Sanskrit Pronunciation

Rama Jyoti Vernon May 4, 2012

A few decades ago, a well-known teacher, J. Krishnamurti said that it doesn’t matter what we chant. We could chant coca cola and feel connected to the Source. However since sound produces form, what one chants and concentrates on eventually brings us into a sense of oneness with the object of our contemplation. When I heard this, I resolved never to chant coca cola unless I desired to merge into oneness with a coca cola bottle.

I have found over the years of chanting and the exploration of sound, that the Sanskrit pronunciation can make a difference in the vibratory field that it produces. Sound is known to produce form and what one chants is a powerful vehicle to bring us into connection with unseen frequencies and universal patterns that represent the Divine Source. However, my Sanskrit teacher, Dr. David Teplitz, who was a devotee of Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo, would say, “Don’t lose your friends by correcting their Sanskrit pronunciation”.

In any methodology, religion and belief systems, it is quite common for one to believe they have the way and the only way. It gives credence and a sense of security in one’s own beliefs to know that other’s believe the same. Even though it might be in error, it seems to validate a belief system we might hold whether it be in Yoga, religion or socio-political beliefs.

For centuries in Russia, the great icon painters were taught by their masters to meditate and fast for days before painting the face and hands of the iconic religious symbols. It was believed that the painter must be centered and spiritually endowed for their brush strokes to bring forth Divinity into the earth plane through the accuracy the painting called for. If even one line strayed from its original intention, every line would be built upon it and the result would be something entirely different than its original intention.

This has no doubt occurred in the field of Yoga over the past miilleniums regardless of Guru and disciple efforts to maintain the accuracies of the teachings. If one tiny inaccuracy occurs, like the lines in the Russian icon, the intended result could stray from it’s original Source. The Sanskrit intonations can also do the same.

One example would be that for thousands of years, invasions of North India resulted in a different pronunciation of Sanskrit. We can also know if a student has been taught by a teacher from North India, if they drop the vowel sounds at the end of the word. This can be seen in pronouncing Pranayama as Pranayam. It is possible to know which area of India a person is from in how they pronounce Sanskrit.

Another mishap we make in Yoga is to use short vowels when it should be long such as in the word Ananda. If we use a short a, barely opening the mouth, it negates the verb nanda which means happiness. Therefore the word Ananda would mean not happy. If the A is pronounced with the mouth fully open it enhances the verb, turning the word Ananda into superlative joy or happiness…or bliss.

I have found it important to maintain the original vowel sounds at the end of a word. Vowels are considered to represent the feminine while consonants are considered to reflect the masculine. I have wondered at times if the vowels activate the spacial right hemispheres of the brain and the consonants the sequential and logical abilities of the left. Consonants at the end of a word are a closure but the vowel sounds, give an expanded spacial orientation and open one’s mind and heart for what is yet to come.

My Sanskrit teacher called Sanskrit the language of the Gods. He referred to the sounds as an unending river. The current of vibratory sound rides out on the breath like an unending flow of the river. And like water that is kept within the form of the banks, the tongue, lips and mouth change the form of the current of sound.

In my own experience, I have found the short sounds of the vowels have a tendency to internalize and pull in my consciousness while the long vowels, are more external, as they seem to circularly expand consciousness.

In the Devanagari script of Sanskrit, the Bija Mantras are written with short vowel sounds. Bija means seed, it has no meaning, but is the vibrational fusion of the sounds that are said to exist on the petals of the internal lotus of the chakras. The combination of these letters when activated, create a composite vibrational sound known as Bija.

I believe that in ancient times, when these currents awakened in the various Chakra centers, it produced the Bijas. Later, perhaps it was deduced that by pronouncing these sounds, it would awaken the various chakras. The Bijas, are the reflection of the five lower Chakras and the five Pranas,and can help balance the elements of the pranic or subtle body through their sound currents.

The most important part of pronouncing the Bijas is in the M sound at the end of the word. The M is not cut off with a closed mouth but is the “Anusvara” in the sanskrit alphabet which is the humming sound that vibrates the upper chakras from throat to crown of the head. It ends with the Shruti or overtone of ng where the top (not tip) of the tongue presses upward to the upper palate of the roof of the mouth to vibrate the cerebral centers in the crown chakra. This mng sound feels like an offering from the base of our being up to and through the Sahasrara Chakra into the Universe. Just as the Visarga sound of “Aha” is a cleansing, releasing and offering from the heart center, the Anusvara sound of Mng is the offering through the head into the Universe.

When the Shruti or overtone resonates, it can give a sense that the vowel sound of the Bija is long rather than short. In Bija, the vowels are more internal, therefore it is a short vowel rather than long.

The overtone of Mng is especially important in the five Bijas which combined in sound form the vibratory current of Om (ng). Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras refer to the sound of Om as being akin to Isvara, the Lord of this World, the teacher of even the most Ancients. “Repeat and Contemplate Upon It’s Meaning”. I:28

The greatest teacher of these sounds is our own practice and inner experience. Many years ago, I was invited by Swami Vishnudevenanda to give a demonstration of Yoga at a Yoga festival in Val Morin Canada. Afterwards, I jumped off the stage and sat near the speakers as Ravi Shankar, the heralded Sitar player and Ala Raka (spelling) the famous tabla player entered the stage to play together for the first time in their historical careers. During the concert I heard a gigantic Om and thought the gathering of 1500 people were chanting. I opened my eyes and saw that no one was chanting. The way in which the musical instruments came together connected with my inner ear to produce an immense Universal sound of Om. It continued for months, triggered by the sound of an airplane, the vibration of a car, even a refrigerator. I begin to emulate those sounds and found it a powerful tool, like Asana and Pranayama for opening the subtle channels within my being to give a blissful sense of communion and Oneness with the Universal Spirit.

Yes, sound is powerful, it is said to produce form. Together the Mantra (man = to think and tra – in order to transcend) combined with the geometrical equations of creation known as Yantra together form Tantra which means to transcend past self-imposed limitations.

There will always be differing pronunciations as there are differing languages, dialects and belief systems within our world. The intent of devotion is far more powerful than exact intonation of sound. That is why it is so important that one explore within themselves and find the truth that already lies within. Chant and enjoy the vibratory current that washes over the soul body bringing greater peace and harmony to every part of the Being.

Austin – Interview with Rama

Interview with Rama Vernon

In March 2012 Eastside Yoga in Austin hosted Rama Vernon, profound teacher and pioneer of yoga in America. One of Rama’s long-time students, Melissa Spamer interviewed Rama.

