Art of Living through Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga Creative (1)

Ahead of World Yoga Day, which is on 21st June, lets try to understand the basic idea of Yoga. The more common practise that we know of yoga, has driven the whole world towards it, like some mystical form of the Holy Grail. Yet, Yoga is not limited to exercise alone. This 5,000 year old wellness pursuit is the art of living that ignites positivity in everyone.

Yoga is a beautiful forum to explore, practise and experience the universe through oneself. Ashtanga Yoga, has been misinterpreted as eight ‘limbs’ in yoga. However, Anga in Sanskrit it means sections or levels. Thus, ashtanga actually  translates to  eight levels of yoga. It demands a complete control of the mind, body and soul, once you start evolving through it. It includes mastering the control of your inner self, your body and creates a positive attitude through yourself. Many know Yoga as a self-healing process and  it helps in curing different ailments of the body. It allows you to recognize your true potential and  spiritually awakens your soul. Of course, this is  all true. However, in order to achieve this exalted state, entirely, it should be practised in a systematic manner.

The Eight Stages of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga Creative2 (1)

YAMA: Yama means moral observance that helps one to attain harmony with the universe. Yama is a result of five liberal principles that when practised regularly, will direct you towards being in harmony with the universe. When one masters these principles, unknowingly, you attain the next level of Ashtanga Yoga.

NIYAMA: Niyama allows you to  attain  harmony with your body through another five principles of moral observance. In a way, it intends to purify the inner elements of the body. When we speak about the body, it does not mean the physical form but, the identity of an individual in the universe.

Yama and Niyama are two fundamental facets of Ashtanga Yoga that work in unison to emancipate oneself. Therefore, when you start practising Yama, in a way, you start practicing Niyama as well. The 10 principles of moral observance to be in harmony with universe and yourself are an initiation towards bringing a positive shift in your life.

Link for 10 Principles of Yama and Niyama:

ASANA: If you Google Ashtanga Yoga,  the images thrown up, show people in  impossible poses, flexing and toning their bodies. Asanas are, in fact, a mirror to learn about yourself. But, Asana is just a stage amongst the other eight stages that comprise  Ashtanga Yoga. When you start practising Asanas, you learn unknown things about the body and about yourself as a whole.

Unfortunately, when one commences  learning yoga, the first thing you learn are the limitations of your body that can deflate  your ego. It forces one to have  feelings of inadequacy and mental intolerance. However, it is at this time when you have to be consistent and self motivated. As you move through these three stages onto the next, you will have taken the  first step towards  better living. When you practise Asanas, you learn a lot about your body. You are more aware of your body and you gradually start focusing on your existence.

PRANA: Prana here means the awareness of pranic energy. It is the art of regulating your breath, learning how to use breath to your benefit. Breathing is something that we do naturally. However, we have never learnt a systematic form of breathing. When you learn how to regulate your breath, your body starts responding in a completely different manner. It washes out the impurities, accepts only what is best for the body and processes it accordingly.

PRATYAHARA: The ultimate control of the five senses of the body means Pratyahara. The fundamental objective of this stage in Ashtanga Yoga, is to stop abusing the body – physically, emotionally or mentally. Getting addicted to food, toxic substances, ill thoughts, self-doubt are some ways how we abuse ourselves.

Pratyahara teaches us to end these addictions and take control of ourselves. Remember, when our elder folk used to preach – ‘your body does not control you’? In a way, sometimes,  too much dependability on our physical being has led us to abuse it dangerously. When one practises Pratyahara, this dependability is reduced and we attain the next stage of Yogic livelihood.

DHARANA: Once you have mastered all these stages, Dharana teaches you to control your mind. The above stages teach you to attain satisfaction one by one, gradually streamlining us towards one single point which is The Mind. It helps us in our focus, keeps our undivided attention on things that matter, and takes control of our restless behaviour, which reflects in our lifestyle as well.

DHYANA: ‘Maun’ which is eternal silence, is something that you learn to master in Dhyana. Just as different poses of the asanas comprise  ‘Asana as a stage’, Maun is that facet which comprises Dhyana. When you consistently practise Dharana, you gradually  reach towards Dhyana. Dhyana or meditation helps us to achieve silence in our mind.

