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Naked Yoga: a Powerful Self-Discovery Practice

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Naked yoga is increasingly gaining popularity. Asanas are performed without any clothing. It can be practiced by either individual classes or in a group.

The practice of naked yoga is a total exit from the comfort zone. What could be more awkward than naked people around you performing the Cat-Cow pose? But the naked practice is aimed at getting rid of the psychological and emotional blocks, physical body attachments, insecurities, low self-esteem.

After naked yoga practice, most people notice the feeling of liberation. Many people also note that it is very comfortable to perform asanas without clothes that constrain the body. Of course, it may feel awkward at the beginning but the benefits of this practice are simply amazing and definitely worth trying it!

In this article, we will share with you what naked yoga is about and those amazing benefits that may inspire you to try this practice.

Ancient Practice of Naked Yoga

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We used to think that the naked body is related to sexuality and some people even find it vulgar. But we, modern human beings, should remind ourselves that nudity is a natural state of our body. Naked yoga brings us back to our nature and roots and allows us to work with what we have — with all our folds, flaws and shortcomings.

Despite the fact that naked yoga seems to be another marketing move (like goat yoga or cat yoga), in fact, nudity was present in many ancient practices to get rid of attachments to the material.

Naked yoga (Sanskrit: “nagna yoga” or “vivastra yoga”) has existed since ancient times as a spiritual practice. It is even mentioned in the 7th-10th century Bhagavata Purana and by the Ancient Greek geographer Strabo.

In the Bhagavata Purana (written c. 800–1000 AD) it says:

”A person in the renounced order of life may try to avoid even a dress to cover himself. If he wears anything at all, it should be only a loincloth, and when there is no necessity, a sannyasi should not even accept a danda. A sannyasi should avoid carrying anything but a danda and kamandalu.”

Alexander the Great reached India in the 4th century BC. Along with his army, he took Greek academics with him who later wrote memoirs about geography, people and customs they saw. One of Alexander’s companions was Onesicritus, quoted in Book 15, Sections 63-65 by Strabo, who describes yogins of India. Onesicritus claims those Indian yogins (Mandanis) practiced aloofness and “different postures – standing or sitting or lying naked – and motionless.”

The practice of spiritual nudity is common among Digambara Jains, Aghori sadhus, and other ascetic groups in the dharmic religions. The order of Naga Sadhus, conspicuous in the processions and bathing ritual at the Kumbh Mela, uses nudity as a part of their spiritual practice of renunciation.

Naked Yoga Benefits

This ancient practice has lots of wonderful benefits that you may find very inspiring. Here are some of them.

#1 It helps you accept your body

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Unfortunately, in our modern world there are lots of people who are dissatisfied with their bodies, find them shameful and even ugly. If you feel like it’s not easy for you to see your naked body without judgment or desire to improve something in yourself, if you feel uncomfortable getting naked even in front of your partner, then a naked yoga class can be good therapy for you.

Practicing naked yoga will help you reconnect with your own body, stop being ashamed of it, learn to accept yourself, and increase your sense of self-worth.

The vulnerability of the naked body can help bring people together, make them understand that each of us feels insecure about something, but we are all beautiful in our own way.

Naked yoga can help you overcome the rejection and shame about your own body, cope with the psychological blocks associated with your body, and look at yourself in a new way. It will teach you to love your body the way it is, see your body as a beautiful temple for your spirit, and love your shortcomings.

#2 It boosts your confidence

The naked practice is a way to learn how to interact with your body, feel it, and become more confident. This is an opportunity to really see your body and stop taking it for granted.

#3 It motivates

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Nude yoga classes motivate you to master your yoga practice. This is due to the ability to see how each of your muscles moves and how it responds to each exercise. Practicing yoga naked, you are more likely to understand which parts of your body need to be worked out more. You can see and understand more clearly what muscles are too tight and what parts of your body need more stretching. Moreover, you will be able to see where your blocks are located. When you see what your body needs, you can change the content of your classes to suit your needs by targeting the right muscles and body areas.

#4 It makes your skin “breathe”

When you exercise and sweat in your clothes, it adversely affects the skin, because the clothes prevent it from being cleansed. When you sweat naked, your skin can breathe.

Wearing clothes during your yoga class may dry your skin and increase the appearance of wrinkles.

One way or another, clothing always restricts our movement. But when we are performing asanas naked it becomes so much easier for you to improve your practice and reach a new level of mastery!

