Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why I love the Sivananda system of Yoga.

Throughout history there have been great explorers and adventure seekers, those that set sail across the oceans, those that rode camels across the deserts and those that made wings and tried to fly.  Yoga for me has been and continues to be that great exploration, the journey inwards and the exploration of the self is full of the whole world and for me it is the Sivananda system of yoga that gives me the transport to dive into that journey.  It is full of light, colour and darkness, elation and joy and then difficulties and challenges.  But Swami Sivananda has given us the opportunity to feel and experience.  To know yoga is to know what is in our hearts, he gives us the means to our own experience, an experience of feeling.  He has shown us ways to open our hearts, there is so much emphasis on the bodies and the minds these days, everyone wants that perfect body, what ever that may be or what the media presents to us, and everyone is searching for knowledge or wants to find meaning behind everything but Swami Sivananda has given us the map to feel a more complete way of life through the heart, “Develop the heart, develop the heart.” Says Sivananda.  Who cares what the body looks like as long as it is healthy, who cares if we don’t understand everything from an intellectual point of view as long as we feel.  In our hearts is all cognition of memory, all time is there, all knowledge is there, all peace is there, all light is there, so why look anywhere else?
The Sivananda system of yoga is very profound, Swami Ji was one of the  great enlightened masters who shared so much love for all people and brought so much peace to the world.  To me it is a system that puts you on an arrow and directs you straight to the centre of the heart.  And what is so beautiful is that it is accessible to everyone, beginners and very advanced practitioners alike, it is there for all of humanity whatever your culture, age, and background.
The practice always starts in stillness then there is the creation of sound with the chanting of the very powerful AUM, which is a vibration of consciousness, like the creation of the Universe.  Then there comes an awareness of the body like an awakening, moving onto working with pranayama – breath work opening the vital life force ready to move on to Suryia Namaskar; our salutations to the sun where we move through the whole body like a creation of that body then strengthening, lengthening and preparing the body for birth with the inversions.  Like birth the head comes first with the headstand and we move through the postures in the correct order working through the energy centres from the highest energy centre at the crown of the head to the earth centre at the pelvic floor.  This flow of asanas are like the journey through life, they are always changing within the body, sometimes challenging and sometimes comforting and then like the circle of life we come back to stillness in savasana our relaxation pose at the end of the class.  It is a very organic process and what you learn on the mat you can apply to the world that awaits you once you leave the studio or place where you practice.  The journey allows you to dive within, experience it and then come back out flowing from the internal to the external just like our breath flows in and out of the body.  For me I love it every time I practice I experience something else there is a real depth behind this system and often it is hard to get off the mat, I could just stay there in yoga, but like all things we have to be fluid and there are the other things in life to take care of!
His Holiness Swami Sivananda was born in 1887 in Tamil Nadu – India, and left his body in 1963.  He was one of the first Indian masters to make yoga accessible to anyone also bringing this amazing practice to the West.  He was eager to relieve human misery and decided to look within himself and became a Swami – a wondering monk – and spent long years in secluded practice in the Himalayas.  He founded the Divine life Society in Rishikesh where he trained people from all walks of life and from all over the world in the synthesis of the key paths of yoga, encompassing Hatha, Raja, Karma, Bhakti and Jnana yoga and wrote hundreds of books explaining the most complex aspects of yoga.  Today there are Sivananda teachers all over the world and centres and ashrams within India and many countries worldwide.
I hope I can bring the light of Sivananda to anyone that comes to practice with me, I certainly have felt him in my heart from the moment I saw his face staring at me from a computer screen as I searched through for teacher training courses, I saw him and knew yes this is what I am meant to do.
“Divine life is full, infinite, perfect and blissful.  Therefore lead the life divine.”  Sri Swami Sivananda
For now enjoy the journey!
May we be lead from the unreal to the real, from the darkness to light from mortality to immortality.
Om Shanti Shanti Shantih
Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What we wear for practice, words from Sadhguru.

A very nice article by Sadhguru that I thought I would share, every detail of our practice has to be considered, no stone left unturned everything has relevance and should be thought about.
Sadhguru looks at the importance of the right kind of clothing during sadhana, and the need to avoid metallic objects on the body at this time.

Sadhguru: When I did hata yoga as a young boy, the only thing we were allowed to wear was a small loincloth. The idea was that there should be as little obstruction as possible. Traditionally in India, people did not wear stitched clothing. Both the dhotis for men and the saris for women are just pieces of unstitched cloth. When clothing is stitched, the movement of energy gets restricted to some extent – you want to minimize that when doing sadhana. This does not mean that you need to start wearing a loin cloth, but yoga practitioners should not wear synthetic clothing such as the kind that athletes wear. It is best if your clothing is organic – either cotton or raw silk. Since organic raw silk may be too expensive and difficult to get, organic cotton would be the best option. Wool is all right too.
Before starting your sadhana, you should remove any objects from your body, especially metal ones. If you take an image of electromagnetic waves, even a small object will create a certain circulation around itself. If you put any object on your body, it will tend to disturb the free movement of energy. Except for a few parts of the body that are dormant, like the earlobes, any kind of metal should be removed – even nose studs. Only your rudraksh and the snake ring, you can keep on. Rudraksh is a good support that creates a cocoon of your own energy and makes you available to grace. The snake-ring because it prevents the one-in-a-million chance that you accidentally slip out of your body when you do certain sadhana. For women, if you are using any kind of metallic clips on your spine, that should go. Plastic is better than metal in terms of energy.
For the practices, you must remove your spectacles too. Many people have gotten rid of their glasses through the practice of proper yoga. For your vision to correct itself, you need to avoid wearing glasses or contact lenses for some time. If you can manage without glasses or contact lenses, try to do so. In case you get headaches, spend more time with eyes closed. If you are using contact lenses, do at least your morning sadhana without them. That way, mild vision problems may improve over a period of time.
I was brought aware of the teachings of Sadhguru some time ago and was so grateful of this charismatic man.  I look forward to hearing more from him in the future and a dream to visit his ashram one day.  For now let us consider what we are wearing for our practice more in terms of not what we are looking like but what it means in terms of energy and how that effects us. 
Have beautiful days
Om shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vitamin B12 and tofu pesto - YUM!