Interview with Rama Vernon

This weekend (23-25) ESY will be hosting Rama Vernon, a profound teacher and pioneer of yoga in America. Her workshop on resolving conflict and cultivating peace through the yoga sutras will bring you tools for self-transformation in your practice and in your daily life. Our teacher Melissa Spamer interviewed Rama for this workshop.   Melissa: When did you first begin to study the Yoga Sutras?   Rama: I first began in 1973 on one of my trips to India. I was studying with Mr. Iyengar. He told me I was to begin to study the Yoga Sutras and sent me to a special bookstore to purchase my first copy of the text. Even though I had previously attended courses on the yoga sutras before that, I had never purchased my own copy and delved into it. There was a lot of Sanskrit terminology I didn’t understand at that time. And so, I just had the book and slept with it under my pillow, thinking maybe it would reveal itself to me. Then one night I heard these sounds in my head and I went into my little study with my yoga sutra book. I began reading the sutras and discovered that the sounds I was hearing were in the sutras. So to me, that meant it was time to really delve into this text. When I decided that, teachers came. I then had a Sanskrit teacher that helped me with the sutras, with the non-sectarian verbal roots of Sanskrit. It was quite profound. And then we would chant the sutras. And I found that in the chanting, many times, the sutras meaning began to reveal itself. So that is how I started, and then I had many more teachers that I continued to study the sutras with such as Baba Hari Das, direct disciples of Swami Sivananda and others. Whenever there was a teaching on the yoga sutras I would be there.   Melissa: How has the text helped you personally resolve inner conflict within your practice and why is this particular text so important to your teachings?   Rama: Oh my, well …. No one taught me these things but I started to see how the Yoga Sutras related to the asanas. I was in England for a year, as Mr. Iyengar had me traveling all over England teaching to his senior teachers and their students on how the sutras related to asana. I didn’t even know it was that unique because to me it was so obvious the Sutras teachings are within asana – of course. Such as attachments (raga) and aversions (dvesha). We are attached to certain poses because they give us pleasure, which is what attachment is, to all things that bring us pleasure. And then how we try to avoid the poses that don’t bring us pleasure just discomfort. I began to look at this in my students and myself. Fear, abhinevesha the last klesha, is apparent in asana. We are dealing with fear all the time. It is said there are 84 basic poses and 100,000 variations on each. This represents infinite ways in which the mind expresses itself through the body. If the expression of the mind is through the body, and there are infinite ways in which we do that through asana practice, I saw that every time we went into a new variation, it changed our spatial relationship. Practicing asana brings up our fears because we have to face the unknown within a new spatial relationship. The variations of the asanas represent the unknown. For instance, when we are in a headstand it is a new spatial relationship to put the head on the earth and the feet in the sky, and it is very different for the ego, which is represented by the head. I began to see how all of this related, and how the yamas and niyamas related to asana, their direct correlation. All of this was considered unique then even though I just thought it seemed quite obvious.   I then began to see how the sutras applied to my everyday life such as imagination (vikalpa). We project our images onto another person, and when they don’t live up to those images that we project onto them (which leads to expectations) it can lead to disappointment. I saw how we may try, even as yoga teachers, to live up to the expectations of others, politicians do this, people in public service do this, teachers do this… We all try to live up to what we feel is expected of us, especially in regards to our relationship with our parents. I then saw how the sutras were not something that was ancient but it was everyday life. I began speaking to that and it seemed to resonate with people. It really began to show the reasons for, or the origins of, suffering in our life. These teachings go to the roots of the suffering; they do not just treat the symptoms of suffering. There is a big difference.   Melissa: Is that then how you began to incorporate the teachings of the Yoga Sutras into your global work with conflict transformation?   Rama: Yes, several years later, I was asked to go to the Soviet Union to see about putting on a yoga conference but when I got there I learned that the Soviet Union was jailing yoga teachers. It wasn’t exactly the time to put on a yoga conference! It was really threatening to think people could become such independent thinkers. I brought a suitcase full of yoga books and handed them out to people. They all made it clear they were interested in exercise but not the meditation because they were scared of what the meditation meant. They were afraid of going beyond what their political system called for, and that they might be seen as suspicious. I was very careful about that, and I realized that we can’t put on a yoga conference just yet but what can we do? I then put on conferences that brought in various professionals in specific fields such as economics, environmental sciences and so on, intending to bring Soviets and Americans together who were working in the same fields. We brought together human rights workers, and those working on the Star Wars Program (a missile defense shield) and it took a long time to develop trust between these groups of Americans and Soviets – about three years. But once the trust was established we were able to address the real issues like human rights, and help people get out of prison that were put there unjustly. We then went on to build schools and health clinics because their needs were so great then. I helped bring the Americans that could work with them, and then the Soviets could come to America – a kind of exchange program in different fields. It was just wonderful. We had about one thousand joint projects going on between the two countries. Just bringing individuals together that had a common interest or field of study. The intention here was to help end the stereotypes of warring nations.   I didn’t know that it would be so powerful. Gorbachev later said that it was groups like ours that ended the cold war not just the leaders.   I taught the sutras to the Russian Parliament, after the revolution. I never said it was the Yoga Sutras until I realized that some of them were the spiritual advisors to Russian leaders who were running for office. I then said to them, that this was based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and they became really excited. I said these teachings were very ancient, even beyond a thousand years old. This wisdom is even older then what they give it credit for, and they really loved that. They were able to identify with the sutras and they really understood it – they got it.   I was talking about the vrittis of imagination (vikalpa) and misconception (viparyaya), and how these two are the major ones that cause conflicts. I went on to teach on the ego (asmita), and what it means. We skew things from the lens of the ego. I taught on the individual ego, the family ego, the national ego and the global ego. When one national ego comes up against the other, it creates a territorial-ness and then that creates war.   I went on to teach on the origin of war, and show them how it is created from the stereotypes distanced from correct perception (pramana). When we go from correct perception and direct experience, compared to information that is not your direct experience, it is the experience that comes from another person who tells us of their experience. We then resonate with their experience as though it is our own, and we get further and further away from our own direct experience. This leads to us creating our perception by way of inference – this is our media that is being programmed within our countries. That is where stereotypes come from. We loose the thread of truth when we allow ourselves to drop into incorrect perception. When we couple the imagination and incorrect perception we have a mess! Both individually and politically!   This is all in the Yoga Sutras.   Melissa: Why do you think the sutras have survived all this time and why are they still relevant today?   Rama: The Yoga Sutras give us a road map on how to live our life. They give us a clear way to get out of pain.   This text outlines it very beautifully. As Patanjali, the author and compiler, took these teachings to preserve the wisdom, so it would be available for others in the future to know how they too can come out of pain, and realize their oneness with the universal. This was the original intention. Patanjali put them into very brief and succinct sutras, a form that could be past down as mantras, we could say, from one generation to the next in an oral tradition.   Many of the people today in our country who are teaching yoga and yoga philosophy, they are the ones that are preserving the teachings for future generations.


Rama Vernon on Karma


Rama Jyoti Vernon February 2012

Linda LoCastro of Page Springs, Colorado asks, “Several light worker websites are stating that the new energies ‘bringing ascension’ will alleviate us from Karma. Another way they express this is that their past actions will be alleviated and we will be free from these actions. Do you feel this is true?”

