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Bikram Yoga: Benefits And Harm Of Hot Yoga Classes

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Have you heard about Bikram yoga? This yoga style is becoming more and more popular. Many practitioners find it very effective for creating balance between the body and mind. In this article, we will share with you what Bikram yoga is, and what its advantages and disadvantages are. We hope that after reading this article, you’ll be able to personally determine for yourself whether hot yoga classes suit you or not.

What Is Bikram Yoga?

Bikram yoga is a complex of certain asanas that are performed in a hot room. This type of yoga got its name from its founder Bikram Choudhury.

Initially, this kind of yoga was used by Bikram as a recovery after an injury. He was performing yoga asanas in a heated room. After a full recovery, he has perfected asanas and suggested to practice them in the room with hot temperature.

The initial class of Bikram yoga includes:

  • 2 breathing exercises;
  • 26 consecutive Hatha yoga asanas.

Bikram yoga classes are practiced in a room heated to 105 °F with a humidity of 40%. The duration of the lesson is 1.5 hours.

Due to the complexity of such “hot” exercises the whole body strengthens. Each posture of the asana flows smoothly into the next asana, thus increasing the flow of oxygen, through which toxins are removed from the body.

Bikram yoga is known for its martial style of teaching, the concentration of energy and impeccable posture. It is one of the most popular styles of hot yoga that is practiced all over the world. It should draw the attention of those people who prefer strict, disciplined practice, which controls everything – starting with breathing and ending with the opportunity to drink water.

History

Bikram Choudhury image

Bikram Choudhury was born in Calcutta in 1944. At age four he already began practicing yoga.  When he was 13 years old, Bikram received the title of national champion of India in yoga. At the age of 17, Bikram Choudhury severely injured his knee. Doctors said that he will never be able to walk independently.

But the young champion did not despair and under the guidance of his mentor, he began to perform asanas in a certain sequence, aimed at full recovery of the injured part of his body. A distinctive feature of this complex of asanas was that the room (where yoga was practiced) was very hot. This was essential in order to effectively work on the injured knee, and in order not to further damage. The result of hard training was a fully restored knee.

Bikram Choudhury reasonably believes that Hatha yoga brings the most positive results in conjunction with the hot climate of India. Naturally, not everyone has the opportunity to practice Bikram yoga in a hot climate. Therefore he suggested creating appropriate temperature regime artificially. In this case, we can practice hot yoga in any country, even in the North.

As a result of refinement and improvement of the sequence of asanas, Bikram Choudhury created his own unique style of Hatha yoga, which is now known as Bikram yoga.

Bikram Yoga Vs. Hot Yoga: What’s The Difference?

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Many people think that Bikram and hot yoga are the same thing but these two styles still have differences.

So what’s the difference between Bikram Yoga and Hot Yoga?

1. Temperature

Bikram yoga studios must be heated to 105°F with 40% humidity.

Hot yoga rooms can vary in humidity and are generally heated to anywhere from 80 to 100°F.

2. Duration of the Class

The duration of the Bikram yoga class is always 90 mins.

Hot yoga classes can last anywhere from 60 to 90 mins.

3. Music

Music or clapping are not allowed during Bikram yoga classes.

Hot yoga classes often have music playing during the class and even can be followed by a round of applause.

4. Asanas Variations

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Bikram yoga includes the same 26 asanas and two breathing exercises. All the asanas and breathing exercises are performed in the same order every class.

Hot yoga can include many different asanas that may vary by class or/and studio.

5. Floors

The floors of Bikram yoga studios must be carpeted.

In Hot yoga studios, the floors are usually made of any type of artificial wood or any other material.

6. Lighting

There must be bright lighting in the Bikram yoga studios.

Hot yoga classes are often performed with dim lights or even by candlelight.

7. Talking During the Class

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It is not allowed to talk during a Bikram yoga class.

During a Hot yoga class, the students can interact with each other and with the yoga instructor.

It is difficult to say which one of these two styles is better. Everything is absolutely individual. Someone may be uncomfortable to practice yoga in a room heated to 105°F, and someone, on the contrary, will appreciate this temperature and find it easier to relax. There are such studios that conduct Bikram yoga classes in a very warm room, but only 60 minutes instead of 90 minutes and in a more relaxed mode.

Or, for example, you may not like to practice yoga on a carpeted floor and will appreciate the wooden floors more that regular hot yoga studios hold classes on.

So it’s completely up to you! Ask yourself which type of yoga will suit you better!

Bikram Yoga Postures And Their Benefits

During Bikram yoga class, a complex of 26 postures is performed in a strictly defined sequence. It is very important to perform these postures to the end and repeat each of them twice. As a result of each such practice, the vital energy (prana) circulates in your body harmoniously, and the organs are exposed to beneficial effects.

Bikram Yoga complex includes the following postures:

1. Pranayama (breathing practice)

This posture is aimed at relieving fatigue, relaxation and at the same time concentration on the upcoming yoga practice.

2. Half Moon Pose (ARDHA-CHANDRASANA)

This asana relaxes and gradually stretches the muscles of the whole body, preparing you to perform basic postures.

3. Awkward Pose (UTKATASANA)

This pose helps to tone and shape your legs, heals chronically cold feet, helps relieve rheumatism and arthritis in the legs, helps to cure slipped discs and other lower spine problems.

4. Eagle Pose (GARURASANA)

This pose is aimed at the development of coordination. This is due to the fact that some muscles of the body tense up, while others relax. As a result of performing this asana, pain in the back and joints goes away, the muscles of the legs come to tone, the blood flow improves.

5. Standing Head To Knee (DANDAYAMANA-JANUSHIRASANA)

Stretches the leg muscles and gluteal muscles, blood circulation in the brain becomes noticeably better, and the blood pressure returns to normal.

6. Standing Bow (DANDAYAMANA-DHANURASANA)

This asana is aimed at developing a sense of stability, discipline and emotional inner harmony and balance. In physical terms, there is a relaxation of the back and strengthening the muscles of the legs.

