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TYPES OF YOGA

By Gaurang Chandarana | May 29th, 2015 | LEAVE A COMMENT

 

Purpose of Yoga

The purpose of Yoga is to take the mind to a level of perfect concentration. A state where there are no thought waves. It is said that in this state, we realize true knowledge of ourselves and creation. It is a state of expanding consciousness such that it merges with universal consciousness. That is why, Yoga is also described as ‘union’ or ‘becoming part of’.

Evolution of Types of Yoga

There are definitions and explanations given in different ways. However, this can only be achieved through perfect concentration of the mind. There are so many different types of minds, that there cannot be one identical path for everyone. That is where a Guru would come into the picture. A guru was a Rishi who would know the type of mind of the student and accordingly prescribe the path and the techniques to follow. Over the centuries, some of them became more prevalent and at some stage, these started getting documented. So the purpose and meaning of Yoga is the same and at the higher levels, it is all about meditation and concentration. However, to prepare us, the techniques could be different. These are what are known as the types of Yoga.

Different Types of Yoga

Let us look at some of the types of Yoga. There are numerous types of Yoga. There are various techniques and tools. Since Yoga is so vast, anyone can pick up a small tool, technique or path and call it something. However, they are not exclusive to each other. In the Yoga Sutra, one can find almost 17 techniques or ‘types’ of Yoga. However, most of them are meant for very spiritually advanced students who have a steady mind. Let us look at some of the more popular or heard of types of Yoga:

  1. Ashtanga Yoga
  2. Hatha Yoga
  3. Kriya Yoga
  4. Tantra Yoga
  5. Japa Yoga
  6. Mantra Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga

The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali has put forward Ashtanga Yoga as the most appropriate for all individuals. Ashta means eight and Anga means body or parts of a body. So the eight parts of the body of Yoga is called Ashtanga Yoga. The eight steps or parts are:

1) Yama – These are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (control on sensory pleasures) and Aparigraha (non-hoarding or non-accumulation).

2) Niyama – These are Saucha (physical and mental cleanliness), Santosh (contentment), Tapa (perseverance), Swadhyaya (self study) and Ishwar Pranidhana (Faith in a higher power)

3) Asana – These are physical practices to train the mind and make the body ready for the following stages.

4) Pranayama – Control of the energy force which is represented through breathing. This helps to control and calm the mind and also provides a lot of physiological and psychic benefits.

5) Pratyahara – This is withdrawal or cessation of desires and attraction to sensory objects. It is only when we are free from desires can we concentrate.

6) Dharana – This is the initial stage of going deeper within by concentrating on a mental object, physical object or some internal process or body part as given by a guru.

7) Dhyana – This is a deeper level of concentration where one is completely ready for the final stage.

8) Samadhi – This is the stage when the entire mind is concentrated fully with no thought waves. There is realization of true knowledge and an individual gets liberated from the cycle of births and deaths.

Hatha Yoga

The Yoga Sutras mention Asanas and Pranayamas but nothing more is given. To understand and practice these, one has to refer to Hatha Yoga. Hatha means perseverance. At the same time it also means balancing the two aspects of every individual. When perfect balance is achieved, realization occurs. Hatha Yoga has a much stronger emphasis on the physical practices to prepare for meditation.

There are stringent routines, discipline and diet requirements. There are asanas and cleansing processes called kriyas to prepare the body for pranayama. There are Bandhas (locks) and Mudras (positions and gestures). The entire psychic operation of the body is explained in Hatha Yoga scriptures. This is where we come to know of chakras, nadis and kundalini.

Kriya Yoga

The last three niyamas constitute Kriya Yoga, viz; Tapa, Swadhyaya, Ishwar Pranidhana. By itself, this is a difficult path but is appropriate for individuals who have a lot of faith and are work oriented.

