Tag Archives: hatha yoga

Inner Engineering with Sadhguru: My Experience

by Princess Draupadi

Photo Credits: Pictures of Sadhguru were taken from Isha Foundation’s official webpage.

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Where, When and Cost

  • Program: Inner Engineering with Sadhguru
  • Venue: 14th and 15th April, 2018
  • Venue: Mines International Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Ticket price: RM630 (‘Early Bird’ for lowest range) to over RM1000 (closer to Sadhguru’s dais on stage)

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As a business convention centre, the venue itself was nothing to scream about. It was large, clean, spacious, boring – functional enough for a city event, but unfortunate considering the spiritual nature of the program. I’d have liked something like this to be held amidst nature, under large old trees or in a more rural location.

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I must commend Isha on their excellent event management. In fact, it was one of the best I’ve experienced in terms of organization and pre-planning. Volunteers were strategically placed everywhere to guide participants, all the way from the car park to random road junctions around the venue, to the inside of the hall.

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There were even volunteers about half a mile away from the venue to redirect participants who had driven to the wrong area (yes, being an idiot with roads I was one of them, so thank you, random cute Isha volunteer dude). Once inside the venue, everything was in place and it was a well-oiled transition from registration to shoe organization, to taking the right lanes to reach designated seating areas.

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What is the Inner Engineering Program About?

Their official website says this about the program:

“Inner Engineering provides tools and solutions to empower yourself to create your life the way you want it. It gives you the opportunity to intellectually explore the basics of life using methods from the distilled essence of yogic sciences. The course imparts practical wisdom to manage your body, mind, emotions, and the fundamental life energy within. The program has been designed by Sadhguru, a yogi, visionary, and the foremost authority on yoga.”

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I’ve always liked Sadhguru for his down-to-earth attitude and his frankness. Sometimes I find him long-winded, but I understand that he’s speaking in a way tailored to the masses.

I attended Inner Engineering without any major goals or expectations in mind. I went for purely one reason: to see Sadhguru and experience his aura and energy in person. That’s it.

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As a (self-proclaimed) yogi, I’ll say this from my years of personal experience in all things spiritual: every yogic practice with ancient roots has complex and highly scientific reasons for them – it just wasn’t labelled as ‘science’ back then because it was simply a way of life. The effects of yogic practices are far-reaching and encompass many aspects of material life as we know it in addition to spiritual dimensions.

This review by me in no way discounts the value of Inner Engineering and my experience with Sadhguru. Some things can’t be fully explained using mere words, and the only way to truly know is to see, hear and feel it all in person. So I ask that you take my review with a pinch of salt, but attend Sadhguru’s program anyway if you feel it could be a valuable experience for you.

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All participants had to complete some online sessions as a prerequisite to the course. This involved watching a number of pre-recorded talks by Sadhguru and answering questions based on the content of his sermons in the videos. The questions weren’t like what you get in exams; they were geared towards inner reflection, self-realization and self-awareness, aimed more at turning the mind and focus inwards. I found this part extremely trying, but I diligently completed all sessions without cheating. Discipline, yay me.

Apart from some very simple physical exercises and the Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya, the program was mainly made up of Sadhguru’s sermon, like his YouTube videos.

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What is the Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya?

The Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya is the highlight of Inner Engineering. It’s a combination of actions, plus meditation and breathing (or breath control) techniques which, when done correctly, change the energy of the practitioner. Some people report various experiences during the 21 minutes it takes to complete this kriya, such as feelings of extreme bliss, weightlessness, seeing auras and colors, etc. To paraphrase from Sadhguru’s words, regular practice of this kriya will permanently raise and transform the energy levels of the body and give one heightened spiritual awareness.

Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya Initiation

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Sadhguru asked participants to refrain from initiating others into Shambhavi Mahamudra themselves, as it takes a proper spiritual master to do so. As a gesture of acknowledgement and respect to his request, I’ll not describe the kriya in detail here. It is, however, fairly straightforward and simple to do, as long as you receive proper initial instructions.

During the initiation of the kriya, Sadhguru himself went into what I would call a meditative state. He makes a whistling sound and claps his hands on and off when he goes into that mode. I’m not sure what that does, but perhaps it’s his way of dispersing his energy over large numbers of people – it was a crowd of more than 2000.

I didn’t experience anything drastic during the 21 minutes of the Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya. What did happen for me was mild and pleasant. When I was doing the special breathing technique as instructed, I ‘saw’ what looked like cloudy violet auras or purple smoke behind my closed eyelids. It was fascinating to watch the colors swirling and transforming.

