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Ellen's Articles

Remembering Mantra

by Ellen Arthur.

Mantra is unique, as in, unlike anything else.. and I couldn’t think of a better way of describing the magic that is mantra, chanting and kirtan. All of these three definitions express different ways of using mantra in order to heal, inspire or awaken dormant energies within our very own bodies and mind.

For me, it all began in a modest little yoga shala, in Canggu, Bali years ago, where my teacher (Octavio) lead us through a mantra that would, unbeknownst to me at the time, change my life forever. That mantra was Om Asatoma. A peace mantra that takes us away from the false, illusion filled patterns of life and leads us toward our truth, moves us from the misunderstanding of our “darkness” and guides us to our light, and lastly transforms us from our fear of death and allows us to perceive ourselves as immortal, as beings who never die. Ultimately asking us to become the most embodied and empowered version of ourselves possible. To say that this Yoga Teacher Training changed my life is an understatement.

It took me at least a year to remember that time in Bali when I was exposed to Mantra, and once I remembered, I haven’t stopped chanting, sharing and singing since. I believe that the practice of mantra and self-discovery shows up when you need it the most, when you are ready for a transformative shift to take place. Be warned, that a committed mantra practice will, without a doubt revolutionise the way you perceive not only yourself, but the very world that you are a part of.
At that time, I wasn’t ready for my life to change, there were still a few weeds that needed to be removed and a few past experiences that needed to be revisited so that I could make peace with them. Hence why it took a solid year for me to recall the power of mantra, and specifically Om Asatoma. (Let me be clear, I still have a lot of weeds and overgrown terrain that I am constantly working on, but each day the garden of my life looks a little tidier and somewhat less chaotic.)

As a daily practice along with asana, mediation and pranayama, I would utilise the momentum (the momentum is the fact that these mantras have been used and chanted for thousands of years, in ceremonial practices, so that alone amplifies its impact and its magnetic pull) and the power of this mantra to help relieve my suffering, my ignorance and my self sabotage. After some time marinating in my own mantra practice, the need to share was overwhelming. I began to share mantra with my students in classes and also sharing through regular community kirtans.
Kirtan is typically accompanied with narrating or story telling and then chanting mantra melodically, usually in a call and response manner. I have been lucky enough to be able to see first hand the beauty and the reach of mantra. My students and community would often say to me that mantra feels familiar, like an old friend, even if you’re new to the practice. Technically as a species we have been singing, celebrating and purging our troubles through ceremony, dance and ritual since the beginning of time. So no wonder mantra feels nostalgic and sentimental.

Through Mantra in the Hindu and Buddhism traditions we chant to the gods, deities, figure heads and higher beings with the belief and the understanding that these Gods and Goddesses aren’t outside of ourselves. In fact they represent the very nature of our being, showcasing our vast array of human qualities and emotions. These qualities include, strength, will power, determination, compassion, unconditional love and having the courage to over come our many hurdles/obstacles/heartbreaks. Always changing and evolving, our nature can sometimes be loving and passive, and in some circumstances we need to be more assertive and direct. In these times of shift and transformation mantra can be used as a tool to keep our two feet firmly planted on the ground, to bind us to the infinite possibilities within the present moment. We were designed to awaken, to thrive and to understand that beyond the rollercoaster of everyday life and emotion, there is a part of ourselves that is calm and at peace. Mantra speaks to that very part of ourselves that is beyond form, religion, gender, political views and social construct. When we chant we are liberated, and the heart is directly pierced and touched ever so sweetly.
For me, it’s a real sense of relief knowing that there is mantra, and where there is mantra there is a deity to call upon in times of need. In these times of despair, mantra becomes an incredible ally. Over time and dedicated repetition, mantra helps guide us away from negativity or uncertainty and points us in the direction of rebuilding our inner reservoir of contentment that comes from self-fulfilment, not from an external source, but right within your own heart.

I can happily say that asana is a big part of my daily practice but it is through daily repetitions of the names, that has bought about the biggest transformations in my life. The commitment to a practice that enables me to connect to something bigger than “I”, bigger than “me” has given “me” great perspective on my life, my purpose and overall happiness. I see myself as a fully formed reflection of the divine… I am and you are perfect, nothing needs to be fixed or manipulated, we are enough exactly as we are. Asana (as incredible as it is) can only take us so far along this winding road that is the spiritual path. It wasn’t until mantra and sharing mantra through Kirtan – community Satsang – that my yoga/my life truly started to shine.

It has been through sitting in contemplating and reverie, and using mantra as the metaphorical gateway, that has offered me this beautiful uncovering of self and the constant discovery of how magnificent life truly is.

Namaste,
Elle

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Keli's Articles

Taste of Joy

by Keli Dierings.

Recently I have done an immersion training with my teacher Rod Stryker, it was five days immersion in Tantra and five days in Yoga Nidra. Again, it changed my life. It made me to remember why I started and how Yoga always up level the way I chose to live my life on every moment and day by day or year by year.

It bought me back to think how important is to go deep into something that you want, to emerge yourself, to learn, to experience, to feel the challenge, to overcome it and understand it deeper.

My teacher mentioned that he never spent a lot of time with his teachers, but he would visit them around every six months. I understand we don’t need to “live” with our teachers to go deep into our practices so that we can change our lives. We can simply spend some time with them, experience the depth of their teachings and then be committed to continue the work as we carry on with life. Because in fact, Yoga is not an escape from our reality, Yoga is a tool to deal with reality and in a skilful way that we can be more happy and fulfilled on every day.

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Keli's Articles

Dissolving Illusion

by Keli Dierings.

