True masters never add titles to their own name to enhance their power.
True masters share their insights without needing to convince.
True masters never elevate themselves higher then anyone.
True masters never claim to hold on to the absolute truth.
True masters never declare their own realization.
True masters convey wisdom with no ownership.
True masters know we are all masters within.
True masters never encourage dependency.
True masters never encourage idolization.
True masters never fear others who know.
True masters simply radiate their state.
True masters set people free.
Prana Yoga College
I am an absolute beginner at yoga, meaning I have never ever done it at all but want to start.
What is the best way to start from scratch?
Are they any beginner photos of exercises to do before I come of a class so I can at least have some knowledge and flexibility?
Response from shakti:
Many people say they can not do yoga because they are not flexible enough. It is like saying, ‘I can not take a shower because I am too dirty’. The reason you are practicing yoga is to become more fit and flexible and to gain the knowledge. So when you come to a beginner class you don’t need to know more then you know but you need to want to learn, you need to empty your cup..
How to start:
1. Find a teacher. If you start on your own with a book or DVD you may build your practice on the wrong foundation as you don’t have the tools yet to know what is right and what is wrong. This can lead to injury or dislike of the practice. In the beginning, the teacher sees for you until you develop internal eyes to see where you are in each moment of the practice.
2. Find a great teacher – do not compromise with just any teacher. A bad teacher may take you as far as the satisfaction of a good workout. A great teacher may open up a whole new dimension for you, to experience yourself and existence. The asanas (yoga postures) contain incredible hidden power that only a great teacher will be able to show you how to unfold.
3. A teacher is like cup of tea. You need to find the right one for yourself. In the old times people would travel a long way to meet the right teacher. Today, people may compromise by choosing a teacher who is near, or whose classes are a good bargain.
4. How will you know who is the right teacher for you? Feel it in your heart and in your gut – do not follow trends. Trust your intuition.
5. Keep away from Hot Yoga, Power Yoga or Ashtanga. Hot yoga is not a yoga and the other 2 are not suitable for beginners.
6. Start at least twice a week, 3 is even better but don’t become obsessed with the practice.
7. Avoid yoga that requires you to purchase too many ‘yoga’ gadgets. This type of yoga is the invention of the modern consuming western culture. All you need is your body, your breath, a small space and maybe a yoga mat. An Ultra Violet bottle of water won’t speed your practice towards realization.
8. Start now. Tomorrow won’t be too late, but ‘now’ will manifest your intent.
Prana Yoga College
A student of mine once told me that her husband has been a martial arts master for many years, but that none of his close friends know about it.
When his friends invited him to spend time with them on weekends, he had often chosen instead to go and practice. His excuse to them was simply that he was unavailable, and he had never mentioned what he was doing instead.
In days gone by, people who were serious about their spiritual path never discussed their practice with anyone but their teacher, and rarely with their loved ones.
In this so-called “new age” of ours, many people wear spirituality as a cool trendy outfit to be shown off. They use their practice as a business card to identify themselves. By contrast, a serious practice helps people discover that which they are not.
Often you can hear “spiritual” people exchanging notes about their practice over cups of coffee. You may hear them discuss the advanced asana (posture) they recently mastered (usually it comes with a demonstration in the middle of Starbucks), or which chakra (energy centre) they opened last week.
You can hear them talk about the degrees of heat they feel in their bum when they do mula bhanda (energy lock), or which of the many goddesses visited them yesterday morning in their meditation.
For most people, spirituality represents self-growth and self-evolvement. But, the higher self cannot go through the process of self-growth, because it is perfect and complete on it own. Discussing one’s practice in small talk feeds the need of the small “self” for constant acknowledgment and recognition.
True practice is like making love to your higher self. In the same way as you do not describe to others the intimacy you share with your beloved (at least I hope not!), it is not appropriate to discuss your practice with others either. In doing so, you disperse the energy of your practice. In other words, you weaken it. You feed your ego and cling to your lower self, the illusion of who you think you are.
Don’t talk your practice.
Practice your talk.
