Prerequisites for Yoga Practice

1. Guidance from a teacher

Undoubtedly a yoga instructor will guide you better and will help you avoid mis- takes and misinterpretations. It is always better to follow someone who has followed the path before you.

Now this is possible through internet and you can always contact me and have a private session with me.

2. Abstinence from unhealthy habits (smoking, pills, alcohol)

Personally I do not believe that a person who smokes, drinks or takes hormonal medication or anti-depressants should practice yoga. The point of yoga exercise is to elevate vitality to high levels - towards the brain. If this vitality is inhibited, then it is better not to stimulate it. On the other hand, I have witnessed many peo- ple who have cut these bad habits purely because the awareness and insight gained through yoga removed the desire for these artificial ways of relaxation.

3. A healthy back

Even though the physical postures (asanas) described in this book are simple, a strong spinal cord is still required, or at least an awareness of the state of the body, so that the exercise or the prolonged sitting postures which require a straight back do not tire the body.

4. A Vegetarian diet

Whoever works on his own at a spiritual level, will discover very quickly that the complex foods such as meat, or whatever is derived from its byproducts, will keep our bodies in their primitive state, which does not aid our spiritual aims. This also applies to eating too much food!

check the Activated Vegan Food course for more guidance and support on your diet.

5. Healthy nostrils

If one of the two nostrils is permanently closed or if it is closed most of the time, this means that one of the two hemispheres is not sufficiently stimulated. The result is an imbalance of the whole system (body/mind/emotions/spirit). Try to clean the nostrils with the jala neti method and if you do not have the required results then visit a doctor. If the diaphragm of the nose is crooked, then follow the advice of your doctor.

6. Complete breathing

“You cannot clean the floor with a toothbrush” (Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani). In the same way, you cannot clean or recharge your body if your breathing is shallow.For faster and more effective results regarding the practices that require breathing techniques, we have to use the maximum capacity of our lungs. (For correct breathing techniques, look at your notes for weeks 1-3: increasing lung capacity).

Philosophical Prerequisites of Yoga

With traditional yoga, the student lived with the teacher for years, learning eth- ics and working on improving his own character before embarking on the physical and mental practices. This occurred so that the student could build a strong psycho-spiritual body which would be ready for higher vibrations. It is impossible for someone to reach higher levels of consciousness if their actions do not originate from the heart – if, in other words, the illusion of separateness has not been abolished. The feeling of unity with all and with everything is what will open his conscience and will allow him to guide people with clear actions. Below, I present a broad analysis of the philosophical preconditions of yoga which encourages the strengthening of the conscience.

1. Awareness

We often believe we are following a certain philosophy, whereas in reality, the ‘ego’ has found a way to cover our illusions. This keeps us at the same level for years, but again the ‘ego’ finds ways of convincing us that we are progressing. Thus we enter a vicious cycle of illusions from which we can never escape. Sometimes we call this ego the ‘survival instinct’, because it conforms with our existence. In order to avoid these inaccuracies of the Ego, we have to constantly reveal the methods with which it disguises itself. Once we realise that there are many “conflicting interests” within us, we have to observe ourselves relentlessly, as well as the people around us and the environment, without any criticism, without excuses and without any attachment. The guru plays a very important job here: to light our path when it is hidden by the truth. Of course it is impossible to have awareness of the mind if we do not first have complete awareness of the body and the emotions. That is followed by awareness of our thoughts and finally the perfect awareness of our very existence. Dr Swami Gitananda calls it ‘the three-fold awareness’: awareness of the body, emotions, thoughts and eventually the awareness of our actual existence.

2. Ethos

Ethos is the strengthening of our conscience. When someone has ethos, he will avoid acting in a way that will overload his karma – in other words he avoids taking actions that will create havoc and negativity to himself or to his environment. If we generate the least possible amount of confusion then our body will be clear and becomes more stable. A person with a clear conscience expresses himself with honesty and truth. The truth does no harm and his honesty will benefit everyone around him in an inconspicuous way. In yoga there are five ethical rules which keep us from our primal existence and keep our consciousness energised. They are called Yamas, and they are: Ahimsa - harmlessness, Satya - truth, Asteya - not going beyond other’s limits, Brahmacharya - correct usage of our creative energy, Aparigraha - having only what we use.

3. Detachment

In order for our spiritual body to remain pure even during our daily lives, it is vital to have an objective stance towards what is happening around us. We have to be dynamic enough to have targets that will be enforced, but to also be passive enough to withstand the flow of life. This cannot happen if there are strong bonds, obsessions, strong desires and attachments with what is happening around us. During the meditative state, one realises that life is just a projection – a dream of our higher Self. If we identify ourselves with this dream, we are simply delaying our development. We must never forget that everything is temporary. This is proof that life is just a dream. Our desires should be converted to aims, our obses- sions to good habits, and our attachments to reflections.

4. Discipline

Regularity is needed in order for us to achieve the correct frame of mind, and to fight off the bad habits and those qualities that hinder our development. Unfortu- nately our ‘bio-computer’, otherwise known as our brain, does not have the ability to delete files, to change programmes and to replace certain qualities. Our pro- gramming can only change with constant regularity. Whatever we want to replace or change, has to happen with such regularity until it becomes a habit. The habit will be repeated until it becomes an established programme (character). Eventually the established (installed) programme (character) will guide our lives.

