Ashtanga yoga

(more profound text you`ll find further down)

Ujjayi - Asana - Dristi
Genom att träna korrekt andning (Ujjayi Pranayama), kroppsställningar (Asanas) och fokuseringspunkter (dristi), kan vi lära oss att kontrollera våra sinnen och få en djupare förståelse för oss själva. Om denna disciplin utövas regelbundet och hängivet så leder det till en stabilitet i kropp och själ. "Ashtanga" betyder åtta delar.

De åtta delarna

Dessa framställs av Patanjali som

Yama (självbehärskning), Niyama (disciplin), Asana (kroppsställningar), Pranayama (kontroll av andningen, andningsövningar), Pratyahara (tillbakadragande av sinnena från sina objekt), Dharana (koncentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi (djupgående meditation). De olika delarna bär upp varandra.

Asana - positioner

Asana är olika kroppsställningar. Asana är dessutom en nyckel till utvecklandet av de olika yama och niyama. Pranayama (andningsövningar) kan utövas utan asana.

Vinyasa - andning och rörelse
- värme

"Vinyasa" betyder att man synkroniserar andning med rörelse. Andningen är mycket viktig i yogan och styr rörelsen i en exakt ordningsföljd. När man synkroniserar rörelse med andning och tillämpar Mula Bandha och Uddiyana Bandha (s.k.lås) produceras en stark och intensiv inre värme. Värmen renar kroppens muskler och organ, driver ut oönskade gifter och frigör dessutom välgörande hormoner och mineraler som ger näring åt kroppen när svetten masseras tillbaka in i huden. Andningen reglerar vinyasa och ser till att blodcirkulationen effektiviseras. Resultatet blir en lätt och smidig kropp.


Text by Virginia Lundgren:

Ashtanga Yoga the Eightfold path, the guidelines to enlightenment of Patanjali as I understood and work with

   Not to cause any pain, whether in words, thoughts or deeds. In this is included all kind of negative thinking even on yourself. Thoughts like I am not good enough, I am ugly and so on, definitely does harm to yourself. The feelings of shame and guilt are strong destructive emotions, which keeps other destructive feelings/behaviors in place. I can`t point out often enough the importance of  tracing back those feelings to their very root.

   Also here in words, thoughts and deeds. No ”white”  lies  to please someone and not to harm by telling the truth either. If the question arise if to lie or not in order to protect someone from getting harmed (refugee, violent relationship etc. ) the first Yama Ahimsa will be the relevant answer.

    Asteya is often translated as non-stealing but really implies honesty in several different ways. It is really being honest with yourself without any excuses. Every manipulation to our own advantage violates Asteya. To this also count taking cred for something we did not do or say. You are maybe a really god talker and can convince people around you, but inside yourself you can sense the truth, you are not only betraying people around  you, but also yourself. Also to be jealous counts in asteya since we  begrudge the owner of possession, knowledge, wisdom etc.  Then there is a distinction between wants and needs, if your family goes hungry you may have to lie or steal in order to survive.

 Brahma means “higher awareness" and Acharya” to live in".Brahmacharyas implication is to be aligned with the creative energy. There are so many books and articles on that Yama which are contradicted . What the question boils down to is whether to have Sex or not. Is celibate a higher path of cultivating the Prana (highest energy/consciousness) or by channeling the energy through tantric sex? Already in the question lays the failure because we divide in better or worse, good and bad, higher and  lower, which actually are the boundaries of dualism we try to liberate from. Also it is a form of attachment to claim a “better” path.
    Tantra is the parent of yoga. Both have the goal of uniting Shakti (Prakriti in Patanjalis yoga sutra) and Shiva (Purusha in Patanjalis Yoga Sutra) through  rising the female (kundalini) energy from the lowest chakra (mooladhara) to the highest :sahasrara.   Tantra is the way of embracing everything since everything is Shakti. Tantra doesn`t divide in good or bad. Tantra only states: A saint is a saint and a criminal is a criminal whitout any judgement.
   My personal experience so far is that we evolve from whatever path we take, into Tantra anyway and in Tantra different paths exist as well to reach the unity of Shiva and Shakti. As Pattabhi Jois stated :   -   Do your practice and all is coming - If it is sooner or later depends on the intensity of your practice as Patanjali states in the yoga sutra( I like to add that it is in our days its equally important to get the intentions right). Still we can bring Brahmacharya in our lives in terms of withdrawal from extern entertainment, to not gossip, to not distract our self all the time with media, novels and so on.
    We can be attached to everything. Greediness lays not only in possessing stuff and collecting stuff or money but also in people, ideas, titles, analyzing, gambling etc. Not to mention superficialness and our addiction to social media. In fact we are all attached to our thoughts , in fact we are addicted to life. The training of non-attachment lays not in not to possess but in calmness no matter if winning or loosing, achieving or not. We can still own things but realize that all is temporary anyway. We care for the stuff we own, the persons we love, but we wont claim them. This also includes not to collect items we don`t need.

