WHO IS ISVARA?

A natural question that comes from all Yoga School is whether Yoga is actually a religious school. Yoga is a spiritual school that is not necessarily imposing a religious belief or religious faith.

However, Yoga is acknowledging that those who are of religious faith may have faith in connecting with something called “Isvara” Yoga defines as the Universal Consciousness.

“Purusha” is the individual consciousness and that must have a source. That must be somewhere where it came from and that is what Yoga calls as “Isvara” saying for those who are believing Isvara represents that source from which the consciousness comes. We can call that as collective consciousness or universal consciousness. Yoga presents it in a non-dogmatic way. Yoga is presenting it as a Teacher who is showing us Light and direction in our path of spiritual exploration and spiritual evolution.

Yoga is saying that this Light is no further away than our own hearts and that is what Yoga is saying to us that if you want to find Isvara don’t find it from outside you. Find it from within your heart. In that way Yoga is telling us not necessarily to go a religious belief system like to a temple, a mosque, a church or other system, but rather connect with Isvara with which we are all gifted which is right there in our own hearts. This is, I think, the most beautiful teaching that Patanjali offers where he says just because there is the presence of Isvara in all our hearts we become not material / biological beings but also spiritual being.

That is why we have to respect each other as we do have a presence of a divine consciousness in our own hearts. When we embrace this teaching we will look at each other as friends not as enemies. We will transcend gender, we will transcend boundaries, we will embrace a collective consciousness and a collective unconsciousness and we will feel this power with such a great potency. I hope that is what we will all do in the field of Yoga by following the direction given by our great Teacher Patanjali.

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

WHAT ARE THE TOOLS OF YOGA?

It is long understood that Yoga is basically Asana practice. Wherever I go if I tell that I am a Yoga Teacher, many people ask me “can you stand on the head? “ because that is the idea being given in the Yoga in the eyes of the Public. It is far from the truth. Yoga is a holistic system that encompasses a wide range of practices which include many many tools that are transcending the human body. We have, for example Asana practice that is very well known that addresses the human body. But that is not the only tool of Yoga.

Other tools of yoga we have:

  • Pranayama which is the technique of conscious breath regulation .
  • Mudras– which includes the bandha-s which are also additional tools of Pranayama not only using the breath but also the body and consciousness in order to enhance our Prana, the energy in our system. 
  • Mantra-s very important part of Yoga which is using sacred sounds to create positive vibrations in our body. In modern days we have positive affirmation mantra-s are the original version of this.
  • Swadhyaya – reflection / Self enquiry. We have time for reflection. We are asked to reflect our patterns, we are asked to reflect our negative and aggressive behaviours sometimes, so that we enquire into what kind of memories we carry, what types of impressions we carry and how to resolve them.
  • We also have meditative practices which are under the names Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi where we are given an object of focus to meditate in both in a static  manner as well as in a dynamic manner for many forms of meditation that are part of Yoga which include both active and passive positions and these are very fundamentals to Yoga.

In fact in the Yogasutra of patanjali an entire chapter is dedicated to meditation which is very very fantastic and which is something worthy of reflection.

  • Apart from this we also have sensory practices that are called “Pratyahara” where we are directing the senses to function in a particular manner so that we gain control over the same and they are not distracting us or misleading us in our life.
  • We also have dietary regulations which is called as “Ahara Niyama“ where according to constitution, according to age, according to the seasons, we are recommended a different kinds of diet which is also a part of Yoga.
  • We are also given what is called “Vihara Niyama” which is lifestyle practices, changes of lifestyle, choice of lifestyle etc which are also very significant part of Yoga.
  • Then we have what is called “Iswarapranidana” which is a relationship with the divine that is also a tool of Yoga.

If you look at the tools that Yoga has to offer, it is a multifaceted technique. It is not just focused on the body through asana practice.  We all as Yoga students and Yoga teachers must remember that Yoga is a very vast discipline worthy of a lifetime study and practice.

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

Meditation is among the most important tools in Yoga practice. Patanjali dedicates an entire chapter – Chapter 3 for meditative practices. Meditation is the process of staying linked with an object of focus without any distraction which includes not only distractions from the outside but also distractions from the inside.

What does it mean? It means that many times we get distracted based on the memories we have of the object, imaginations we have of the object and even past experiences  we have of the object. When we relate with an object in thatway, when we are staying with that object in that way, we are no more in the present connection.