7. Balancing Stick (TULADANDASANA)

This asana has a moderate load on the heart, stimulates its intensive work and the release of blood. Thereby this posture helps clear the vessels and increases the activity of the brain. This asana is an excellent prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

This asana is aimed at stretching the muscles of the back and strengthening the blood flow to the joints. It also massages the internal abdominal organs, the small and large intestines.

9. Triangle Pose (TRIKANASANA)

This asana is aimed at the simultaneous study of all the muscles of the body and enhances metabolism. This pose is extremely beneficial for women with a broken menstrual cycle. It also benefits the heart and lungs.

10. Standing Separate Head to Knee Pose (DANDAYAMANA-BIBHAKTAPADA-JANUSHIRASANA)

This pose stimulates the work of all the glands of our body, especially the thyroid gland. It also helps to heal reproductive system disorders and frequent chronic migraines.

11. Tree Pose (TADASANA)

This asana aimed at stretching the spine and strengthening the muscles of the back. It improves your posture and reduces tension in the abdomen.

12. Toe Stand (PADANGUSTASANA)

This pose aimed at developing balance and strengthening willpower, as well as stretching the muscles of the legs.

13. Dead Body (SAVASANA)

This asana relaxes every single muscle of your body. As a result, the movement of blood and lymph comes back to normal. Moreover, the internal cleansing happens and we learn to relax.

14. Wind-Removing Pose (PAVANAMUKTASANA)

This pose massages the organs inside the body in a natural way which is especially beneficial for the digestive system.

15. Sit Up (PADA-HASTHASANA)

This asana clears the lungs of the air that has stagnated there. Also, it stretches the spine and increases flexibility.

16. Cobra (BHUJANGASANA)

During the performing of this asana, your arms are strengthened and your back muscles become more flexible. Thus there is a prevention of diseases in the lumbar region, such as, for example, arthritis. This asana increases the performance of the liver and spleen, and blood pressure returns to normal.

17. Locust Pose (SALABHASANA)

Great pose for those who have a pinched sciatic nerve or displaced vertebrae. Practicing Locust Pose is an excellent prevention of varicose veins.

18. Full Locust Pose (POORNA-SALABHASANA)

This pose increases strength in the middle spine and the rib cage elasticity. Also, it firms the abdominal muscles, upper arms, and hips.

19. Bow Pose (DHANURASANA)

This asana increases spine flexibility. It aids digestion, fights constipation, combats bronchitis and diabetes. This pose improves the functioning of the large and small intestines, the liver, kidneys, and spleen.

20. Fixed Firm Pose (SUPTA-VAJRASANA)

While performing this asana you are stretching your spinal muscles and the muscles of your ankles, resulting in visibly tightened thighs and belly. In addition, this asana is the prevention of diseases such as gout and varicose veins.

21. Half Tortoise (ARDHA-KURMASANA)

This asana improves sleep, helps to get rid of frequent migraines, improve memory and normalize blood circulation of the brain, as well as prolong your life.

22. Camel Pose (USTRASANA)

This pose helps to stretch the back muscles. It also improves the flexibility of your neck and spine and helps degenerative spinal problems. This asana helps constipation, stretches the throat, thyroid and parathyroid glands.

23. Rabbit Pose (USTRASANA)

This pose helps to reduce tension in the shoulders and neck. Is also helps alleviate colds, sinus problems, and chronic tonsillitis.

24. Head to Knee Pose and Stretching Pose (JANUSHIRASANA AND PASCHIMOTTHANASANA)

This asana is very beneficial for immune and lymphatic systems, allergies and arthritis. It increases circulation to the liver, pancreas, thyroid, thymus, and intestines. Also, performing this pose improves digestion.

25. Spine-Twisting Pose (ARDHA-MATSYENDRASANA)

Performing this twisting asana increases circulation to all the spinal nerves, veins, and tissues, and improves the elasticity of the spine. It relieves lower back pain and helps prevent slipped discs, kyphosis, scoliosis, cervical spondylosis, and arthritis.

26. Blowing In Firm Pose (KAPALBHATI IN VAJRASANA)

This pose improves digestion and circulation and increases the elasticity of the lungs.

Bikram Yoga Benefits

The successful outcome of Bikram yoga practice entirely depends on you. Regular classes and your devotion to the practice will soon bring positive effects.

Bikram yoga benefits image

The benefits of Bikram yoga are:

  • provokes active burning of calories;
  • helps to lose weight quickly, get rid of cellulite and bring your body into good shape;
  • cleanses your body of toxins;
  • your body gains great flexibility;
  • strengthens the cardiovascular and respiratory system;
  • helps to quickly recover from injuries of varying severity;
  • improves metabolism;
  • helps to relax after a hard day and put in order your nervous system;
  • improves sleep quality;
  • helps relieve stress (regular practice helps reduce cortisol levels);
  • improves skin quality (helps get rid of acne and enlarged pores);
  • all muscles come in tone;
  • reduces depression;
  • makes you more disciplined;
  • helps to find inner balance and harmony with the outside world;
  • increases immunity and it becomes easier for your body to fight infections and viruses;
  • relieves mental stress and relaxes you.

Can Bikram Yoga Harm You?

Before choosing to attend Bikram or Hot yoga class you should be aware of the harm that this kind of yoga can cause.

There is a number of disadvantages that you may face during your hot yoga class.

1. A danger of excessive stretching

It may be hard to believe but if you have already good flexibility, then Bikram yoga can provoke muscle tension. The thing is the heat weakens the muscles and you may be in danger of excessive stretching.

2. A danger of dehydration

Practicing yoga in a hot room can naturally lower internal body temperature and provoke dehydration. Moreover, there is a significantly increased risk of heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Symptoms of exhaustion include weakness, dizziness, and quite severe nausea, so if you encounter them, it is important to stop your yoga practice immediately and leave the class.

