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Problem Solution

We all encounter problems in life, big ones and small ones. We can get engrossed in the difficulty of the problem and it seems as though we have no option but to turn the other way and run. Within every problem that we encounter, though, there is a lesson to be learnt which is especially apt to us individually. If we think of a map, the problems are like the turning points in the route to where we need to go. If we keep diverting the problem we end up walking in circles, ending up again and again at the same spot.

Within every problem there is a solution. All too often we are concerned only with the problem. To use physical ailments as an example, when an imbalance emerges in the body it is possible to accept it as something that we have to endure and allow it becomes a part of us, a part of our story. With this attitude we deny our agency in matters relating to health. Whatever the reason, whether it is fear of engaging with problem or lack of curiosity to explore it more deeply, we limit our growth and our potential. When we experience imbalance in the body we have a choice to find solutions.

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To Be Free in an Unfree Society

Let’s first specify what is freedom and what is not. We have certain freedoms in our society. We don’t live in tyranny and we can talk freely. However, we are not talking about the surface, we want to go deeper. Let’s find out in our life whether there are some forces from society, but also within ourselves that push us into doing things.

Are we free? Am I free to do the things I want to do, to think what I want to think, to go the way I want to go? In society, there are certain norms I have to follow. For instance, if I belong to the Hindu religion, I am expected to behave in a certain manner and I am being judged if I do not act accordingly. If I am a Christian, it is the same. My neighbours are observing: is this person going to church? Is this person doing this or that? We have that social pressure on us. Of course, I can always claim to be free and try to live a life which I call freedom not doing what I am expected to do. Does this bring peace in me? No. It does not because now I have to face people who are surrounding me and I can feel their rejection. I am expected to follow a certain line and “I” decide that “I” want to be free so “I” don’t follow this line and this creates tensions within myself. Generally, this state does not last very long and little by little we start doing some things, some even that we do not want to do. We have to do things for our parents. There are things we have to do, some duties such as meeting with our parents at least once a year, and then on that Christmas or whatever meeting, there is fear. What are they going to tell me? I have been told that at Christmas there is often a fear of explosion; everyone will express all the things they are unhappy about and “I” have to take that shower. Have you faced something like this? If not from your family, from your friends or neighbours? Therefore, what do we do? We say that it is better to follow than to create conflicting feelings within ourselves. Hence society’s expectations on us, on every one of us is not allowing us to be who we are.

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How to Deal with Conflicts?

How to deal with conflicts? How to behave in a conflicting situation in which another person is being angry or aggressive towards me? I might be able to manage the situation within myself but not the other person; hence, how can I stop the other person’s anger?

To answer this question, I will tell you the story of the Buddha. There was an elephant who had become mad and broke his chains. In his anger, he destroyed the whole village and of course took some lives. When it approached the Buddha, instead of running away like others, He just stood steal, he did not react. There were no fears; He stood steal because from Himself there was no fear, only love and compassion. Immediately the elephant stopped and became calm.

Are there any ways that we can behave when someone is being aggressive? If you run away from your oppressor, he will think you are afraid. The Buddha just stood there and that calmed the elephant. The elephant lost it. Many times in life we lose it.

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How to be Present in our Lives to Find Freedom within Ourselves

What does it mean to be present in our lives? To understand what presence is, let’s first understand what being un-present means. We are often not in the present moment because we are driven by our fears and stay in our minds. Because our thoughts are not here and now, but somewhere in the future or in the past, we are missing incredible opportunities.

