Topic: Stress Relief
Author: Swami Sitaramananda DATE: Oct 29, 2016 Comments: 1
BLOG - VIETNAM YOGA
Thought Power and Stress Management for Health
“Health is wealth, peace of mind is happiness, Yoga shows the way.”
Swami Vishnudevananda, founder International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers
The Sivananda yoga system teaches techniques for health and peace of mind. They work together. Health brings peace of mind and peace of mind brings health. We can achieve both through the Yoga way of life, which increases both physical and mental health. Mental health implies that you are able to deal with stresses of daily life in a positive manner. Some stress-related diseases and symptoms include diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety, heart failure, stroke, sleep disorders, substance abuse, anger, abuse, and domestic violence.
The relationship between health and peace of mind is better understood by knowing what is prana, or vital energy, and what is thought power. Deficiency of vital energy and the corresponding negative thoughts are the origin of most diseases. Classical Yoga teachings aim to increase vital energy and develop positive thinking. Master Sivananda was a doctor and Swami Vishnudevananda was very health conscious. Swami Vishnu taught the Five Points of Yoga for health and peace of mind applicable for all kinds of people, cultures, age groups, races, social conditions, and physical fitness.
In order for the mind and body to be healthy, prana must flow properly. It must flow to all the organs without blockages. We have to clean the blockages in the body’s energy channels caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits. Yoga asana and pranayama purify the energy body and increase vitality. You can conserve energy and elongate the lifespan by calming the mind and breath and not identifying too much with the drama of life, which generates emotions such as fear and anger. Yoga teaches how to circulate energy to all the organs and how to raise the vibrational wavelengths in our mental and physical body through the performance of asana, pranayama, relaxation, vegetarian diet, positive thinking, and meditation. In the process, you purify yourself in many ways and are able to access and absorb the positive prana of life and of the whole universe that is always present to support you and your life. Because we forget the meaning of our lives and we neglect to connect to life’s Source, we make poor choices and, as a result, stress ourselves out and often times go in a downward spiral towards self-destructive habits (smoking, alcohol, drugs), negative mental responses to life challenges, such as anger, fear, worry, anxiety, psychosomatic diseases, and physical diseases.
Swami Sivananda has written over two hundred books on the science of Yoga and its practice. In his very powerful book, Thought Power, Swami Sivananda taught that thought is a subtle, irresistible force. This means that our thoughts have power, the power to build or destroy, to lift us up or pull us down. We are constantly manipulating the power of thought without any practical training in how to deal with these forces in our lives and in the environment.
We are at all times swimming in an ocean of thoughts. Our minds attract thoughts of the same nature and repulse others. We can learn to tune in or regulate the frequency of our thought waves those broadcasted by higher minds, or we can be pulled down by the frequency of thoughts of fear, anger, hatred, and desire coming from the lower mind. Especially in a world of fast speed internet and portable super computers, we can easily be stressed and influenced by negative thoughts.
Classical Yoga teachings say that by restraining the thought waves of the mind we can rest in our own true nature. If we are not relaxing in our positive, true self, we become restless, running here and there in the pursuit of illusory external happiness. When practicing yoga you learn to still the mind. The asanas, or yoga postures, are defined as steady poses. When the body is still the mind can also be still. When the breath is calm the mind can be calm, too. When the senses are calm the mind can more easily turn inward. The higher practice of yoga is the practice of positive thinking and meditation. One learns to constantly be aware of the thoughts and emotions of the mind, learns how to switch it from negative to positive, and at the end learns to transcend all thoughts and focus on the eternal and attain the supreme state of everlasting health and happiness. This is meditation.
The key to the practice of stilling the mind and overcoming stress is in two words: focus and detach. In the practice of yoga, through the inner focus on breath, the gentle movements of the body, and concentration of the mind we achieve both states. Focus means to restrain the mind when it runs like a wild monkey and concentrate this energy and increase its’ wavelength. This means instead of running around trying to experience everything under the sun we learn to do one thing at a time, to be contented, and to persevere towards our goal, not letting ourselves be influenced by the agitations and temptations of the world. Everyone can concentrate from a businessman to a house wife to a student. You can practice turning inward and being calm.
To detach means to keep oneself calm and not go with the drama the mind creates. Avoid extremes of love and hate. Do not become lost in thought, emotion, fear, reactivity, imaginary anticipation, and scenarios of what may and may not be. Instead, rest, relax, and enjoy. No effort is needed. No more running around. No more restlessness. The yogi is able to abandon him or herself and trust, not being fearful and defensive. The yogi experiences the state of beingness that is one with the universal beingness and, therefore, would not position him or herself as being separate or different. At that time, he or she can rest in their own true, positive nature. There are many yogic techniques to switch negative thoughts to positive thoughts.
When peace of mind comes happiness follows. If we look for happiness, rather than for peace of mind we might look in the wrong places. Peace of mind means a balanced, calm, focused and clear mind which is not deluded, not crazy, not stressed, not overactive and restless, not depressed and lethargic, and not fearful. Yoga lifestyle with the five points helps increase prana, thought control and brings about peace of mind and helps achieve, maintain, and manage our life challenges, so that our stresses will not accumulate and impact our physical health. The five points of yoga taught by Swami Vishnu and the teachers in this tradition in all the Sivananda centers are: (1) proper exercise (asanas), (2) proper breathing (pranayama), (3) proper relaxation (savasana), (4) proper diet (vegetarian, natural), (5) positive thinking and meditation.
The twelve asana postures in the Sivananda yoga sequence are practiced with breath awareness and concentration and following a specific sequence beginning with sun salutations, followed by twelve postures with prayer at the beginning and end. It is best to practice yoga in a quiet and beautiful environment. The twelve postures help us to go inward, recharge ourselves from top to bottom, and balance our energy from inside out. The Sivananda asana sequence consists of the following: initial relaxation, sun salutations, the twelve poses: head stand, shoulder stand, plow, fish, seated forward bend, cobra, locust, bow, seated spinal twists, crow, standing forward bend, triangle, plus balancing posture, and final relaxation. There are many variations to the fundamental postures. Three stress-relieving postures include shoulder stand, forward bend, and cobra. The postures for relaxation include savasana, child’s pose, and standing forward bend.
Oct 29, 2016 2:21 pm • Swami Adiparashaktiananda
Great article by Swami Sitaramananda'ji. So inspiring.