Thursday, September 30, 2010

Easy Application of Ayurveda. It's Sleepy Time for the Doshas

A large part of Ayurveda is Dinacharya, or rhythmic lifestyle with appropriateness to Dosha, Triguna, and seasons.

Let's start by taking a look at the way the Doshas are associated with the times of day, and then the Ayurvedic view on sleep patterns.  Yea for Dosha fun......if you are unfamiliar with Dosha and Triguna please look at past articles that have been posted.

Every day two waves of Doshic change happen.  The following times are approximate and change with the seasons.  In the more northern and southern hemispheres the days become longer in the summer and much shorter in the winter.  These factors should be taken into consideration when planning an appropriate daily rhythm.

  • 6 a.m to 10 a.m is the Kapha time of day.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is Pitta time of day.
  • 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. is Vata time of day.
The second cycle is:
  • 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. is the Kapha time of day.
  • 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. is Pitta time of day.
  • 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. is the Vata time of day. 
 Early to bed and early to rise is healthy for all three Doshas!

The ideal sleep patterns for each Dosha are:
  • Vata- awake with the sun and no later.
  • Pitta-awake half an hour before sun.
  • Kapha- awake one hour before sun
Having proper sleep patterns requires that we follow the rhythms of nature.  Sometimes we have to make adjustments and this is fine as long as we maintain a healthy lifestyle.  For example, it takes me more than 2 hours to do sadhana in the morning.  If I woke up with the sun and then did my required practice I would not have time for proper morning routine.  So I adjust and get up earlier.  Staying up late to gratify the senses with party, media, etc does not bring us in line with nature and moves us further away from harmony.

If all of life is sadhana then sleep becomes a spiritual practice as well.  Follow the natural rhythm and harmony will come!

Jay Shiv Shakti

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Art of True Yogic Practice

For the past five years I've had the desire to renounce worldly experience.  To take off into India like the other Sadhus, holy men, with no attachment.  Having no possessions and nothing but free time to do sadhana, I believe I would be quite happy.  I even had the offer last time I was in India.  An old Sadhu wanted to make me his disciple; wanted me to stay to live and practice with him.  I was quite clouded at the time and choose to leave instead, ahhhhh- back off into worldly life, but all things for a reason right???

When I have a tough day, or my emotions are fried, I long even more to renounce....

I know exactly what I'm doing.  I'm looking for the easy way out.  To remind myself to take proper course of action I put up a few lines from the Adhyatma Ramayana on the back of my door, right next to other prayer I mentioned a few weeks ago.

The great Rishi Agastya describes what a Sadhu really is in Chapter 3 v.38-46

"A Sadhu (true holy man) is one in whom the following excellence are found: even mindedness towards all including friend, enemy, and neutral; desirelessness; control of the senses in respect of external objects, abandonment of the three eshanas (desire for children, for wealth, for heavenly enjoyment), placidity of mind arising from complete self mastery; supreme devotion to Thee (God); equanimity of mind in success or failure; absence of all attachment; abandonment of all evil and selfish actions; abiding interest in contemplating BrahmaN; the practice of Yama and Niyama and other disciplines of Yoga; and satisfaction with whatever means of livelihood comes spontaneously without seeking.  Such are the characteristics of Holy Men. Intimate contact with them gives rise to delight in matters dealing with the Divine excellences and accounts."

Dang! No mention of orange robes and abandoning everything.  I guess I will stay and work it here.

One day I talked to my Guruji of my constant desire to renounce, and in his infinite wisdom he said,

"Nothing is clinging up on you, you can live life like a Sadhu.  All you have to leave is desire and attachment, see your duties from right perspective, and you will realize what is the life of a real Sadhu."

My duties of being a student and teacher call as I'm typing.  It's time to tackle Physics and then teach a class at the farmhouse tonight.