For instance, I am walking through a beautiful landscape but I am unable to see its beauty because I am having a conflict with my partner and I am arguing on how things should have been or should be etc. What a paradox! I am in a wonderful place but I am not in a wonderful place simultaneously. The view is breath-taking, and I am thinking, reviewing what I will say when I will be back from my walk and I have missed the whole opportunity of an amazing communion with nature. All this because I am unable to let go! Unable to be there! My mind, my fears are driving me away from the present moment. I am visiting a new city but I am not able to enjoy it because I am looking at how the rickshaw driver is driving; because I am really scared. Is that justified to be scared? My mind will find all sort of narration to justify my fears: “yes, it is normal to be scared, he is driving so fast etc”. In constantly doing so, I end up not knowing what it means to be there, in complete honouring of this moment. Even if it is not a fabulous view or an exciting place to visit, learn how to HONOUR THE PRESENT MOMENT, whatever it is, it does not matter how banal it is.
What matters is what is happening now. People are struggling to be in the present moment: Something very vital is happening, I need to attend to it, and I think that by being all in my mind, I am attending to it. But who is attending to it? A confused person. The person who has multiple desires that are conflicting with each other. Is that person really attending to the situation? And we go on like this. Attending, sort to say, to things which are “important” and the day is gone. And the next day again, we attend to other “important things”. Alternatively, I divert myself and I resort to amusement in which I am taking my mind away from the situation, from this present moment. I am taking myself purposely away. I am not saying it is bad. I listen to music, I go drumming etc. We all have our things and we never deal with the situation by learning how to be with the situation as it is, especially if it is not very pleasant. We try to avoid it, to put it aside. But is that the way? Is diversion ok? It is ok to relax yourself a little bit? You can convince yourself that it is ok and your situation will remain the same: days in and days out, your situation does not change and you carry on struggling with your life.

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Intensive Yoga Course is to Work on Awareness

Control is the next step; monitoring means to have the mind interfering with the thought or the world or your actions and I am asking you to just be aware that there are many things that happen with awareness. As soon as you become aware, you want to change something because you think that it is not right; and who is that is thinking? Who is thinking that this is not right? It’s your mind. The mind is useful but never in this sense where it guides our hand into everything… So, your two weeks of intensive, this is how this is intensive! Because you are going to immerse your attention into yourself. It is difficult in a place like Goa with all the distractions immediately as you go out of the centre. What to do... We are where we are, but if you want to work on yourself intensively, which I hope is the case. And you are going to ask yourself - is this the case? Then you are in the right place. Understand. You cannot do deep work just by being with the body; it’s gross. How deep will you go? But if you are willing to take on also the mind - this makes a change. Then what happens when we become aware? Things start to change automatically and it does not matter whether the results are positive; that does not matter: what matter is that I gave my total attention to it; that is what matters and we do not do that often. I am trying to make you see the two weeks ahead of us. I am not interested in pushing you around; why should I? I said the theme for this course; I am setting the theme; the rest is up to you. If you are honest, you go far, and if you are not, you stay where you are, it is up to you. I indicate, go this way, this is the way of the intensive work on yourself. So, let’s spend our two weeks aware.

Yoga Master Teacher Sharat Arora
Arambol Yoga Centre, North Goa, March 2012

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How to Release Back Pain through Yoga?

Let’s first examine what a normal back is like, then go into what a diseased back is and see how pain starts arising. Finally, we will explain how the yoga we are practicing in this centre takes this pain out.

So, how does a normal back looks like? We have two humps in our back: One at the top of the shoulder and the other in the buttocks area. This is how normal back looks like, as long as the spine maintains its rightful curve. The moment these curves change, it becomes imbalanced. We spent all our life bringing our back in non-balance.

Gravity does not spare anyone; look at a coconut tree, this defies nature. If your spine is imbalanced, gravity will still act on your spine and pull you down. Now something has to hold.

Try to resist gravity to maintain your back straight; those are called tensions, and when tensions stay on for a long time they become painful. How do we get rid of this pain?

Our back has become tight and has lost the capabilities for knowing what is straight because of bad habits. Bad habits come from our thinking process. If bad habits were only coming from the body it would be easy to correct. The habit of mental process means “how I think”; we all have a direction of thought; that direction of thought is inspired/influenced by the things that are important for us in our lives such as our desires, our fears all the things we like and dislike etc. Hence, in order to be aligned and to heal a painful back, the first thing to deal with is the mind. We need to take away the mental causes creating imbalances. Why do you think that most physiotherapies do not last long? Because they do not deal with the mind; hence, the old bad posture comes back. Actually, any diseases or pains are stemming from habit pattern of thinking. Fortunately for us, the yogis figured this out long back before science came.

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Questions & Answers New & Continuing Students

New students’ questions.

Q: Would it be worse doing the continuing week if I only have two-three days as I have to leave early this week.
A: Once you have done the first 5 days you have an introduction to everything that we teach. After that, we allow people to come for only two or three days of the continuing weeks if they wish.

