BOCAS YOGA, BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA
"Then, the seer abides in his own nature". - Yoga Sutra 1.3 of Patanjali
Yoga means unity. What it is that we are uniting with is our True Self - our innate, unchanging goodness. A toned body, flexibility, stamina, longevity, and youthful looks are simply pleasant bi-products of a regular yoga asana practice. The primary goal of yoga is to direct the activities of the mind so that it can see more clearly, making correct decisions based on this clarity, thus avoiding future suffering. In order to achieve this clarity, one must remove impurities. Regular yoga practice is the purification process. Breath is used, working with the body and focusing the mind. Yoga teaches us attentiveness that we carry throughout all aspects of our lives. When we live with attention and positive intention, we are less likely to make mistakes, and less likely to be slaves to old behavior patterns, or habits, that don't serve us. Yoga is the way to become aware of the true nature of our being - it wipes away the dust on the mirror so that we can see the beauty of our True Selves. It is only inevitable that the serenity and wholeness that yoga brings to our lives spills over to our relationships with others. We are all united by the same bright light within, and express ourselves individually with creative freedom in a way that uplifts others and makes the world a better place to be in.
Avidya is a state of ignorance, a state of misperception. Avidya accounts for the poor decisions we may make in life - decisions that are based on illusion. These poor decisions can either lead us to take incorrect action, or to take no action at all when action would be correct. Avidya is incorrect comprehension of a situation, based on our past experiences and unconscious actions and accounts for current suffering and leads to future suffering.
Samadhi is when we succeed in becoming so absorbed in something that our mind becomes one with it, completely. With Samadhi, we have reached a state self-transcendence. The journey from Avidya to Samadhi can be followed along the 8 limbs of Yoga described by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, of which follows:
1. Yama refers to our discipline concerning our dealings with society and the world - it's our attitude toward our environment. Yamas include consideration for all living things, correct communication, noncovetousness, moderation in our actions, and nongreediness. How we behave towards our environment and others reflects our own state of mind.
2. Niyama refers to our restraint or personal discipline - our attitude towards ourselves. Niyama comprises cleanliness, contentment, removal of physical/mental impurities, study, self-reflection, and reverence towards a higher, Universal power.
3. Asana or posture - the practice
of body exercises. This helps us to understand and to correctly and appropriately
use our bodies and our breath.
4. Pranayama refers to our practice of breath control/extension/expansion. Pranayama may be thought of as the control of life force that comes as a result of practicing various breathing techniques
5. Pratyahara is our sense-withdrawal - restraint of our senses.
6. Dharana is concentration - the ability to direct our minds.
7. Dhyana is meditation - the ability to develop interactions with what we seek to understand.
8. Samadhi is self-transcendence - complete integration with the object to be understood.
The meaning of OM (AUM) in Yoga:
We see the symbol OM or AUM on T-Shirts and tattoos, and sometimes hear it chanted in yoga studios, but do we really know what it means? I inquired about the meaning of OM when I was a kid, back in 1982, writing (before available Internet and email) to some distant place to discover its meaning. I kindly received a letter back saying that OM is the primordial sound. With my studies, I've come to find that OM has a broader meaning. Om is a symbol of the Absolute. When we say OM we are saying everything at once.
OM is special symbol representing Isvara, which is a concept of the highest divine being who is omniscient, perfect in action, sees all things as they are, is the first teacher, and is a source of support. Isvara is not subject to avidya (ignorance), therefore never makes mistakes and is not susceptible to suffering. Isvara is all-knowing and all-understanding. By reciting the sound OM it is possible to have a relationship with Isvara, asking to share knowledge. When reciting OM, the mind merges into the concept Isvara, the great teacher calling for help in overcoming the obstacles along our journey. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutra there is no mention of OM - instead he describes the term pranava, which has the same meaning.
OM written in Sanskrit is a symbol representing resonance and actually consists of 3 letters - A, U, M.
