Asanas (yoga postures)

In the West we have come to equate the term “yoga” with yoga postures, but in fact they form only a small – albeit important – part of the whole system. The term “yoga” in fact implies a whole way of life which includes yoga postures as one of its many facets.

In Sanskrit, yoga postures are called asanas. Asana means “a posture giving physical comfort and mental composure.” Asanas affect the glands, nerves, muscles and all the organs of the body. There are many physical benefits, but the most important effect is on the mind. The practice of asanas places pressure on the endocrine glands, and this results in the regulation of hormones secreted from those glands. The hormones affect the emotions, and the resultant emotional balance facilitates concentration and meditation. So asanas help prepare the mind for meditation.

Benefits of Asanas:

• Balance the hormone secretions from the glands.
• Give flexibility to the body.
• Improve respiration, as well as blood and lymph circulation.
• Massage the internal organs.
• Detoxify the joints.
• Relax the nerves and muscles.
• Cure diseases.

While practicing asanas the body should be cool and calm. The stomach should not be full. The room should be clean and warm, and there should be no smoke in the air. Except for the meditation postures, asanas should not be practiced during menstruation or pregnancy. In general, asanas should only be practiced on the advice of a proper teacher.

Kaoshikii

Good to do after asanas is kaoshikii, a unique exercise which is beneficial for the body, mind and spirit, especially for women. Among other things, it exercises all the limbs, loosens up the spine and joints, increases longevity, eases menstruation and childbirth, strengthens the mind, regulates the glands, increases the lustre of the skin, removes wrinkles, dispels lethargy, cures insomnia, spinal and nervous conditions and numerous other diseases, gives confidence, dispels hopelessness, and generally helps in self-expression and the development of one’s potentiality. Here’s how to practice it:

Kiirtana

One of the most popular activities of Ananda Marga that promotes mental well-being and brings the mind to a state of deep bliss is called Kiirtana. Rev. Shrii Shrii Anandamurtiji, the founder of Ananda Marga, gave a new mantra used for singing – Baba Nam Kevalam – translated as ‘Love is All there Is,’ or ‘Only the Name of the Beloved, the Supreme Father, the Supreme Consciousness.

The spiritual practices of Ananda Marga include the eight limbs of Astaunga Yoga, where spiritual progress is founded on the moral guidelines of Yama and Niyama. The meditation techniques include sense withdrawal, mindfulness, and directing the mind toward the Supreme Consciousness.

Meditation

The meditation practices include mantra singing and meditation, concentration, ideation on the Supreme, and purification of the cakras. The mantra that is used for singing and for beginner meditation is “Baba Nam Kevalam,” meaning “Love Is All There Is” or “Only the Name of the Supreme Father.” After starting meditation with this mantra, men and women can learn higher lessons privately with one of our teachers (Acaryas.) 

It is the nature of the mind to always think about something. In our day-to-day life, we are mostly occupied with thinking about the external world, such as our job, education, family, society, etc. But during the meditation, we direct our mind toward the inner Self and eventually towards the Supreme Consciousness. It is the nature of the Supreme Consciousness that it is infinite, completely calm, blissful, and within and without this universe. By ideating on that Supreme State of absolute bliss and calmness, our mind expands and becomes intoxicated with inner bliss and happiness. It is that inner happiness experienced during meditation that inspires us to make a sustained effort to meditate every day and adopt other yogic practices that enhance and facilitate the meditation experience. 

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