The Yoga Sutras and Yoga Therapy

1.1 atha yogānuśāsanam

atha – now, therefore; yogaḥ – art and science of spiritual awakening; anuśāsanam – instruction, teaching, discipline

Now, when the student is prepared, instruction in Yoga begins.

  • The word atha means “now” and also “therefore”, and both words are important in relation to Yoga Therapy.
  • “Therefore” refers to a process that occurred to prepare us for the journey of Yoga. In the case of Yoga Therapy, this preparation is taking responsibility for your own health.
  •  In terms of the word “now”, Yoga Therapy always works in the present moment, so that the past, together with experiences of guilt or shame, are seen as patterns of thought and believe in the present moment.
  • The root of the word anushasana is shas meaning instruction, but is also related to the word for sword, reflecting the need to cut through patterns of limiting conditioning in order to move toward optimal health.
  • Shas is also related to the word sishya meaning a pupil or disciple, reflecting the need to find an authentic teacher that can guide us to health.

1.2 yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ

yogaḥ – the art and science of spiritual awakening; citta – mind-field; vṛttiḥ – movement, activity, modification; nirodhaḥ – stilling, cessation, restraint

Yoga is stilling the activity of the mind.

  • There are two basic types of stilling the mind and both are important in Yoga Therapy.
  • Yoga has a wide variety of techniques which support reducing the activity of the mind, especially in terms of reducing patterns of negative or destructive thinking. Asana, pranayama, mudra, meditation, and Yoga nidra, all play a role.
  • The second way to still the mind is through witnessing, sakshitvam. In this way, the inner dialog and outer expression of this dialog continue, but we gradually learn to witness without repressing or reacting, thereby gradually reducing identification, which reduces the stress response and stress related illness.

1.3 tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe ’vasthānam

tadā – then; draṣṭuḥ – of the seer; svarūpa – true nature, true form; avasthānam – abides, is established, dwells

Then, when the movements of the mind have come into stillness, the seer abides in its own true nature.

  • The word drashtu, referring to the one who sees, is important in that it emphasizes that recognition of our true Being is a question of clarity. In Yoga Therapy, we create an opening in which the care receiver comes to see for themselves the patterns of thought, feeling, relief, lifestyle, and diet that are the source of dis-ease.

1.4 vṛtti sārūpyam itaratra

vṛtti – activity, movements, fluctuations, modifications; sārūpyam – identification with, similarity, taking the form of; itaratra – elsewhere, otherwise, at other times

At other times, when not abiding in one’s own true nature, there is identification with the movements of the mind.

  • One of the greatest obstacles in healing is the tendency to identify with one’s illness or limitation as “I” and “mine”. In Yoga Therapy, we reinforce the understanding that health conditions are not a permanent characteristic and that our true Self is the inner being that witnesses them.
  • In this way, we create a space for disidentification with the cause of suffering.

1.5 vṛttayaḥ pañcatayyaḥ kliṣṭā ‘kliṣṭaḥ

vṛttayaḥ – activities of the mind; pañcatayyaḥ – of five kinds; kliṣṭa – painful;
akliṣṭaḥ – non-painful

The movements of the mind are of five kinds and are either painful or non-painful.

  • This sutra is key to Yoga Therapy because it defines painful and non-painful in ways which are completely distinct from the norms upheld in our culture.
  • Painful is anything that creates separation from our true Being, even if it may seem pleasurable in the moment. This includes all the way the body is abused in the name of pleasure, such as drinking, drugs, partying or even exercise or asana practice when they become addictions.
  • Non-painful is everything that leads to union to our true Being, even if it is uncomfortable initially, including getting up early to practice meditation, or confronting core beliefs that bring up strong feelings.

1.11 anubhūta viṣayā ‘saṁpramoṣaḥ smṛtiḥ

anubhūtaḥ – experienced; viṣayaḥ – sense objects, objects of experience; asaṁpramoṣaḥ – retained, not forgotten, not released; smṛtiḥ – memory

Memory is the retention of sense objects experienced in the past.

  • This sutra highlights the importance of bringing memories into the present moment where they can be experienced as reflections of current patterns of thought and belief, rather than past events which are no longer accessible.
  • When these beliefs are worked with in the present moment and released, they no longer need to be retained.

1.12 abhyāsa-vairāgya-ābhyāṃ tan-nirodhaḥ

abhyāsaḥ – practice, effort, application, will; vairāgya – dispassion, non-attachment, uncolored; ābhyāṃ – of these two; tat – of those; nirodhaḥ – bringing into stillness, cessation

That stilling of those movements of the mind is accomplished through practice and non-attachment.

  • The Yoga therapist works to awaken both these essential qualities in the care receiver. Practice is essential in reforming limiting patterns of diet, lifestyle, and belief.
  • Non-attachment is part of the process of reminding the care receiver that they are already whole and complete. We do this by constantly reinforcing the positive qualities that Yoga awakens, including inherent self-esteem, and inner peace.

1.17 vitarka-vicārānandāsmitā-rūpānugamāt saṁprajñātaḥ

vitarka – cognitive reasoning; vicāra – intuitive understanding; ānanda – joy, bliss, ecstasy; asmitā – I-am-ness; rūpa – appearance of; anugamāt – accompanied by; saṁprajñātaḥ – samādhi supported by an object of meditation

Samprajñātah samādhi is accompanied by the sequential appearance of cognitive reasoning, intuitive understanding, bliss and “I-am-ness”.

  • These levels of samadhi can be seen as levels of understanding of our own bodies. At the vitarka level, the body is a solid entity. At the vichara level, we understand it subtle dimension. At the ananda level, we discover that the body is a source of joy and ecstasy; and at the asmita level, we experience our deeper being, a greater Self, the “I” that inhabits the body.
  • This path of samadhi is also the path of health in a greater sense.

1.20 śraddhā-vīrya- smṛtiḥ samādhi-prajñā-pūrvaka itareṣām

śraddhā – faith, confidence; vīrya – energy, strength, vitality, a firm decision, commitment, virility; smṛtiḥ– remembering, awareness, mindfulness; samādhi – meditation, concentration; prajñā – transcendent wisdom, knowledge; pūrvaka – preceded by; itareṣām – for others

For others, not born with a natural predisposition, attainment of asaṁprajñātaḥ samādhi is preceded by faith, energy, mindfulness, regular meditation practice and wisdom.

  • These qualities are pre-condition for the effortless practice of samadhi but can also be seen as essential for whole person health.
  • Faith is confidence in our own true Being and that healing is an intrinsic facet of this true Being.
  • Virya is vitality, energy and strength, the essence of health. It unfolds naturally as we set a firm course toward recognition of our true Being.
  • Smirtih is remembering, which is a way of saying that we can witness without identifying all forms of negative thinking which are the source of dis-ease through constantly remembering the inherent perfection of our true Being.
  • Samadhi, in this sense, is reminder that changing old patterns can only occur through constant reinforcement of new patterns.
  • Prajna means wisdom, and in relation to Yoga Therapy is the recognition that the entire life journey is a path of healing.

1.23 īśvara-praṇidhānād-vā

īśvara – Lord of creation; praṇidhānāt – through devotion, dedication, surrender; – or

Or, asaṁprajñātaḥ samādhi is experienced through surrender to Īśvara.