I did cheat one time for a few seconds and open my eyes a little, just to make sure they weren’t flashing any colored lights above me. Nothing of the sort. The lights in the hall were regular ones.

The only disruptive thing that happened during the kriya were a bunch of people wailing and screaming sporadically throughout. I’m not sure if those reactions were genuine or faked, but it sure annoyed the crap out of me. Guess I’m not yogi enough to be all blissful all the time, but hey, even Lord Shiva toasted Kamadeva to ashes when the latter dared disturb his meditation, and made him take a rebirth and everything. So whatever. Go ahead and judge me.

Much later into the program, about an hour after the kriya was done with, some fat guy stood up abruptly and started yelling, “Where are you Sadhguru, I can’t see you Sadhguru” while turning around in circles. With his eyes closed. Must’ve been some delayed spiritual enlightenment or chakra activation thing I’m clueless about. Anyway, Sadhguru was talking on the stage at that point, and spoke into the microphone to the volunteers, “Make him sit down”. I disagree with what Sadhguru did – should have said, “Make him open his eyes” instead.

Mortifying moments and cringe-worthy drama aside, all else was pretty normal.

Was Inner Engineering Life-Changing?

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As I went without expectations, everything I took away from the program was a bonus in terms of learning experience. The biggest life-changing experience for me happened in an ashram in the hills of Kerala in 2012, when I was meditating alone under a yellow-flowering tree abuzz with honeybees. My mind literally blew open on that sacred soil as I sat facing Mount Agastya, and my life has never been the same since.

Nothing else has ever come close to that astounding experience, but every spiritual thing I’ve done since has added on to it over the years. This was one of those things.

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Ananda Alai – A Wave of Bliss

This was the most touching part of the program. “Alai Alai” is a fantastic Tamil song created by the immensely talented artists and musicians of Isha, and it was played during Inner Engineering. Sadhguru got up from his dais, walked down the stage ramp and danced exuberantly with everyone. People were singing along, dancing, jumping, waving and crying tears of joy. It was simply fabulous.

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I was standing alone among the wildly ecstatic crowd, smiling at everything and nothing. I looked at the person next to me, a young man who had been incredibly stiff and serious since the start of the program. He had melted like butter and given himself up to the wave of bliss that was washing over the crowd. We smiled at each other, a brief moment of understanding between two strangers. I watched as he clapped, laughed and twirled  around with his arms in the air along with the rest.

That was a very moving experience with Sadhguru, and I’m glad I was there in person. The song is fantastic too. Here it is.

Conclusion

I’ll leave you with these final words.

If you’re thinking to go for Inner Engineering, don’t go if you feel it costs too much. Don’t go if you’re expecting some kind of mind-blowing, miraculous transformation to happen there. Don’t go if you want to ‘compare’ the man with other gurus and see if he’s the real thing or not.

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I would say Inner Engineering is like a bija mantra – a seed, if you will. Let it sow itself within you and you will flourish and transform, like a magnificent sacred tree.

If you’re open to learning and experiencing the magic of life as it unfolds moment by moment, this program could do something incredible for you. If you go into every experience in life without expectations, then you’ll see each moment anew, with fresh eyes, like a new-born baby who’s fascinated by the simplest things existence has to offer. Like Sadhguru says, again and again, “This moment is inevitable. This moment, now, is inevitable.”

I went for only one reason – Sadhguru. I saw him. I touched his feet when he walked past me. That was enough for me. He has added yet another lotus to my spiritual pond; this time, a lovely violet one.

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“As there is a science and technology to create external wellbeing, there is a whole dimension of science and technology for inner wellbeing.

Inner Engineering is neither a religion, nor a philosophy or dogma. It is a technology for wellbeing. One does not have to believe or disbelieve, just have to learn to use. Technology will produce results irrespective of who you are.” – Sadhguru

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Related Links:

Everything You Need to Know About Rudraksha (Part 1)

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Part 2)

Hatha Yoga For Weight Loss

by Jana Thevar

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“Can yoga help me burn fat?”
“I need to get thin fast. Does yoga help?”
“I can’t seem to lose weight no matter what. Will yoga work?”

As a hatha yoga instructor, these are questions I get asked a lot. Excess body weight problems are among the curses of modern living. Lifestyles have become more sedentary, diets more unhealthy. Most of the processed garbage available on supermarket food shelves are devoid of proper nutrition and chock-full of unpronounceable toxins, preservatives and synthetic additives.