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3. A danger of the kidney load increase

When we’re hot and stuffy, we’re thirsty. It’s a natural process. In the conditions of Bikram yoga, there is heavy sweating and, of course, we want to drink twice as much. This means that the load on the kidneys increases.

Сontraindications of Bikram Yoga Practice

Since Bikram yoga is being practiced in a hot room there are some contraindications that can be temporary and permanent.

Permanent contraindications include:

  • vascular problems;
  • varicose veins;
  • heart disease;
  • hypertension;
  • tachycardia;
  • weak mitral and aortic valve function;
  • lung diseases;
  • kidneys diseases;
  • prostatitis;
  • arthrosis;
  • gallstone disease;
  • gynecological diseases;
  • diabetes;
  • asthma;
  • brain diseases.

Temporary contraindications include:

  • pregnancy;
  • period of gynecological inflammation and menstruation;
  • catarrhal diseases;
  • fever;
  • sinusitis.

What to Expect from Bikram Yoga Class?

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If you decided to attend Bikram yoga class then you may have a reasonable question – what to expect? It is natural to feel nervous if you come to Bikram yoga studio for the first time. It’s okay if you are not as successful in your yoga practice as others during the first few classes. Everyone’s been through this.

Let us share with you some tips for those of you who are going to attend your first Bikram yoga class:

  • Come to the studio 15 minutes before your class starts.
  • Be sure to warn the instructor about the presence of any chronic diseases and medical restrictions.
  • Be sure to have an empty stomach. Start training about 2 hours after you have eaten.
  • Do not drink too much water before and during yoga class. It is allowed to moisten the throat and take a few sips. A full stomach is contraindicated when performing asanas!
  • Visit the restroom before the class, as it is not recommended to interrupt the practice.
  • Most studios categorically prohibit the use of a cell phone, so we advise you to completely turn it off and take the time to enjoy yoga.
  • Try to breathe slowly and deeply, it will help to relax all the muscles and get used to the room temperature.
  • Breathe only through the nose, because breathing through the mouth dries the mucosa and excites the nervous system.
  • Be prepared for the fact that during classes you will sweat a lot. Most hot yoga studios artificially increase humidity, so you’ll sweat even in places where you had no idea you had sweat glands (hello, a sweaty inner side of the elbow).
  • Try not to wipe the sweat flowing from you in streams, so you give the body a signal to release even more liquid to cool the hot body.
  • Your heart may start to beat faster, but if you don’t have a problem with that, that’s fine. You need to stay calm and focus on your reflection in the mirror. If, however, you are alerted, and you start to panic, lie down on the mat and take a short break.
  • If you have any unpleasant feelings during your yoga practice, focus on your reflection in the mirror, it will return you to the comfort zone.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel bad (dizzy, nauseous, etc.) during yoga class, the only right decision is to get up and leave. Do not try to break through the weakness, so as not to harm yourself.
  • Improve the result gradually. If you have just started practicing hot yoga, it is not necessary to do the exercises in full force. As in the case of any other workout, your body should get used to the peculiarities of the load. Therefore, start small and boldly move forward.
  • After yoga class, you will have a feeling that you are ready to conquer the whole world (of course, after a long shower). This is the pleasant aftertaste of yoga.

Conclusion

We want to note once again that not everyone can practice this kind of yoga. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you consult with your doctor for contraindications. In addition, it must be remembered that the hot conditions of the hot yoga classes may initially seem unbearably difficult to handle. Therefore, you should determine your level of endurance, so not to pass out during the practice.

Summing up, once again we note that Bikram yoga, despite its ambiguity, is an effective tool that allows you to cleanse your body, tighten sagging skin, develop flexibility, form a posture, delve into your feelings and fully master the management of your body.

We hope that after reading this article, you are now able to decide whether this type of yoga is suitable for you or not. Remember that yoga is not a competition, and the approach to choosing a yoga style for practice should be based on individual feelings, needs, and indications.

Yoga

Understanding The 5 Yamas For Gaining Self-Awareness And Inner Peace

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The 5 Yamas are the first limb of the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ originating from the ancient philosophical text, ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. By practicing the 5 Yamas you gain self-awareness, transform negative energy into positive, and cultivate a deep sense of inner peace. In this article, I will introduce you to the 5 Yamas and give you some practical tips on how you can integrate them into your life!

8 Limbs of Yoga

There are 8 limbs of yoga, and Yama is the first limb.

The first limb: YAMA

Yama is a set of ethical norms that teaches us to communicate with others in the right way. To be brief, it means one thing: treat people the way you want them to treat you.

The second limb: NIYAMA

The step of forming the self-discipline and uplifting spirituality. This step involves regular visits to temples, meditative practices, a study of nature, thinking and walks.

The third limb: ASANA

Asana means ‘posture’ or ‘pose’. So by saying ‘asanas’ we mean body poses. Yoga practitioners know that our physical bodies are temples for our souls. Body care is one of the most important stages on the path to spiritual growth and enlightenment. Performing certain asanas, a person learns concentration and self-discipline.

The fourth limb: PRANAYAMA

Pranayama for Beginners Image

Pranayama is the ability to control your breath. It is a set and a system of special techniques that make it possible to establish a relationship between breath, mind, and emotions. Literally, pranayama translates as ‘extension of the prana’ or ‘breath control”. Pranayama practice allows you to rejuvenate the entire body and prolong your lifespan. We can practice pranayama as a separate type of yoga technique, or use it as a component of the complex of yoga practice.

The fifth limb: PRATYAHARA

‘Pratyahara’ means ‘gaining mastery over external influences’.

The purpose of this limb is to achieve a state of the distraction of the senses from the surrounding reality and the circulation of the gaze and consciousness inside of you. In other words, pratyahara is the ability to concentrate and not be distracted by various external stimuli. This step gives you the vision of the internal systems, understanding what can stop your personal and inner growth.