So meditation is a process of staying present or staying connected to an object of focus without judgements, without pre-conceived ideas, without any memories or imaginations. This can happen only when we make sure that the connection happens from our heart. So meditation is the process of opening our heart. Making a connection to the object of focus and the heart. Staying sustained with that object of focus within the heart so that we internalize the object of focus and eventually we achieve the qualities of these object of focus.

Presenting a more simple definition of meditation is my own teacher Sri TKV Desikachar. Sir TKV Desikachar defines Yoga as a meditation and as a relationship. What happens in a relationship? When we are really in a Relationship in a deep way it is a heart to heart relationship. That is what is meditation. Meditation is the relationship from our heart to the heart of the object of focus. This is Yoga. This is meditation.

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

What is the difference between Yoga and Vedanta?

India has a very rich cultural heritage. Many wonderful philosophies have originated from this land. Six of these philosophies are considered extremely important and together they are called as the “Shat Vaidika Darshanas”, the six Vedic Philosophical schools. The role of all these philosophical schools was very simple.  They wanted to eleminate our sufferings. But the methods they chose to eliminate the sufferings were slightly different. Among these six philosophical schools are Yoga and Vedanta. So in an effort they are of these six philosophical schools.

While Yoga understands that our sufferings come from our mind based on to see the world and therefore he prescribes a path of understanding the mind, training the mind and utilizing the mind to its full potential.  Vedanta takes a slightly different approach where the Vedanta says that the reason we are suffering is because of the disconnection we have from the divine. Yoga is more like a psychological school. It asks us to look into our self to understand and explore the mind and find solutions to problems in the world. Vedanta is asking us to look at the entire world as a part of the world with grand divinity. This is the fundamental difference between the two systems. Yoga system authored by Patanjali is presenting all the different ways in understanding the human system and gives connection to the divine as a choice.

Whereas in the Vedanta school the connection to the divine is not a choice, but a necessity. This is the very fundamental difference between the two schools. Yoga is also saying that the liberation is freedom from suffering. The school of Vedanta says that liberation is freedom from birth and rebirth, the cycle of life.  So there are certain fundamental differences between the two tradition. What is common is that both of them are meant to reduce human sufferings.

What is very unique about the Vedanta tradition is that while the Vedanta tradition rejects the idea of Yoga’s presentation of the divine, it still says that the method to meditate on the divine must be taken from the Yoga school. In a sense, the Vedanta accepts the meditation and other practice aspects of Yoga however the difference is that the Vedanta Schools says that we must choose to meditate only on the divine. Patanjali’s Yoga school says that we can choose to meditate any on the objects in this world which is includes the divine.

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

Why Yoga is about a Heart Connection?

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO RECONNECT WITH THE HEART WHEN EVERYONE SAYS YOGA IS ABOUT THE MIND?

Patanjali defines Yoga as “Chitavrutti Nirodha”. It is a beautiful Sutra. Why is Patanjali genius is that he not only was an expert in Sanskrit language but also he was an expert in understanding the Hymns. Patanjali uses the word Chitta to represent yoga in the Sutra “Chitavrutti Nirodhaha”. He is not using any other word for the mind such as “manas”, or “bhudhi” etc.

This is because there are different kinds of minds that we have which get activated in different instances. For example, the ‘manas’ mind is a mind that is connected to the senses. What the senses would like to follow is governed by the manas mind, because our senses do not perceive all that are in front of our eyes, the manas mind is driving the sense to see what it wants to see. That is what is called the manas – the sensory mind.   Then comes what is called “ahankara” the identification mind. Patanjali calls it “asmita”, Sankya calls it “ahankara”. We also identify this mind to identify things. This  is my house, this is my camera, this is my dog, this is my cat, I am a male, I am a Hindu, I am an Indian, I am Christian etc. All these kind of identities are part of what is called the ‘asmita’ mind. That is also lying at some times.

When I was watching a cricket match my mother wants to identify with the Indian team. That is the ‘asmita’ mind predominant at that time. Then comes what is called the “Bhudhi” mind, which is the analytical mind. What is right, what is wrong, what will happen if I do this, what will happen if I don’t do this? This is what we call as analysis. Why somebody spoke to me like that, why should I speak to somebody like that, etc. This is the mind that is having the capacity to  analyse. That is also an important part of the day to day functions. That is the mind that is functioning at the time which is called “Bhudhi”. These three minds are called “Vichitha” the external minds. These three are capable for being in the Yoga state. Deeper than that is what is called the subtle mind – “Antarchitta” the internal mind. That is where the mind called “Chitta” comes. “Chittha” mind is that which is close to the consciousness. “Chtiobhava Chittam ”.   Because the consciousness is in the heart the “Chittha” mind is the mind that is close to the consciousness which must also be in the heart.