Tapa means to persevere in your path to Yoga. Obstacles are only learning opportunities and not a problem. Swadhyaya means studying the self internally, including the mind and constantly improving. Ishwar Pranidhana means to have faith in a higher power. There should be no goals or expectations or targets of any kind. The moment goals or expectations enter the picture, Yoga ends.

Tantra Yoga

Tantra means expanding consciousness. Tantra makes use of the five senses to transcend them and reach a stage or realization. It makes use of sounds, symbols, colors, smells, touch, sex and psychology to reach the highest stages. This is why it is known to be dangerous. If one does not have the right guru, it can destroy the psyche.

There are four main types of Tantra: Vishnu Tantra, Shaiva Tantra, Shakta Tantra and Buddhist Tibetan Tantra. There are good tantriks and tantriks who misuse their knowledge and powers. There are are quite a few tantra scriptures and a well laid out path, similar to the Yoga Sutras. There are types of mind which are explained, psychology, what to do with each type of mind, etc.

Mantra Yoga

Mantra is a syllable or a word given by a guru. The mantra need not have any meaning at all. It is the sound and the intonation which is important as it activates psychic centers and takes the student to a higher level of consciousness. Since mantras impact us significantly, we cannot pick up any word and syllable and practice. It can harms us physiologically and mentally. However, there are some common mantras given which everyone can safely practice. Two examples of such mantras are ‘Om’ and Gayatri Mantra.

Japa Yoga

Constant chanting of a mantra is Japa. Japa is of three types: a) Normal audible chanting b) Very subtle chanting with barely any sound and c) Chanting in the mind and internalizing it. There are some people who also write mantras as it is difficult to recite in the mind. There are some who make use of external aids like a counting beads mala.

Summary

To sum up, there are different types of Yoga, but all with the same purpose. The types are determined by a Guru. The most practical type of Yoga for all of us is Ashtanga Yoga as the first three steps can be practiced even without a guru. To make a beginning with Yoga, take our traditional online yoga programs.

LIVE LONG, BREATHE CORRECTLY

By Gaurang Chandarana | May 25th, 2015 | LEAVE A COMMENT

What is Breathing

Simply stated, breathing is a process which helps get oxygen in the body and get rid of carbon dioxide which builds up inside. Oxygen is required for the entire body to function. From a Yoga point of view, it is Prana. It is the life force within you. Depending on which part of the body it helps to function, it is given different names. The part which makes you breathe and keep you alive is called Prana. It is also the way we understand if we are alive or dead. There is no breathing when we are dead.

Therefore, your breathing is your life force. It is the most important function of the body. You can live without food for a long time. There are instances of people living even without water for a long time. However, you cannot live without breathing. Even if you train yourself to hold your breath, a few minutes is the maximum you can live without breathing.

Breathing and Long Life

The length of time of you will stay is called ‘ayu’ or age. Now this age is not a chronological age. It is not measured by number of years. It is measured by the total number of breaths you take. The more irregular or faster your breathing, the lesser you live. That is why Yogis can live for very long. Their breathing is much slower and more subtle than anyone else. If you compare different animals, you will notice this phenomenon. Rabbits breathe very fast and their lifespan is small. Dogs also breathe fast. Elephants breathe much slower. Turtles breathe the slowest, so they can live for a hundred years. Humans fall somewhere in between.

Three aspects of Breathing

There are three key aspects of breathing which are important for breathing. These are all automatic with children. A small child breathes in the most perfect and natural way. Once we start growing older, we forget to breathe. The breathing patterns start getting distorted after puberty. These get adversely impacted with stress and lack of awareness of our own breathing. There are three important aspects of breathing.

A. Using all The Breathing Muscles

There are three important muscles in the body which are involved in breathing. If we become aware of these and optimize their utilization, the lungs automatically function well. These are:

  • The diaphragm. This is most visible when we breathe when our stomach moves up and down. See how a baby breathes when it is sleeping and we will realize how our diaphragm should function.
  • The intercostal muscles. These are the muscles around the rib cage and chest. We should learn to breathe by keeping the diaphragm steady and without movement. We then only use the rib cage to breathe by expanding it sideways (and not upwards, like we normally do).
  • The clavicular muscles. These are the very small muscles which are just below the clavicular bone below the neck. These come into the picture when we need to breathe hard and fast. If these are well trained, breathing becomes easier.

