Sure-fire Antidote For Vertigo

Two weeks ago I got exposed to some cold weather and also made the mistake of consuming cold food which just doesn’t suit me. (If I bite into a cold sandwich I get congested within minutes.)

My head felt completely jammed and heavy and I ended up with vertigo. Usually an episode leaves me bedridden  for 24 hours or so but this recent episode was different. It lasted about 2 weeks and I was mobile but had to be careful not to make any sudden movements, look up or down or lie down on either side.  So while it left me feeling  spaced out and disoriented ,  it didn’t interfere with my travel plans and other social obligations and familial responsibilities during the Christmas season. I don’t have vertigo often, maybe once every 5 years and I know my triggers ( strong smells like those in cleaning solutions  bleach, alcohol etc and exposure to cold winds and consumption of too much cold food).

When I finally got time to take care of myself I tried different natural remedies like performing mudra for vertigo and drinking and eating herbs, food and drinks (cloves, ginger, nutmeg etc) that are inherently as well as temperature warm/hot. My symptoms did improve but very slowly and not completely, so I decided to go with the sesame oil treatment which I should have done sooner, but kept putting off. With my little finger I  coated the inside of my ears with sesame oil as far as it could reach into both my ears. I also coated my nostrils making sure to breathe in deeply few times and gave myself a facial lymphatic drainage massage with it too. This helps clear the sinus congestion really fast.  (My husband once had a really bad cold which refused to leave. I convinced him to allow me to give him the sesame oil lymphatic drainage massage followed by hot towel compresses and after just one treatment he was completely fine.) Following just two applications and massages over a 24 hour period, there was 100% improvement in my vertigo. I also ate 10 almonds in the morning and 10 at night. Almonds help counter excess kapha and vata which cause vertigo.

Using organic cold pressed sesame oil is recommended, but I used what I had in my pantry which was the dark sesame oil used in Chinese recipes 🙂

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Sesame oil is extremely hot in nature and is hailed for its many benefits in Ayurveda. I resumed including them in my daily diet at least for the rest of winter. Toasting  white sesame seeds until they release oil and sprinkling a teaspoon them on toast, bagels vegetable etc or adding them when baking or making rotis, paranthas etc are a great way to include them in your diet.  You can learn more about the benefits of sesame seed here.

Too much Tejas

Question from one of the readers: Whenever I do tratak for some days i get acne, mouth ulcer and dry lips what is the reason for this symptoms?

Ghee

Ghee in moderation helps increase ojas

Trataka increases tejas or heat in the body. You need to make sure you drink plenty of water and also avoid foods in your diet that increases tejas. So avoid sour and hot spices, chili peppers, sesame, meat, alcohol, onion, garlic, honey, chai, coffee or any other foods, herbs etc that increase heat in body. Consume saunf, mishri, fresh coconut, coconut oil, ghee, dates, rice, wheat, sweet potato, kheer etc in moderation to increase ojas. Eat simple foods that have a watery gravy instead of dry sabzi. soak 10 almonds at night and next day peel and have them with some milk. Also soak sabza seeds in water till they become gooey then add them to sherbets, milk shakes, puddings, desserts etc

Quick and Effective cure for Dyspepsia

Two weeks ago I experienced churning pain and weird bubbly sensations in my stomach. At the time, I couldn’t figure out what it was as it was something I had never experienced. But after some learning, I found out it was dyspepsia. Thinking back I had recently been consuming more than usual cheese. I usually eat a moderate balanced diet.

 

Ghee

Yachna Yoga Ghee

 

To return balance to my system, first of all, I stopped consuming all spicy and hot foods as well as dairy for  2-3 days. Before my meal, I consumed about 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil and after I chewed 1/2 a teaspoon of fennel seeds. I also drizzled ghee on my soup, dal or whatever it was I ate. You can also sip fennel tea. Within 2 days balance was restored.

Ghee, coconut oil, and fennel are cooling in nature. All three are an antidote to pitta (increased bile). Ghee and fennel are known to aid in digestion.

Ghee

Fennel

Anti-Aging and Healing- The Mighty Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is the best antidote for vata or the air related disorders like arthritis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, constipation, gas, bloating, cold feet and hands, impatience, restlessness, nervousness, racing mind,  feeling spaced out, frazzled, all over the place, finding it hard to focus or sit still, aging, wrinkles, dry eyes and old age related conditions. Sesame oil is known as the king of oils in Ayurveda.  It is an important ingredient of many Ayurvedic preparations as it has the ability to penetrate deep into the tissues and is very rich in antioxidants and minerals.