  • Part of the process of healing is expanding our vision of ourselves beyond the conditioned personality with all of its wants, needs and perceived deficiencies.
  • This larger vision is one of ourselves as part of the whole of Creation, the entire Universe.
  • Ishvara is the energy Intelligence at the heart of the Universe. when we surrender to Ishvara, we surrender to our own greater Being whose very essence is healing.

1.27 tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ

tasya – his; vācakaḥ – symbol, signifier, word, name; praṇavaḥ – OM

His, Īśvara’s, symbol is OM

1.28 taj-japaḥ tad-artha-bhāvanam

taj – that; japa – repetition, recitation; tad – that; artha – purpose, meaning;
bhāvanam – cultivation, realization

The repetition of that syllable OM leads to the realization of its purpose and meaning

  • The Universe is created by the sound of OM, this is Ishvara voice calling the Universe into being.
  • The Yoga Therapist can use sound, including the sound of OM, effectively as way to connecting the care receiver to the Source Energy, which is also the source of healing.

1.29 tataḥ pratyak-cetana-adhigamo-’py-antarāya-abhavaś-ca

tataḥ– through that; pratyak – inner; cetana – consciousness; adhigama – realization; api – also; antarāya – impediments; abhavaḥ – negation, absence, removal; ca – and

Through that repetition, consciousness of the inner true Self is realized and the impediments to the practice of samādhi are removed.

  • This sutra reminds us that as Yoga therapist, we are always involved in two processes simultaneously.
  • The first is reinforcing all the positive qualities awaken along the Yoga journey, beginning with relaxation, continuing with inner peace, and culminating in self-understanding.
  • The second process is providing a lens through which the care receiver can see more clearly the impediments that they place in their own path to healing.

1.30 vyādhi styāna saṁśaya pramādālasyāvirati bhrānti darśanālabdha bhūmikatvānavasthitatvāni citta-vikṣepās te’ ntarāyāḥ

vyādhi – illness; styāna – dullness; saṁśaya – doubt; pramāda – carelessness; ālasya – lack of energy and enthusiasm; avirati – sense indulgence; bhrānti darśana – false views; alabdha bhūmikatva – failure to gain a firm ground; anavasthitatvāni – instability; citta-vikṣepāḥ – distractions of the mind field; te – they (are); antarāyāḥ – impediments

Illness, dullness, doubt, carelessness, lack of energy and enthusiasm, sense indulgence, false views, failure to gain a firm ground and instability are the distractions of the mind-field that are impediments to samādhi.

  • Dis-ease, vyadhi, is first and foremost in this list, reminding us how challenging it is for care receivers with chronic illness to embark and remain on the journey of self-healing.
  • One effective way for the Yoga Therapist to work with these antarayas is to reinforce their positive opposite qualities, supported by mudras:

1.31 duḥkha-daurmanasyṅāgam-ejayatva-śvāsapraśvāsāḥ vikṣepa sahabhuvaḥ

duḥkha – suffering, pain; daurmanasya – anguish, despair, depression;
aṅgamejayatva – trembling of the limbs, anxiety; śvāsa – inhalation; praśvāsāḥ – exhalation; vikṣepa – distraction, dispersion; sahabhuvaḥ – accompany, correlates, symptoms

Suffering, anguish, trembling of the limbs, erratic inhalation and exhalation accompany the distractions.

  • These symptoms of the antarayas remind us that stress-related illness is not new, and that depression and anxiety were already a subject of concern for Patanjali.
  • With this understanding, we remind ourselves that stress is the cause of most chronic illness, and that lack of self-knowledge is the cause of stress.

1.32 tat-pratiṣedhārtham-eka-tattvābhyāsaḥ

tat – these; pratiṣedha – counteract, prevent; artham – as a means of;
eka – one, single, unitary; tattva – principle, truth, quality; abhyāsaḥ – practice

As a means of counteracting these impediments, practice a single truth or principle

  • Yoga tools and techniques are almost infinite in scope and variety. The texts of Hatha Yoga alone state that there are eighty-four thousand types of asanas.
  • When working in Yoga Therapy however, it is often helpful to take a single tool, such as guided meditation, a mudra or an affirmation and make them the heart and focus of a healing practice.
    Even when we use a variety of practices, and these progress over time depending on the students need, we can maintain one theme supported by various healing tools.

1.33 maitrī-karuṇā-muditopekṣāṇāṁ sukha-duḥkha-puṇyāpuṇya-viṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaś citta-prasādanam

maitrī – loving kindness; karuṇā – compassion; mudita – intrinsic joy;
upekṣāṇāṁ – neutrality, indifference; sukha – pleasure, comfort; duḥkha – pain, sorrow; puṇya – virtue, merit; apuṇya – non-virtue, demerit; viṣayāṇāṁ – in relation to, with regard to; bhāvanātaḥ – through cultivating; citta – mind field; prasādanam – clear, serene

The mind becomes clear and serene through the cultivation of loving kindness, compassion, intrinsic joy and neutrality in relation to pleasure and pain, virtue and absence of virtue.

  • All of the values of the Yoga techniques and methodologies will be seen primarily and most importantly as changes in our attitude, beliefs and tendencies.
  • These healthy attitudes are embodied in the four measurable qualities and these qualities will affect the overall functioning and health of both the mind and the body.

1.34 pracchardana-vidhāraṇābhyāṁ vā prāṇasya

Prachchhardana – exhalation; vidhāraṇābhyāṁ – control, regulation, retention;
vā – or; prāṇasya – of the breath

Or, the impediments to samādhi are overcome by exhalation and control of breath.

  • This sutra deals with breath awareness as opposed to pranayama techniques, reminding the Yoga therapists that observing the care receiver breath and supporting them in bringing awareness to their breath are important tools for Yoga Therapy.

1.35 viṣayavatī vā pravr̥ttir utpannā manasaḥ sthiti nibandhinī

viṣayavatī – having sense experiences; – or; pravṛttiḥ – awareness, perception; utpannā – manifest, arisen; manasaḥ – of the mind; sthiti – stability, steadiness; nibandhinī – firmly establishes.

Or, awareness of the arising of sense experiences firmly establishes the stability of the mind.

  • The ultimate goal of Yoga is self-mastery, but along this journey self-expression also has an important role to play.
  • The Yoga therapist provides safe resources for feeling and expressing emotions, such as “Ha breathing”, and the release of sound and tension during asana practice.
  • As Patanjali states, this emotional release, when done within the framework of Yoga Therapy, cultivates stability in the mind.

1.41 kṣīṇa-vṛtter abhijātasyeva maṇer-grahītṛ-grahaṇa-grāhyeṣu tat-stha-tad-añjanatā samāpattiḥ

kṣīṇa – weakened, diminished; vṛtteḥ – one whose mental fluctuations; abhijātasya – transparent, naturally pure, perfect; eva – like, as though; maṇeḥ – crystal, jewell, gem; grahītṛ – knower; grahaṇa – process of knowing; grāhyeṣu – the known, experienced objects; tat-stha – becoming focused, becoming stable; tadañjanatā – taking the color of, taking the form of; samāpattiḥ – merging, fusion, engrossment, coalescence

When one’s mental fluctuations are weakened, consciousness becomes like a transparent crystal that can take on the color of whatever is placed before it whether that be the knower, the process of knowing or the object of knowing which naturally merge in samāpattiḥ.

  • An important characteristic of dis-ease is the inability to see clearly. In this sutra, Patanjali reminds us that the essence of self-knowledge, which is also the essence of health, is gaining objectivity so that we see ourselves, other people, and life as a whole, as they are and not as we want them to be, or think they should be.