The sixth limb: DHARANA

Dharana means ‘concentration’ or ‘single focus’. By concentrating and abstracting, we get distracted from external ‘noise’.  This is how we can calm down our minds, which distracts us from knowing more than we are able to understand. It helps us to see the limitless of our possibilities. At this stage, there is a skill to slow down the thought process by focusing on sound, image, energy or body.

The seventh limb: DHYANA

Dhyana means ‘contemplation, reflection’ and ‘profound, abstract meditation’. This is the stage of the full development of the properties of meditation and concentration. Conscious inhibition of thought processes allows one to calm the mind, to feel serenity, not to give rise to new thoughts. To reach this stage, you need endurance and strength. For achieving this, you have to put in a lot of effort and time.

The eighth limb: SAMADHI

Osho Kundalini meditation 5 yamas image

Samadhi is a state of intense concentration that can be achieved through meditation. This is a state of bliss and understanding. On this stage, you extend the boundaries of your Self. You start feeling the connection between the divine origin and all living things, unity with nature and the world.

Samadhi is the highest stage of meditation, in which a person experiences oneness with the universe. In samadhi, the mind becomes still. You become totally aware of the present moment.

What Is Yama?

As you can see, Yama is the second limb of yoga.

Yamas represent a series of “right living” or ethical rules. It means “reining in” or “control”. These are restraints for Proper Conduct as given in the Holy Veda. The 5 Yamas are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals.

The 5 Yamas are:

  1. Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood.
  3. Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing.
  4. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice, non-possessiveness.
  5. Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint

Mastering these 5 Yamas is necessary in order to practice niyamas, asanas, pranayama and all other stages of the “eight-step path of yoga”.

Now let’s take a deeper look at each of the 5 Yamas!

The 5 Yamas

Yama #1: Ahiṃsā

Meditation Quotes 5 yamas Image

As I already said, Ahimsa focuses on nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.

Ahimsa is similar to the biblical principle “Thou shalt not kill.” In yoga, however, this principle is more extensive. Ahimsa is the renunciation of violence against anyone or anything, including oneself and the natural order of the world.

Why is it so important to renounce violence? If we look at this principle more globally, the main problems on this planet are caused by violence. This applies to the Planet, animals, people and many other living beings, i.e. to nature as a whole. After all, our planet is the same living organism as all the others, only in a slightly different form. That is why it is necessary to have the right attitude to the world.

From the point of view of the law of karma, causing harm or violence to other living beings, we earn negative karma. Accordingly, the more people, for example, kill animals, the more negative karma they accumulate. And each individual karma eventually forms the collective karma of society, as a result of which everyone will suffer in one way or another. If we help others to understand the consequences of their actions, then the overall situation on the Planet will improve.

How to practice Ahimsa?

Practice being more kind, accepting, and forgiving of yourself and others. Stop eating animals, fish, eggs, and other products of murder. Buy only cruelty-free products that were not tested on animals. Recycle your trash so it won’t harm our planet. Stop buying and wearing leather, fur, silk, and other materials that were created as a result of killing. Start being more mindful of what you are investing your money in. Don’t sponsor violence, cruelty, murder, and harm.

Yama #2: Satya

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Satya focuses on truthfulness and non-falsehood.

“Truthfulness” means seeing and reporting things as they are rather than the way we would like them to be.

The importance of this prescription is obvious. When we are truthful to ourselves we can see the internal problems that exist, and, therefore, to make efforts to solve them. When we see a problem, it is easier for us to understand and choose the tool that will help solve it. Only when we are truthful with ourselves can we be truthful with others.

Perhaps some of you would ask: “Can we lie for good or saying a half-truth?” To begin with, in many Vedic Scriptures, the Buddha and many other sages of the past sometimes told only half-truths to the disciples. It is important to understand why they could do this. The fact is that their level of development allowed them to see all the karmic consequences of their words for the disciple. Therefore they could do it without hurting anyone. There are not too many people who can do the same nowadays. Most people still struggle to control their egos. And ego can blind anyone! That’s why it’s better not to experiment with karma and stay committed to truthfulness.

There is also the energy aspect of lies. Guided by false thoughts, deeds, and sayings, a person forms a reality that contradicts the objective reality. So with the help of the lies he/she says, he/she creates around him/her such an energy that after a while will make him/her see the world around him/her is not what it really is. Because of this, a person will constantly be making mistakes and experience confusion in life. His life eventually will turn into an illusion.

Moreover, according to karmic law, we always attract what we radiate. If you allow yourself to lie, you also give other people permission to lie to you.

However, by telling the truth you should always remember to follow the first Yama – Ahimsa (non-violence, non-harming). Don’t harm anyone by telling the truth.

For example, if a person is a thief and you know it, you can not hide this fact or lie about it! Otherwise, your lie or silence about it will harm others who will be robbed. Everything is pretty clear with this example.

Now let me give you another example. Many decades ago there was a Brahman who devoted his existence to the study of the Scriptures. Once, during his meditation, a cow ran by. Sometime later, the butcher who wanted to kill the cow came. He asked the Brahman which way the cow had run. Because the Brahman has been speaking only the truth all his life, as the Scriptures say, he showed the direction.

When the butcher overtook and killed the animal, the Brahman went to the hellish planets to be judged by Yamaraj. The Brahman did not understand why he was there. Yamaraj charged him that he was responsible for the death of the cow.

Living without lies is hard enough, especially if the truth hurts others. Lying is a distortion of reality, which entails certain consequences. It is important to learn how to present information so that it does not harm anyone. However, only a few who have reached certain heights in spiritual development can do so.

How to practice Satya?

In order for us to start practicing Satya, we need to learn to recognize the cascade of negative emotions that prompt us to twist reality. Once we have understood and processed those emotions, our thoughts, speech, and actions can be realigned with the truth, even as we look more deeply into our needs and desires. Outwardly, refrain from telling lies and speak with kindness, compassion, and clarity.

Yama #3: Asteya

Emotional Healing From Narcissistic Abuse Clear Boundaries Image

Asteya focuses on non-stealing. In other words, it is the renunciation of the desire to possess what does not belong to us.