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The ideal yogic lifestyle is based on balance and moderation in all aspects of life, but city living has the scales completely tipped. Our bodies now struggle to cope with all that filth, to deal with every negative thing we force upon it while having to perform regular bodily functions. Our systems are malnourished, intoxicated, worn-down, underworked in some parts and overworked in others. Is it any wonder that human metabolism is going haywire?

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Can I Lose Weight With Yoga?

Generally speaking, yes – yoga usually helps most people lose weight. This is because the practice of yoga itself corrects numerous imbalances within the body, from endocrine system issues to a sluggish digestive tract.

However, results of weight loss can vary greatly depending on a number of things, such as:

• How often one practices yoga
• The type of yoga practiced
• The depth of individual yoga practice
• Underlying health conditions (eg. hormonal problems)
• Lifestyle factors (eg. dietary habits, stress levels, consistency of routine)
• One’s natural bodily tendencies and constitution (eg. various doshas per Ayurveda)

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How Can I Maximize Weight Loss Using Yoga?

If you’ve decided to try yoga for weight loss, congratulations! I guarantee that you’ll benefit from yoga immensely, and in many different ways.

The best way to achieve maximum weight loss through yoga is to apply yogic principles to ALL aspects of your life. This is so that an ideal balance in all bodily systems can be achieved. When all bodily systems work together harmoniously, excess body weight will eventually start coming off. My yoga guru always told me that the body has its own intelligence, and I have personally experienced this.

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The late Swami Vishnudevananda, one of the most revered gurus of traditional hatha yoga, famously detailed 5 points on how to achieve a balanced yogic lifestyle:

Proper Exercise (yoga asanas or poses)
Proper Breathing (pranayama, breath control)
Proper Diet (ideally sattvic food or a vegetarian diet)
Proper Relaxation (savasana between asanas)
Positive Thinking and Meditation

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When your body is in a state of ideal balance (or close to it), weight loss will be effortless. With continued practice of yoga, the body will usually pare itself down to a weight that’s healthy for the said individual body type, then maintain itself effortlessly, as long as yogic principles are practiced continuously.

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Remember, it’s a real possibility that your ideal body weight may never make you look ‘slim’, ‘thin’ or ‘skinny’ – but that’s completely okay. Real beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. A healthy body and mind is what makes a person really attractive, so don’t place too much emphasis on weight loss. Rather, focus on getting yourself healthy on all levels. Enjoy your yoga practice and it will do wonders for you!

Related articles:

5 Main Benefits Of Traditional Hatha Yoga

Stretching Safely For Complete Beginners

Kitchiri, The Best Sattvic Detox Food

Do Crash Diets Really Work?

Ashram Vacations: An Introduction

by Jana Thevar

Note: All images below were taken at my various ashram visits and stays from 2013 to 2017. The following pictures were taken at Yoga Niketan Ashram (Rishikesh), Dhanwanthari Ashram (Kerala), Meenakshi Ashram (Madurai), Parmarth Niketan Ashram (Rishikesh) and ISKCON Delhi (East of Kailash, Delhi).

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Is stress killing you? Do you experience inexplicable aches and pains, depression, migraines, digestion issues and fatigue on a regular basis? If your regular vacations aren’t cutting it anymore, an ashram vacation may be just the thing you need. It can be a hardcore experience for the uninitiated, but I can assure you it’ll be well worth the effort.

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First Things First: What’s an Ashram?

I’m just going to quote Wikipedia’s description here, because it’s so complete:

“Traditionally, an ashram (sometimes also ashrama or ashramam) is a spiritual hermitage or a monastery in Indian religions. The word ashram comes from the Sanskrit root śram which means “to toil”. An ashram would traditionally, but not necessarily in contemporary times, be located far from human habitation, in forests or mountainous regions, amidst refreshing natural surroundings conducive to spiritual instruction and meditation. The residents of an ashram regularly performed spiritual and physical exercises, such as the various forms of yoga.

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Sometimes, the goal of a pilgrimage to the ashram was not tranquility, but instruction in some art, especially warfare. In the Ramayana, the protagonist princes of ancient Ayodhya, Rama and Lakshmana, go to Vishvamitra’s ashram to protect his yajnas from being defiled by emissary-demons of Ravana. After they prove their mettle, the princes receive martial instruction from the sage, especially in the use of divine weapons. In the Mahabharata, Krishna, in his youth, goes to the ashram of Sandipani to gain knowledge of both intellectual and spiritual matters.”