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yachnayoga

The use of sesame oil is what helped me begin my healing journey. A decade ago I suffered from terrible anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, nervous energy etc. At the time when I first learned about the benefits of sesame oil, I had the toasted sesame oil variety in my pantry. Although the cold pressed oil is recommended over the toasted sesame (which I realized later), it still helped me tremendously.  Toasted sesame oil has a very strong flavor and smell and can make you feel nauseous.  Cold pressed on the other hand is healthier and easier to use. After some learning and reading I quickly switched to cold pressed sesame oil.Sesame oil will help calm the nerves and relax you. It will mellow you out. If you suffer from anxiety disorders massaging scalp, will help tremendously. If you suffer from cold hands and feet, massaging them vigorously with sesame oil will help increase the pitta factor in your body and bring immense warmth. Night time is the best time for this as sesame oil can relax you and help you get deep sleep. Sesame oil is rich in antioxidants.  It is a great moisturizer for the skin. It fights wrinkles and aging. Gently massaging sesame oil on acne will help dry it out within a few days.  It is antibacterial, anti viral, anti-inflammatory. Dab a few drops to coat the inside of your nostrils to protect from cold and flu viruses. Touch wood, but I haven’t had the flu in 15 years and I never get the flu shot. (Great 😦 now I’m afraid I’m going to pay for bragging). But I am also careful what I eat and how I eat based on the principles of Ayurveda.  I include herbs and rasayans based on my body type. For example I never drink cold, iced beverages in winter. I sip warm water throughout the day and also begin my day with medium hot water.  It aids in proper digestion and assimilation of food.  But my body type is pitta so I have to strike a balance between the two humors through a careful selection of what I cook and how I cook it.  Even during the summer time I consume room temperature or cool foods only. Ice/cold beverages wreak havoc on your digestive system. And in Ayurveda, majority of diseases stem from poor digestion.

If you have a vata constitution, suffer from vata disorders or live in a cold dry climate make sure to include sesame oil in your diet and also use for massaging the face, body and hair. Leave it on for at lest 30 minutes to an hour; the longer the better. You can leave it on the scalp overnight and shampoo off the next day.  Don’t overdo it. (I’m guilty, but that’s how you really learn-through trial and error). Everything in moderation only- ease into it starting with small doses.  Drizzle sesame oil in you soups, dals, breads, rice or any preparations for that matter just before you eat. This will also prevent gas, bloating, cramps, and indigestion. Don’t consume more than a teaspoon/day or you’ll feel like you have a burning fever.

Before you proceed:

  • Find out your body type
  • Follow other measures to make sure you aren’t negating your healing efforts through contradictory habits and patterns.  For example: massaging with sesame oil and then eating a bowl of ice cream or having a cold salad or shake.
  • If you suffer from deep rooted/chronic diseases, seek guidance and treatment from an experienced Ayurveda practitioner. Ayurveda treatment involves several pronged approach which consists of prevention, treatment at the root, cleansing, dietary restrictions etc.

The above is based on my own experience with sesame oil.  You can learn more about other benefits of sesame by clicking below:

According to http://naturalsociety.com/12-health-benefits-of-sesame-seeds-sesame-oil/