Speaking of energy, it should be said that everything that a person has, in one way or another, is impregnated with his/her energy. A good example is clothing that carries the energy of the person who wore it. If a person stole something from someone, he undeservedly appropriated part of the vital energy of its owner. According to the law of conservation of energy, that loss must be replenished. And then the one who stole will suffer to compensate for the energy balance.

It is important to understand that suffering can manifest itself, both in this life and the next. The law of karma is absolute.

Usually, people associate stealing with tangible objects. However, intangibles, such as information and emotional favors, are more likely to be the objects stolen in our world.

How to practice Asteya?

Since the urge to steal arises from a sense of unhappiness, incompleteness, and envy, the solution is to practice giving any chance you get. Get involved in charity, get a volunteering job. Give food; give money; give time. Since abundance is ultimately a state of mind, you will feel increasingly abundant; and through selfless giving and serving, your sense of inner abundance may bring you outer wealth.

Yama #4: Aparigraha

Material Possessions Image

Aparigraha focuses on non-avarice and non-possessiveness.

This yoga principle teaches not to be attached to things. It is similar to the previous Yama, however, when practicing aparigraha you should not get attached to anything. In other words, you should follow the principle: “all the things of the world are yours to use, but not to own”.

For every single thing you own you need to invest a certain amount of energy. Everything you have needs to be fed by energy. And you are the one who unconsciously gives your energy to every single thing you own.

We should be very careful about what we buy, how often and for what purpose. It is necessary to ensure that each purchase was as rational as possible. In addition, the principle of non-violence should always be kept in mind. Before you buy a thing, think about what it is made of.

We need to learn how to make good use of the possessions that come to us and enjoy them without becoming emotionally dependent on them. Then they neither control us nor lead to false identities and expectations.

How to practice Aparigraha?

In order for us to start practicing Aparigraha, we need to examine our own tendencies toward possessiveness. To learn more read my article “Quiz: Are You Attached To Material Possessions?”.

The practice of non-possessiveness helps us to examine our assumptions and guides us back to healthy relationships with others.

Yama #5: Brahmacharya

Tantric meditation image

The literal translation of brahmacharya is “walking in God-consciousness.” Brahmacharya turns the mind inward, balancing and supervising the senses, and leads to freedom from dependencies and cravings. When the mind is freed from domination by the senses, sensual pleasures are replaced by inner joy.

Brahmacharya focuses on chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint.

This requirement has a very broad basis. Starting from excessive sexual pleasures, ending with attachment to taste sensations.

Now let us consider in more detail why the sages of the past tried to avoid sexual relations almost completely. This was done in order to accumulate and raise energy as much as possible, to serve as much as possible for the benefit of society, using the seed only for procreation. It is worth making an important reservation that orgasm and ejaculation are completely different things.

Of course, in modern society, all the media and the so-called mass culture, constantly propagandize and install in the people’s consciousness of the maximum possible satisfaction of sexual desires. Because of this, it is very difficult to change what has been laid in the mind for decades. But nothing is impossible.

The need to control sexual energy is connected with the fact that, satisfying sexual passions, a person loses a huge amount of vital energy in the process of obtaining such a short-term pleasure. And when there is no energy, it becomes impossible to think about self-improvement and engage in spiritual practices on a higher level.

Of course, you may say: “Though I have sex 3-4 times a week, I still have the energy for my spiritual development”. And then I would answer: “You have no idea what you are capable of! You’re using just a very small percent of your potential! If you had more energy you would be able to master so much more in this life! You would discover hidden talents, passion for science, psychic abilities, immediate manifesting abilities, healing gifts, etc.”

The same applies to attachments to taste sensations. It is believed that the more you are attached to taste, the more vital energy you spend on the enjoyment of food. In this way, you need to strive to ensure that the food is simple and healthy and doesn’t stimulate your taste in the way that you get addicted to it. This will save more energy for a more efficient life and development.

Usually, attachments to taste and sexual desires testify to the energy blockage of the Svadhisthana chakra. In this case, an effective method, in addition to the practice of the asanas, is a cleansing technique Shank Prakshalana. It allows you not only to physically cleanse the body of toxins but also it can cleanse your energy.

How to practice Brahmacharya?

Be honest with yourself about what dependencies and cravings you have. Start making wise choices about the books and magazines you read, the food you eat, the movies you see, and the company you keep. It will help you conserve energy and keep your mind focused and dynamic.

Learn to be moderate in all sensual activities so that you don’t dwell on them. Staying committed and faithful to one partner in a relationship. This is a good way to start practicing Brahmacharya.

The Bottom Line

It is through your personal practice that you can learn the basics of yoga, which will help to achieve spiritual enlightenment in the future. Attentively study and find your own ways to practice the 5 Yamas in your everyday life. Then you’ll be able to build your own path to spiritual enlightenment. Even if you are just a beginner in yoga and meditation, practicing the 5 Yamas above will help to make a great start on your spiritual path!

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Yoga

Understanding the Niyamas for Attaining a Higher State of Consciousness

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Niyama Image

In classical yoga, ‘Niyama’ refers to the second limb of yoga that leads to achieving ‘God Consciousness‘. Niyama has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. When we learn how to put the 5 Niyamas of yoga into practice, we maintain a positive environment for our growth and develop the self-discipline and inner-strength necessary to progress along the path of yoga. Moreover, these 5 Niyamas are wonderful tools for cultivating happiness, self-confidence, and making every day meaningful.

8 Limbs of Yoga

There are 8 limbs of yoga, and Niyama is the second limb.

The first limb: YAMA

Yama is a set of ethical norms that teaches us to communicate with others in the right way. To be brief, it means one thing: treat people the way you want them to treat you.

The second limb: NIYAMA

The step of forming the self-discipline and uplifting spirituality. This step involves regular visits to temples, meditative practices, a study of nature, thinking and walks.