"A" is the first letter of the Sanskrit
alphabet, and represents the process of creation. "A" is voiced
with an open mouth, emanating from the belly, formed in the open throat.
"U" symbolizes the continuance of
creation and connection. Creation is being constantly renewed. The sound "U"
is formed in the middle of the mouth. The mouth is slightly more closed here
than is it with "A".
"M" is the last consonant of the
Sanskrit alphabet, and symbolizes dissolution. The sound "M" is
with a closed mouth.
Going from "A" to "M",
with "U" in the middle, is a representation of everything that can
be expressed with words, which is Isvara. Following "M" the sound
continues, rising to the nasal passages where it resonates. This resonance
is the fourth aspect of OM. The sound of "M" carrying on has no
symbol in the alphabet to represent it, therefore Isvara is also everything
that cannot be expressed in words.
Chanting OM is a form of meditation in which we are asking Isvara to protectively guide us. It is our way of asking for assistance - to lead us from ignorance, giving us mental clarity in order to avoid future suffering. It is important when chanting OM to keep actively in our minds the true meaning of OM and our quest for self-realization, otherwise it can lose meaning. When trusting in Isvara, by chanting OM, we have faith that we can become better, and trust that we are able to overcome obstacles in order to move forward in life and our yoga practice.
I am the fresh taste of water, the light
of the sun and moon; I am the sacred syllable OM in the Vedic mantras, the
sound in ether, and the ability in human beings. - "Bhagavad Gita"
Chapter 7, Verse 8
There are centers of pranic energy (life force) in the body responsible for the balance at all levels of being, physical, psychological and spiritual. Chakras are located near vital glands and nerve centers, which control the circulation of prana. Each Chakra can open up specific areas of the brain. The psychic centers can lie dormant. The chakras are located along the Sushumna pathway, which flows through the spinal chord, beginning at the perineum and ends at the top of the head. The chakras are connected to the network of nadis. We use yoga as a way to clear blockages we may have in the chakras, allowing vital life force energy to flow upwards, providing enlightenment and self awareness. This is referred to as awakening Kundalini, the creative potential that exists in every human.
1st Chakra - Muladhara
I am always safe at the center
of my being
Location: base of the body (adrenal glands)
Issues: survival fear
Balanced: groundedness and safety
Areas of the body: eliminatory system, legs and feet
Health problems: joints, skeletal
Asanas: Standing poses, stabilization poses, hip openers
2nd Chakra - Swadhisthana
I flow with the rhythms of life
Location: four fingers below the navel (reproductive organs)
Issues: intimacy, emotions
Balanced: healthy sexually
Areas of the body: reproductive and pelvic area
Asanas: hip openers, stabilization, forward bends
3rd Chakra - Manipura
I stand in my personal power
Location: solar plexus (pancreas & liver)
Issues: self-esteem, social roles
Balanced: healthy social roles
Areas of the body: stomach, liver, small intestine
Health problems: digestive
Asanas: twists, lateral bends, back bends
4th Chakra - Anahata
I open my heart fully to living
Location: heart (thymus gland)
Issues: depression, pessimism
Balanced: unconditional love
Areas of body: heart, lungs, shoulders, arms
Health problems: heart, respiratory
Asanas: back bends, lateral bends
5th Chakra - Vishuddha
I follow and speak my truth
Location: throat (thyroid gland)
Issues: intuition, communication
Balanced: inner directed Self
Areas of the body - throat, mouth
Health problems - thyroid, speech
Asanas: back bends, forward bends
6th Chakra - Ajna
I follow the path of truth
Location: third eye (pituitary gland)
Issues: dedication to spiritual path
Balanced: calm and focused
Areas of the body: the senses
Health problems: sense related
Asanas: balance, inversions, Savasana
7th Chakra - Sahasrara
There is only a higher Universal
Location: crown (pineal gland)
Color: crystal light
Issues: spiritual separation
Balanced: Unity Consciousness
Areas of the body: brain and nervous system
Health problems: separation from source
Asanas: Inversions, meditation
Udana vayu is vital force centered in the throat and head, and allows for thought and communication. The circular energy moves in a clockwise direction and is a doorway to higher states of consciousness.