Rama’s response: Don’t I wish? Wouldn’t it be great if it were true? Perhaps if enough of us believed it, we would reach a critical mass and it would be so. Yes, there are more rapid changes as our solar system is moving closer to the sun where the light intensifies. Whatever is not resolved within us is rapidly emerging for healing at a faster pace than ever before. It is a fervent wish that this growing light would scorch or eradicate the impact of every negative thought, word and deed previously created.

Whether one has created bodily harm to another, or wounded the hearts of others with a tongue sharper than any weapon, the slate will be wiped clean and there will be no resultant affects. If we have trespassed into the space of others through verbal and mental criticisms, spoken ill of one person to another, ridiculed the beliefs of another or ignored pleas of one in need, then we would be freed of any Karmic repercussion. I’m not so sure.

WHAT IS KARMA? Karma is an ancient Sanskrit word. Kar is from the Sanskrit root verb Kri meaning “to do or to act” and Ma means to measure. It refers to the mother, that which brings creation into being. When we measure something we create comparisons, distance and separation. Time is also a form of measurement accentuating the polarities of this three dimensional world. These polarities can be seen through the play of nature when sun and moon, day and night meet, where seasons surrender into one another without resistance; where heat and cold, masculine and feminine, give balance to life on our planet. “Ma” is all facets of measurement of time, space and causation that define our planetary existence.

Karma would then literally mean “Doing or Acting within the play of nature in this world.” It implies a formation of mental impressions caused by one’s words and actions.  It is these impressions that are the result of our actions and are responsible for the experiences we have in life… and the afterlife. There is said to be individual Karma, family Karma and collective Karma of countries. I once asked a Vedic teacher what the collective Karma of a country would be. He gave an example. “It is believed that if we are born into a country that makes war upon another, and we don’t protest even in our hearts, one day we might be born into a country that is made war upon.” I wish I had never asked.

In the Yoga philosophy, it is believed that every person is a sojourner traveling through innumerable incarnations and that “every action has a reaction” or as the Bible says, “as you sow, so shall you reap” It sounds grim if we just focus on the negative…but what about the positive actions of what we “sow”? What about the accumulation of the good merits we are accruing that will open the pearly gates of heaven? Ye gads! With the “ascension” and the “rapture”, I hope we won’t lose the good stuff too. However, even here, if we perform an action that benefits another, what is the motive? Are we practicing non-violence for fear of being reprimanded or put in jail for a violent act? Or are we careful to not say violent words for fear of karmic reprisal? Or are we practicing non violence of the soul where a violent thought would rarely if ever even occur.

Many years ago, the silent sage Baba Haridas, sat with a small group of us. He spoke of non-violence and a man asked him, “Babaji, if a robber entered my home, how can I protect my wife and children and yet remain in non-violence.” Babaji wrote on his small blackboard “If you were truly in non-violence, the situation would never occur.”

What are we magnetizing into our lives? What are we creating at this moment, with every thought we think, with every word we speak, with every action we take. Can we perform meritorious acts with purity of Motive (Saucha)? Do we truly want to alleviate the suffering of others without thought of what we might personally gain, spiritually or materially? What are our motives? It is the motive behind the act that determines the impact and quality of Karmic resonance.

Swami Jyotirmayananda, a disciple of the late Master Sivananda of Rishekesh from India, gives a beautiful description of Karma in his book on Death and Reincarnation: “The law of Karma is the law of cause and effect operating through the mental plane of humans. Karma, which means action, implies the impressions of action that exist in the subconscious and unconscious depth of mind. Human life and its circumstances are elaborations based upon these stored contents within the mind. Even though it is believed that not all Karmas fructify or bear fruit in the same life, some stay dormant within the human psyche and are believed to bear fruit in future lives.” If time is a human construct of mind, how can we understand Karma?

THREE TYPES OF KARMA There are three types of Karmas:  l) Samchita Karma is where the accumulative results of past actions are like seeds embedded in the soul, like the seeds of the ripened fruit that falls to the ground and embeds itself into the earth. When the time and conditions are right, the seed germinates, sprouts and regrows out of its dormancy. In the human mind, this dormant state is said to lie within the hidden depths of the subconscious. It is believed that the deeper the imprint, the longer it may take to reemerge.

2) Prarabda Karma is the manifestation of past karmas or actions. This particular Karma is like the trunk of a tree that is determined by what seeds have been sown previously. This Karma determines our span of life, family origin and place, day, time, country and culture of our birth. It is said to determine our Ayurvedic constitution, body type, personality, predisposition and astrological chart at birth. Prarabda Karma, which is also known as Dharma, is usually associated with fate or destiny. Dharma is related to one’s life purpose or mission. What have we come to do in this world? What is our purpose? How may we serve humanity? What is our Sva Dharma, or what is right for us personally? In the Bhagavad Gita (the song of God), Sri Krishna (the universal soul) is convincing the great warrior Arjuna (the individual soul) not to shirk from the battle but to stand forth with detachment and faith and to see the infinite continuity of the life force – there is no death. He also gives a wonderful phrase that can guide us in the fulfillment of our Dharma: “One’s own work (Dharma) done imperfectly is far better than another’s done perfectly”. This is the Karma that has sprung out of our previous self-creations and choices. This is the Karma that if not understood in its context is a wonderful excuse to slough off any self responsibility for our own previous actions and choices and blame others for our present circumstances. It is believed in the Yoga philosophy that what we may see as fate was previously created out of ”free will” known as Kriyamana Karma.

3)Kriyamana is the Karma of free will, which is currently active in everyday life. It is like the limbs, branches and fruit of the tree. Some of what we are currently experiencing is from previously created actions of the Prarabda Karma and others are being newly created. The choices we make today in every action and interaction is said to determine the fate of tomorrow. This Karma will come to fruition at a future date depending upon the force and intent of our thoughts, words and actions. As one’s conscience becomes more sensitive, one can actually feel the Kriyamana karmic imprint as it occurs. Sometimes there will be a delayed reaction and sometimes, we won’t feel the immediate affects at all. This is when it embeds itself more deeply into the psyche only to germinate at a later time depending upon the force of its intention.

In relationship to Kriyamana Karma, Yogis say, depending upon the force of an action, it may manifest almost instantly, in the near future or in a future life. In modern times, we call the Karma that fructifies immediately, “instant Karma” which means the Karmas linger in the conscious or pre-conscious surface of mind. They manifest quickly without sinking into the shadowy abyss of the subconscious.

