How Hatha Yoga Heals through the Three Gunas

How Hatha Yoga Heals through the Three Gunas

For healing of the whole being – body, mind and spirit, the energy must be flowing, and the mind calm so that True Spirit that is the intelligence governing the body and mind be revealed. When you practice asanas the classical Yoga way, you hold the postures. Asana is a steady pose. By holding the postures, you calm the rajas down and increase the sattwa; in other words, you become more content and introverted, and consequently more peaceful and happy.

Calming Rajas

You are not just moving constantly from one movement to another, looking outwardly – which is rajasic. Rajasic energy promotes outward-oriented action that perpetuates one’s state of discontent and desirousness and makes one looks outward for happiness. Rajasic practice maintains the state of restlessness, and will not bring you to the core of your being. A practice that allows you to be able to hold, internalize, breathe, relax in the posture connects you to your own True Self. You can read more about the Jnana yoga philosophy of the True Self.

Nourish Sattwa

This way of practice calms the rajas and brings in the sattwa. Sattwa is the purity, the balance, the connection, the wholeness of being, and the healthy sense of Self and Consciousness. This state of awareness also happens between the postures, when you breathe and relax. An advanced practitioner is the one that can hold the posture and relax, not the person who jumps around performing all kinds of variations. You can see how we practice Sivananda Yoga Asanas on this page.

Asana practice done correctly heals

The asanas, or postures, move the prana (vital energy). In order to move the energy properly, you need to follow the sequence of the asanas, breathe, relax and hold the postures steady. The twelve asanas in the Sivananda sequence start with focus on the head (headstand) and end with the feet, with balancing poses. You can watch a video of the 12 Yoga Poses here.

At the end of the sequence, the session ends with the 10 minutes of final relaxation and the final prayer, plus the 2-5 minutes of meditation. This flow of energy helps you to recover the divine order of things (going from head to feet, from consciousness to action, from the universal to the individual, and from heaven to earth). Final relaxation sweeps all earthly attachments from feet to head and is like the icing on the cake when you harvest all the benefits of the Yoga asana practice session. Divine consciousness pervades all of your being, healing body, mind, and spirit. Find out more about relaxation by reading the Science of Relaxation.

Move the prana and enjoy the relaxation

After the prana has been moved by the asanas, charging all cells and parts of the body, deep relaxation comes naturally. If you cannot meditate, you can at least experience deep relaxation. During that deep relaxation, when you no longer identify with the body, the mind and its action, you heal on a deep level. Therapy resides in the movement of the vital prana, but also in the stillness and awareness of relaxation. You can read more about the Yoga Techniques for Relaxation.

In the language of Ayurveda, when people are moving they are balancing the vayus, or the subtle energies, and when they are relaxing, they are balanced. You can also read this article on Yoga Relaxation Techniques for 3 types of stress.

Unblocking the prana flow in asana practice

Prana or vital energy moves in the 72,000 meridians or nadis in the astral body. Prana can be blocked because of wrong thinking, unhealthy diet, drugs, and a negative lifestyle. That means inside the nadis (or astral tubes carrying the prana), no energy or little energy can pass through. You become depressed and stuck, losing your power. To really understand prana please read on this satsang with Swami Sita on Understanding Prana Life Force Energy.

What happens to a garden hose carrying water when you pinch on the hose? Pressure builds up. Similarly, when you do the asanas and hold the posture, this is exactly what happens–pressure builds up. What happens to the pinched hose when you release the pressure? water rushes through forcefully, flushing out all impurities. In the same manner, when you release an asana, energy rushes through, removing blockages and clearing impurities.

To help unblock energy, you need to have these three phases in the performance of the postures:

The entering into the posture, the holding of the posture, and the coming out of the posture. You do not jump into the posture, you do not fight in the posture, and you do not drop down.
In holding the posture, you focus the mind, let yourself relax, and breathe gently.
What happens when you come out of the posture? the pressure is released and the energy flows. When the energy flows, you become less stuck in your own ego drama that is the cause of emotional reactions and diseases.
Then you go to another posture and repeat the same process: pressure, build up, then release, until you move through the series of asanas. That is how energy moves from the top to the bottom, releasing blockages.

By the time you move to the standing and balancing asanas, your mind becomes clear and focused, your energy becomes internalized, and you are ready to function in the world while keeping your energy balanced and contained.

To learn more you can read about The Importance of practicing Hatha Yoga Everyday.

How does conscious breathing and conscious relaxation heal?

