Wednesday, October 12, 2022

On letting go

 I listened to this story and it rang a little chord inside so I thought I would share it here on this Mangala blog; a little place for sharing.  This story came from a great master of the way - the Tao, although I am not in the knowledge of his or her name.  I hope it pulls a little chord somewhere within and helps you too - 

"A student told his teacher the trouble he was having with letting go - he was in a situation that he knew wasn't working for him but he could not bear to change that situation - he couldn't let it go and move forward.  He felt like he was stuck, but had uncertainty of what change might bring.  The teacher listened to the student and then proceeded to make some tea.  It was boiling hot as he poured it into a glass and gave it to the student to hold.  The students hands began to burn but he held on to the cup not wanting to disappoint the teacher.  The hot tea was really starting to burn his hands but he held on - the skin on his hands was turning redder and redder as the hot liquid was scolding him, eventually he could not hold on any longer and dropped the glass.  The teacher smiled turned to the student and said - you see it is not so difficult to let go after all is it!  Don't let the situation continue to burn you, you must realize the suffering that something may be causing you and thus if you are suffering then the others around you will be feeling it too.  So drop it like you have dropped that hot glass - eventually it was easy to drop wasn't it and now you have relief in your hands."

Have courage to make new steps, know that the earth is there supporting each step you make.  Like watching the leaves fall from the trees they let the breeze carry them to the ground - go with the way of the breeze have the strength to trust - all you need is inside - you can be free.  Happiness - Ananda - is inside; the teachings of Vedanta tell us that this happiness is not in things or places, or jobs or people, but in a deep understanding of the true self, so start to walk my friend - follow the breeze and be free.  You can start by just sitting and feeling your breath, follow your breath with your mind - don't worry if you become distracted just pull your mind back to your breathing.  Notice when you are breathing in and notice when you are breathing out, find the little natural pause between every inhalation and every exhalation, notice that little pause and find the silence part.  Simplicity like the leaves falling from the trees is not easy in a world that may seem so complicated - but it is so profound in the simplicity of just following the breeze!

You have courage, you have strength, find the silence part of your breathing, take a little holiday from the chitter chatter of your mind and dissolve into the silence part of your breath, have courage and let go.

I wish you the beauty of following the breeze and trusting the earth on which we step.

Love from the heart and AUM Shanti Shanti Shanti

May the oceans be clean, pure and give us space, may the trees be in plenty and give us our breath, may the earth be strong and full of nutrients, may we protect the oceans, trees and earth.

Mangala / Nicky.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Renounce, Surrender, Discipline.


Renounce, Surrender, Discipline.

These three words many people see as a red flag although they want liberation, they want to be able to meditate deeply, they want a flexible healthy body, they want happiness, they want to be free of their minds, all these wants!  People want liberation but they want everything else in the world too.  Now imagine you are trekking up a mountain whilst carrying a heavy rucksack full of all these different things like too many clothes and boots and this and that - or imagine carrying all the contents of your phone - all your photograph albums you have ever made, maps of the whole world, dictionaries and a book of all the restaurants in the world etc etc; everything you can access from your phone, then with each step you start to take these things out of your rucksack and give them away, knowing that actually you don't need them at all.  You keep walking although it is difficult, each step with determination and eventually you reach the top of that mountain - you take off your rucksack with its remaining contents and oh my goodness - what a relief - it is simply a huge ahhhhhhhhhhh - big breath of fresh air - at last freedom.
Renounce, Surrender, Discipline -
I hope you understand - it is all in your hands - you have the power to be free.
Om Namah Sivaya 
With love 
Mangala - Nicky

Thursday, June 16, 2022

How important postures work in conjunction with conscious breathing and deep relaxation.


Extracts taken from YOGA life magazine published by the Sivananda centers, photos by Yoga Mangala at pop up Yoga Mangala - Casablanca, Morocco.

Six days of the week I practice the 12 basic postures or some variation of them for the Yogic exercise part of my yogic life.   I couldn't maintain my overall health both of body and mind without these postures and it is amazing the effect of our mental well being through using our bodies positively and freeing up space within us.  Yoga asana practice (yoga postures) are and always have been intended to be practiced slowly with the correct breathing and deep relaxations before, between and after them.  Practiced in the right manor in a meditative way then the effects are so deep and profound.  An hour and a half or two hour session gives you a session of proper breath, proper exercise, proper relaxation and meditation, all combined to bring a completeness, wholeness and harmony.  Here are some pointers from the Sivananda yoga magazine on what is working and how!  Enjoy - 

1. Gentle stimulation of the circulatory system.    Fitness workout programmes today strongly emphasize a balanced cardiac workout.  Yoga asanas (postures) include this aspect very specifically; inverted postures and abdominal breathing increase the venous return to the heart, thus stimulating a stronger heartbeat.  The massage action of specific pressure on internal organs increases the local blood circulation ensuring a rich supply of oxygen and nutrients to all cells of the body.

