I am continually amazed at the comprehensiveness of Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings for the balanced development of body, mind and spirit. There is almost no aspect of our lives to which Yogananda hasn’t applied the ancient science of yoga, and given us a practical, straight-forward regime to follow—getting along with your employer, developing personality, finding the correct spouse, destroying bad habits, making friends, overcoming nervousness—to mention only a few.
The list of subjects to which Yogananda applied his cosmic vision is seemingly endless, and all this was in addition to his real mission—to bring us practical and proven techniques for soul liberation. No wonder he said,
“If you do one-hundredth of what I’ve given you, it is sufficient.”
One of Yogananda‘s practical regimes for personal improvement that I’ve taken to heart is his “Nine-Day Cleansing and Vitalizing Diet.” Since the first time I tried it many years ago, I’ve experienced remarkable results, and have tried to do it with groups, a few others, or alone each year.
What is the Nine-Day Cleansing Diet? The brief description that follows provides all the information needed for you to successfully complete the diet.
The food allowed each day for the nine days is:
1 ½ grapefruits
1 ½ lemons
1 cooked vegetable with juice (quantity optional)
1 raw vegetable salad
1 glass orange juice*
3 cups of Vitality Beverage (one cup at each meal)
*to be taken every night before going to bed with ½ tsp. of senna leaves or Swiss Kriss, and later increase to 1 tsp.
2 stalks chopped celery
5 carrots (chopped) including part of stem
1 bunch chopped parsley
½ qt. chopped dandelion, or turnip greens, or spinach
1 qt. water
No salt or spices
The vitality beverage may be prepared in two ways, the first being preferable:
1. After putting celery and carrots through food processor, or chopping them finely, lightly boil them in the water for ten minutes. Then add selected greens and parsley and boil ten minutes more. Strain by squeezing through a cheesecloth.
2. Use the same ingredients, but do not cook them. After putting them through a vegetable juicer, strain as above.
Drink one cup of the beverage, prepared by either method, at each of the three meals. That’s it—nothing more, nothing less.
The vitality beverage is essential to the cleansing action of the diet. I’ve tried both of the above two ways of preparing it and prefer the first, which involves boiling the chopped vegetables.
The raw vegetable method produces a juice similar to fresh carrot juice. The cooked method produces a bland-tasting broth similar, for those of you familiar with it, to Beiler’s “Potassium Broth” or Paavo Aerola’s broth, both of which are recommended for cleansing purposes. Try both the boiled and raw vegetable methods and decide for yourself.
What results have I experienced?
You may experience irritability in the first few days. Whether this reaction is caused by the release of toxins, I don’t know, but it’s wise to give someone on the diet a wide berth during the first few days. My husband, Jyotish, and I have an agreement that anything said during the beginning of the diet cannot be held against us. This plan has worked well, and we’ve stayed together through many successful attempts at the cleansing diet.
Sometimes people have headaches during the first few days, especially those addicted to coffee or black tea. The headaches seem to be caused by caffeine withdrawal.
You may also find a psychological change in your attitude towards food. Although you are actually eating large quantities of food, because the food is without salt, oil, or seasonings of any kind, it doesn’t provide the sensory satisfaction that we usually get from food. You may find yourself not interested in food at all.
Interested in trying the diet?
Here are a few tips I’ve discovered:
1. Practice Yogananda’s Energization Exercises at least once a day during the diet. Your awareness of subtle life energy is greatly increased at this time, and you can feel more sensitively the flow of prana through the medulla to the body parts.
2. Take regular sunbaths exposing as much of the body as possible to direct sunlight. Yogananda said you can receive up to ten times the benefit from solar energy if you consciously draw it into your body cells.
3. I find the Nine-Day Diet easiest to complete during the spring or summer months, which seems to be a natural cleansing time for the body. Also, because of the decreased caloric intake, the body tends to feel cold during the diet, which is less of a problem in the warm weather. In the spring and summer, there is also a greater variety of vegetables available for steaming.
4. Yogananda also recommends taking nightly warm baths with Epsom salts or some other good bath salt. The cleansing and rejuvenation of the skin produced by the diet are remarkable, and these warm salt baths aid in this process.
5. The regime of food consumption that works best for me is: Breakfast—grapefruits and vitality beverage; lunch—salad and vitality beverage; and dinner—steamed vegetables, lemons and vitality beverage, with oranges eaten through the day. Experiment and find what works best for you.