1.50 taj-jaḥ saṁskāro ’nya-saṁskāra-pratibandhī

tad – that; jaḥ – arising, born, produced; saṁskāraḥ – habitual latent impressions;
anya – (of) other; saṁskāraḥ – habitual latent impressions; pratibandhī – wipes away, inhibits, annuls, blocks

Impressions arising in r̥taṁbharā wipe away all other impressions.

  • In the process of Yoga Therapy, the care receivers begin to experience positive sensations and qualities that arise within their own being.
  • This begins with simple relaxation and the unfold as inherent joy, and finally, as an experience of knowledge of truth.
  • This knowledge of truth infuses our entire being and erases all beliefs of defectiveness, which are replaced by absolute knowing of our life purpose and meaning.
  • This knowing of truth is health in the deepest sense.

2.1 tapaḥ svādhyāyeśvara-praṇidhānāni kriyā-yogaḥ

tapaḥ – discipline, austerity; svādhyāya – self-study, study of scripture; Īśvara – The Lord; praṇidhānāni – surrender, devotion; kriyā – action, transformation; yogaḥ – union, integration

Kriyā-yogaḥ consists of discipline, self-study and surrender to the Lord.

2.2 samādhi-bhāvana-arthaḥ kleśa tanū-karaṇa-arthaś-ca

Samādhi – meditative absorption; bhāvana – realizing, cultivating;
arthaḥ – for the purpose of; kleśa – obstructions, afflictions; tanū – weakening, attenuating, diminishing; karaṇa – cause; arthaś – for the purpose of; ca – and

The purpose of kriyā-yoga is to realize samādhi and weaken the kleśas.

  • Kriya Yoga can be seen as a roadmap to health.
  • We begin by creating new patterns through practice and discipline. We engage in a process of inner observation to see all that has been limiting and destructive and also to visualize new ways of being.
  • Finally, we awaken self-knowledge which is also knowledge of the whole Universe and of the energy and intelligence at the heart of the Universe.

2.3 avidyā-asmitā-rāga-dveṣa-abhiniveśaḥ kleśāḥ

avidyā – absence of wisdom, absence of knowledge of the true Self; asmitā – sense of individuality; rāga – desire, attachment; dveṣa – aversion, dislike; abhiniveśaḥ – fear of death, drive to survive, existential anxiety; kleśāḥ – root causes of suffering

Absence of knowledge of the true Self, identification with the limited personality, desire, aversion and fear of death are the kleśās, the root causes of suffering.

  • The word klesha comes from the root klish, which means both impure and painful. The kleshas are therefore the root cause of dis-ease.
  • The Yoga path is a lifelong journey of removing the kleshas and in the space of clarity created, recognizing our true Being which is synonymous with self-healing.
  • The Yoga therapist, even when working with basic techniques, with a specific objective of relaxation and stress management, always keep the kleshas in view as the deeper source of dis-ease.

2.11 dhyāna heyāḥ tad-vr̥ttayaḥ

dhyāna – meditation; heyāḥ – dissolved, destroyed, resolved; tad – these; vr̥ttayaḥ – activities of the mind

These vrttis, the kleshas, are destroyed through meditation.

  • All of the techniques we teach in Yoga Therapy are ultimately guiding the student toward an experience of meditation in the form of quieting the mind and eventually recognizing the inner I whose very nature is silence.

2.12 Kleśa mūlaḥ karma-aśayo dr̥ṣṭādr̥ṣṭa-janma-vedanīyaḥ

Kleśa – affliction; mūlaḥ – root, origin; karma – action; aśayaḥ – accumulation, storehouse; dr̥ṣṭa – seen (in this lifetime); adr̥ṣṭa – unseen, (from other incarnations); janma – births, incarnations; vedanīyaḥ – experienced

The kleśas are the root cause of the accumulation of karma experienced in this or other incarnations.

  • We often think of karma as a storehouse accumulated in previous lifetimes, but karma is also the sum total of our thoughts, beliefs, lifestyle and activities in day-to-day living.
  • The Yoga therapist creates an opening for the care receiver to see how the sum total of their karma is creating dis-ease.
  • The Yoga therapist also creates an opening for the care receiver to see that a new incarnation, a new way of being can occur in any moment, when there is a willingness for genuine transformation.

2.15 pariṇāma tāpa saṁskāra duḥkhaiḥ guṇa-vr̥tti-virodhāc ca duḥkham-eva sarvaṁ vivekinaḥ

pariṇāma – transformation, change, effects, results, consequences; tāpa – anguish, suffering, acute anxiety; saṁskāra – imprints in memory, habit patterns; duḥkhaiḥ – pain, sorrow, suffering; guṇa – constituents of nature; vr̥tti – activities, fluctuations, modifications; virodhāt – internal opposition, conflict; ca – and; duḥkham – painful, sorrowful; eva – only; sarvaṁ – all: vivekinaḥ – to the discerning, to the wise.

For the discerning, all worldly experiences are painful because of the conflict and change inherent in the gunas leading to continual change in which experiences of anguish become habit patterns that deepen the experience of suffering.

  • From the Yoga perspective, experience within the realm of prakriti, material reality, will never provide the knowledge, satisfaction, happiness, health, or peace that we seek.
  • Within Yoga, we choose a completely different path in which all of life is seen as an experience of learning, leading to awakening.
  • This understanding is key in Yoga Therapy because it is only in embracing this new way of seeing that health can unfold in the deepest sense.

2.16 heyaṁ duḥkham-anāgatam

heyaṁ – overcome, avoided, dissolved; duḥkham – suffering, pain; anāgatam – yet to come

The suffering yet to come can be avoided.

  • This sutra reminds us that while the suffering and dis-ease of the past is real, it need not continue.
  • By changing our attitude, priorities and use of time and energy, all forms of dis-ease can be released allowing us to continue into the future with health, happiness, and clarity.

2.33 vitarka bādhane pratipakṣa bhāvanaṁ

vitarka – negative thoughts; bādhane – disturbance; pratipakṣa – opposite thought or principle; bhāvanaṁ – cultivation

When these universal values and spiritual observances are disturbed by negative thoughts, the opposite positive thought should be cultivated.