5. Service

Service means action guided by the sense of unity. It is not enough just to avoid actions that hurt ourselves and others. It is equally important to act in a way that will be mutually beneficial. This is a point of view which is often neglected. Our spiritual practices become stronger when we act as if we are a tool of the universe, to everyone’s benefit. This can be achieved with unselfish service. This service will purify in a way that meditation cannot. A brilliant tool for unselfish action is the state of gratitude. The state of gratitude makes each of our actions a simple form of cleansing. An action that happens without expectations is pure. This happens because the action of gratitude automatically makes us not have any form of ex- pectation. In this way we become a ‘cylinder’ through which all actions and their consequences slowly pass through and are removed. As they leave, they take with them any impurities connected to the action taken. Gratitude is not something that comes easily to a person, however. It is a divine instinct and it needs to be cultivated - not as a temporary state which is provoked by something, but as a permanent approach towards life.

6. Living in the now

Most of the time our actions are based on the future or are guided according to events that happened in the past. This is a quality that only humans possess. This quality, of learning from the past and looking forward to the future, has indeed brought us to a certain level of development, but now the very same quality is holding us back. The reason it is holding us back is because we are depleting all our energy of the ‘now’. We need to reactivate the ability to act with awareness but without expectations. We should not guide our actions mechanically accord- ing to our memories; we should act according to the situation that we have before us. We should not act thinking what we can gain by this. Life is not a business transaction. By living in the now we invest our energy on reality and not on an ‘expired yesterday’ or an’ unknown tomorrow’. In actual fact, neither the future nor the past exist. So the people who live their lives according to the past or the future are simply wasting their time and energy!

7. Experience not knowledge

Yoga is 100% action. Experience is very different from knowledge. Knowledge is one-dimensional; experience has many dimensions. Experience is incredibly strong and can overturn consciousness. Aim for experience, do not limit yourself to knowledge alone. Do not trust anything if you do not experience the truth that it represents. If you follow people blindly, your judgement will be weakened and without good judgement, your development will be dependent upon others.

8. Coordination with the law of Karma

The law of Karma is the reciprocation of our actions. It has no connection with punishment or reward. The law of karma is the most drastic tool regarding the development of the soul. Coordination with the law means that we can perceive that everything that happens to us is the result of our own actions and that we should embrace it, not fight it. We have to take complete responsibility for every single thing that happens to us. The person who takes responsibility for his actions may have a choice as to how to live his life. Karma Yoga means ‘action for purification’. Karma Yoga is not always related to volunteerism or an organised charity. It is the intolerable, responsible action of our daily lives. Karma yoga is about replacing the undesirable with an active shift, instead of criticising, asking for forgiveness with an action instead of an apology, about showing gratitude with a deed instead of just giving thanks.

9. Meaningful relationships

The people that we choose to have in our lives are the people with whom our consciousness will be in harmony. Instead of complaining, for example, that our work environment is not ideal, let us choose instead – when we have the opportunity – to be with people who inspire us. Once we have cleared our relationships up, then we have to get rid of all the unnecessary overwhelming forms of communication (newspapers, television, cheap entertainment, social obligations). It sounds a lot to ask, but our personal development will stay stagnant if we fill our subconscious mind with useless information which does not really concern us at the end of the day. We live in an age where we think that being fully aware of what is happening around us is an obligation and that if we are not informed about all the catastrophes, robberies and murders that take place, we are indifferent or self- ish. We believe that when we have free time, an effective way to relax is by watch- ing countless fictitious stories on the screen, or reading cheap novels. In addition, we frequently spend our energy in places we do not really want to be, with people that we will criticise later, doing or saying things that do not really represent us as individuals! For the sake of what people will say and to ‘keep up appearances’ we waste our time doing things that are not only useless, but also essentially harmful to our mind and our energy. All of these things burden our minds with images, words and impressions which are not even ours. As a result, when we come to our spiritual practice, we end up ‘cleaning’ our rubbish instead of developing as human beings. It is similar to going on a diet. First we have to lose calories without regaining them. If we exercise in order to ‘burn’ the calories and then eat like we were eating before, the exercise will not help us to lose weight. That is what hap- pens with our spiritual task: we will constantly be cleaning, instead of building energy.

10. Acceptance of an invisible world

The real Truth will only reveal itself if we can move away from what we believe is real and combine logic with our inner senses. The reality, according to how our external senses understand it and how our logic interprets it is just a small pro- portion of the Truth. If we relate our emotion and our senses with the Truth, we are like a blind person who touches the tusk of an elephant but thinks it is a snake. The Truth is more than just logic. It is also more than our small, limited lives. For as long as we are governed by the instinct of survival, our ego and logic will always be more powerful than the soul and our inner senses. The soul does not care if the body dies. The soul is eternal and fearless. We cannot allow our survival instinct to govern us and still expect our souls to progress. On the other hand, if we neglect the body, it will become weak and this will not help the development of the soul either. This is where faith is the only solution. Our faith in something invisible, higher and more powerful than us, which will cater for what is best, and is an essential quality in our advanced stage of development. It might not be necessary from the outset, but when our souls finally have strength within us, our faith is what will give us security and courage to move on. Otherwise fear will always hold us back. 

Complete and Continue