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Posts tagged ‘Yoga Spiritual Practices’

Yoga in India: Liberation Without a Twist!

Yoga in India

Yoga in India.  Photo by Coni Hörler


Yoga has a cluster of techniques distributed through a variety of branches. Their objective is the same: to experience oneness with the underlying reality that is the basis of the external word. Though they aim for the same goal they use different approaches for their journeys. (more…)

Key Elements of a transformative Yoga Class

By Sushant Pandey

Photo courtesy – Coni Hörler

Since time immemorial the system of yoga  has been a tool of inner transformation and refinement of consciousness. Regardless of techniques and methodology employed, under ideal circumstances the teaching of yoga should facilitate an environment to deepen one’s awareness, to develop a balanced perspective of life and to attain inner harmony and lasting peace. Here’s what an ideal Yoga Class should teach you.  (more…)

The Practice of Ahimsa

By Sushant Pandey

अहिंसाप्रतिष्ठायां तत्सन्निधौ वैरत्यागः॥३५॥
Ahiṁsāpratiṣṭhāyāṁ tatsannidhau vairatyāgaḥ||35||

On the establishment of Ahiṁsā or Non-injury (in a Yogī, there is) cessation of hostility (in one) coming close to him||35||

Ahimsa is ‘nonviolence’; the first and the foremost of the five Yama (Social codes of conduct) in the yoga sutras of Patanjali.


Mahashivrathri – The Great Night Of Lord Shiva


Murdeshwara Temple, Karnataka, India. Photo Credit – Coni Hörler

There are many myths that surround the festival of Mahashivrathri, but one in particular which is often repeated and remembered has to be the story of Samudra Manthan, or the ‘Churning of the Ocean’. Infact, this myth still bears a close resemblance to the way it is currently celebrated and has its origin from the ancient book of the Puranas, which when translated means ‘olden times’. (more…)

The 16th International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh

Article by Hazem Abu-Ghazaleh

_CHP2052On Saturday 7th March, the 16th International Yoga Festival at Parmath Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh came to a close. It was a truly magical and successful 7-day event with nearly 1000 participants from 60 different countries.  (more…)

Sadhana Part III: What is the Purpose of Life?

By Krishna Chaitanya
Krishna Chaitanya

Krishna Chaitanya

Krishna Chaitanya is founder of Yoga Vidya Retreats and a professional yoga trainer and spiritual teacher. His expertise is in the field of meditation, philosophy and psychology of Yoga-Vedanta. He lived and practiced for more than twelve years in some of the best ashrams in India and embraced the monastic life at the age of 19. Krishna has travelled to various teachers and traditions in many parts of the world in order to gain knowledge from his experiences, not just from books or spiritural traditions. You can read more about him in our guest writer post or on the Yoga Vidya Retreats website.

Sadhana: Spiritual Practice in Yoga

Part 3: What is the Purpose of Life?

In Part 1 of this series on Sadhana, I introduced Sadhana as the path to self realization in yoga. In Part 2 I explored what yoga is all about and what we try to achieve by practicing Sadhana. In the last of this 3-part series, I ask: What do I need to know and experience the truth?

This questions occupies every moment of our lives, most of the time unknowingly! Yes, every single thought-feeling-action in our daily life is centered on ‘I’ and focuses on either proving its existence or protecting it from death.

One may say, “I know who I am already and what I want from my life.”

Okay, what do we want from this life?

That’s another big question which is asked by everyone at some point of their lives but hushed up in the restless waves of the ocean called the mind. Some would prefer to leave it for scientists or Socrates and don’t care about all this philosophy! Well, yoga is for the people who care about themselves and about life and the world. So, yoga students ask this question again and again and try to find the answer from within.

02 yoga class (8)smallA Big Question: What is the Purpose of Life? 

A typical answer can be:
1) To grow up as a healthy kid in a safe environment (we can’t do anything about it now).
2) Good education at school (with lots of games and fun).
3) Acquire skills/degrees at college (for some this can mean party time with drinks-drugs-sex!).
4) Finding friendships and relationships (Facebook time?).
5) Getting a job to make enough money, to meet our needs for existence and have a lot of fun on weekends and during vacations.
6) Marriage and having kids (for some it’s a scary burden and the end of freedom).
7) More money to support the family, pay credit card bills and insurance (Oh I am getting older).
8) Retirement (a long holiday and waiting for death).
9) Peaceful death (who cares what happens next?).