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My Experience

To me, there’s nothing quite as magical as the ashram experience. Meditating in the Himalayas as the starless, obsidian sky bursts into the blazing pink ribbons of dawn. The chanting of mantras in the dark, amidst clouds of rose-sandalwood frankincense. Exotic birds in the mist. Sun-ripened fruits. Losing yourself in the transcendental bliss of meditation.

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I’m the kind of person who burns out easily with the demands of modern-day city living, so I need my ashram breaks. Every ashram is like a temporary second home to me. Over the last 5 years, I’ve stayed at various ashrams across India (the longest stays were in Sivananda ashrams, to complete my yoga certification).

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I’m so used to ashram life that I tend to incorporate parts of it into day-to-day modern living, often without realising it. No hot water in the mornings? Improvise with a bucket of cold water. Too tired for proper dinner after work? I make do with plain rice, yoghurt and fresh curry leaves. It’s a 360 degree turn-around for a woman like me who was raised with the comforts of big-city living for most of my life.

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What’s Ashram Life Like?

It’s austere. Very basic, ascetic-style living. No luxuries or city comforts to speak of – no air-conditioning, hot water, comfy spring mattresses, washing machines, hair dryers. Ashrams in India serve only vegetarian food, often without onions and garlic (depending on the ashram, salt and spices may be omitted completely). Some ashrams provide more comfort at extra charge, but that’s usually limited to air-conditioning and hot water.

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Despite the obvious challenges of ashram life, thousands continue to throng ashrams across India for various reasons – personal spiritual retreats, study of Vedic scriptures, structured yoga vacations and more. Why are regular people who are used to a cushy life willing to rough it out? Simple – the benefits, despite the hardship, are immense.

A temporary ashram stay isn’t a vacation the way you know it. It gives your material-life overloaded, burnt-out systems a break (mind, body, soul) so you can begin self-healing on all levels.

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Generally, ashram dwellers:

1) Wake up during the auspicious brahma muhurta timing (between 4.30am and 5.00am)
2) Sleep on woven mats or thin, natural-fibre mattresses in same-sex dormitories
3) Eat sattvic food (vegetarian fare minus onions and garlic)
4) Hand-wash and line-dry their own laundry
5) Follow a daily ashram schedule, which includes satsang (singing spiritual hymns), yoga classes, spiritual talks or discourses, Bhagavadgita classes, meditation sessions and so on
6) Wear simple, modest clothing on ashram grounds
7) Perform karma yoga (selfless service) daily, usually cleaning duties within the ashram

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What’s the Reason for such Basic, Austere Conditions?

The goal of ashram living is to increase one’s self-awareness and enhance spirituality. Sensual pleasures including rich food, entertainment, sexual activity and indulgence in modern luxuries cause distraction within the human mind and subsequently, a lack of focus.

By intentionally withdrawing worldly pleasures and sense gratification, ashram life effectively tunes one ‘inwards’ and enables one to focus and channel their mental energy effectively. Additional ashram activities such as pranayama (breath control), yoga asanas (physical exercise) condition and meditation prepare the body and mind for transcendental experiences.

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Ashram life is good practise for those wanting to pursue the path of self-realisation on a deeper, more serious level. Consider it a physical, mental and spiritual ‘detox’ from the filth and imbalances of modern living.

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What are the Benefits of Ashram Living? What Changes Will I See?

I recommend that you stay in an ashram for a minimum of 2 weeks to see significant improvement. For best results, a 4-to-6 week stay will do wonders – it’ll literally transform you. However, if you can only manage a few days, it’s still better than nothing.

The first few days will be difficult as your body adjusts to the discipline and unfamiliar routine, but you’ll notice major changes on all levels (physically, mentally and spiritually) within the first 1 to 2 weeks. Most people feel lighter and more energetic. Your energy levels will increase, and you may be as surprised as I was to realize you only need 4 to 5 hours of sleep to wake up fully refreshed.

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The yoga asanas and healthy, meat-free sattvic diet will kick-start healing and rejuvenation processes within your body. Ailments, old injuries, digestive disorders, aches and pains will progressively improve. Stress melts away completely within the first few days.

Some people may experience certain ‘negative’ reactions including skin breakouts, temper flares, digestion issues and headaches in the first few days of ashram living. This is normal as the body is purging itself of various toxins and bad energies accumulated over the years. Skin will begin to take on a healthy glow within a few days, and bodily systems will usually harmonize once your energies sync with the routine and activities.