  • In Yoga Therapy, we need to create an opening where negative and limiting ways of seeing and being are replaced by positive ones.
  • This is much more than an exercise in positive thinking and is embodied in the following process.
  • Cultivating the skill to do the opposite of what our instincts tell us to do is referred to within the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as pratypaksha bhavana, which literally means to visualize the opposite thought or quality as a response to all forms of negativity.
  • Simply trying to think of something positive when we are feeling negative could lead to repression that could have negative consequences.
  • Therefore, pratypaksha bhavana is not just replacing a negative thought with a positive one, but a process of understanding that allows us to transform negativity into positivity.
  • This process makes use of pranayama techniques, including Kapalabhati:
    1. Bring to mind an issue that you are facing currently that generates any kind of negativity in the form of anger, fear, aversion, discomfort or annoyance. Notice the thoughts and feelings that accompany this pattern.
    2. Bring this situation and accompanying feelings into your body and notice where they live as well as their size, shape, color, texture and any accompanying symbols. Take some time to feel where this pattern lives within your being.
    3. Perform 27 rounds of Kapalabhati, developing openness and clarity to sense this pattern of thought and feeling even more clearly.
    4. Take some time to dialogue with this pattern of thought or feeling, basically allowing it to tell its story, how it perceived what happened and how it became hurt, frightened, angry, etc.
    5. Allow the others involved in this situation, even if it was in the distant past, to also tell their story, beginning to see that ours is not the only way to perceive the situation.
    6. Perform 27 more rounds of Kapalabhati, developing openness and clarity to see all the perspectives involved in the situation.
    7. Notice that this situation has an emotional charge for you currently, but that it is not new, since it reflects core beliefs that tend to recreate patterns of thought and feeling over and over, with different characters and different places, but the same general theme.
    8. Reflect on other similar situations you’ve been in, noticing how the pattern of thought and feeling are the same.
    9. See if you can identify a core belief within your own being that sustains these patterns of thought and feeling, that gives them energy.
      1. These core beliefs include a whole range of defense mechanisms developed early in life in order to protect ourselves from hurt and loss while trying to attain love, belonging and happiness.
      2. These beliefs include “I need to protect myself or others will hurt me,” “Life is never completely safe,” and, “I’m the only one who knows how to do it right.”
    10. Perform 27 more rounds of Kapalabhati and then rest in the space created to see if you can identify a core belief active in this current situation.
      1. When this core belief was developed, it was as a response to something positive you were trying to attain or achieve in your life, such as acceptance, belonging, recognition, love or even survival.
    11. Think back to when this core belief developed and notice what you really wanted. Notice where this positive quality lives in your body as well as their size, shape, color, texture and any accompanying symbols.
    12. Notice that you desired this positive quality so intensely because it is actually a reflection of your true Being, who you are beyond all the beliefs, conditioning and patterns of thought and feeling which are all superimposed externally. Take 27 more cycles of Kapalabhati to integrate this quality throughout your entire being.
    13. Reassess the current situation and your attitudes and visualize a way of thinking, feeling and responding that are pratypaksha bhavana, exactly the opposite of what you might normally think, feel or do, thereby supporting the release of all forms of limiting conditioning while supporting the recognition of your true Being.
    14. Visualize ways that this new attitude can be put into practice so that your needs are met, the maximum of harmony is created in your environment, so you stop creating similar situations in the future.
  • Practice 27 more rounds of Kapalabhati to help visualize this new way of working with this type of situation.

3.23. maitryādiṣu balāniprakāśā ‘saṁprayoge ‘ntardhānam

maitrī – loving kindness; ādiṣu – and so forth; balāni – powers, stengths

By the practice of the threefold discipline on qualities like loving kindness, we come to embody that quality.

3.24. baleṣu hasti balādīni

baleṣu – in strengths; hasti – elephants; bala – strengths; ādīni – and so forth

By the practice of the threefold discipline on elephants, and so forth, we gain their strength.

  • These sutras remind us of the power of visualization and imagery and how the Yogs therapist can use this to cultivate and reinforce positive attitudes and qualities.

3.29. nābhi cakre kāya vyūha jñānam

nābhi – navel; cakre – at the center; kāya – body, anatomy; vyūha – organization; jñānaṁ – knowledge

By samyama at the navel center, Maṇipura cakra, knowledge of the organization of the body is gained.

3.30. kaṇṭhakūpe kṣut pipāsā nivṛttih

kaṇṭha – throat; kūpe – well, pit, hollow; kṣut – hunger; pipāsā – thirst; nivṛttiḥ – cessation

By samyama at the pit of the throat, Viśuddha cakra, cessation of hunger and thirst is gained.

3.31. kūrma nāḍyāṁ sthairyaṁ

kūrma – tortoise; nāḍyāṁ – channel; sthairyaṁ – stability, steadiness, immobility

By samyama at the tortoise channel, Muladhara cakra, steadiness is gained.

3.32. mūrdha jyotiṣi siddha darśanam

mūrdha – of the head; jyotiṣi – on the light; siddha – masters; darśanaṁ – vision

By samyama on the light in the head, Sahasrara cakra, a vision of the masters is gained.

3.33. prātibhād vā sarvam

prātibhād – spontaneous enlightenment, flash of liberating intuition; – or; sarvaṁ – all

Or, through a liberating intuition at the third eye, Ajna chakra, all knowledge is gained.

3.34. hṛdaye citta saṁvit

hṛdaye – on the heart; citta – consciousness; saṁvit – full knowledge

By samyama on the heart, Anahata cakra, full knowledge of consciousness is gained.

  • These sutras on the chakras remind the Yoga therapist that health and balance in the subtle body is a key aspect of overall health.

3.40. samāna jayāj jvalanaṁ

samāna – middle current of life force energy; jayāt – through mastery;
jvalanaṁ – radiance, brilliance, vitality

Through mastery of samāna, (the middle current of vital energy, one gains) radiance and vitality.

  • This sutra on the prana vayus remind the Yoga therapist that these currents of subtle energy, which bring vitality to the physical body are a key facet of health and healing.

3.41. śrotrā ‘kāśayoḥ saṁbandha saṁyamād divyaṁ śrotram

śrotrā – ear, power of hearing; ākāśayoḥ – space; saṁbandha – relationship between; saṁyamāt – by saṁyama; divyaṁ – divine, supernatural; śrotraṁ – hearing

By saṁyama on the relationship between the space element and the power of hearing, divine hearing is attained.

3.44. sthūla svarūpa sūkṣmā ‘nvayārthavattva saṁyamād bhūta jayaḥ

sthūla – gross, material; svarūpa – essential nature, own form; sūkṣmā – subtle;
anvaya – interconnection, constitution, inherence; arthavattva – purposefulness; saṁyamād – through saṁyama; bhūta – the elements; jayaḥ – victory, mastery
bhūta – the elements; jayaḥ – victory, mastery

By saṁyama on the gross nature, essential nature, subtle nature, constitution and purpose of the elements in relation to purusha, one gains mastery over them.

3.45. tato ‘ṇimādi prādur bhāvaḥ kāya saṁpat tad dharmā ‘nabhighātaś ca

tataḥ – then; aṇima – becoming minute like an atom; ādi – and so forth;
prādurbhāvaḥ – appearance of, attainment; manifestation; kāya – body; saṁpat – perfection, excellence; tat – their (the elements’); dharma – constituents, characteristics, attributes; anabhighātaḥ – unafflicted, unaffected, immune from; ca – and

Then (from the mastery of the elements), sidhis such as becoming minute manifest along with perfection of body and its immunity (from the ravages of) the elements of nature.

3.46. rūpa lāvaṇya bala vajrasaṁhananatvāni kāya saṁpat

rūpa – form, beauty; lāvaṇya – grace; bala – strength; vajra – diamond like firmness; saṁhananatvāni – structures, constituents (these are); kāya – body; saṁpat – perfection

Beauty, grace, strength, and adamantine firmness constitute perfection of the body

