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Three attributes of a mantra to deepen your meditation experience

Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, gives the definition and purpose of the practice of yoga as:

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः॥२॥ Yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhaH (sutra 1.2)

"Yoga is the ability to still the fluctuations of the mind"

In order for us to attain this objective of yoga, Patanjali gives us the amazingly practical and effective eight-fold path of yoga. The eight limbs of yoga given are:

Yama (five restraints), niyama (five observances), asana (physical posture), pranayama (breathing practices), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (focus), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (total absorption).

The last three, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, are three stages of the practice of meditation. Patanjali uses the term "samyama" to denote the practice in which all these three stages of meditation are merged together as one practice.

Let us briefly look at the definition of these three stages of meditation as given in the sutras:

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Janushirshasana (Head-to-knee pose) Variations

Head-to-knee pose

In a previous article, I wrote about the basic, classical technique of practicing the Janushirshasana (head-to-knee pose). In today’s article, I will be presenting a few variations to the standard pose that you can add to your practice. As always, try to maintain full awareness at the body, breath and the mind level so you don’t overdo any of the poses.

I hope you will enjoy practicing with the video.

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21-day Yoga Immersion, Level 2, Oct 24 – Nov 13

Virabhadrasana (Warrior2)

I am pleased to announce the next 21-day Yoga Immersion program. This will be the introductory Level 2 program. I invite you to join me on this exciting and deeply rewarding 21-day yoga journey.

Please note the class duration will be one hour and 45 minutes.

  • What: 21-day yoga immersion, Level 2
  • When: Monday, Oct 24 – Sunday, Nov 13, 2016
  • Time: 6:00 AM – 7:45 AM
  • Location: 4000 Bearcat Way, Suite 102, Morrisville, NC 27560
  • Commitment:
    • A firm commitment to complete the program without missing a day
    • At the end of the program, continue the same practice at home for another 21 days to make it a life-long habit
  • Fee: $150
  • To register: Fill out the registration form, providing information in all the fields, and submit it online

In this program, we will be practicing some of the intermediate level asanas (physical postures) and pranayama practices that are not covered in the regular 21-day yoga program. These will include:

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The Three Bandhas (locks) (video)

In an earlier blog post, I talked about the concept of Kumbhaka – कुम्भक – (breath retention). As noted therein, breath retention can be done after a full inhalation, or after a full exhalation, or at any time during the breathing cycle. 

A natural extension of Kumbhaka is the concept of the Bandhas – बन्ध – (energy locks). The bandhas are a very important part of the pranayama techniques as they help balance out the prana (the vital life force) in the system. As per the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, bandhas help us cleanse the chakras and allow the Kundalini Shakti (the dormant creative power) to awaken. The kundalini can then start its journey toward its final destination- the Sahasrara Chakra (thousand petal lotus), abode of the supreme consciousness represented by Lord Shiva, situated at the crown of the head. 

There are three bandhas which are practiced as a part of the pranayama routine:

  1. Mula Bandha – मूलबन्ध – (root lock)
  2. Uddiyana Bandha – उड्डियान बन्ध – (navel lock)
  3. Jalandhara Bandha – जालन्धर बन्ध – (chin lock)
  4. Maha bandha – महाबन्ध – (Great lock) – when all the bandhas are applied at the same time after full exhalation

Enjoy the guidelines for the bandha practices as given in the video here.

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Sarvangasana (Shouder Stand) with wall support

Sarvangasana with wall support

In a previous article, I discussed the Sarvangasana – सर्वाङ्गासन –

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(shoulder stand), along with Matsyasana (fish pose) and its variations.The technique discussed therein was appropriate for those who have adequate neck and shoulder strength so they can get into the pose without needing the wall for support. If you are a beginner to yoga practice or don’t have the required strength in the neck and shoulders and the core strength, you may need the support of the wall to help you get into the pose.

In this article, I will first discuss some possible variations to get into the pose while still not using the wall for support. If that doesn’t feel comfortable, then I’ll take you through the steps required for using the wall for support.

I hope you will enjoy practicing with the video sequence given below.

