What is Yoga (Part 1)

portrait Ramananda2

Yoga:  A True Harmony of Head, Heart and Hands

Yoga is both the complete experience of our essential Spiritual Self and the practices done to reveal that true nature.  It is both a science of self-mastery and the art of pursuing that goal with self-discipline, compassion and contentment. Yoga asanas (postures), so commonly known in the West, are only one small part of Yoga and are meant to be performed in the context of a much broader philosophical picture.  Otherwise, the numerous benefits of asana practice, while significant, lack the potential transformational effects for which they originated. Yoga is a comprehensive way of life that includes numerous branches, each like a pathway leading to the same mountaintop.

These different paths or approaches to Yoga practice heal and develop the various aspects of an individual:  social, physical, energetic, emotional and intellectual. The path of Raja Yoga could be called the path of mental mastery and is presented in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the main scriptures that delineate Yoga and its teachings.  The Sutras define Yoga as an experience that occurs when the movements of the mind are stilled, and it describes eight limbs or steps to that achievement, which is often called Self-realization.

The Sutras also present the practices of asana, pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation, which can be considered the path of Hatha Yoga. This approach uses the gross, physical level of being, to gradually purify and bring under conscious control the more subtle levels. Ultimately, Hatha Yoga fully awakens the storehouse of superconscious energy, or kundalini, an experience synonymous with Realization.

The Sutras describe as well the use of sound vibration as an aid for self-mastery, which can be seen as a path by itself called Nada, or Japa Yoga.  This practice utilizes sound formulas called mantras, which represent different aspects or qualities of the Spiritual Self.  Through chanting and repetition, an individual can attune the entire body-mind system with the divine vibration of the Spirit, and thus attain harmony with it.

The same harmony with Spirit is reached through another branch called Karma Yoga, the Yoga of action through selfless service.  This path is described in detail in the Bhagavad Gita, another of the main scriptures that expound the teachings of Yoga.  Karma Yoga involves performing duties with a focused mind and loving intention, without attachment to the outcome or to personal reward.  When the heart and mind are trained to act for the well-being of all, the practitioner becomes an instrument of the Divine Will, transcending her/his individuality.

Swami Ramananda Signature

2016-10-15T01:45:31+00:00 January 29th, 2015|Comments Off on What is Yoga (Part 1)

Wild Geese

wild geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal

of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair,

yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles

of the rain are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese,

high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese,

harsh and exciting — over and over

announcing your place in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver-

2016-10-15T01:45:31+00:00 January 26th, 2015|Comments Off on Wild Geese

The world is a training place


“Wherever we are, we have to learn to handle things properly. We can’t always change environments, running here and there. But once we know how to handle one small family, we can handle a larger group. A family life is a training place for public life. If you can’t face a sharp word from your mate, how can you face such words from a stranger? The world is a training place where we learn to use the world without getting attached. Instead of saying, ‘To one of discrimination, everything is painful’, it becomes ‘To one of discrimination, everything is pleasurable’. A person with such understanding has the magic wand to convert everything into happiness. Pleasure and pain are but the outcome of your approach. The same world can be heaven or hell.”

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali commented by Swami Satchidananda

2016-10-15T01:45:32+00:00 January 22nd, 2015|Comments Off on The world is a training place



“It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us


*Brother David Steindl-Rast*

2016-10-15T01:45:32+00:00 January 19th, 2015|Comments Off on gratefulness