  • This sutra is dealing with the five elements both in their gross and their subtle form and their relationship to the senses reminds the Yoga therapist that working with this relationship is a key part of the healing process.
  • Balancing the senses, the paired organs and the five elements with Anuloma Viloma Kapalabhati
  • To attain this balance, we will practice Anuloma Viloma Kapalabhati with each of the senses and paired organs individually.
  • Begin your pranayama and focus first on the left and right nostrils. Focus on the left as you exhale forcefully left and on the right as you exhale forcefully right for 18 cycles.
  • As you breathe, also sense your connection to the earth element by visualizing a yellow square at the base of your body. After 18 cycles, release, taking three natural breaths to sense the balance of your nostrils and sinus passages and sense of smell, integrating the quality of grounding.
  • Next, focus on your left and right cheeks and left and right sides of your mouth and tongue. Focus on the left as you exhale forcefully left and on the right as you exhale forcefully right for 18 cycles.
  • As you breathe, also sense your connection to the water element by visualizing a silver blue crescent moon within your pelvis. After 18 cycles, release, sensing the balance within your cheeks, mouth, tongue and sense of taste, integrating the quality of fluidity.
  • Next, focus on your left and right eyes. Focus on the left as you exhale forcefully left and on the right as you exhale forcefully right for 18 cycles.
  • As you breathe, also sense your connection to the fire element by visualizing a downward-facing red triangle at your solar plexus. After 18 cycles, release, sensing the balance within your eyes and sense of sight, integrating the quality of clarity.
  • Next, focus on your left and right lungs. Focus on the left as you exhale forcefully left and on the right as you exhale forcefully right for 18 cycles.
  • As you breathe, also sense your connection to the air element by visualizing a six-pointed green star at your heart center. After 18 cycles, release, sensing the balance within your lungs and sense of touch, integrating the quality of harmony.
  • Next, focus on the left and right hemispheres of your brain. Focus on the left as you exhale forcefully left and on the right as you exhale forcefully right for 18 cycles.
  • As you breathe, also sense your connection to the integration of all the elements by visualizing the symbol OM at your third eye. After 18 cycles, release, sensing the balance of all your senses and paired organs in perfect harmony, integrating the quality of unity.

Pranayama for Healing and Transformation

The new book on Pranayama by Joseph Le Page and Karin Silberberg is near in completion and due to be released by the end of 2021. The book follows the same style and format as Mudras for Healing and Transformation by Joseph Le Page and Lilian Aboim, which has literally become the bible of Mudras for many yoga students both in the United States and internationally. Like the Mudra book, Pranayama’s for Healing and Transformation is divided into families which begins with an introduction to the overall uses and benefits of that family as well as the core qualities awakened by each breathing techniques. For example, the first family, the Dirgha Pranayama Family contains five breathing techniques, each with its own focus and benefits.

Each pranayama is then presented in-depth, including its benefits, supporting affirmation, meaning and symbolism, variations and instructions. Each pranayama will also be available on the app which accompanies the book with spoken instructions for each pranayama. This new facet of the Integrative Yoga vision promises to add a completely new dimension to pranayama practice.
For more Pranayama and Mudra videos stay tuned to our Instagram @integrativeyogatherapy

 

Unifying the Definitions of Yoga

The meaning of Yoga is not found in a single definition but through several interrelated definitions that come together to form a vision of Yoga beyond words and concepts. Together, these definitions form a mandala, a circle of understanding that both encompasses and transcends all of the various shades of Yoga’s meaning, guiding us to its essence – the truth of our own Being which is simultaneously the truth of all things, which words can point to, but never express completely.

 

Yogaḥ saṁyogaḥ – Yoga is Union

The Sanskrit root of the word Yoga is yuj, meaning “to join or unite”. There are many cognates for the word Yoga in Indo-European languages including the English “yoke”, to join two things together, and the Portuguese “conjugar”, to join or unite. The concept of Yoga as union encompasses a broad range of meanings, each of which contributes to the understanding of Yoga as a whole. The ultimate meaning of Yoga as union is the joining of the individual soul, Atman, with the Universal Self, Brahman, which is the recognition that the ultimate purpose of each individual’s life journey is to unite with their true Being which is simultaneously the Universal Self and Source at the heart of all things.

We begin this journey of union at the most palpable level – union with our own body. Although we relate to the body as “I” and “me”, our relationship often lacks any real depth or intimacy. In fact, our body is often treated as a slightly foreign object, used by the everyday personality in its quest for survival, reproduction and social hierarchy. Through Yoga in general, and through the techniques of Hatha Yoga in particular, we unite with our body deeply, optimizing its functioning, thereby transforming it into an appropriate vehicle for the journey of union with our true Being.

This union with the body serves as a foundation for uniting with our own breath through pranayama, the science of yogic breathing. As we develop mastery of the breath, we balance the nervous system, reducing stress and cultivating the equanimity that serves as a foundation for our journey of union with our true Being. Union with our breath naturally awakens awareness of our body of subtle energy, an expansive dimension of being that allows us to transcend our everyday thoughts, feelings and beliefs, thereby loosening our rigid identification with the personality.

Uniting with our breath and body of subtle energy cultivates spaciousness within our psycho- emotional being that allows us to explore it with greater openness and objectivity. Ultimately, we will come to see that our everyday mind, called manas, is not our true identity, but the first step in working with limiting patterns of thought, feeling and belief is to unite with them more deeply through awareness of the tendencies that cause confusion and suffering. Through this greater intimacy with our psycho-emotional being, we come to see that the personality is actually a composite of layers of conditioning in the form of evolutionary survival instincts, culture, society and family completely distinct from our true Being.

This gradual recognition of the limiting nature of the conditioned personality naturally awakens our higher mind, called buddhi, that witnesses limiting thoughts, feelings and beliefs while neither repressing, reacting unconsciously or identifying with them as “I” and “me”. As we unite with this higher mind more completely, witnessing becomes natural and spontaneous, gradually releasing tendencies toward negativity, hostility and feelings of  defectiveness and insufficiency. This union with our higher mind through conscious witnessing is especially critical when we experience loss, pain and suffering, for behind every experience of limitation, there always lies the possibility of seeing the limiting beliefs that are the cause of psycho-emotional pain and suffering.

Through awareness and release of limiting thoughts, feelings and beliefs, space is created for understanding the meaning of Yoga as union in the ultimate sense of union with our true Being.  This union is not something we create or achieve, but is simply seeing clearly when all misperceptions, limiting beliefs, confusion and conditioning have been released. This true Self is pure conscious Being, inherently complete, the Universal Self at the heart of all things whose very essence is unity.

The nature of this Universal Self and the means to unite with it are clarified by other definitions of Yoga found in the Bhagavad Gita. The first of these is in Bhagavad Gita 2.50:

 

Yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam – Yoga is skill in action

Skill in action is essentially the ability to see clearly who we are not, the conditioned personality, and who we are, limitless true Being. This skill is expressed moment to moment in daily living through conscious witnessing, observing psycho-emotional patterns and tendencies while neither repressing, reacting unconsciously or identifying with them as “I” and “me”. Skillful action is also respect for our own conditioned patterns and tendencies by recognizing that they are deeply entrenched and therefore not released quickly and easily. Working with these patterns skillfully requires timing, patience and compassion for self and others, for confronting limiting beliefs too forcefully can actually empower them or send them deeper into hiding. Skillful action therefore encompasses acceptance and respect for our own history, recognizing that every step, no matter how painful, has been part of our journey of awakening. Skill in action is also integrating positive qualities such as love, compassion and generosity into daily living, so that whenever negativity arises, we do the exact opposite of our initial tendency which might be reactivity, defensiveness or hostility. This skillful action in daily living allows us to see with absolute clarity that fulfillment and meaning will never be found at the level of the personality but only through union with our true Being.

Skill in action naturally leads to equanimity, which is highlighted in the next definition of Yoga, from the Bhagavad Gita 2.48.