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Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) with variations (video)

Sarvangasana (shoulder stand)

Sarvangasana – सर्वाङ्गासन –

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(Shoulder Stand) and Shirshasana (Head Stand) are two of the most commonly practiced inverted poses in yoga practice. They are considered intermediate level poses and should be practiced under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor. In this article, I will be discussing the Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) along with some of the commonly practiced variations that you can attempt while in the pose. I will also be discussing the Matsyasana (Fish Pose) which is commonly practiced as a counter pose for Sarvangasana. The word "sarvangasana" can be broken into two words "sarvanga" and "asana". The word "sarvanga" is a compound word consisting of "sarva" meaning "all" and "anga" meaning "limbs". The word sarvanga implies that this pose, when practiced regularly, can bring benefits to every limb of the body. The beneficial effects of the pose are mainly achieved by harmonizing the endocrine system, in particular the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

I hope you will enjoy practicing with the video demonstration.

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Kapalabhati with bandhas (video)


In some of the earlier articles, I have discussed the concepts of Kumbhaka (breath retention) and the Bandhas (energy locks) as part of the common pranayama practices. In this article I would like to introduce kumbhaka and bandhas as an extension of the Kapalabhati practice.
If you have attended a yoga class with me, you are aware that the practice of Kapalabhati is an integral part of the yoga routine that we practice in the class. In fact, we practice at least one round of Kapalabhati at the beginning of the class, right after we do the cat and cow stretch (Marjarasana) as a gentle spinal warm up. In the last segment of the class again, we include more kapalabhati as part of the pranayama routine.

As a cautionary note I would like to emphasize here that these advanced practices involving kumbhaka and bandhas should be learned under the guidance of a qualified teacher. In general, you should practice the basic techniques of pranayama without kumbhaka and bandhas for at least six to eight weeks on a regular basis before attempting these advanced techniques.

I hope you will enjoy practicing with this video sequence.

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14-day Pranayama Intensive, Sep 19 – Oct 2

Vishnu Mudra

I am pleased to announce the next Pranayama intensive. In this program, we will be practicing some of the main pranayama techniques given in our ancient yoga texts. I will also discuss the underlying concepts in the practice of pranayama and all the wonderful benefits that the practice can bring us.

No prior pranayama or meditation experience is required.

Here are the particulars:

  • What: 14-day pranayama intensive
  • When: Monday, Sep 19 – Sunday, Oct 2, 2016
  • Time: 6:00 – 7:30 AM
  • Location: 4000 Bearcat Way, Suite 102, Morrisville, NC 27560
  • Daily Routine: Light stretching (10-15 minutes), Pranayama (40 min), Relaxation (15 min), Yoga philosophy/meditation (15-20 min)
  • Commitment: A firm commitment to follow this schedule and attend every day
  • Fee: $90
  • To register: fill out the registration form, providing information in all the fields, and submit it online

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Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) with mantra recitation (video)

Sun Salutation

In Hindu mythology, the sun god is worshipped as a symbol of health and immortal life. It is also revered as the source of life and energy. The Rig Veda declares that "Surya is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings". The Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara – सूर्य नमस्कार) originated as a series of prostrations to the sun. Traditionally, it is performed at dawn, facing the rising sun.

From a historical perspective, Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) is not listed as one of the yoga practices in any of the traditional, ancient yoga texts. Two of the most commonly referenced texts are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gherand Samhita. In these texts there is no mention of the practice of Surya Namaskara.

However, Surya Namaskara has been practiced as a religious ritual for possibly thousands of years as a form of worship to the "Sun God". It is not clear as to what the exact nature of this ritual, in terms of the asanas/stretches performed, was in the ancient times. My assumption is that the Surya Namaskara sequence, as practiced today, is a gradual evolution from its ancient origins. In the classical Surya Namaskara sequence there are twelve moves/asanas. Each of these asanas is accompanied by the chanting of a mantra. There are twelve mantras, one for each move of the Surya Namaskara sequence. Each mantra represents a prostration to one of the twelve names or manifestations of the Sun god. In that sense, this becomes a very devotional practice. You can listen to a beautiful rendition of the mantra chanting here (click the play button)

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Yoga for a healthy, pain-free lower back

Cat Pose

In this article, I am presenting a few simple poses that can help strengthen the back and relieve back pain. Back pain, especially pain in the lower back, is perhaps the single most common reason why people seek medical attention. This is also the most common cause why people come to yoga classes. On a quick google search, I found several studies that have confirmed that yoga indeed provides a lot of relief to backache sufferers. Despite the well-known benefits that can come with a regular yoga practice, it is strongly advised that in case of severe pain you consult with your doctor before commencing a yoga routine.

Most of the poses mentioned in this article have already been discussed individually in earlier blog articles. In this video I have combined these simple asanas for taking care of low back pain in a single video sequence. This way you can follow the video for this sequence to derive full benefits from the practice.

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