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by R. John Allcorn, M.A., E-RYT
After having done something nice for someone else, have you ever had someone say: "You did that only to make yourself feel better"? At first you’re taken aback. But the best response is, "Thank You!"
A simple definition of a "good person" is: someone who takes pleasure from helping or not hurting others. A simple definition of a "bad person" is: someone who takes pleasure from hurting or taking advantage of others. So, if someone "accuses" you of being a "good person," say "Thank You!" But there are also some people who are not clearly good or bad but more apathetic, people so self-absorbed that they have little or no consideration for others. These are the Neutrals.
In Yoga, the word Ahimsa is used to mean non-violent but this definition does not emphasize the breadth of the word’s meaning. One writer more-clearly defines Ahimsa as "thoughtful consideration of others."1 The word Ahimsa also applies to words and thoughts. Even such things as sarcasm and skepticism are considered violent, not only to others but to oneself.
So, a good person is also one who is actively considerate of others. It is tempting to conclude that a bad person, by contrast, is someone who is inconsiderate of others. But an inconsiderate person takes no pleasure from helping nor harming others and is neither good nor bad, but neutral.
So, let’s take a look at garbage. Every household accumulates some garbage and yard trash. This can be handled with or without consideration for others. Most waste companies, cities and home-owners associations have simple rules about household waste. You should avoid putting out your household waste more than 24 hours before pick up. A considerate person puts out the waste on the day of pick up. An inconsiderate person may put out waste days ahead of pickup, decorating the whole neighborhood with ugly trash bags. The maximum number of bags may be, say, six. A considerate person may compost some things and recycle others and put out only one bag every two weeks. An inconsiderate person may put out six bags (or more) twice a week, more than 20 times more waste than the considerate person. So, to whom is this person being "inconsiderate"? It’s easy to start with the environment which is included in the Yoga definition of Ahimsa. Putting out more than 20 times more waste than a neighbor makes a huge "environmental footprint," filling up our landfills and damaging our environment far into the future. The 10+ bags-a-week person is also being inconsiderate of the men picking up those bags. These men get paid the same if you leave one bag or ten bags. You’re just making them work harder to pick up more bags. No one likes to be given more work for the same pay. People will rarely do these things to gain pleasure from hurting the environment or garbagemen. These people don’t even consider the environment and the garbagemen; they’re Neutrals.
A Yogi is a person who studies all aspects of Yoga in order to move toward Enlightenment, maybe not in this life but eventually. A Yogi’s more immediate goal is a calmer mind and a more-relaxed body. Yogis care for others as well as their own spiritual path. Moving away from a "bad" or "neutral" path will help you become calmer. This is the Yoga way.
EXAMPLES OF AHIMSA
During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. "Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello'." "I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked. "Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. "Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied. "The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. He couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.
Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had
miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes, I'll do it if it will save her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?" Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.
AHIMSA (literally defined): Not Violent - Includes physical, speech, and thought
BEST DEFINITION: "Thoughtful consideration for others." (Desikachar, T.K.V., The Heart of Yoga)
Ahimsa would NOT include: - Revenge, Judgement, Statements like, "Truth hurts, doesn’t it?"
Develop a "Karmic Attitude":
Say, "He/she is following his/her karmic path."
Say, "I must follow my own karmic path."
Say, "I am responsible ONLY for what I do and say and think."
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by John Allcorn and Julia Miner
The Bhavas are the feelings or emotions generated or encouraged by asanas. However, the asanas don't "cause" the feelings or Bhavas. For example, the forward bend is called a "humbling" pose because it is easy for YOU to generate that feeling of being humble while you are doing a forward bend. (See "Vairagya" below) Although an asana may encourage an emotion, YOU must bring that emotion or thought into your conscious mind. (1)
If you consciously generate a feeling or Bhava associated with a particular asana, you will get more out of that asana and more from your practice of asanas. A conscious awareness of Bhavas while doing asanas helps unify the mind, emotion and body.
DHARMA BHAVA: Right Conduct or Duty.
