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Wikipedia definition of Yoga*: “Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines that originated in ancient India, aimed at controlling (‘yoking’) and stilling the mind, and recognizing the detached ‘witness-consciousness’ as untouched by the activities of the mind (Citta) and mundane suffering (Duḥkha). There are a broad variety of the schools of yoga, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.”
Advaita Vedanta (School of Non-Duality)
Ancient Vedas, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Shankara’s writings and Upanishads commentaries, Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma sutras. Vendanta is a pramana. It is the “Instrument of Knowledge” in the Avaita Vedanta world. Pramanas are said to be an independent and self-sufficient means for gaining direct, personal realization of the true self called Atma. In order to unlock the wisdom of the Rishis’, a guru (one who leads you out of darkness) must know this key point.
There are many methods to explore and figure out which works best for you. Some of these 21 listed below are some of the fundamental trainings within Advaita Vedanta. These fall into 4 categories: Concentration, Observational, Contemplative, and Devotional methods. Usually you should take classes in all of them over at least a decade, but go deep in a few.
The idea is to find the right meditation methods for yourself. Meditation is not a one size fits all but there might be one technique from those 4 categories (Concentration, Observation, Contemplation or Devotion) that may work best for you.
Recommended source: Advaita Vedanta: Swami Tadatmananda
Nididhyasana: Non-Dual Meditation explanation and sample practice below. “Brahma Satyam” (Brahma is absolute) and “Jagan Mithya” (World is merely name and form).
Both Vivekananda and Yogananda were early pioneers of Yoga in the West. Vivekananda came to the USA in the late 1800’s and Yogananda was in early part of 1900’s.
Raja yoga means Ultimate yoga. It works with the Perusha “the soul” and Tamatra “the subtle matter”. This is subtle body development and ultimately liberation. Soul is divinity cultivation both external and internal, the combination of 4 attributes: philosophy, working with the psychic channels, doing the work, and worship. This is knowledge of the experiential. A Yoga of perceptions with foundation of all religions, Truth, and God. It is the internal nature of man by internal science. External is the effect, while internal is the cause. Control internal and external nature, but letting go of desire to control. Harmonizing both internal and external, going deep in both. External can be body, internal the subtle psychic body. Unity is the manifold, the study of internal nature. It will be important to know that the mind vacillates. Be sure to eat good food and have a sound diet to do this yoga.
Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga:
Moral Training (2):
1. Yamas: basically the precepts of do not steal, kill, lie, cheat. Be truthful and exercise celibacy.
2. Niyamans: observances of purity and cleanliness, being content, study with disciple, be devout.
Next is the training methods:
3. Asanas: Yogic postures
4. Pranayama: alternate nostril breathing and other breathing methods
5. Pratyahara: Closing out the senses to the outside world. Seal the senses.
6. Dharana: Concentration on a object.
7. Dhyana: meditation
8. Samadhi: enlightenment or bliss.
Channel clearing and opening
Spine straight, hold free and erect, chest, neck, head in a straight line, chest out slightly but no inward, make physical body stronger and work to control the heart to achieve longevity. Practice pranayama alternate nostril breathing many times a day, primarily when night changes to day, mid-day, day changes to night, and mid-night, these are very calming times of the day. (Same as Zhi, Wu, Mao, You in Chinese neigong) . In 15 days to a month significant purification will be achieved with discipline. Obstructions to practice are having an unhealthy body and having doubt, doubt to what cannot be seen. Keep in mind the importance of the body and self, “I” and ego separate us from God. We must harness the vital forces, train the mind (even if thoughts are good and bad) and find the omnipresence (Wuji, void, nothingness). Breath is the flywheel, the the currents are like threads (currents, channels, prana Qi) nerve currents perceive and feel, mind in motion and control. Be sure to keep your training area clean, practice first and then eat.
Akasha: Akasha is the Omnipresence, the air, sun, earth, stars, body, the subtle, the creation and destruction.
We find akasha by way of prana/Qi. It is a energy or force, the force of thought is a manifestation of prana. Akasha without motion is the dark on dark (Wuji). Control of prana is control of the internal and external. Points in the body, heaven, earth, matter, ether…ether represents the mind, and we tune into the universe’s subtle vibration unify self with the One (Wuji). Samadhi is transcendental.
Psychic channels: Ida, Pingala, Sushumna and the chakras from lowest to highest: mudhalahara root, Swadistanda sex, Manipura navel, AnnaHata heart, visshudi throat, Anjna “brow area”, Saharasara crown.
Flood the brain with cerebral spinal fluid. Breathing has control over the nerve system and currents. Nerves have polarity. The respiratory center has control over other centers. Sushumna is the mental space while Ida and pingali are live sensory and motor, efferent and afferent nerve flow. Kundalini is coiled up and asleep, we rouse it to attain divine wisdom.
Pranayama needs to be done 4 times a day, another technique to do a few times is to inhale and hold to a 4 count, hold for a 16 count, and exhale to a 8 count.