  • Promote Healthy, Beautiful Skin – Sesame seeds are full of zinc, an essential      mineral for producing collagen and giving skin more elasticity. Zinc also      helps damaged tissues in the body to repair. Sesame oil is also known to      sooth burns and prevent skin related disorders.
  • Great      for High-Protein Vegetarian Diet – Sesame seeds offer 4.7 grams of      protein per ounce, giving them a perfect place in a high-protein      vegetarian diet.
  • Sesame      Seed Oil for Oral Health – One of the most prominent benefits of      sesame seeds and sesame oil revolves around removing dental plaque and      boosting oral health. By engaging in an activity known as oil pulling,      which involves swishing oil around in your mouth, you can boost oral      health and even whiten your teeth. One study showcases      the oil pulling benefits on the oral level, where oil pulling with sesame      oil was shown to reduce the amount of streptococcus mutants in both teeth      plaque and mouth saliva, and boost overall health. (Click the next link to      find out what oil pulling is and learn of oil      pulling benefits).
  • Helps      Prevent Diabetes – Thanks to magnesium and other nutrients, sesame      seeds, and especially sesame oil, has been shown to combat diabetes. One      study, published      in 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found      that sesame oil “improved the effectiveness of the oral antidiabetic drug glibenclamide in      type 2 diabetic patients”. Another study concluded      that “substitution of sesame oil as the sole edible oil has an additive      effect in further lowering BP and plasma glucose in hypertensive      diabetics”.
  • Reduces      Blood Pressure – As the above study concludes, sesame oil has been shown      to lower blood pressure in hypertensive diabetics. Additionally, magnesium      has been shown      to help lower blood pressure – and sesame seeds are loaded with      magnesium.
  • Promotes      Heart Health – Further adding to the health benefits of sesame      seeds, sesame seed oil can boost heart health by preventing      atherosclerotic lesions. An antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound      known as sesamol, which also harnesses anti-atherogenic properties, is thought      to be one reason for the beneficial effects. According to      GreenMedInfo, sesamol has been shown to “possess over two dozen      beneficial pharmacologically active properties, many of which may      contribute to improving cardiovascular health”.
  • Protects      Against DNA Damage from Radiation – Sesamol, a compound found in      sesame seeds and sesame oil, has been shown in      some studies to protect against DNA damaged caused by radiation. Further,      sesamol has been shown      to extend life in mice treated with radiation, partly by preventing      damage to the intestines and the spleen.
  • Prevents      Cancer – Not only do sesame seeds contain an anti-cancer compound      called phytate, but the magnesium in sesame seeds also harness      anti-cancer properties. One      study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition      found that the risk of colorectal tumors decreased by 13% and the risk of      colorectal cancer decreased by 12% for every 100 mg of magnesium taken in.
  • Boosts      Bone Health – In addition to promoting healthy skin, zinc      has also been shown to boost bone mineral density and bone health as a      whole. One study, published in      the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found a correlation      between zinc deficiency and osteoporosis in the hip and spine area. What’s      more, sesame seeds are a great source of calcium – a known trace mineral      that is essential for bone health and preventing related conditions.
  • Boosting      Digestive Health, Relieving Constipation – Sesame seeds are rich in      fiber, which is known to pave way for a healthy digestive system and a      healthy colon.
  • Provides      Relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis – A mineral that is important for      anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzyme systems, copper is known for      reducing pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Additionally, this      mineral helps provide strength to blood vessels, bones, and joints.
  • Promotes      Respiratory Health, Prevents Asthma – Thanks to the magnesium, sesame      seeds are able to prevent asthma by and other respiratory disorders by      preventing airway spasms.

Read more:

http://naturalsociety.com/12-health-benefits-of-sesame-seeds-sesame-oil/#ixzz2rRZ77orN

http://www.youthingstrategies.com/

Happy New Year 2014!!!

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Tejas-The Spark of Radiance, Warmth, Glow and Brilliance

What is Tejas?

Tejas is responsible for inner radiance, glow or aura, luster in one’s eyes, clarity, fearlessness, courage, intelligence, and understanding and comprehension at the cellular level.  It is the subtle and positive essence or counterpart of pitta or fire element in the body and is responsible for the digestion and metabolism of everything we take in.

Tejas can be compared to hormones and amino acids that regulate cellular metabolism.

Hence tejas is needed for metabolism.  If tejas in a person is too high it burns out the ojas , as in the case with multiple sclerosis.  The myelin sheaths which are composed of ojas (water element) are burned by high tejas (fire element).

Negative thinking damages ojas, tejas, prana, immune system, the spleen, the function of the lymphatic system.  The thymus gland is located very close to the heart which is the seat of emotions.  Hence any negative emotional disturbance will affect the thymus. Gently tapping the sternum stimulates the thymus gland which in turn stimulates the immune system.

Tejas gets diminished by:

  • Excessive talking
  • Psychological/emotional imbalances
  • Negative thinking
  • Consuming cold foods, icy beverages, ice cream etc. diminishes tejas which in turn negatively impacts metabolism, digestion and assimilation of food.  This leads to accumulation of toxins/ama in the tissues which eventually leads to disease.

For a healthy balance of tejas one should:

  • Enforce positive thinking.  Positive thinking strengthens ojas, tejas and prana and the thymus gland, which is responsible for a healthy immune system and good health.
  • Meditate
  • Chant mantras
  • Try sitting in the meditation position, in a lotus pose as that helps open up the heart chakra, calms the breath and balances ojas, tejas and prana.
  • Practice awareness in thought, words and action
  • Avoid gossip, excessive talking, negative talk etc.

For a depleted tejas one should consume:

  • 1 pinch of trikatu which is -ginger, black pepper, piper longum with 1 tsp of honey 15 minutes before eating a meal as it kindles the agni (metabolism/digestive fire).
  • Chewing a small piece of ginger with some lemon juice and salt sprinkled on it can help build tejas.
  • Bitter ghee is good for increasing tejas without increasing pitta.1 tsp morning and evening on an empty stomach with ½ cup warm water.