2. Yoga for the back.   Kyphosis (exaggerated upper back curve), lordosis (exaggerated lower back curve), and scoliosis (lateral deviation) are three common spinal problems.  The asana sequence systematically improves these three postural habits and other back issues and often relieves the pain associated with them.

3. Balancing muscle length and muscle strength.   Yoga exercises develop both strength and flexibility, yet the body of a proficient practitioner will not show any extreme tendencies such as overdeveloped bicep muscles or permanent hyper flexibility of the hip joints.  This is because the practice of the twelve basic postures develops strength and flexibility in equal measure.

4. Hormonal balance.   The inverted poses increase the blood supply to the brain.  This improves neuronal control of the pituitary gland (hypophysis), whose hormones regulate such important endocrine glands such as the thyroid gland - involved in cell metabolism, and the adrenal glands - involved in emotional balance.  Specific postures work like a massage enhancing all cellular functions in each gland.

5. Internal organs.   From the gastrointestinal tract to the liver and pancreas right through to the bladder - the pressure exerted by various postures detoxifies these tissues and increases the supply of blood to them insuring better functioning. 

6. Autonomic nervous system.  The stretching and relaxing in the first half of the sequence, as well as the contraction and relaxing in the second half, encourages the 'rest and repair' functions of the parasympathetic nervous system.  At the same time it prevents the over-stimulation - the fight or flight reaction of the sympathetic nervous system.

7. Deep relaxation with auto-suggestion.    Impulses transmitted by motor and sensor nerves are regulated or registered in two adjacent areas or the cerebrum.  In the wave of relaxation which begins in the feet and ends in the head, 'visualisation (motor) and feeling of relaxation (sensory) impulses are barely distinguishable.  That is no surprise seeing the proximity of the areas in the brain dedicated to sensory and motor activity.  The periods of relaxation between the postures is essential to harmonize motor and sensory impulses.

8. Nadis (subtle channels).   The classical yoga texts speak of 72000 subtle nerve channels through which prana (vital energy) flows in and around the body.  Pranic blockages at junctions of the nadis can lead to a lack or excess of energy in different parts of the body.  The 12 basic poses exert pressure on these points in a way that balances the prana, much like acupressure.  That is one reason you feel rejuvenated after the class.

9. HathaYoga - the union of Sun and Moon.   Prana (upward moving energy, supported by respiration) is denoted by the Sun - Ha.  Apana (downward moving energy, supported by elimination) is called Moon - Tha.  Hence Hatha - In the asana sequence these two vital energies merge in the solar plexus, creating a unique sensation of well-being.

So you can understand a little more why our asana or posture practice is so delicious and makes us feel a whole lot better and why it is important.  However we mustn't forget this is just a part of our yogic life and the synthesis of yoga of also selfless service - karma yoga, and our devotional practice - bhakti yoga and questions into the self - Jnana Yoga are all equally as important to bring completeness and turn us into 24 hour yogis not just the time we roll our yoga mats out for. 

Have beautiful practice and beautiful days - love and peace to all living entities.


Mangala / Nicky

Thursday, May 5, 2022

The root of all well-being lies in the mind.


"Man searches for happiness and shuns pain.  Even the most refined physical existence cannot guarantee everlasting happiness or a life without pain.  The root of all well-being lies in the mind.  Once the root is cared for, each leaf of the tree will grow.
The Raja Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Maharishi is a complete manual for the exploration and control of one's own thoughts.  It is a classical scripture of yoga and a holistic guideline for the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of meditation.
Self-reliance or self-discipline is the fundamental requisite on the spiritual path.  Without self-discipline even those with high intellect cannot benefit from the teachings of yoga.
The Yoga Sutras are a precious resource for any yoga practitioner especially for the study of the spiritual psychology of yoga, the oldest psychology of mankind.
Sri Swami Vishnudevananda taught Raja Yoga in five basic principles for people of all ages, religions and walks of life :
Proper exercise (Asana)
Proper breathing (Pranayama)
Proper relaxation (Savasana)
Proper diet (Vegetarian)
Positive thinking and meditation (Vedanta and Dhyana)

Once these principles are applied in daily life, the universal teachings of Patanjali Maharishi's Yoga Sutras will gradually reveal themselves through personal experience."
Swami Sivadasananda. 