The third limb: ASANA

Asana means ‘posture’ or ‘pose’. So by saying ‘asanas’ we mean body poses. Yoga practitioners know that our physical bodies are temples for our souls. Body care is one of the most important stages on the path to spiritual growth and enlightenment. Performing certain asanas, a person learns concentration and self-discipline.

The fourth limb: PRANAYAMA

Anuloma Viloma Pranayama Image

Pranayama is the ability to control your breath. It is a set and a system of special techniques that make it possible to establish a relationship between breath, mind, and emotions. Literally, pranayama translates as ‘extension of the prana’ or ‘breath control”. Pranayama practice allows you to rejuvenate the entire body and prolong your lifespan. We can practice pranayama as a separate type of yoga technique, or use it as a component of the complex of yoga practice.

The fifth limb: PRATYAHARA

‘Pratyahara’ means ‘gaining mastery over external influences’.

The purpose of this limb is to achieve a state of the distraction of the senses from the surrounding reality and the circulation of the gaze and consciousness inside of you. In other words, pratyahara is the ability to concentrate and not be distracted by various external stimuli. This step gives you the vision of the internal systems, understanding what can stop your personal and inner growth.

The sixth limb: DHARANA

Dharana means ‘concentration’ or ‘single focus’. By concentrating and abstracting, we get distracted from external ‘noise’.  This is how we can calm down our minds, which distracts us from knowing more than we are able to understand. It helps us to see the limitless of our possibilities. At this stage, there is a skill to slow down the thought process by focusing on sound, image, energy or body.

The seventh limb: DHYANA

pranayama meditation image

Dhyana means ‘contemplation, reflection’ and ‘profound, abstract meditation’. This is the stage of the full development of the properties of meditation and concentration. Conscious inhibition of thought processes allows one to calm the mind, to feel serenity, not to give rise to new thoughts. To reach this stage, you need endurance and strength. For achieving this, you have to put a lot of effort and time.

The eighth limb: SAMADHI

Samadhi is a state of intense concentration that can be achieved through meditation. This is a state of bliss and understanding. On this stage, you extend the boundaries of your Self. You start feeling the connection between the divine origin and all living things, unity with nature and the world.

Samadhi is the highest stage of meditation, in which a person experiences oneness with the universe. In samadhi, the mind becomes still. You become totally aware of the present moment.

What Is Niyama?

As you can see, Niyama is the second limb of yoga. Niyama is the Sanskrit term for duty or observance recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of the yoga path. In the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, he outlines five niyamas as part of the second limb of yoga.

The Five Niyamas are:

  1. Śaucha (शौच): purity, clearness of mind, speech, body, and soul.
  2. Santoṣa (सन्तोष): contentment, acceptance of others and of one’s circumstances as they are, optimism for self.
  3. Tapas (तपस): austerity, self-discipline, persistent meditation, perseverance.
  4. Svādhyāya (स्वाध्याय): study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches and actions.
  5. Īśvarapraṇidhāna (ईश्वरप्रणिधान): contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality), attunement to the supreme consciousness.

Mastering these 5 Niyamas is necessary in order to practice asanas, pranayama and all other stages of the “eight-step path of yoga”.

If you want to practice Niyama you will need to fully focus on developing self-control. Let me share with you 5 ways to bring niyamas in your daily routine.

5 Ways to Practice Niyamas

Niyama #1: Saucha

yoga asana image

As I already said, Saucha focuses on purity, cleanness of mind, speech, body, and soul.

Saucha niyama teaches us to observe perfect purity. A person who practices yoga must observe the purity of his/her own body because it is a temple of the spirit.

The one who practices yoga must keep clean not only his/her physical body, but also the food he/she eats, and the house in which he/she lives.

The most important thing in practicing Saucha is the purity of the soul. In this regard, if a person is really serious about practicing yoga, then he/she should get rid of envy, anger, lust and other negative emotions.

And os course, the speech of yogi should be free from lies, curse, profanity, gossip, flattery, and judgments.

Niyama #2: Santosa

Daily Prayer And Meditation Image

Santosa focuses on contentment, acceptance of others and of one’s circumstances as they are, optimism for self.

Santosa involves the ability to find satisfaction from life, despite all the suffering and losses that we might face.

The main purpose of the second Niyama is to teach us to be happy, friendly to others and grateful for all that God gives us. The practice of Santosa involves being unattached to the material world and life events while accepting everything that life gives you as lessons.

Usually, we try to avoid situations that give us discomfort. But acceptance means being willing to see the problem and go in the direction that scares you (leaving your comfort zone). If there is something in your life that you avoid, Santosa encourages you to be honest with yourself and admit it. For example, if you are exhausted but don’t admit it, you won’t take steps to heal and recover.

Niyama #3: Tapas

Osho Kundalini meditation image

By practicing the third Niyama, we should develop such qualities as austerity, self-discipline, persistent meditation, and perseverance.

Discipline is very important for advancement in yoga practice. Take time for yoga every day: spread out a mat to practice asanas and meditate. Let this be the basis of your consistent practice.

If you practice Tapas, you will be able to fully take control of your desires and obsessions. Eventually, this niyama will help you to overcome your own ignorance.

Niyama #4: Svādhyāya

Mala Beads Prayer Image

This niyama focuses on the study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches, and actions.

In the process of practicing the fourth Niyama, we get engaged in the realization of our own essence. We can also say that Svadhyaya is a so-called ‘prism’ through which can we see the Divine within us.

In this regard, in the process of mastering the fourth Niyama, we should devote ourselves to the study of yogic Sutras, Vedas, other sacred texts, and spiritual literature, as a devotion to our spiritual development.

Choose a text for spiritual reading and devote yourself to reading this book in the morning before watching the news and checking your emails. Let these words that you read be your parting words for this day. Think about these words during the day, and in the evening analyze their impact on you.

Niyama #5: Īśvarapraṇidhāna

praying girl image

This niyama focuses on the contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality), attunement to the supreme consciousness.