NOTE: People who suffer from excessive pitta or heat in the body should not consume the above.  Excessive pitta is marked by heat in the body, inflammation, boils, acne, ulcers, heartburn, indigestion, and negative emotions like anger, jealousy, anxiety, aggression, impatience, hate etc.  Instead one should avoid consuming foods that are inherently and temperature hot as they further aggravate pitta.  Hence avoid spicy, pungent foods, peppers, garlic, onions, sesame, coffee, tea etc.  Consuming foods and herbs that are cooling and sweet (not sugary, but inherently sweet like rice, wheat etc), will help bring pitta back to a healthy balance.  Chewing on fennel seeds, cardamoms, etc sipping warm herbal teas helps calm pitta.

I will address this in more detail in another article.

Recommended Reading: Ojas-The Sap of Life, Vigor, Radiant Health and Luster

Resource: Secrets of the Pulse, Dr. Vasant Dattatray Lad

Ojas-The sap of Life, Vigor, Longevity, Radiant Health and Luster

What is Ojas?

According to Ayurveda, Ojas is the subtle essence that is responsible for life, radiant health, strong immunity, vigor, longevity and overall well being of an individual.

The subtle essence called ojas that is extracted from the proper digestion and efficient metabolism of food nourishes the bodily tissues of blood, plasma and lymph, muscle, fat, bones, bone marrow, semen and ojas.

Ojas also forms the basic material of the five sense organs, ligaments and lubricating fluids. Improper digestion leads to production of ama or toxins in the body.  The accumulation of ama/toxins in the bodily tissues is what leads to disease.   

The heart is the seat of the ojas. From the heart, 10 blood vessels referred to as mahaphala carry ojas to the rest of the body. Ojas is affected by not only the food we take in and its healthy digestion, but also by the sensory impressions we take in. Hence it is important to protect the physical and emotional health of the heart.

Ojas is described to have the color of ghee, the taste of honey, the smell of fried paddy/rice grain.

Signs of healthy Ojas:

A person with healthy ojas possesses:

  •    Clear radiant complexion
  •    Strong immunity against infectious disease (seldom falls sick)
  •    Cheerfulness, energy and enthusiasm,
  •    Youthfulness
  •    High threshold for stress,
  •    Mental clarity
  •    Creativity
  •    Serenity

 Signs of weakened Ojas:

Signs of a person with weak ojas :

  •     Timid
  •     Weak
  •     Anxious
  •     Depressed and  always worried
  •     Lacks luster/poor complexion
  •     Poor appetite
  •     Feel sluggish/fatigued
  •     Emaciated
  •    Suffers from disorders of the sense organs.

NOTE: Too much Ojas is also not a good thing.  It can lead to diabetes, high cholesterol etc.

What weakens Ojas?

Ojas is diminished by under eating, overeating, eating when previous food has not yet been digested, consumption of poor quality food that results in the blocking of the channels, consumption of stale foods, canned foods, fermented foods like cheese, meat, irregular diet, excessive exercise, fasting, negative emotional stressors such as anxiety, anger, sadness, grief, hatred, jealousy, long held resentment, fear, grief, consumption of alcohol, smoking,  lack of sleep, excessive discharge of mucus, blood, semen and other excreta, with age and injury by other organisms, undue exposure to wind and sun, excessive sexual activity.

What promotes or revitalizes Ojas? 

Consumption of foods that share the same properties of Ojas help increase Ojas. Ojas has the 10 properties of sweet, cold, soft, unctuous, smooth, viscous, slimy, heavy, dull and clear.  Hence a balanced saatvik diet of fresh foods, cow’s milk, ghee, fruits, rice,  sweet foods like dates, natural seeds and nuts like almonds (soaked overnight and skin removed before eating on empty stomach), healthy eating habits, moderation in exercise and diet, and consumption of rasayans (like Chyawanprash) help promote or revitalize ojas. Bathing and use of gemstones also help revitalize ojas. 

How can one protect Ojas?

Since Ojas is the result of the quality of food we eat, its proper digestion and efficient metabolism and the sensory impressions we imbibe in our daily life, in order to protect ojas it is vital to protect the mind and heart from emotional strain and stress and to adopt a healthy balanced diet.