Q: In case I have one hour to exercise, should I do continue three poses for 20 min or should 6 poses 10 min each?
A: Sir, if you had asked: I have only 5 minutes what shall I eat, it is the whole thing, take your time. Anyone who eats fast will have indigestion; it’s a wholesome practice; put it all in one, do the whole thing preferentially in the morning, you never know what happens in the evening. I suggest that you do one hour and a half by getting up earlier in the morning. Regarding standing poses you can do them 2 min each. One minute on each side. Suptavirasana minimum 5 minutes, shoulder stand minimum 10 minutes. Otherwise things do not work.

Q: I have a question about food. Is there a diet that could make the body more flexible?
A: What’s your concern about flexibility?

Q: I felt that being flexible would help me with my yoga. If my body is more flexible then the mind would be more...

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What Does Self-Care Really Mean in Yoga Practice?

What matters most in the process of Yoga is a state of relaxation and an attitude of care. You are learning how to be relaxed in your action. The way in which you practise Yoga should be of great concern.

If you keep plants at home and you care for them they are bound to flourish and grow. The same is true for the body. If you care for your body lovingly through your Yoga practice, then it will grow and become powerful and strong. The same is true for any living thing. When you give it loving care it will be nourished, without a doubt. If you are careless and use fertilisers and pesticides on your beloved plants then they will suffer. Accordingly, if you are out of touch with the needs of your body, and are unaware of its need for nutrition, cleanliness, and daily maintenance it will suffer as a result. Equally, if you feed your body with negative thoughts, judging how it looks with an attitude of worry and stress then, of course, it will suffer. Learn to care less about how you think it should look and care more about how it should be maintained. Just as you avoid putting unnecessary additives onto your plants, apply the same principle to your body, whether the additives are in the form of chemical medicines or toxic thoughts. Learn to give care to your body in every way including through right practice of Yoga.

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Yoga Puppetry - Yoga Karunta!

Yoga Karunta, also known as “yoga puppetry” is a wonderful tool to help students who have very tense and tight shoulders and imbalances in the shoulders itself with an additional benefit that it wakes you up. The movement brings the shoulders into balance by putting things into the correct place. It is a full rotation and powerful movement for the shoulders and must be practiced with awareness and control. Doing Yoga Karunta is like driving on the highway, you have to be very careful of what you are doing. At first the student needs to be in the presence of a teacher or capable assistant to ensure that they are doing it right for at least two to three weeks. Shoulders are one of the most unstable and complicated joints in the body. They are the most difficult and worst to repair. People with serious shoulder injuries need to dedicate two to three months of Yoga Therapy at the Centre with Yoga Master Teacher Sharat Arora for healing to happen and before attempting Yoga Karunta.

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Organs of Action in Iyengar Yoga

The hands and feet are the organs of action in the body. In Sanskrit this is called - Karma Indriya. The action in the feet has a direct effect on the alignment of the spine and body and it also influences how we breath. Refining the action in the feet brings clarity towards an experience in the stretch of the whole abdomen in all the standing postures. If the right action occurs, and the pose is done correctly all imbalances start to dissipate.  In order for this technique to work effectively it is vital that the stretching of the toes is done in conjunction with the pressing down of the centre of the heel. The entire sole of the foot is felt through stretching the toes up and this action makes the centre of the heel more accessible.

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Hanging Sirsana & the Earth Element

The connection to the earth is felt through the feet when standing upright.  Hanging upside down in Sirsasana inverts the foundation to be felt on the head, but only if the head is able to rest and connect to something for support. When free hanging without support under the head - full relaxation cannot occur because there is no earth quality. Earth quality is stability and stillness.

For a student who is new to hanging, free hanging is important to ensure that the spine can fully extend and become as straight and unrestricted as possible. Only once a student has reached a certain level of awareness and there are no serious issues in the neck or spine, can they be taught how to use head support. If the instruction is too premature, it will only fill a student’s head with too much information, over complicate things and potentially do more damage than good. A student may push the head down and squash the neck, which is the complete opposite intention of the pose.  The art of resting the head with support is therefore only taught on the Intensive Yoga Courses or Therapy Yoga Courses.