SAMADHI: When you have established Dhyana for a very long time, you reach the stage of Samadhi. As this is the final stage of Ashtanga Yoga, many repudiate from this stage. Mostly, because it is misunderstood as the end of living. However, this is the most pure, unblemished stage of Yog Sadhana. Samadhi leads to control of  life and death. You can choose to live or die when you have mastered all the seven stages in Yog Sadhana.

Many of us attempt to master Ashtanga Yoga and all its stages simultaneously, because of which, we forget the significance of a methodical manner. Ashtanga Yoga is a method that gives a new way of life to those who practice it. So, on this World Yoga Day, lets understand the importance of a Yogic lifestyle whilst also using it as a form of exercise alone.

 

Advertisements

Adhik Mahina- The Thirteenth month of Hindu Calendar

adhik-maas-with-text

Imagine when you get extra time to complete your test paper during exams? Or when working on an important project or when you are time bound and have to crack a deal? Isn’t the 29th day of February extra time during a year? And if that’s not enough, how about a month extra? What would you do if you were given such an extra-ordinary gift of time.

The Adhik Mahina of the Lunar Calendar is nothing but that gifted month for the Hindu people who follow the Lunar Calendar. Just as the Solar Calendar gets an extra day in the month of February every 4 years, the Lunar Calendar has an entire extra month after every 3 years. Ever wonder how does the Lunar Calendar gets an entire month whereas the Solar Calendar just one day?

The Astronomical Significance

Time is calculated as per the orbiting movement of the Earth and The Sun and The Moon. The Solar Calendar is calculated as per the Earth’s movement around the Sun while a Lunar Calendar is calculated as per the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. Thus, a Lunar Calendar comprises 32 months, 16 days and 24 minutes. Lunar Calendar which has 354 days has a difference of 11 days every year as compared to the Solar Calendar which has 365 days. This difference thus becomes Adhik Maas or Mal Maas or Purushottam Maas (different names of Adhik Mahina) in the Hindu Calendar.

The Devotional Significance
As Adhik Mahina occurs after every three years, it does not have special festivities or celebrations under it. The Hindu pandits and sages have ordained it with prayers, blessing and sacrifices. However, small functions like devoting the celebrations to the number 33 that symbolizes extra days that have been gifted are followed religiously. If we calculate the 11 days of every year, they total up to 33 for all three years. Therefore, the number 33 has a huge significance in this month. The most important ritual that most Hindus follow is the Adhik Vaan wherein the sons-in-law are showered with gifts like 33 delicacies, 33 sweets, 33 dresses or Rs. 33,000 worth of gold. Generally Adhik Maas falls around the month of May, that is mostly known for summer weddings and celebrations. Once the daughters have been married, the grooms are showered with different gifts. This additional month of the Hindu Calendar is a way to continue this gifting practice in the form of ritual and hence a special significance is given to Adhik Vaan.

The Mythological Significance
Long ago when the months were created, all 12 months were associated with a deity and accompanying celebrations and rituals. And as Hindu mythology likes personifying everything, the months became the holy maidens of the God of Time – Chandra (As Hindus follow Lunar Calendar). Adhik Maas was named as Mal Maas at that time as she had no celebrations, no rituals and no divinity. Feeling dejected, she went to Lord Vishnu and pleaded that she also be given some divine association if not feasts and celebration. Moved by her plea, Lord Vishnu assured her that she has a special significance in the coming time and that she will be remembered with pious deeds and prayers.

Soon time went by and one of the kings of the then times, King Hiranyakashyapu prayed to Lord Brahma asking for an unusual and mystical boon making him virtually immortal. The boon was on condition that, “No man nor any animal could kill Hiranyakashyapu. He would not die in broad daylight nor in night time. Furthermore, he could not die inside the house nor outside, nor on land, or water or in the sky, and lastly never ever in the 12 months of the year.” Little did King Hiranyakashyapu know, that this dark scheme of his was not supposed to work. Thinking he had become immortal and the most powerful person, Hiranyakashyapu started creating havoc on Earth and Lord Vishnu had to intervene. Respecting Lord Brahma’s boon, Lord Vishnu decided to reincarnate himself as Narsimha in Adhik Mahina, the thirteenth month of Hindu calendar. Narsimha was neither a man nor an animal, he was a deity with head of lion and body of a man. So, he ended the life of King Hiranyakashypu on his lap in the thirteenth month i.e. Mal Maas. With the remorseful attitude King Hiranyakashyapu’s wife conduced a pure environment in her realm with prayers, charities and different religious practices.