The Bottom Line

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We should always remember that our body is a temple for our spirit. Therefore we need to treat it with love, care, and respect. Even if you want to change something in yourself, it should not be accompanied by self-torture and criticism. Treat your body with care and without excessive fanaticism in the pursuit of ideals.

Would you like to try naked yoga? If your answer is “definitely not”, then think about what kind of mental blocks stop you from doing this? We are all born and start this life without clothes, so why not to try to reconnect with our true natural selves?

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Raja Yoga: The 8 Steps to Self-realization and Liberation

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There are two types of spiritual teachers. Those that tell you, “I have experienced God and for you to tap into this experience you must follow me.” And those that say, “I have experienced God and you can have this experience too.” The latter is where you need to belong. And Raja Yoga aims at facilitating you to experience this higher realm. 

Naturally, human beings are meant to be in a state of higher consciousness to function optimally. See, the human brain is rather restless and therefore we do not see the truth. To experience the higher realm, we need to be focused and concentrate. And we cannot argue with personal experience, can we? So let us share with you how to tap into this path. 

But first;

What is Raja Yoga?

Raja Yoga is one of the oldest yoga systems practiced in India for centuries and now in other parts of the world. It’s simply the path of experience. 

Raja Yoga proposes growing your spirituality without prior faith or belief. This means you can experience God at any time and place without mantras or rituals irrespective of your age or ethnicity. However, this is a branch of yoga that requires a really strong personality as we will discuss below. 

The Eight Stagesto Self-realization and Liberation  

When you practice Raja Yoga, you free the soul (atma), from the bondage of illusions (maya) and unite with your prime soul (paramatma). Below is a step by step experience:

Stage 1: Yama

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Yama is a set of ethical norms that teach 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.

There are five Yamas:

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

Stage 2: Niyama

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

Five Niyamas are:

  1. Śaucha (शौच): purity, clearness of mind, speech, and body.
  2. Santosha (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): a 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.

Stage 3: Asana

Asana means ‘posture’ or ‘pose’. So by saying ‘asanas’ we mean body poses. In any Yoga, we need to maintain a steady pose to be able to concentrate and control external and internal energies. By performing certain asanas, a person learns concentration and self-discipline.

Stage 4: Pranayama

Next we engage breathing exercises that directly affect the mind or what we call control of prana (vital energy). See, in today’s hustle and bustle, most people have forgotten how to breathe properly. We simply breathe because our body demands of the oxygen to function. It’s important to always remember that life is breath. And when we exercise control over breath, we can control the subtle Prana inside us. That means having control over all the forces in our universe, both physical and mental. 

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.

Stage 5: Pratyahara

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Pratyahara means ‘gaining mastery over external influences’.

At this stage, we have to withdraw our senses from objects consciously.

If you have ever engaged in the Savasana (Corpse pose) you must have unearthed your five levels of mental sheaths. These are: 

  • The physical body (food sheath)
  • Prana sheath (subtle energy channels) 
  • The emotional reactions level (mental sheath)
  • Consciousness sheath (the ego)
  • And the causal sheath (the karmic record of your soul’s experiences). 

These mental levels are in order of increasing layers of consciousness. The second stage represents pratyahara. You’re basically leaving the external world but still maintaining contact with it. At this stage, describing from personal experience, you feel trapped in the bottom of a well. You can identify with the surrounding sounds, yet these noises don’t bother you (mentally or physically). You’re in a state of non-reaction. Some Yogi teachers will explain this stage as being in the world yet not of it.

The purpose of this stage 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.

Stage 6: Dharana

Dharana means ‘concentration’ or ‘single focus’. Once we eliminate object attachment, we progress in concentration. This is at the mental sheath stage. You can practice this stage in your daily tasks by choosing to perform just one task at a time or achieve the same during meditation by focusing your thoughts at one particular object, idea or place.

By concentrating, 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, we gain a skill to slow down the thought process by focusing on sound, image, energy, or body.

Stage 7: Dhyana

Dhyana means ‘contemplation, reflection’ and ‘profound, abstract meditation’. 

It’s the meditation practice where you come face to face with your ego. You tap into your self-awareness or soul. This stage is similar to Dharana, however, here you go in deeper. You choose to concentrate on your point of reference until this thought becomes a part of your consciousness.

Conscious inhibition of thought processes allows 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.

Stage 8: Samadhi

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Finally, at this stage we achieve a super conscious state. See, once you go past your ego, past your senses and past the wandering mind, you can transcend to any levels you imagine of, with complete control over your mind. In other words, you, your mind, and your chosen object of meditation merge together into one. However, most people experience this level based on their soul’s past.