Yoga is a way of life, something that I have been open to and have been blessed to have been exposed to and taught by great authentic teachers.  The Yoga sutras as mentioned above give us the means to find a joining with the inner self and the Supreme Soul and only when this joining happens we can find rest and a supreme satisfaction which is very hard to be able to describe.  The Sutras highlight practice and can enhance our understandings through an intuitive knowledge.  Swami Durgananda  tells us that we need not be an academic to be able to understand but the sutras will reveal themselves in understanding that grows in our practice.  I think I can testify to this as not being an academic myself; being a creative who finds studying texts difficult I seem to have reached points of knowledge or understanding through a very dedicated and disciplined practice of the five points mentioned above.  However there are those who love to spend much time in study as opposed to time in action, so we should find a good commentary on the Sutra's as without perfect knowledge of Sanskrit understanding would be very very difficult.  Also there are now words in Sanskrit where no words in our modern languages can be found so explanation from a Master is absolutely needed.
I recommend - Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - text and commentary by Swami Durgananda published by Sivananda Yoga Retreat house - Tryol - Austria.  You can find this book in all the world wide Sivananda centers also.
Let us look at Chapter 1 Verse 1 of the sutras and the explanation from the book -
Chapter 1 is titled The Road to Samadhi (the supreme state)
Verse 1 
Atha Yoganusasanam  = Now yoga is explained or Now Yoga
"Patanjali is thorough from the outset, explaining the very word 'Yoga.'  Yoga means union of the Jiva and Atman.  The Jiva is the individual soul with its components of three bodies.  The Atman is the universal or Supreme Soul.  We need to know the workings of the individual soul and eventually transcend it.  The word 'transcend' can be misleading because it wrongly suggests that we are ignoring something.  This is not so.  It is through understanding that the Jiva is only an instrument that the idea of being an individual soul vanishes.  Avidya (ignorance) is dispelled by Vidya (knowledge.)  Vidya allows you to understand that you are neither the body nor the mind.  This knowledge comes not as a sudden realization, but as a slow awakening through Sadhana (spiritual practice.)  Sadhana leads to knowledge, and this knowledge gives us the understanding that we are not the body or the mind."

I also think that this 'Now Yoga' verse is outlining the fact that you are now ready for yoga - you are ready to deepen your experience of life and find other dimensions, you are ready to let go of mere material pleasures as a point of your happiness and start the yogic journey to inner happiness, that when you find it, although it is always coming and going like clouds - but you find the knowledge that it is there, you feel it - this nobody can take away from you!  You are ready to expand and to elevate yourself and believe me you will never look back!  I simply cannot imagine my life without Yoga or more to the point my life is YOGA!  I would feel so unwell, limited and even trapped without it.  

So Atha Yoganusasanam - Now Yoga - be ready to dive into a beautiful profound and deeply meaningful way of life - that which will expand out into our world and create more harmony and balance.  So so needed in these times if not more than any before. 
Have a beautiful journey everyone
Wishing you all the very best of wishes as always and AUM shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Yoga Mangala is based in Casablanca - Morocco and offers private classes for individuals and small groups in her home.  Also corporate classes to introduce ideas of yoga for well being.  Yoga for kids and pre-natal.  Retreats out in the countryside and on-line classes for experienced yogis.  Om Namah Sivaya.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Yoga Nidra - the blissful relaxation


"Most people sleep without resolving their tensions,
This is termed Nidra.
Nidra means sleep, no matter what or why,
But Yoga Nidra means sleep after throwing off the burdens, 
It is of a blissful, higher quality altogether.

When awareness is separate and distinct from the vrittis -(thought waves)
When waking, dream and deep sleep pass like clouds,
yet awareness of atma (inner self) remains
This is the experience of total relaxation.

