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 Proper Exercise

Our physical body is meant to move and exercise. If our lifestyle does not provide natural motion of muscles and joints, then disease and great discomfort will ensue with time. Proper exercise should be pleasant to the practitioner while beneficial to the body, mind and spiritual life. There are numerous modern physical culture systems designed to develop the muscles through mechanical movements and exercises. As Yoga regards the body as a vehicle for the soul on its journey towards perfection, Yogic physical exercises are designed to develop not only the body. They also broaden the mental faculties and the spiritual capacities. The Yogic physical exercises are called Asanas, a term which means steady pose. This is because the Yoga Asana (or posture) is meant to be held for some time. However this is quite an advanced practice. Initially, our concern is simply to increase body flexibility. The body is as young as it is flexible. Yoga exercises focus on the health of the spine, its strength and flexibility. The spinal column houses the all-important nervous system, the telegraphic system of the body. By maintaining the spine's flexibility and strength through exercise, circulation is increased and the nerves are ensured their supply of nutrients and oxygen. The Asanas also affect the internal organs and the endocrine system (glands and hormones). Swami Vishnudevananda recommended daily practice of the 12 Basic Asanas. Traditionally, Yogis practice Surya Namaskar, the sun salutation, before the Asanas. 12 Basic Asanas 1. Headstand (Sirshasana) 2. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana) 3. Plough (Halasana) 4. Fish (Matsyasana) 5. Sitting Forward bend (Paschimothanasana) 6. Cobra (Bhujangasana) 7. Locust (Shalabhasana) 8. Bow (Dhanurasana) 9. Spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) 10. Crow (Kakasana) or Peacock (Mayurasana) 11. Standing forward bend (Pada Hasthasana) 12. Triangle (Trikonasana)

 Proper Breathing
Yoga teaches us how to use the lungs to their maximum capacity and how to control the breath. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. This increases vitality and mental clarity.

Clavicular breathing is the most shallow and worst possible type. Thoracic breathing is done with the rib muscles expanding the rib cage. They should learn the full Yogic breathing. and finally the upper portion of the lungs. beginning with a deep breath and continuing the inhalation through the intercostal and clavicular areas. Breathing is slow and deep. Place the hand on the upper abdomen. This is the Yogic complete breath. they have painful tension in the upper part of the back and neck. Breathing exercises are called Pranayamas. Try to get the feeling of this motion. Pranayama By far the most important thing about good breathing is the Prana. Learning Full Yogic Breathing Once you feel proficient in the practice of the abdominal breathing you will be ready to learn the Full Yogic Breathing. 2. Breathe in slowly. They breathe shallowly. expand the abdomen. none of these types are complete. Maximum effort is made. Deep abdominal breathing is the best. The shoulders and collarbone are raised while the abdomen is contracted during inhalation. The abdomen should expand outward as you inhale and contract as you exhale. The two main Pranayamas taught in the Sivananda Ashrams and Centres are Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma. 3. where the diaphragm is located. and is the second type of incomplete breathing. Three Types of Breathing 1. letting the abdomen cave in as you exhale. Actually.  Proper Relaxation . Their shoulders are hunched. and they suffer from lack of oxygen. which means to control the Prana. then the ribcage. Control of the Prana leads to control of the mind. Breathe in and out slowly. Learning Abdominal Breathing To get the feel of proper diaphragmatic breathing. or subtle energy of the vital breath.Most people use only a fraction of their lung capacity for breathing. breathe out in the same manner. Then. and proper use is made of the diaphragm. barely expanding the ribcage. A full Yogic breath combines all three. wear loose clothing and lie on the back. for it brings air to the lowest and largest part of the lungs. but a minimum amount of air is obtained.

It may be remembered that in the course of one day. By relaxing deeply all the muscles the Yogi can thoroughly rejuvenate his nervous system and attain a deep sense of inner peace. liver and the other internal organs. Many have even forgotten that rest and relaxation are nature's way of recharging. 1 . please see chapter 6 of the Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda. anger. the Rishis (sages or seers) and Yogis of yore devised very powerful techniques of deep relaxation. The result is disastrous. More of our energy is spent in keeping the muscles in continual readiness for work than in the actual useful work done. Physical relaxation first begins with the toes and then moves upward. But it often happens that all these substances and energy may be consumed within a few minutes by bad moods.Long before the invention of cars. freeways and other modern triggers of stress. computers.Physical Relaxation We know that every action is the result of thought. "Mental". . the body reaching to the thought. many modern stress-management and relaxation methods borrow heavily from this tradition. messages are sent to the kidneys. During complete relaxation. In order to achieve perfect relaxation. the average person expends a lot of physical and mental energy through tension. Modern social life. food. make it difficult for modern people to relax. three methods are used by yogis: "Physical". In order to regulate and balance the work of the body and mind. not only for the body. althouth a little is keeping the body in normal condition while the remaining portion is being stored and conserved. their natural efficiency to perform work diminishes. there is practically no energy or "Prana" being consumed. or the Corpse Pose. This may be done by learning to relax. work and even the so-called entertainment. planes. Thoughts take form in action. The autosuggestion pases through the muscles and reaches the eyes and ears at the top. Relaxation is not complete until the person reaches that stage of spiritual relaxation. telephones. This relaxation position is known as Savasana. but also for the mind. As a matter of fact. slowly. When the body and the mind are constantly overworked. injury or intense irritation. which only advanced spiritual aspirants know. the mind may also send another message to bring the relaxation to the tired muscles. Even while trying to rest. our body usually produce all the substances and energy necessary for the next day. Just as the mind may send a messeage to the muscels ordering them to contract. Much of the body's energy is wasted uselessly. it is best to learn to economize the energy produced by our body. For further reading. and "Spiritual" relaxation. Then. such as disco dancing. The process of eruption and repression of violent emotions often grows into a regular habit.