  • Nourish your physical health by eating meals in a pleasant environment in the company of people that you enjoy.  Eating meals with people engaged in unpleasant conversations, arguments etc leads to production of toxins
  • Eat at a moderate pace. Don’t eat in a hurry, while walking or driving.
  • Don’t eat when you are emotional, angry, upset etc. as negative emotions produce toxins/ama
  • Don’t eat if the previous meal still hasn’t been digested as that will lead to the production of ama/toxins. The accumulation of ama in the bodily tissues leads to disease.
  • Eat a balance meal.  In Ayurveda, a balanced meal consists of all the 6 major tastes in moderation: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent, and pungent.   People of pitta constitutions should minimize or avoid hot, pungent, spicy foods as that will further aggravate the pitta (internal fire) which could further burn out the ojas.
  • Nourish your mind through regular meditation
  • Positive thinking

For depleted Ojas:

  • Soak 10 almonds in water overnight
  • Peel off the skins and blend in blender
  • Add a cup of hot milk*
  • Add a pinch of cardamom, a pinch of cardamom, a pinch of ginger powder and 1 tsp of ghee, saffron (optional)
  • Instead of date sugar one can use turbinado or brown sugar

This almond milk is great for building ojas.  Persons suffering from high cholesterol can skip ghee.  Person who have an imbalanced Kapha (overweight, excess mucus, sinusitis, edema etc) should also avoid soaked almonds and milk, but can consume dry almonds instead.

*Can substitute with soy or rice milk.

Recommended Reading: Tejas, Prana  

Resources:Charaka Samhita, Gabriel Van Loon, Yoga and Ayurveda, David Frawley, Secrets of the Pulse, Dr. Vasant Lad

 

Self healing with Plants and Herbs

The healing arts go back in time well before there were trained doctors or medicine men.  In the beginning people gathered information on self healing from their environment and watching the plants and animals around them.  The earliest form of self healing came from the use of plants and herbs as ‘medicines’ to treat everything from a toothache to cuts, bruises, burns and fevers.  With the advent of modern day pharmaceuticals this has become a lost art as people find it quicker and easier to pop a pill, but research is showing that quicker is not always better and people are turning back to the self healing arts of Naturopathy and using plants to help fix the illnesses in our bodies.   

The truth is that many of our modern day medicines are actually derived from plant based materials.  Or at least many of them start that way until the manufacturers can find a way to recreate the plant based compounds in a laboratory and mass produce them. The problem we are finding though is that when you isolate just one or two compounds from a plant, it does not always work as well because like everything in nature, plants were created with many different working parts that all come together to heal us.  It is like going on a diet and only removing sugar.  Sure you will lose some weight, but if you are still consuming excessive carbohydrates and processed foods then your body will still not reach its optimal weight.  Just like with everything in life you have to look at the entire picture – if you take one or two pieces out of the puzzle then the picture will not be complete.   

So with this understanding in mind people are going back to using plants and herbs instead of man made chemicals to cure their common, everyday illnesses.  Plants like echinacea are turned into teas and tinctures to cure the common cold.  Arnica is made into a paste to help relieve sore muscles and get bruising to heal.  Tea tree oil is used as an antiseptic for cuts and scrapes.  St. John’s wort and chamomile are being used to treat depression and melancholy.  There is Ginseng for energy and Ginkgo Biloba for memory and increased brain function.  The list of natural plant remedies can go on and on but there is one common trend which is that people are turning back to using plants for their own self healing.  The same plants our ancestors used thousands of years ago are making a comeback and again being used in our everyday lives.  We are beginning to realize that the extra two minutes it takes to prepare an herbal tea is worth the long term benefit of not introducing harmful chemicals into our bodies.  This is not only good for the planet, to encourage a reliance on natural sources and not chemically manufactured ones, but it is also good for our own spiritual self healing to take back our personal power and once again take responsibility for our own natural health and well being.

This article was contributed by the team at mindvalley.

 

Mind and Food

By Sri Swami Sivananda

“When the food is pure, the whole nature becomes pure; when the nature becomes pure, the memory becomes firm; and when a man is in possession of a firm memory, all the ties are severed.”

(Chhandogya Upanishad, VII-xxvi-2)

Mind Is Made Of Food

Mind is manufactured out of the food that we take. Subtlest part of food reaches upward to the heart and thence entering the arteries called the ‘Hita’, and thereby bringing into existence the aggregate of the organs of speech and being changed into the form of the mind, it increases the mind. And thus, the mind, being increased by food, is material and not eternal as held by the Vaiseshikas.