Jay Shiv Shakti

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Blues and Hope from the Bhagavad Gita

Some days I still feel fragile in my practice and the smallest thing can rock my entire world.  I'm left feeling set back from where I was or where I thought I was going to be.

Something as small as an image can change my whole emotional state, and this turbulence makes me very aware how I am still attached to the objects of my senses.  I know I am so far from the equanimity the Gita speaks of, and as my heart ached today I felt hopeless for a moment.  Then I remembered the line that I always come back to.  Again and again the Gita gives me hope, and again I have to extend my Love to my Guruji for sharing this with me. Chapter 2 v. 40

Ne ha bhikramanaso sti
Pratyavayo na vidyate
svalpam apy asya dharmasya
trayare mahato bhayat

No effort on the Yoga path is ever lost, nor can any obstacle hold one back forever.  Just a little progress on this path can protect one from the greatest fear.

So it's back to the meditation coushion for another round with faith and resolve.

Jay Gurudev

Jay Shiv Shakti

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Ten Principles Underlying Wholesome Diet (More Guna and Dosha Fun!!!)

I'm reading the Charaka Samhita again, so it will probably be a few months of quotes on Ayurveda, Yeaaa!

Here are the guidelines for proper intake of food.  Following these will help to cultivate Sattwa, and a generally healthy state of being.  Of course with all things, there will be specific adjustments for each unique constitution.

Vimana 1:24-25

1. The food should be hot.
2. The food should be unctuous.
3. The food should be taken in proper quantity.
4. The food should be taken only after the previous meal is digested.
5. The food ingredients should not be contradictory in their potency.
6. The food should be taken in a pleasant place with required accessories.
7. The food should not be taken in excessive hurry.
8. The process of intake should not be exceedingly slow.
9. While eating, one should neither talk nor laugh; during this time one should concentrate on eating only.
10. Only such food should be taken which is wholesome to the physical constitution and psychic temperament of the individual.

Here in America we often break these rules, sometimes all of them at once, when we take our meals.  If you feel inclined try applying one of the following principles for a week.  Put down the book or get away from the office desk when you have lunch and see if it helps your digestion and your state of mind!

Wishing you all the best health!

Jay Shiv Shakti

My Everest of Books

Feeling a bit under the weather today, so it's time to curl up in front of the fire and dig into my Everest of books.

Thank you for the idea Allison!!!

Ahh, this is my second time through the Charaka Samhita and I'm hoping to make it through all six volumes again!  You can see the worried look on my face, but I am quite determined....2000 some pages of Sanskrit and commentary is nothin'

Jay Shiv Shakti!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gita Goodness and Yoga at the Farm House

It was a long drive out through the country last night, with miles in between each stop sign on the lonely road.  I went to teach a class at a beautiful farm house that was tucked between vegetable gardens, the yellow and red trees of fall, and a still pond.

It was so quiet I could hear the wind blowing through the grass and the footsteps of the dog as it walked softly on the porch.  The full moon shinned down through the skylights and cast a soft glow on the practice floor as we finished our Pranayamas and recalled our Sankalpha for the last time.

They were are an amazingly beautiful group of women; friendly, light hearted, and a joy to share sadhana with.

When ever I experience beauty that stops in me in my tracks, that makes me catch my breath and thank God for this moment I think of a line from the Bhagavad Gita.  In chapter 10 v.41 Bhagvan Krishnaji says:

yad-yad vibhutimat sattvam
srimad urjitam eva va
tad-tad eva vagaccha tvam
mama tejomsasambhavam

Know that all beautiful, glorious and might creations spring from but a spark of My splendor

It's these moments that drive my practice.  I wonder, if I can find this much beauty and glory in my common day, what glory and splendor will I find in God?

Jay Shiv Shakti

Friday, September 24, 2010

What is Hatha Yoga? Hatha Yoga and the Gunas

Ever been in a class where you swirl and curl to pounding disco music?  It feels like there's endless push ups, the music makes you feel like you're at a night club, and it's just one pose after another with the focus on the physical only.  They have Thievery Corporation bumping so loud you can't hear the mantra you are trying to repeat as you practice.

