Yoga and Mental Attitude

The content of our thoughts not only effect the way in which we relate to ourselves, however also those around us. In society, especially the west we spend far too much time, money and energy on looking after the physical body opposed to wellbeing of our mental health. A positive mental attitude and a mind of less distructive emotions can be an answer to a more peaceful society with less suffering . Our thoughts and emotions are in constant fluctuations as so is the entire universe. A healthy mental attitude not only gives fruit to a happier life of less suffering however leads us on the path to a more compassionate way of being, to ourself and the world at large.

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Strength in Our Yoga Practice

Many people search for strength from their yoga practice but the pursuit of strength is one sided and cannot lead to a wholesome yoga practice. In fact it is not yoga at all.

In Chinese philosophy yin and yang is a symbol that shows how two apparently opposite forces are in fact interconnected. The black and the white of yin-yang are endlessly entwined and each is inhabited by the other in the form of a dot of the opposite colour. Therefore, it shows how the existence of any one reality or concept automatically implies its opposite and indeed necessitates it as they are interdependent and complementary parts of a whole. So we cannot speak of something without implying its opposite, and depending on it to create wholesomeness.

'Strength' is a good example of this; it is generally considered a positive attribute whereas on the other side we perceive the negative one of weakness. Where we are not strong we imagine we are weak and in yoga practice this encourages people who fear weakness to overwork and overstrain their bodies from the desire to be strong. Instead of weakness we should think of softness, receptiveness and ability to let go. In fact we will see that in order to create a wholesome practice we must embrace these qualities and that without so doing, focus on strength will only ever bring more imbalance.

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Space in Yoga Practice

In Ayurveda Space is the element in which everything is manifested and within which all other elements are held. Just as sound cannot exist in a vacuum, and chemical reactions cannot take place without oxygen around them, life and we as manifestations of living, cannot exist without space. Without Space nothing can happen. It does not *make* anything happen, rather it *allows* things to happen.  Space is everywhere and yet has no quantifiable existence; it exists only in the distance between entities. Thus, we can use our bodies to both create space and measure its effects.

How do we create space in our yoga practice? Firstly, in asanas we stretch and twist and bend to open up our bodies and release tensions. Tension causes the body to be tight and dense and releasing them brings lightness and softness to it. On a subtler level, within the postures we use our breath to further increase the space created. With each inhale our body literally expands, taking up more space in its surroundings as the space within it increases. On the inhale we are more aware of any tensions present. We then use the exhale to soften those tensions, to relax and let go. With every exhale tension is lessened and so the next inhale will go deeper as more space is found.

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Freedom

What does it mean to be free?

Why is it so important to find freedom so we can live in harmony with ourselves and others?

Freedom in the physical body is experiences when there is a feeling of unending space, comfort, balance and ease.

Freedom in the mind is experienced when there is a silence, stillness and complete connection to everything within and around us.

Freedom in society is to continue being your authentic self and not allowing what you have been told or conditioned to think engross or limit you.

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The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and The Yoga Understanding

STRUCTURAL ORGANISATION OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

The central nervous system (CNS) is the computer that manages all the nervous information. This fonction is done by the brain. For its communication the CNS needs nerves. There are two big types of nerves :

  • Afferent or sensory, they carry sensitive information from the periphery to the CNS (ex : the feeling of the centre of the heel touching the ground)

Efferent or motor, they carry motor information from the CNS to the periphery (ex. the message is sent for the arm or leg to bend)

The efferent nerves are divided in to groups :

  • The somatic nervous system is responsible for the volunteer action (ex : I press the centre of the heel down)
  • The autonomic nervous system (ANS) gives the information to the organs, and help them to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis can be defined as a property of an organism or system that helps it maintain its parameters within a normal range of values. (ex : regulate te heart beats)

AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (ANS)

The ANS has two arms, parasympathetic and sympathetic. The parasympathetic division promotes maintenance functions and conserves body energy. The sympathetic division mobilizes the body during activity. Both divisions generally serve the same visceral organs but cause opposite effects : while one division stimulates certain smooth muscle to contract or a gland to secret, the other division inhinibs that action. Through this dual innervation the two divisions counterbalance each other to keep body systems running smoothly. The two divisons don’t work at the same time.

PARASYMPATHETIC DIVISION

It is the « rest and digest » system and keeps the body’s energy use as low as possible. It is performing the « housekeeping » activities as digesting food, eliminating feces and urine. This explains why it’s good idea to relax after heavy meal : so that sympathetic activity does not interfere with digestion.
Exemple of action : low heart beats, activate the gastro-intestinal tract, constriction of the pupils.

YOGA UNDERSTANDING :

The location of the parasympathetic system is mainly in two parts :

Sacrum : with a connection to small intestine, rectum, urinary system, uterus and ovaries, sexual organs.

Cranial, base of the skull : with a connection to eyes, heart, lung, liver, stomach, pancreas, large and small intestine, etc.

Any posture working on this two areas will also send information to the organs associated.

The particular asana which stimulates the sympatetic nervous system is Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand).

SYMPATHETIC DIVISION

It is the « fight or flight » system. Its activity is evident when we are excited or find ourselves in emergency, or fearfull situation, etc.

Example of action : rapid heart beats, fast breathing, dry mouth, cold sweaty skin, constrict blood vessels to activate the skeletal muscles, dilated lung, etc.

YOGA UNDERSTANDING :

The location of the sympathetic system take place in sympathetic ganglion just next to the thoracic and lombar vertebras.

Any kind of posture working on this area will also send information to the organs associated.

The particular asana which stimulates the parasympatetic nervous system is Hanging Sirsasana.

Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Antione Brandi

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