6. When coming off the diet, eat lightly and simply for the first few days. Someone once said, “Any fool can fast, but it takes a wise man to end his fast well.”
Yogananda called this Nine-Day Cleansing Diet “a method for rejuvenating the body cells and awakening the latent powers of the mind and the inner forces of the soul.” I heartily encourage you to launch into this spiritual adventure and challenge, and enjoy for yourself its remarkable benefits.
Reprinted from Clarity Magazine, July 1988. Nayaswami Devi, together with her husband Nayaswami Jyotish, is Co-Acharya (Spiritual Director) for Ananda Sangha Worldwide.
Like the Chinese Wudang mountains, tai chi history is the stuff of legends and mist. Even simple questions, such as “How did tai chi begin?”, have no simple answers.
The origin of tai chi can’t be easily summarized. We don’t know who founded tai chi or in what year (or century) that occurred. Instead, there are three major theories about the origin of tai chi.
Read more below and find the one that seems most appealing. Or simply immerse yourself in the stories, background, and legends around the origin and evolution of tai chi.
Theory 1. Snake vs Crane. The origin of tai chi may in fact spring from the Wudang mountains in the 12th century. Some hold that the Taoist sage Chang San Feng was there when he happened to observe a deadly fight between a snake and the crane. The crane attacked, stabbing and jabbing at the snake. Somehow, the snake managed to evade. The snake fought back with whip-like attacks of its own. But, the crane deflected these attacks by fiercely spreading its wings.
Inspired by this scene, Chang San Feng went on to create the soft internal martial art of tai chi. He included moves inspired directly from the crane and the snake. His new fighting style was very different from the external Shaolin Temple gung fu, emphasizing relaxed movements. Being a high level Taoist, he also infused it with the wisdom, military strategies, and longevity methods of Taoism.
Theory 2. A Mysterious Stranger Brings Tai Chi to the Chen Village. Tai chi was passed down to Wang Tsung Yueh, a mysterious stranger who travelled to the Chen village. While at the local inn, he let loose with a string of insults about the village’s martial arts. The Chen villagers responded accordingly and fiercely attacked Wang.
Although outnumbered, Wang was the clear victor. The next day, he became the official Chen village martial arts teacher. Wang taught the villagers how to modify their Shaolin-like martial art with the internal principles of his style.
Theory 3. A Seasoned Chen Fighter Creates Tai Chi. Others argue that tai chi was created in the Chen village by a Chen warrior. The headman Chen Wan Ting (1600-1680) had mastered numerous martial arts techniques while serving as a general in the Chinese army. He combined the best aspects from various combat styles he’d learned, then added components from Chinese medicine and the acupuncture meridian system to create a tai chi fighing style to protect his village.
The martial applications of tai chi–with underlying Chinese medicine principles and some internal Taoist practices—was known, thriving, and also well-guarded in the Chen village by the 17th Century.
Chen Village: First Known Tai Chi School. The list of stories on the origin of tai chi goes on. But most agree that the first records of tai chi as a distinct martial art stem from the Chen village. How long it had been practiced prior and by whom may well remain a mystery.
The Yang Style Arises from the Chen. The secrets of the Chen style tai chi may have remained locked within the borders of the Chen village for many more years, if it weren’t for the dedication and ingenuity of Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872). He initially infiltrated the Chen village but eventually gained their recognition and respect—and equally or more importantly, became an official student of their martial arts.
After mastering the techniques, Yang left with the blessings of the Chen village and travelled throughout China. He went on to serve the Chinese emperor with his martial arts skills, and to found the Yang style of tai chi.
The Wu Style Arises from the Yang. In addition to being an amazing martial artist, Yang Lu Chan was also talented as a teacher—not a common combination. One of his top students was Chuan You (1834-1902), who went on to found the Wu style. That’s not a typo. It’s called the Wu style because the family was forced to change their surname for political and safety reasons.
Chuan You’s son, Wu Jien Chuan (1870-1902), as well as Chuan You’s grandchildren, went on to create their own variations of Wu style tai chi.
Changes in the Early 20th Century. In the early 20th century, more people were able to learn about the health benefits of tai chi. This was due to the more open teachings by descendants of the Yang and Wu style founders, including Yang Shaohou, Yang Chengfu, and Wu Chien Chuan.