minerals. 3 . it nourishes the plants (the top of the food chain) which are then eaten by animals (vegetarian). has the greatest life promoting properties. vegetables. Nutritional requirements fall under five categories: protein. consisting of pure. He knows that the source of all power. free from chemicals and pesticides) will help ensure a better supply of these nutritional needs. in turn bring tension. the foods we eat profoundly affect our mind. The Sun is the source of energy for all life on our planet. simple. Yoga advocates a lacto-vegetarian diet. The food value of animal flesh is termed as "second-hand" source of nutrition. which are then eaten by other animals (carnivores). As source of protein. nuts and grains) have. natural foods which are easily digested and promote health. These emotions. Yogis know that unless a person can withdraw from the body/mind idea and separate himself from the ego-consciousness. carbohydrates. being directly nourished by the Sun.Spiritual Relaxation However one may try to relax the mind. Soon the mind will become calm. There is a cycle in nature known as the "food cycle" or "food chain". that is "I am that pure consciousness or self". This identification with the self completes the process of relaxation. it is advisable to breathe slowly and rhythmically for a few minutes. The yogic diet is a vegetarian one. knowledge. You may experience a kind of floating sensation. these are easily assimilated by the body. all-powerful. As long as a person identifies with the body and the mind. The yogi identifies himself with the all pervading. not in the body. there is no way of obtaining complete relaxation. fear and anger.2 .Mental Relaxation When experiencing mental tension. there will be worries. different proportions of these essential nutrients. This is an integral part of the Yogic lifestyle. all-peaceful and joyful self. Simple meals aid the digestion and assimilation of foods. refining and overcooking destroy much food value. One should have a certain knowledge of dietetics in order to balance the diet. seeds. Processing. The food at the top of the food chain. sorrows. or pure consciousness within. all tensions and worries cannot be completely removed until one reaches spiritual relaxation. All natural foods (fruits. For maximum body-mind efficiency and complete spiritual awareness. and is inferior in nature. grown in fertile soil (preferably organic. Eating foods first-hand from nature. However. Proper Diet Besides being responsible for building our physical body. second-hand sources are often more difficult to digest and are of less value to the body's metabolism. . in varying quantities. We tune to this by asserting the real nature. fats and vitamins. peace and strength is in the self. anxieties.

Many people worry about whether they are getting enough protein. grains. Internally. fish. The mind will be brought under perfect control by regular practice of meditation. We feel we have played a good game when we have achieved perfect concentration. However. we focus on the "Self" or the consciousness of "I am". The high protein requirement still being used by many Health Departments is based on antiquated data and has been scientifically disproved many times in the laboratory. the vital life energy. joyful mind. When we take up some recreation on putting the ball into the hole (golf). legumes. but because we have achieved perfect concentration eighteen times. the true Yogic diet is actually even more selective than this. seeds and nuts until finally all flesh products have been completely eliminated from the diet. At that time. onions. not because the ball being put in the hole eighteen times. coffee. we focus on anything other than the "Self" or "I am".or Prana. So the greatest nutritional plan for the Yoga student is the simple diet of natural fresh foods. A healthy motto is: "Eat to live. In the same way. when the mind is still. you can see the "Self" this is called Yoga. We can control the mental agitation by two means: by concentrating the mind either externally or internally. This is impossible when the surface is agitated by waves. A positive outlook on life can be developed by learning and practicing the teachings of the philosophy of Vedanta. The happiness we experience comes. Thus we should exert to entertain positive and creative thoughts as these will contribute to vibrant health and a peaceful. Start by substituting larger portions of vegetables. we become what we think. eggs. One who seriously takes to the path of Yoga would avoid ingesting meats. nuts and seeds provide the vegetarian with an adequate supply of protein. It is best if we understand that the purpose of eating is to supply our being with the lifeforce. To really understand the Yogic approach to diet one has to get familiar with the concept of the 3 Gunas or qualities of nature. When the surface of a lake is still. not live to eat". Dairy products.  Positive Thinking & Meditation Here is the most important point of all. tea (except herbal). Externally. with no thoughts or desires. He therefore avoids foods which are overly stimulating. Any change in diet should be made gradually. The quality of the protein is more important than the quantity alone. The Yogic diet will help you attain a high standard of health. The Yogi is concerned with the subtle effect that food has on his mind and astral body. garlic. but neglect other factors. one can see to the bottom very clearly. keen intellect and serenity of mind. the other thoughts are slowed down or stilled. alcohol and drugs. all the worries and problems of the world disappeared. preferring those which render the mind calm and the intellect sharp. .