Relaxation does not mean sleep.
Relaxation means to be blissfully happy,
It has no end.
I call bliss absolute relaxation;
Sleep is a different matter.
Sleep gives only mind and sense relaxation.
Bliss relaxes the atma, inner self;
That is why,
Yoga Nidra is the doorway to Samadhi (the blissful state of being)"
Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Life has changed so much over the last 100 years or so, no system is the same as in ancient times including the system of ourself.  It seems our minds and bodies have seemingly lost the point of balance and harmony on every level and we seem so engrossed in all the wrong things.  Diseases have sprung up with new dimensions and we are now dealing with stress-related disorders like never before.  The effects of social media and material life are really revealing themselves and our inability to be able to deal with a highly competitive pace of life in all areas.  The problems of such diseases as diabetes, hypertension, migraine, asthma, ulcers, digestive disorders, cancers to name but a few arise from tension in the body, mind and our way of thinking and feeling.  The main problem is in our minds, when there is disharmony in our minds then how can there be harmony in our bodies?  Tensions arise in thinking, eating, socializing, working even sleeping - if the mind is tense the stomach will be tense and so forth.  In Yoga Nidra we have an opportunity to release the tensions on all levels - muscular and physical, emotional and mental and tensions from the soul.  It gives us the means to rest efficiently and find our inner medicine repairing ourselves on all levels.  It takes us away from certain agonies of life and brings us back to a natural state of contentment and peace.
Do you habitually bite your nails, pick at your skin, scratch or stroke a part of the body, pace about or tap your feet?  Do you talk compulsively or display irritability - we do these things because we lack awareness of our own inner tension.  Even in sleep thoughts and worries revolve in our mind and can cause unhelpful or bad dreams and a tense body, sometimes do you wake up more tired than when you went to bed?  These tensions must be released for the health of our whole and complete self and thus in turn for those who surround us.  Looking after a sick loved one puts a lot of stress and tension on the other - the more healthy we are then the more healthy those who surround us are, so we need this complete relaxation not only for ourselves but for our loved ones too.
Yoga Nidra gives us a beautiful gift - it is the scientific way of removing tension and thus the actual state of relaxation can dawn.
You need to experience it for yourself -
Please listen here and release your inner and outer tensions and simply feel much better!!  It is a very accessible practice for all - simply lie down on a mat or even on your bed and keep aware of the instruction - I myself practice a little Yoga Nidra before I go to sleep each night - so please enjoy and make it a part of your weekly life -  This moment is a happy moment!

Sending you all beautiful relaxation and love from the heart
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Mangala - Nicky

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Best Friends: Worst Enemy - different states of mind.


"The mind is its own worst enemy as well as its own best friend.  According to yogic thought, the mind has five different types of behavior.  In the Kshipta state, it is fragmented, distracted and scattered on various objects.  It is restless and jumps from one thing to another.  In the mudha state it is dull and forgetful.  Vikshipta is the gathering mind, it is occasionally steady and at other times distracted.  This is its condition during practice as it struggles to become focussed.  In the ekagrata or one-pointed state there is only one idea present.  In the niruddha state full control is achieved.
The greatest impediment to concentration is restlessness and tossing of the mind.  When a beginner sits for practice, the thoughts, unaccustomed to this new game and freed from their usual grooves, leap about in an uncontrolled way.  To remove tossing and other obstacles to one-pointedness, adamantly fix the mind on one object alone.  When it runs away, as it naturally will, pull it back again.  It will want to create hundreds of alternate thought forms, but if not disciplined no progress can be made."
Swami Vishnudevananda from Meditation and Mantras.

We all know that the mind can be terribly busy and when it is not busy it seems to want to create unhelpful thoughts to keep it busy.  This can lead us to more anxiety, worries and obsessive thinking.  As Swami Ji states; it will want to leap about in an uncontrolled way - this can leave us feeling lost or frustrated.  For sure accepting that we have busy troublesome minds is the first step - and then finding some empathy with the mind that it is busy and refraining from becoming cross or angry with over expectations.  It is like we need to make friends with this wonderful instrument that we call the mind, and then it can become so strong and useful to us.  Discipline of practice is certainly the key - finding a regular time and place for your practice and not missing even one session is essential.  Not making excuses to get you out of practice is a big step forward or refraining from the 'I will do it later" syndrome or " I haven't got time" syndrome.
Make a commitment for yourself to practice - once a week, twice a week or even once a day - whatever is manageable then make that commitment.  After some time I promise - you will never look back.
During practice either be it asana (yogic postures) or pranayama (breathing) or meditation fix the mind on something - the breath is a wonderful place to start, and know that the mind will jump about - and feel fine with yourself that it will jump about.  No-body empties their mind - this would put you in a comma!  Just breath and follow your breath and when you notice your mind has jumped somewhere else, then recognise that and simply come back to your point of concentration.  This in actual fact when you notice you are distracted and bring the mind back is a very pure moment and something to feel good about - you noticed you were distracted and then you came back to focus.  That moment is very powerful and true, so be pleased with it - actually the distractions are tools and blessings for you to be able to strengthen the mind and become more focused and peaceful over time.  This does not happen over night - but joining classes will give you encouragement from other practitioners and teachers and the inspiration to keep going until you reach the point of "I can't wait to get on the mat, or cushion or whatever!!" 
So please put the effort in, be guided by inspirational people that have walked the path and are walking the path themselves and give yourself a hug and a great big smile for your practice and putting the effort in.  Whatever happens during the session you would have done a wonderful thing for yourself and for the peaceful energy of the world - which we all need, as does the earth. waters, sky's, sun and moon.
So go ahead and do it - no more I am too busy - My head is too busy - of course it is - and that is why we should practice, without pressuring ourselves to be anything or this or that but honoring and loving yourself.
At least do that - love yourself - wherever your head is!!