“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special ability, relationships, personal and family history, belief system and often nationalistic, racial, religious and other collective identifications. None of these is you.” – says Eckhart Tolle……. Ouch! A fundamental rule of Quantum Mechanics states that there is a difference between what the world is and what we see when we look at the world. Most people think what they see with their eyes is the only reality that really exists, and by default, identify themselves with this material reality. It is also common for people to identify with the roles and judgments placed upon them by others, letting others perceptions form their reality.

Many of us have heard of the saying that “Life is an illusion.” Especially at this age the sentence “Let it go” has become one of the most used phrases in Yoga classes. If everything is an illusion, we are faced with a dilemma. If we are to constantly let go of the ego’s attachments referring to the examples of Eckhart Tolle’s quote that I mentioned above. Well, what does it mean to be human then? What remains? Do our experiences really exist? Or are we creating a delusional story in based of our brains ability to process what is the truth? Sometimes it can feel that the goal is to detach ourselves from the human experience. If that is the truth, why do we even need to focus on self-development to thrive in this human life? What is the point?

According to the Yoga traditions we all have one main purpose in this life, which the ancient Vedic teachings calls it Dharma. Dharma translates it back to “the longing for purpose and to fulfil our unique destiny”. Dharma is an invisible universal intelligence that sustains and organizes all forms of life. This purpose is not to create only our own happiness, but yes to contribute to the greater good and ultimately serve the entire fabric that intertwines us all. Give up yourself interest, be selfless. Rod Stryker says on the book The Four Desires “We are each a single cell in the greater body of this world, with a unique role to play in the service of sustaining and advancing the whole of which we are part.” There is a very unique purpose in every single one of us and that is why your Soul is experiencing itself in this temporary human body. We are here to serve each other. Your long term happiness is to fulfil your personal dharma, so you can serve the world and only you can do that! Now, if we are living a life that doesn’t support our Dharma, than that is living an illusion.

Most Illusions are a by-product of the suffering created by not being in balance with the invisible universal intelligence, in another words, not being in harmony with life purpose. Suffering is caused by remaining attached to the ego and the ego is a fascinating thing that will try to convince you that you are separated from the whole. Individuality is an illusion. Illusion is learned and then passed on. If I believe that my happiness come from the external fulfilments that ego holds on to, what happens if suddenly one of those things is ‘taken away from me’? Would I suffer for not having a career anymore, or a house, or a partner/family? The suffering that burdens us comes from separation to those things or people we once thought that were parts of ourselves or our stories. To be clear pain and suffering are different from each other. While pain is inevitable, we will get a little hurt time to time, but is the holding onto pain for too long that becomes suffering. Learn to rest your awareness as the one who observe the situation, process the experience and evolve from it. This is a mind game.

We could blame society for feeding our ego, forcing us to remain insecure about who we are, or blame the government for feeding our fears that keep us blinded under the rules and operating on survival mode. But it’s time to evolve, and the real change starts within, not without. By changing what see about who we are and how we see life, we change our world and that might inspire the change in other people too.

One, if not the main goal in Yoga is to awaken the brain. The knowledgeable spiritual teacher Swami Satyananda Saraswati says “we can say the brain has ten compartments, and of these, nine are dormant and one is active. Why are these other compartments inactive? Because there is no energy.” What that means? That we are actually just using that small percentage of our brain capacity, to survive in this world. But remember we are not here just to survive, that is an illusion. We are here to awake to the most magnificent version of ourselves so we can serve our dharma and support the entire Universe. By doing the correct Ancient traditional practices of Yoga (which by the way has a lot more to do with pranayama and meditation than fancy acrobatic yoga poses) we begin to switch on the brain and send energy to the parts that are inactive. That’s how we expand our consciousness and by doing that we remove the veils or layers of mental conditions creating more clarity to understand our dharma, which is the total reason why we are here.

All our experiences are perceived in the mind. So is it true that all the human psychological suffering (or Illusion) could be ended by simply shifting perception? YES! We came into this world absolutely perfect as we are. You are God, God is within you and in everything else, and in this level all things are perfect. Even through the life of inevitable painful losses, heartbreaks and conflicts, believe it or not, it’s God manifesting itself as a lesson to endure to teach us about something that we did not know before. Once we shift this perception, everything is then sacred and the unconditional consciousness becomes the presence of God. There is nothing scary about life, if you are not attached to results.

If the conscious state you are in this moment is the same thing as we call the Divine state, that means you know and recognize God, if you do anything to make it different, might show that you don’t understand it so. Most people struggle to see, but this is the real deal, you are enough! You don’t need external validations or obtain more. What most spiritual traditions tell us is that despite the majority of humans spend their lives looking for outside fulfilment and answers, it all exits inside us. Everybody is looking for something they already have. Our job is to reconnect to that thing and remember who we are before society told us who we should be, and then bring true meaning to this human experience. There is a truth that exist inside your heart that can only be known by a still mind.

The following fable from the Vedic tradition serves as a beautiful reminder of something essential that is all too easily forgotten in our reality “Let the wisdom and love in your heart show you what and who you really are, then let it guide you. Present your heart with a vision of what you know it longs for and it will help you fulfil the aspirations that have been in it all along. Make these steps your life’s practice. In time, you will be richly rewarded and discover that for every step you have taken toward fulfilling your dream, your dreams have taken a step towards you.”

Sourcesc of Inspirations:
Paragraph 1: Eckhart Tolle Quote – The Power of Now
Paragraph 3: Rod Stryker – The Four Desires
Paragraph 6: Swami Satyananda Saraswati – Kundalini Tantra
Paragraph 7 and 8 : Allan Watts – Online video lectures
Paragraph 9: Rod Stryker – The Four Desires

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Octavio's Articles

It Was Never About The Bones

by Octavio Salvado.