There are three kinds of breathing.

inhaling breath
exhaling breath
holding breath
These three are involved in the performance of the postures. The breath varies dynamically, depending on what you do. The normal abdominal breath takes place in between postures, the breath that occurs when you are coming into and out of the posture, and the very, very subtle breath when you are holding the posture or when you retain during the alternate nostril breath or when you meditate in a posture.

However, even simple abdominal breath, or belly breath, diaphragmatic breath, yogic breath heal. Why? because the oxygen intake is doubled. This alone gives the yoga practitioner much more prana and removes stress. You can read here 27 Yoga Tips to Reduce Stress.

Breathing can be Therapeutic

For a beginner, the first thing is to breathe consciously three times a day. You can lie down for 20 minutes and that is all you do: breathe with awareness.

You can lie on your back, place a few books on the abdomen, and breathe so that the books move slowly and rhythmically, rising with the inhale and falling with the exhale.

In the breathing is the relaxation. You begin to relax, and the tension is released, recharging you with prana. This alone will bring a person back to him/herself, calm down the mind, and renew the connection with the true Self that is pure healing. To learn more about increasing prana you can read this article on Increasing Prana through the 5 Elements.

Balancing effect of Hatha Yoga

Pranayama is an essential part of Hatha Yoga. In most situations where people become imbalanced and experience psychic, mental, or emotional problems, tension in the body and stress, they are only breathing through one nostril. At that time, just by doing the Alternate Nostril breathing (Anuloma Viloma), by bringing the breath into both nostrils in a balance manner, already their situation will improve 100%. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.

The ideal way in Hatha Yoga is to equalize the breath in both nostrils, so that the breath flows through both sides of the nostrils at the same time. The Ha (solar) energy and the Tha (lunar) energy, the hot and the cold, the yin and the yang, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are in balance. Active and passive energy are in balance. The mind and the emotions are in balance.

Why do we need to do sun salutations in the beginning?

Sun Salutations break the tamas, besides warming up all the muscles of the body and preparing you to turn inwards. The active movement of the body wakes up the tamas, or the force of inertia. After sun salutations, you will be successful in slowing down and relaxing, calming down the energy of rajas. When you are rajasic, the eyes are constantly moving around and the breathing is erratic.

When a person is calm, he or she breathes normally, the eyes are steady and the person can close the eyes, going through the sequence of postures. In the final relaxation, the person can move through the stages of the final relaxation, entering into a deep state of relaxation–a sattvic state.

Spiritual intention helps the practitioner to heal

A Yoga session must have the spiritual wrapping at the beginning and at the end, –i.e. a time to dedicate the practice, a moment of silence, prayers to channel all thoughts and surrender the results of the practice, and a thankful moment for the peace and relaxation received. During the practice, peace comes to the physical, the mental and the spiritual bodies. This leads to a deep Self-Awareness. Learn more by reading about Self Awareness and Intuition.

In deep relaxation, the practitioner rests in their core center, the causal body, and releases negative karmas carried in the subconscious. One gets in touch with one’s own Self and develops the right perspective about life, becoming deeply contented no matter what is happening externally. This is tremendous healing. To learn more read about the Deeper Path of Yoga Healing.

To learn more about this topics in person you can sign up for one of our Foundational Yoga Courses or consider signing up for our Yoga Teacher Training Course.

© Swami Sitaramananda 2018 No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.

The Mind Can be Either Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy

The Mind Can be Either Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy

Observe the Mind

You are the observer of the mind. You are the witness of the mind. The mind is not you. It is your instrument. It is your tool. It is like when you drive a car. You don’t say the car is me. The car is a tool. You can stop it, you can start it , you can park it, and you can leave it alone. Observe the mind. How to do it: you realize that the mind functions in a certain way. So you have to learn about the mechanics of the mind, how the mind works. Here is an article on 5 Practices to Keep the Mind Elevated.

Understand how the Mind works

The mind is like a horse running in the wild. You catch the horse, you put the reins on it, and you know what happens? Can you tame the horse? No. You have seen the cowboy movies and how difficult it is to tame a horse, to break a horse. It doesn’t like to be tamed. Meaning, it doesn’t like to be disciplined. The mind, the nature of the mind, does not like to be tamed. It does not like to be told what to do, does not like to be disciplined, because it likes to run wild. In order for you to tame it, you cannot force your mind, you have to be a friend with it. This short article talks about How to Progress towards Peace of Mind.

You have to be friends with the horse and then slowly, slowly you show it that you are the master. You tell it where to go, you encourage it. If it goes in the wrong direction, you say no. You have to go slowly. You have to be friends with your mind.