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I’d Like to Try an Ashram Vacation. Where Do I Start?

Most modern ashrams have an online presence these days. I suggest that you pick an ashram based on your needs. Are you interested in the teachings of a particular spiritual master? Do you want to visit a certain place and couple it with a short ashram stay? Do some searching online to see which one appeals to you the most. You’ll be spoilt for choice.

Remember that most ashrams are located in rural areas with limited internet access and phone facilities. Travel can be a challenge, and transportation is not as straightforward in lesser-developed areas such as the Himalayas. As such, plan ahead and give sufficient time (ideally between 4 to 8 weeks in advance) for ashram stay booking and confirmation.

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Here are some of my personal recommendations:

Sivananda Ashrams (Kerala, Madurai and Rishikesh)
Omkarananda Ganga Sadan (Rishikesh)
Parmarth Niketan Ashram (Rishikesh)
Yoga Niketan Trust Ashram (Rishikesh)
ISKCON Delhi Temple (East of Kailash, Delhi)

Related Posts:

10 Tips for Women Traveling Alone in India

Everything You Need to Know about Rudraksha

Five Main Benefits of Traditional Hatha Yoga

Bhakti Yoga Through the Art of Puja

 

Do Crash Diets Really Work?

by Princess Draupadi

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The short answer is, no – they don’t. The health experts were right. A healthy, balanced diet will do more to help you lose weight in the long term, but starving yourself is always a bad idea.

What happens with most ‘starve-yourself-skinny’ diets is this: while you may lose weight temporarily by depriving yourself of food, you’ll also mess up your normal metabolism and shock your body into ‘starvation mode’. When this happens, your body will start preparing to conserve more energy instead of burning it.

The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ couldn’t be more true. Think about this; the food you consume is constantly transforming into bits and pieces of your body – it gets digested and broken down, then replaces old, worn and dead cells. The better the quality of your food, the better the ‘quality’ of the body built from it. Now, what kind of results can one expect from a diet consisting of mainly factory-processed, synthetic-additive-laden or stale food?

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So guess what happens when you start eating normally again, or lose control and go on a food binge? Bingo. Your body stores more calories than usual. This is why on-and-off dieting (and extreme dieting) is bad for you in the long term.

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So what’s a better solution? Eating better and ‘eating cleaner’ consistently. Practise moderation and make educated choices when it comes to your food. Think long term, because it takes time for diet changes to reflect in your body.

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What you should aim for is healthy weight and a fit, strong body. Also, be realistic about your expectations. If you have a naturally bigger frame, you may never be skinny, even at your healthiest point.

On the other hand, if you’re lean no matter what you eat, it’s unwise to push your body too hard to artificially ‘bulk up’. This will put unnecessary strain on your system. Respect your body and how it naturally works. If you know you’re exercising adequately, eating clean and nourishing food, getting the rest you need and generally living a fairly healthy lifestyle, that’s good enough. Keep your fitness and health goals realistic and don’t harm your body.

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Dieting Myths

Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates, oils and fats are not bad for you. You actually need them in your diet so your body functions at an optimum level. For instance, you do need healthy fats and quality oils in your diet to keep your skin supple and your systems well-lubricated – you can get these from extra-virgin olive oil, ahimsa dairy products, unprocessed nuts and grains and ripe avocados (monounsaturated fat).

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The real culprits are overly-processed foodstuff with cheap, synthetic ingredients (preservatives, artificial color, etc). These are hard for your body to break down, digest and absorb effectively. These foods also leave all kinds of unhealthy residue in your system (known as ama in Ayurveda) and can cause various health issues like gas, bloating and allergies.

And that’s not all. Hardcore dieting can leech your body of important nutrients, causing lethargy, weakness, fainting, weak immunity, dry skin, acne, cracked heels and worse. Always aim for fresh, vitamin and mineral-rich foods.

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Here are a few quick lists (with examples) to help improve your diet as a long-term solution to weight management.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Processed carbohydrates (factory-made noodles, instant porridge)
  • Refined sugar (white cane sugar)
  • Low-grade cooking oil (recycled cooking oil)
  • Leftovers (no longer than 2 days in the refridgerator)
  • Margerine (all kinds)
  • Unrefrigerated cooked food (Ayurvedically considered unfit for consumption after 3 hours)
  • Processed fruit juices

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Healthy Food Substitutes:

  • Honey, brown sugar, palm sugar, molasses and jaggery (instead of white sugar)
  • Wholemeal bread (instead of white bread)
  • Unpolished, parboiled or brown rice
  • Fresh milk (instead of recombined or powdered milk)
  • Extra virgin or virgin vegetable oils (instead of fractionated oils)
  • Whole grains (instead of processed grains)
  • Wholemeal flour (instead of white flour)
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (instead of canned or preserved)

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Additional Eat-Healthy Tips:

  • Consume something fresh every day (fruits or vegetables)
  • Match each serving of carbohydrates with an equal-sized serving of fresh produce
  • Eat normally for breakfast and lunch, but prepare a nutrient-dense, low-carbohydrate dinner (e.g. a large bowl of salad with a few cubes of feta cheese, plus a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil)

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A Final Note

Never torment your body for the sake of unrealistic ideals portrayed by the media. You may never be supermodel-skinny even at your healthiest point, and that’s perfectly okay.

Love your body, respect it, appreciate it and help it stay healthy. It’s been working hard for you since the day you were born, through millions of complex bodily processes every single day.

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Related Link:

Kitchiri, the Best Sattvic Detox Food

Hatha Yoga for Weight Loss

Bhakti Yoga Through The Art Of Puja (Part 1)

by Jana Thevar

Part 1: Understanding the Art of Puja

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Note: This article may be a little long for today’s readers. However, if you wish to understand and explore the deeper spiritual meaning behind the practice of puja, I request that you read this article to the very end. One of my biggest challenges in writing about Sanatana Dharma (Hindusim) is trying to summarize vast amounts of information from Vedic scriptures and make content easy to understand for readers. Thank you for your time and patience. I hope you’ll be inspired to include puja as a part of your daily life and your personal journey on the path of Self-Realization.

An Introduction to Puja

Puja is a ritual of prayer or worship generally practiced by followers of Sanatana Dharma (better known in modern times as Hinduism). It is a form of Bhakti Yoga (the yogic path of devotional service and love). Puja may be done to honor and worship demigods, deities or any chosen manifestation of the sacred universal energy. It may also be performed to commemorate auspicious days or events.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Sri Krishna says this about Bhakti Yoga:

patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakti upahrtam
asnami prayatatmanah

Translation: If one offers Me, with love and devotion, a leaf, flower, fruit or water, I will accept it (Chapter 9, Verse 26).

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What’s the meaning of this verse? Simple: it’s easy to serve God or the universal energy through puja, as all one requires is a leaf, flower, fruit or water offered with sincerity, love and devotion.

Puja is complex on every level, even when performed in a simple manner. It is especially resplendent with spiritual meaning. Every gesture, utensil, item and offering involved in puja has a purpose. The rituals, depending on the type of puja, may be lengthy and complex, and may include various types of offerings such as flowers, incense, fruits, food, clothing, frankincense, sacred powders and dried herbs. A daily home puja may involve nothing more than a small altar, a picture of a chosen deity (ishta deva) and some modest offerings.

What is Bhakti Yoga?

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There are four paths of yoga, namely Raja Yoga (the yoga of mental and physical control), Jnana Yoga (the yoga of knowledge), Karma Yoga (the yoga of selfless action) and Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of devotional service). Each path represents a different approach to attain union with Brahman, a higher state of awareness or ultimate Self-Realization. Bhakti Yoga is the easiest of the four paths.

Is Puja Really Necessary?

Those who don’t understand the full spiritual significance of puja may question the practice or dismiss it altogether as unnecessary. It’s not uncommon to hear remarks along the lines of “If God is everywhere, why do we need to waste time with this ritual?” or “If God is the Almighty, why does He need these mortal offerings?”

These questions are valid. It’s always better to question something one does not understand – this is better than blind acceptance. One can only receive the right knowledge through questioning first, then subsequently seeking the answers.

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Why Do We Perform Puja?

Puja is done for many reasons, including these:

• It’s a way of sharing your love, joy and gratitude with the universe. Puja, in other words, is communion with the sacred universal energy. When you radiate these energies and corresponding thoughts, you attract equally positive vibrations back to you.
• It’s a method to communicate with higher powers and elevated beings, such as your chosen deities (ishta devas).
• You’re re-energising yourself and the surrounding spaces each time you perform puja. Think of it as a ‘spiritual reset’, to get rid of the negative energies you have accumulated through daily material life.
• The act of performing the ritual trains the mind to focus on communion with the universal energy.