An example of Kriyamana Karma would be if we fling harsh words at someone, we may immediately feel the pain it has caused and can beg their forgiveness. If our plea is from the depth of our heart–and we feel the other as our self—then they will not be impacted by our words. We will not be impacted by the Karmic imprint. However, if we harshly reprimand someone and feel totally justified and smug in our righteousness, the imprint goes into the subconscious and deepens with time. As one’s conscience becomes more sensitized with time and spiritual practices, we feel the impact from our words and actions immediately, then eventually as they are occurring. Eventually with growing refinement of the mind, through one’s practice, it is possible to catch the thought before it takes form as words or actions that may result in pain to oneself as well as to others. On the other hand, in Kriyamana Karma, if one focuses on the beauty and the eternal flame that is within all Beings it will strengthen us. The Yoga Sutras say, “Through Samyama–concentration, meditation and Samadhi, on Friendliness (Amity)–and Other Similar Virtues, Strength is obtained”. III:23  As Master Sivananda says, “If we focus on another person’s defects, we will take on those defects.” Kriyamana Karma is in the moment of NOW. This is where we make our choices that have immediate and future impact as we live out the self-created residue of past actions.

These three Karmas are a cycle. As the fruits of the Kriyamana ripen and the seeds fall deep into the earth to one day arise as a trunk of a new tree, or a new life, this is again the Samchita Karma.

It may be several years or lifetimes later, but one day, an opening occurs and suddenly we relive those words and in turn experience the pain it caused as if it were inflicted only yesterday. This may relate to the biblical word “atonement” which can also be defined as “at-one-ment”. When this light of illumination enters our heart and mind, and we relive the experience, feeling the other as our self, we are absolved and free of any karmic latency that creates a cellular heaviness in body and mind. After this illuminating experience, there is a lightness in every cell of our being. Even diseases can instantly disappear if we get to the root of its cause. These experiences may be accompanied by tears and sobbing. ”Forgive them father” as Jesus said upon the cross as he was dying “for they know not what they do”. How sensitized is our conscience? Can we forgive one in the moment they are inflicting grief and pain upon us. Or do we carry the heaviness of the burden in our soul waiting for its release?

KARMA AND SIN Many moons ago, a student asked what the Sanskrit word was for sin. After several weeks of trying to find the answer, it seemed that the closest definition was Karma. In some schools of Christianity, it is believed that Jesus died for our sins. Perhaps Jesus died in the way he did in order to show us how to live more gently upon the earth. Can we forgive those who betray us? Can we forgive those who deny us when it’s no longer popular to stand with us? Can we forgive those souls who have created great agony for ourselves and others and say in the moment of life’s great tribulations, “father, mother God, forgive them for to they know not what they do”? I have always wondered if Jesus did not have to forgive, to eradicate Karma, because he never judged or blamed.

Perhaps if we can do this, we accrue no latent impressions for ourselves and help lessen it for others. No, I don’t believe that Jesus or anyone can die for our sins. However the majestic way in which he died is an eternal example of how we can live. It was an example of how we can become more noble in our lives regardless of how difficult the challenges may be. Are we able to think of others first or is our consciousness contracted in self-preservation. Yoga is a means to finding our way out of physical and emotional pain, so we can truly be there for others. We become an example of possibilities and a role model of gracious support for the needs of others, not out of our brokenness, but out of the fullness and wholeness of our Being. Jesus’s life and death demonstrated his ability to love unconditionally and to extend compassion to every being, even to those who were unjustly crucifying and inflicting pain upon him.

KARMIC ACCELERATION The depth of Karmic latencies is determined by the force of our intention which ranges from a feather floating upon water to an imprint that is etched by a chisel into stone.

Sri Aurobindo Gosh refers to Yoga as Compressed Evolution. The practices of Yoga are meant to accelerate the process of bringing up from the subconscious, the imprints from past actions known as samskaras. We do not wait lifetimes for them to reemerge but reach into the vaults of our psyche with Asana, Pranayama, meditation, chanting, etc. to speed up this evolutionary process. As memories emerge, it is important to know that Yoga does not create an experience but reveals what is already there.

Perhaps this is what the light workers mean as our solar system and galaxy come closer to the light. It is the light that banishes the shadows.  It is the light of our practices that helps the samskaras, or past impressions to bubble up to the surface of the conscious mind where we can see and release them.  When this happens there is a feeling of growing lightness and liberation as we release cellular memories from the atomic particles of our “Being”.

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Karmas manifest in varying degrees, white, black and a combination of what and black. If the Samskaras are based on wisdom, they are considered neither black nor white. They do not produce repercussions either negatively or positively. This results from a sense of unattachment …not repression … but true detachment. Ironically, Yogis have said that “before we can be truly detached, we must first know attachment.” To be able to perform our life’s actions and interactions without attachment to the result is an aspect of Karma Yoga.

TRANSCENDING KARMA THROUGH KARMA YOGA In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna refers to Karma Yoga as being “inaction within action.” It is a sense of being the non-doer unattached to the result of the action. Performing an action for its sake alone – not to even to win the battle but to step onto the field (which represents the field of life)  – this is Karma Yoga. It means to fulfill one’s dharma, destiny and life’s purpose, without attachment to fame, glory or even winning the battle.

If a donor gives money to an institution or cause with the motive of being recognized with their name on a plaque, this accrues negative Karma. This is not Karma Yoga. If a donor gives for the sake of giving and supporting, not expecting anything back from the gift, even recognition, it accrues positive Karma. This is Karma Yoga.

The same applies to teaching Yoga. If we teach to produce income, or gain recognition or fame, even the approval of others, we accrue negative Karma. This is not Karma Yoga. If our motive is to serve in the way that is placed before our path, and we go where we are invited, where the way opens, without forcing and overreaching to make something happen, it is Karma Yoga. If we teach as a service to God through humanity, we illumine past Karmas, bringing them to the surface for healing and releasing. This is Karma Yoga.

Karma Yoga is not just working until you drop. It is a conscious action where the mind is in a neutral state of non-doer ship. The actions come through us, but not from us. This can be practiced in Asana with the breath – as a preparation for the actions of life. We relax within an action and bring in the breath, no matter where we are, as a way to bring spirit back into the actions of our lives. Living our life as a Karma Yogi, we may set an intention but at the same time release the striving to attain a goal at any cost. As a Karma Yogi, we transcend ambitious motives – trying to get somewhere, or something out of our actions – and release even the need for approval or recognition for our efforts. The action is done for its sake alone not to get anywhere or anything from it. This is considered to be one of the “highest” forms of Yoga. We do not have to live in an ashram. We can do this in our own home, with our families, in the workplace and in all life’s situations.

The practice of Asana prepares us for Karma Yoga as we allow the pose to organically unfold from the breath. The head remains passive and tamasic and the spine is active and rajasic. Then the mind becomes sattvic which is serene and peaceful. Thus, we fulfill the essence of Yoga, which is to quiet and still the waves of the mind. As we learn to do this in Asana, we can progressively take this “way of Being” into more and more of life’s actions and interactions, holding to the Divine center within our Being, while performing every action with devotion and love of God.