Have beautiful days and nights and suns and moons
Sending love from the heart
Mangala - Nicky

Image above made in Yoga Mangala home studio - Bhujangasan - Cobra pose

Thursday, February 3, 2022

The Synthesis of Yoga - a brief outline of the four main paths.


Yoga today is widely practiced throughout the world,  however there is still a lot of misunderstanding of what yoga is and how it should be practiced.  People turn to yoga for many different reasons, maybe for a particular health reason or simply to gain a stronger more flexible body.  I believe that somehow there is a deeper yearning for something 'more' something deeper in life than just material wealth.  Many people are searching but are not sure where to look.  There is a dissatisfaction with the external world and a yearning for a more meaningful existence is growing globally.  
Yoga has the ability and gives us the tools to find that deeper meaning and live more in harmony, balance and with contentment, even a return to childlike wonder and sense of joy even at the touch of a breeze or looking at a shell on the beach.  
The rising sun delights us at the opportunity of a new day - a new moment and the moons light illuminates a soft touch onto our beings. 
'You can have calmness of mind at all times by the practice of yoga.  You can have restful sleep.  You can have increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and a high standard of health.  You can turn out efficient work within a short space of time.  You can have success in every walk of life.' Sri Swami Sivananda
From my own experience yoga has brought a huge bounce to my life a great sense of wonder and energy, has seen me through extremely difficult and turbulent times, may I even say trauma, and again has brought the bounce and joy back into life.   It is an amazing gift that is there for all of humanity if you wish it, but you do have to practice it - it works slowly over time - you need to put effort in and find your discipline and dedication, at the beginning you need a wonderful dedicated and experienced teacher that will guide you correctly, then my friend you will be able to feel the fruits and flowers of your effort with no limit or boundry - the universe will be yours.  And once you have your practice - with only a mat needed - no-body can ever take it away from you, you will be as strong as the majestic mountains.
So many people know of asana practice - the yogic postures and exercise but Swami Sivananda told us we must practice from all four paths to reach our goal of balance and harmony.  And through my own experience, I completely agree, the benefits are so diluted when we are only exposed or practice from one or even two - so here is a very brief outline of the four paths necessary to reach our goals. Extracts taken from 'YOGA your home practice companion' by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre.

What is Yoga?
Traditionally there are four paths.  Although each of them is a complete discipline in itself, it is best not to follow one path only.  Combining the four paths helps the emotional, intellectual and physical aspects of your life to develop harmony.
The four paths of Yoga.
Of the four paths, especially in the West only one is generally well-known and widely practiced - the physical and mind focusing path of Hatha and Raja Yoga, which includes postures and breathing exercises.
Hatha and Raja Yoga
This is the yoga path of body and mind control.  It is best known for its practical aspects, particularly its asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises.)  This path teaches ways of controlling the body and mind, including silent meditation, and its practices gradually transform the energy of the body and mind into spiritual energy.  This path suits people who are looking for inner and outer transformation.
Karma Yoga
This is the yogic path of action and you practice it when you act selflessly, without thinking about success or reward from that action.  The path is valued for purifying the heart and reducing the influence of the ego on your words, actions and interactions with others.  Practicing Karma yoga is the best way to prepare yourself for silent meditation.  It suits people with an active outgoing temperament.
Bhakti Yoga
This is the yogic path of devotion.  It involves prayer, worship and ritual such as festivals or holy days, including chanting and singing devotional songs.  Those who practice it eventually come to experience God as the embodiment of love.  This yoga path has great appeal for people who are emotional by nature.
Jnana Yoga
This is the yogic path of wisdom or knowledge, and it involves studying the philosophy of vedanta.  It teaches ways to examine the self and analyse human nature.  The goal of this form of yoga is to recognise the Supreme self in yourself and in all beings.  This path is best suited to intellectual people, and is considered by many to be the most challenging path.  Swami Ji recommended that one be firmly grounded in the other three paths, then one can start with Jnana Yoga.

So I wish you all beautiful exploration of all four paths and in every success in your journeys - why be stuck when you can be spinning like a child for no reason at all - just in pure delight.
AUM shanti shanti shanti 
always from the heart
Mangala - Nicky