Practicing Dharma Bhava means focusing on the big picture: recognizing the balance in the universe, accepting your roles and duties as your contribution to this balance. "Your first duty is towards your self [i.e., your spiritual path]. Second is towards your near and dear, your children, your husband. Third is towards your work situation. Fourth is towards society and fifth is towards the nation." (2, p.182) It is important to do one's duty with a focus on the duty and detachment from the results. The opposite of Dharma is Adharma or evil conduct.
Mental Results- Calm Mind - Accepting life as it is - Awareness of duties and
Emotional Results- Peaceful, Satvic
Asanas - The quiet, peaceful, meditative postures
- Sukhasana (Easy Pose), Bhadrasana (Butterfly), Padmasana (Lotus),
Klesa addressed - Asmita (ego), Dvesa (past fears), Abhinivesa (low confidence)
QUESTION: What duty do I need to be more aware of?
JNANA BHAVA: Self-knowledge
Practicing Jnana Bhava means focusing on the interaction of your body, mind, emotions and spirit and bringing these into coordinated balance. This requires a focused effort to know yourself and how your "parts" interact and influence each other. Only with concentration and knowledge is it possible to gain a deeper understanding of yourself."(2, p.46-47) The opposite is Ajnana or ignorance.
Mental Results - Body-Mind-Breath awareness as you do asanas; Self awareness and acceptance of yourself as you are and self control.
Emotional Results - Balancing or "Leveling" of emotional states
Asanas - Ekapadasana (Tree Pose), Talasana (Palm Tree Pose) Parvatasana (Mountain), Pranayama and mudras.
Klesa addressed - Avidya (lack of clarity - irrational thought)
QUESTION: What is out of balance in my life?
VAIRAGYA BHAVA ("vi-rha-gya"): Letting go
Practicing Jnana Bhava means focusing on consciously letting go of negativity and ego while letting go of muscle tension. It also includes letting go of attachments, especially to the material.
Controlling our ego is often our most challenging trial. The conscious awareness of Vairagya aids us in this challenge. Non-attachment.
Mental Results -Less controlled by "things," promotions and ego.
Emotional Results - The feeling of surrender or "letting go," as well as greater
feelings of independence.
Asanas -.Surrendering to gravity, Yoga Mudra, Hastapadasana (standing
forward Bend), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Adho Mukha Savasana (Down Dog), Savasana (Corpse), Makarasna (Crocodile)
Klesa addressed - Raga (attachment), Asmita (ego)
QUESTION: What do I need to mentally release? (problem, worry, etc.)
AISHWARYA BHAVA ("ish-wahr-ya") - Strengthening
Practicing Ishwarya Bhava means focusing on your confidence and your moral and ethical beliefs. First think of what you want to strengthen and then move into the chosen asana. This bhava comes from Ishwarya (as in "Ishvaryapranidhana") and refers to becoming "godlike," becoming omniscient, omnipotent, reaching for perfection (1)
Mental Results - Self Direction, self reliance, increased determination or will power, absolute focus, confidence and concentration.
Emotional Results - Enthusiasm, Overcoming personal weaknesses
Asanas - Bhujangasana (Cobra), Ustrasana (Camel), other back-bending asanas and Side Plank
Kryas (cleansings) - Jalaneti, Kapalabhati, etc.
Klesa addressed - Dvesa (fear from past), Abhinivesa (fear of unknown)
QUESTION: What conviction/belief do I need to strengthen?
Bhavas can be used to "adjust" negative feelings or states. If your ego seems a bit out of control one day, you can go home and do a series of forward bends while becoming conscious of the Bhava of humbleness (Vairagya).
The "Bhavas" also help one overcome the Kleshas or obstacles to spiritual growth. (2, p.44) For example, if you are not feeling confident of the future (the Klesha "Abhinivesa"), you can counteract that feeling by doing a strengthening pose such as the cobra (Bhujangasana) or the camel (Utrasana). If your ego (the Klesha "Asmita") is inflated, you can do a forward bend while becoming conscious of the Bhava Vairagya or humbleness.
