Treat your life like a lover…

Embrace it, approve of it, adore it, accept it.  Find inspiration in your life, the way you find inspiration in the eyes of your beloved. Treat it with reverence and respect it.

Don’t throw it away, don’t abuse it, don’t waste it or neglect it.

Dedicate yourself to it. And when you have begun to truly love your life, then offer it as a service to the world so that everyone else can be as happy as you are.

We are all responsible for the way our world is today. One-off gestures don’t make a difference; we have to change our attitudes. The transformation must begin at the individual level, and filter out like a ripple across a lake. Serve the world with love and knowledge; it’s our responsibility to uplift ourselves and our world.

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Daily yoga routine

A daily yoga routine must involve all principles of yoga. This means that you must:

-begin with a warm-up by doing gentle stretches, eye-exercises and neck rolls
-start asanas – a cycle of postures which include sitting and standing positions
-relax the body gradually after the postures
-start pranayam, or breathing techniques
-sit in padmasan (lotus position) for meditation

All this must be done on an empty stomach, and any food a yogi eats must be sattvic (pure, light, vegetarian).

God

Even before Nietzsche announced the ‘death of God’, people had begun to accept that perhaps God was just a human invention. The concept of God had no real significance except to keep society under control and allow some people to wield power over others. The mixing of religion, politics and God have led to much delusion and confusion about what God really represents. Also, the way in which we speak of God, as a patriarch having human tendencies, has led to many disputes between groups over what God really ‘wants’ from us.

In yogic terms, God is not an individual force; it is the ultimate uniting force and origin of the universe. Through social conditioning, we have been referring to God as ‘he’ for centuries, although God is neither male nor female. For me, the use of this pronoun is just a technicality. I feel that every religion has a true, mystical side which recognises the true essence of God, but the overlay of social practices has clouded this essence and created divisions amongst people of different faiths. That is why I prefer not to think of God in terms of any religion at all, but try and see the essential teaching in every faith. Although I value yogic teachings for their logic and health benefits, I do not adhere particularly to the conventional Hindu take on God.

I think God has a place in our lives because it brings about an awareness of our spiritual identity. It reminds us of the inevitability of death and teaches us to live a more meaningful life. Even with abounding physical health, mental prowess and access to life’s pleasures, living is incomplete without the experience of love. And God represents the highest and most universal expression of love.

Meditation

Meditation is a crucial part of any yogic practice. Even the physical postures are supposed to be done in a meditative frame of mind so that one pose flows into the next. This is because yoga is as much about spiritual and mental well-being as it is about physical health and suppleness. In fact, yoga promotes the idea that every aspect of human experience affects every other aspect so mental health is very important for attaining true physical health.

The yogic term for meditation is ‘dhyana’, often translated as concentration. There are a variety of different exercises, such as:
– visualisation
– chakra concentration
– external focus on objects
– chanting

The best way to begin is with visualisation, as this is the easiest method. All you need is imagination, perhaps some music, and a comfortable, undisturbed space.

Imagine yourself sitting on a beach, a mountain or any beautiful, calming place. Observe the details around you, notice the natural beauty surrounding you. Now concentrate on one thing in this scene, like a tree or a wave. Notice its qualities. Now gradually imagine yourself becoming that thing. The separation between you and the world fades gradually. Repeat the mantra, ‘so ham’, which means ‘I am that’. Begin by doing this for 5 minutes for a week and you can gradually build up to half an hour with practice.

Visualisation can be very powerful and is a safe method to use for beginners who are not used to working directly with the chakra energy.

Prana and Pranayama

‘Prana’ means ‘life force’ and ‘pranayama’ is the practice of regulating the life-force energy of the body by using yogic breathing techniques. Prana is the substance of life, the substance which the soul is made up of; when a person dies, it is their ‘prana’ which leaves the body.

Yogananda described in his book, Autobiography of a Yogi, how prana can be regulated in order to facilitate divine union and optimum health. He calls this process ‘Kriya Yoga’ and it is still practised today. However, one must obtain ‘initiation’ from an established yogi in order to become a member of the Kriya Yoga Foundation.

Yogananda’s is not the only technique to put emphasis on prana. Virtually every type of yoga focuses on prana in one way or another. The most common yogic practices are:
1) Aulom Vilom
2) Kalabhati
3) Bhastrika
4) Sithali and Sitkari

What is yoga?

Yoga means ‘union with the universe’. It is a system of living which provides for the mental, spiritual and physical well-being of human souls.

Yoga was related through the Vedas and Upanishads (ancient Hindu texts). It was practised by holy men in India over 5000 years ago. The Hindus believe in four types of yoga: karma, bhakti, gyani and raja. Now many more variations have been created within these four frameworks.

Karma yoga is the yoga of action (do unto others as you would have done unto you; as the Bible also says, ‘whatever a man soweth, that shall he reap’).

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion and self-sublimation in God’s love.

Gyani yoga is the yoga of mental understanding of how the universe works.

Raja yoga is a combination of all of the above and combines dhyana (meditation) with asanas (postures) as well as pranayama (regulation of breathing for maximum benefit).

The world is said to be created by Brahma, sustained by Vishnu and destroyed by Shiva. Yoga helps us to tune into the cosmic energies so that we can easily embrace and deal with the reality of birth, life and death. It helps us to lead a life that is meaningful and joyous. Yoga is about personal awareness and experience rather than a subscribed belief system. In that way, it’s a bit like Buddhism. There are many yogic theories ‘out there’, but it’s really about what you experience ‘in here’, so to speak.