When you close your eyes what do you see? When you pictured your dream life what did it look like, how did it feel? Is it different from how you live your life right now? Do you stop yourself to ask? Do you live your life? Oscar Wilde said "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that's all".

When we are young we are asked what we want to be when we grow up... we think of things that excite us and we dream of becoming movie stars, singers, astronauts... but ultimately we just want to be happy and en somewhere along the way we get busy, life happens and we loose track of our dreams.​ Other times events happen, life throws us a curve ball that makes us loose sight of our dreams, our goals and who we are.

Imagine if everything you'd ever dreamed of came true. Law of attraction teaches us that what we focus our energy on we will attract. So when we focus our attention on realising our dreams we start to see that dreams do come true. If we can see it in our mind we can hold it in our hand. In order to come back to ourselves and to our dreams we need to quiet our minds which is a task easier said that done.

The goal of yoga is to calm the mind so that it without distortion can hear the infallible council of the Inner Voice. To come back to what we used to dream of and create a life that we are excited about and happy to live.

When I recently completed my 300 hours Advanced TTC we looked at the patterns and behaviours we take on as we grow up. How our environment shape and form our lives, and how we can learn to take back our power and let go of the patterns and behaviour that don't serve our life and block our dreams.

To dig deeper into the wisdom of yoga I want share with you the following:

Patanjali begins the yoga sutras by defining yoga as “citta vrtti nirodaha”(YS 1.2) which is often translated simply as ‘Yoga is the ability to calm/direct/restrain the fluctuations of the consciousness/mind’. Patanjali then says that when in this state of yoga, the perceiver (person) then abides in his or her own/true nature. So the question then becomes – HOW do we calm or restrain the mind to achieve this desired state of yoga?

Well the simple answer is: do your yoga practice. Simple. Just keep doing a regular and sustained yoga practice and all will come – as the late Sri. K. Patthabhi Jois would say.

But we are creatures of wanting to know everything and sometimes the simple answer just doesn’t cut it!

Patanjali actually describes the five fluctuations (functions) of the mind (or five vrittis) to help us better understand the workings of the mind. He says these five vrittis can be painful or non-painful. They are:

  1. Valid Cognition (Pramana)

  2. Misconception (Viparyaya)

  3. Imagination (Vikalpa)

  4. Sleep (Nidra)

  5. Memory (Smriti)

1. Valid Cognition (Pramana)

What determines whether knowledge is valid and correct? Well, we know something is valid if we ourselves have experienced something and can use that knowledge, right? For example, using our 5 senses, we can say that we know what water is, because we have touched it and experienced it before and we have practical applications of water because we use it to clean ourselves and to hydrate our bodies. So in this case, we know the knowledge of water is valid because it is revealed to be water based on our experiences and it has a practical application to us in life. So Patanjali says, for knowledge to be valid it needs to:

  1. Reveal the thing as it really is

  2. Be useful – have a practical application

It is true to say that we can often be deceived by our 5 senses. Think of a mirage. You may believe to see water in the distance – it appears to be water, however the water does not actually exist. The perception is real, but the outcome is incorrect or impractical. So Patanjali says that in order for knowledge to be valid it needs to be perceived not only by the five senses, but it also needs to have a practical application. For example, a bookkeeper’s knowledge is completely invalid or impractical to the knowledge of a doctor or vice versa.

So how is it that we acquire knowledge?

  1. Direct Experience (pratyaksha): using our five senses (acquiring knowledge directly through the environment)

  2. Inference (anumana): our ability to apply logic and reason to figure things out for ourselves. For example, you may see smoke in the distance coming out of a mountain so you may infer that there is a fire.

  3. Trustworthy Testimony (agamah): trusting in the knowledge and experience of someone else. For example, I know factually that oxygen and hydrogen create water although I cannot personally figure this out for myself scientifically and it is not something I would have known if I had not have been told. However I can experience water and I trust my teachers in the subject (scientists) and their motives and so based on this, I believe their knowledge is valid.

