Ayurvedic Thai Yoga Therapy


Sivananda Yoga

Sivananda yoga is a contemplative practice of Hatha postures combined with mantra (chanting), pranayama (breathing exercises), relaxation, meditation and insight to divine livelihood ~ providing for a holistic experience of body, mind and spirit. Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India was a successful and accomplished medical physician who renounced his career for the realization of his spiritual self through the selfless service of others and the study and teaching of Vedantic philosophy. Swami Vishnu-Devananda, a direct disciple of Swami Sivananda, collated common threads across paths of yoga, founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, and was one of the first to introduce yoga to the west - most notable devotees were select members of the Beatles :)

Swami Vishnu-Devananda extracted the essence of the practice and presented it in five universal principles for physical and mental health as well as spiritual growth: proper exercise (asana), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (nonviolence/vegetarian), and positive thinking/meditation (dhyana).

Twelve basic yoga postures are systemically expounded on to develop a tailored practice for the individual student based on their needs and abilities. It is advised that students practice with their eyes closed to allow for the cultivation of inner awareness and a truly personal experience. This is the beginning of recognition for what feels right, rather than what looks right or who looks good. It is through this silencing of the mind and opening of the body that the voice of the heart may be heard. Become familiar with who it is that witnesses and narrates your world from within ~ guiding your journey home.

Gaining mastery of the energies which sustains and propels this physical existence has been a quest of many since the beginning of time. Pranayama is the control or harnassing of the breath ~ the essence of life. Each class is enveloped in learning techniques of stilling the mind through control of the breath. These seemingly simple yet dynamic breathing exercises effect not only the mind and gross body, but also the chakras (energy centers) and subtle bodies.

Relaxation and rest have escaped the Western psyche and our ability to be at peace within the body and mind. This auto response of the brain to stimuli outside of the self, continually pulls us and our awareness in all directions causing stress and a feeling of being out of control. Concentrating on the simple movement of the breath and continued reigning of the mind back inward has a profound relaxing effect, if only we allow ourselves this time to Be. Savasana, the corpse or resting pose, is offered many times throughout the Sivananda practice to provide moments of rest, contemplation, and reflection. I have to admit, this is still a very challenging posture for me ;)

Ahymsa or non-violence, is the first of the limbs on the tree of yoga and plays a major role in practice both on and off of the yoga mat. A vegetarian diet demonstrates compassion not only for ourselves, but far reaching to that of others. Eating foods that are sattvic (pure) in quality such as fresh organic vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, and nuts provides for a divine vessel through which energy can travel and the body can better serve. The cruelty, suffering, and violence that is served at the dinner table reflects in our body, mind and spirit as individuals and a global community. Cholesterol, obesity, pesticides, antibiotics, and tamasic (inert/lethargic) energy, is only superficial to the deforestation, human starvation, and water and air pollution caused by livestock production and transportion. This topic is too broad for a brief discussion, I suggest checking out the Ahimsa article. May we share and taste in this life with a pallet of compassion.

In the faith that all paths lead to God, Swami Vishnu-Devananda taught the synthesis of the four paths of yoga incorporating hands (Karma - service), head (Jnana - intellect), heart (Bhakti - devotion), and mind (Raja - concentration/meditation) in one complete gesture of peace and wholeness. No one means is of greater value than that of the other and it is only through the practice of each that depth and balance can be reached. This positive thinking and allowing for all perspectives, sets the stage for enlightened meditations and insightful growth.

In honor of the culture and spirit from which yoga has developed, sacred chants or invocations are recited in the traditional Sanskrit language for the tuning in of the mind in preparation for practice and in gratitude to our teachers at the end. The vibration of these ancient sounds resonates within the subtle body and chakras ~ representative of those energies that exist within and around us. Each class begins with the teacher reciting the Dhyana Slokas and closes with portions of the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra recited by all. The utilization of breath, voice and sound for chant and song is a therapeutic expression of emotions and a means of connecting to that which we often cannot describe.

Recognizing that we are all on this path together, yet are unique and different in ourselves, Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-Devananda set the stage for your own personal journey and development. Whether it is in movement, at rest, breathing, eating or just Being, infuse all of your life with purpose and divine spirit. This process is not about becoming someone, but remembering who you are.

Read also:
Sadhana by Swami Sivananda
The Sivananda Companion to Yoga by the Sivananda Yoga Vedenta Center
Radha, Diary of a Woman's Search by Swami Sivananda Radha

What to expect

The series of asanas are balanced with periods of rest and contemplation. If desired, students may bring a towel for those moments when we are working and/or an eye bag for those moments when we are not. Drink plenty of water before and after class as it is advised not to drink during practice... it dowses the energy you worked hard to create. Do not eat 2 hours prior to practice or enjoy something light like a piece of fruit. Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely, yet not too baggy that it falls over your head in a standing forward bend. Also, be advised that zippers and buttons may get in the way. See you soon!