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Doing and Non-doing the 2 Universal Forces of the Sun and Moon

“The asanas of Hatha Yoga practices are there to bring about balance between SUN (action) and MOON (reflection) energy, so that blockages are removed and universal life force, is able to flow freely.” Sharat Arora

Our goal in life is not to become perfect, our goal in life is to become whole. In Hatha yoga there are two components to make up this whole, both equal in their importance.  Many schools of Yoga only focus on the SUN: action component of the above logical equation. The art of non-doing, MOON,  is just as integral in order to find true peace, experience harmony and balance in mind and body. For many people, the art of doing is the easy part. The art of non-doing, and quiet time for reflection is the real challenge. It’s far more difficult and sometimes even scary to go within and be with one’s nature so instead we turn back outside for distraction, towards doing, and the whole vicious cycle starts again.

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Yoga is not a Religion, but a Lifestyle Choice….

Yoga is so much more than an everyday ‘practice’. It is more that a way of living, it encompasses all of life itself. Yoga is an inward process designed to build and increase our awareness on every level. Yoga is essentially the cultivation of attention and self awareness. What we attend to and the attitude with which we attend to things greatly influence how we experience ourselves on a moment to moment basis in the world. The more we ‘practice’ yoga holistically the more mindful we become.

Yoga is logical and can actually be experienced and felt inside the physical body via feeling healthy and spacious. When someone is healthy, in a state of ease and balance in their own physical body, there is symmetry, the organs and muscles function optimally, and they have a certain ‘glow’ about them. There is comfort and harmony felt by that individual. Natural breathing and everyday living becomes effortless. This can actually be seen and felt and maintained through the practice of yoga asana and pranayama. The connection to the known, the physical sensations and breath of the body can be tangibly felt by every human being. Our state of mind is directly linked to how we breath, which can be proven medically. When the breath is calm, so too is the mind. The use of asana and meditation practice encourage the body to be vibrantly alive and in live in a state of mental peace and stillness. By maintaining the youth and integrity of the spine, a ‘yogi’ can have a calendar age of 60+ but, be living with the spine of a 16 year old. Yoga is about increasing one’s awareness of the self, not as an individual physical being, but as part of the greater universal whole. It’s about union with body, mind and energy and creation as a whole. On the physical level, Yoga can be proved and explained through medical jargon and scientific logic, based on fact.

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Yoga & Meditation

Yoga is Meditation and Meditation is Yoga. These two paths are intimately linked and one can even say that they are the same. Nowadays many people perceive Yoga to be a physical stretching practice, separate from Meditation. This division creates more duality and misunderstanding to the truth and the authenticity to The Laws of Nature.  Yoga is all about wholesomeness, oneness, union and non-duality.  The mind and the body are so intimately connected that ultimately there is no difference and they are telling us identical stories. Being the more visible aspect of our inner workings, the body often speaks more eloquently than the mind can speak for itself. When the body is aligned, calm and still, so too is the mind and vice versa. The body is a projection of the being - it does not lie.

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Alignment, Foundations & Props

“Goal of Liberation, Goal of Freedom.” Yoga Master Teacher Sharat Arora

Practicing asana with the correct foundation and alignment allows students to progress safely and to advance on a path towards balance and freedom at a quicker pace. If your roots are crooked then misalignment occurs and injury on a physical level as well as imbalance on a mental and energetic level can happen. The importance of having ‘active feet’, having aligned foundations, symmetry in the pelvis and making sure that the spine operates at 90 degrees to the earth, which is the natural gravitational force of the spine (earth connection), are all vital ingredients in the asana practice. When there is awareness, space, stability and alignment in these areas, one can achieve harmony and union in all places of the body and experience stillness in the mind.

It is wonderful to use props. We use props constantly in the modern world that we live in to make life more comfortable and easy. It is not going backwards, it's actually leaping forwards. The cushions, use of chairs or stools, blankets, blocks, belts, all help to gain balance and comfort faster. Instead of walking on the journey, you take a vehicle and arrive quicker. The various props are a vehicle to get to the destination faster. What is our destination when we do the postures? Balance and Harmony. It's only worth doing the poses if the goal and intention is balance and harmony. Otherwise it’s called gymnastics. Yes, it may work on the body because the asana moves all the muscles and flow of blood, but it doesn’t go beyond that. It doesn’t even go beyond to any mental transformation.