Vitamin B12 is an important part of our daily diet to maintain our health; it works together with folate in the synthesis of red blood cells and DNA.  It is also needed in the production of a sheath that forms around the nerves and conducts nerve impulses, so it is essential we get enough, as this sheath is what is protecting the nerves.  A deficiency can lead to anaemia, lethargy, weakness and memory loss.
Us vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk from a B12 deficiency and therefore it is important to know where we can find it.  Here there are two differences of opinions that I have found, some research suggests that there is no B12 in anything other than animal products, as plants don’t need it so they don’t store it.  Other sources say that B12 can be found in such things as Soya products such as Soya milk and silken tofu, split dhal, lentils, almonds, beetroot and wheat flour.
It is also said that fermented foods contain a rich source of this essential vitamin, in cheeses such as feta, Swiss and parmesan, in full fat and low fat yogurt and in the batters used to make idly and dosa.
There are many reasons to be vegetarian and indeed vegan these days when it is difficult now to trust what is even in our milk.  Eating meat can negatively affect us to a genetic level one reason for producing cancers.  Excess proteins found in meat can affect the kidney greatly and build up cholesterol and fatty acids, which block up the artery walls causing heart problems.  A non-vegetarians mind is internally faster and they are more prone to insomnia than us vegetarians.  Meats can create intoxication soon after being consumed and evoke hunter like qualities in a human being with a fighting mentality and where acts of cruelty become natural and a peaceful state of mind is lost.  We could go on and on about the reasons why to be vegetarian and I am by no means judging anybody’s choice, but just to have a more peaceful, harmonious and gentle mind is good enough reason for me. 
But we do need to have this B12 for our health so it is very important to include some of the above foods in your daily diet. 
I tried this recipe for the first time the other day from the Sivananda home practice companion and loved it, so here it is for you to try and top up your B12!

350gm silken tofu
Large bunch of organic fresh herbs such as basil, mint and parsley
1 tblspn of extra virgin olive oil
1 tblspn of sesame seeds or tahini
Freshly ground black pepper and rock salt to taste
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice to taste

Place all the ingredients in the blender with 3 tblspn of filtered water and process until smooth and creamy, add more water if necessary.

Enjoy your tofu pesto with a lovely spinach salad with some flax seeds hmmmmm yum!
See you all on the mat,
Om shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Things as They are.

It is very difficult to imagine the beginning of consciousness, time is within that consciousness, when we are in a deep sleep that time disappears there is no time and when we wake time reappears.  The past and future are continually playing on the mind it is very difficult to remain in the present feeling completely contented with things as they are.  This thing of time is a cover and the cover has to be removed during our waking state to reach a state of yoga, that of complete contentedness with every thing just the way it is.  But whilst we are travelling here in these human bodies we have the desire to be happy, to be more and more happy and we tend to be forever thinking of the next moment, ignoring this present one, wanting everything tomorrow to be safe and happy.  We don’t want to worry but we always worry.  We have to create a mind that is not going to be disturbed in any circumstance both in success and in failure.  External conditions should not disturb us there should be harmony.  We need to develop a mind that is in balance always.  The study of Vedanta philosophy never gives you a new knowledge, it simply removes the wrong notions about ourselves, the knowledge is already there, it teaches us that things that are coming and going are not truth, Vedanta is not going to tell you what you will become but it will tell you what you already are.  Try not to get attached to your feelings and experiences, enjoy them but don’t get attached to them, be the constant observer.  The wave is always searching the water, the cloth is searching the thread, as the person on the spiritual path is searching for truth and happiness but everything is already within us.  The wave is the very water itself as the cloth is the thread as we are Brahman: meaning absolute consciousness, existence and bliss, this is our true nature.  The body is changing every fraction of a second, we are born, undergo growth, change, existence, decay and eventually death, but this abode it temporary the light that we truly are, the light that never changes which can only be the truth has no beginning or end.  In the knowledge of what we truly are then there should be no need to worry about what is around the corner what we will become because we already are.  Our essential nature is pure joy and happiness, but the veils that prevent us from seeing that seem to become thicker and thicker, it is our right to find once again our true self and yoga is there for all of humanity to help us find it.  To put us on the path to a complete and meaningful life where everything just is at it is.  Everything generates from energy, the energy keeps moving from one wave length to another, and through our actions and the way we think we can either accelerate or slow down this energy.  Through a deep practice of yoga we can control the anabolic and catabolic systems better, (systems of rejuvenation and decay.)  Our minds should be relaxed and alert at the same time, in action and relaxed, not full of stress and worry.  We cannot stop old age to the body, this process is inevitable, but we can make happy and peaceful minds that are content with things as they are.  Yoga shows the way.
Looking forward to seeing you all on the mat,
Om Lokha Somasta Sukhino Bavantu
May we all find peace balance and harmony
Om Om Shanti Om
Mangala / Nicky