When Ice Cube rapped “Better check yo-self before you wreck yo-self” he wasn’t speaking to modern Yogis, although he may as well have been. Because unless every traditional text on Hatha Yoga, including Swatmarama’s quintessential expose on the ancient science, the ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ are wrong, Yoga has never been about the body. It was never about the bones.

To begin with, bones don’t even exist. Not really. As soon as we take an electron microscope to a bone and dial in a few clicks, an intricate web of neatly ordered, vibrating, crystalline molecular strings appear. These, upon closer inspection transform into clusters of atoms sweeping back and forth, dancing in unison to a silent melody like a green ocean of grass blades in the wind. If we then zoom in again, the seemingly solid electrons dissolve revealing a vacuum of space supporting a tiny nucleus that upon even further magnification, similarly dissolves into what could best be described as an oscillating field of energy.

The reality is that bones definitely do not exist, at least not as we typically understand them, and neither does anything else. So why would an ancient culture spend thousands of years developing a science to study a non-reality? Exactly. They didn’t. The ancient Yogis understood that life is the intelligent dance of interlocking, pulsating fields of energy occupying the vast infinity of space, simply giving off the illusion of substance via the bonds created by resonant frequencies interacting with one another. They called this field the ‘Nāda’, the ocean of silent sounds. Meditative absorption into it, Swatmarama suggests, is the very purpose of Hatha Yoga. Not surprisingly, the chapter on Asana is way back in the beginning and the syllabus of postures is slim and primarily seated.

Asana certainly plays a role in Yoga, if and when its done well, which currently it isn’t. The great Yogi Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern postural Yoga, never intended for adults to practice Vinyasa the way it is taught today, as it runs counter to the fundamentals of Ayurveda and therefore, Yoga. There are exceptions of course. For example, if a student’s primary constitution is Kapha, or if they are in the Kapha years of their life (between birth and age twenty) or if a Kapha imbalance needs treating, then a dynamic, heating practice could be a beneficial strategy to address the inherent qualities of Kapha.

What’s frighteningly obvious today however, is that the integrated knowledge that truly empowers practice, such as the non-negotiable connection between Yoga and Ayurveda is not there. One glance across the sweaty sea of bright lycra reveals a distinct absence of the Kapha constitution. One or two (God bless their souls) will show up and do the honest work perfectly suited to them and the rest, being a mix of intense Pittas and up in the clouds Vatas will both suffer in different ways the wrath of heated rooms, perfuse sweating, loud music, lack of space between poses, competitive environments and unscientific sequencing. The result? A culture of Yogis burning through Ojas like cheap incense sticks. Yogis destroying their immune systems, disturbing their sleep cycles, destabilizing their digestion and sabotaging any real chance of ever achieving deep states of meditation. Instead, the coating covering the nerves keeps getting thinner and thinner until the 40 year-old Yogi’s personality reverts back to one of an over-reactive teenager. Yes, I said it. Sometimes Yoga can take us backwards.

The complimentary issue is that to an imbalanced system, an imbalanced practice will feel healthy, in the same way that a drink will feel relieving to an alcoholic, but just because it feels good it doesn’t mean its good for us. Raw food and our modern obsession with smoothie bowls are other examples of this insanity. Interestingly, these seemingly separate issues tend to show up in the same circles. Both go completely against the fundamental teachings that Yoga has been trying to get through our skulls for several millennia – that in order to thrive, we need inner fire. If we put cold, wet things into our digestive system, the digestive flame will fizzle out, lose its power to process and assimilate food and in many cases, completely extinguish. And to be clear, inner fire, Agni is not generated by turning up the thermostat or by increasing the intensity or complexity of practice.

Again, there are certain constitutions that manage raw food and cold, wet piles of pink and purple mud more efficiently, however generally speaking they suppress the digestive fire which, digestive issues aside and perhaps most importantly, results in a dimming of our mental fire. We become less able to process information, extract nourishment from our experiences and convert it into wisdom. We become less mentally bright.

Do the Traditional texts speak about lightening our intake of food? Yes, in terms of quantity, definitely they do. Existing on nuts and berries on the other hand only applies if we are forest-dwelling ascetics who have the liberty of sitting in ashrams and under banyan trees meditating for 12 hours a day. We are house-holders, mothers, fathers, business owners, students, life-livers and the reality is that to live an extraordinary life, we need the inner fire burning brightly. So check yo-self before you wreck yo-self because smoothie bowls ain’t good for your health, and for the most part neither are hot, sweaty practices, even if they feel good. As a superior yardstick for balance, check your immune system, check the genuine depth of your meditations, check your digestion, check your sleep patterns and check the way you show up in emotionally charged situations. These are the measures that matter.

Its time for Yoga to return to Yoga and ditch the addiction to feel good, flip your dog and flow Yoga. Sweat til you drop, twenty-day Yoga-shred Yoga. Tone your muscles and not your mind kinda Yoga. People ask, ‘Isn’t all Yoga, good Yoga?’ But this is the same as asking ‘isn’t all sex, good sex?’ And we all know the answer to that. Transcendental experiences, whether on the mat or in the bedroom require a serious slowing down, flavored with love, care, patience, presence and in my opinion, no soundtrack. If what we are seeking are the subtle, inner frequency-rivers of the Nāda that connect us to the electro-magnetic ocean comprising all things, then a human playlist becomes a deadweight, anchoring us to a mundane experience of an illusory, peripheral reality.