It is important here to note the importance of something called anubhava in the process of acquiring knowledge. Anubhava refers to the assessing of knowledge to your personal experience. So although someone can verbally pass knowledge onto you, anubhava is about experiencing this knowledge for yourself in some way that brings life to this knowledge. For example, someone may say to you “You should do yoga, it’s so good for you!” and this is knowledge you may acquire but really this knowledge is lifeless and empty unless you experience first-hand that yoga is good for you by attending yoga classes for yourself! So as I mentioned earlier about valid cognition (pramana) – knowledge is valid IF it is valid to your personal experience too!

2. Misconception (viparyaya)

The second function of the mind (vritti) is misconception. Misconception is false knowledge based on the deceptive appearance of that object. We may like to think that we go through life seeing things objectively but in fact, we see the world that we want to see. The Sanskrit word for ‘the world’ is prapancha – pancha meaning five senses and pra meaning perceiving through – so basically the world is what we see through our perception of the five senses. An example would be a group of people looking at the same tree. What do they see? Based on their own likes, dislikes, interests etc, they will see different things. For example, an artist will see a potential painting, a carpenter sees potential crafty possibilities, an environmentalist will contemplate the environmental benefits of the tree and a child will see it as something to climb and explore! So a tree is not simply what we see with our five senses – we see what is relevant to us which is conditioned by our own biases.

So our thoughts (vrittis) can be knowledge that is misconceived… the goal of yoga is to calm these vrittis; so when they are calm we can start to see things for what they truly are instead of what we perceive them to be.

3. Imagination (vikalpa)

Our imagination function operates on a more subtle level than the previous two functions of valid cognition and misconception. Imagination is an idea that we create in our minds. We actually can convince ourselves of a truth when in fact it is not true at all! Other translations of vikalpa are: doubt, indecision, daydreaming. I ran a yoga session last month at a special Wellness Event and Lisa from Elisi Therapies did a session on Active meditation and NLP. Lisa was explaining how the mind actually cannot distinguish between what is real or imagined. For example, if we tell ourselves that we are wonderful, amazing, capable etc… then we live our life believing this about ourselves. However if we tell ourselves that we are failures, useless worthless and unsuccessful, then our mind believes this and your life will be a reflection of this! So this function of vikalpa or imagination can heavily influence you – causing happiness or suffering in your life.

We can create an imagined world for ourselves based on our way of thinking. We can create an imagined world without contemplation of the facts. This ‘power of positive thinking’ may appear new age, however the yoga sutras has been teaching for thousands of years the importance of controlling the mind! Through this control, we can liberate ourselves from suffering.

4. Deep Sleep (Nidra)

Nidra is commonly translated as “deep sleep” or “state of emptiness”. In nidra, the mind is directed inward, operating at a very subtle level. We all know how important sleep is to our overall health. You only need to have one poor night’s sleep, suffer from insomnia or have a newborn baby in the house to appreciate how important deep, restful sleep is for our mental and physical well-being! So how do you feel after a good night sleep? Refreshed and ready for the day. What about a poor, disturbed or simply, not enough sleep? This can negatively impact your mood and ability to concentrate during the day. Observing how well the mind operates after a good or poor night sleep helps you make choices that are more beneficial to your health around your sleep habits. For example, do you watch TV to help you fall asleep? Play games on your phone? Read a book? Listen to music? It’s a good idea to assess your own sleep habits and reflect on the kind of sleep you have when you use certain stimulus to aid in the sleeping process.

In the yoga sutras, Patanjali says that “deep sleep is when the mind is overcome by heaviness and no other activities are present” (YS 1.10). So basically when the mind is not in the first three virttis (valid cognition, misconception and imagination), then it goes to sleep. Sleep is a common activity for the mind and there are optimal times for sleep such as when the sun goes down. But this heaviness can occur due to boredom or exhaustion, stress or other reasons may result in the mind going to sleep! Some people sleep to ‘escape the world’ due to their worries and anxieties.

