On One Leg 'Tapas' sequence
One minute overview
Regular speed version HERE
March 2018 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami--Dhruva
In the course of teaching my 100 Hr Vinyasakrama Yoga Programs, I have found that even though many are less than enthusiastic about pranayama and one legged standing postures, soon they seem to develop a liking after practising them for a few days. In the course the participants are not only used to a variety of pranayamas but also develop endurance to practice pranyama for many rounds even upto 80 times per sitting taking almost 45 minutes. Since most contemporary yoga practitioners are not introduced to pranayama there is some reservation of doing it, it is not exciting as vinyasas or complicated five star asanas. But once the participants are told the immense benefits of pranayama many start practice reluctantly but soon enough experience the calming and refreshing effects of this important yoga practice. It is said that Hata yoga means pranayama and then in Ashtanga yoga pranayama is a central anga of the eight aspects. Once practice of pranayama is done for a few weeks say a month regularly for a significant number of time daily the yogi gets to appreciate the subtle benefits, develop the positive samskaras and then make it part of regular yoga practice along with asanas and vinyasas. My Guru would never teach me asanas alone, asanas practice will invariably be followed by pranayama. Pranayama removes tamas as mentioned by Patanjali, it also facilitates easy performance of the vital bandhas.
Though I personally like to do one legged poses, I always felt that participants are not particularly pleased to do one legged poses maybe except for a photo op. But the one legged poses are considered poses of tapasvins as many great sages stood on one leg and did penance or tapas. Earlier I wrote the story of King Bhagirata who standing on one leg was able to get the waters of the sacred Ganga flow down to the plains. This asana Bhagiratasana also known as tree pose is a great asana if one could stay in the pose for a reasonable amount of time. So in my earlier TT programs I suggested to the participants who are usually excited doing warrior pose and hand stands, to see if they would stand in these one legged poses (there are quite a few of them). Some started reluctantly but they started liking it. Slowly they would regularly stay in these poses for 5 minutes or even more. These poses give a very good sense of balance (including mental) perseverance and patience.
Here is story of one great yogi who stood on one leg and got the vision and presence of the Lord which I am reproducing from an earlier newsletter.
King Uttanapada had two spouses. The first one was the satwic Suniiti
and, as the name would indicate, she was very pious (dharmic). She had
a son, Dhruva, the steadfast one. Customarily the elder wife of the
King is the Queen, entitled to all the regal rights, and so her son
was the crown prince. The King’s second wife, Suruchi, as the name
would indicate, was extremely beautiful, but highly rajasic, totally
after power, possession and position. Over a short period of time, she
managed to bring the King to dance to her tunes. She became the Queen
herself and manipulated the King to agree to make her son Uttama the
crown prince. Soon Suniiti and her son were banished from the palace
and remained in a secluded place. The toddler Dhruva and his pious
single mother lived without any contact with the King.
To cut the story short, one day the child Dhruva aimlessly wandered
into the court of the King. His father was on the throne, his
stepmother occupied the seat next to the King and Uttama, his half
brother was sitting cozily in the lap of his father. Impulsively the
four year old ran towards his father to sit on his already occupied
lap. Everyone including the King was paralyzed by this unexpected
event. Suddenly the King felt a swell of filial affection towards his
son and stretched his arms to embrace the child. But Suruchi saw what
was coming and did not like it at all. She saw the charming majestic
child running with glee towards the father and felt a tinge of
jealousy. “Why is my son Uttama so dull and tamasic while this child
even though not born to me is so captivating?” She regretted that
Dhruva was not her baby and soon the jealousy grew into an
uncontrollable rage. She stopped the child violently and sternly told
her stepson that only her child could sit on the King’s lap. She
mockingly said that he should pray to God to be born as her son if he
wanted that privilege. The henpecked King did nothing to alleviate the
remorse of the child who could not have the legitimate and simple
desire to sit on the father’s lap fulfilled. Feeling like a total
stranger in his own rightful abode, the child, crying inconsolably,
ran towards his own small apartment and fell on his mother’s lap.
Suniiti became distraught at the plight of her son and tried to
console him. The sobbing child narrated what happened and expressed
his anger at the deeds of his stepmother. Suniiti tried to reason with
him. “Oh my Child! Everyone gets what one deserves depending upon
previous Karmas. Your stepmother and your stepbrother must have done
exceptionally punya deeds in their previous births and accumulated a
favorable karma bundle. No one can enjoy the luxuries of a queen or
the crown prince without having done punya karmas in their previous
births. Wise ones are always content with what they have(santosha).