Prana vayu is generated by inhaling breath and is the vital force centered in the heart, chest, lungs, nose, and mouth and is associated with the overall energy of the body.
Samana vayu is centered in the abdominal area and is associated with digestion. This is where Agni, the digestive fire, resides. The movement of this vayu is expansive in all directions.
Apana vayu is generated by exhaling and is centered in the lower half of the body. It's also associated with elimination.
Vyana vayu pervades the entire body,
including the extremities. It distributes prana to the body and provides muscular
action, deriving energy from food and breath. Vyana vayu provides energy for
arteries, veins and nerves. This also includes the autonomic nervous system,
regulating the balance of prana and apana.
The nadis are energy channels that carry prana (life force energy) to and from the vayus. There are approximately 72,000 nadis channeling energy throughout the subtle body within an intricate network within our connective tissue, composed of astral matter. Energy is transported to all areas of the body and congregates at the chakra centers, areas of important glands and tissues.
Ida - crisscrosses up the spine and ends at the left nostril. Breathing in and out of the left nostril creates a calming effect. Ida is feminine and cooling breath stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Forward bends are good for this.
Pingala - crisscrosses up the spine ending at the right nostril. Breathing in and out of the right nostril causes heat and prepares for digestion and concentration. This breath is masculine and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Backbends are good for this.
Sushumna - moves directly up the spinal column and balances the Ida and Pingala.
There are 5 koshas (sheaths):
Annamayakosha - The physical body is made from food that is converted into energy. This is the most outer kosha/sheath. Annamayakosha relates to all of the systems of the physical body, as well as the 5 elements of the physical body (earth, water, fire, air, and space). To bring balance in the physical systems as well as the balance in the elements, requires an understanding of the Ayurvedic doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Associated with the Annamayakosha are the yamas, niyamas, asanas, and Muladhra - the root chakra.
Pranamayakosha - The energy body/subtle body, which is life force and psychic energy. This includes the subtle energy systems of the body, including the chakras (energy centers) and the Prana Vayus (main energy currents), and the nadis (energy channels). In terms of health, the Pranamayakosha relates to the balance in the energy systems as well as the intake and flow of prana throughout our being. Prana is the source energy that gives life to all creation. When prana is blocked or stagnant, disease can occur. Asanas remove constrictions from the chakras and open the energy channels. Pranayama is practiced within this kosha. The second chakra, swadishthana is associated with Pranayamakosha.
Vijnyanamayakosha - The witness faculty that allows for transformation and is where the witness consciousness resides. This is the subtle body of the higher mind, including understanding, wisdom and intuition. This kosha allows us to move beyond conditioned beliefs and responses enabling us to be guided by a source of pure intelligence. This is a bridge between the conscious and unconscious. The fourth (heart) chakra, Anahata is associated with this Vijnyanamayakosha, as well as Dharana, first stage of concentration and directing the mind.
Anandamayakosha - Inner joy, which
is our true nature. This is the spiritual body of bliss. Here we can connect
with our deepest source, the Universal Spirit, and be at peace. We experience
unity with a higher, Universal power and are free. Dhyana (meditation) and
Samadhi (bliss) are associated with this kosha. Ajna, the third-eye chakra
is associated with Anandamayakosha.
There are shariras (bodies) that encompass the five koshas.
Shtula shariras - the physical body that contains the Anamayakosha and the Pranamayakosha. This is the matter which makes up the body, energy needed to sustain matter, bodily sensations, and the five elements.
Shuksma shariras - The Manomayakosha and Vijnyanamayakosha. This is the subtle body - thought and emotion.
Karana sharira - the causal body which causes the other bodies and koshas to come into being. The Anandamayakosha is contained here. The ultimate cause is to bring into being both the Unity of all creation and the individuals that are its manifestation.