Yoga’s future depends on the past. A return Tradition, starting with balancing the food-body with a constitutionally sound diet that for the most part, you guessed it, will not include smoothie bowls. Supporting smart food choices will be intelligent Asana practices that don’t over-heat the body or agitate the mind. Practices with space, stillness, silence and slowness built into them, fleshed out with deep seated twists and folds, belly-down backbends and the occasional elbows thrown in the abdomen. Medicine for the modern mind. These are the game changers for the majority of modern Pitta and Vata dominant Yogis. Not hand-standing, not grand-standing, not hollow back anything. Asana is there to pave the way for Meditation by clearing energetic blockages that tend to coalesce in the area between the navel and the pelvic floor, again, the home of Agni, the abdominal fire. When the navel is free, the mind is free. Then we can we evolve the presently backwards moving Yoga dialogue to include the more advanced methods that pulse at the heart of the tradition.

Kriya Yoga and Raja Yoga are two such suggested methods that speak to Swatmarama’s opening verse regarding Yoga’s intended trajectory. The author begins with his praise to the original Yogi, Lord Shiva, who he then tells us instructed his wife, Parvatti in the teachings of Hatha Yoga, considered the ultimate stairway for those who wish to ascend to the highest state of Yoga, Meditation. Hatha Yoga, including Asana, Pranayama, Bandha and Mudra are merely a stairway guiding the mind towards absorption into the vibrating waves of the Nāda, the ocean of primordial sound-currents.

Kriya Yoga as a higher octave of Hatha Yoga, involves the consolidation of Hatha’s Prana-driven practices. It is considered the ideal form of Yoga for modern Yogis who genuinely aspire to advance towards the sublime heights of meditation. For Sattvic minds, namely those people who don’t have jobs, homes, families, partners, pets, parents and worldly lives to attend to, Raja Yoga is the suggested road. The Raja path is not for people like us. Our minds are too Rajasic, too busy, they are constantly moving because our lives are full of activities and responsibilities. Therefore, we must meet our minds where they’re at and skillfully guide consciousness towards the Nāda through the systematic manipulation of energy.

Kriya is a dynamic form of meditation designed for active minds. It appropriately opts to bypass working on the mind directly at the risk of splitting it open even further into duality and instead uses simple, accessible postures with inner visualizations and mantras to guide energy into the spine and upwards to awaken the latent areas of the brain. In doing so, through consistent effort, a refined sense of self arises and a corresponding expanded understanding of a non-solid reality.

Our constant obsessing over the body, putting the bones into increasingly more complicated shapes, shredding the body, sculpting it, flipping it, popping it and ignoring the subtle body is no longer serving us, or humanity. ‘Meditate. Meditate. Meditate’. This is the mantra of the future of Yoga. Same as it was in the beginning. The time has come to evolve the conversation and move beneath the periphery and beyond the shallows. The Masters are calling us from the deep and only in stillness will we hear their call. So pause, be still and listen, because in the silence, we truly can hear the entire universe.

Octavio and the team at The Practice deliver weekly Kriya and Nidra meditations on a Tuesday and Thursday at 3pm. Plus at The Practice Online you can get to experience Kriya and Yoga Nidra classes with Octavio and The Practice Teachers.

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Keli's Articles

Hatha Yoga Basics with Keli Dierings

Not only is this presentation about Hatha Yoga Basics, it is even more about what it means to PRACTICE the philosophies of yoga, moment to moment and day to day.

Keli starts her presentation – her first that she has delivered at The Practice and was nervous about – by saying that, “Today (because of a personal situation) was perhaps the worst days she has experienced in 10 years.”

She then went on to deliver a very heart-felt, raw, informative, engaging and even humorous presentation on the basics of hatha yoga, but even more so on how to use yoga as a tool to navigate your way through life, and its trials and tribulations, with as much ease and grace as possible.

For those of us there that witnessed this; it was a moving experience and as vulnerability expert Brene Brown talks about, Keli’s vulnerability in the face of heartfelt pain, was a sign of pure COURAGE. Thank you for showing us how Keli.

Keli fully encapsulates what The Practice is all about. Using conscious traditional yoga as a way to evolve into an even better human being.

Please enjoy.

Love from The (very proud) Practice Team

Below are some of the visuals from the presentation. We think you will understand when they come up in the presentation. 😉

Or download the complete presentation slides by clicking here.

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Octavio's Articles

Let Us Be Respectful and Intelligent Also

by Octavio Salvado.

Modern Yogis have been handed the keys to the kingdom and instead of using them to unlock the door to higher consciousness, we’ve made them into flimsy, plastic replica keys, fashion accessories. We’ve mass-produced them and attached them to strings of cheap mala-beads that will never see the light of real Sadhana. Some people say that all Yoga is good Yoga. I don’t hang out with those people.

When my beloved Sat Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda addressed the American crowds gathered to hear him speak in the 1920’s, his message was clear, “God is in your Spine. Yoga is the science of realizing this truth. Do not fail to take full advantage of what I am telling you.” Yet here we are, a century later and Yoga has been watered down so much that it is barely recognizable as the Royal path it once was. We have taken something sacred and precise and made it mundane and chaotic.

Imagine taking the traditional ceremonial practices of the Indigenous Australians and making sixty-minute fitness classes out them. THURSDAY NIGHT ‘HOT’ CORROBOREE PRACTICE or LEVEL 3 DREAMTIME CORE FLOW CLASS, with live DJ and a real-life didgeridoo player!

It would be a fucking outrage. A concept so outrageous and obviously inappropriate that undoubtedly every major newspaper countrywide would plaster it over their pages and without hesitation, rip it to pieces, and rightly so. Yet this is exactly what we have done. We have taken an ancient culture’s spiritual practices and transformed them into a trendy, commercially driven exercise cult. Yoga is about God. It always was and always will be.

It is estimated that 90% of human cultures have ritualized ways of achieving higher states of consciousness. A clear indication that innately we sense there is more to life than this depressing story of birth, going to school, getting a job, starting a family, old age, sickness and death. Deep inside we know there is more.