You should ponder over this and should learn to do great Karmas so
that you also will enjoy the fruits of good deeds. So pray to God.
There is no Karma more pious than worshipping the Lord”, she advised
her son of 4 to5 years. Dhruva, with a renewed resolve, said to his
mother that he does not hanker after what does not belong to him. He
would pray and do penance to God and achieve what none had achieved.
One definition of Yoga is ‘achieving the impossible’ (apraapya
Pondering deeply over the incidents and his mother’s words, the child
decided to approach the Almighty- Lord. He went out of the house into
the wilderness in search of the Lord. On the way he was met by Narada,
the great divine sage, a consummate devotee of the Lord. Looking at
the prince with an innocent face going into the forest, he stopped the
child and said that he appeared to have lost his way and that he,
Narada, would take him back to his home. Dhruva said that he was
determined to do penance to please the Lord and achieve what none had
achieved. Narada tried further to dissuade him by saying that penance
was very difficult, one should go without food, water, sleep or
shelter for a long time, but Dhruva which means ‘the steadfast’
hardly budged. Then Narada decided to help the child in its arduous
task. He asked him if he knew how to pray to the Lord, how to
meditate, how to do penance and the child said ‘no’ to everything. The
sage decided to teach the child the practice of rituals and
meditation. He taught him the twelve syllable vasudeva mantra “OM NAMO
BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAAYA”. Narada also explained to him in detail the
form of the Lord to meditate upon as he knew it. The child carefully
heard Narada’s words and started his penance standing on one leg. Then
he closed his eyes and focused his attention on the enchanting form of
the Lord as detailed by Narada. Soon his mind was in total dhyana of
the Lord (Bhagavat dhyaana). He used the mantra effectively to prop
his meditation on the form of the Lord, as if following the classic
instruction of the Raja Yogi Patanjali—tat japah tat arthabhhavanam.
During the several months Dhruva was in Bhagavat dhyana, Indra the
boss of the gods was unnerved. He felt that Dhruva was after his
position and hence tried to distract the child by creating many a
disturbance. But Dhruva remained totally concentrated.
Finally the Lord, so pleased with the penance and meditation of the
child devotee, decided to appear before him. The formless Lord took
the enchanting form the child was meditating on and appeared before
him and called out to him to draw his attention. But the child’s
ekagrata stayed unwavering. Then the Lord decided to get him out of
his trance and withdrew His form from the child’s meditating mind and
absorbed it into His own. Finding suddenly the captivating object he
was meditating upon disappearing, the startled child opened his eyes
only to see the Lord just in front of him. For a moment the child
thought that the Lord was leaving him. He cried out and pleaded to Him
not to leave him. The Lord consoled him and said that he had appeared
before him to answer his prayers and asked what boon he wanted.
Completely captivated by the Lord the child wanted nothing except to
see the Lord in his mind for ever. The Lord reminded him of his
initial resolve to achieve what none had achieved and promised him an
exalted position in the galaxy, a star that never wavered, the Pole
Star or the North Star. But the Lord said that Dhruva should first
complete his obligations. He should return to the kingdom where his
father would welcome him back with all the love and respect due to a
crown prince. He should then succeed his father to the throne and rule
the kingdom justly. Dhruva returned home to a warm welcome from his
father and the whole country. The Lord had by then appeared in the
dream of the King Uttanapada and reminded him of his filial
responsibilities and chided him for his cowardice. Dhruva later ruled
the Kingdom with rare maturity and fairness and was hailed as one of
the greatest emperors. Then he attained his exalted position as the
Pole Star. Dhruva with total dedication and Bhakti to the Lord
attained what was considered impossible to start with.
I am teaching a 15 day 100 hr Vinyasakrama yoga teacher training at Yoga Vahini in Chennai. 32 hardworking talented participants from several countries are taking part. The program will be over on March 2nd 2018.
Thank you Valentina Tarla, Liz Richards for the pictures
Then I am scheduled to teach a ten day 50 hr program on Bhagavatgita from the 6th March 2018. We will be going through all the slokas of the 18 chapters. It is being organized by Om Yoga in New Delhi. Here is the contact e mail.