 

Samatvam yoga ucyate – Yoga is equanimity

Through union with our own body, breath and mind, and our ability to act skillfully, there is a natural increase in psycho-emotional stability along with a reduction in confusion, stress and anxiety which allows us to live with greater equanimity. The essence of equanimity is the ability to encounter challenges, issues and problems as opportunities for transformation and awakening rather than as emergencies that need to be resolved by changing people or things in our surroundings. This change in attitude is key to union with our true Being, for as long as we see life’s meaning in success and achievement, we will be forever trying to fix and improve our surroundings, searching and struggling while never seeing that we are the problem and also the solution we seek. This 180º change in attitude allows us to see every interaction and activity as an opportunity for greater recognition of our true Being by not reacting, and instead stepping back to see the tendencies and conditioning that cause the same “problems” in different disguises to occur repeatedly. Equanimity begins as a practice requiring constant remembering, but, as the conditioning that causes suffering is gradually released, we experience equanimity continually as a natural reflection of union with our true Being.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 2.3, broadens our understanding by focusing on Yoga as a means for uniting with the stillness which is the essence of our true Being.

 

Yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ – Yoga is the stilling of the activity of the mind

Union with our body, breath and mind together with growing skill in action and enhanced equanimity naturally lead to a stilling of the mind. Yoga practice cultivates stillness by reducing the confusion, distraction and conditioning that keeps us from seeing the essential silence and peace of our true Being that is always present and waiting. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali present a multifaceted methodology for bringing the mind into stillness by releasing limiting conditioning at all levels of being. The Yamas, the ethical precepts, reduce inner and outer conflict. The Niyamas, spiritual observances, provide a road map for the journey awakening. Asana, the Yoga postures, remove stress and tension from the body while optimizing its functioning. Pranayama cultivates calm and tranquility while awakening us to our body of subtle energy. Pratyahara draws the senses inward, reducing distractions from our surroundings. Dharana, concentration, cultivates psycho-emotional stability and Dhyana, meditation, allows us to experience the wholeness, integration and peace which are reflections of our true Being.

Each of the limbs of Yoga, when practiced diligently and sincerely, prepares us for complete stillness of the mind which is experienced in samādhi, the essence of Yoga practice from the perspective of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

 

Yogaḥ samādhiḥ – Yoga is samadhi

Samādhi is deep meditative absorption in which we focus exclusively on the object of our meditation and also merge with that object completely, so that the meditator and object of meditation unite as a single entity. There are various levels of samādhi, and as we deepen our practice, our object of meditation becomes increasingly more subtle until it is transcended completely and we experience only pure conscious Being, beyond the realm of thought, concept, theory or belief. In this deepest level of absorption, all movements of the mind, whether positive or negative, naturally come into stillness, which is not void in any sense but is infused with truth, meaning, wholeness and peace that absorbs us so completely that it becomes our sole reality. At this level of samādhi all of our definitions of Yoga merge to form a Mandala of union with our own true Being which is simultaneously the Universal truth at the heart of all things. This experience gradually infuses every activity and every moment of living with the essence of truth that is our life’s purpose and destiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History and context of Integrative Yoga – Yoga for the health of the whole person

by Joseph Le Page

Integrative Yoga began in the early 1990’s as a training program in Yoga and mind-body health. The mind body health movement was gaining acceptance through an understanding of the ways that both positive and negative mind states affect both health and healing. Of course, this is something that Yoga had understood for millennia. The Yoga Vasistha from the 5th century presents this simply and clearly: “good health comes from good thoughts and illness is the effect of negative thinking”. So, although mind-body health is not new, scientific research into the effects of attitudes and lifestyle on health is relatively new. Integrative Yoga Therapy, founded by Joseph Le Page in 1993, was the first training program to explore the interface of Yoga and mind-body health and healing. The first Integrative Yoga Therapy training in Brazil was held in 1996.

The students in this program were mostly Yoga teachers who wanted to understand the mind body dimension and include it in their work both with therapeutic groups and in one-on-one Yoga Therapy sessions. What we discovered was that the Yoga teachers entering our Integrative Yoga Therapy Training Program lacked many areas of knowledge in Yoga theory and practice that provide a foundation for more advanced studies. Some lacked a technical understanding of the Yoga postures; others lacked an understanding of the spiritual context of the Yoga practice and many lacked teaching and communication skills. Joseph Le Page and Lilian Aboim created the Integrative Yoga Teacher Training Program to meet the need for a fully prepared teacher of Yoga for the health of the whole person. This comprehensive Yoga Teacher Training program has been offered at Enchanted Mountain Center in Garopaba, Santa Catarina since 2003.

There are a number of core principles that form the foundation of the Integrative Yoga Teacher Training Program and make it unique:

Yoga for the health of the whole person – Integrative Yoga classes provide a balanced approach to health for all dimensions of the person, physical, energetic, psycho-emotional and spiritual.

Yoga poses within the context of overall human development – The yoga poses are powerful vehicles for health and healing and our students develop in depth mastery of them, not as ends in themselves, but as means for becoming a whole human Being.

Experiencing the benefits of Yoga class in daily living – The skills and insights students gain about themselves and their lives in Integrative Yoga allows them to take the benefits of the class beyond the Yoga mat and integrate them into daily living as an enhanced sense of appreciation, inner peace, fulfillment and meaning.

Integration of all Facets of Yoga in the Yoga class – The health and wholeness cultivated through Integrative Yoga is supported by a balanced integration all the Hatha Yoga tools and techniques in each class including asana, pranayama, mudra, affirmation, relaxation and meditation.

Yoga classes appropriate for multiple levels – Integrative Yoga teachers develop the skills to offer Yoga classes at a wide range of abilities and also to adjust the class to individual needs so that different levels can practice effectively in the same class.

Classes with themes that give each experience focus and meaning – These themes can relate to particular areas of practice such as developing greater strength or balance, and can also be used to cultivate specific qualities such as Self-esteem, inner peace and clarity. These qualities are sometimes supported by mudras e affirmations that allows them to be integrated more fully.

 

Experiential learning – During the Teacher Training Program, all subjects including Yoga Philosophy and anatomy and physiology are taught experientially, by doing and feeling in the mind and body, instead of intellectually or theoretically, thereby allowing them to be integrated completely.  The teachers can then apply this experiential approach to learning in their own classes.

Teachers graduate fully equipped and ready to teach – because of the in-depth nature of the program and a ten-step methodology that covers every aspect of Yoga pedagogy from greeting the students to final relaxation, new teachers of integrative Yoga complete the course fully prepared to offer Yoga classes to the public. Each new teacher conducts a full class to a small group of fellow students before the conclusion of their training program.

Supportive teaching resources – Integrative Yoga Publishing offers a wide range of support materials for Yoga study including the Yoga Teacher Toolbox and Mudras for Healing and Transformation, among the most widely used texts for all teacher training programs both in the US and Brazil. New products are constantly being developed and introduced.

Focus on the student rather than the teacher – Some forms of Hatha Yoga are hierarchical and dogmatic with a focus on the organization and a guru or teacher. Integrative Yoga focuses on the unique individual needs of each student as a means to whole person health and healing without any form of religious hierarchy.

Each Yoga teacher is unique – some forms of Hatha Yoga teach a uniform sequence or sequences and the student molds themselves to that methodology. At Integrative Yoga, we provide a solid foundation in all aspects of Yoga teaching that allows each of our teachers to develop their own unique, creative approach to Yoga teaching based on their interests and their student’s needs. This individualized approach also reduces dramatically the possibility of injury.

Creativity and enjoyment in Yoga classes – Integrative Yoga teachers learn a wide range of special techniques ranging from Somatic movements to partner Yoga, Yoga with slings and the use of the cards from the Yoga Toolbox and Mudras to make their classes an absorbing and creative learning experience that student return to ongoingly.