B.K.S Iyengar says that “sleep is the non-deliberate absence of thought-waves or knowledge”. The Yoga Sutra 1.10 has also been translated as “deep sleep is the absence of reasoning, the absence of other thoughts and all other modifications of mind are suspended” or simply “sleep is a process based upon the absence of cognition”. So in nidra, or deep sleep, the mind is not conscious at all. Due to it being an unconscious state of mind, we cannot explain this experience of ‘dreamless sleep’ as we never experience it. We can only guess that we had a good or bad sleep but there is no awareness of deep sleep itself. Nidra is actually noted as the activity defined by non-activity!

Using ancient yogic meditation techniques called ‘yoga nidra’, it is possible to experience deep sleep consciousness… this is often described as a ‘conscious deep sleep state’. If you haven’t tried yoga nidra, be sure to come to a yoga class or download some yoga nidra tracks and listen to them while lying down in relaxation. It really is a consciously relaxing experience!

5. Memory (Smriti)

The Yoga Sutra 1.11 is translated as “Memory is the mental retention of a conscious experience” or “memory is a recollection of experienced objects”. All conscious experiences leave an impression on the individual and are stored as memory. It is not possible to tell if a memory is true, false, incomplete or imaginary. Just think about the retelling of a past event – different people will recall different ‘facts’ and sometimes you may disagree on the details based on your own recollection.

On the most obvious level, memories can bring you pleasure or can stir you up to feel angry, sad or agitated. But on a deeper level, memory can influence your present situation more than you might realise. For example, the memory of a bad experience may keep you from starting a new relationship, taking risks or living fully in the present moment. Memory’s influence also shows up in some of our closest relationships. Have you ever caught yourself saying things about someone like “he is untrustworthy”, “She is always late”, “She is able to handle anything” and this is all based on the memory of your experience with that person.

Memory at times can prevent forgiveness. We may hold onto some painful memories which prevent us from letting go and in a way, our memories can ‘steal our present moment’. By holding onto certain impressions, this can prevent us from experiencing the now…without bias, judgement or criticism.

We are the sum total of all our experiences. So the vrittis (mind functions) including smriti (memory) are considered memory because all thoughts create lasting impressions. So it can be said that smriti is memory of memory! Every memory creates an impression in the mind and these impressions, whether they lead to suffering or freedom need to be controlled in order to abide in our own true nature- in the state of yoga.

So what does this all mean?

Basically, Patanjali describes the five functions of the mind to ultimately help us reduce our suffering. By being able to recognise these functions and learning how the mind works, this is the foundation to seeing your true nature as separate from the mind. Almost like stepping out of yourself and observing the functions of the mind, without being attached, upset or frustrated…just simply becoming an observer. Once you are able to observe without reaction, you will be able to more easily differentiate the mind and all of its fluctuations from your true nature. Patanjali says that “through sustained practice and the cultivation of dispassion, these fluctuations of mind can be stilled” (YS 1.12). So as I said at the beginning of this post, the simple answer to calming the mind and achieving a state of yoga is through regular and sustained practice!

Do your practice… and your dreams and your goals will unfold!

text on Patanjali source: http://www.yogawithgrace.com.au

Smell of Jasmine fills the air. The warmth of the sun on my skin. The light breeze whispering promises of things to come. If happiness was a person it would be me in this very moment.

I am sitting in a Sardinian resort that is quietly preparing for what is to be a busy summer. Waiters tentatively servicing the few guests that have arrived for some quiet time before the arrival of the masses. Surrounded by mountains, facing the sea the resort feels like an island in it self. And in some ways I guess it is. A place to sit back, relax and let go of the outside world.

I have just left my job in London and travelled to Sardinia to explore the possibility of teaching yoga. I have no plan and in this very moment I have no idea what this summer will bring, in this moment anything can happen, in this moment I feel completely free.

Before I stared to practice yoga my life was very different. I believed myself to be happy then, I thought I had everything that I wanted but I was stuck. Stuck in habits, beliefs, doubts and insecurities. Yoga has taught me what it is to let go of all those patterns. What it is like to become my own friend and to love and embrace who I am for me, not for others.

For me there is a difference between believing that I am are free and the true feeling of being free. Belief is the state of mind, we think something to be the case, with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case. Believing is the likelihood of something being true. Truly feeling that you are free is an inner knowing, a trusting that whatever you decide to do you are guided and you are safe.