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• The ritual develops mental discipline if you perform it regularly – it’s a manner of training the mind into a habit, so it becomes ready automatically when you merely think of performing puja.
• Puja helps ease the burden of the mind in times of stress, depression and sadness. Performing the ritual can be comforting to those facing mental distress.
• Puja helps you develop gratitude and appreciation. For instance, you may realize that you’re lucky to have food to offer during puja, and to be able to consume it later as prasada (blessed remnants). When you make offerings of flower garlands and leaves, you may realize how blessed you are to live in a place where plants are healthy and grow abundantly.

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• According to Vedic scriptures, fire (agni) is purifying in all ways. By lighting the lamp for puja, you are purifying the puja space, your home and yourself.
• The bronze bell that is used for puja eliminates negative energies through sound vibrations when it is rung. Good quality incense and frankincense act as air purifiers, can eliminate bacteria and act as natural insect repellent.

Related Posts:

Bhakti Yoga Through the Art of Puja (Part 2: How to Conduct Simple Puja)

Everything You Need to Know about Rudraksha

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

Five Main Benefits Of Traditional Hatha Yoga

by Jana Thevar

Everyone seems to be into yoga these days. It’s also getting more and more confusing for those looking to get started in yoga due to all the ‘variations’. So what’s the big deal about it? Is it just another exercise fad? Does it really work, and if so, how?

Hatha Yoga – A Complete System of Well-Being

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Traditional (or classical) hatha yoga is a complete health solution – that’s the secret to why it’s so effective. True health and well-being must extend to all aspects of life. For instance, person X may look amazingly slim and fit. However, if person X also has irregular sleeping patterns, high stress levels and inadequate nutrition due to constant dieting, these imbalances will eventually lead to one health disaster after another. All bodily systems must work together in harmony for a person to be considered truly healthy.

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Traditional hatha yoga is far more than just exercise. When practised correctly, it is a way of life. According to Swami Vishnudevananda, the core of traditional hatha yoga is made up of five aspects: Proper Exercise, Proper Breathing, Proper Diet, Proper Relaxation and Positive Thinking and Meditation. When yoga is practised this way, with the corresponding yogic diet and lifestyle changes, various diseases are eliminated and prevented. The body and mind become youthful and energetic, and the yoga practitioner’s whole being is infused with positive spiritual vibrations.

Related Post: Stretching Safely for Complete Beginners

Five Main Benefits of Traditional Hatha Yoga

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1. It can be practised by almost anyone. Most people (including senior citizens, children and pregnant women) can practise hatha yoga safely. Even in most cases of serious disability, injury or illness, hatha yoga asanas (poses) can be modified to suit the practitioner’s ability.

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2. It is convenient and easy to practise. All you need for a session of hatha yoga is a yoga mat (or thick cloth) and a little space. This eliminates the need for a gym membership and complicated exercise equipment.

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3. It is a safe form of exercise. Classical (or traditional) Hatha Yoga is gentle with no strenuous or jerky movements. Student are encouraged to go at their own pace and to never over-stretch or over-exert the body in any way. If the student is struggling with balance or flexibility, props like chairs and foam blocks can be used until the student gains more strength and control.

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4. The health benefits show up quickly. The physical, mental and spiritual changes that come from the practise of yoga can manifest in as little as two weeks of consistent, disciplined practise. The early signs of positive health changes include a feeling of lightness and inner peace. Lethargy and insomnia are progressively cured, along with various bodily aches and pains. Persistent conditions like sciatica, constipation, back pain, shoulder stiffness and urinary tract infections show tremendous improvement within a matter of days.

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5. The benefits are backed up by Vedic scriptures. From the Patanjali sutras to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Bhagavad Gita, numerous Vedic scriptures consistently back up the fact that the practise of yoga has immense health and spiritual benefits.

Related Post: Stretching Safely for Complete Beginners

 

Kitchiri, The Best Sattvic Detox Food

by Princess Draupadi

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Kitchiri is an ancient Indian vegetarian dish which can be customized to suit your needs. It’s a breeze to make, easy to digest and highly nourishing. I consume kitchiri on days when I do my yoga kriyas (cleansing) so that my digestive system can have a break while getting rid of accumulated toxins (called ama in Ayurveda).

This is my personal recipe. I recommend kitchri when you feel your digestion has become unbalanced, i.e. food poisoning, bloating, gas or general indigestion.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Basmathi rice
1 ½ cups water
½ tsp ground turmeric
2-3 dried cloves
½ tsp fennel
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp ghee
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
¼ cup button mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/4 cup yellow lentils

* Makes 2 – 4 servings.