Pratyahara: seal the senses, control the mind, mind needs to be strong enough to ignore the senses. Use the will and intent to do this. Calm the restless mind, forget desires which are turbulence, do not be jealous of others, forget pride.
Sit in vipassana/jingzuo/zuowang: quiet sitting, let the mind be active, watch it and it will get calmer.
Dharana: hold the mind in certain points like mind in a chakra, se it’s colors, flower petals, sounds, etc.
Shut the mind from outside influences. Do not nibble here and there, but go deep. Do not associate with the mind disturging people and company. Perseverance and will to reach goal.
Dhyana and Samadhi: meditation to control the body, consciousness vs unconsciousness. Ego is in the middle plane, non-ego is part of super consciousness and Samadhi (the objectless).
Karma yoga: not to generate negative karma, (purify sex and navel chakra), see god in everyone, do not expect gratitude, feel serving god in all beings.
Bhakti yoga: devotion to god (solar plexus and heart chakras), universal love for all, pursue god, forget self and awaken to god, self-realize your supreme duty.
Raja yoga: use of throat and Brow chakra (most here is Raja yoga).
Jnana yoga: emptiness, self-knowledge and self-realization, crown chakra. Atman is the only true reality, Brahma is real, everything else is illusion, give up desires, control the senses. Knowledge of self and true nature. Renunciation, associate with the wise, tame mind and practice, purify the mind, absorb in atman, long hours of practice in atman, abide in atman.
Yogananda’s method: Kriya Yoga “Complete Action”
Babaji is reported to be approx. 2000 year old immortal that stays in the world hidden only to very few he chooses to teach I the Himalayans. He taught and showed self to Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and Yogananda.
Mantra: Om Mahavatara Vidmahe Sat gurudevaya Deemahi Tanno Babaji Prachodayat
Om Kriya Babaji Mamah Aum
Kriya Yoga essentials:
Stillness: must do 1 to 3 hours a day.
Maintain health of the body
Discipline the mind: be steady, don’t initiate others opinion and beliefs.
Keep your practice private, be careful of the influences around you, get rid of internet, people, etc. that clutter the mind.
Be emotionally healthy. Find resolution of events even loss of a loved one in death. Must find peace in trauma, anger, the negative will pass, and move on.
Treat people with kindness, people as a mother in past life, everyone as a reflection of you, unconditional love, be real not pretentious and fake. Don’t act like a master and higher than others.
Commit to practice: withdrawal attention, renunciation, internalize intention.
Vipassana: clear mind, all the thoughts until you find contemplation. Ask self: “what is god?” “What is real?” converse with the divine consciousness. Commute with the absolute (wuji). Be devoted to the process.
Pranayama and breath awareness
Study the Yoga Sutras as inner postures. Have long term goals, diligence, and sincerity.
Preliminaries: 6 months to 1 year.
Be aware of divine consciousness the entire time. Inner poise and tranquility.
Kriya Yoga Beginner Methods: (1 year of practice)
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama appox. 12 to 24 cycles,
Brow spot inner look to navel area, then Quiet sitting.
Sushumna breathing spine method: inhale guide cool prana up the spine to top of head (sarashawa/crown), exhale, let warm prana go down the spine (muldhalahara/root). Feel the current. 12 to 24 cycles.
Brow spot inner look to navel area, then Quiet sit.
SO (inhale) HUM (exhale) chant at spot between eye brows. Do until you come to place of silence. 10 minutes.
Practice: after prelims. Initiation (3 parts). 30 minutes to perform all three.
Inhale through mouth with inhale sound to back of throat “Ha”, throat lock and guide prana up the 3 lower chakras to enliven them .
Self-enquiry. Read a yoga sutras (196 of them) after long meditation. Contemplate what it may mean.
Ask questions when in deep meditation. Example: “What is god?” “What am I?”
Probably my favorite of them, he lived a life of silence and meditation for something like 7 years as a 16 year old boy. His teaching of silent sitting as the ultimate upadesa (spiritual instruction) and self-enquiry are awesome. His teaching are very simplistic and come from the Advaita Vendata. This is non-dual atman-brahman or purushua (primal consciousness) and prakriti (nature). The highest self sat –chit-ananda (truth-consciousness-bliss) which is self-luminous. His main teaching is to question and let go of ego by questioning/ self-enquiry “who am I?” the practitioner must constantly ask themselves.
Ulladu Narpadu 40 verses on reality by Ramana Maharishi
Ribhu Gita teachings the teachings of Lord Siva in Mount Kailas to His devotee RIBHU.
My first meditation experiences: Hatha Yoga, Zen, and Tai Chi: early 1990’s.
Swami Satchidanada, a teacher of Hatha Yoga, had a Yogaville retreat center in Charlottesville Virginia with several instructors in Richmond Virginia. I used to work at his Integral Yoga health food store in Cary Town. I took Hatha yoga classes with certified instructor Ed Clapp who was also a co-worker at Grace Place Vegetarian health food restaurant and store on Grace street. There is some brief techniques in the sets of Hatha yoga.