Or the flip side, you spend an hour and a half rolling around on the ground making noises.  You're not really sure when a traditional asana will be performed if ever.  You yawn again, and hope you can stay awake for the duration of the class.

I honestly can't remember the last time I had a teacher in the USA, besides the Yogacharyas I have studied with, teach Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha, Dharana, or anything outside of Asana.  Most teachers don't use Sanskrit, much less chant at the beginning of a class.  My Guruji has stressed the importance of chanting as part of a traditional sadhana, and as an easy way to balance out the mind, body, and gunas.

There is such a wide range of teachings in the West.  Some I consider very traditional and Yogic even if I don't necessarily appreciate the style and school of Yoga.  Others seem questionable at best, and then there's the classes I can't even call Yoga, it just seems so far from what I know it to be.  These are the classes where you leave feeling either lethargic, or so scattered that you can't think properly.  If you swirl and curl in your body your mind will swirl and curl as well!

Here's my standard for Hatha Yoga, my students in P-town will recognize the quote.

"The main objective of Hatha Yoga is to create an absolute balance of the integrating activities and processes of the physical body, mind, and energy.  When this balance is created the impulses generated give a call of awakening to the central channel (sushumna nadi) which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness.  If Hatha Yoga is not used for this purpose, it's true objective is lost."

Swami Muktibodhananda

Now, apply this with your understanding of the Gunas!

Lots of movement and loud music- Rajasic practice that will lead to pain and suffering.
Little movement and effort- Tamasic practice that leads to cloudiness and lack of clarity.

A Sattwic practice is a balance of the two, and this will be different for every person relative to their Doshas and Gunas.  It's why I love to do my own practice every morning, and why I encourage my students to do more than classes.  We should all learn how to cultivate a balanced home practice that will help us to reach the true objective of Hatha Yoga.

Our Hatha practice should leave us in a state of equanimity, the goal of the practice is to cultivate Sattwa and evolve our human consciousness.

Jay Shiv Shakti

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What is Yoga ?

I have heard this question asked countless times, and have heard just as many different answers.  The one that resonates most is my Guruji's teaching of what Yoga is.

Guruji Shri Shriyogeshvaraji describes Yoga as:

"In Sanskrit grammar 'yoga' eveolves from the root ''Yuj'.  'Yuj' means to link , to unite.  The process that links, unites, or integrates is known as Yoga.

To understand this, one has to understand the absolute philosophy of Sanatan Dharma (The Universal Religion).  It is much deeper than the apparent projection of hundreds of deities and thousands of temples.  This philosophy is above all those well known or not so known sects which are collectivly known as Hinduism in today's world.

BrahmaN, the absolute, the one and only God who is formless, beyond any description and definition is manifested in to many in the form of Atman (Soul) or Atma.  The ultimate goal of all spiritual practices of Sanatan Dharma is realizing the oneness of Atma with BrahmaN.  This is a very brief description of the highest philosophy.

The method, the process, that helps an individual to unite completly with BrahmaN is YOGA."

I've read it a hundred times, and each time I have to stop and contemplate it again. I ask myself, 'Am I living up to the tradition of Sanatan Dharma, and the teachings of my Guruji?'  If we do anything else and call it Yoga, we are losing the true objective of the practice. 

Jay Shiv Shakti

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Easy application of the Gunas

Triguna and Food

Wrapping your head around the Gunas can be a bit difficult.  I will take one small application at a time, with the hopes that this will be of service to fellow spiritual seekers.

Every food you eat effects your mind and body.  This food can either aggravate or balance the gunas, as well as the doshas.  There are three possible outcomes of our consumption, as we increases or decreases the gunas.