Tai Chi Goes Underground in China. The creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1945, as well as the ensuing Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), and Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), brought about great changes in the practice of tai chi. This was a time of wanton destruction of ancient buildings, artifacts, and knowledge.
Tai chi was likewise suppressed because of its notable history and links to the Taoist and Buddhist religions. Potential fighters and rebels were targeted by the government. Within China, tai chi masters stopped teaching, hid their skills and went underground in order to survive.
Tai Chi in the West. Some tai chi masters managed to flee. Outside of China, tai chi began to be taught more openly, as these teachers sought to keep the knowledge of their lineage alive.
Cheng Man Ching, highly schooled in Yang style tai chi (as well as other arts including traditional Chinese medicine and calligraphy), moved to New York and began to teach in 1964. He, and other skilled practitioners, brought tai chi out of China and to a range of students in the West.
Tai Chi for National Health in China. Although disdainful of the religious aspects of tai chi and also wanting to suppress the potential threat posed by skilled tai chi fighters, the Chinese government nevertheless embraced the health benefits of tai chi.
The government even created and promoted simple forms of tai chi. In 1956, the Chinese Sports Committee created the Beijing short form, probably the most popular form practiced today. Read more about this in the section.
Tai chi is now the national exercise of China. With support from the government, tai chi has since moved out from the underground and into universities and government-supported sports and martial arts programs in China.
Tai Chi Today. Currently, there are over 200 million practitioners of tai chi throughout the world. From its roots in China, its popularity has spread to become a form of exercise appreciated around the globe for its health, stress control, and self defense benefits.
By Kino MacGregor
A guru is a person whose very presence imparts truth and awakening in the disciple. When I traveled to Mysore for the first time at the age of twenty-two, I asked Sri K. Pattabhi Jois where I could find the elusive state of inner peace that all yoga practice seeks to instill. Known as Guruji to his students, he said, “You take it practice many years, then Shantih is coming . . . no problem,” and my heart opened to the grace of his teaching. It is my great fortune to consider this amazing man my teacher, and I attribute the depth of my personal practice and teaching to the light that Guruji’s fire ignited within me.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught Ashtanga yoga for more than 65 years before passing on May 18, 2009. The depth and power of Guruji himself inspired his students to have faith in themselves and in Ashtanga yoga. The miracle of Jois’s life and legacy far exceeds his physical presence and is perhaps the very definition of the word guru. The strength of Jois’s very being made the difference in his teaching, and his spirit will live in yoga forever. Speaking in his endearingly broken English, Guruji communicated a transcendental knowledge of yoga despite his lack of full linguistic fluency. It is not what he said, but the space that he held that carried forth the ineffable and made realization possible in every student lucky enough to practice under his guidance. While Guruji may have left this Earth, he lives in the pulse of every Ashtanga yoga student and teacher around the world.
Each day of Jois’s life was marked by a relentless devotion to the Ashtanga yoga lineage which he carried with absolute integrity. A humble man born in a small village called Kowshika in southern India on guru purnima day (the first full moon of July in 1915, designated as a national holiday in India to honor all gurus), his life embodied the tradition of the sacred teacher-student relationship. First, Jois became a devoted student after discovering yoga at the age of 12 when he saw the man who would become his teacher, Krishnamacharya, give a yoga demonstration at his school. Studying daily for two years, he devoted himself to yoga at an early age and ultimately moved to Mysore to continue his education in yoga and Sanskrit studies. There he flourished as a scholar and yoga teacher. It was only after Jois taught the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar, that the Yoga Department of the Sanskrit College of Mysore was establised on March 1, 1937 with the approval and blessing of Krishnamacharya. After 37 years of professorship, Jois earned the title of Vidwan (professor emeritus of Sanskrit Studies).