- Nadi Shodhana: alternate nostril breathing.
- Bhastrika: bellows breath, strong exhale, natural inhale. A bit strong use of breath. Usually about 9 per round. About 3 rounds.
- Kapalbhati: stronger than Bhastrika using “breath of fire” fast inhale and exhales usually 30 to 100x a round. About 3 rounds.
- Bhromari: is the “Bee buzzing” method, creates a strong vibration on breathing.
- Sheetali: mouth inhale and nose exhale breathing.
- Skeekari: using a hissing sound on exhale: HSSSSSSS like the lung qigong.
- Ujjayi: Ocean breathing, using a throat/larynx sound with breathing, sounds like waves on the beach going in and out.
- Plavini: gulping air down to the Stomach. Has uses for health.
- Murcha: breath retention.
- Sana Vritti: similar to “Box breathing” Inhale a count of 4, hold count of 4, exhale count of 4, wait for 4 before inhaling.
- Dirgha: 3 part breathing: Inhale: low in bellow, then up to lower lung, then up to top of lungs. Exhale: release upper lung, release lower lung, release, lower belly.
- Kaki Mudra: Crow’s breath: using small lips inhale with mouth looking up, hold breath/kumbaka and tuck neck down, exhale mouth.
- Bahya: uses the Maha Bhanda locking the 3 bhandas: Mula bhanda (root at perineum/anus lock), Jalahdhara bhanda (throat lock), and Uddhiyana bhanda (heart lock/abdominals). Mahabhanda we lock all the bhandas and hold on exhale. Inhale and relax the locks. Only do a few. Inhale and exhale normally after. Antara Kumbaka: hold air in.
- Pranava/Brahmanda: cosmic breathing, inhale and exhale the universe.
Detailed videos on above Pranayama methods can be found: Here
Meditation after using some of the pranayamas: Nididhyasana: non-dual meditation. Body stillness, silent speech, spaciousness of mind and consciousness, unification with Brahman.
Zen was an interest and I read several books. On Grove Ave. in Cary town area, I went to the services there at a local temple Ekoji Zen center and Aquarian book store where they practiced Rinzai Zen. 20 minutes of still quiet sitting (Zazen) 15 minutes of Zen walking,, followed by another round of 20 minutes sitting, followed by sutra reading.
Wilson Pitts had a free Tai Chi in the park class and taught the Yang short form, some Ba duanjin, 6 healing sounds, and more. He taught a lot about neigong practices like dan tien breathing, microcosmic orbit, and other sacred mountain Taoist trainings privately at his home school.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) I learned in college from philosophy professor Dr. Jonathan Shear who also happened to be a teacher of Guang Ping Taijiquan directly under Kou You-Ling in San Francisco in the 1960’s. This was on advice from my Chinese Doctor Amy Tseng as she herself was a TM teacher but wanted her patients to see Jon due to her English as a second language. TM teaches by a series of lectures, then the student is given their mantra, then trained on the method in a series of tunings until the method is confirmed to be done properly and effectively. The mantra given is based on birthdate, Aryvedic astrology, personality, etc. It is a personal mantra and should never be shared. The method uses sitting back in a chair and repeating the mantra, you go into a deep state of rest, like a dreamless sleep, and you come out of it like waking up from a restful sleep. The mind is refreshed and clear. It takes approx. 20 minutes to do. Prescription is to do twice a day. This method was made popular in the 1960’s through Maharishi Mehesh who taught many celebrities. The method is valid and very useful for those not wanting complex methods like those used in Chinese Neigong or Traditional Tibetan methods. TM is effortless. You can find a school here. TM.ORG
Kundalini Yoga: there are two forms I learned one is from here 3HO and KRI and did a few retreats. It is a very aggressive form and so I did not take that road. This method may be good for those you are tired and fatigued as it is very invigorating, but proceed with caution as with any new program you introduce into your life.
The second is gently through Sahaja mahayoga. It is a very nice method to use and very similar to qigong and neigong in some ways. This method is open and to the public. the main premise is that we all have the kundalini inside of us and you cannot charge money for what is already inside of you. First they raise the kundalini, second they do a bhanda to clear energy. Then they work on the chakra or wheels of energy along the centerline of body. There is a mantra “Hum Shum” which helps balance the hemispheres of the brain and helps with depression. It is repeated silently. They also will do silent sitting for about 15 minutes after activating the kundalini. There are also paired person methods to do like reiki style massage. On yourself and on a partner you can hover the the hand over the chakras and sense the energy there if weak or overly strong.
Method below in image and sample video with 9 breathings as a warm-up: Sample video here.
Hot yoga is something I will do periodically, mostly in winter when I want to detox and warm-up the body. It is hatha yoga in a hot room approx. between 100 to 110 degrees depending on the teacher. You have to prepare with hydration before, during, and after going. This yoga makes you sweat out some toxins and the warmth is good for the muscles. This is a style not for everyone, but certain people seem to thrive on it. Use caution when doing this method.