To simplify these ideas: Sattvic foods help to create balance and equalibrium in our body and mind.  Rajasic food creates more movement and heat.  Tamasic food creates heaviness and inertia.

Sattvic food is that which is nourishing, light, juicy, and unctuous.  These are the foods that help cultivate a spiritual life style and practice.  Some examples of Sattvic food include vegetables that are easy to digest, fresh milk, some grains, and most nuts.

Rajasic food is the foundation of all activity, motion, excessive thought, and ultimately pain.  They tend to be spicy, sharp, salty, and extremely hot and dry.  Examples of this include very pungent spices, garlic, onion, foods fried in oil, or even sattvic foods taken in excess.

Tamasic food is that which is distasteful, past expiration, old, decaying, and rotten.  These foods cloud body and mind causing ignorance.  They include processed food, stale food, improper food combination, alcohol, and meat.

Bon Apetit

Jay Shiv Shakti

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gita Quote of Goodness

"I really want to be more flexible."

I hear this so often when I teach a Hatha Yoga class. It's nice to have the body be a comfortable place to be, but when our practice is only based on the physical it's just short sited. My student Michelle in Petaluma came up with a great saying about Yoga, "Yoga is not about getting your leg behind your head, but it's about getting your head out of your ass." Very true, and it makes me laugh and smile, so it's very yogic. Nothing changed when I got both of my legs behind my head, I just found myself throwing my gunas out of whack to achieve flexibility.

So, what type of Yogi should we be? Again, back to the goodness of Bhagavad Gita, chapter 6 v.47. Shribhagavan Krishnaji says,

yoginam api sarvesam
madgatena ntaratmana
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah

And of all the yogins, he who is filled with faith, his entire being given over to Me, is the most intimately united with Me and is the best of all.

Monday, September 20, 2010

When the fire burns hot

Some days it seems like the world is pushing against us. People may be rude, work difficult, or loved ones hard to deal with. These difficult times shows us so much about who we are, and what sadhana is really about. In realationship to these difficult times my Guruji Shri Shri Yogeshwaraji has said,

"The best way to face such circumstances is to withdraw our inner self from the situation and just become a witness to what ever is happening around. In reality "I" is only a witness. If one recognizes the real "I" and withdraws from such situation inside it will be easier to pass through such tests."

One day when I felt the flames all around me he shared a Hindi saying:

Aag Mae Jalake Bhi Jo Nikhare, Hai Wohi Sachcha Sona

The one that shines more after burning in the fire, is the real Gold.

Jay Shiv Shakti

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food as Sadhana

Mmmmm, study group today and I cooked lunch for everybody. Mattar Paneer seems to make Physics a little easier!

Eating with my classmates I remembered this quote from a translation of Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Life itself is sadhana, if we limit it to a class on a sticky mat all we get is flexibility. What helped me to transform eating into sadhana is mindfulness; creating a ritual before I eat, as I consume food, and after. Ritual can be a simple as you like. Wash your hands and face, take a few deep breaths when you sit down, say a prayer of thanks to the Divine, consume appropriate proportions; it's whatever you make it.

Shiva is the inner consciousness, the atma. Everything the yogi eats should be considered as prasad or an offering from the supreme being. This is very important for eradicating the sense of ego: "I" want and "I" eat. Food is not taken for gratification but to sustain the vehicle of the indweller, the atma. Therefore, eating should be considered as part of one's sadhana. Life itself is a sadhana.

-Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is Dharma? How do we live a Dharmic life?

The word Dharma comes from the root word "dhri" which is to carry or sustain. To live a Dharmic life we have to sustain the proper way of existence by behaving righteously. We have a responsibility to uphold morals, to give charity when appropriate, and to be of service to others. These are principals that exist in all cultures and define a natural way of life. My faviorite quote on Dharma from Mahabharata.