Self-knowledge – The well-rounded focus on all the aspects of Yoga supported by the experiential methodology allow teachers and students to cultivate a lived experience of the essence of Yoga through a growing sense of inner freedom, autonomy, inner peace and a knowing of our life’s true purpose and meaning.

 

 

 

 

Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra is rooted in the Tantric tradition. Tantric practices also combine visualization and respiration to induce particular psycho-spiritual states. The original Tantric form of yoga nidra is called nyasa, which means “to place.” Nyasa is a Tantric technique to awaken, harmonize, and perfect each part of the body through mantras placed in each body area. Each part of the body, including the joints of the fingers and toes, has a particular mantra dedicated to it as a way of sanctifying the entire body in a precise and all-inclusive manner. A simplified variation is to internally chant the sound of OM and place it in each area of the body.

This practice has a strong neural-physiological foundation based on the architecture of the cerebral cortex. The cortex has a “homunculus” or “little man” mapped along its surface. This little man has all the body parts of the human being, but the proportions are very different. The hands and face occupy the largest area and therefore the largest number of neurons. Complex movements of the hand and the mouth used for communication occupy large areas, while the legs and trunk occupy relatively less.

As we place awareness in each part of the body, we tune this area into the sensing channels and away from the thinking channels. The brain cannot think and feel simultaneously. The alternation is so quick that it appears to be simultaneous. Therefore, the overall effect of rotating our awareness through the body is the systematic disconnection of the body from the higher thought processes that induce tension. The result is complete relaxation.

Yoga nidra can be defined as yogic sleep. It is a combination of relaxation, affirmation, respiration, and visualization techniques that work together to facilitate the integration of body, mind, and spirit. Because of this multidimensional approach, yoga nidra is unsurpassed as a form of relaxation for the physical body, as a vehicle for clearing psychological problems, and as a method of profound meditation.

Yoga nidra can reach different levels of the individual, depending on their need and the type of yoga nidra presented:

At the level of Sthula sharira: (gross physical body)

Relaxation of the physical body

  • Physical relaxation supports healing from stress-related illness.
  • Physiological and psychological rejuvenation can arise from deep relaxation of the physical body.
  • Enhanced body awareness supports self-care and reduces potential for injury and progression of disease.

At the level of Suksma sharira (subtle body):

  • Here yoga nidra is considered traditional yogic psychotherapy. Through self-awareness and mindfulness, the yogi comes to witness the mind and thoughts, a process called antar mouna or inner silence. Another technique known as Chidakash dharana internalizes the senses to improve perception of inner mental and psychic experiences.
  • Deep relaxation techniques are helpful in the treatment of insomnia.
  • Learning is enhanced as a result of the deep concentration and focus that arise from these practices.
  • Acceptance and integration of emotions is brought about by these practices.

Karana sharira (causal body):

  • Yoga nidra reaches the deepest parts of the mind.
  • It supports the connection of the individual to cosmic consciousness.
  • It is a tool used as a portal to higher consciousness.

 

 

 

*extracted from Teacher Training Manual

Samkhya Philosophy, Foundation of Yoga

As a philosophical system, yoga has its basis in a philosophy called Samkhya, which means “list” or “enumeration.” Samkhya is a description of the universe and gives a detailed account of 24 different elements from which it is composed. Some of the elements contained within this description of the universe are the five great elements that make up all matter: earth, water, fire, air, and space.

Samkhya also lists the different levels of mind as elements within the created universe. These include citta, which could be defined as consciousness in the broadest sense. Next comes buddhi, which is our faculty of discrimination and higher wisdom. The conventional mind of thought and emotion is called manas, and that part of ourselves that identifies us as an individual being is called ahamkara,which can be related to the ego.

The Samkhya view of the universe corresponds well to the description of the universe found in modern physics. Both see the universe as essentially energy that has the appearance of matter in differing compositions, and both believe the universe originated from an initial unified source. In the case of physics, the beginning of the universe is the Big Bang. The same idea is found in Samkhya, but the essence of the universe in Samkhya philosophy is seen as a unified consciousness or cosmic intelligence from which all matter evolves.

When we begin to explore Samkhya philosophy together with the insights of quantum physics, we come up with some interesting possibilities. From this perspective, we are the universe. Each of us is a living cell within a living organism, which is our Earth. This means that we have always been here in some form since the beginning of the universe and will also continue to exist indefinitely.

When we extend these ideas to the history of yoga, we come up with a completely new approach. Rather than the history of yoga being a series of dates and names of spiritual texts and spiritual teachers, it becomes the story of our own lives. Each of our lives becomes a microcosm of the creation and evolution of the universe. In this way, the universe story, including the development of spirituality, becomes our own life story.

 

 

*extracted from the Teacher Training manual

 

To understand the foundations of Yoga Therapy

To understand the foundations of Yoga Therapy, we can use the model of a structure supported by four pillars:

  1. Yoga Chikitsa DarshanaThe vision of Yoga Therapy
  2. Yoga Chikitsa MargaThe path or process of Yoga Therapy
  3. Yoga Chikitsa SadhanaThe tools, techniques and methods of Yoga Therapy
  4. KaivalyaThe result of Yoga Therapy

 

Yoga Chikitsa Darshana – The Vision of Yoga Therapy

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali form the basis of the Yoga Therapy vision and the first four sutras are the essence of Integrative Yoga Therapy for health and healing. The translation of these sutras below reflect the Yoga Therapy perspective:

  1. The teaching of Yoga begins when we become conscious of the unsatisfying and destructive nature of a life out of balance;
  2. Yoga is a process of harmonizing all that is out of control and confusing in our lives, including fears and desires, so that we can stop walking in circles;
  3. We may therefore rest in our true nature when we experience the peace and joy that provide us with abundance and a deeper sense of living;
  4. We will continue our search and our effort without encountering true satisfaction and, in the process, create stress patterns and suffering that lead us to imbalance and illness. The rest of the sutras in the first chapter expand upon this darshana, or general vision.

In the second chapter, there’s a clearer approach on health and illness according to the Model of the Five Kleshas. The Kleshas describe the process of illness that occurs when we’re not in a yogic state. The Kleshas can be understood within the context of Yoga Therapy as the following:

  • Avidya – lack of understanding of our true nature. Avidya, or ignorance of the truth of unity, is the source of all forms of illness. Ignorance refers here to a lack of understanding that all of life is interconnected and that each one of us is an integral part of the web of life. Avidya is the inability to perceive the larger dimension in relation to oneself, one’s relationships and the world as a whole.
  • Asmita – egoism, a natural consequence of avidya, a way of thinking and acting in which the individual is the center of the world and the world revolves around him/her.
  • Raga – Desire, wanting to achieve, obtain, secure, attach.
  • Dvesha – Aversion, displeasure, anger, the act of avoiding all that represents a threat. Attachment and aversion are a natural consequence of the individual ego that resides in separation, which on the one hand, results in competition and attachment and on the other, fear and anxiety.
  • Abinivesha – Fear of death, underlying existential anxiety. Abinivesha is sometimes defined as “fear of death”. In a larger sense, it’s the existential anxiety that accompanies life without a clear sense of meaning and purpose. Abinivesha is the feeling of falling into a trap, of being on a narrow cliff and falling between life and death, with disaster looming.