When we train ourselves regularly, all three of these start functioning in conjunction and as required. It becomes a sub-conscious process.

B. Equalize Your Breathing

The second important aspect is to breathe equally. This means, our inhalation and exhalation should be of the same duration. If you inhale in three seconds, you should also exhale in three seconds. None of us normally breathe like this. We always exhale faster. Equalize your breathing for better health.

C. Lower Number of Breaths

The third most important aspect is to have a lower number of breaths per minute. We normally breathe between twelve to sixteen breaths a minute. The lower the number of breaths per minute, greater is your lifespan.

There are many techniques available to achieve all of this. Hatha Yoga has three very specific techniques available to achieve all three of the above aspects, viz; a) Using all breathing muscles b) Equalizing your breathing and c) Lowering the number of breaths per minute.

For very relevant online yoga programs which are authentic and from India, visit wellzee.com 

ASANAS – A SMALL STEP TO YOGA

By Gaurang Chandarana | May 17th, 2015 | LEAVE A COMMENT

 

Asanas are not Yoga

There is a misconception these days that asanas mean Yoga or vice-versa. This is incorrect. Asanas are a very small part of one of the paths to Yoga which is Ashtanga Yoga. It is probably not even five percent of Yoga. In fact, there are many other paths to Yoga where asanas as a practice do not even figure.

Why This Focus on Asanas?

Yoga started become popular in the last fifty years or so with the physical aspect of Yoga and Hatha Yoga. Also asanas, kriyas and breathing techniques started getting focused on as effective therapies. This brought in the misunderstanding that Yoga is mainly asanas. Also, Yoga went to the west as physical practices and came back as acrobatics, something for muscles, energy, fitness, slim bodies and therapy. So the entire essence of asanas as well as Yoga is lost.

What are asanas?

Asanas are the third step in Ashtanga Yoga as given in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. There are one hundred and ninety five sutras and only three of them refer to asanas. These have been defined as sthiram sukham asanam. This means the following:

  • Any pose which is correctly done.
  • The posture and the anatomy should be correct.
  • The pose should cause no discomfort at all.
  • We should be able to hold the pose for a reasonable length of time without pain, discomfort or fatigue for at least two minutes and going up to three hours. Of course this is not possible initially.

Progress with Asanas

Once we progress and are able to hold a pose for longer durations, we are actually supposed to give up asanas and only focus on breathing and meditation. The best and the only asanas to do even as per the Hatha Yoga scriptures are meditative postures. It is clearly mentioned, that attachment to asanas is incorrect unless these are practiced as meditation and to build internal awareness. However, we have to practice them due to the following reasons:

  • Asanas and kriyas start making the body healthy. If we have illnesses, diseases or low immunity we will not be able to practice pranayama or meditate.
  • We have to be physical fit right up to the cellular level. This can happen only with asanas and no other physical activity or sports.
  • Our body should be capable of sitting in an upright position for long hours without getting physically fatigued or getting back aches. Asanas provide this training and prepare the body.
  • Asanas help train the mind which is initially very restless. The whole mind has to be focused on the body and breathing, else you will not be able to get into or retain a posture.
  • Asanas help build up body awareness. Yoga as therapy works, but to actually progress on Yoga, one has to build awareness. If you do not practice with awareness, it just becomes an acrobatic exercise.
  • The mind is lazy. Asanas train the mind. Imagine doing the same practices in the same order for the same length of duration, at the same time and in the same place for months in a row. It is scary. If you can manage this, a lot of positive changes occur with the mind and in your life.

Why Focus on Asanas?