Tadrisho ayam anuprashno yatra dharmaha sudurlabaha
Dushkamha pralisankhyatum tatkenatra vysvasyathi
Prabhavarthaya bhutanam dharmapravachanam kritam
Yasyat prabhavasamyuktaha sa dharma iti nischayaha.

SHANTHI PARVA - 109-9-11

It is most difficult to define Dharma.
Dharma has been explained to be that which helps the upliftment of living beings.
Therefore, that which ensures the welfare of living beings is surely Dharma.
The learned rishis have declared that which sustains is Dharma.


It's been awhile since I put up any Ayurveda info! Here's a response I wrote to a forum I am a member of.....

Triguna, or the three gunas, are the primary expression of all nature. They are Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas. Guna literally means “what binds.” In the Sankhya philosophy of Kapila, the five great elements, Panch Mahabuta, arise from the gunas. They contain all the limitless possibilities and potentials for people, thoughts, actions, objects, and in fact everything in the manifest universe.

In both Ayurveda and Vedic sciences the gunas stand as one of the fundamental concepts that should be learned and applied to life. Every object in the world has a different mixture of these three qualities. If we were to look at the creation scheme of Sankhya; Triguna give rise to the Tanmantras, which give rise to Pancha Mahabutas, and the Pancha Mahabutas give rise to all gross effects.

The root word of Sattwa is “sat”, which is employed in the sense of reality and goodness. It is viewed as a balance between Rajas and Tamas. Sattwa is the source of intelligence and the desire to awaken our spiritual potential. It promotes clarity and awareness. In the Bhagvad Gita Chp. 14 v.6:

Of these, Sattwa being pure causes illumination and health. It binds, by attachment to happiness and by attachment to Knowledge.

Rajas has the qualities of movement, activity, and energy. It is the force of motivated action, and has an inherent outward movement that causes selfishness. Rajas creates suffering and pain as described by Bhagavan Krishnaji in Bhagavad Gita Chp. 14 v.7:

Rajas, know thou, is of the nature of attraction, springing from craving and attachment. It binds fast, Son of Kunti, the embodied one by attachment to action.

Tamas is said to be heavy and cause delusion. It is darkness and the ignorance that comes with it. It obstructs us from seeing the true nature of who we are. Again, from the Bhagavad Gita Chp 14 v. 8

Tamas, know thou, is born of ignorance and deludes all embodied beings. It binds, by (developing the qualities of) negligence, indolence, and sleep.

The Bhagavd Gita sums up the experience of the trigunas in Chp 14. v.17:

From Sattwa arises knowledge and from Rajas greed, negligence and error arise from Tamas, as well as ignorance.

All of the gunas bind us to nature, which is their job! To rise above this is to become trigunatita, beyond the modes of the gunas. S. Radhakrishnan in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita says, “Sattwa is subliminated into the light of consciousness (jyoti), Rajas into austerity (tapas), Tammas into tranquility (shanti).”

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quote of the Week, Bhagavad Gita

He who draws away the senses from the objects of sense on every side as a tortoise draws in his limbs (into his shell), his intelligence is firmly set (in wisdom).
(Bhagavad Gita, Chp. 2 v.58)

Starting back to school recently; I found the constant onslaught of people, information, noise, and movement to be very entertaining. I watch the crowds of people in between classes, and listen to the wild things I hear. Then I began to see how my senses would roam from one sensory object to the next. Always craving for something else that was beautiful to see, or enjoyable to hear, or that made me laugh. The world is a beautiful expression of Maa Shakti, and should be appreciated, but I found I also needed the time to withdraw and experience my inner reality. Now, everyday in between class I go to the library, cross my legs in a small quiet corner, and sit for 30 minutes. I calm the body and try to draw back into the self. The feeling of contentment, during and after, surpasses what the senses cling to for a brief moment. With Vata down, and Sattwa predominating, it leaves me ready to grasp Physics equations with equanimity. For me, approaching Physics with equanimity is more of a Yogic practice than pulling both legs behind the head!