Though he was a Sanskrit scholar, Jois remained true to his teachings in yoga and regarded practical, direct experience as the highest form of learning. He said numerous times that yoga is “99% practice, 1% theory.” Throughout his years as a professor, Guruji also taught yoga in a small room on the first floor of his modest house in Mysore and encouraged every student to find the personal experience of truth that yoga practice offers. More often than not, the group was small and less than enthusiastic. Thankfully, Guruji persisted for nearly 30 years before passionate interest developed. He never doubted the method of Ashtanga yoga, nor his ability to teach. Instead, he persisted against all odds and guarded the sacred jewel of the yoga tradition with reverence. If not for his steadfast belief in the validity of Ashtanga yoga throughout the years in which he lacked worldly success, yoga as we know it would not exist. Only in the early 1970s, when his son, Manju Jois, traveled southern India to give Ashtanga yoga demonstrations, did the first American students travel to Mysore and invite Jois to travel, teach and tour. Subsequently, both Guruji and his son made their first tour outside of India and arrived in California in 1975 carrying the mantle of Ashtanga yoga. Manju stayed to teach and still resides in California, making time to travel the world sharing his good-humored presence. Since that serendipitous tour, Ashtanga yoga has spread like wildfire around the globe, growing geometrically each year.
Always joyful to see a new student, Guruji carried the torch of Ashtanga yoga while it grew over the last 34 years from a few disinterested students to a flowering, international community of dedicated, passionate practitioners. He lived to see the full fruition of his life’s work as Ashtanga yoga spread to more than 30 different countries, transformed thousands (if not millions) of yoga practitioners, and sprouted studios all over the world.
Ashtanga yoga is now one of the most powerful, popular and proven methods of yoga. This dynamic flowing series of postures traces its lineage to an ancient sage named Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. Combining breath and movement in vinyasa, Ashtanga yoga purifies the body through the stimulation of internal heat (agni). In the tristana method specifically taught by Jois, Ashtanga practitioners concentrate their minds by focusing on three things: breath (ujjayi pranayama), posture (asana) and gaze (dristhi). In more than 65 years of diligent, soulful teaching, Guruji maintained the Ashtanga yoga method in its pure form. To experience firsthand the transformative power of yoga, authorized and certified Ashtanga yoga teachers regularly study at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. This type of study exemplifies the ancient tradition of guru parampara (an unbroken succession of direct teacher-to-student transmission).
Guruji used to say,
“Ashtanga yoga is for all people–old people, young people, fat people, skinny people–only, not lazy people.”
That is because Ashtanga yoga is challenging: it asks tightness to bend, softness to be strong, and pushes the limits of the mind and the body beyond popular medical notions of safety, possibility and comfort. In doing so, practitioners literally expand their consciousness. The practice comprises six series of postures, yet most practitioners spend their entire lives working on the first or Primary Series of Ashtanga yoga because its levels of strength and flexibility are already quite challenging. However, the Primary Series is a complete practice that burns through accumulated toxins within the body. Without regular cleansing, the body collects toxins from the environment, food and even emotional states that, if left unattended, can sometimes lead to disease and discomfort later in life. Health and comfort can return to the body with regular, disciplined yoga practice. While Ashtanga yoga is no magic pill to cure all ailments, Jois’s long, healthy life is a testament to the true power of Ashtanga yoga. Yoga is as strong as you make it and takes you as deeply as you are willing to go.
We have the practice of Ashtanga yoga today because of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’s unwavering dedication to sharing his wisdom to every student who was willing to work at this daily discipline. There is no greater way to honor Guruji’s life than to get on our mats and practice every day. He gave us the gift of Ashtanga yoga, and now it is our responsibility to venerate his memory with our own commitment to yoga. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that Guruji wants us all to take “practice, practice, practice . . . then all is coming.”
In today’s world, the very word and concept of Yoga is greatly misunderstood – Yoga can be used for fitness, toning of the muscles, balancing, relaxation and rejuvenation, as these are some of its beautiful effects, but it’s true purpose is far beyond that. Before diving into the topic of the true purpose of Yoga, let us briefly look into its history and the rich tradition that brought it forward to the present day.
BRIEF HISTORY OF YOGA
The word Yoga comes from Sanskrit ‘yug’, meaning to yoke, join, connect or unite – to unite with our Higher Self. Yoga can also mean “to attain what was previously unattainable” or “to cause change”.
The forefathers of Yoga were spiritual explorers/inner scientists, in search of the secrets of a healthy and truly happy life. These sages did not set out to put their bodies into pretzel positions or stand on their head. They were fueled by the idea that life has something deeper and more meaningful to offer if one is able to tune in to the soul’s purpose. While spending lengths of time in meditation and through careful observation of the ways of nature, they realized that sincere inner exploration is not easy. To start with, one needs a strong and supple body and sharp mental focus in order to prepare oneself for the dive within and deep inner cleansing. The complex system of postures and techniques that we now call Hatha Yoga was born from this observation. This goes to say that all the stretching and movement one does in Yoga was originally designed to prepare the practitioner to sit still and dive deep within effectively and effortlessly.
“Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” is Patanjali’s famous definition of Yoga. In short, it means, “Yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind”.
Chitta is mind, vrittis are thought impulses, nirodah is removal.
Although nobody can own Yoga, Patanjali is known as ‘the father of Yoga’ because he was the first to codify various Yoga teachings around 300 B.C. Throughout the centuries, yogis practiced intense and methodical investigation into their minds and looked deep within themselves to find the answers to life’s most pertinent questions. All in all, the Yoga that we get to practice today stems from an unimaginably rich tradition.
The benefits of Yoga are many. Yoga provides both, instant gratification and lasting transformation. True Yoga practice incorporates awareness in the practice of asanas (Sanskrit word meaning ‘steady pose’), pranayama breathing techniques, meditation and mantras. Moreover, it also teaches us how to incorporate awareness and purity at the level of thoughts, words and actions and assume responsibility for creating our own reality.
Yoga is much more than an exercise. The practice of Yoga allows students to achieve stillness in a world engrossed in chaos and to tap into the consciousness of the ‘inner witness’, the operating mode of our soul. In other words, Yoga students gradually learn how to rise above the pull of mind, emotions, and lower bodily needs and face any challenge of life with maturity. This lasting transformation is the promise of Yoga to all sincere practitioners.
METHODOLOGY & TRUE PURPOSE OF YOGA
Yoga practice is not so much about the skill but about the feeling and sincerity of practice. Yoga students/practitioners have to be taught how to really apply themselves during their Yoga practice and allow themselves to go beyond the mind and ego, becoming aware of every cell in the body vibrating in perfect harmony. Meditation and Yoga Nidra (or yogic sleep) done after one hour of Yoga asanas are of crucial importance and are considered essential in order to allow for the transformative results of Yoga. If a sponge is not left in water long enough, it will not absorb the water. In the same way, if one doesn’t allow some time to ‘absorb’ the effects of the Yoga asanas, the practice will be reduced to a mere exercise.
Awareness of each movement and utilization of mind’s power of ‘Sankalpa’ (Sanskrit word for ‘intention’) with which one moves the body while performing Yoga asanas is the key to a successful Yoga practice. Regular Yoga practice prepares our body to withstand higher energy and to cope with all the challenges on the path of one’s Self-Actualization and Liberation with a balanced mind.
Before starting the Yoga practice, one should acknowledge his/her body as a beautiful vessel of the soul and the most remarkably fine-tuned instrument with immense capabilities. We then invoke our Higher Self and set the intention behind all the asanas during the Yoga session. With mind fully present in each asana and breath utilized properly to help remove the blockages in the subtle meridians in our aura, the level of awareness and purity rises with each Yoga practice.
It is important to understand that lack of flexibility is associated with energy blockages in the nadis (energy meridians in the subtle body), and with samskaras (negative/painful impressions of the mind stored in the muscles (and subconscious mind), which add to the ‘luggage’ we carry unnecessarily). Yoga practice helps us to remove these blockages by working on our physical body, by consciously breathing through the stiffness in certain areas of the body. We hence start experiencing the all new lightness, learn to truly love our body as the vehicle of our soul, and come to experience the cause-less joy of our true Self.
The following points are essential for effective Yoga practice:
The primary objective of Yoga is to spread the message of love, peace, healthy living and harmony with nature starting with one’s own direct inner experience of this harmony and blissful lightness through the practice of Yoga. Aside from numerous benefits at the physical, emotional and mental level, the practice of Yoga leads to self-knowledge, i.e. knowledge of the truth of our being.
Yoga practice (sadhana) has the enormous potential to make us more conscious human beings. It requires, however, the willingness of the body, mind, heart and the will to align with the soul’s aspiration for purification and perfection.
In the following issues of The Awakening Times, I will share with you insights, methodology and benefits related to selected Yoga asanas in order to inspire you to benefit from the profound Yogic science and experience a lighter, more loving and more fulfilling way of life.
Author: Biba Mohan, certified yoga instructor