Prana Yoga College
By Shakti Mhi
Throughout my years of practicing yoga, when people found out about my practice, their first question usually was usually whether or not I could ‘put my foot around my neck’.
One can easily get the idea by looking at the yoga magazines, studio brochures and the endless yoga-themed commercials or through surfing the web; that the ultimate aim of yoga is in fact to bring your leg around your neck; it’s about getting the rubber body.
In the old days the most prominent feature of a yogi who immersed himself in the higher practice of yoga was his powerful eyes; looking through you, drawing your attention to existence which may be experienced beyond the form of the body.
Today you meet endless images of lovely yogis and yoginis from all ages, cultures and styles, with their legs rapped around their neck as their smiling eyes seem to say “I reached the Everest of yoga”. In many ways it is a process very similar to that of getting to the top of the Everest.
You go through long practice and training which starts with the ambitions of the ego. As you climb the mountain of Yoga towards the goal of achieving the most obscure body postures you face a high risk of injuring the knees and hips, getting sciatica, compressing the spine etc. and possibly ending with overly loose joints. There is always a risk of never achieving the goal (because of skeletal structure, scar tissue etc) which may lead to great disappointment and the feeling of being a failure.
The question is “When finally we fulfill the desire of the mind, and our foot is hanging around our neck….. then what?” Has the leg around the neck freed us from suffering? Is it helping us to master our mind? Are we acting without reacting? Is the wrapping of the leg around the neck engaging us with our higher self to become the ultimate observer who knows that we are not this body? Is the heel close enough to our brain to free us from the fear of death?
What are the reasons for the western yoga teachers identifying their abilities with the performance of the body? Is it because we have nothing wise to say from our authentic experience – so instead, we show off our physical form as we often do outside the yoga studio setting. Is it because we are so programmed to identify with our body as who we are that we apply it to our spiritual practice instead of applying the wisdom of the spiritual path to our life?
Or maybe after we started our yoga practice, our ego got so mesmerized by the body’s performance, that we forgot why we started the practice from the beginning.
The practice of the yoga asanas (postures) is for the purpose of maintaining our body so it is in a good health, and free of toxins and blockages so that prana energy can flow through and widen our perception towards life and existence. The body is a great vehicle for us to use through the spiritual journey.
When people buy a car to take them to different destinations, they take care of the car so it stays in good shape and is safe to travel in. Some people get obsessed with their car, blurring the definition between the object and themselves. Fully identified with the car’s look and performance, they start buying gadgets for it, investing time into it, while the car becomes a source of their pride, worries, attachments and suffering. The body is the vehicle for the self – do not confuse it with the self.
In closing, think about this: if an extremely flexible body is in fact the aim of the ancient yoga then we should all be worshipping the teenage contortionists in Cirque de Soleil.
Prana Yoga College
Is there anything in particular that you focus on for meditation and realization exercises?
Anything in life can turn to be either light or darkness.
Many times people with cancer take vitamins and minerals as supplements to strengthen the healthy cells in the body so that they will be powerful, to fight the cancerous cells.
Sometimes the supplements empower the healthy cells and the cancer is defeated, but sometimes the supplements feed the cancer cells and strengthen them.
The same principle works for yoga practice.
Powerful prana (energy) can either decrease ignorance or increase it. It on depends on how we use and direct the energy.
The aim of Hatha yoga (the physical aspect of yoga) is to create a powerful, strong and flexible body which will be capable of containing powerful prana (energy). This powerful energy (also known as Kundalini shakti), pierces the deluded mind and unfolds enlightenment within the practitioner.
However, many times instead of eradicating ignorance, the powerful energy boosts the ego of the practitioner who becomes impressed by the results of their physical practice. The aim of the practice becomes simply manipulating the body into often impossible postures for entertainment purposes. A competitive nature emerges amongst the yogis.
Clinging to the performance of the body will make us attached to our small self, the self that manifests itself through the body and the ego.
Even the most fascinating body will turn back into dust. Clinging to its performance will simply remove us from the path of realization, increasing the attachment to the most temporary part of ourselves, the physical body: the muscles, joints and ligaments.