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How To Have A Healthy Mental State Through Yoga Practice

Your mental state leads you into the actions that you make: and the actions you make affect your mental state. There are people whose mental state requires self-assurance. There are people whose mental state makes actions with a goal in mind and when they do not achieve that goal they give up. Your mental state is a totality of all the things that happened to you in the past.  How you move in life and how many challenges you experience in life affects this state of mind and this is visible in the physical being. An individual’s walk indicates their mental tendencies and how they might interact in a given situation. From this, as practitioners of Yoga we can make a holistic diagnosis. For a Yoga teacher, diagnosing a body in motion will reveal much more about the mind than the diagnosis of a static body.

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How Do You Know Whether You Are Feeling A ‘Good’ Pain Or A ‘Bad’ Pain In Your Yoga Practice?

In Yoga poses like Supta Virasana, Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and Halasana the arms can go numb because the circulation is restricted. Imagine a dam; when the gates of the dam are closed the flow of water is cut off from its direct path and is distributed in different directions. The same is true in poses such as these. The blood flow to your arms is constricted and the blood is diverted to other parts of the body. When the arms come back down they are flushed with fresh blood. This is a process that happens in many of the Asanas; blood flow is constricted in an area so that it can be flushed with fresh blood upon release. How we interact with the sensations that come with these processes though, can dramatically transform our experience. It seems obvious that if we say ‘my arms are numb, it feels horrible’ then our experience of the Yoga pose will be certainly be horrible. How then do we distinguish between?

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What is intuition?

Intuition is a faculty which all of us have. What most of us do not know is the difference between intuition and guessing. This is what we have to build up and practise. Intuition is a faculty. Any faculty that I have needs to be recognized, until we recognize it, it is not there. How are you going to recognize intuition? It is there within you and in every single person.

To nurture your intuition you need to enhance your presence:
In my daily life I live in my mind, everything that arises in my mind I start to interact with it and I take it for truth. I have to recognize that this is my mind and I do so by being present. As soon as I want something I am no longer present, I am in movement pursuing my desires and like this I get sucked in. Unless I am able to recognize the mind and to know that I am in its power, intuition is not present and I  am in the hold of the mind.

You know the Bob Marley song with the lines 'Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind'? He recognized it, we all do. We need to recognize when we are absent and thus practise yoga to bring us back to presence. It puts our mind on hold while we are concentrating on our feet, on our breath. What an amazing thing! I manage to reduce the power of my mind. The power that the mind has over me, I make it a little less. The moment I become unaware, I am again lost.

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Everyday Spend Some Time In Peace

When I have a problem, it is an indication of misalignment. All disease it doesn’t matter which one, arthritis, cancer, all disease arises because of bad alignment. Alignment is on many levels; mental alignment or misalignment causes tension in the body. I’m not talking about physical imbalance. I’m talking about mental imbalance. In life when I wake up in the morning if I’m not positive this is going to cause misalignment in the whole day. For this reason it’s not possible to learn yoga just working on the body. One has to understand what mental misalignment is. We have to understand why misalignment happens. It’s caused by all the things that I really desire in my life, when I desire something I really want to go and get it and so that wanting, that craving causes tension. It is caused by ego, either feeling great or for that matter lack of ego, feeling like a mouse. All our desires, all the things that I don’t like, and all my fears cause stress and this causes misalignment.

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To Find Peace, First We Must Purify

Peace is like a cup that is washed, cleaned, and ready to use. The washing and the cleaning is not a very pleasant activity. If you look carefully, what does it mean, the washing and cleaning? It means you put some soap, scrub, take out the dirt or whatever is left of your food then you rinse it till the soap is gone. It’s not pleasant always, because what happens? If it’s big dirt it goes and clog the sink, blocks the pipes, when it gets blocked then there’s trouble because now you can’t wash any more. It’s trouble for you and for everyone. That cleaning process we call purification. To find peace first we must purify.

Purification is going to happen for everyone on this course. And sometimes there are some very heavy things that are going to go down the drain and clog it up and that will mean trouble. That trouble may come out as anger. When you’re angry the first person to blame is the teacher. The teacher is always in the firing range. How will it happen? You’ll start thinking ‘the teacher is wrong, is like this and that’ your mind starts to work. Or someone else is disturbing you and you blame that person. All these kind of things come up when purification is taking place. The dirt goes and gets stuck somewhere on someone else. This is inevitable.

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Sharat Arora
03 August 2016
16.10.14 When we do a practice like we do in our Iyengar Yoga centres, we gain understanding, so we increase our awareness about ourselves and about the world. We go inside and the mind slowly stops i...