RAJA YOGA AND KARMA Another way to avoid accruing Karma is to lift consciousness out of the contraction of the Ego Mind (Ahamkara) to the overmind (Buddhi Mind). The overmind sees differences but does not compare those differences. It is like the state that Baba Ram Das spoke of many years ago as “choiceless awareness.” In this state one holds a bi-polar balance between rights and wrongs, praise and blame, criticism and compliment, always holding to the remembrance of the Source and that we have never been separated. Would it be an understatement to say that this is not always easy to do? When thinking of the balance of these polarities, it is reminiscent of the Persian poet Rumi who wrote, “Beyond the field of right doing and wrongdoing, there is a field.  I will meet you there.”

This path would be a path of self-observation. We would watch emotions as they arise, being aware of the turbulence of mind, and bring the mind back into a peaceful state. For example, there was an 85 year old Yoga Teacher who was the epitome of health and a joyful outlook on life. I asked her secret. She said, “I don’t allow negative thoughts to enter my head. If they should arise, I don’t repress but allow them to leave and replace them with thoughts that bring joy and happiness. Just as thoughts can depress us, thoughts can inspire and uplift us”.

Self-observation is a most important practice. The Yoga Sutras are a wonderful model that gives a map of how to use our mind to live our Yoga. Self-observation can be used in Asana and every phase of our life. As affliction of painful or negative thoughts of blame, anger, frustration and fear arise, look to their origins. It is rarely what it appears to be on the surface.  If we travel to the roots using the model of the Sutras, we can usually unravel the symptoms to find the source by reversing the thought. This is the essence of Yama and Niyama, the first two phases of Astanga, or Raja Yoga. One of the great Yoga practices is observing the Yamas and Niyamas in every aspect of our lives.

CYCLE OF KARMA The cycle of Karma is fascinating. When a vritti or impulse arises within the field of mind, it leads to a desire (kama). When the desire gets strong enough it leads to action (karma). Every action leads to an experience (bhoga) either positive or negative or a mixture of both. This experience then leads to an impression that lodges itself in the memory of the conscious (manas) mind or preconscious, or subconscious, (chitta) mind. These impressions in the human psyche are known as samskaras. Latent impressions of actions which produce results are known as Karmasya. Karmasya is the unfailing cause of memory that gives rise to Vasana.

The very deepest subconscious impressions of samskaras (known as Vasanas) are referred to in the Yoga Sutras as subliminal imprints in the psyche caused by actions, birth, life span and experiences of pleasure and pain. According to ancient scriptures, these Vasanas can become active in this life or in a life yet to come. The outcome of Vasana is memory (vikalpa) one of the five vrittis or mindwaves. Memory here refers to memory of births, longevity and experience of pleasure and pain. Vasana is the corresponding dormant impression of previous experience which is a subconscious impression of the “feeling” produced from these experiences.  These potent samskaras or Vasanas are latent impressions created by actions based on the Kleshas, the five painful mind waves.

KARMA AND THE KLESHAS Klesha come from the Sanskrit root verb Klish which means to inflict. Kleshas are the five painful mindwaves addressed in the 2nd Pada of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. These afflictions can either be virtuous or vicious, depending on how they manifest in our lives and the world around us. They are: 1) Avidya, not seeing, forgetting or ignoring the nature of Oneness with our Creator. 2) Asmita, egoism mistaking the unreal for the real, the impermanent for the permanent, the Buddhi for the Purusha. 3) Raga, attachment, which can be painful because one day the object of our attachment will no longer be available. An elusive commentary of the Yoga Sutras said, “There is nothing wrong with attachment, only the need to repeat it”.  4) Dvesha, aversion, pulling away, feeling opposition, separation and a propensity to hurt. 5) Abhinevesha, the clinging to life and the fear of death, which represents the fear of the unknown. It is this fear that is sometimes said to be responsible for the other four Kleshas, for it is fear that keeps us in Avidya, in ignorance, and from seeing the nature of our Oneness with the Universal.

It is the fear of annihilation that lingers deep within the instinctual memory vaults of the subconscious. “Let me never be non-existent:  Let me be alive”.  The Yoga Sutras show how this Vasana arises out of the experience of the pain of death, the grief of losing loved ones, the pain produced out of fear of the unknown.  I believe that memory is not inherent, but arises from some event and past experience that is believed to be that cause.  This Sutra says, “We cannot fear anything that has not been previously experienced”. This Sutra is sometimes used to support the premise of reincarnation, since we couldn’t fear what we have never known.

The resultant effects of these Kleshas in our lives is known as Karmasyas. Karmasyas bring about three consequences l) birth 2) span of life 3) experience of pleasure and pain in life. Karmasya is like a seed; Vasana is like a field. the birth, or embodiment, is like a tree where the experience of opposites such as pleasure or pain is like its fruits.

How do we avoid this pain? There is a wonderful Sutra in the 2nd chapter, 16th verse that addresses this. Aranya’s commentary says, “We cannot avoid the pains of the past, because they have already occurred.  We cannot avoid the pains of the present, because they are in the process of occurring.” But then in this Sutra we read: ‘Heyam Duhkham Anagatam’. “The only pain that can be avoided, is the pain yet to come.” Or “the pain which is yet to come is to be discarded.”

In the commentaries on the Sutras, it says, “To the Yogin, who is as sensitive as an eyeball, the world is painful”. The example is used of brushing a cobweb across the arm, which we will barely feel. However, if the same cobweb is brushed across the eyeball, which is far more sensitive, it may be painful. This example is sometimes used to illustrate the conscience. One person may be like the tougher outer layer of the skin of the arm and not feel or not be as aware of Karmic implications they are creating. Another person may be as sensitive as an “eyeball” and be aware of any resultant cause and effect immediately as it arises.  The objective in Yoga and one’s spiritual life is to become, or have our conscience become, as sensitized as an “eyeball”. We may argue with the world being “painful to the wise,” however, even pleasure eventually becomes painful, when it is no longer available to us. It is painful to revisit memories of wonderful times, knowing that they are only a flicker in the memory chambers of the past. In reflection, that which was such a joy at one time and no longer is, can be painful. The whole essence of spiritual practices is: • To help us transcend the various polarities of life; • To live in the Buddhi mind which sees differences but does not compare those differences; and • To live a life of action and interaction, in choiceless awareness, where one does not accrue positive or negative Karma.