The divine principle is universal, even though there are many religions and spiritual teachings. In one way or another, many believe in a power that transcends us, and it doesn’t matter what each of us calls it. Devotion is a key aspect of faith.

The purpose of the last Niyama is to plant in the heart of the disciple the highest degree of piety through which the mind comes to Samadhi.

This Niyama teaches that we should always remember to dedicate the results of our efforts to God so that everything material that is valuable for us turns into a feeling of love for the Supreme.

The Bottom Line

Consciously approach the practice of these niyamas. Practice them only if you feel you are ready for the next step in your spiritual development, not because someone says so.

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Yoga

Pranayama for Beginners: Reveal the Power of Your Breath

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Pranayama is a system of breathing exercises that can significantly increase your energy level. Yogis use this technique not only for the purpose of improving the physical body but also as a way of controlling the flow of life energy. There is a saying that by controlling his breath, the yogi controls the thought, and by controlling the thought, he controls the breath (prana).

In this article, I will share with you what pranayama really is, what are its benefits, and how you can practice it.

What Is Pranayama?

Prana‘ is the Sanskrit word for breath, “life force”, or “vital principle”. ‘Ayāma‘ can be translated as “the suspension of breath” or “control”. Thus, “pranayama” can be translated as “control over vital energy”.

I’m sure many of you have heard the word “breatharianism“. This is a lifestyle in which a person eats not physical food, but prana. But the paradox is that, in some way, we are all breatharians, because food is made of prana, water is made of prana, and air is made of prana. Life is impossible without prana. We consume prana every day. But only pranayama allows us to consume prana most effectively. The pranayama practice increases the amount of energy consumed and also reduces the need for sleep and food.

The Essence of Pranayama

Breathing exercise image

Most often, pranayama is associated with breathing exercises that have a beneficial effect on the body, saturating it with oxygen. However, yogis use this technique not only for the purpose of improving their physical bodies but also as the way of controlling the flow of prana (vital energy).

Prana is the vital energy that fills everything in the Universe. It saturates all living things with life, providing physical bodies with strength. Breathing allows us to absorb prana and control its flow. It is believed that the basis of the entire existence consists of “energy” and “consciousness”, which are very closely interrelated. Prana gives energy to the forming of consciousness.

According to Patanjali, pranayama is the length of time between inhalation and exhalation. During this period, the time of assimilation of prana increases, the fluctuations of the mind decrease and the perception expands. But how is it possible to reduce the excitation of the brain by holding the breath? This is due to the fact that nerve impulses in some parts of the body are suspended, and the structure of brain waves is harmonized. Therefore, pranayama is one of the most important elements in Hatha yoga.

Buddha on Breathing

While holding the breath, there is a deep calm of the mind.

The sutras describe such an episode in the life of the Buddha.

One day, during his sermon, a disciple asked, “Why is the world so imperfect?” Then Brahma, the Creator of the world, who was also present at the Buddha‘s sermon, said that he created this world ideal, and only because living beings have too fast and short breath, their prana “jumps” in the body, and therefore there are “jumps” in the consciousness, and because of this we all see this world so imperfect. This is quite an interesting version, which is worth testing through your own experience. By stopping your breath you can calm your mind. And once your mind is calm you will be able to see the perfect world.

Quality of Prana

It is important to note that since pranayama allows you to effectively receive prana, it matters very much the quality of prana you receive.

It is best to perform pranayama in a clean place with fresh air – somewhere in nature, away from the city.

But if such ideal conditions are not available to you, then, at least, make sure to practice pranayama during a proper period of time.

The Best Time For Pranayama

Pranayama should be practiced early in the morning. The earlier the better the quality of prana. The optimal time to practice pranayama is the so-called Brahma Muhurta. It’s an hour and a half before sunrise. This is a period that has a state called “Nirguna” – the absence of the influence of energies on space. This is the best time for any spiritual practices. This period lasts 48 minutes.

The time before sunrise has the state of Sattva guna, that is, a state of joy and balance between the body and the mind. And after sunrise, begins the time of Raja guna, that is, a state of never-resting mind. And then Tamas guna period starts and lasts whole day till evening. Tamas guna is what leads to destruction – the way by which nature destroys things. Therefore, it is not recommended to practice pranayama during this time.

Always pay attention to during what period you going to perform your pranayama practice since the time of the day affects the quality of prana! Be mindful of what prana you consume.

Pranayama Benefits

Anuloma Viloma Pranayama Image

1.Longevity increase

Pranayama allows you to lengthen the breath, which, according to the ancient yogis, increases longevity. Thanks to pranayama, a person learns how to properly use the lungs.

The fact is that in everyday life, most often only the top of the lungs is involved, which leads to oxygen starvation and accumulation of stagnant air in the lower part of the lungs. The ability to use the entire volume of the lungs allows us to become less exposed to respiratory diseases, increases the level of vital energy and makes it easier to cope with stress and anxiety.

2. Emotional balance

Pranayama practice affects our Central nervous system. Breathing affects the hypothalamus, which is responsible for emotional responses and the transformation of perceived reality into experience.

3. Improves Cardiovascular health

Pranayama increases the blood circulation and oxygen capacity of the blood which helps improve the cardiovascular function of your body.

4. Deep concentration

Pranayama allows you to harmonize the flows of prana in Ida and Pingala. This allows you to direct the energy into Sushumna and achieve a state of deep concentration.

5. Reduces risk of Hypertension

Pranayama allows our bodies to relax and be free of stress and tensions which helps in bringing down hypertension.

6. Detox

Pranayama helps to remove all accumulated toxins from your body.

7. Cures Digestive problems

Pranayama helps in alleviating digestive problems and also helps reduce bloating.

8. Heals Sinusitis

Regular pranayama practice helps treating or preventing sinusitis. Moreover, it helps in clearing out the nasal passages and stuffy noses.

9. Provides good-looking skin

Regular Pranayama can remove the blemishes and wrinkles from the skin and provide fresh oxygen making your skin glow in health.