The Benefits of Raja Yoga

Medical benefits

Recent research has seen Raja Yoga as an important therapeutic and prophylactic modality in several health conditions.

Happiness

Raja Yoga enhances positive thinking which increases self-satisfaction and consequently happiness in life. This applies irrespective of your age or the period of time you have been practicing this yoga.

Positive inner transformation

Well, this is obvious since Raja Yoga works on the principle of meditation with an aim to free the soul.

Physical and mental relaxation

With continued practice, Raja Yoga will change your attitude and transform your lifestyle. Eventually, you experience great transformation in your overall wellbeing.

Better control over addictions

Remember we mentioned before that this yoga aims at freeing the soul from the bondage of illusions. Addiction is simply an illusion that clouds your judgment and takes control of your mind. Once you free the soul and experience a higher realm, you will be the only one making your life decisions. 

Conclusion

In Sanskrit texts, Raja yoga was both the goal of yoga and a method to attain it. Nowadays, many people on spiritual path choose to integrate this practice into their lives. By doing so they are able to silence their minds, deepen the meditation practice, take control over their thoughts, and achieve the higher level of consciousness.

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Kriya Yoga: The Benefits and Principles of Practice

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Are you on a spiritual path to self-realization? If so, what meditation techniques do you practice? In this guide, we will introduce you to Kriya Yoga, a sacred technique that requires both leading an ethical life and practicing yoga and meditation. That way, you can improve your focus and concentration and live a calm and joyous life. So, what does Kriya Yoga entail? Let’s start with the definition.

What is Kriya Yoga?

Kriya Yoga is a yogic practice that focuses on the spiritual benefits rather than the physical benefits of yoga. Hence, it is a spiritual practice that aims at developing your spirit into leading a more conscious and fulfilling life. That is, you aim at enhancing your current life in such a way that your physical, emotional, and psychological survival is no more a concern to you. 

Moreover, unlike hatha yoga that requires hard work and physical exercise, Kriya Yoga relies on growth and expression. 

The Origin and History of Kriya Yoga

“Kri refers to action, and “ya” means indwelling soul. Hence, the term Kriya stands for becoming aware of the power of the inhaled soul. It is about gaining self-realization while also appreciating the mechanics of human life.

The practice of Kriya Yoga dates back to ancient times when advanced Himalayan yogis practiced it in meditation caves. Still, its first mention in modern times is in 1861 when Mahavatar Babaji, the yoga master, passed the practice to Lahiri Mahasaya. More so, it is the spiritual master Paramahansa Yogananda who later brings Kriya Yoga practice to the west, sparking a spiritual revolution. Kriya Yoga continues to impact the lives of millions of people seeking spiritual enlightenment

The Philosophy and Principles of Kriya Yoga

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The practice of Kriya Yoga is split into three key components as follows: –

#1: Meditation

Kriya Yoga advocates for a life of discipline. It requires setting sometime every day to allow your consciousness to clear. Indeed, society bombards our minds with lots of distractive thoughts. It could be from social media, local politics, or family demands. Whatever the source of the cloudiness, Kriya yoga requires us to practice breathing awareness meditation every day to refine our nervous system. 

It also requires that we change the functioning and structure of our brains for clarity of thought. In turn, meditation gradually changes the energy system within our body (Kundalini) and makes us attune to higher consciousness and vibrations. Only then can we become aware of our true selves.

#2: Self-Inquiry/Self-Study

The second stage in Kriya Yoga is Vichara or self-inquiry. Here, we examine our current lifestyles against the true self that we strive to become. It is a journey of introspection and discernment, letting go of false perceptions of self and people’s biased opinions. In turn, we ask ourselves questions such as: –

  • Who am I?
  • What is my true purpose in life?
  • What are my values?
  • How do I define my energy level? What affects it?
  • Can I express the boundary between self and the world?
  • What comes to mind when I inhale and exhale during meditation?
  • Which yoga pause feels most expansive?
  • What inspires me, brings me joy, or matters to me the most right now?
  • How do I feel when I nourish my body with healthy food?
  • What grounds me?
  • What is my definition of success beyond money?
  • From what do I want to detach?
  • How do I express my creativity?
  • Where is my favorite spot for practicing yoga? Why is this spot special to me?
  • What does surrender mean to me?
  • How do I feel when I clean out or de-clutter my workspace?

Self-study makes us contemplate on ourselves. We inquire about our perception of reality versus the true reality. That way, we seek to understand our sole purpose in the world. 