The Yoga Sutras offer an integrated analysis of health and disease:

  • Heya – the source of disease is samsara, or a life lived as separation.
  • Hetu – the cause of samsara is avidya.
  • Hanopaya – the solution is self-knowledge through the practice of Yoga.
  • Kaivalya – the final cure is self-knowledge.

 

Yoga Chikitsa Marga – The path of Yoga Therapy

The path of Yoga Therapy is based on Ashtanga Yoga or the 8 Steps of Yoga. Each step is essential to the Yoga Therapy process so that complete healing is achieved. In relation to Yoga Therapy, these steps, or limbs, can be defined as:

  1. Yamas – The understanding of the importance of ethics, of values and qualified actions in the creation of holistic health.
  2. Niyamas – Precepts that emphasize the importance of aspiration and fundamental spiritual practice for the health of the body-mind-spirit.
  3. Asana – Appropriate structure, posture and corporal attitude that promotes health.
  4. Pranayama – The function of breath and the flow of vital energy (prana) with relation to health.
  5. Pratyahara – Abstraction of the senses in relation to the external world to make space for internal observation of the states of balance and imbalance and the removal of disease-causing patterns.
  6. Dharana – The practice of training and directing the mind toward states of health and balance.
  7. Dhyana – The experience of the whole being resting in its true nature as harmony and balance.
  8. Samadhi – Integration of the individual with the Whole. State of total health because the Whole is complete by nature; by aligning with this state, there is health on all levels.

 

Yoga Chikitsa Sadhana – The Practices of Yoga Therapy

Many of the practices of Yoga Therapy are founded on the ancient Hatha Yoga texts, such as the Hatha Yoga Padipika (1300 B.C). These texts are considered a preparation and foundation for Raja Yoga, a reference to the Yoga Sutras, and emphasize the therapeutic benefits of various Yoga practices.

In the introductory sutras, the text reaffirms its intention: “Hatha Yoga is the sanctuary for those who suffer from all types of afflictions.” Hatha Yoga is the foundation for the practices of Yoga Therapy. As the student progresses, meditation comes to play an essential role.

The Yoga Sutras describe the nature, process and techniques of meditation, as well as spiritual experiences that occur during meditation. A central point that’s explored in the Yoga Sutras is that the spiritual experiences aren’t the goal of Yoga, which, in truth, consists of self-knowledge.

Therefore, health and healing are biproducts of the integral process of transformation that occurs through the practice of Yoga. For a technique to have the desired benefit as therapy, it should be firmly anchored in the vision of the path of Yoga Therapy without losing sight of its goal.

 

 

Kaivalya – The Result of Yoga Therapy

Vision, path and technique come together to produce the integration of mind and spirit which is the fundamental basis of Yoga Therapy as healing.

Within this vision, specific areas or systems in the body receive special attention, but the health and cure as a whole occur when all the steps of Yoga are integrated in a program for transformation that embraces every aspect of the individual: physical, energetic, psycho-emotional, intuitive and spiritual.

 

 

Yoga and the coronavirus

by Joseph Le Page

According to the philosophy of Yoga, prakriti, the material world, exists with the purpose of recognizing purusha, our true Being. In other words, the world is a field of learning that exists for the bloom of our true being as purpose and destiny of our life. If, as Yoga says, the world is a field of learning whose goal is spiritual awakening, what are the lessons to be learned from the current pandemic of the coronavirus? Although I fully recognize the gravity of the situation and the understandable fear and anxiety that the entire planet is experiencing, there is also something positive that can come from it; is there also a teaching?

 

Reflecting on this, several topics are presented:

Fragility – The social, political and economic systems that sustain the lives of human beings, including governments, health systems and companies, strive to present an image of permanence, stability and even invincibility. The current crisis reminds us of our fundamental fragility and vulnerability. This virus is a human tragedy, especially because it takes away from us those who should be most valued, the weak and the elderly. Compared to other pandemics in the past, however, this virus is not among the most threatening to life. Even so, it is beyond the ability of many governments and healthcare systems to deal with it effectively. From the point of view of Yoga, this fragility is inherent in our midst, which is subject to constant changes. This impermanence inherent in all things created is a vivid reminder that this life is not to be an end, but only a means to the recognition of our true being, a source of inner strength, of peace, and peace, which is always present, regardless of what is happening around us.

Interconnectivity – There were much worse pandemics in the past, but the world has never been as interconnected and interdependent as it is today. In the past, crises happened in other countries, far away, with no direct relation to our lives. Today, however, the mutation of a virus in a wild animal market in China almost instantly becomes a crisis for the entire planet, not only from the point of view of health, but also by all the large scale economic implications. Yoga teaches us the consciousness of our interconnectivity, that every thought and action is like stones thrown in a lake whose waves spread infinitely. Therefore, Yoga teaches awareness in all our activities with an understanding of how they will affect others and society in general. Yoga teaches the interconnectedness of all things, so that we, as a species, can no longer afford to act in an individual or selfish way.

Respect to nature – it is a known fact that the coronavirus can spread from unfit and unnatural creations of wild species, but what is less known is that this type of transmission is more likely when these species are under stress. This virus originated in China, but the number of places on the planet in which nature is threatened and under stress is numerous and increases exponentially. We can’t separate ourselves from the cycles and rhythms of nature whose essence is balance and harmony; we can’t expect nature to be patient with us indefinitely, even if our abuse of the natural world continues to continue. This virus can’t be seen separately from deforestation and global warming. Nature is Gaia, a living entity whose care and balance is now an absolute necessity for the survival of our species.

Simplicity – Many of us around the planet now live under restrictions in which only essential services, such as health, food and medicines, are working. With most of our shops closed, we have the possibility to see how many of our desires and needs really go beyond what is absolutely necessary. Yoga tells us that the search for satisfaction through material things will never be enough, because the material world was not to be an end in itself, but only a means of discovering the intrinsic contentment of our true Being. Yoga also teaches that we seek satisfaction and happiness in our surroundings in such a compulsive way, because the pleasure that we experience through material things is a glimpse of the complete peace of our true being that we know that is always present and waiting The best of the world. Maybe this is a time to reflect on our true desires, needs and priorities, wondering if the happiness we seek is in the material things or if it is already really present in our own being, closer to us than our own breath, waiting only to be clearly recognized.

Appreciation – In this moment of crisis, many are separated from the things that are used to do, things that provide pleasure and comfort, and even those that support our spiritual growth and awakening. Some are simple things, like meeting up with friends and family, going to a Yoga class or other group activity, walking in the park or going to the beach. Perhaps this moment of social distance is a time for a deeper appreciation of the blessings that we receive in every moment of daily life. This pandemic reminds us that even our breath is a gift and that we must live and breathe every moment, even the most challenging, with a lot of gratitude and appreciation.

Autonomy and freedom – According to Yoga, prakriti exists for purusha; all creation is a field of learning whose purpose is to awaken to our true Being. The body is a precious vehicle for this journey and, in times of crisis, it is normal for survival, both physical and economic, to become priority. And although this is a time to focus on staying physically healthy, it should also be a time to focus on the ultimate goal and purpose of this body, which, from the perspective of Yoga, is to know the true Being beyond any doubt, theory and questioning, through spiritual awakening. And while the physical being is finite, the true self is infinite and immortal; it is who we are in reality, who we have always been and who we will always be. Even if we value what is finite in this moment of crisis, this is also a moment to prioritize what is immortal, infinite, and always waiting to be seen, our real being, through the practices of yoga and meditation.