Prana Yoga College
I remember that when I first heard about “hot yoga” I was baffled. Having already been deeply immersed in the yoga practice for a number of years, I quizzed the practitioners of this new “yoga” trend about the reasons for the torturous conditions. The common reply was: “to imitate the heat in India, the birthplace of yoga.”
Like most people who received training in the traditional classic hatha yoga, I was warned by my teachers never to practice yoga in the heat and instead, to always do it in an environment comfortable for the body. They advised that if you happen to live in a hot climate, you should practice yoga either early morning or after sunset.
Observe cultures living in hot climates, including India, and you will find that not only do they not exercise in the midst of the heat, they actually do relatively nothing. They try not to move at all. In other words they practice the art of siesta. Why? When the environment gets hot it raises the temperature in the body. The primary concern, and survival instinct, of the body is to maintain a very consistent temperature within the vital organs at all times. This way the internal organs won’t get too cold or overheat. Clearly this is why, according to research in Neuroscience, the brain devotes most of its grey matter to the regulation of the body’s temperature; homeostasis.
It takes tremendous energy to lower the body temperature and keep it balanced. Exercising requires a great deal of energy from the body. Doing exercises in the heat puts the body, and all its systems and organs, under great stress. Would you ever do vigorous exercises when you have a fever? This is the sole reason why we prescribe rest during an illness; particularly one involving a higher than normal body temperature. You need to conserve energy so that the body can bring the system back to equilibrium as quickly as possible.
Most of the time people harm themselves not because they are stupid, but because they are ignorant. Often, in the modern trendy yoga reality, not only do you not get the right education, you often get the wrong information. When students trust teachers who deliver false information it can get messy and downright harmful.
Many people who are hot yoga survivors report that as a result of their yoga practice they suffered from nausea and vomiting during or after classes, headaches and lightheadedness, fatigue, exhaustion, as well as feeling edgy and restless. Upon being asked why they continued despite these symptoms they all gave the same answer, “we were told by the teacher that we are having a ‘healing crisis’”. So that we all understand, a healing crisis may last for 24 to 48 hours, not 6 to 12 months. When you experience such significant symptoms after exercising it means you are going against the clear messages of your body. You are abusing yourself, and you are definitely not tuning in.
It took me years of living both in the Eastern and Western cultures to understand how the western mind has twisted the reality paradigm to only feel “alive” when it is accompanied by struggle. The mantra of ‘no-pain-no-gain’ is so pervasive that we’ve started to manifest it throughout our lives. ‘Love is hard and then you die’. ‘Just grin and bear it’. ‘Relationships are hard work’. From our parents indoctrinations of the above concepts, to messages from our friends, coworkers, religious sermons and particularly the evening news, the concept of life being tough is inescapable. Is it any wonder why manifesting your dreams is hard and aging is such a scary thing? Is it any wonder why depression is the most prevalent of health problems in the western world and antidepressants may soon be replacing fluoride as a tap water additive?
The Eastern spiritual goal of Living with Ease is one of hardest concepts for Westerners to take, having been raised with so many hard life concepts.
Unlike modern trendy yoga which emphasizes creating beautiful bodies, the aim of classical yoga is to remove suffering from our existence and discover who we are beyond the physical aspects of our body.
Instead of changing the true aim and methodology of yoga practice to suit our unhealthy philosophies we should have the humility and curiosity to adapt ourselves to what has worked for thousands of years, freeing our minds and bodies and living (IN) with ease.
According to Sri Bhagavan Patanjali, the author of the classic “Eight limbs of Yoga”, considered the father of the principles of the yoga practice, asana literally means a “posture that brings steadiness and comfort”.
Do not confuse the practice of hatha yoga with a sport or a workout. If you do:
- Yoga will pump your ego along with your body.
- In your practice you will develop a sense of competition with others and with yourself.
- You will become rigid and fanatic about the form of your practice.
- You may injure your body and drain your prana – the life force within you.
- You may become addicted to your practice as it will satisfy your senses like any other stimulant.
- Your practice will become an external performance not an inner journey.