Even though we have seen that asanas are not Yoga, they are one of the most important aspects of Yoga. Asanas provide complete exercise to the body at all levels;

  • Cardiovascular exercise
  • Weight bearing exercising
  • Stretching and strengthening
  • Anaerobic and aerobic

This is essential as we are all becoming sedentary. Asanas also involve the breath and has a positive impact on the entire breathing process. In addition, they help calm the mind and make it focused. So For all beginners on the path to Yoga, the first three steps for quite a few years are more than enough; Yama, Niyama and Asanas.

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PROTECT YOUR SPINE FOR FITNESS

By Gaurang Chandarana | May 12th, 2015 | LEAVE A COMMENT

 

Orthopedic Problems on the Rise

One of the major problems these days is an impact on the spine due to the kind of work we do. Most of the work is table bound and done on computers and devices. To compound the problem, there is no activity at all for hours in a row. A combination of these factors along-with incorrect nutrition leads to different types of orthopedic problems. The most common one is weakening of the spine and losing flexibility. This leads to aches and pains and many other problems later on. All the degenerative diseases which were previously the prerogative of senior citizens are now to be seen in young people and even children.

Role of the Spine

The spinal cord is the most important part of your body after the brain. It is part of the central nervous system and carries nerves which carry messages to and from the body. The bone structure around it brings strength and flexibility to the body in addition to protecting the spinal cord. We can all well imagine how we could function without a spine.

Interesting Research on Spine

There has been an interesting research done in India in two groups. The first were laborers working on construction sites and the second group consisted of office goers and middle and upper level executives. They was adequate representation of men and women in both the groups.

Group 1 – Laborers

The laborers in many cases were found to have some damage. In many cases the cervical or lumbar bones were fused. In some there was wear and tear observed. But the spine was strong and flexible. Also, the laborers did not experience any pain. They did not get any diseases as well.

Group 2 – Executives

In the executives it was found that there was no damage to the spine. However, a lot of them had debilitating pain, cervical pain, sciatica and more. Even when they were told that there was no damage to the spine, the pain would not go. Eventually, in such cases, there is bone density loss and slipped disc and cervical spondylosis after a certain age.

This research shows that the spine needs to be in action.

Keeping the Spine Healthy

The spine remains fit and healthy not due to any one factor but many factors. Like all other parts of the body, the more use it in different ways, the healthier it remains. However, over straining may damage it. Conversely, not using it damages it even more. The following are some of the key factors for a healthy spine:

  • Moderate but consistent physical activity through the day
  • Some weight bearing activities
  • Correctly stretching it regularly
  • Correct postures while standing, walking, sitting and even lying down
  • Regular Walking
  • Good diet and nutritional inputs

Asanas and the Spine

Yoga is very clear as regards to spine fitness. When we go through Yoga anatomy, it is clearly mentioned that the spine has to be stretched regularly in six ways. These are:

  • Upward stretching
  • Side bends or stretching
  • Twisting
  • Forward bending
  • Backward bend or stretching
  • Inversions

If all of these are done regularly, the spine remains healthy. Therefore, asanas are designed to incorporate all of these. However, one cannot do this on their own. Guidance is required especially if you have any other health problems. Also inversions are to be done only under guidance and after you have practiced regularly for at least six months.

To improve your spine and get rid of aches, pains and orthopedic problems take our relevant online yoga programs from wellzee. A fit and healthy spine leads to longevity and great brain health as well.

THE BEST FITNESS AND WEIGHT LOSS EXERCISE

By Gaurang Chandarana | May 8th, 2015 | LEAVE A COMMENT

 

Background

There are so many health issues cropping up across the world. There is hardly anyone today who is completely fit. If we do not have any major problems then we have inadequate health. We are always just a bit below our efficiency. We get colds and digestive problems more frequently or feel stressed or ‘mentally low’. All of these are signs of potential health problems.