That means if you hate your mind and you say, “Mind stop it! I told you not to think so much about it. Why do you think so much about it?! I don’t like you.”

Would it work? No, the mind would go wild, it would think of 10,000 things.

Do Not Force the Mind

You need to be consistent, patient, and steady. You have to gently bring it back. If the mind goes away, bring it back and focus on Om, bring it back over and over again. After some time, the “horse” will calm down by bringing it back to Om. After some time it knows the reins. It knows what the master wants and it just will stay there with Om, Om, Om, Om, and then you can go deeper and feel oh so good. You cannot force the mind, you cannot beat the mind. This article talks about How to Avoid Unhealthy Habits of the mind.

Become a Witness to the Mind

Meditation is constant observation of the mind. If you think you are the mind can you observe the mind? In order for you to observe the mind you have to know that you are not the mind. You are not the thoughts. You are not the emotions.

Lets say you have emotions in the mind. You say, ” I am angry. I am so angry today.”

Instead you say, “there is anger in my mind.” The mind is an object, something that can be seen.

Bring your mind to OM. Find your point of focus. Get in touch with the inner silence, the place of fulfillment, the place of joy. Let your thoughts come and go, have one pointed concentration, silence for a few minutes. Recharge yourself. Stay as a witness. You can learn more about the importance of meditation in this article Understanding Why we need to Meditate.

Finding Balance through Yoga Tools and Practices

Finding Balance through Yoga Tools and Practices

Balancing the energies

The practice of Yoga aims to achieve inner balance. Hatha (Ha Tha) Yoga is balance between the sun and the moon energy. It is the balance between the hot and cold, active and passive, male and female, yin and yang. We need to learn to regulate our energy and understand that all of our problems are coming from the imbalance of energy. Imbalance of energy is manifested in personalities. We can alleviate the imbalance of personality through regulating our  energy.

When we are imbalanced, it is like we see reality lopsided because we have a lopsided vision. The imbalance is often times between the emotions and the intellect, that means a person would be left brain dominant or right brain dominant.

Left Brain

A left brain dominant person would not have connection to their emotions . You can say the emotions are stuck, or they cannot feel them because the left side of the personality is dominating the right side, so the person’s behavior  is more rigid as everything has to go through the reasoning. They cannot be spontaneous, they have difficulty to practice empathy, either for one’s self or for others. Empathy means putting yourself in the skin of somebody, and understanding the feeling and the experience of somebody, or even putting yourself in your own skin as well and have the feeling for one’s own self, and know how to harmonize our emotions and to adapt. The person can appear self- absorbed . In fact any imbalance either emotional or intellectual brings about self -absorption.  Tuning means adjusting , adapting, harmonizing, moderating . You would say  “this is the right thing, the right tone, the right attitude , the right reaction”. In the absence of tuning, there will be unhappiness, lack of touch of one’s emotions, there can be self violence, self torture, self denial, addiction, intolerance, fanaticism , abuse, passive aggressive attitude, emotional outburst and emotional repression, incapacity to stop and to regulate yourself back or know what is right and wrong for yourself.  It can create difficulties to oneself and to others because it only sees one side of the picture , the logical side. But the truth is life is not just logical,  life is not just black or white.

Right Brain

A right brain dominant person would be immersed in their emotions, their likes and dislikes. They would think:  “I like this until I die or I dislike this until something or myself will be destroyed. “ The emotions swing and the mind is up and down, all this or all that.

Finding the balance

If we are alternating  between Right and Left brain behavior, it is not called balance. It is just compensation and not balance.

A balanced person is a Yogi who has achieved equanimity of mind because they have found themselves and they can be adapting to situations and to people without loosing their sense of Self.

That person is basically calm in all conditions, they do not get excited about anything , neither get despondent about anything.  They are content and go about their life, centered in the Self, not living life to attract attention or to prove something.

We need to be aware that an exceptional person that stands out from the crowd is not necessarily balanced but often, they are so imbalanced that they create their mark in history because of their imbalances.

We are not born perfect, so we all need to regulate ourselves through Yoga.

What to do?

First we need to recognize that our unhappiness comes from our imbalanced state and not coming from anyone else. Grief and blame come from our lack of recognition that this difficulty comes from our own outlook . Integral Yoga practice gives you a little bit of reprieve because it balances the two hemispheres of the brain and awakens the Self Knowledge . Yoga practice by helping you to recognize your strength and weakness, by regulating your energy , acts as a pain  preventative measure and a self renewal tonic.