The Upanishadic philosophers believed that the mind depends upon the food for its formation. “The food that we take is transformed in three different ways: the gross or the heaviest part of it becomes the excrement; that of medium density is transformed into flesh and the finest part goes to form the mind.” (Chhandogya Upanishad, VI-v-1) “Just as in the churning of curd, its fine particles rise up and are transformed into butter, so when food is consumed, the subtlest part rises up and is transformed into mind.” (Chhandogya Upanishad, VI-vi-1 & 2). Later, even in the days of the Bhagavad-Gita, we find that the three different mental temperaments-the Sattvic, the Rajasic and the Tamasic-were supposed to be due to the three different kinds of food what we eat. (Bhagavad-Gita, XVII-8 & 10).

Quality Of Mind Depends Upon Quality Of Food

Food has a direct and intimate connection with the mind and plays a vital part in the make-up of the mind. Sattvic diet calms the mind. Rajasic diet excites the mind. Mark the difference in nature between a tiger which lives on flesh and a cow which lives on grass. Food exercises important influence on the mind. You see it clearly every day. It is very difficult to control the mind after a heavy, sumptuous, indigestible, rice meal. The mind runs, wanders and jumps like a monkey all the time. Alcohol causes tremendous excitement in the mind.

Food plays an important role in meditation. For purposes of meditation, the food must be light, Sattvic and nutritious. The body is Annamaya (made up of food). Bhairavi Chakra is in Annamaya Kosha. Bhairavi Chakra is Maya. Light Sattvic food, such as fruits, milk, etc., takes you to Vishnu Chakra and thence to Nirvikalpa state quite easily.

When the quality of the mind depends upon the quality of the food taken, it is natural to insist in the interest of the highest morality upon a kind of Sattvic regimen of diet for those aspirants who lead a contemplative life and householders who are attempting to lead a spiritual life in the world. It was because Narada had his impurity destroyed that the venerable Sanatkumara pointed out to him the way beyond darkness. The way which leads up beyond darkness, therefore, must be sought for in the purity of food, which involves in its train, the purity of mind.

Harmful Foods

Different foods produce different effects in different compartments of the brain. Spiced dishes, sour things, black gram, onions, garlic, tea, wine, fish, meat, mustard oil, etc., excite passions and emotions and should, therefore, be avoided. They should be particularly avoided by a Sadhaka. A Jijnasu (spiritual aspirant) should strictly give up meat, fish and alcoholic drinks as these make the mind coarse and produce excitement in the mind. Heavy food brings Tandri (drowsiness) and Alasya (laziness). Tea should be given up. It destroys Virya. Sugar must be taken in moderation. It is better if it is given up.

Food Items Helpful In Meditation

Milk, fruits, almonds, sugar-candy, butter, green oats, Bengal oats (Chenai) soaked in water overnight, bread, etc., are all helpful in meditation. Thed, a kind of Kandamula found in abundance in Brahmapuri, Vasishtha Guha and other parts of the Himalayas, is very Sattvic. It helps meditation. My friend and spiritual brother Swami Purushottamanandaji used to live on that for some days when he was at Vasishtha Guha, fourteen miles from the reputed Rishikesh. Sunthi-Sevana (taking powder of dried ginger) is very good for aspirants. It can be taken along with milk. It refreshes the mind and helps digestion. Yogins take it very often. Triphala water also is taken by Yogins. It removes constipation, cools the system and stops wet-dreams. Myrobalan or Haritaki (Harad of the yellow kind) can be chewed by Yogic practitioners very often. It preserves semen and checks nocturnal discharges. Potatoes boiled without salt or roasted in fire are very good.

A Note Of Caution

Evolution is better than revolution. Do not make sudden changes in anything, particularly in food. Let the change be gradual. The system should accommodate it without any hitch. Natura non facil saltum (nature never moves by leaps).

A Raja Yogin who wants to control the mind must be able to avoid the two extremes, viz., luxury and severe Tamasic Tapas. Too much fasting brings about extreme weakness. You cannot do any Sadhana. You cannot think. You cannot ratiocinate. Take any food that suits you. Do not make much fuss about it. Any food that is readily available and that agrees with your system is harmless.

When Food Can Be Dispensed With

Food is only a mass of energy. Water supplies energy to the body. Air also furnishes energy. You can live without food for very many days, but you cannot live without air even for some minutes. Oxygen is even more important. What is wanted to support the body is energy. If you can supply the energy from any other source, you can dispense with food entirely. Yogins keep up the body without food by drinking nectar. This nectar flows through a hole in the palate. It dribbles and nourishes the body. A Jnani can draw energy directly from his pure, irresistible will and support the body without food. If you know the process of drawing the energy from the cosmic energy or solar energy, you can maintain the body with this energy alone for any length of time and can dispense with food.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a revered text on Hatha Yoga was written by Svatmaram sometime in the 15th century C.E. Chapter 1 starts out by Svatmaram paying respect to Lord Shiva, the supreme teacher of Hatha Yoga. He names a number of revered sages of the past (Matsyendra, Goraksha etc) who conquered death through Yoga and still roam this Universe. He states that the purpose of Hatha Yoga is to attain success in Raja Yoga.  Below is an overview of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for informational purposes only.  A detailed description of these asanas in conformance with the practices today can be found online.