   In Shaucha we are purifying our self on all levels.The food we eat build cleanliness or bodies. The environment we live in and the things we are concerned with influence our mental state. 
There are different purification practices to clean out  which are called shatkarmas. Also to get sorted in work and schedules are included in shaucha.      
  To be satisfied with what we`ve got. To be happy with everything what comes along.  To be grateful even for  the hard lessons life offers. This contentment happens as we evolve in our practice.
  This Niyama tells us that we need to burn out our impurities. Bodily through fasting, the mind to spend time alone in silence and welcoming all the traumas we had in life and those to come. As long as we  have bitterness in our hearts, happiness can´t expand.  Karma is the law of cause and effect or the law of attraction and it`s seemingly punishment and reward, but at the end of the day, remember we are here in that body on this planet because we want to, otherwise we wouldn`t be here. We want to make the experience of being human and, when we hit the spiritual path we do nothing else as realizing our self and that very self chose that very journey to be realized. Therefor I rather like referring as to be a researcher of karma. The researcher of pain and it`s cause.
 One sentence in a book, which title I don´t remember said: Don`t take life too personal. I kept that in heart and mind. How could life be personal since we are that person only a short while. And once again , pleasure and pain, good and bad, punishment and reward are the world of dualism and  really ,as referred in many books two sides of the same coin.

   The observation of one´s self is of course the main vehicle in order to overcome the obstacles our mind create and constantly repeat. We`ve got to gain knowledge about how our minds are working and we`ve got to analyze our self. Here comes reliable spiritual books, lectures and Gurus into the picture (the positive side of social media even high teachings are only a view clicks away), but also psycho-therapy and other therapy forms that helps to get to know our self.
     The most difficult obstacle in order to identify our own negative thinking habits  is that we get so ashamed of our self that we don`t dare to look. What helped me to dare to look was the statement of a teaching which said : You are not your thoughts. That, among others, gave me the needed distance to dare see the affects of thoughts, deeds and behaviors. The wonderful outcome of self-study is that if we truly know our self we are not able to  judge anyone anymore.  With daring to see the unpleasant feeling of being revealed will vanish too. It is said that by constant trying in some way a deity will come along. Deities are connected to Mantras. Every Mantra has a deity, and it`s true, if we wholehearted beg to learn the truth , we get the help we need just in time. The deity makes calm, deep reflection possible because the deity makes it possible to observe the mind without the person involved.
Isvara prandhana
Total surrender to god                      
   Here we cultivate faith in a higher reality to absolute surrender in god, or in other words, the true self. The total surrender may feel artificial to start. We slip in and out of faith. Doubts and feelings like I am loosing it arises. Which actually is just what happens. We loose our-self by surrender to god. We become the instrument serving all and everything around us, because all is god. We are going to sense that it is not the “I Am” who´s doing the action. Surrender is a form of bakhti yoga- offering everything- including our-self.
We here than also understand that all challenges and troubles we`ve been through where ´presents´ to feel what it is to be human, because that is what we are here for: experiencing being a human being. When we have understood the lesson completely we can even offer those experiences back.

My friend was reading from a book where the author said: Cry for god as you  never cried for anything before. If we give all the love and faith and trust we possible can  it will be enough. If you don`t know how or where to start sing this wonderful lovely prayer of Krishna Das. You will find it on Youtube.

Mere Gurudev

1. Mere Gurudev, charanon par sumana shraddha ke arpita hai
Tere hee dena hai jo hai. Wahi tujha ko samarapita hai

My Gurudev I offer these flowers of my faith at your feet
Whatever I have, you have given to me, and I dedicate it all to you.

2. Na priti hai pratiti hai, na hi puja ki shakti hai
Meraa yaha man, meraa yaha tan, meraa kan kan samarapita hai

I have no love, nor do I know you.
I don’t even have the strength to worship you,
But this mind of mine, this body of mine,
my every atom is dedicated to you.

Tuma hee ho bhaava men mere, vicharon mein, pukaron mein.
Banaale yantra ab mujhko mere saravatra samarapita hai

You are the only one in my heart and my thoughts.
You are the one who I call out to.
Now Make me your instrument…all I am I offer to you.