As a white Australian male from an agnostic white Australian family I was never taught rituals to help me connect with the divine part of myself, so like most kids, sensing I was being lied to at some fundamental level, I turned to drugs and alcohol to achieve altered states. The correct intention was there, but the correct means were not, so instead of switching on dormant areas of the brain, which is the intention of Yoga, I destroyed brain cells. Rather than increase serotonin levels, amplifying my motivation, inspiration and ability to deal with stress, I intoxicated myself and achieved the opposite.

This is my culture, well intended but method-poor. Somehow however, through fluke or divine providence, the scientific map of God-realization landed right in our laps. So, my friends let us not fail to take full advantage of this blessing. It is time we put aside misguided and disrespectful notions about Yoga and started taking the gift of this life a little more seriously.

Even from the vantage point of Darwinian evolution, the purpose of life is clear. The bodies of Earth-bound organisms are getting smaller, yet brain size seems to be increasing. We are not here to get fit, flexible and accrue followers. We are here for one reason, to evolve our consciousness.

The other side of the argument for re-routing Yoga’s current peripheral trajectory is more self-serving. As long as we are practicing Yoga as a body-based system, the results of our practice will never pierce the subtler layers of our being, make lasting changes to the state of our minds, let alone positively impact our destiny.

The Worldview that birthed these practices was a spiritual worldview, therefore, if our own personal way of seeing the world is not spiritually oriented, any positive affects will simply rise for a few brief moments before fading back into the ethers, lacking a resonant belief structure to bond with.

Practicing a spiritual discipline in a non-spiritual way is like trying to run new software on an outdated operating system. It won’t work. The old system won’t allow it. This is why many practitioners will be positively impacted by their Yoga in the immediate short term after a session, however at the first sign of post-practice conflict or confusion, be it an unfavorable text message or getting cut off in traffic, the old and well established belief programs will kick back in. The result is a short-circuiting of the newfound, short lived altered state.

Whether we look at things from the perspective of respecting an ancient culture’s spiritual practices or just maximizing our own returns, using Yoga as a fitness modality, or worse, a fashion accessory is not ok.

Not all Yoga is good Yoga. So let us be respectful, and for our own sake, intelligent also. Let us grow some spine for this science that enlivens our own.

Categories
Octavio's Articles

Be Ordinary and Do Great Things

by Octavio Salvado.

Surprisingly, of all the social media posts I’ve made over the last few years, these five simple words posted last week gained the most traction: NEVER DRESS LIKE A YOGI. For that reason, I thought it was a worthy subject to flesh out a little further.

I think about my two teachers. I consider both of them to be modern day masters of the ancient path of Hatha Yoga. If you were to see them walking down the street there is absolutely no way you could tell that they were advanced Yogis, because they wear their Yoga on the inside. If, however, you stopped them and looked into their eyes, then you would know. They have eyes like lightning, eyes that pierce the layers of mind and personality and penetrate straight to the soul. It’s simultaneously very confronting and profoundly liberating to be in their presence. They see everything and love you anyway.

So why aren’t these men dressed in robes, draped in malas and sporting fancy Indian names? The answer is simple; it comes back to the Yamas and Niyamas. Not those set out in Sage Patanjali’s Classical Yoga, but the Tantric Yamas and Niyamas, Hatha Yoga’s own ethical guidelines. These assist both in purifying the Yogi’s character so that only the best of their being gets vitalized and simultaneously they are a means of gaining insight into progress, a kind of map for living Yoga both on and off the mat.

Tantra does include the five Yamas and five Niyamas of classical Yoga, however it adds an additional handful into each category, such as Forgiveness, Compassion, Authenticity and perhaps the most pertinent addition to this conversation, Humility. What you may notice if you read back through those words (or better yet, feel into them) is a common theme – they all soften the ego.

Hatha Yoga is not like Classical Yoga. The orientation is entirely different. They are complimentary paths, however, they are not the same. Classical Yoga (Patanjali’s 8 limbs system) is a path of Insight, a way of coming to understand the nature of the mind and ultimately move beyond it. What is beyond the mind? The mind’s own source known to the ancients as Purusha, the changeless one, the one who is eternally at rest in the city of our body, our mind and our usually very busy lives.

Tantra, or Hatha Yoga on the other hand, is a path of Power. It sees the value, even necessity of a calm, steady mind (hence it includes the Yamas and Niyamas of the classical system), however the emphasis is on Prana, energy, also known as Shakti. Perhaps this already gives you some insight into why qualities such as humility and forgiveness are not just suggested, but considered fundamental requirements for advancing in practice.

Here is the reality; as we deepen our practice beyond the peripheral and preparatory modalities of Asana and Ujjayi and move towards the more transformative techniques of Hatha Yoga, we will begin to cultivate more power. The Tantric Yamas and Niyamas are there to keep the spiritual ego in check. They ensure that we never get to a point where we feel, or demonstrate, that we are special. Like my teachers told me (and continue to tell me, God bless them, whenever my own ego gets out of check), “Be humble enough to be like everyone else. Relate to your Yoga internally”. In other words, the only time anyone should know you’re a Yogi is when you’re practicing it.

This theme is reflected back to us in so many of the myths rooted in the Yoga tradition and perhaps nowhere more potently than in the story of the Yogi-Warrior Monkey God, Hanuman and the pivotal role he plays in the Ramayana. His power and humility are instrumental in the success of Lord Rama’s mission to rescue his Queen, Sita, after she is stolen away by the ten-headed demon, Ravana. Many consider Hanuman to be the true hero of the story. I would have to agree.

