from leaving the body, which is very important during pranayama exercises, both when holding air in the lungs & when holding it out.

jalandara bandha activated, seals air in the chest, has an influence on the heart, stretches the cervical region of the spine, compresses and stimulates the thyroid gland as well.

by releasing jalandara bandha, we allow prana to rise freely and unimpeded through the channels of the spinal cord and replenish the brain with vital energies.

 

instructions

with the chest well up, bring the chin toward the excavation of the sternum, between the two clavicles

maha bandha

engaging all three bandhas • mula, uddiyana & jalandhara • is known as maha bandha or “the great lock”.

 

benefits

increases the strength of the diaphragm & the efficiency of the respiratory system, tones the heart & increases the efficiency of the cardiovascular system, stokes the digestive fires & tones the abdominal organs increasing the efficiency of the systems of assimilation, digestion & excretion, & the stimulation of the thyroid & other endocrine glands increases the overall wellness & efficiency of the bodies natural ability to grow, mature & heal itself.

asana

breathing adequately we learn to assume a correct posture

scapula

lumbar vertebrae

sacrum

sacrum

femoral twist

asanas are therapeutic if performed with consciousness

asana categories

standing postures

supported by the soles of the feet

tadasana • mountain

urdhva hastasana • overhead stretching

utthanasana • deep stretching

 

seated postures

supported by the pelvis

paschimottanasana • stretched back

ardha Matsyendrasana • side twisting

siddhasana • perfect postures

 

kneeling postures

supported by the knees, shins and tops of the feet

ashwa sanchalanasana • equestrian

balasana • child

ustrasana • camel

supine postures

supported by the back of the body

halasana • plow

sarvangasana • candle

savasana • corpse

 

prone postures

supported by the front of the body

bhujangasana • cobra

dhanurasana • bow

matsyasana • fish

 

arms postures

supported by the arms or hands

adho mukha svanasana • upside down dog

ashtanga namaskara • 8 points of support

urdhva dhanurasana • bridge

strength + flexibility + stability

surya namaskar c

1st part of the sequence right leg back first + right leg front first

2nd part of the sequence left leg back first + left leg front first

repeat 3 times the entire sequence

there is no such thing as a perfect asana

pranayama

what is pranayama

pranayama is the yogic science of controlling prana in the human being. the purpose is to intensify and consciously control this pranic metabolism to tenfold the adept's physical, mental and psychic energies.

these practices influence the flow of prana in the nadis, purifying them, regulating them, thus inducing physical and mental stability. pranayama should be practiced after kriyas and asanas and immediately before meditative practice, that is, before entering the temple of one's body.

four important aspects of breathing are used in pranayama practices

puraka or inhaling

rechaka or exhaling

antara kumbhaka suspension that occurs after a full inhalation before beginning exhalation

bahia kumbhaka suspension that occurs after a complete exhalation before beginning inhalation

pranayama impact

left hemisphere

logic

 

pingala nadi

right nostril

Influencing left hemisphere

energy destroyer

heat

digestion

right hemisphere

creativity

 

ida nadi

left nostril

influencing right hemisphere

energy saver

cold

tranquility

breathing anatomy

without eating

we can survive up to 24/30 days

without drinking up to 14 days

without breathing ???

breathing anatomy

diaphragm

breathing is a fundamental function, and having full knowledge and awareness of it is extremely useful in order to improve one's mental and physical well being.

the diaphragm not only performs the respiratory function, but is also involved in other functions such as circulatory, digestive and postural, as well as being closely related to the emotional sphere.

the diaphragm is affected by anxiety, problems, stress, pain, apprehension.

as a result of emotional stress, it happens to experience feelings such as a "blockage of breathing" or "having been punched in the stomach". if one is angry, worried or anxious, the diaphragm tends to remain contracted, and the persistence of such emotional conditions may lead to a blockage of the diaphragm in the long run.

a permanently blocked diaphragm is very limited in its functions, not only respiratory, and may lead to the onset of even serious problems and pathologies to the organs and structures to which it is connected.

the diaphragm corresponds to the 3rd chakra and therefore proper diaphragmatic breathing helps to stimulate the 3rd chakra in the right way, which, if in balance, gives strength & energy.

breath is the real master

dirga pranayama

dirga means "complete", therefore dirga pranayama means "complete breath"

it is also know as complete yogic breath.

it can be practiced lying on the back or from a seated position & consists of 3 successive phases linked by a single, harmonious act, abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, thoracic or medium breathing, clavicular or high breathing.

 

practice

we place our hands on the abdomen with fingertips facing each other and inhale for 3 counts, filling the abdomen

slide hands on rib cage, inhale for 3 more counts filling almost all the lungs

slide your hands over your chest with your fingers resting on your collarbone, inhale for 2 more counts filling the uppermost parts of your lungs.

then exhale the same way

inhale 3+3+2 & exhale 2+3+3 without retention

 

benefits

this breathing strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system & immune system, relaxes the body, mind, relieves insomnia, reduces stress and anxiety.

bhastrika pranayama

bhastrika means "bellows", therefore bhastrika is the bellows breath

 

practice

this breathing is performed through both nostrils. the inhalation and exhalation are active.

sit in a comfortable position, back straight, eyes closed & hands in jnana mudra on the knees.

initially we start with a slow rhythm and like a locomotive gradually accelerate like a sniffing dog.

at the end of a cycle we exhale completely, inhale again & suspend the breath as long as we can, meanwhile if possible we apply mula bandha & jalandhara bandha & keep all our attention in the space between the eyebrows. then we gently exhale from the 2 nostrils if possible without making noise.