  The definition of Patanjali is: To be seated in a position which is firm but relaxed.
  Asana is a preparation for sitting comfortable for long periods of time. It is a preparation for meditation. But also Asana has evolved since the time of Patanjali to its necessity of today where most of us, to start with, are unable to meditate, notout of  poor body  condition, but even more so because of our restless mind.                       
     Ashtanga Yoga is an active meditation which affects the whole of our being if we have the right intention (of course that does not replace sitting meditations at all, it`s still preparing for).
     Without intention the spiritual influence stays artificial, if included at all. In the Asana practice it is possible on a intuitive non-intellectual level to experience, a great number of the yamas and nyamas. In order to do this we`ve got to refine the art of observing the hole of our being. Instead of concentration, which we only can hold for a short while and also limit us to a focus on a narrow area, we use breathing to be aware of a much broader perspective

For example, if we are moving into a position where we are supposed to bend the front-leg knee, by the usual way of concentration we straight away loose track of  the rest of the body.
By refining concentration through observing we actually learn to expand our conscious.
But we want more, we do not only have to be aware of our body-patterns and realignment, we also want to learn the skill to even observe the subtle energies and the mind without rejecting any of it or clinging to it. One simple trick to come back to observing is to again and again relax your face.  

     Through the process of realignment and opening, capsulate energies sets free. One of the absolute important skills here is to recognize our so strong built mechanism of defend. We may feel something come up, but we push it away and continue practice without understanding that it is that the practice is all about. Therefore it is uttermost important to practice on our own, for if some sadness come up, you better lay down and let it all come out. We don`t necessarily have to name the sadness or connect it to an event. If it is no clear where the sadness  comes from we don`t need to analyze it just sense it, embrace it, just let it out. By doing so we liberate our-self from samskaras (impressions seated in the sub-consciousness). The goal of that days practice is reached, unless if you did two sun-salutations or almost finished the hole series. Remember, we don`t want to be diligent but spending time observing.

  In the same manner of observing the body we also can observe the mind relating to Ahimsa,: Am I kind to my body or do I push although it hurts? Do I embrace my body although  I am not that strong/flexible etc.?....and/or judging the people around us (or people in our mind for that matter).
  Satya, am I honest to my- self are you convincing yourself to go deeper into the pose than you are ready for.
  Asteya, are there feelings of envy about others who seems to have a better body, seems to be wiser than  you and so on.
  Aparigraha, in Asana-practice we have a great opportunity to watch our greediness very easy if we know about. Why is it we so desperately want to do spectacular poses or advance to fast in poses we are not yet ready for? It is a form of greediness, deep rooted in the fear of not being good enough, born out of todays idea in our society, to be someone, to reach something. Unfortunately weare so caught up in the old learned patter of “being able and competent” so we are in constant stress to live up to that idea, that we can`t do anything without  the  need to succeed. It`s really about our deep wish to be seen. If we can embrace that and really look at it we will be seen by our very self and realize that every single one suffers the same need to be seen, and how that results in an endless struggle of trying to be more competent in order to feel good or, by failing, the feeling of unworthiness.
    This realization ends in overwhelming compassion to all human kind including our-self and is the end of competing.

  All body-patterns, thinking behaviors and emotions are connected and occurs as one tight messy knot, impossible to look through, but through realign you learn to separate the muscles and by watching simultaneously the mind and emotions, we learn to separate them as well and identify each of them one by one. Since they can`t hide anymore they become un-demonized and fade away. Even if the same thoughts still occur they won´t bother us they loose there power and slowly fade completely.