- You will become fascinated by your physical abilities and identify even more as your body; sowing the seeds of discontentment and fear at the prospect of aging.
- You will fall into the illusion that you are on the spiritual path.
In addition, doing hot “yoga” makes you dependent on high end facilities for your practice and takes away your freedom from practicing asanas anytime and anywhere.
Your indicators for the practice in the true spirit of yoga:
- Practice in the presence of flowing fresh air to avoid inhaling the carbon dioxide (yours and that of others).
- Dress modestly while practicing with others to calm the senses and experience the self which exists beyond your appearance.
- Move slowly to still the restless mind. Maintain stillness within each asana creating a moment of meditation.
- Avoid any pain. Pain is a signal from the central nervous system that harm is being done to your body.
- Pain depletes the energy in the body. Comfort and stillness increase the energy. Immediately modify the asana if it creates pain.
- If you hear yourself panting like a dog during your practice you are not in the meditative (awareness) state which is the ultimate aim of the practice. Your brainwaves correlate directly to the rate of your breathing. Your breathing should be steady and calm at all times.
- Let your energy move you safely to where you should be in the asana in each given moment. Move beyond your ambitious mind.
- There is nowhere to go and nothing to gain as you are already there.
Can you see it? Are you being it?
Many people realize in one moment of their life that they live with lots of physical discomfort as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle.They may make a decision to clean their body.
They start the search for the magical solution: pills, liquids, cleansing kits, anything they can simply take in and instantly make their insides sparkle.Unfortunately cleansing is not
about taking stuff in; it is about taking stuff out. If your house is dirty it won’t help to buy new furniture to make it sparkle.
You first have to take the garbage out, remove the cobwebs, dust, and wash the floors. Only then you may choose to add new things into the house, if at all.
We apply the same attitude to the spiritual path. A day comes when many of us realize that we are actually moving from one suffering to the next and that
existence itself can feel quite heavy.
The spiritual path begins. We try to bring changes to our life by looking for the magical pill which will release us from the suffering. We go to workshops,
attend seminars, read spiritual books. We look for gurus, we start wearing crystals on our neck and reciting mantras etc. We have the illusion that the more
we take in, the faster and deeper the transformation will be.
But Realization is not about taking more information in. It is about letting go of everything we think we know and unfolding the real knowing within us,
the higher self. Our inner ‘knower’ is buried under a pile of images and concepts that we identify with as being who we are.Imagine not having a name,
a house, a partner, none of your possessions, your history, your body, your thoughts. Who, or rather, what, are you when you remove yourself from all this?
Not until we let go of everything which we think makes us who we are, can we free our higher self from under the clutter.Our small self (mind and ego)
will forever manifest itself through suffering and pain.Our higher self will forever manifest itself through bliss and stillness.
Are you ready to let go of who you think you are?
Prana Yoga College
There is time where all the walls of life seem to move closer to us giving the feeling of no way out.
The space for our existence gets smaller and smaller and we start suffocating.
The eyes are looking for the open horizon and instead they meet only with obstacles.
We try to open our arms to embrace new hopes and instead we hit the wall of our unfulfilled dreams.
We try to straighten our spine and lift the head above the walls and our head hits our limitations.
As a result of the absence of light within the box we lose the sparkle in our eyes.
After a while we lose faith…
We are so busy getting out of the box we don’t see the big flow that guided us to this box as part of our
journey towards awakening.
Crises and struggles are designed to awaken us and remind us that we are dwelling for too long in the wrong
hotel called ‘ignorance.’
If we won’t leave the hotel we will never be able to enjoy the city of realization, we will never experience
walking in the streets that carry us nowhere but free us to stroll joyfully in each moment.
On these streets you meet people who show you “the way” and in the next moment you are the one who
gives the directions.
Let it be.
Prana Yoga College
Detachment* is a mental/emotional surgery where the knife, made of the essence of ignorance, cuts into the flesh of existence and separates a part from the whole.
The blade of the knife comes in different shapes, such as denial, fear, or the illusion of self-identification.
* as opposed to non attachment