1. Sukhatankar, Laxmikant, Ph.D. Personal Conversations. Palm Harbor, FL and Ocala, FL. 2005, 2006.
2. Yogendra, Jayadeva. The Yoga of Caring. The Yoga Institute. Mumbai, India, 1997.
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INFO ON THE BHAGAVAD GITA
by R. John Allcorn
"When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union." (Gita, 6:32)
"If you can be pleased when others are happy, compassionate toward those who are unhappy, joyful with those doing good, and remain undisturbed when others are inconsiderate or cruel, then your mind will be very tranquil." (Sutras, 1:33)
The Bhagavad Gita is a part of an epic Indian poem called The Mahabarata. The Gita takes place in the moments before a great battle between two branches of the same family. The protagonist, Arjuna, commands his charioteer, Lord Krishna, to stop his chariot in the middle of the battlefield between the families. The entire story takes place mid-field and comprises a discussion between Arjuna and Krishna. The Bhagavad Gita's story is not the battlefield struggle alone but also our struggle for self mastery, our struggle to control by "letting go" of this world so we can touch our inner, spiritual selves and know true peace and compassionate non-attachment.
During this discussion, Lord Krishna describes Yoga in great detail.(see below)
Both Arjuna and Lord Krishna are called many "nicknames" which can easily lead to confusion. Try to keep in mind that throughout the Bhagavad Gita, it's just Arjuna and Krishna speaking, no matter how
they address one another.
This is the protagonist and the warrior-prince of the Pandu (AKA Pandavas). He is a member of the Kshatriya "Caste" and is a leader of the warring forces of Pandu. The Kshatriya "Caste" includes political leaders, kings and warriors. The king is also the head of the warriors just as the president of the United States is also the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Because Arjuna is the son of the king and is wealthy, he owns a chariot. His driver is none other than Lord Krishna.
Arjuna has a personal crises as the battle is about to begin. The Pandu (Pandava) is a branch of the Kuru family. The other branch is also called the Kurus. So, the ancestral family is the Kurus and one branch is called the Kurus. The other branch, as mentioned, is the Pandu (Pandava). So, Arjuna is about to lead his army against another branch of his ancestral family and he will be fighting his uncles and cousins. Arjuna says to Krishna, "Seeing these my kinsmen, Oh Krishna, arrayed, eager to fight, my limbs fail and my mouth is parched, my body quivers and my hair stands on end." (Discourse 1: 28-29) His revulsion to fighting his own kinsmen is deep.
OTHER NAMES FOR ARJUNA: son of Pandu, Gudakesha, Partha, Kaunteya, Bharata, Bharata bull, wealth winner, foe scorcher, great-armed one, blameless one, tiger spirit, and Kuru's joy.
By the way, "Gandiva" is the name of Arjuna's bow, like "Excaliber" is the name of King Arthur's sword and "Lucille" is the name of B.B. King's guitar.
Lord Krishna is not only Arjuna's driver but is also the incarnation of a god, like Jesus was. Both Jesus and Krishna are the physical forms of a god. Lord Krishna is the physical form of the Hindu god Vishnu, the "Preserver of the Universe." Krishna/Vishnu is responsible for keeping the universe balanced. Birth and death, creation and destruction, wars and natural disasters help balance the world and both are necessary. For this reason, Krishna sees this battle as necessary balance in the world. So, Krishna finds it necessary to keep Arjuna in this battle.
OTHER NAMES FOR LORD KRISHNA: Madhava, Hrishikesha, Keshava, Govinda, slayer of Madhu, Janardana, Varshneya, Vasudeva, Hari, and slayer of Keshin.
SANJAYA AND DHRITARASHTRA
Sanjaya is the narrator of the story and is telling the story to Dhritarashtra. Sanjaya begins by describing the field and who is there and then tells of the discussion between Arjuna and Krishna. If this were a stage production, Sanjaya and Dhritarashtra would probably appear in front of the curtain as they begin their discussion; the curtain would open as Sanjaya speaks.