So, the purpose of life is reaching a peaceful death and on the way having some exciting times with work, a home, cars, money etc… Also it is important to have fun with friends, family, kids and let’s not leave out our lovely pets. For some, it is important to be something in society or to do something for society!


10 Students (17)Well, it’s not a pleasant way of putting the complexities, absurdities and subtleties of our life in a few simple points… but this is what most of us aspire in life, knowingly or unknowingly.

Actually, or psychologically, very few people aspire to some big goal which they have in mind! It’s not that we can’t dream but very few of us dare to break the walls of archetypal social patterns and dare to walk the unique path. We are told (or brainwashed) to flow with the masses or maybe a smart sheep in the flock of humanity. We surrender to the great wheel of Samsara, dictated by our parents, teachers, society, media, friends, family, colleagues, governments etc… and also by our own minds. So, we are busy getting small doses of happiness from events, things, people and meeting day-to-day challenges, with no time for all these weird ideas about life and death!


When we study the undercurrents of human life, we have an unspoken rule of thumb:

1) Seeking happiness / life.
2) Avoiding unhappiness / death.

Names, places, people, things and gadgets may change or repeat themselves in a different order, but what everybody wants from living this life is happiness/life. Avoiding unhappiness/death is just another way of saying “I want happiness and I don’t want death or the end of happiness!”

All this boils down to one word: ‘Happiness’. Life becomes a pursuit of happiness! Happiness becomes a standard of living. When we are happy, we feel alive. When we are not happy, we call it bad times!

In the next section we will study the secret of happiness that yoga offers!

06 Eating Time (77)

The Secret of Happiness!

So, it is happiness that drives us crazy in doing, talking, thinking and feeling all the things which make up what we call life. Yes, happiness, the never-ending promise fueled by the desire to be happy. The desire to have nice clothes, a nice house, a nice car, a nice this and that is secondary, what is important is ‘to be happy’. We catch hold of anything that makes us ‘happy’ and leave or throw away anything that doesn’t give us that ‘happiness’. Deep inside us we feel anything that makes us happy is ‘good’ and what doesn’t make us happy is ‘bad’, irrespective of what we think or say about good and bad social values.

The few yogis who embarked on this journey of finding the truth of life and death, ask if we are really happy even after pursuing happiness for years and decades. Is Bill Gates, with all his wealth, luxuries, name and fame, happy? If so, why does he still do things to make other people happy – well, that’s another way of making ourselves happy!

Photos courtesy of Krishna Chaitanya / Yoga Vidya.

Sadhana Part II: What is Yoga?

By Krishna Chaitanya
Krishna Chaitanya

Krishna Chaitanya

Krishna Chaitanya is founder of Yoga Vidya Retreats and a professional yoga trainer and spiritual teacher. His expertise is in the field of meditation, philosophy and psychology of Yoga-Vedanta. He lived and practiced for more than twelve years in some of the best ashrams in India and embraced the monastic life at the age of 19. Krishna has traveled to various teachers and traditions in many parts of the world in order to gain knowledge from his experiences, not just from books or spiritual traditions. You can read more about him in our guest writer post or on the Yoga Vidya Retreats website.

Sadhana: Spiritual Practice in Yoga

Part 2: What is Yoga?

In Part 1 of this series of 3 articles on Sadhana, I introduced Sadhana as the path to self-realization in yoga. Now, we need to have a clear understanding of what yoga is all about and what are we trying to achieve by practicing Sadhana.

Yoga is mostly known around the world as a sort of fitness exercise to achieve total health, including physical and mental well-being. Yes, hatha yoga, one of the many yoga paths, can accomplish this, though this is considered to be a preparation and not the ultimate purpose of yoga or even hatha yoga.

Before understanding Sadhana, the path of Yoga, we need to have a fundamental understanding of what is not yoga and the right directions to take in inner fields of consciousness where yoga is mostly cultivated with love and dedication over years of purity, patience and perseverance.


Yoga is a not an exercise. The focus of exercise is mostly concentrated on the skeletal-muscular system and extremities are the main tools. Hatha yoga deals with all systems and focuses on achieving a healthy state of homeostasis by training the autonomic nervous system (ANS) with conscious central nervous system (CNS) activity which involves a well coordinated activity on physical, mental and psychic levels. There are many other differences between the fitness-oriented exercise and hatha yoga combinations of flows and stillness that you can study in hatha yoga anatomy and physiology classes taught in our teacher trainings and other places around the world.