For Garnish:

10 – 12 fresh curry leaves

Method:

1. Wash the rice well in plenty of water. Drain well, then put the washed rice into a rice cooker. Wash the lentils, then pour enough boiling water to cover them. Leave the lentils to soak for 2 minutes, then drain and give them a quick rinse. Add the lentils to the rice cooker. 
2. Add the water and all other ingredients, except the ghee and curry leaves.
3. Switch on the rice cooker and wait till the rice is cooked. If you prefer your kitchiri to have a porridge-like consistency, add in ½ to 1 cup of water and allow to cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes.
4. Once the rice is cooked, switch the cooker off and remove the lid. Then, add the curry leaves and ghee while the rice is still hot. Stir well, then quickly replace the cooker lid and allow to stand for 5 minutes (to allow the curry leaves to cook slightly in the steam).
5. Serve hot.

Notes:

  • This dish can be made in larger quantities and stored in the freezer. To reheat frozen kitchiri, sprinkle generously with water before microwaving.
  • Ghee may be replaced with any good-quality vegetable oil of choice for a vegan version.
  • Regular table salt can be used in place of Himalayan pink salt.
  • Onions and garlic may be added if a purely sattvic dish isn’t required.
  • Replace the mushrooms with a different vegetable such as cauliflower for a purely sattvic dish.

Ayurvedic Benefits:

  • The dried spices promote internal cleansing and healing. The internal organs (specifically the liver and bowels) are gently stimulated to eliminate toxins and decomposing matter from processed foods.
  • The ghee provides the body with lubrication and moisturizing properties.
  • Curry leaves promote and enhance the growth of hair, and prevents premature greying and hair loss.
  • Lentils provide protein to ensure a balanced meal.

 

See Also:

Healing and Rejuvenation with Abhyanga

Index of Articles

Index Of Articles

BLOG NAME: YOGINI IN THE CITY

  • Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Devi’s Corner (Bangsar, Malaysia)
  • Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Sri Nirwana Maju (Subang Jaya, Malaysia)
  • Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Moorthy’s Mathai (Subang Jaya, Malaysia)
  • Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Sri Ganapathi Mess (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia)
  • Restaurant Review: Fuel Shack (Bangsar South, Malaysia)
  • Restaurant Review: La Cocina (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  • Restaurant Review: Bali & Spice (Subang Jaya, Malaysia)
  • Restaurant Review: Alexis Bistro and Wine Bar (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  • Thaipusam: A Malaysian Indian Experience

BLOG NAME: TRAVEL

  • Travel Review: Boracay, Philippines
  • 10 Tips For Women Traveling Alone In India
  • Hiking Equipment Review: Deuter AirContact 40+10 SL
  • Embracing Swedish Culture: The Art of Fika
  • 10 Ways to Experience Stockholm like a Local

BLOG NAME: SPIRITUALITY

  • Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About Rudraksha
  • Part 2: The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)
  • Part 3: How To Know If Your Rudraksha Beads Are Genuine
  • Bhakti Yoga Through The Art Of Puja (Part 1)
  • Bhakti Yoga Through The Art Of Puja (Part 2)
  • Bhakti Yoga Through The Art Of Puja (Part 3)
  • Choosing a Mala: Tulasi, Rudraksha or Both?

BLOG NAME: YOGA, HEALTH & MEDITATION

  • Five Main Benefits Of Traditional Hatha Yoga
  • Stretching Safely For Complete Beginners
  • Do Crash Diets Really Work?
  • Hatha Yoga For Weight Loss

BLOG NAME: NEW AGE

Demystifying the Deck: An Introduction to Tarot

BLOG NAME: ART PROJECTS

  • Fashion Photoshoot: Project Israa
  • Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti
  • Living Art: Things to Learn from Victor Santal

BLOG NAME: 21ST CENTURY ASHRAM LIFE

  • Ashram Vacations: An Introduction

BLOG NAME: VEDIC LIVING

  • Healing And Rejuvenation With Abhyanga
  • How to Hand Wash Silk Sarees

BLOG NAME: VEGETARIAN RECIPES

  • Kitchiri, The Best Sattvic Detox Food
  • Blue Butterfly Spiced Milk
  • Ayurvedic-Balinese Jamu for Weight Management

BLOG NAME: SELF-HELP & INTROSPECTION

  • How to Heal Yourself from the Damage of a Toxic Relationship (Part 1)

BLOG NAME: MISCELLANEOUS

  • What Does It Take to be a Model?
  • BIGG BOSS: Oviya and Aarav – Are These Two For Real?