The origin and history of the Himalayan Yoga Meditative Tradition is outlined, from the unfolding of the teaching Spirit (Hiranyagharba) through the rishis and sages, such as Shankara and Patanjali, to Swami Rama. Linkage with the Buddhist and Christian traditions is shown, as well as with the Sanyasin and Bodhisattva Traditions. Its connection with the culture of India is shown, as in the 4 Ashramas, the 4 Purposes of Life, and to the Indian arts (sculpture, sacred architecture, music, dance and drama). The Guru-disciple relationship is studied, and also the process of initiation, transmission, grace and realization, as well as the adhikara (characteristics, responsibilities and attitudes) of a student and a spiritual guide).
Meditation is seen as a systematic method in the tradition of the Himalayan Masters, which leads one from the lower (gross) levels of awareness to the highest and most subtle state of consciousness. (“Yoga is samadhi” – Vyasa). The methods of applying meditative states of consciousness and meditative insights are studied, so as to purify ones thoughts and emotions and to refine one’s activities in everyday life. (See also SADHANA)
The Steps of Meditation in the Himalayan Yoga Tradition are taught, including basic relaxations, breath awareness at the physical and subtle levels. Also sushumna and subtle body awareness are introduced along with mantra.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are studied, as well as the philosophy of
Raja Yoga as interpreted by Swami Rama. The place of Yoga in the Seven
Systems of Indian Philosophy is studied, especially Yoga’s close
relationship with the Sankhya system of philosophy. Yoga cosmoloyg is
introduced and the ideas of karma and reincarnation, as found in the
Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Students are encouraged to develop
a personal, ethical philosophy of life.
Students will be introduced to the Eastern and Western psychological approaches to the concept of mind and personality and will explore the Yoga Sutras as a psychological map. Various concepts will be defined, such as nirodha, the 8 attributes of buddhi, the 8 intangible functions of chitta, the 5 kleshas, the idea of suffering and its ultimate remedy. The application of yoga to daily life will be discussed and the necessity of self-observation as it applies to manas buddhi, and to preya (what is pleasant) vs shreya (what is preferable). Yoga techniques to purifying emotions will be taught as they reveal themselves in the 4 Primitive Urges and Six Negative Emotions and are expressed through thoughts, speech and actions.
Students will deepen their understanding of practices that work with the subtle body and the chakras. Also the purification of emotions will be studied in relation to the yamas and niyamas and their ethical dimensions. The effects of asanas, pranayama and pratyahara will be covered, as well as positive urges and instincts. The twin principles of ‘chitta prasadanam’ (purifying the mind and making it pleasant) and ‘sthiti nibandhana’ (stabilizing the mind and making that stability permanent and unshakable) (see Yoga Sutras 1:33), will be seen as essential for spiritual progress. The karmic cycle (vrittis, karmas, samskaras, vasanas) and the psychological principles of reincarnation will be covered.
SADHANA: A SPIRITUAL LIFESTYLE
Sadhana is the application Yoga Philosophy and Yoga Psychology to daily life. The benefit of certain attitudes, as seen in the Bhagavad Gita (e.g., emphasis on detachment, renunciation of the fruits of action and skillfulness in action) will be shown. The student will learn how to cultivate sattvic relationships, steadiness and stability in one’s life, and universal compassion as a spiritual lifestyle. Inner Dialogue and Journaling will be taught as tools for adikshana (self-observation) and atma-aishleshana (self-analysis). Awareness of habit patterns relating to the Niyama Saucha (food, sleep, speech thoughts, company, etc.)
The 5 Pillars of Sadhana: stillness,
silence, fasting, celibacy, and conquest of sleep will be explained
thoroughly and eventually (years 4-9) integrated into one’s life as
systematic practices. Various paths within the Raja Yoga tradition, such
as the Yogas of Life (Karma, Bhakti and Jnana) will be learned, as
well as the Yogas of Practice (Mantra, Tantra, Kundalini, Laya
The physiology of breathing (See Anatomy) will be seen in relationship to the subtler practices of pranayama. Pranayama will be defined and explained as “control” and “expansion” of the pranas, and the link between mind and breath will be shown. The five forms of prana and their locations in various regions of the body and the underlying principles pranayama will be learned, as well as the koshas and the pathways (nadis) through which the pranas flows.