Like all myths, the Ramayana is a mirror into our own lives. Each character represents a unique aspect of our multifaceted mind. The separation of Sita and Rama is the separation of the self from the Self, lost in the forest of life, stolen away by our own ignorance and in the case, the ‘spiritual ego’, anthropomorphized by Ravana, a powerful Yogi in his own right. Hanuman, on the other hand, is the Yogi supreme. More loyal, devoted, courageous, capable, powerful and humble than any other character in the story, Hanuman is the invitation to show up in every single moment as the highest version of our self, minus any pomp or fuss.

His journey is our own journey deep into the heart of practice. When it’s time for him to stand up and show his worth, he summons his power, overcomes his fears, his demons and does what needs to be done, yet does so completely absent of any pride or ego, filled only with humility and devotion. This is what makes Hanuman impeccable; his ability to do great things and simultaneously remain completely ordinary. Hanuman shows us that the deeper we go into Yoga, the more ordinary we must become, as ordinary as a monkey, as relatable as the most common man and avoid at all costs, getting wrapped up in the story, wrapped up in the robes or changing our name to Swami.

Hanuman’s message is simple; get ordinary, simplify, stay humble and then, when it’s time leap, time to fight and overcome, when it’s time to step onto the mat, the meditation cushion, the uncomfortable conversation and practice our Yoga, give it everything you’ve got. Rise up against the darkness, rip open your chest and let the dual light-streams of courage and humility explode out, merge and consume every action, thought and word.

This is Hanuman as the Yogi. No one would know of his immense capacity if they saw him walking down the street, or swinging in a tree, because his Yoga is inside of him, its his personal quest. Yoga then, more than anything is our own private bridge between the mundane world and the spiritual. It speaks to our relationship between the Sita and Rama within, our self and our own Source and no one other than us needs to know what goes on in that world.

So, back to the point, ‘NEVER DRESS LIKE A YOGI’ is another way of saying ‘beware of the pitfalls of practice’. It’s not necessarily about no longer wearing mala beads or white dhotis. It’s more about checking our motivation for doing things (and in this case, wearing things), because as we increase our personal power the ego will seek out new and fascinating ways to express itself, outwardly.

This is the reason for Tantra’s addition to the Yamas and Niyamas. This is why my teachers just look like regular dads. This is the reflection offered to us by Lord Hanuman; just do the inner work, for you. Lean into humility, lean in ordinariness, lean into ‘I’m not special’, then let the light of your own truth shine out of your eyes and be done with it.

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The Marvels of Meditation

by Octavio Salvado.

As published in Yoga Journal Australia Meditation Special Edition (July).

Our current paradigm of yoga is keeping us stuck.

As yoga has become popular in the West the mistaken idea that yoga and asana are one and the same has become widespread. For as long as we believe this to be true we will remain stuck practicing in ways that lack transformative power; stuck in cognitive and behavioural patterns that no longer serve us and, as a result, remain stuck in lives, jobs and relationships that do not serve our highest potential.

It’s time to move on. Asana alone is not enough to evolve our consciousness. While great for clearing blockages within our gross body and subtle energetic networks (blockages that may have been created through past choices and actions), if we genuinely want to commit to a practice that will shape our future and ultimately our destiny, the master key is not asana; it’s meditation.

Think of asana as the opening to a grander and ultimately more interesting conversation about yoga and life; that is, as an introduction to humanity’s ultimate guidebook to a life well lived. If this is the case, the question begs, why are so few yogis turning the page? Is it because we’re afraid? Or because the structure of the yoga industry is such, that our teachers lack the depth of training and personal practice to lead us boldly into the depths of our consciousness?

Tell the average Hindu in India that you’re a yoga teacher and they will assume you teach meditation. Being an asana teacher and a yoga teacher are not the same thing. The world has thousands of asana teachers but few yoga teachers. Let’s face it, as a teacher, it can take courage to portion out ten minutes of a 60 minute class to lead students in a practice of stillness. Yet, without meditation, yoga is little more than exercise.

For the most part, modern asana sequencing is not consistent in its cultivation of a calm and stable mind. To clarify, being exhausted at the end of practice and being stable and calm at the end of a practice, are not the same thing. Did you know, for example, that asana categories (of which there are six – forward folds, twists, laterals, backbends, extensions and inversions) are not designed to be merged (except under specific circumstances in advanced asana practices). Why? Because each pose category has a unique affect our pranic landscape and, through this, a unique effect on our psychology. We cannot condition one without conditioning the other. To mix pose categories without proper understanding of their pranic impact will actually keep the mind stuck in, or perhaps even amplify, existing patterns of agitation. Health benefits aside, asana’s primary purpose is actually to leverage prana so we can then use prana to leverage the mind.

Asana. Pranayama. Meditation. In that order. It has been laid out this way in texts for thousands of years. It’s time for teachers to honor the privilege of teaching the ancient science of yoga by being courageous in our willingness to move against the grain of popular practice. A grain which does not currently serve the highest potential of practitioners. Its time for asana teachers to become yoga teachers. The tradition deserves that and so do our students.

From the yogic perspective, meditation can be broken into three progressive stages. The first stage, Dharana is the development of concentration power by training the mind to move beyond a distracted state. If we are unable to focus our minds for an extended period of time we will end up spending long times sitting on the floor daydreaming without ever really approaching a meditative state. In Dharana, a specific object of meditation is chosen as a point of focus, however, at this point the object is less important than the development of concentration itself.

In the second stage, the thinking mind stops fluctuating and awareness begins to flow in a single, effortless stream. The intellect falls away and pure presence arises. Dhyana is the name given to this phase. It signifies that a line of energetic transference has opened up between mediator and object. Yoga (and now quantum science) takes the view that beneath the illusory sheath of matter everything is made up of one unified energy field. We live in a world of spinning electrons and sub-atomic particles that appear as solid, separate forms yet in truth are simply unique energy flows within this unified field. Both the science of yoga and the science of quantum physics suggest that this field can be manipulated with the mind. As such, through successful single-pointed concentration, the qualities inherent in our object of meditation will begin to impart or transfer themselves to us and that is why here, with the practice of Dhyana, the object becomes more significant.

