Thursday, 28 May 2015

TRIKOṆĀSANA : The changing names and forms of ĀSANA

By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES


Throughout the history of yoga, the names of āsana have not been consistent. Depending on the linage, the region and the century, the name and form of an āsana varies. 

For example, the posture shown here is labelled Trikoṇāsana (Triangle Pose) on this undated folio. Quite different to the Trikoṇāsana practised by modern linages extending from Krishnamacharya.

The paper and style of the drawing suggests that it is fairly modern, possibly as late as early 20th century. However, the dating of such material is very difficult without more evidence and a good look at the folio itself.

This image belongs to a set of folios from an unknown manuscript that have been separated and sold commercially by an art dealer (which is legal in India for manuscript folios that have artwork on them). 





Trikoṇāsana (Triangle Pose) takes another form in a Jain manuscript called 'Yogāsana-Jaina' (likely dated to the 18th - 19th century). 

This unpublished manuscript has recently been examined by the Philosophico-Literary Research Department of Kaivalyadhama. It contains descriptions of 107 āsanas with illustrations of each and provides an interesting window into the practise of āsanas within the Jaina religion.

The Kaivalyadhama research paper can be found here.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Mindful Minute Meditation | Blue Sky

| Blue Sky | By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES



Even when the sky is blue or the occasion is happy, low mood can arise at anytime.  A fleeting memory, a sad song, a fragrance that reminds one of a loss; all of these can cause low mood despite the apparent positive conditions that may be present in one's life.

Those who are vulnerable to depression are often more sensitive to changes in the underlying tone of  their feelings and this makes it easier for low mood to become a trigger for negative thinking and a possible relapse of depression.

"Cognitive Reactivity (CR) refers to the degree to which a mild dysphoric state reactivates negative thinking patterns, and it has been found to play a key causal role in depressive relapse."

Those who have suffered depression in the past often have a higher Cognitive Reactivity (CR) to changes in mood. In fact, mood is directly related to the types of thoughts that arise, so if rumination is an established pattern it can be a difficult habit to challenge.

For example, thoughts of isolation; thoughts with a particularly negative bias; thoughts that are self-critical; and thoughts of past situations in which one felt sad can all arise quickly and more easily, when a low mood prevails.

Conversely, whilst in a positive mood, thoughts of friends; thoughts of happy times; thoughts of positive self worth; thoughts of self acceptance and empathy towards others tend to prevail, and can again arise more easily.

Mindfulness has been found to be an effective tool to alter mood in a positive sense and to halt the downward spiral assoicated with low mood.  When using Mindfulness to alter mood, one is not attempting to stop the ruminating mind but rather learning to interrupt the IDENTIFICATION WITH THOUGHTS.  It is an exercise in noticing the transient and fleeting occurrences of thoughts so as to cut through the cycle of rumination and return to the immediacy of sensation.



I invite you to practise this Mindful Minute Meditation with a particular emphasis on noticing the UNDERLYING MOOD and THOUGHTS as they arise.

Sit tall. Place the palms of the hands down to REST on the knees. Focus on the feeling of TOUCH in the hands as you WATCH and LISTEN.

Did you notice the underlying mood? What types of thoughts bubbled up? 
Were you able to return to the present environment and focus on WATCHING and LISTENING?
Were you easily distracted by the persistence of particular thoughts?

Try again.

VISION, TASTE and SOUND can be particularly effective objects of focus in meditation when in a low mood.

Follow us for the month of May for more Mindful Minute Meditations.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

MAYŪRĀSANA: The Peacock Pose

By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES and JASON BIRCH



Vasiṣṭhasaṃhitā (12-13th c.) is one of the earliest Haṭhayoga texts to describe non-seated Āsanas. The first is Mayūrāsana, the Peacock Pose, an arm balance with the body positioned on the elbows as described above. 

Mayūrāsana continues to be mentioned in most late medieval Haṭhayoga texts. The fifteenth-century Haṭhapradīpikā adds that Mayūrāsana turns to ashes all bad and excessive food that has been consumed. It ignites digestive fire (jaṭharāgni) and enables the yogin to digest poison. The latter claim may be based on the fact that peacocks can kill and eat snakes without being poisoned. 

The second non-seated Āsana in the Vasiṣṭhasaṃhitā is Kukkutāsana, the Rooster Pose, another arm balancing posture in which the hands are threaded through the legs in Padmāsana. Both of these postures are still widely practised in modern postural yoga.







Image from a 19th c. manuscript of the Jogapradīpikā held at the British Library.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Mindful Minute Meditation | Busy Bees

| Busy Bees | By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES



I invite you to practise this Mindful Minute Meditation with a particular emphasis on TOUCH

Sit tall. Place the palms of the hands down to REST on the knees. Focus on the feeling of TOUCH in the hands as you watch and listen.

Did the noise or a busy mind distract you?
Was it difficult to stay focused on the sensation of touch throughout? 

Try again.

When using Mindfulness in everyday life, we are not attempting to artificially stop the outside noise or busy mind, but rather learn to BE PRESENT amidst the noise and busyness.

TOUCH can be an effective object of focus in meditation when in a particularly noisy or busy situation. It offers an alternative to a visual or sound object and can be helpful for those who suffer stress, performance anxiety or feel situational overwhelm.

Follow us for the month of May for more Mindful Minute Meditations.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Mindful Minute Meditation | Pebbles

| Pebbles | By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES



I invite you to practise this Mindful Minute Meditation TWICE.

Firstly, with the eyes OPENED.  Then again, with the eyes CLOSED.