the body always obeys the group demand. cannot be grasped. meditation helps to prolong the body's anabolic process of growth and repair. By curbing and stilling the oscillations of the mind. Meditation. in which there is neither time. for they have no permanence. the cells are activated. time passes unnoticed. and to reduce the catabolic or decaying process. meditation brings mental peace. Each of our body cells is governed by the instinctive subconscious mind. it rejuvenates body cells and retards decay. Time. and causation and all external experiences are mental creation. The closest analogous state that we can experience is deep sleep. it is not extraordinary or mysterious. and after 35 the catabolic process dominates. present and future. Past and future are non-existent in the present. They have both an individual and a collective conciousness. This is because of the innate receptivity of the body cells. Concepts of time are illusory. but only the consciousness of "I am" in the eternal NOW. which is measured in terms of past. This is the state of Meditation". Meditation is not something that a Yogi has to teach you. we must first know how to calm the mind. All ordinary experience is limited by Time. differs from deep sleep. . just as colors cannot be described to a blind man. it is limited by nature. The present. All happiness achieved through the mind is temporary and fleeting. for it works profound changes in the psyche. It has been scientifically proven that positive thoughts bring positive result to cells. as if it did not exist. nor causation. nor space. Finite experience. By turning the mind's concentration inward. Meditation can significantly reduce the catabolic decline. we can deepen that experience of perfect concentration. On the physical level. As meditation brings about a prolonged positive state of mind. is that generally we have learned to focus the mind externally on objects. When the mind is fully concentrated. however. Space. The Techniques of Meditation Meditation is an experience that cannot be described. When the thoughts and desires pour into the body. In it there is neither past nor future. Ordinarily the anabolic process predominates until the age of 18. cannot be transcendental. upon the self. Our normal awareness and understanding do not transcend these bounds.The mental ability to concentrate is inherent to all. It is only possible when all mental modifications are stilled. Space and Causation. The only difference between this and meditation (the positive way). To achieve that state of lasting happiness and absolute peace. you already have the ability to shut out thoughts. there is no time! Time is nothing but a modification of the mind. We live in illusion. The meditative state transcends all such limitations. From 18 to 35 there is balance between the two. to concentrate and go beyond the mind. immeasurably small and fleeting. When the mind is focused.

This is the superconcious state reached by mystics of all faiths and persuasions. anymore than one can learn to sleep. Meditation is the most powerful mental and nerve tonic. Regularity conditions the mind to slow down its activities with a minimum of delay. the Knowledge. as this will set in motion additional brain waves. If you dont have a personalized Manta. Regularity of time. For people who are intellectual by nature. As meditation is repeated. inhale for three seconds and exhale for three seconds. use Om. duality disappears and Samadhi. command the mind to be quiet for a specific length of time. If you meditate for half an hour daily. is reached. Never change the Mantra. With practice. repeat it mentally. 7. 2. 8. In Samadhi one rests in the state of bliss in which the Knower. use the Anahata or Heart Chakra. nerves. If using a Mantra. When sitting. Try to have a separate room for meditation. Regulation of breath also regulates the flow of prana. It will jump around. rhythmic. without awareness of meaning. The most effective times are early dawn and dusk. place and practice are important. Don't force the mind to be still. The 14 Points of Meditation 1. Select a focal point on which the mind may rest. For more emotional people. face North or East in order to take advantage of favorable magnetic vibrations. Although mental repetition is stronger. an atmosphere of peace and purity will be felt. one falls into both states. sense organs and . and a time when the mind is apt to be calm. holding the image in the place of concentration. in which sound vibration merges with thought vibration. Before beginning. Allow the mind to wander at first. along with the concentration of prana. comfortable. the point between the eyebrows. as this takes a long time. Never change this focal point. Focus on a neutral or uplifting object.One cannot learn to meditate. or the superconscious state. 3. present and future. 13. cross-legged position with spine and neck erect but not tense. hindering meditation. Do not become impatient. the powerful vibrations set up will be lodged in the area. Consciously regulate the breath. Sit in a steady. 6. Divine energy freely flows to the adept during meditation.. this may be the Ajna Chakra. 12. Keep the breathing. Forget the past. but will eventually become concentrated. 14. Vocal repetition progresses through mental repetition to telepathic language. There are certain points to remember regarding the techniques and stages of meditation. 9. Repetition will lead to pure thought. the vital energy. and exerts a benign influence on the mind. the mantra may be repeted aloud if one becomes drowsy. choose an hour when you are not involved with daily activities. you will be able to face life with peace and spiritual strength. and co-ordinate repetition with the breath. 11. Begin with five minutes of deep abdominal breathing to bring oxygen to the brain. 4. 10. 5. and the Known become one. and from there to pure thought. Then slow it down to an imperceptible rate. If it is not feasible to sit for meditation at these times. when the atmosphere is charged with special spiritual force.

The mind becomes calm and steady. . It opens the door to intuitive knowledge and realms of eternal bliss.body.