That is why the spiritual aspirant can avert and transform future Karmas through a shift in perception. All Yoga enables one to refine the Kleshas, bringing them up from the dormant state of Vasana, stored in the subconscious mind, to the fully blown state where they can be seen and again experienced (Udhara). This then allows one to move to the alternating phase of spiritual development where one’s emotions overcome one another such as anger and love. And eventually, after wrestling with angels over a time, the more positive emotions prevail and moves us into the stage where the intensity is thinned. This is known as tanu and this word “tan,” which is found in many asana names, means to thin–to stretch or to go beyond “self-imposed” limitations. At this point, the Kleshas don’t have the same hold and power over the mind. They begin their dissolution process but the seeds are still prevalent.  The next phase of the Kleshas is the state where the seeds of painful experiences are scorched and cannot germinate ever again, even if our buttons are pushed….there are no more buttons, we are beyond the resultant effects of the Kleshas which produce Karmasayas, where they no longer have a hold on our emotions, mind and even body. This is the state of illumination, bliss and awareness where the laws of polarities–of cause and effect, birth and rebirth–no longer apply. It is said that one who is in this “self-actualized” or “self-realized” state of experience no longer accrues karma from their actions. “They are in the world…but not of the world”.

CREATING OUR OWN REALITY THROUGH KARMA Swami Jyotir Mayananda says, “Your present Karmas are gradually setting up vibrations, positive or negative, to attract Karmas from the storehouse of the unconscious. According to your present deeds, you allow a particular group of Karma to arise from the unconscious and mature to become the sustenance for future birth. The Karmas are either good, evil or mixed. However, these terms are relative.

From a broad point of view, actions that are based upon a mind that is free from afflictions (Kleshas), or that is free from egoistic aberrations, are predominantly such as would not disturb the harmony of the world. These actions are supported by the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence) and the virtue of Universal Love. These are good or virtuous actions, and when they fructify, one experiences expansion of consciousness and therefore great joy and bliss. This could be related to heavenly experiences.

But, the actions that are based upon a confused mind and an impure ego, are opposed to the harmony of the universe and are characterized by jealousy, greed, pride and violence. These actions are considered evil or let’s say…not good. While fructifying, they contract the consciousness,leading to the experience of intense pain. This could be related to the experience of hell.

Here we see that the heaven and hell is of our own choosing. They are not a place as much as a state of mind. We cannot take a hurtful action and not experience an equal affect in some way. The wheel of cause and effect is the law of Karma. Every action has a resultant reaction. It shows how we create our own reality. There are no victims of circumstance but as difficult as it is for some to believe, our lives as we know are self-created. This can be taken by some as self-blame…and by others as self-responsibility.

TRANSCENDING KARMA THROUGH NON- VIOLENCE AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE How do we change undesirable cycles? In Yoga, many ways are given but one of the most powerful and direct ways is through the first commandment of Yoga…Non Violence (Ahimsa). Non violence involves our thoughts, our words and our actions. It also involved our motives behind an action.

This can also be seen in the famous phrase “unconditional love”. However, what some call unconditional love can actually be “conditional love”. “I will unconditionally love you, but I expect for you to love me back”. If one were to truly love unconditionally and love for the sake of loving rather than getting even love in return, there would be no hurt or anger, when the object of one’s love is no longer available. Anger, rage, hurt, bitterness, disappointment and blame all produce karmic repercussions that are contractive rather than expansive. These emotions manifest as mental fluctuations and turbulence rather than a peaceful and calm state. When the mind is not calm it cannot be in the moment. In the moment, there is no pain.

Whether the original motive of our actions is violent or non violent, the intention of the heart changes the effect of an action. Injuring one’s children or parents and killing an attacker are not considered the same. Hurting another with rude words is not the same as killing them. Killing a man and cutting grass do not involve the same intent of cruelty. There are so many degrees and intricacies involving Karma….the idea that the slate can be wiped clean for a stretch of the imagination.

Some Yogis practice Yoga to avoid being born again. Ahimsa is considered the highest form of practice. It requires continual refinement of our thoughts, which we can observe in either the friction or fire of our breath, or a cool velvet quality where the breath does not disturb the membranes of the inner nostrils or membranes of the inner body. In an Ahimsa breath, the breath would not even disturb the space and air in the atmosphere around the body.

Ahimsa requires observation of the words we speak. Do they come from our heart or are they used as a weapon inflicting pain on others? Non- violence of actions is an outgrowth of every thought we think. Acts of injury to others are discussed in the Yoga Sutras: to frighten others; to hurt them with rude words; to think unkind thoughts In order to live, hurting living beings seems inevitable. However, in the spiritual life, we do not slide down the path of what is habitual, but we go against the grain as Gandhi did. In the commentaries of the Sutras, which say “that which is unfavorable to the nature of man is favorable to the nature of the Gods. That which is favorable to the nature of man is unfavorable to the nature of the Gods.” Master Swami Sivananda Saraswati gives an example of Karma and going against the grain of human nature to aspire to the nature of the celestials. “If we focus on another person’s defects, we will take on those defects”. In Sutra III:23, we read, “Through samyama (concentration, meditation, samadhi) On Friendliness (Amity) and other Similar Virtues, Strength is Obtained Therein.”

Accumulation of Karma is avoided through Ahimsa, the basis of Mahatma Gandhi’s life and work. It does not only mean no harm, mentally, verbally and physically to another, but it also involves the practice of amity, friendliness and goodwill to all living Beings. In Ahimsa, one would not injure any creature. It is believed that it is not possible to practice non-injury unless selfishness is given up in respect for all external matters. Mahatma Gandhi said that even poverty was a form of violence. It is said that nourishing one’s own body with the flesh of another is the chief form of inflicting injury.

There is direct and indirect violence.  Direct violence would be where we kill an animal. Indirect is when we eat what another has killed. However, even meat eating has varying scriptural views. Manu, the first lawmaker according to Hindu texts says, “For ordinary men, there is nothing wrong in taking meat which they do out of natural propensity. But to desist from it produces excellent results.” This phrase is so wonderful. There is no blame or judgment. To be truly non violent, we abandon tendencies toward judging another for their life choices which help us transcend old emotions of criticism, malice, hatred, anger, blame of self and others. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Non violence is the finest quality of the soul. Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it.”

WE ARE THE ARCHITECTS OF OUR OWN DESTINY Destiny slips into our words without warning. As we make changes in the way we think, speak and act toward others, it is believed we can change the seeds of past action by changing the fruits we are newly creating at this time. It is the Kriyamana Karma that is the free will that leads to the future “fate” and “destiny” known as Prabrabda Karma.  We can make changes in our destiny in this life in this moment. We do not have to wait for Karma to manifest. If we so choose, we can change the effects of future actions Now.

When I began this study many years ago, I found it liberating to see that what I am thinking, speaking and doing at this moment will bring forth future results and that I am not a victim of present or future circumstances. I found it empowering to think that I could change my reality by responding differently in each moment. I found it inspiring to realize that, we all are, the architects of our own destiny.