Chapter 1-Asanas 

One achieves success in yoga through enthusiasm, open mindedness, courage, knowledge of truth and solitude. Yoga gets destroyed through excessive talking, overeating, and physical strain, spending too much time in the company of people, restlessness and performing unnecessary rituals. A yogi who is celibate, moderate in eating habits, detached and persevering in yoga will achieve success within a year. A moderate diet that is satisfying, soothing and sweet is best. Foods that are bitter, sour, spicy, oily green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, alcohol, mustard, meat, asafetida, garlic etc are not recommended. Also food that is too salty, dry, and stale or has been reheated is prohibited. A yogi should avoid travel, company of bad people, early morning baths and any procedures that might harm the body. Wheat, rice, barley, milk, ghee, sugar, mung beans etc are favorable for the practicing yogi. Whether young or old, weak or strong, everyone can benefit form the practice of Hatha Yoga. One who practices yoga is bound to achieve success. One cannot achieve success in yoga by merely talking about it, reading about it or by donning certain attire. It is only practice that will bestow success in yoga. The yoga asanas mentioned by Svatmaram are:

1. Swastikasan

2. Gomukhasan or Cow Pose

3. Virasana

4. Kurmasan or Tortoise Pose

5. Kukkutasan or Raised Tortoise Pose

6. Uttankurmasan

7. Dhanurasan or Bow Pose

8. Matsyendra asan

9. Paschimottan asan or Forward bend Pose

10. Mayurasan or Peacock Pose

11. Shavasana or Corpse Pose

Out of the 84 asans taught by Lord Shiva, Svatmaram describes the 4 most important ones:

1. Siddhasana also known as Vajrasan, Muktasan, and Guptaasan

2. Padmasan or Lotus Pose

3. Simha asan, Singha asan or Lion Pose

4. Bhadraasan or Gorakshasan or Baddha Kona asan described as the destroyer of all diseases

Chapter 2-Pranayam

Pranayam which should be undertaken only upon successful mastery over the asanas/poses. The mind and breath are interconnected. A steady breath means a calm mind and a calm mind helps steady the breath. Therefore one must learn control over the breath. When impurities are present in the nadis (energy channels in the astral body), it is impossible for the breath to flow through the sushumna (the most important nadi in the astral body, which corresponds to the spinal canal in the physical body). Therefore it is important that one practicing pranayam, should do so in a sattvic (pure, virtuous) state of mind.

The yogi should be seated in Padmasan (lotus pose) and inhale through the left nostril, hold per capacity and exhale through the right nostril. He should then inhale through the right nostril, hold per capacity and exhale through the left nostril. The exhalation should not be forceful. The nadis of a yogi practicing this pranayam for 3 months will become pure. Pranayam done correctly will cure a person of diseases, whereas done incorrectly it could cause diseases. The disorders of pawan (air element/breath) cause hiccups, asthma, cough, headaches, earaches, pain in eyes etc. Hence one should pay careful attention when inhaling and exhaling. The body of a person whose nadis are pure will be lean and glowing. Purification of nadis leads to good health.

A person who has too much fat and phlegm in the body should do pranayam only once he has completed the shatkarmas i.e.

1. Dhauti,

2. Vasti,

3. Neti,

4. Trataka,

5. Nauli and

6. Kapalbhati

Some Yoga masters do not believe in the need of observing the Shatkarmas as doing Pranayam alone can remove all impurities.

One can achieve various mysterious powers from the practice of kumbhakas. There are eight kumbhakas:

1. Suryabhedana- hailed as the best kumbhaka to cleanse the skull, destroy bacteria in the sinuses and destroy and diseases related to vat/vayu (wind element in the body) like asthma, hiccups, arthritis

2. Ujjayi- can be done walking or standing. Removes all phlegm related diseases of the throat, increases digestive fire

3. Sheetkari- gets rid of all diseases, removes lethargy, hunger and thirst

4. Shitali- destroys fever, pith (bile/heat) related disorders and enlargement of spleen and toxins

5. Bhastrika-removes diseases of the vayu, kapha and pith (wind, phlegm, bile elements or air, water and fire elements) and awakens kundalini

6. Bhramari-promotes bliss

7. Murcha-promotes happiness and clarity of mind

8. Plavini-allows one to float in water

Pranayam consists of inhalation, retention and exhalation. Breath retention also known as kumbhaka is of two types: sahita and kevala. One should practice sahita kumbhaka until they master kevala kumbhaka which is retention of breath without any inhalation or exhalation and retention of breath as desired. Kevala kumbhaka awakens the kundalini. Awakening of kundalini opens up the sushumna nadi (spinal canal).