The primary theme of the Bhagavad Gita is duty or Dharma. But there is more to Dharma than simply going through the motions of completing one's duty. One must perform duties without judgement nor attachment to the results, keeping one's mind calm and one's body relaxed. Like the eye of a hurricane. This detachment can lead to the ultimate goal of Yoga: Enlightenment.
YOGA AND THE BHAGAVAD GITA
Eknath Easwaran explains Yoga as "Union with God, realization of the unity of all life; a path or discipline that leads to such a state of total integration or unity." (P287) The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit yug which means to yoke or unite. Yoga refers to the union of the mind and the purusha or Atman, that is, with your True Self or spiritual self, this is the god of Yoga. Yoga is the result but is also the path to the inner spiritual self. It is the path of Yoga that leads to this union. The 8 limbs of Yoga describe this path.
"Now listen to the principles of Yoga." (2:39)
1. "Seek me [god-inner spirit] alone, attain singleness of purpose." (2:41)
2. "Be free from the action of the gunas" (2:45)
3. "Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment." (2:49)
A. "Never engage in action for the sake of reward." (2:47)
B. Do not "long for inaction." (2:47)
4. "Renounce every selfish desire and sense craving tormenting the heart." (2:55)
5. Subdue the senses
"Two paths for the pure heart."
"Jnana Yoga, the contemplative path of spiritual wisdom."
"Karma Yoga, the active path of selfless service" (3:3)
"Discipline yourself with the practice of yoga." (7:1)
"Calmness, gentleness, silence, self-restraint, and purity: these are the disciplines of the mind." (17:16)
IMPORTANT QUOTES FROM THE BHAGAVAD GITA
"As one who abandons worn-out clothes and acquires new ones, so when the body is worn out a new one is acquired by the Self, who lives within." (2:22)
"It is better to perform one's duties imperfectly than to master the duties of another." (18:47)
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Contributed by: R. John Allcorn, M.A., E-RYT
“Prakriti [man’s lower nature or the material] is said to be composed of 3 gunas: sattwa (the pure and fine), rajas (action) and tamas (solidity/resistence). In the mind of man, sattwa expresses itself psychologically as tranquillity, purity and calmness; rajas as passion, restlessness, aggressive activity; tamas as stupidity, laziness, inertia. The ultimate ideal is to transcend all gunas and reach the Atman, which is above and beyond the gunas.” (1, pp133-4.)
The Gunas are related to pranic energy found in all things. The Gunas are connected and interrelate, creating a tension, sometimes within a person or between people so that they “reveal” themselves and help describe a person and the dominate Guna. We can see the effects of different levels of energy in both people and foods. People can be “low energy,” “high energy” or “controlled energy.” Different foods can make you slow down, can hype you up or can make you calm and disciplined. Food quantity is also a factor. A large quantity of food at a meal will slow you down, not enough food at a meal will make you crave food again sooner. But just the right kinds of food and the right quantity will provide you with all the energy you need and will not drag you down.
“Within the causal [Self/purusha/soul] body, the three gunas (qualities)–sattva (purity, wisdom, peace), rajas (activity, passion), and tamas (inertia, lethargy)–exist in a harmonious state of perfect equilibrium. However, in the astral and physical bodies, this balance among the gunas is lost.” (2, p132)
“When understanding shines in through the senses, the doors of the body, know sattwa is present.; (1, p108)
GENERAL: Tamas refers to low energy, lethargy and slow or low activity.
PERSON: A Tamasic person tends to be sluggish. A Tamasic person will prefer to sit and chat rather than participate in a physical activity. Tamasic people can be calm on the one hand and move toward depression and withdrawal on the other.
FOOD: Tamasic foods are foods that will slow you down and lower your energy level. They do this by being harder to digest thus slowing the digestive process and use your energy to slowly digest food. This keeps blood and energy centered on the digestive process longer. Alcohol and caffeine drinks are also considered Tamasic. Caffeine? Yes, although caffeine will speed you up, you must remember that “what goes up, must come down.” So, although you are hyped up for awhile, you will eventually “crash.” This is what makes caffeine addictive, like other drugs.