  Bramacarya, on the mat, is to stay in touch with our self and channeling the energies. Also here the breathing helps to stay within and here the drishtis come in, the focus points for the eyes so we don’t wonder around getting distracted. 
   Saucha, cleanliness, is obvious for anybody, of course you want  to go clean to the mat, but the part of having all sorted and cleaned around? I don`t know. If we have family my advice would be do practice first and clean up later otherwise you never come to the mat.   
   Samtosha, whatever you discover or uncover, can do or not, have joy. Keep a little smile on your lips - sukkha mukkha - that helps to not take your-self to serious, it gives you a playful distance and also, it`s hard to crimple the third eye by keeping a smile.  
   Tapas, our burning interest to evolve brings us regular on the mat. Tapas is the Purifying aspect of Asana and burns away the accumulated poison from unpure living/eating habits and environmental pollution. Through using the throat-lock we create Ujjayi-breathing which reaches all layers of tissue and creates tremendous  heat in the body. By moving and twisting the body in all directions, we squeeze, breath and sweat out the dirt. Besides that, by observing the thoughts connected to the Yamas, we gradually purify the mind and sub-consciousness, which than transforms in higher energies.
   With the unique use of the ancient, most powerful practice of Maha bandha, we even reach and clean the chakras. Chakras are energy-centers within the physical and the subtle body.
    With Moolabhanda (contraction of the cervix, or perineum in man) we are stimulating the root-chakra (mooladhara) where the kundalini (primal energy) energy lays dormant, waiting to be raised to the higher chakras. 
    Mooladhara stands for our most primitive need for security and is the source of reacting with fear in every (seemingly) threatening situation. When “cleaned out” the fear will be  replaced by sensing oneness.
   By using the navel-lock (uddiyana bandha) we are stimulating  the solar plexus (Manipura chakra). Manipuras element is fire. We want to stimulate that fire. It is that fire which makes us function and get things done. If the fire is low we have hard times to manage our work or the things we want to do. In the worst cases we do not even manage to care about our self, this, of course leads to low self-esteem. When this chakra is purified all work gets easy handed and all the work we do are in service of others. We become the instrument of the divine.
   Jalandhara bandha (throat-lock) which creates ujjayi breathing ( pranayama) which stimulate the vishuddi chakra (center of communication). Those energies in its lowest form make the person withdrawn. There un-ability to communicate often makes them outsiders. When purified all knowledge and wisdom is intuitive communicated, there is no personal interest to demonstrate ones advantage.
   As we lock the root- chakra, the energy has to move up and through the locking of the upper chakra of the lower chakrasystem ;the throat-chakra; we create an underpressure which cleans the hole lower chakrasystem by passing through even swadhistana (navel- chakra, sexuality) and Anahata (heart-chakra, love).
   No matter which chakra we are working with, we got to keep focus all the time even on the higher chakra, called ajna (eyebrow-center)since it is the gate away to the divine. It is the energy-center  of intellect and intuition as well as of higher powers. It also is in straight contact with the crown chakra, our spiritual center.
   Even ajna chakra has low and high qualities. Persons with Ajna at it`s lowest have difficulties to form thoughts. They are feeling very cloudy in mind. Ajna function, when purified, we completely comprehend the very first question which was the birth-giving question to tantra and yoga, we realize why we are here. There will be no more questions at all.
    The most of us are not functioning at the lowest or highest but somewhere in between, depending on the blend of the 3 gunas (nature qualities) .
They are divided in:
    Tamas (inertia)- ignorance, laziness.
    Rajas (passion) - attachment, hunting for pleasure.
    Sattva (purity, love,light)- balancing the positive and negative, observes and helps us to evolve.
     If you like to learn more about the chakra system I highly recommend the book by Dr Rishi Vivekananda ”Practical Yoga Psychology” and the lecture by Asha Nayaswami  ”Understanding the chakras” on youtube.
   Svadhjaya, Asana if used that way is a highway of self-study. Listening to lectures, participating in retreats and reading spiritual books, speeds up the process much more because they`ll give us the needed understanding of how the mind works. By doing that work we can`t other than become humble and grateful for the bottomless science of  yoga and its true preservers through the ages. How doubtful we may started, if we continue practice in spite of our doubts, it will become impossible to deny the divine. The longing for god will grow to the point where we wish nothing else as to surrender completely and being unseparated to our true divine source, where our personhood is    realized as a unique transient role of a divine play. The play itself, through all evolution and reincarnation, is to realize the self. Nothing more, nothing less, no better, no worse.
Breathing technics
  There are almost uncountable amounts of different Pranayama.  There are for balancing and calming the mind. Breathing in should take the same time as breathing out, without any strain.
     Prana, of course does not only implie the chemical formula of the air we breath, prana is the life-force and the carrier of consciousness

   By sitting in meditation we have the possibility to observe the mind. If we allow the mind to “go wild” and allow every thought to come up it will sooner or later calm down. When the mind calms down the less thoughts will come and they will be significantly slower, which allows us to see them. Because of the lower tempo we got a choice to dive into them or let them pass. Some of the thoughts we are very used and attracted to, others are easy to let pass. As we learn to recognize and let go in meditation we are more likely to recognize and let go even in daily life.

  At first I like to mention that it is not the kind of concentration we are used to. It is a state of concentration coming from relaxation. It is the state between awake and sleep, that state is easily reached in yoga nidra(complete relaxation through consciousness moving through the body in shavasana(simply lay down). As we experience that state it is more easy to apply in Dharana. Dharana means to be single-pointed “concentrated” at one outer object( a flame or flower is mostly recommended in the books) without drifting away in other thoughts. Later we can try to concentrate on the heart or the universe. It is said that by concentrating on one subject the complete knowledge of the object will be revealed.
  We have now learned to relax the mind by will. The signs of true meditation is the loss of space and time. An hour will disappear without even noticing. There is neither sense of body or space.  Possible we get beautiful visions or hear wonderful sounds. But be careful to not fantasize. You don`t cling to, reject analyze or doubt. This is falling out of meditation.