That is why my father, TKV Desikachar, who developed Viniyoga®, often used to call it “the heart of the mind”. That is the mind that is capable of making a connection to something and Yoga is a connection itself.  That is why Patanjali uses the word “Chitthavrutti Nerodha” – that is the mind that can make the connection. That is why it is very important to remember that Yoga is more coming from the heart. When we say ‘heart’ it is not the emotion but the light in the heart.  This is what is the preciseness of Patanjali when he uses the word “Chitthavrutti Nerodhaha”. That’s where Dharana, Dyanam, Samadhi etc., all start.

Deeper than the Chitta mind is what is called the “Pratya” mind. The “Pratya” mind is the mind that is in state of meditation. Dyanam and Samadhi happens in the “Pratya” mind. Dharanaj happens in the chitta mind.  Most deep is what is called as the “Satva” mind – reflective mind. The mind that is silent. That is the mind that is dominant when we are in a state of kaivalyam (Liberation). When you analyse the Sutras very carefully you will see that Patanjali uses these different words when he is defining these different concepts. For example, “Deshabandhaha Chittasya Dharaha, Yogaha Chitavrutti Nirodhaha”.

These sutras used the word Chitta. Before meditation, “Yantra, pratya eka Dharaka Gnanam. Thadeva ardhamathra nirupam swarupa Shunyamiva samadihi. Dyanam and Samadhi he uses the word pratya. Kaivalyam – Satyapurushayoho nisamye kaivalyam . If you follow the Sutras you will see that Patanjali is a generous where using very precise words such experiences. It is not by randomness. It is because it is very well thought of and only such kind of minds can be in such kind of states. That’s why Yoga is about the heart empowering the mind which is connected to the consciousness which is called chitta and that is in our heart.

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

WHO IS SIR TKV DESIKACHAR?

Sir TKV Desikachar, who developed Viniyoga® (a term from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali),is the son and successor of Acarya T. Krishnamacharya.  What Madhurakavi Azhwar was in the Vaishnavism in the discovery of Nammazhwar Sir TKV Desikachar is in the field of yoga for the public know the entire range of Acarya T Krishnamacharya’s teachings.

Before Sir TKV Desikachar came into the field of Yoga Acarya T. Krishnamacharya was a legend already, but not very well known, especially his teaching was not very well known.  The spectrum of teaching was not very well known.  It was TKV Desikachar the second son of T. Krishnamacharya who really brought out the multitude of  Acarya T. Krishnamacharya’s teachings and built bridges between the traditional Acarya T. Krishnamacharya and the modern world.

If today Acarya T. Krishnamacharya’s teaching is well known the most important credit goes to Sir TKV Desikachar. But Sir TKV Desikachar was not just a postman or a messenger in the field of Yoga. He was a very great established Yogi in his own right and his contribution to the field of Yoga are made. He was very generous in his contributions and many of us we use them today without even knowing that these came from Sir TKV Desikachar.

One of the greatest gifts he gave to the field of Yoga is stick drawings. Today most of the people use stick drawings to represent asanas and pranayama. This was conceived and created by Sir TKV Desikachar way back in the 60s and 70s using his background in engineering and brought it as a good way and an unique way and in a simple way to communicate the teachings of Yoga  to the people so that they could write down their practices in a small piece of paper which can be taken back home to use it as reference to practice. Sir TKV Desikachar is also the one who brought greater light to the field of Yogasutra in modern Yoga circumstance.

Of course, Yogasutra has remained thousands of years. There is no doubt about it. But the modern world – the Western world did not know much about Yogasutra philosophy.  When Yoga was practiced in the 50s and the 60s few people knew about Yogasutra philosophy. When Yoga was practiced in the 60s and 70s, very few people knew about Yogasutra Philosophy.

It was Sir TKV Desikachar who opened the Doors of Yogasutra philosophy also to the public in a conference in Zynal in the early 70s. Eventually he wrote the commentary on the Yogasutra as well which became a part in the  legendary book of “The Heart of Yoga”. “The Heart of Yoga” is another major contribution of Sir TKV Desikachar which in a very simple way describes the entire teaching of Yoga in a very simple and very crisp manner. Since being published in the 90s this book has become one of the greatest references of yoga irrespective of what tradition people follow. This was one of the greatest contribution of Sir TKV Desikachar, one of the best books he ever brought. Sir TKV Desikachar is also the link between traditional Yoga and modern medical science.