Reasons for Health Challenges

There are so many reasons for health challenges that it is now difficult to pin point anything. In fact, it is a combination of all of them which make it worse. Air pollution, noise pollution, heat, skewed weather, pesticide and hormone laden food, excess non-vegetarian food, use of plastic, stress, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and so on. In short we are living completely in the opposite fashion from which we are meant to .

Main Solution

The main solution to keeping fit is exercise of some kind. There are many things we could do. Weight lifting at the local gymnasium, running, dancing, swimming, tennis, squash, martial arts, strength training, walking and any other new forms of exercise. Most of us do nothing. Even the ones who do, it is not regular or consistent enough. Either we over do exercise or do it 3 to 4 times a week for an hour everyday.

Exercise Frequency

Do you know that it is advisable to move your body through the day and not just for an hour in the evening or morning? In fact sudden intense exercise combined with a sedentary lifestyle can cause complications. The following are the recommendations for the correct way to exercise:

  • It is actually recommended that you should exercise four to six times a day for short durations (ten to fifteen minutes) through the day.
  • The exercise should be moderate in nature. The idea is not maximize anything or strain yourself.
  • The exercise should include something cardiovascular in nature as well as something weight bearing.
  • The exercise should impart all movements and stretches to the upper and lower body as well as the spinal cord.

Now imagine if exercising in this way is possible. Is there any exercise we can do in this fashion at all? It seems very impractical. However, what if we tell you that there is something you can do which makes this possible? That too without going to a gym or leaving your house or office. You need not even separately schedule your time for this exercise. Too hard to believe, is it not? Read on to find this magic exercise.

The Magic Exercise.

This fabulous and magic exercise is housework. Do as many chores you can do everyday. Try not to use machines. We can also extend this to office. List down what are the things that you can do at home:

  • Dusting, cleaning and mopping. Do this without a vacuum cleaner or a long handled mop. Take a bucket of water, a cloth and mop the floor with your hands, squatting on the floor.
  • Remove cobwebs and clean windows, doors and furniture. Imagine all the stretching and weight bearing work you are doing.
  • Wash your clothes and hang them to dry. Make sure you do not use a washing machine.
  • Clean-up closets and cupboards. If you have a garden, clean that and trim the grass.
  • Cook your own food, right from shopping for groceries from a shop to chopping vegetables to cooking everything fresh. After eating, wash all the dishes, clean them and put them back in the cupboards.
  • Run all your errands as far as possible.
  • Avoid ordering things online. Instead walk to the nearest grocery or medical stores to purchase what you want. Walk down to buy and walk back. Do not use a car if the stores are not too far.

There is enough evidence to show that housework has lots of benefits. This is also to be observed in the previous generations of women from India. Before the seventies, Indian women had a dramatically lower incidence of heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. Even Indian men who did some amount of physical work were much healthier and rarely became ill.

One of the main reasons these days for not doing housework is the not just the lifestyle. It is also the fact that we do not want to any physical work. The use of automated appliances is also causing people not to work.

Stress Therapy at Home

It has also been found that doing housework is therapeutic in nature. Next time you are feeling low, or down, or bored, clean out a cupboard, or a garage or some part of your house. Maybe a cook a nice meal (and clean up afterward). Do not watch television or get onto your smart phone.

If you need help with a balanced diet plan or a lovely online yoga program as an alternative to housework, then do it take it from wellzee.com

YOU CANT MEDITATE, IT HAPPENS

By Gaurang Chandarana | May 1st, 2015 | LEAVE A COMMENT

 

The Latest Fad

The latest fad the world over is meditation. There are many meditation schools and techniques. People go on meditation holidays and resorts. We also now have people debating merits and demerits of different kinds of meditation and try to prove some are superior while others are not. This is happening because some studies have come up showing that when in a ‘meditative’ or similar state, the mind is calmer and some nice things start happening. Some claim physical benefits, mental benefits, memory improvement and much more.