It is not easy to admit to oneself that "I am stuck" as this will imply that we are not happy, that the choices we have made are not right, that we have done wrong. Social media and culture tells us that we should be busy, we should plan, create and achieve. If we don't do this we are doing something wrong. We compare ourselves to what we see others do and we create an image of others based upon the few things that they allow us to see in their social media feeds. We let others see the parts of our lives that we are happy with, that excites us and we don't often communicate or post things that would indicate that we are bored, sad or unhappy.

It doesn't have to be this way. Being stuck might simply mean that we are not using our full potential, that we are looking in the wrong direction. Wherever we are in our lives is exactly where we need to be but it also means that we have a choice in what we do next. To stop, look around and change direction. This is what my yoga practice has given me....a choice. The choice to play safe or to jump into the unknown trusting that I will be safe.

Love yourself enough to give yourself a choice.

Unlike what most people understand – Yoga is not merely physical exercises to keep one’s body healthy. The true meaning of the word YOGA is “Union / Communion” of one’s soul or consciousness with the ever present energy of the Universe “Brahman” – that which is ever present non-changing, supreme consciousness that exists and flows through all things living or non living. In the deepest state of meditation becoming one of our personal consciousnesses with this Universal Energy is what yoga truly means. Can we actually reach the supreme energy flowing through us by the physical exercise? If yes then how and if no then why do the physical Yoga.

In common layman’s words if we were to understand what is Yoga, we could say it is: Right Exercise

Right Breathing

Right Relaxation

Meditation and Positive Thinking

Right Food

However, if we were to understand and go deeper – into the Yoga of Patanjali an astute saint who penned the precious Patanjali sutras – we will understand the eight LIMBS OF YOGA, which make YOGA complete:

Yama & Niyama (Mental and Spiritual Discipline, to do’s and not to do’s )

Asanas (Physical Yoga)

Pranayama (Breath Yoga)

Pratyahara (Withdrawal of Senses)

Dharana (Forming a Concentration)

Dhyana (State of Meditation)

Samadhi (The soul becomes one with the Universal Energy)

It is the above vital eight limbs of yoga that are popularly referred to as Ashtanga (eight limbs) yoga. In reality it is not a style of Yoga but just defines the eight basic pillars which define yoga.

In this definition, Physical Yoga (Asanas ) only represents 1/8 (12.5%) Yoga.

Pranayama represent another 1/8 (12.5 %) of Yoga, while the rest of 75% of Yoga is represented by mental and spiritual discipline of mind and meditation.

What this means is even if you are not flexible and even if you cannot perform all the Asanas which your teacher can perform, by merely doing the Breath yoga (Pranayama) and meditation – one can progress much further in Yoga than someone who practices only the physical side of Yoga everyday.

So why is physical Yoga important –

The physical Yoga is important because the yogis understood clearly that our body is much more than we can see. It is a physical extension of our mind. Just as a suffering body cannot run faster, similarly an unhealthy body will prevent the mind into going deeper on the path of becoming one – with the Universal energy or Supreme Consciousness. The Asanas activate the physical organs, besides also energizing the pranic channel (Electromagnetic Field of the Human Body). As the body gains its original equilibrium, one gains control over his/her breath and thus Pranayama follows the asanas. The Yogis knew that breath was not merely absorption of oxygen and exhalation of CO2, instead it is the whole life force was moving in and out through the medium of breath. Such powerful force (life force) that it controls everything we experience and create in our lives day to day, minute to minute either consciously or subconsciously.

Through the asanas, we gain control over the breath and through the mastery over the breath – we gain control over our mind – which is our biggest goal to achieve. The yogis had realized long ago that the one who can manipulate his/her breath can change the way his/her mind feels and reacts and thus gain control over the ever wild, mind.

Thus a healthy physical body, leads to a healthy complete breath which in turns leads to a calm, quieter mind which is easy to work upon.

Shared from: www.indiansportsnews.com

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​“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” -Eckhart Tolle

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