And Now, Yoga (Yoga Day Special)

Newsletter No.3

Dear LWP Readers,

I hope you’ve been with us in our 10-day countdown to Yoga Day on 21 June. We’ve been sending you yoga postcards with an asana-a-day by Hatha yoga teacher Ambika Gupta from the gorgeous banks of Lac Léman in Switzerland. More on that below, along with a round-up of our other yoga features from the week that was.

I’m also very pleased to announce a second article collaboration by Professor Subhash Kak and me. This one is a somewhat reflective and poetic piece that contemplates the alchemy of life which involves the transformation of suffering into freedom – The Alchemy of Suffering and Freedom. Do check it out, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
(FYI, you can sign up to receive these newsletters via email every Sunday)

Weekend Thoughts: And now, yoga

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, considered by yogis as the ultimate yoga handbook (even if only of 195 sutras), opens with the words:

अथ योगानुशासनम् (atha yoganushasanam)

This may be translated as “and now, the discipline of yoga”. Many commentators consider these words to be quite an abrupt start to a discussion on yoga. Some commentators don’t make much of these opening words while some note the word ‘anushasanam’ meaning ‘self-discipline’ which they stress is the foundation of yoga.

I prefer to consider the interpretation of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev who explains the significance of these words as essentially that yoga can only be approached in earnest when one is ready for it. And one is usually ready for it when one has had their fill of life’s wine of materialism and realised that it hasn’t gotten them the everlasting high they hoped it would. Now what? Now, yoga.

It seems increasingly like humanity as a collective whole is reaching this point quite rapidly. That’s not to say that they collectively also realise it or know what to do about it. However the many enlightened beings who foresaw the state of our world in this century (like Sri Aurobindo, Vivekananda and Yogananda Parmahansa to name a few) as well as those who walk in our midst today, all stress the importance to humanity to take up the tools of yoga. Patanjali’s words, being timeless, seem to also directly address the world today.  In an age speeded along at a frenetic pace by technology, it is imperative that we know the stability and peace that yoga can bring to our lives. In times of rapid change, the need to find the eternal becomes more intense. The time has come, now yoga.

Significance of Yoga Day on 21 June

In 2015, thanks to the efforts of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 21 June was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations. The resolution set a record for being supported by the highest number of countries at the UN (175 out of 193).

21 June is the summer solstice, when the sun turns southwards in the sky in the northern hemisphere. In Indian culture, the phase of the sun in its ~6 month southward run is called Dakshinayana. This phase is referred to as sadhana pada or the phase when one should focus on sadhana (the phase of the sun’s northern run is called Uttarayana which is the kaivalaya pada, gnana pada or period associated with Samadhi). Dakshinayana is for purification and receptivity and Uttarayana is for fulfilment and enlightenment.

According to yogic sciences, the summer solstice has a significant impact on the human system. If one were to understand the human body in relation to these two phases of the sun, then the lower 3 chakras (energy centres) of the body (Muladhara, Swadhisthana and Manipura) can be more easily purified during Dakshinayana and the higher 3 chakras (Vishuddha, Ajna and Sahasrara) can be more easily purified during Uttarayana. Hence the significance of sadhana involving the body such as yoga-asanas, during Dakshinayana.

From gross to subtle

Yoga, in essence, is about aligning with the cosmic. At the gross level, this involves yoga-asanas to align our inner geometries with the cosmic geometries. All spiritual practices aim at leading the individual from the gross to the subtle. The practices themselves too can be seen as evolving from gross to subtle as the sadhak advances on the path. What starts out as yoga-asanas or kriya yoga, focusing on the body and breath, ultimately leads one to the subtler practice of the real yoga, uniting with the Divine within.

So, I’m not going to shake my head too strongly (at least not as we near Yoga Day!) at the sporty yoga practitioners who seem focused on the bodily and health benefits of yoga. There’s many ways to start and all are welcome because truly, it’s time for yoga.

For sources and more information about Dakshinayana, see articles by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev here and here.

Important Updates

This week LWP started a 10-day countdown to Yoga Day with a Hatha yoga teacher’s postcards from Switzerland. We’ve covered the following asanas so far: Tadasana (Mountain pose), Katichakrasana (Standing Spinal Twist), Trikonasana (Triangle pose), Ashvasthasana, Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) and Shashankasana (Hare pose).

We’ve also been sharing special yoga articles during the week including Dr David Frawley’s article of the significance of Shiva for yogis. We’ve also shared some popular ones from the archives such as:

How to Begin Yoga
The Yoga of Poets
What Yoga is Really About
Aligning Body and Mind with Yoga
A Yogi Lifestyle
Yoga and Pranayama to Keep You Cool Through Summer

Weekly Digest

Finishing up with our picks from the past week on LWP, in case you missed it:

Dr David Frawley’s article on Shiva, the Grand Master of Yoga

Professor Subhash Kak and Shruti Bakshi’s article, The Alchemy of Suffering and Freedom

– Nithin Sridhar’s enlightening article on de-mystifying Goddess Kali.

An interview in TalkingWise, with Isabella Convertini, a business strategy expert at Google who also teaches mindful meditation there. She gave us a wonderful insight into mindfulness and its benefits in the workplace.

– A short video by LWP on How to Manage Your Mind

– Last Sunday’s Newsletter: A Song for the Neuroscientists (Avadhuta Gita)

– Recipe: Vegetarian Eggs on Toast! In addition, we featured the yoga-asana postcards as mentioned above.

As always, I look forward to your comments, feedback, suggestions and article contributions. Do share this email with those you think may be interested so that they can also and join the wiser-living movement!

Wishing you a lovely Sunday wherever in the world you may be. And a happy Yoga Day in advance!

Warm regards,
Shruti Bakshi
Editor, the LivingWise Project

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Shruti Bakshi
Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London and Paris and holds an MBA (INSEAD) and MPhil in Finance (Cambridge). She is also a certified Hatha yoga instructor. Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel 'From Dior to Dharma' was released in May 2017. Her latest book 'Yoga, Work and Life: Indian Wisdom for Modern Times' is a collection of her essays available on Kindle.

India links: From Dior to Dharma Yoga, Work & Life

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