 

benefits

it creates warmth, cleanses and unblocks the mind and increases blood circulation throughout the body.

 

contraindications

not recommended during pregnancy, to those with epilepsy and to heart patients.

kapalabhati pranayama

kapala means "skull" & bhati "to clean" therefore kapalabhati means skull cleansing.

 

practice

this breathing is performed through both nostrils. the inhalation is passive while the exhalation, each time giving an inward contraction of the abdomen, as if to push the navel toward the spine is active.

sit in a comfortable position, back straight, eyes closed and hands in jnana mudra on the knees. 

at the end of a cycle we exhale completely, inhale again and suspend the breath as long as we can, in the meantime if possible we apply mula bandha and jalandhara bandha & keep all our attention in the space between the eyebrows. then we gently exhale from the 2 nostrils if possible without making noise.

 

benefits

this breathing awakens the mind, balances and strengthens the nervous system, tones and improves the function of the digestive organs, cleanses the frontal lobes of the brain, accelerates blood flow.

 

contraindications

not recommended during pregnancy, to those with epilepsy and to heart patients.

sama vritti pranayama

sama means “equal”, & vritti means “mental fluctuations”, so sama vritti pranayama means “equal mental fluctuation breathing”.

it is also known as square breathing.

 

practice

sit in a comfortable position, back straight, eyes closed and hands in jnana mudra on knees.

inhale for 4 counts, pause for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, pause for 4 counts.

this is a complete cycle. repeat 6 to 12 cycles.

we keep a constant count of inhalations and exhalations and focus on the quality of the breath.

 

benefits

this breathing reduces stress, anxiety and helps improve concentration.

nadi shodhana pranayama

shodhana means "purification", nadi shodhana means purification of the nadis.

it is also known as alternate nostril breathing.

 

practice

sit in a comfortable position, back straight, eyes closed, left hand in jnana mudra on the knee, right hand vishnu m mudra.

we close the right nostril with the right thumb & inhale through the left nostril, we close the left nostril with the right ring finger, release the right thumb & exhale through the right nostril. we inhale through the same nostril, close the right nostril with the thumb, release the right ring finger & exhale through the left nostril.

this is a complete cycle. repeat 6 to 12 cycles.

we keep a constant count of inhalations & exhalations & focus on the quality of the breath.

 

benefits

this breathing enables the elimination of physical & mental impurities, synchronizes & harmonizes the two hemispheres of the brain, reduces stress & anxiety.

pratyahara

yogic diet

what is pratyahara

prati means "withdraw", ahara means "food" or referring to anything we take in from the outside

therefore pratyahara means "withdrawal of the senses"

there are three levels of ahara; physical food, impressions from the five senses and associations with others. traditionally, the practice of pratyahara is centered around withdrawal from any ahara which is not nourishing for the body, mind or spirit.

 

bennefits

withdrawal of the senses allows the practitioner to connect with their inner world, thereby creating optimal conditions for self realization.

pratyahara also helps to provide an understanding of how much the mind is influenced by sensory input, & to acknowledge the role of thoughts & feelings in suffering.

dharana

yoga is a way of life

what is dharana

it means "concentration"

practicing dharana involves fixing the mind on a particular object • either external or internal. practicing dharana leads the practitioner to dhyana.

trataka concentration

it is a method to develop concentration.

the technique has to do with gazing or fixing the eyes on one point, either on an object or on a candle flame.

 

practice

sit straight in a relaxed way either on the floor or on a chair.

keep a burning candle at a distance of one or two feet from the eyes, at the same level as the eyes.

make the body steady and gaze at the bright spot of the flame just above the wick. 

gaze at the flame without blinking the eyes. with practice, one can go from few seconds to few minutes without blinking. as you practice, you will see that you will be aware of only the flame.

when the eyes get tired, slowly close the eyes and relax. sometimes, the eyes may water. keep it closed till the strain is relieved. when the eyes are closed, try to see the image of the flame in the space in front of the forehead. witness this internal flame as long as it appears.

 

benefits

it can make the mind calm & steady, thereby increasing the power of concentration, improves mental & nervous stability.

dhyana

we come from the same source

we are headed to the same source

what is dhyana

It means "meditation"

Dhyana is a refined meditative practice that requires deep mental concentration.

so ham meditation

Let us sit comfortably, close our eyes & turn all our attention to the breath.

Imagine that on the inhalation the sound is So and on the exhalation Ham.

we chant the mantra mentally while breathing slowly and consciously.

 

mudra used

chin mudra

reading list

Autobiography of a Yogi - Paramhansa Yogananda

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Swami Satchidananda

Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha - Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Ayurveda - The Science of Self Healing - Vasant Lad

keep it simple