If we could come to this realization, then we would not have to wait for planetary changes, or predictions to free of us our own “self doing.” We would be liberated and free. Isn’t that what we all want. Whether it’s a prisoner on death row or a child who feels imprisoned by his or her circumstances, or one who feels bound within the contractive corners of one’s mind.    By offering love with all our actions in life, we become Karma Yogis. Transcending the polarities of rights or wrongs, we unite with the beloved, our Creator. Through all our actions, we work out, rather than accrue, Karma. If every action is done for the Divine–and all life’s actions and interactions from the heart–we serve God through the service to humanity. As we send the blessing of loving kindness to all sentient and insentient beings, asking for forgiveness of the hurts we may have knowingly or unknowingly caused to another and to forgive the hurts that others may have caused us, we free ourselves of the bondage of contraction and free our consciousness to expand forever into the light. In living our life in this way, we transcend in consciousness beyond the Kleshas, the Karmas, to stand in the light of remembrance that we have never been separated and are already one with the Universal.

We don’t have to wait to scorch the seeds of Kleshas or for the absolution of Karma, but have only to change our perception and transform our actions with love and forgiveness of self and others. We don’t need to wait for others to do this for us or wait for planetary influences, but we can in this moment transcend past contractions to expand our consciousness to identify with the substratum of being, the seed point of the universal out of which all creation flows. Instead of separation, we begin to sense the Unification as we become filled with the dawn or light of Being. We find that seed point within ourselves which is changeless and eternal. There is no Karma, only the light of “Oneness”. Could this be the way to live a life without accruing black or white, positive or negative Karmas, holding two or more points of perspectives simultaneously, the temporal and the eternal.  The essence of all Yoga is to still the vrittis, or waves, of the mind. In so doing, the mind becomes as still and placid as a lake without a ripple. Then finally, we gaze into its waters and there find our own reflection which is the Divine Source of Being where absolute consciousness is established in Its own Self. “Tada Drastuh Svarupe Vasthanam ”.I:3 In other words, “the Seer and Seen abide in his or her own form” and realize the Oneness that Already Is.

Rama on Yoga & Breath: Response to NYT Article

Bring the breath back to yoga

Originally published May 2012

The recent article in the New York Times entitled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” may be a blessing by opening a conversation about Yoga. For years, those of us who are the ancient veterans of Yoga in America, who have been practicing and teaching since the 1950s when people confused Yoga with Yogurt, have been concerned over the new fitness direction that Yoga has taken in this country.

Let’s face it. The term Yoga has been hijacked. The author of the article, Mr. Broad, is narrowly defining yoga according to his experiences with his injured yoga teacher, Mr. Black. For those of us who have been enlightened by Yoga for nearly six decades with no injuries to self or others, the article was horrifically corrosive. After reading it, I was worried about the risks of getting out of bed or of walking. I could shorten a hamstring without realizing it! But what about the risks of sitting at a computer all day and incurring repetitive stress injuries. Where can we go? There is nowhere to hide,
not even in the inner sanctums of Shavasana, the corpse pose.

No mention was made in the article of varying methodologies of Yoga. All paths and lineages were painted with the same brush. Indra Devi, Swami Sivananda, Pattabhi Jois and Mr. Iyengar although very different from one another, are lumped together from their early teachings in the mid-20th century.

As I discovered over the past 55 years, Yoga is a way of “Being” not just doing. It is the exploration of what Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita calls inaction within an action. It is the essence and means to quiet the waves of the mind. When the waves are still, as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras say, “The Seer and the Seen become One.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, “They realize the oneness that
already is. “

In the l950’s, 60’s and even in the 70’s Yoga was still intact. However in the late 70’s, Yoga began to slip into a mode of physical exercise. The old English prefix ‘ex’ means to project outward. Instead of exercise, perhaps it is more accurate to view Yoga as ‘innercise.’ To experience Yoga as an ‘innercise,’ it is important to bring the breath back into our practice, and teaching, and allow it to move our body organically into a pose.

Swami Satchidananda, founder of Intregral Yoga and a disciple of Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishekesh was once asked if he was a Hindu. He thought quietly for a moment and then answered slowly and pensively, “I like to think of myself not as a Hindu but more as an “Undo.” What a revelation! There is nothing to do but undo. Instead of “doing” Yoga, perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are “undoing” through Yoga.

As the essence of all Yoga is to ”still the waves of the mind,” if we practice asana rapidly without breath, we create more restlessness, the opposite of Yoga. The breath, not the teacher or the clock, is the gage as to when it is time to come out of the pose. If the breath is erratic and staccato it is time to “slowly” exit the pose.

In l970, I was asked to give a talk and demonstration of Yoga to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s cabinet ministers. The presentation was well received and afterward some of the cabinet ministers said, you looked so relaxed, you didn’t even look as if you were in pain. You actually looked as if you were enjoying it.” I was stunned. “Yoga helps us to come out of pain not create more,” I finally replied. “Yes, I do enjoy it, it is my communion with God.” They were astounded. Mrs. Gandhi’s Yoga teacher who
was in attendance was fascinated and then offered to demonstrate how he practiced Yoga. He grabbed his leg and forcefully put it on his opposite thigh and then grimaced and grunted with pain as he forced the opposite foot over into Padmasana, the Full Lotus. Yes, even the Indians can have stiffness in hips and legs. There are different approaches, I realized that day, and that this “Yang” approach could lead to injuries and dismissed it as a potential practice. He was surprised that my approach did not create but helped to heal peoples’ past injuries.

If our lives are not evolving from the practice of Yoga, perhaps we need to change our practice and our teachers. This New York Times article is a wake-up call for the Yoga teaching community to slow down, and re-evaluate one’s teaching and practice style and perhaps contemplate bringing the breath back into Yoga.

Years ago, I hosted Indra Devi as well as Mr. Iyengar. I went to Indra Devi’s class. She did not just teach Yoga…she WAS Yoga. Her presence filled the room casting a mantle of light upon us all. I realized that as teachers, we need to keep our connection to the Divine. It is the unspoken that touches the hearts and minds of the students far more than the technique. Her presence was a reminder of Why we were practicing Yoga..not just How.

It is not Yoga that creates strokes in relatively young and healthy people but the way in which they practice with rapid movements and no preparation which leads to spinal (and neck) compression rather than elongation. The author wrote of Mr. Iyengar emphasizing in the Cobra arching the neck as far back as possible. However, the neck should not be forced back in any pose as it creates cervical compression and restricts the circulation from moving between the spinal cord and brain. I remember many years ago, Mr. Iyengar emphasizing the extension of the back of the neck, because Cobras do not throw their heads back and look up but drew their head back and elongate what would be the back
of their neck. The eyes instead of looking upward would be drawn towards the back of the head and intently gaze straight ahead without wavering.

In the incidence of a college student who intensified his practice by sitting in Vajrasana on his heels for hours a day, his injury cannot be blamed on Yoga but on his own ambition and lack of discernment. Vajrasana is NOT a classical sitting pose for meditation.

