June 2017 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami--Posts
The Bhagavatgita is a Yoga Shastra or a Yogic text. Sri Krishnamacharya gave considerable importance to teaching the Gita as much as he gave to the Yoga Sutras. In the course of my long study with him he taught the Gita complete in considerable depth. I am teaching the Gita verse by verse at Loyola Marymount University for ten days for 50 hrs. During the same period I will be teaching a 20 hr Vinyasakrama Asana program at LMU. For the links to these programs please visit the Events page of my website. As I had mentioned earlier I am unlikely to repeat these programs in the West.
Here are some of my facebook posts in recent days. Hope you like them.
When I keep my mouth wide open, keep my tongue straight and utter a sound, the throaty or guttural sound, it will be 'a' as in 'up'. Continuing the sound when I start closing my mouth seamlessly the sound become 'u' as in 'woman.
Then as I continue with making the sound and close my mouth with the lips touching each other it becomes 'm' as in 'hum'. When I do this three sounds in one go quickly, in three matras, then it is the sound of the “om” syllable, the pranava mantra. Vowels 'a' and 'u' combine and become a diphthong “o' like in 'over'.
Om is chanted by completely opening the mouth and closing the mouth fully and making an uninterrupted sound, starting from the throat and ending with the lips.
The sanskrit alphabets start with the vowel 'a' and end with the consonant 'm' the first and last letter in 'om' and of course leaving aside the semi vowels like 'ya' and sibilants like 'sa'. All the letters can be grouped into guttural, lingual, palatal, dental and of lips or labial. These vowels and consonants combine to form syllables. The syllables are arranged into words which form all the mantras in the scriptures like the vedas. So the syllable “om” contains symbolically all the letters of Sanskrit, thus the words and so the mantras and the vedas. Vedas are supposed to have the aim of revealing the ultimate reality Brahman. So the vedas are sometimes referred to as sabda brahman of brahman of sound (words/mantras). We may say that 'OM' represents the Brahman. And further according to the Vedas the Brahman contains the entire universe.
So we have the sacred or the 'mystic' mantra 'om' or pranava representing Brahman the ultimate and only reality which the upanishad seekers, the rishis, attained by chanting and understanding the import of the pranava mantra.
Here is a quote from Taittiriya Upanishad
Om is Brahman. Om is all these (the universe)
Separating the never changing consciousness (Self) from the ever changing mind-body- life force (prana) complex is a great gift from the yoga sastras (texts) like the Bhagavat Gita, Yoga Sutra
Yogangas and the gunas
Heavy tamas depresses the mind
Unhinged Rajas disturbs the mind
Uplifting Satva delights the mind
Yogasanas, pranayama and dhyana
All working in tandem
Help satva come to the fore
Yoga and onepointedness (Ekagra)
A meditating yogi has to keep the mind in a state of ekagrata ( one pointed) . It would require that the yogi reduces distractions considerably. The distractions of the external world are attempted to be eliminated by deliberate observance of the yamaniyamas. The distractions of the body are reduced by judicious selection and practice of asanas with vinyasas. Then the distractions of one's own mind are dealt with by eliminating the mind cobwebs by Pranayaama. Then one is ready for meditation.
Paschimatanasana is a very important posture with hatayogis. Sri Krishnamacharya would commend including this asana during daily practice, staying for a long time 5 to 10 mts with long ujjayi exhalation followed by bahya kumbhaka (breath holding after exhalation) for a sweet 5 secs or so while holding the bandhas. What is the meaning of pachimatanasana? paschima means later, hind, posterior or west. tana is to stretch. So paschimatana is translated as western stretch in the west translating paschima as west. But paschima is also posterior or back, so paschimatanasana would be posterior stretch pose. It could be seen that this posture facilitates the stretching of the heels, achilles tendon, calf muscles,thighs hamstrings, gluteal muscles back--- a complete posterior stretch. This and purvatanasana are practised in tandem. purva is front, anterior or east. Purvatanasana is usually done as a pratikriya or counterpose to long paschimatanasana, may be three to six movements. Paschimatanasana is a complete posterior stretch pose with a good pelvic tilt. It is an important pose in Krishnmacharya's Vinyasakrama yoga practice.
(For the complete vinyasakrama trteatment of this asana please refer to chapter 3 of my book, 'Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga'
The sweet fragrance of a tree full of flowers in full bloom reaches far and wide. Likewise the pleasant aroma of lofty karmas travel far and wide in the universe.
A lovely mantra from Maha narayana upanishad
Many times we are reluctant to pursue truth as it could be bitter. But the truth about the nature of the self in every one of us, according to Vedanta is sweet, immensely sweet.
May Surya (sun), the powerful anger that enslaves everyone (mamanyu) and the gods that have sway over anger protect me from committing sins arising out of anger---- A dawn prayer to Sun as part of the morning ritual Sandhyavandana.
This is a vedic mantra.
सूर्यश्च मामन्युश्च मन्युपतयश्च मन्युकृतेभ्यो पापेभ्यो रक्षन्ताम्।
sūryaśca māmanyuśca manyupatayaśca manyukṛtebhyo pāpebhyo rakṣantām|