Yoga is not a religion. All the religions around the world have an origin, founder, holy book and some sort of religious authority or organization like a church or mosque where you have a father, mullah, rabbi or lama sermonizing the devout followers about what needs to be done and not. Religious people follow the holy books as interpreted by their religious heads without question, and also prove their allegiance to the founder of that religion on a regular basis. In yoga, we don’t have a founder, or a holy book, or an organization or authority figure. Though there are some great books, teachers and traditions, a yoga student is not expected to follow them blindly or to stay committed to one teacher or tradition all the time. We just take what is best and leave the rest to the few scholars to philosophize!

01 First Day Ceremony

Yoga is not a cult or sect. Though there are gods and gurus in some paths of yoga, one is not expected to stick with them forever. They are mostly used as a means which needs to be transcended at some later stage. There are lots of sects or traditions in yoga, but all of them are just a means to achieve yoga. A good yoga practitioner always reserves the freedom to learn and practice with as many traditions or sects or gurus at the same time. There are also many yogis who do not believe in a god or guru and are more rational than a scientist and more emotional than an artist in expressing their feelings . There are yogis who live in caves and some yogis who live in palaces ruling countries and fighting wars. Yogis can work in gardens or factories and do various professions in their normal life. There are also some great female yoginis who are housewives and still achieve high states of spiritual realization. So yoga is not a cult.

Yoga is not a culture or an Indian thing! But many Hindus adopted yoga early in history and still practice it, maybe without the deeper understanding of committed yogis who are always few in number. Buddhists and all the mystics of various religions, such as Islamic Sufism, Christian mysticism, Jewish Kabbalah etc., also practiced yoga, without using this word.

Yoga is not a lifestyle or a philosophy on how to live life. It is life itself. It is a science of how to experience this life here and now. Or to be frank, what is yoga cannot be expressed in words but anybody can experience it. Just like you cannot describe how sugar tastes! You have to put it in your mouth to experience its sweetness. It is an experience beyond words. Similarly, yoga is a pure experience beyond the prism of time-space-cause, which imprisons our consciousness with this body-mind identity of the ‘self’.

Yoga Vidya

By practicing yoga Sadhana,
A Christian can become a better Christian.
A Muslim can become a better Muslim.
A Hindu can become a better Hindu.
A housewife can become a better housewife.
A father can become a better father.
An engineer can become a better engineer.
A scientist can become a better scientist.
A nurse can become a better nurse.
An artist can become a better artist.
This is all about bringing out harmony from within.
This is all about fine-tuning the ‘I’ and ‘You’ within us.
This is all about seeing the reality in this great illusion of life.
This is all about making oneself happy in all circumstances.
This is all about playing the game of life, according to the fair rules of Karma.
This is all about harmony in love, work, relationships, dreams, hopes and aspirations!
This is all about peace – awareness – bliss.
Om Sat-Chit-Ananda!

Then, what is yoga? 

Literally it means union or harmony. In practical use it is known as a path to self realization or a means to experience Brahman (the ultimate truth), also known as God or Universe. Technically, it is a technique to experience the changeless eternal reality amidst the chaos of changes projected by our own minds. Mystically it means being one with truth, merging our own being with the cosmos! Karmically, it means learning the cosmic dance with Shiva-Parvati and feeling liberated to the very core of our being! Romantically, it means being one with everything!

A true yogi who experiences yoga in his or her super-conscious state of being, doesn’t talk much about what yoga is – because all man made languages and words fail to express what they experience beyond the mind and intellect! You know it when you see pure bliss in the eyes, peace on the face and joy in every action of a yogi. And yogis do not bother preaching or talking about That, because there is nothing else other than That. When there is no I and no you, who teaches whom?

Yoga Vidya

All yogis agree that the truth of yoga cannot be explained in words but can be experienced by anybody by practicing Sadhana. The best words that they could find to describe elevated states of yoga are: Sat-Chit-Ananda. Absolute Existence – Absolute Awareness – Absolute Bliss. The existence, awareness and bliss we experience in daily life is temporary and within the prism of time-space-cause and mostly projected from our mind. When a yogi can be free from the fetters that bind his or her consciousness in maya, he or she can spontaneously experience life in the absolute, timeless ‘being-consciousness-bliss’, which is part of the big picture of the eternal cosmos.

To summarize, yoga Sadhana is basically a practice to experience the truth and reality about ourselves, our true self, not the small self which is made of our identity along with the body, mind and intellect and constantly changing as per the judgments of others in the chaotic flux of human society.

In the next article we will study why we need to know the truth about ourselves and what is life with and without that knowledge of self.

Photos courtesy of Krishna Chaitanya / Yoga Vidya.

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