Preparatory Practice

pranayama meditation image

As a preparatory practice for mastering pranayama, it is recommended to master the so-called “full yogic breath“. In fact, this is exactly the breath that is recommended to breathe in everyday life. And, sadly, most of us don’t breathe properly. Most of us breathe through shallow breathing, or at best through chest enlargement. With this breathing, energy costs for muscle movements are large, and the amount of assimilated air is low. How can we fix it? The answer is we should master the full yogic breath.

Full Yogic Breath

1. Close your eyes.

2. Place your hands on your stomach, slightly interlacing the fingers so that the fingertips come to the second knuckle of the opposite hand. Your navel should feel cradled.

3. Begin to breathe deeply into the navel, into the belly.

4. Practice breathing with a controlled, slow breath so that you feel the fingers slide apart on the inhale and back together on the exhale.

5. Breathe like this 15-20 times as deeply as you can without discomfort or force.

6. Slide the hands up to your ribcage. A good estimation is to have the pinky fingers hang over the edge of your ribs with thumbs right below the pectorals.

7. Keep breathing, except now inhale into the belly, in to the ribs. Fill the belly first before expanding the hands on the ribs. Visualize the breath filling in your body from the bottom up. First the belly, then the ribs. Feel the ribs expand in all directions – not just forward, but sideways and into the back body.

8. As you exhale, retrace the steps from the inhale. Exhale starting from the ribs, finshing off with the belly. The navel drawing in should help fully expel your air. Don’t force your breath in either direction, in or out.

9. Repeat this another 15-20 times. Into the belly, into the ribs. Out from the ribs, out from the belly

10. Separate the hands and place them on your chest, resting the palms above the heart center with fingertips gently curled over the collar bones.

11. Continue breathing. Start into the belly, into the ribs, into the chest. Filling up your torso with breath from the bottom up, all the way to your fingertips. Feel the breath rise along the spine, expanding the insides in all directions. Exhale the way the breath came in. From the chest, through the ribs, out of the belly.

12. Keep the spine as tall as possible. Just by following the breath from the bottom to the top, from the top to the bottom, you’re already mindful of how the spine is stacked.

13. Repeat this 15-20 times.

After you’ve found your full yogic breath expanding throughout these three areas of the body, allow the breath to normalize. Pay some attention to how it feels as you inhale and exhale. Find your smooth, natural breath, keeping a tall spine and your eyes closed. You’ll know when to stop.

Pranayama for Beginners

Eckhart Tolle Quote About Meditation and Breathing Image

If you decide to learn pranayama, you should not immediately begin to practice some complex practices. In case of failure, the desire to master pranayama may disappear for a long time. Therefore, you should start with some simple techniques. One of the simplest (but at the same time very effective) techniques is called “Nadi Shodhana“.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

There are three main energy channels in our bodies: Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. Ida is the left channel, Pingala is the right channel, and Sushumna is the Central channel.

The right channel is traditionally considered a masculine energy channel, as it shows masculine qualities. The left channel is a feminine energy channel. For the yogi it is important to balance Ida and Pingala channels and let the energy flow through the Central channel – Sushumna. Only in this case, is balance and harmony possible. And this is the goal of Nadi Shodhana practice.

Regular practice of Nadi Shodhana offers an energy boost in the body and releases stress and anxiety. It should be practiced in the morning in fresh air with empty stomach.

Instructions

  1. Sit comfortably on flat ground.
  2. Now close right nostril with your right thumb and breathe from left nostril. Then close your left nostril with middle and ring finger and breathe out from right nostril.
  3. Now closing in the left nostril breathe in deeply with right nostril and then close right nostril and breathe out deeply with left nostril. Do the repetition.

Bhastrika Pranayama

This is another very simple pranayama that is suitable for beginners.

In this pranayama, body gets the maximum amount of oxygen due to complete inhaling and exhaling.

Instructions

  1. Sit comfortably on a flat ground.
  2. Take a deep breath through both nostrils and fill the lungs with air and then exhale completely with a hissing sound.
  3. Repeat

Kapalbhati Pranayama

This pranayama is very effective in curing stomach disorder, obesity, digestive disorder and other problems related to stomach.

Instructions

  1. Sit on a flat floor folding your legs, keeping the spine straight and close the eyes.
  2. Keep the right palm on right knee and left palm on left knee.
  3. Take a deep breath and exhale with all your force so your stomach will go deep inside.
  4. When you exhale with hissing sound try to think that your disorders are coming out of your nose.
  5. Do not stress on inhaling. Inhalation should not involve any effort. Inhaling will be done automatically after each exhaling.

Sheetali Pranayama

‘Sheeta’ means ‘cooling’, which is exactly the effect of this pranayama. It’s great for relieving stress, anxiety, and tension.

Instructions

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with the back and head erect, hands on the knees in Jnana mudra and eyes closed.
  2. Make a puckered circle with your mouth then stick out your tongue and curl the edges inwards to form a tube.
  3. Inhale slowly and deeply through the tube as if sucking air through a straw to the count of 4.
  4. Fill up your abdomen and chest to full capacity.
  5. Retain the breath.
  6. Straighten your head and exhale through the nostrils until all air is expelled.
  7. Repeat

Bhramari Pranayama

This is the excellent breathing practice which plays an important role in releasing agitation, frustration, and anger. It is the best breathing exercise in calming your mind.

Instructions

  1. Sit comfortably on a flat ground.
  2. Place your index fingers on the forehead and with the remaining fingers close your eyes.
  3. Start inhaling through both the nostril deeply and slowly.
  4. By keeping mouth close, exhale by making a humming sound like “hmmm”. While making humming sound say “Om” in soft humming sound.
  5. Repeat.

The Bottom Line

Pranayama is an amazing practice that can allow you to gain quite an interesting experience. Its advantage is that pranayama for beginners and exercises like full yogic breathing can be mastered by anyone without any difficulties.

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