Over time, whatever we merge our minds with we will become more like. Concentrating on negative concepts like disease (or fear of disease), for example, will manifest a like-vibration in the body, whereas meditating on the Gayatri mantra, an ancient ode to the pure essence of light (which has a much higher vibrational frequency) will cause our own vibration to raise. The choice is ours. And choose we must, because we are always choosing, if not consciously then via our subconscious patterning.
If we are diligent with our meditation practice and show up daily (regardless of whether we feel like it or not), we will arrive at a point where the qualities of our meditation object will endure within us and continue to transform us even after our meditation session has ended. Through repetition, the mind gradually becomes like that which we are meditating on and we will begin to see and experience the world through this new lens of perception.

Mantra is considered the most potent of all concentration tools. Other tools can yield the sweet nectar of meditative absorption but mantra, because of its vibratory nature, is honored as a fast track into the infinite ocean of electro-magnetic energy known to the ancients as Akasha, a hidden world of inaudible sounds and unseen lights just outside the reach of our flesh-born ears and eyes.

The full flowering of meditation takes place in the final stage of meditation, Samadhi, the highest state of perception and mental clarity resulting from the complete merging of the mind with its object of meditation until any personal sense of ‘I’ is obliterated. Once in Samadhi any comprehension of self as separate from the world disintegrates. We are no longer our name or the roles we play. We are no longer sitting in a room waiting for the sun to rise. We are simply ‘existence’; we are pulsing awareness in a sea of infinite energy.

As practice progresses, the moments we spend in this ‘time beyond time’ begin to extend and by consistently touching this place, where a limitless truth beyond the confines of our human identity exists, we start to recalibrate our future. Each day we practice, the vibrational legacy of our meditation deepens and starts to influence the choices we make. We begin to make choices from a place of embodied wisdom, knowing that beneath that which we can see with our eyes, we are all connected. We are united within the one-song of the uni-verse.

Meditation is the master key to forging a new destiny. There is no way more effective to re-groove the mind, to learn how to show up in the world or how to see it in a brand new way. Think of meditation as being the deep root from which the tree of your practice grows and at the same time, the sweetest fruit born of that healthy tree.

Start where you are. Plant the seeds of self-effort today and let the rest of your practice, over time, lead you higher into the clear blue sky of meditative silence because there, beyond the limits of the mind, in that place of pure connection, you will come to understand your sacred reasons for coming here.

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Why Meditate?

by Octavio Salvado

Namaste Yogis,

The time is now.

Out of necessity, the time has come for us to stop kidding ourselves that practicing Asana alone is sufficient in regards to evolving our consciousness and lives. It isn’t. Asana has value when it comes to clearing old energy accumulated through past choices, however when it comes to shaping our future and ultimately our destiny, Meditation is the Master Key.

Why Meditation? Very good question.

We will explore the answer to it in this video-blog, along with what the Yoga tradition considers to be the number one tool for Meditation.

Hope you enjoy.

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I Meditate On The Fire

by Octavio Salvado.

The opening words of the world’s oldest existing spiritual text are: “I meditate on the fire.” The Rig Veda dates back approximately 4500 years comprising channeled hymns received and recited by the ancient Seers in deep states of meditation. The access point for those deep, spiritual states was through a doorway – a doorway of fire.

We have been extremely blessed this past weekend, hosting Sri Rajasekaran and his son, Selvaganesan, two deekshitar priests from the Sri Nataraja Shiva temple in Chidambaram, South India who have been at The Practice sharing traditional Vedic knowledge through Agni Hotra (fire ceremony) and Mantra chanting. A ‘deekshitar’ is a hereditary priest, meaning that Sri Rajasekaran and Selva’s family have been tending the fires at India’s largest Shiva Nataraja temple since its time of origin over a thousand years ago.

In the spirit of keeping the tradition of Yoga alive in the modern world, it has been a great honor to host them at the Practice. This intention of maintaining authentic ties to lineage-based Yoga runs through the very center of The Practice and all that we stand for.

Yes, we are on a mission to keep the sacred torches of ancient times burning and yes, for now at least, we are perhaps a school of fired-eyed fish swimming against the collective current. That is ok, because we also believe that the tides are changing and that people are now beginning to tire of the body-based, call-anything-yoga culture that has all but drowned out the very thing giving Yoga its foundational integrity and potency.

One of the things I’m often asked about is the relationship between traditional Vedic Yoga involving fire worship and mantra, and what we practice today on the mat. The answer is a surprising one, as although it may look like modern Yoga has little semblance to the fire ceremonies and Yoga of old, in actuality, when practiced correctly they mirror one another perfectly.

What the ancients found is that the elements and energies that comprise nature and the universe are also the elements and energies that make up our own being. The macro mirrors the micro. If you can worship an external fire then you can worship an internal one, if that is, you know where to find it, how to activate it and most importantly, how to respectfully and devotionally honor it.

The essence of ‘practice as fire worship’ has largely been incinerated in modern times, usurped by the misguided desire to cultivate a peripheral, body-based heat. One of my teachers always says “Think about it, if Yoga – the science of awakening was about sweating and working out, wouldn’t every aerobics instructor be enlightened?” That is the current thinking of the majority – that the value of practice can be measured in sweat and external effort and complexity. Yet this approach to practice is moving us away from stillness and therefore away from sacredness.