In Year One: Proper breathing will be learned (diaphragmatic, silent, nasal, smooth, even, slow and pauseless) as well as 2:1 breathing. In Year Two the three variations of Nadi Shodhana will be learned and well as Kapalabhati. Also, Bhastrika, Ujjayi, Bhramari will be learned, and various relaxations, such as 61-Point Exercise, will be deepened. In Year Three, the application of mudras will be done as well as the practice of anuloma and viloma bhastrikas. Also an understanding of the principles of internal pranayama that merge into the practice of pratyahara will be conveyed. At the intermediate level, students will understand the practice of kevala kumbhaka, sagarbha and nigarbha pranayamas.
Hatha Yoga is defined as “forcing” of the subtle energies and as “the balancing of solar and lunar energies. In the Himalayan style of doing asanas is there is less emphasis on body position and much more emphasis on what is happening within and how the prana body can express itself. There is subtle observation in the mind moving from inside out and a certain reverence and gentleness in totally relaxing passive parts of the body and moving prana into tense areas with the use of concentration and the breath. Hatha Yoga, as taught by Swami Veda, is also “a continuum” involving all the angas of Raja Yoga, especially ahimsa. B.K.S. Iyengar has written in Light on Yoga: “Without firm foundations a house cannot stand. Without the practice of the principles of yama and niyama, which lay down firm foundations for building character, there cannot be an integrated personality. Practice of asanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics.”
In Year One, students learn the Cultural and Meditative Asanas, the anatomy of poses and their benefits, precautions and contraindications. Swami Rama’s Joints and Glands Exercises are the foundation of the Himalayan practice of asanas, and students learn their applications and benefits. The Ten-Step Sequence of Poses, as given in Hatha Yoga Manual I, is also taught. Students use a journal to record their deepening awareness in doing asanas and learn the variations of nasal wash. In Year Two and Three, asanas are refined with subtle body awareness, and suggestions from the classic hatha yoga texts are applied to the postures. There is the connection of mental attitude to one’s hatha practice, and the energy-flow in asanas is observed. Some Shat Kriya cleansings, such as the upper wash, are practiced, and so is mulabandha and jnana-mudra and ashvini mudra. Throughout the 3-year training, students are schooled in how to teach asanas, as this is the main vehicle for leading most students from body-identity to the deeper levels of meditative awareness.
ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY
· Skeletal system — The bones of the neck are studied as well as the shoulders, hips, and particularly the spine. Students learn exercises to straighten and align the spine so as to expand the breathing and help open sushumna channel.
· Respiratory system — The ribcage and the anatomy of diaphragmatic breathing is studied as opposed to abdominal-breathing or chest-breathing. The anatomy of the nose and the importance of nasal breathing and nasal wash are learned.
· Muscles and Connective Tissue — Muscles, Ligaments, tendons and the fascia are studied and how to stretch, tone and strengthen muscles. Working with generalized tension, sympathetic tension and agonist and antagonistic muscle groups. Subtle ways of stretching, utilizing prana, are practiced. Establishing a gentle investigative, non-competitive mood while doing asanas.
· Circulatory system — The chemistry of breathing and O2 and CO2 exchange is taught, and also the way asanas can be used to affect blood flow and increase vitality. The hazards of certain postures are also explained for students with heart and other circulatory problems.
· Digestive system — The way that digestion is affected by mood, exercise and Hatha Yoga practices is studied. Asanas, Kriyas and Pranayamas to help digestion are practiced.
· Physiological effects of asana and common physiological problems of yoga students (obesity, lower back, joints, headaches, stress etc.) Indications and contraindications
· Nervous system and Brain Function — The most recent research pertaining brain research will be covered including ways to utilize the breathing and concentration to establish alternative thinking patterns.
· Endocrine system
· Pregnancy and Menopause and Hatha Yoga
HEALTH and WELL-BEING
Importance of Diet and Exercise
Affect of meditation on wellbeing
Transition to a balanced lifestyle
Introduction to cleansing practices
Ayurveda and holistic health through meditation (moved from MEDITATION)
Transform your life to enhance spiritual practices
Health, wellness and disease from the perspective of Ayurveda and homeopathy
PRACTICAL TEACHING PROCEDURES
Class logistics and marketing.
Class planning, steps and sequencing
Introducing yoga and the Himalayan Tradition
Basic Principles in Yoga
Long Term Guidance of Students
Keeping Communication (Newsletters, e-mail, brochures)
Resources: Hand-outs, Books, Audios, Videos, Websites
Programs and Opportunities (Classes, Workshops, Seminars)
Teacher-Student Relationship (Meeting students where they are and nurturing them)
Leading students to initiation (establishing the linkage between student, teacher and lineage)
Integrating yoga philosophy into yoga classes