The article also alludes to the Shoulderstand, as “tucking the chin deep into the chest. No! That is not the way it is practiced. In Sarvangasana, we bring the chest to the chin…not the chin to the chest. We roll the upper arms outward affixing the outer elbows to the earth. “This is a SHOULDER stand…not a NECK stand,” Mr. Iyengar would say. Known as Sarvangasana, meaning the whole or entire parts of the body, the Shoulderstand is commonly referred to as the Queen of Asana (The Headstand is the King) and is known to affect and benefit every gland, organ and system of our body. It affects the physical as well as subtle body. The article mentioned it stimulates the thyroid. No, it does not unless
the thyroid is hypoactive. Sarvangasana balances the thyroid rather than stimulate it. Matsyasana, the fish pose is the one that is stimulating to the thyroid and is excellent for those with hypoactive (underactive) thryroid. The fish without the shoulderstand first, can be over stimulating to the nervous system because of the affects to the adrenaline glands. Those of us who have practiced these poses for half a century can testify that it balances the thyroid and parathyroids which are responsible for our metabolic processes and metabolism of calcium.

In Shoulderstand, the 7th cervical vertebra eventually does not even touch the mat. Sarvangasana is known to prevent strokes and heart attacks as well as alleviate neck and shoulder tension. It beneficially affects the cerebellum which doesn’t only coordinate muscles but is what the Yogis call the seat of the subconscious mind. Mr. Broad also relates this pose to the thalamus gland. However, the thalamus which relays sensory messages to the outer brain also relates to subtle energy center that awaken our conscious to vaster states of awareness. The thalamus which holds a blue print of every
cell of the body sits above the hypothalamus which is now known as the master endocrine gland. Perhaps one day the thalamus may be recognized as the true master endocrine gland that regulates all others under its hierarchical structure. This gland relates to the crown chakra and is impacted by Sirshasana, the Headstand, far more than the Shoulderstand.

In relation to Sarvangasana, the article refers to the pons, attributing only the role it plays in respiration. It does, but it is also the switchboard or relay center between the spinal cord and the brain. When there is compression or tension in this area, we see the aging process in the slowing down of the reflexes. Sasrvangasana preserves the youthfulness of the reflexes. The area of the pons where the spinal cord meets the base of the brain is known as the medulla oblongata. This is the area that Swami Paramamahamsa calls the “seat of the soul.” Within the arena of the “back brain” is what is known in the Yoga Sutras as the “Cave of Brahma,” the creator.

Sarvangasana is a pose of meditation where the heart is above the head, which the Yogis relate to the ego. In it, the ego is humbled and the heart reigns supreme over the mind, if only for a short time. This is an extraordinary pose that also elongates the carotid sinus and arteries and can diminish excessive plaque which instead of creating, can actually help prevent strokes and heart attacks.

Sarvangasana increases circulation of blood, lymph and cerebral spinal fluids. The article states concerns for the basilar artery which arises from the union of the two vertebral arteries that feed the pons. He references that reduction in blood flow to the basilar artery has been known to produce a variety of strokes. In a correct shoulderstand, there is no pressure upon the basilar artery, but the pose can benefit its circulatory flow.

In referring to the woman of 28 who suffered a stroke while attempting Urdva Dhanurasana which is correctly known as the “Upward Bow.” It is not the wheel, which is something different. Again depending upon the teaching, the head is not placed on the floor as this can induce compression in the neck if the arms are weak and the shoulders are not flexible. In any pose the neck is never compressed or arched. Again, what were the instructions? What was trying to be achieved? What is being promoted in the name and of Yoga? There is also no mention of the impact of pharmaceutical drugs and the effects of legal or illegal drugs ingested into the system. How do we know the condition
of the people getting injured?

Please Mr. Broad and Mr. Black, do not blame Yoga but look to the teachers’ interpretation of what they call Yoga. Many years ago a group of long-time teachers came to Swami Satchidananda voicing their concerns over the direction that Yoga was taking in this country and how it was taught as aerobic exercise that would eventually lead to injuries. Swamiji was pensive and then said, “You must trust…trust in Yoga”. Thank you for opening this discussion that will allow everyone in the Yoga community to stop and take a big breath.

River of Sound Review by Amy Weintraub

River of Sound: Chants for Awakening & Balancing the Chakras

Reviewed by Amy Weintraub

If you can’t get to a workshop with master yogini and international yoga teacher Rama Jyoti Vernon, this CD may be the next best thing. River of Sound is not background music. In fact, it’s not even music as those of us who chant Kirtan know it. If however you want a glimpse into the depths of what the Sanskrit language offers in terms of psycho-emotional and physiological realignment, this CD is an invaluable resource. In it, we learn and practice Sanskrit vowels and diphthongs (the vibratory combination of vowels), and bija mantras. As Rama guides us from the poetic wisdom of her heart and soul, she shares teachings of universal truth. “Sanskrit is like a great river,” she says in the introduction, “It just keeps flowing. All we do with the sound is we change the banks of the river with our teeth, our tongue and our lips.”

From her decades of practice and study with the great Indian yoga masters of the 20th century, she has a wealth of knowledge that has been tested in the laboratory of her own body-mind and with the thousands of students whom she has instructed. While most of her formulations are aligned with the primary teachings of Nada Yoga (study of sound), some are different. She instills confidence in the listener so that we trust her system and willingly practice along with her a sound for swatistana chakra at the pelvic region, for example, that may be different from what we have learned.

In the introduction to the bija mantras, Rama explains that the sounds have no meaning but that they are potent and powerful vibrations “that realign our sensory organs” and bring us into “greater attunement within ourselves” that opens us to an “expanded attunement with the universe.” Woven throughout her extemporaneous teachings about the chakras are references to Patanjali’s Sutras and wisdom from her own inspiring sutras, full of passion and poetry. The listener hears that poetic passion in descriptions of, for instance this one about anahata the heart chakra: “As light dawns within our being, we are not creating anything but rather releasing the impediments of the past that have hardened areas that have blocked the light that is always there.” As she describes the releasing effect of the bija mantra on vissudha, the chakra at the throat, she says that Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom, poetry and music, “will dance upon the tongue as the throat opens.”

You might, as I did, weave this CD workshop with Rama into your morning practice. Let it be your meditation and, as Rama says, “awaken to who and what we are.”

Order CD here:

If you’re a yoga teacher or serious student, you might be inspired to join Rama for her Tucson retreat in February 13-18, 2013, Tucson, AZ,


Click Here to Order: River of Sound: Chants for Awakening & Balancing the Chakras

This CD was recorded in March 2009 with a group of Rama’s Arizona students Yoga Vida yoga studio in Tucson. The results are quite amazing: Rama’s unique chanting with instructions for Vowels, Diphthongs and Bija Mantras. This CD is complete in its instruction, practice, and study application. There are tracks with call and response and tracks with the chants repeated and space left for your own response. Those who have studied with Rama will cherish this CD, and those who have not will have a wonderful introduction to Rama’s inspiration.