Your new balanced Self: Practiced regularly, it prevents you from returning to your habitual mode of imbalance – falsely identified to be your own Self . When you grow in Yoga, you slowly change your patterns and feel gradually very different as if you are losing yourself, but in fact you are regaining your own True Glorious Radiant Self.

© Swami Sitaramananda 2014 No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.

Tuning your Mind to Inspiring Thoughts

Tuning your Mind to Inspiring Thoughts

The body is like a vehicle and the proper exercise is like the oiling system of the body all the parts coming together.  Proper breathing is like the battery for the car.  Sometimes the battery in the car is dead like you wake up in the morning and you can’t get up.  You have no prana no energy.  You need to jump start he car that is the proper breathing.  Then for every car you need to have a cooling system and that is the relaxation.  You need to cool the system otherwise it will over heat.  You need to learn to relax.  The diet is like the fuel you put into the car.  You have to put the proper fuel so that it will work.  You have to eat a proper diet in order for you to be functioning ultimately and not having toxins blocking your system.

What do you need to get the car going?

Then you have the car that functions very well but what else do you need in order to get to your destination?  You need a good driver.  If you put a driver that is sleepy or stoned or spaced out, the car will never get to the destination.  It will crash.

Fifth point of yoga life

The fifth point is putting the driver behind the wheel.  The car is your body and mind.  You are born with the body and mind and you have a journey.  Remember we talked about that.  It is a journey from here to there, from impurity to purity, from imperfection to perfection, from fear of death to immortality, from ignorance to wisdom.  The body and mind are our vehicles.  They are not us.  The point number one in yoga is to understand that the body is not us.  It is a vehicle.  When you do asanas you slowly take back the mastership of your vehicle.  The mind is a subtle instrument and the body is a gross instrument but still the mind is not the consciousness.  It is not that which actually governs.

Positive thinking and meditation

Positive thinking and meditation is that point.  The most difficult portion is to be clear in mind and balance in mind in order for you to know what to know and progress in life.

You have to know the nature of thoughts, the nature of your mind in order for you to learn how to think.  You don’t know what influences your thought.  You don’t know that thought creates destiny. Whatever you think that is what you become.  Therefore you need to be very careful with your thinking.  The thinking is what is destroying you and is making you take the wrong decisions.  The same thinking will open all doors and it is the thinking that will free you.  It is all about how to tune.

Tuning the mind

Tune means to regulate, to change your thought wavelength.  Every thought has a wavelength.  That means that depending of the nature of the thought it has certain purity or certain power.  A low wavelength is a negative, superficial, worldly thought that is not related to your core Self.  The thought that is sublime that is high, is all inclusive, is universal and more corresponding to the true that thought has a higher wavelength.

If your thought wavelength is low all the time like when you are feeling pity for yourself, you are wondering how come I don’t have that, and you watch tv cheap novels, gossiping, and you live in an environment with people that always have these kind of thoughts then you will become that.  The thought atmosphere will influence your own thought wavelength.  By connecting to a good thought wavelength you elevate your own energy.  You can connect to us in face book or register to our blog.  There are also good positive thoughts in the environment as well as the negative ones.  They are in the subtle atmosphere.  Like right now I am broadcasting the thoughts of Vishnudevananda and you are the good listeners and hopefully when you go home you will continue to tune to the good thoughts.  It is said that thought is like an ocean and we are swimming in it at all time absorbing the vibrations.  The more you tune to high thought wavelength the better your life will be.

How to tune to positive thoughts

Driving the vehicle of our life, the body and mind on the journey to Self realization and into a higher potential demands a lot of awareness about what we are thinking and learning how to control the mind.  Everyday constantly you manipulate thoughts in your mind.  If you manipulate negative thoughts it will destroy you.  It will make you sick.  If you learn how to change the negative thoughts to positive thoughts then you have more energy.  Sometimes we are not aware of the negative thoughts in our mind and they bring our energy down.  The best thing to do is to build up a reservoir of positive thoughts.

First you need to learn how to withdraw and then you do yoga asanas breathing with awareness. Do pranayama.  Work on your diet.  Then you work on your daily routine.  You cut out of your daily life things that are not necessary.  Like hours watching TV you can cut it, keep something good that is good for you and cut off the rest.  Do little things here and there and you see how you life quality will improve, your heath will improve as well.  Any thought that is repeated has more power that something that is new.  So here in the ashram we repeat a lot because one time it sounds good but them we forget it.  That is why we have to repeat and repeat constantly and learn to watch the negative thoughts that come and let then go. The reason the thought waves take us all over the place is because we have not learned to focus.  Once we learn how to focus when the negative thoughts come and try to pull you out then you let then go and say no and stay focused.  That is how you build up your positivity and your focus.