Fire, both the inner and outer represent the height of sacredness. The Vedas go on to say, “I meditate on the fire, which allows me experience all of life as sacred. Here, within this sacred moment, I am both the ceremony itself and the priest dispensing the sacredness”. These sublime words resound from deep within the heart of the traditional Tantric Hatha Yoga path that states that through our own devotion and deep desire to reconnect with Source, we can become the priest through the ceremony of practice and systematically dispense the sacredness internally.

Yes, there is a system. The priest doesn’t carelessly throw the wood into the ‘Kund’ (fire-pit) or offer anything he likes into the flames. No, there is a wise progression to it, just as there is with practice. We cannot simply link poses together in any way we like (as is the case with a lot of modern vinyasa) and expect profound results. That is not how science works. If we truly want to activate the ‘inner’ Kund at the base of the spine (the sacrum) and the dormant power within it (Kund-alini), then we would be wise to know the rules of worship.

In Latin, sacrum means ‘sacred’. This is not a coincidence. Interestingly, the sacrum is the last bone in the body to burn. It can hold incredible amounts of heat and power – which is exactly what it does. The sacrum holds our dormant spiritual capacity know to the ancients as Kundalini Shakti. It is our spiritual essence and despite what you may have heard, it is not asleep. Divinity is never asleep. ‘We’ are asleep. Kundalini is waiting for ‘us’ to wake up. And that is what the fire ceremony is all about.

The progression is as follows:

First the Moon must be made steady, meaning that the mind must be made still. There are exact methods for achieving this in Hatha Yoga. There are specific poses, breathing ratios, meditations, bandhas, mudras and mantras to stabilize the Moon. Interestingly, these methods are essentially the opposite of what most modern yoga is teaching. Today’s yoga (for the most part anyway) does not build practitioners into solid meditators and here is the simple truth: if we don’t meditate, then we have no seat at the sacred fire-pit.

So awakening and stabilizing the Lunar-force is foundational – the first stage. Once steady, then the Sun can be made to rise. In other words, when the mind is made calm and clear through right application of practice, then we can begin to invoke and direct the higher energies (which of course requires a separate set of precise solarizing practices). It’s a science and each step allows us to collect the necessary offerings and tools required to prepare for the ceremony. Now, Moon steady and Sun shining bright, we can begin.

How is the inner fire worshipped? The same way the outer fire is worshipped, with wood, with wind and with ghee. Within the fire pit, the wood is placed. The wood symbolizes our mental and emotional debris – the stuff of the first three Chakras. The wood is the subconscious-mind; all of our worn out pattern, void of life and taking up space, weighing us down, keeping us tired, sick, lazy and uninspired. Between the abdomen and the tailbone we find our greatest obstacles to Self-realization and the kindling we need for the inner fire. This is why traditional Yoga postures and practices targeted this area so specifically. They were chopping the wood.

Once collected, it is the work of the out-breath along with the root lock, the navel lock and a mind skillful enough to visualize downward moving energy (Apana Vayu) turning upwards to offer the wood into the flames. Through these practices, the denser energies stored within the subtler layers of our being are drawn up into the psychic flames within the solar plexus – The Manipura Chakra.

The in-breath then fans the fire. Prana Vayu – the vital wind collected in the chest is contained by the chin lock and mentally directed downward. Together the wind, the wood and a heat birthed from the compression of opposites begins to ignite and the inner world enlivens. The truth of a sacred world engulfed by holy flames is revealed.

The ceremony has begun. Yet a ceremony is not a ceremony without ghee. Ghee is the blaze-bringer, the temple space illuminator. Once that pure, golden nectar slides from the wooden spoon into the lapping flame-like mouth of God, everything, absolutely everything lights up.

The ghee symbolizes and expresses our pure devotion, our unrefined-longing for God. Nothing in creation burns brighter than a Yogi’s deep, unflinching desire to touch the feet of the infinite. This is the highest purpose of practice and when we approach the ceremony of sadhana from this place, we ourselves become the priest and understand the truth of those opening words of the Vedas.

We also come to understand the innate connection between fire and mantra. As the holy text goes on to say “In the beginning was Brahman (God) with whom was the word.” Vibration (mantra) is right there at the beginning of it all. It is the first cause, the energetic blueprint of the universe itself. Even science now asserts that beneath the illusion of matter, there exists a vibrant sea of energy in motion.

What the Yoga tradition suggests is that once we activate the inner fire, we will hear the music – the inaudible sound currents supporting material life, giving everything its unique form holding every single atom and molecule in place.

To be clear, Yogis didn’t create mantras. We can chant them and perhaps if we practice devotionally, we can hear them echoing through the ether, but we did not create them, anymore than we created sunlight. Mantras predate us and everything else. Mantra (vibration) is the spine of life and the essential energetic emanation of the sacred force of fire. If there were no mantras, there would be no universe.

Meditation on the fire is the means. Mantra is the result.

The whole path of Yoga, yoking the Moon and Sun, stoking the ceremonial Fire, all of it is a movement towards meditation and ultimately the absorption of the mind into the silent sound waves of mantric code. Verbal chanting is powerful, yet it is only the first stage.

The essence of Mantra-meditation is getting quiet enough, pure enough (pure as golden ghee) and devoted enough to experience the mantras in their original form – their purest form – right there, pulsing out of you, out of your eyes and heart, reverberating as you and everything around you. This is what it means to Meditate on the Fire. It is about getting silent enough to hear the eternal love song of God and the sublime whisperings of your own beautiful soul.

So if the sacred ceremony of your practice isn’t sinking you deep into the sound of silence, then let it burn away. Liberate it. You are designed and destined for more. You are a spark of the Infinite One and your dharma, your fundamental reason for being here is to ignite.

So burn, baby, burn and watch the world light up around you.