Sit tall.  Listen carefully.  Maintain a sense of wonder and curiosity throughout.

Did you notice any difference?

Connecting with the body and the sensations experienced is an essential part of Mindfulness practice. This means actively choosing to be RECEPTIVE to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. 

An example might be something as simple as listening to the sound of water as you wash your hands or feeling the touch of a banister as you walk upstairs.

SOUND can be an effective object of focus in meditation.  It offers an alternative to a visual or felt object (such as the breath).  It can be particularly helpful for those who suffer anxiety, fear, worry or panic attacks.

At the University of Bergen in Norway, Vollestad, Nielsen, and Nielsen surveyed 19 studies of the effectiveness of Mindfulness Based Therapy (MBT) on anxiety. They found that MBTs are associated with robust and substantial reductions of anxiety symptoms.

Read more about the results of this research here.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Mindful Minute Meditation | Air Vent

|Air Vent| By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES




| Mindful Minute Meditation | 

Sit tall.

Add a FOCAL point: eyes F O C U S E D but R E L A X E D.

Maintain a sense of W O N D E R and C U R I O S I T Y.

Find E A S E as you notice the breath.

A conscious minute of C L A R I T Y and S T E A D I N E S S.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Mindful Minute Meditation | Still Water

|Still Water| By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES




| Mindful Minute Meditation | 

Sit tall.
Watch, listen and feel. 
Find a sense of E A S E as you notice the breath.
A conscious minute of C L A R I T Y and S T E A D I N E S S.

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Yuktabhavadeva

A concise description of Haṭhayoga from a 17th century source

By JASON BIRCH and JACQUELINE HARGREAVES 


The Yuktabhavadeva, which means "The god who is engaged in the world", is a 17th-century compilation on yoga written by Bhavadevamiśra, a Maithila Brahman. This text is a fine example of how Haṭha and Rājayoga were absorbed into mainstream Brahmanical thought.

It contains a passage with a concise description of Haṭhayoga as a simple seated practice repeated four times a day for 48 minutes for 6 months (or longer).  Colourful visual metaphors describe the states achieved by consistent practice of this technique.

Bhavadevamiśra work brings together teachings of Haṭha and Rājayoga with the Pātañjalayogaśāstra and traditional Brahmanical texts such as the Mahābhārata, Purāṇas, Dharmaśāstras, Upaniṣads and so on. Bhavadevamiśra was also fond of the Yogavāsiṣṭha and quotes it extensively in this text.

Download this concise description as a PDF.






The Yuktabhavadeva (chapter 11, verses 121-29)


atha haṭhayogasya saṃkṣepo 'bhidhīyate

savyena gulphena gudaṃ nipīḍya savyetareṇaiva nipīḍya sandhim || dakṣiṇe kare savyaṃ karaṃ sthāpayitvā samāṅge netre nāsikāgre bhrūmadhye vā dhārayitvā manasā mūlādhārasthāṃ śikhāṃ paśyed iti ||121||

evaṃ prātarmadhyāhnasandhyārdharātreṣu muhūrtam api samabhyasato yogino dinadaśakenaiva gudadvāranirodhād ūrdhvam udgacchatāpānena pratyarpito vahnir ūrdhvajvālo bhavati ||122||

tataḥ śarīralaghutā jāṭharānaladīptinādābhivyaktayo bhavanti || tataḥ ṣaṇmāsena vatsareṇa vālpamūtrapurīṣatvam || vāhanāsanādau ca nirbhayatvaṃ ca bhavati ||123||

tato 'nilena sārdham analaṃ nābhau dhārayet || tena tatrasthakuṇḍalinīrūpiṇaś cakriṇaḥ prabodho bhavati ||124||

tataḥ kalevare paṭe tantava iva vāyavaḥ sañcaranti || tato vahniṃ tathaivānilena saha nābher ūrdhvaṃ nayet ||125||

tato rogā nasyanti || vahnivṛddhikāntyādayaś ca bhavanti || atha hṛtpaṅkajaṃ vahnisahito vāyuḥ praviśya protphullaṃ karoti || tato vidyānidhitvaṃ bhavati ||126||

tataḥ sa vahniṃ vāyuṃ bhruvor madhye samāropya candraṃ buddhyā paśyet || tadantare cātmānaṃ vibhāvayet || tatra ca mano līnaṃ kuryāt ||127||

tatphalam uktaṃ yājñavalkyena [Yogayājñavalkya 12.25-26]
mano layaṃ yadā yāti bhrūmadhye yogināṃ tadā |
jihvāmūle 'mṛtasrāvo bhrūmadhye cātmadarśanam ||128||

kampanaṃ ca tathā mūrdhni manasaivātmadarśanam
devodyānāni ramyāṇi nakṣatrāṇi ca candramāḥ
ṛṣayaḥ siddhagandharvāḥ prakāśante ca yoginām ||129||

From "Yuktabhavadeva of Bhavadeva Miśra” 
(edited by Gharote and Jha. Lonavla: The Lonavla Yoga Institute, 2002)

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Mindful Minute Meditation | Leaf

|Leaf| By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES




| Mindful Minute Meditation | 

Sit tall.
Watch, listen and feel. 
Find a sense of E A S E as you notice the breath.
A conscious moment of C L A R I T Y and S T E A D I N E S S.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Mindful Minute Meditation | Ocean Rocks

|Ocean Rocks| By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES



| Mindful Minute Meditation | 

Sit tall.
Watch, listen and feel. 
Find a sense of E A S E as you notice the breath.
A conscious moment of C L A R I T Y and S T E A D I N E S S.