He built bridges between Yoga and modern science especially medicines, inviting doctors, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst and many projects heads,  so that people would understand the Yoga Therapy functions. Acarya T. Krishnamacharya was one of the most important Yoga Therapist of his time, but very few people could understand what he was doing and how he was doing. It was Sir TKV Desikachar who built these bridges to help the Western world understand about Yoga as a Therapy function. This is another credit to Sir TKV Desikachar. Sir TKV Desikachar also helped Yoaga system and the Eastern system to many of the spiritual traditions in the world.

For example, he met with Dalai Lama, he met with the Catholic monks, the Carmelite monks, etc., to help bridges and to communicate to them that the yoga is a universal tradition that can be practiced by people irrespective of their original faith.  This was very significant because the evolution of yoga especially in the 80 s and 90s  here were some resistances where people were not open to Yoga because they thought that Yoga was cult or another religion and they have to give up their own faith to practice Yoga. Sir TKV Desikachar removed all these by engaging a wonderful conversation with all these spiritual teachers.

One of the greatest contributions of Sir TKV Desikachar to open the doors of Chanting to everybody. Prior to 80s only very few people were allowed to practice the chanting of Mantras. Women were not allowed. Western people were not allowed. This was due to the very strict rule followed by the traditional Indian Brahmins. But Sir TKV Desikachar understood how important the chanting of mantras in the field of Yoga and he opened the doors of Chanting. It is because of Sir TKV Desikachar today that the Mantra and chanting have become such an integral part of Yoga especially to women and Western audiences. These are some of his important and very profound contributions which are very practically used by people on the day to day basis.

There is also another important contribution Sir TKV Desikachar has done but not yet known to the public but drawing the process of revealing to the public which is his transalation of many of the important works of Acharya T. Krishnamacharya. Acarya T. Krishnamacharya had a very peculiar habit of using Telugu script by Sanskrit language. This promise he has made to his teacher. Very few people would interpret this because they needed to know both Telugu and Sanskrit languages to find easy relatively. The more important of all is that these are all technical manual.  So, it is necessary that somebody should know not only these languages but also its technical aspect.

Thus, Sir TKV Desikachar has translated many of these documents which we are slowly in the process art drawing,interpreting and eventual publication. Sir TKV Desikachar had been a very silent giant in the field of Yoga amazing an extraordinary that the world decided to celebrate the International Yoga Day on Sir TKV Desikachar’s birthday. That is the greatest respect that we can offer him or we have to thank him for his contributions.

Namaste! Sir TKV Desikachar.

By: Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

WHAT IS THE ENERGY BODY?

Yoga’s unique way of understanding the human being is what makes it so special. Yoga does not look at our body only in a physical dimension.  This is perhaps one of its greatest assets because Yoga looks at our body in a very holistic dimension.

What is the great difference between the way we modern people look at the body and the way Yogis look at the body is , the Yogis looked at the body not just as a physical entity but also as an energetic entity.

The body is driven by what is called Prana. That is how the Yogis understood it. The energy is what makes our organs function both within inside the body as well as outside. If my senses are able to see something, my organs are able to digest food, transfer the food from one place to the other,  it is because of this thing called Prana. Prana is an all pervasive entity. It is inside us and is also outside us. It is transcendental. It moves inside us and outside us as well.

When we are created as an entity, we are not created as a body which occupies space and time.  But we are also created with an energetic body that is also offering space and time. When we move from one place to the other it is not just our body that is moving, also the energy – the Prana is also moving in the space time Continuant. The Yogis believe that Prana was the most profound Phenomena in our system. That could influence not just us but also the other beings because even though I am at a distance from the person physically there is an energetic connection that  can happen between two individuals –

it could be me and an animal, it could be me and a plant etc. Therefore the Yogis believe that by working with prana we could achieve wonders.

That is why for them Yoga was not about moving the body, but actually Yoga was about influencing the Prana. This is a very fundamental idea not just in Yoga and other Indian traditions, but also many oriental traditions such as Taichi, Zen meditation, etc where they are moving energy not the body. So the energy body is the energy’s space i.e. the surrounding  us that is both inside us and outside us and that is moving along with us in the space time Continuant. Sometimes you will see that even when the body is not existing these time continual the Prana exist.

The personal example of myself experienced. When my father, TKV Desikachar passed away and we had also finished his cremation, but yet for a long time I could feel, not just me but also my family members could feel the presence of my father’s energy in our house for many weeks after his passing. So there is some truth about this that has to be understood and explored with an open mind not necessarily our rational mind but our curious and opening mind. This is what our Yogis explored.  We must continue this further into our exploration and our spiritual journeys.

By: Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

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