|Satchiananda at Woodstock - Opening Ceremonies|
4 days post-training and I am still feeling the love. I spent 6 days at Yogaville in Virginia with the beloved Nischala Joy Devi, immersing myself in Healing Relationships. This program is an essential part of my training as a yoga therapist. This being my first foray into the practice of Integral Yoga, I didn't know what to expect. I had heard that Yogaville was a true ashram with monks, disciples and trainees of a guru named Swami Satchiananda (ananda meaning heart).
I came with a slightly open mind and heart to learn and immerse myself in their daily living. It was my past experience with organized religions, that clouded my initial immersion. With this in mind, I will share with you what Integral Yoga is, my experiences, and where I am going with this study.
"Truth is one, paths are many"
There are many, many styles of yoga and Integral Yoga is another style but is multifaceted in its offering.
"The Goal of Integral Yoga, and the birthright of every individual, is to realize the spiritual unity behind all the diversities in the entire creation and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family. This goal is achieved by maintaining our natural condition of a body of optimum health and strength; senses under total control; a mind well-disciplined, clear and calm; an intellect as sharp as a razor; a will as strong and pliable as steel; a heart full of unconditional love and compassion; an ego as pure as crystal; and a life filled with Supreme Peace and Joy." (Swami Satchiananda).
There is a complete system of yoga under the umbrella of Integral Yoga and each branch covers the goals stated in the quote above. It does not mean that there is only one way to do "yoga" but there are many paths. Choose one that works for you.
Raja Yoga is the underlying Yoga philosophy as taught in the Yoga scriptures. Raja Yoga focuses on gaining mastery of the mind through ethical perfection and regular practice of concentration and meditation. Raja Yoga forms the foundation for all the other branches of Integral Yoga. As complex human beings, Integral Yoga offers practices for every aspect of our being – heart, hand, and head.
To keep the body healthy and strong, and to prepare for meditation, we practice Hatha Yoga. This consists of asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), yoga nidra (guided deep relaxation), mudras (energy seals), bandhas (energy locks), kriya (cleansing practices), and diet.
To turn emotions into devotion we have the practices of Bhakti Yoga; kirtan (chanting), puja (worship services), prayers and prostrations. By constant love, thought, and service of the Divine (either as God, a divine incarnation, or a spiritual teacher) we can transcend our limited personality and connect with our true self through the image of our beloved.
Selfless service is Karma Yoga, the path of action. We perform our duty without attachment to the results of the action. In Karma Yoga we are dedicating the results of our actions to the divine or to the service of humanity.
Jnana Yoga is the practice of reflection and self-inquiry — developing the witnessing mind. It offers an intellectual approach where we access our inner wisdom. Through the knowledge of what really exists, what is not changeable, Jnana Yoga allows us to realize our essential oneness with the entire universe.
Sri Swami Satchidananda also emphasizes the importance of mantra repetition, Japa Yoga, by making it a branch of Integral Yoga. He explains that mantra repetition is a particularly helpful practice in the busy age that we live in. This is because mantra repetition is a little easier than other forms of meditation when there are so many distractions. Concentrated mental repetition of the mantra produces vibrations within our entire system which are in tune with the divine vibration, connecting us with our true nature.
When I first arrived at Yogaville, I was a bit unsettled, ungrounded. It took me a full 2 days to feel my feet on the ground (we were in the Blue Ridge Mountains by the way). It helped to go to a yoga class right away. The Hatha practice is a systemized sequence of poses, breath, concentration and relaxation to move the spine, direct energy, and let go. I didn't take to it at first. Bhakti and Japa yoga still don't resonate with me but I have been practice Japa daily since my return but would benefit from further reflection and practice. I have always had the idea of Karma yoga and service to others in my vernacular, so that yoga resonated for me. Jnana yoga is not quite there for me. I think further practice and reflection may?? help. And my daily concentration and meditation practice is certainly one that I can continue with. I believe that my ethics (8 limbs of yoga are consistent with Raja yoga.
Future Thoughts - I have heard that Integral Yoga is a useful and effective therapeutic application for healing and well-being. As part of my ongoing training and education and service to others, I plan on investigating these therapeutic benefits and seeing where and how they can be incorporated into my practice with my clients. Remember "Truth is one, paths are many". There is no one right way.
If you want further information on this practice, check out the following website www.yogaville.org.
Inhale "I am Calm"
Exhale "I am Here"
Starfish Savasana Pose
Props: 2 or more blankets, neck rolls, eye pillow
Benefits: soothing to the nervous system, grounding, gentle chest opener, releases the pelvis
Lay a blanket on your mat for extra comfort and warmth, blankets for the arms as well. As you lay down, place your feet towards the corners of your mat and arms about 10-12 inches from your body, palms up. Add your eye pillow, and blanket on top. We adjusted the legs with our Double Dutch for optimal release of tension and proper alignment.
Childs Pose Variation
Props: bolster, one blocks, 2-3 blankets, neck roll for forehead
Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind. Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release. Gently lengthens the legs.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum
Place bolster on the mat lengthwise and lay a blanket over it. Make a smaller roll for the ankles and place at the other end of the mat. Also place a block at top end with a neck roll or eye pillow on top. Begin on all fours and lower your upper body onto the bolster. Settle the tops of the ankles on the smaller roll and adjust the body so that the tops of the thighs rest on the edge of the bolster. Lay the forehead on the cushioned block and place the arms to the side, shoulders dropping from the ears. Soften your jaw and let the body sink into the supports and the floor.
Labels: Childs Pose Variation, Integral Yoga, Present Moment Breath, Starfish Savasana