The following are the signs of someone whose nadis are purified and has achieved success in Hatha Yoga: lean body, clear eyes, glowing face, anahat nada, increased appetite due to increase in digestive fire.

Chapter 3-Mudras

There are ten mudras that were taught by Lord Shiva. These mudras destroy death and old age. Success in these mudras bestows upon the practitioner the eight siddis which are (ability to become small, big, extremely light, extremely heavy, ability to reach very high, become invisible, tame animals and mesmerize people, attain god like qualities. I will not be going into detail of explaining these mudras as they are not to be trifled with and should be done under the guidance of an experienced guru. The ten mudras are:

1) Mahamudra-frees one from diseases like leprosy, consumption, digestive disorders, etc, ability to become small

2) Mahabandha- conquers death, ability to become small

3) Mahavedha- gets rid of grey hair, wrinkles, ability to become small

4) Khechari-success in this mudra destroys poisons, disease, old age, death

5) Uddiyan- destroys old age, conquers death

6) Mulabandha-destroys old age, improves digestive fire, awakens kundalini

7) Jalandhar Bandha-destroys all throat related diseases, old age and death

8) Viparitkarani- destroys wrinkles, grey hair, old age within 6 months of practice

9) Vajroli-conquers death

10) Shaktichalan

Chapter 4-Samadhi

Samadhi is the destroyer of death, the means to attaining happiness and bliss. Raja Yoga, samadhi, unmani, manomani, amaratva, laya, tattva, shunyashunyam, parampadam, amanaskam, advaitam, niralamban, niranjanam, jivanmukti sahaja and turya are all synonyms. As salt dissolves in water, the unity of atman and mind is called samadhi. It is the state of unity in which all thoughts disappear and the jivatma (individual) becomes one with the paramatama (supreme).

Samadhi is obtained when the prana flows through the sushumna. One who has controlled the breath has controlled the mind. One who has controlled the breath can control the mind. Desires and breath are the two causes of the mind. Just as milk and water blend and become one, mind and breath are untied in action. They both go hand in hand. When one is suspended, the other gets suspended. The mind is the master of the senses and the breath is the master of the mind. If the mind is firm, the breath is firm.

The practice of shambhavi mudra and khecahri mudra is described as the mudras that lead to unmani. Shambhavi mudra is a quick means to attaining unmani. In shambhavi mudra, eyes should be half closed and gaze should be fixed on the tip of the nose.

There are 4 stages of yoga: arambha, ghata, parichay and nishpatti. In the first stage when the Brahma granth (knot) is pierced through, bliss arises. A tinkling sound can be heard in the body. The yogi will have a divine body, full of radiance and fragrance and will be free from all diseases. In the second stage, the Vishnu granthi is split open and the yogi can hear a sound similar to that of kettle drums emanating from the vishuddhi (throat) chakra. In the third stage, the sound of drum can be heard. The breath then enters the Ajna (third eye) chakra. The yogi attains freedom from old age, disease, misery, hunger and sleep. In the nishpatti or final stage, the Rudra granthi is pierced and the sounds of a flute and veena become audible to the practitioner.

One can attain indescribable bliss by practicing nada. The practitioner should concentrate on the sound he hears when he closes his ears with his hands. After 15 days he will attain success. In the initial stages, loud sounds will be audible. As the practice improves, the yogi will be able to hear very subtle sounds. The various sounds heard in the initial stages in the body are as follows: ocean, cloud, kettledrum, and jharjhara drum. In the middle stages the yogi can hear sounds of drum and conch together, bell and drum. In the final stages he can hear the tinkling bell, flute, veena and bee. The yogi should try to hear past the loud sounds and try to focus on the subtle sounds only. Let the mind dissolve in the sound. Don’t let it stray towards any outside objects. Accumulated sins are dissolved by simply concentrating on nada. The yogi who has attained Samadhi cannot be eaten by time, or bound by karma. He is free from smell, taste, form, touch, sound and himself. He is free from heat, cold, sadness and happiness, honor and dishonor. He cannot be hurt by weapons, people, mantras and yantras.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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