Tamasic foods that are harder to digest include red meats, sugar (same effect as caffeine), large beans like limas or the Greek gigantes, fried foods, alcohol, oily food, onion, garlic, canned fruits and vegetables, spicey foods, coffee and excessive amounts of food.
“In greed, in the heat of action, in eager enterprise,in restlessness, in all desire, know that rajas is the ruler.” (1, p108)
GENERAL: Rajas refers to high, uncontrolled or chaotic energy.
PERSON: A Rajasic person tends to be “hyper.” When going upstairs, this is the two-steps-at-a-time person. Anything worth doing is worth doing fast. A Rajasic person rarely has his or her mind exclusively on what is being done. They “multi-task” regularly. When cooking, the butter will burn while the Rajasic person is trying to get another dish started. There seem to be two “states” for the Rajasic person: excessive activity and sleep.
An important note is needed here. Our American society tends to favor the Rajasic person. Even when they are not getting much done or having to do things over again because of trying to do something too fast, they look busy and that often impresses “the boss.” Watching a Tamasic person and a Rajasic person trying to do something together can often be entertaining, as you can imagine.
FOOD: It can be argued that caffeine and sugar can be Rajasic if consumed constantly. Maybe. But the piper will eventually have to be paid: crashing into depression, disturbed sleep etc. Rajasic foods include chicken, fish, whole milk, medium to large beans, medium to hard-to-digest foods, frozen vegetables and fruits and slightly excessive amounts of food.
Sri Krishna: “But when a man performs an action which is sanctioned by the scriptures, and does it for duty’s sake only, renouncing all attachment and desire for its fruits, then his renunciation is inspired by sattwa.” (1, p120)
GENERAL: This is the “just right” category. Plenty of energy but with calm and controlled use of the energy.
PERSON: The Satvic person maintains a steady pace and is emotionally steady, calm and relaxed. The Satvic person focuses on the task at hand and does it “right” the first time.
FOOD: Satvic foods are easy to digest, provide enough energy to sustain the Satvic person until the next meal and are, therefore, healthy and fresh. Satvic foods include yoga tea, small and sprouted beans, well-cooked rice, wheat, 2% milk, yogurt, and all fresh vegetables and fruits.
DEVELOPING A SATVIC STATE
Increase you awareness and use of the following:
Take joy in the joy of others
Indifference to things beyond your control
Develop healthy routines
Associate with calm and relaxed people
1. Prabhavananda, Swami and Christopher Isherwood, Trans. The Song of God Bhagavad-Gita. The New American Library, Inc. N.Y. 1972.
2. Motoyama, Hiroshi. Theories of the Chakras. Quest Books. Wheaton, Illinois, 1981 (4th
3. Personal Conversations with Laxmikant Sukhatankar.
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Basic and Intermediate
7 Steps To Better Health
Contributed by: Julia Miner
SEVEN STEPS TO BETTER HEALTH
(If done daily)
8 - 8 oz. Glasses daily.
This may include: coffee, juices and sodas
If you eat fruits and vegetables, remember these also contain water
Take a 30 minute walk daily
Begin with a 10 minute walk if necessary
Goal is to get heart beating rapidly for 20 minutes
3 - 5 minutes daily
May also be done at stoplights!
You can begin with 3 - 5 minutes daily
May also be done at stoplights!
5 - 10 minutes daily
May be done throughout the day
Limit the number of asana to 2 or 3 you need most
Try to include more fruits and vegetables (Up to 50%)
Progressively avoid certain foods:
“3 - Whites”: sugar, rice and flour
You do not have to be vegetarian
Make changes to diet gradually
To avoid: Judgmental thoughts, sarcasm, “Gossiping”
To do: Practice acceptance of others
Practice acceptance of self
Practice “being in the moment”
Practice “joyful living” (define this yourself)
AND THEY ARE ALL VIRTUALLY FREE!!
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