The Problem

The biggest problem is that meditation is neither a structured practice, nor is it a goal. What is the purpose or sense of doing some technique or other if there is no permanent change or deeper understanding of yourself. We go to resorts and buy meditation cds. Some ‘do’ transcendental meditation and some are ‘into’ Buddhist techniques. Many others go for Vipasyana. The list is endless. After doing all of this, the fact remains that nothing changes with us or with our lives.

What is The Background to Meditation.

There are two ways to look at what is meditation.

1) All of us and this world is made of five elements in different combinations; earth, water, fire, air, ether or space. We need to have the right proportion in the correct balance of these elements in order to have the correct kind of life. What has happened is that we are very quickly not only getting cut off but also have greatly reducing proportions of the ether element. Earth is the next reducing element. Meditation brings in the space element and restores balance. Agitation reduces, diseases reduce, life is more fulfilling. We are all full of fire and air and some amount of water. We are cutting off from earth as well. Space is the adjusting factor; the only way to get back in harmony with nature and the universe.

2) The only way to lead a blissful life is by reducing the activities of the mind. Gradually, as the mind becomes calmer, life improves. In fact, the whole objective of Yoga is perfect stillness and concentration of the mind. That is spirituality. It cannot be brought in from outside or through science. It has to be done by each of us individually and quietly, freely and effortlessly. There are ways and means given initially because we may not know where to begin.

Asanas are one such set of techniques. They are meant to train the restless mind and make it ready to sit quietly. Pranayamas are the next step to get the mind more concentrated. The other benefits are just incidental. It is said that one should give up asanas when their purpose is achieved. It has also been said that pranayama practice should start only after one can sit effortlessly and quietly in one single posture for continuously three hours at least.

Can We Meditate?

We cannot ‘do’ meditation or practice a technique or ‘sit to meditate’. Initially we may be given some guidance, but that is not meditation. Meditation happens. We just need to prepare ourselves. It can happen anytime in any fashion. So what do we do? The answer is simple. Just learn to be quietly with yourself and your thoughts.

What To Do

Begin with fifteen minutes a day. Sit quietly with your eyes shut in complete silence in a comfortable environment. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed and your hands loosely resting on your thighs. Alternatively you could sit on any hard surface in a different meditative posture. There has to be no noise at all. Do nothing. Do not practice any technique. Do not try to control or stop your thoughts. Just try not to get attached to your thoughts. Whatever needs to happen will happen over a period of time. Sit like this daily for more than forty five minutes without moving; in silence. There are times you may not be able to manage it. Do not worry. It is said that just sitting quietly even for fifteen minutes a day at the same time for seven years in a row takes the mind to a different state and life changes.

Some Tips

  • Do not be full or hungry when you sit quietly. Else the body will not let the mind sit quietly.
  • There should be no discomfort. If you have arthritis, sit in a chair. If you have no problems then train yourself to sit on the floor, cross legged.
  • The temperature should be moderate. Neither too cold nor too hot nor wet.
  • The area around you has to be clean so that there are fewer chances of insects. You can get disturbed if bugs, flies and mosquitoes land on you all the time.
  • Clothing should be from natural fabrics, loose and comfortable.
  • Sit alone, not in a group.
  • Do not have any music. Shut off or put on silence all your digital devices.
  • Try facing towards the East, unless it is a wall.
  • The ideal place to sit quietly is in natural surroundings if possible. If it is too cold or there are few such places, then sit at home.
  • Sit for minimum fifteen minutes a day going upto an hour.
  • After this ‘meditation’, do not start rushing around to work or do things. Just be with yourself, keep your pace slow.
  • Have proper rest and sleep. If you are mentally tired or physically fatigued, you cannot sit quietly.
  • Just enjoy whatever happens.

A few weeks of this going upto a few months will bring about changes. This is meditation. Once we train ourselves to sit quietly, one can just focus on the tip of the nose and mentally watch your incoming and outgoing breath. Slowly, the thought waves subside. This is meditation. If you put in effort and do techniques, it is not meditation. For meaningful online Yoga programs, visit wellzee.com