Thus, with his reincarnation Lord Vishnu fulfilled his commitment to Mal Maas of being the most divine and ritualistic month of the year. Due to Lord Vishnu’s reincarnation and different religious practices, Mal Maas later came to be known as Purushottam Maas or Adhik Maas.

This year, Adhik Maas falls on 16th May 2018. Enjoying its piousness and arranging different kirtans, bhajans or religious lectures during this auspicious time of the year adds to our spiritual journey. So, cherish this extra time and make the most of it with gratitude and humility.

Lakshmi : Patron of Fortune, Affluence and Prosperity

 

The serene existence of magnificent Maha-Lakshmi temple amidst the commotion of a busy traffic signal across Sarasbagh in Pune might strike as rather odd. Built with pristine white marble in Dravidian architectural style, the temple opened to public for worship in 1984 and has since been held of great religious significance in the city. Devotees can instantly feel a sense of calm and peace dawning upon them as they walk through the elaborately carved entrance. Tranquility takes over as their bare feet touch the cold marble beneath. They are mesmerized as they take each step through the line of pillars and walls carved in intricate patterns leading up to the Idols of Sri Mahsaraswati, Sri Maha-Lakshmi  and Sri Mahakali. Pune’s Maha-Lakshmi temple is a site worth visiting.

2

 

Lakshmi is the goddess of affluence and abundance and her pictures adorn shops, business establishments and homes. She is said to be the goddess of 16 forms of worldly wealths including fame, courage, victory etc. Maha-Lakshmi is an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi. While Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, portrayed as standing on a lotus, Maha-Lakshmi’s iconography portrays her riding a lion like Durga.  She is particularly popular in Maharashtra. She is said to be the root of all creations.

1.JPG

Goddess Lakshmi is often taken to be a “restless” goddess who comes and leaves without warning! Good fortune come and leave without apparent reasons! That is why in order to please Vaibhav Lakshmi (goddess of riches) some people observe a fast on Fridays. It is considered to be an auspicious day to invite Lakshmi home to replenish wealth and fortune.

The person observing the fast has to wake up early in the morning, clean the house, bath and wear clean clothes. Cleaning the house is an essential part of the fasting ritual for Lakshmi is known to abhor untidy homes and lazy people.

3

The ritual of puja is performed which begins with the decoration of the puja alter with flowers. There are three ways of performing the puja. Either an idol of Lakshmi, or a four sided oil lamp or a copper kalash filled with rice is placed on the alter. If a lamp is used, it is lit and decorated with vermilion and rice. In case of a kalash, it is filled with rice and decorated with mango leaves and inverted dry coconut. Incense sticks are lighted and a sweet is offered as a prasad. With folded hands the person has to chant Lakshmi mantras or a single mantra is to be chanted 108 times on a Rudraksha mala or Kamal gatta mala.  The puja culminates with an arti and distribution of prasad. If a rice filled kalash is used, after the puja the rice is mixed with the stock of rice in the house. The person who is fasting has to give up food during the day and eat a simple meal at night.

Popular festivals of Diwali and Kojagiri Purima are the two main Hindu festivals when Lakshmi is celebrated and worshipped in all its grandeur.

Her popularity is evident from the fact that the Indian equivalents of English titles Mr. and Mrs. are the prefixes Sri and Srimati, the sacred names of Lakshmi. It signifies that the married men and women have the blessings of goddess Lakshmi to sustain and perpetuate life. If you are seeking affluence in something, the prefix or suffix Lakshmi or Sri is added to it e.g. Shanti Sri (abundance of peace), Rajya Lakshmi (wealth of empire).

Numerous equivalents of Lakshmi are found in other Asian cultures. Kishijoten in Japan, Vasundhara in Tibet and Nepal and Dewi Sri in Indonesia are some of the close analogues of Indian goddess Lakshmi.

Interestingly and ironically, in religions like Buddhism and Jainism which preach and practice worldly renunciation, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is greatly revered and worshipped.