How positive thinking influence our life

We need to make sure to send out only positive thoughts because that is what is called the karmic reaction.  That means if you send negative thoughts they will bounce back to you.  If you learn how to see only positive things in other people and send positive thoughts out what will come back to you will be positive.  Keep the mind positive nurturing the positive thoughts in your mind then you will become so generous because you will have so much.  It is not about money you have thoughts to give.  Walking in the street you send the positive thoughts out and you will find people smiling at you.  But if you walk around cursing this and that then you find all kinds of difficulties in your life.

We are all the time like a broadcasting antenna all the time sending and receiving and we receive the same nature of what our thoughts are.  That is how friends happen.  Sometimes you become friend to somebody very quickly because your thought wave is there and sometimes you can live with somebody and you are not in harmony.  Two people live in a big house and it feels small because you cannot stand somebody’s thoughts.  Sometimes many people live in a small room and they are fine because the thought waves are tuned.

Those that would like to know more you will have to take the time because this is huge topic.  I would advise you to get the book Thought Power by Swami Sivananda.  Take more courses that will help you learn more about the mind and how it works.


© Swami Sitaramananda 2014 No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.

20 Inspirations for Lasting Happiness

20 Inspirations for Lasting Happiness

1. When the mind is more focused, you are happier.  When the mind is one-pointed, it doesn’t swing so much. If it doesn’t have many waves, then you are happy.

2.  Objects appear to give you happiness because of the conditioning of your mind to like this and dislike that, but truly objects cannot bring you lasting happiness. All objects are external things, but happiness comes from within you; it is your true nature.

3.  Happiness that is the result of habit is not free and unlimited, therefore it comes and goes.

4.  The value of an object depends on your desire for it. The attainment of the desired object gives instant happiness, but this happiness is fleeting.

5.  Desire is fantasy projected outward and onto an object. The desire cannot be satisfied, because satisfaction will only fan the desire for something else. Thus desire makes you unhappy.

6.  The promise of happiness in fact is unhappiness, because it leads to discontent.

7.  The satisfaction of a desire reveals the desireless-ever-fulfilled soul. So why not recognize the source of happiness and enjoy limitless happiness, instead of having glimpses of it from one desire to another – alternating with suffering, fear, and dissatisfaction.

8.  There is no true happiness residing in the object. The happiness when the desired object is attained comes from the soul, not because the object is soulful, but because the desire for the object ceases to block the recognition of the pure bliss and happiness which is the soul ‘s nature.

9.  Some objects can give you happiness more than others just because you are programmed to think so. Often you are programmed to think so before your birth,  carried on from birth to birth. Therefore it is difficult to think that what you like or dislike is just a preprogrammed habit. You identify with it and you lose perspective.

10.  Likes and dislikes are before birth and are karmic patterns.

11.  It is possible to see the true happiness of your own nature using your mind, you just have to make the mind calm and un-wavy (devoid of thoughts). When the mind is wavy, you can only see a distorted picture of what constitutes happiness, what constitutes yourself. Therefore, it is important to keep the mind calm and transparent – like a mirror or a calm lake–so you can see yourself.

12. The goal is not to do something and get somewhere, but to calm the mind so you can contemplate your true nature as happiness.

13. In a transcendental state of mind, you find bliss. In a one-pointedness state of mind, you find happiness. In a gathering state of mind, you find peace.

14. In a distracted state of mind, you feel unhappy and restless. In dull state of mind, you feel unhappy and lethargic.

15. Many temporary feelings of happiness lined up will not become the unlimited happiness that we are after. Adding many fleeting feelings of happiness together will not equal the one big happiness. Adding diamond happiness to furniture happiness to travel happiness to jobs happiness to husband happiness will not make the big happiness.

16. The big happiness is your own Self.

17. Unhappiness means failing to see the truth of happiness, because we are too busy seeing objects.

18. Using the same mind, trying again and again to find happiness in external objects is the trap of the mind which leads us to repeat the same patterns again and again.

19. You do yourself disfavor by satisfying the desires of the mind, because you become more unhappy as a result.

20.  Work through your karmic patterns and your mind will find happiness independent from external objects.

© Swami Sitaramananda 2014 No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.