#3: Surrendered Devotion, Isvarapranidhana

Finally, Kriya Yoga is about ethical living, a life of devotion to seeking spiritual enlightenment. The practice helps us make sense of that unease we have when things don’t turn out the way we want. You know that feeling of groundlessness that goes against our societal norms. 

Our communities require us to hold on to a career, family, or leadership to feel in control. Yet, in Kriya Yoga, we let go of our desire for dominion and surrender all effort.

Benefits of Practicing Kriya Yoga as Part of Your Spiritual Journey

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#1: Attaining a Spiritual Awakening

The ultimate goal of Kriya Yoga is experiencing a spiritual awakening. This awakening takes place by doing four fundamental actions: –

  • Daily Spiritual Meditation – Kriya Yoga relies on the techniques in Raja Yoga to activate higher consciousness. It is a highly individual experience where the participant can hear voices, see visions, lose or absorb a sense of separateness and have a sense of awe or transcendence.
  • Spiritual Contemplation – Here, we observe our thoughts without being judgmental. The practice helps us discover that our feelings reflect how our minds interpret those beliefs. Likewise, we notice that negative emotions arise from our interpretation or judging of thoughts with negativity. 
  • Spiritual Reflection  Spiritual reflection refers to studying and reflecting on the Vedic scriptures. Here, we aim to unlock the secrets of leading a peaceful and prosperous lifestyle. Hence, we want to live our lives with sincerity, knowledge, and compassion.
  • Spiritual Exploration – Finally, Kriya Yoga allows us to explore different spiritual practices to discover what works for each one of us. 

#2: Physical Benefits

Apart from a spiritual awakening, anyone practicing Kriya Yoga shall experience the following benefits: –

  • Improves our moods and overall well being
  • Assists in dealing with depression 
  • Improves our tolerance to pain
  • Helps in managing stress and anxiety
  • Lowers high blood pressure and hypertension levels
  • Soothes, stimulates, and clarifies the mind and soul
  • It helps us regain our self-confidence
  • Improves our concentration and memory power

Conclusion

Kriya Yoga believes that when we enhance our roots, we will see the fruits in the form of a spiritual awakening. In turn, this spiritual practice emphasizes coming to an ideal state that determines the quality of our lives. It is about growing beyond our needs and concerns and becoming a karma yogi.

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Khechari Mudra: Yogic Secret Tool for Immortality

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Khechari mudra is one of the mana mudras (head mudras). This powerful mudra is designed to awaken spiritual energies in the body and activate the kundalini. In this article, we will share with you what Khechari mudra is, what its benefits are, and how to properly perform it.

What Is Mudra?

Mudra‘ can be translated as ‘seal’ or ‘gesture’. When we do a mudra, it acts as a seal or bond which brings our whole body in alignment with the energy associated with the mudra.

Mudras help us correct the direction of energy in the body, control prana, and improve the psycho-emotional state. Also, with their help, we can eliminate problems in the body and the mind by pressing on particular acupuncture points.

What Is Khechari Mudra?

Kechari mudra is considered preeminent among the mudras, particularly because it is an advanced technique meant to assist the practitioner in reaching a higher state of consciousness.

The name for this mudra comes from Sanskrit. Kha means ‘Brahman‘ or ‘Space’ which is infinite. Chara means ‘Obstacle free moving’ or ‘flying’.

Khechari mudra is mentioned in the fundamental treatises on yoga, for example, in Swami Sivananda mentioned in his works that Khechari mudra is the best of all mudras. Kashmiri philosopher Abhinavagupta, in his works on Kashmiri Shaivism, said that all mudras originated from Khechari.

To put it simply, Khechari mudra is a tongue lock. It is not difficult to make it: you just need to bend the tongue so that the tip rests against the upper palate. And keep your mouth closed while practicing it.

The described technique is suitable for beginners. Those who have mastered the described technique and can hold the tongue in this position for a long time can slowly move the tongue deeper into the larynx as if trying to swallow. According to the treatises, the yogis of the past were able to penetrate their throat with their tongue.

According to the yogins, there is a source in the throat that grants immortality. In addition, the yogis of the past, having “swallowed” the tongue, were able to block their right and left nostrils to perform alternate breathing. However, do not try to do it, especially at the initial stage of the practice.

Khechari Mudra Benefits

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is one of the most authoritative sources on yoga, in the 40th sloka says:

“He who knows the Kechari Mudra, is not troubled by diseases, is not stained with karmas, and is not snared by time”.

Indeed, there are certain points on the back of the palate that are responsible for our health. When we’re pressing on these points with a tongue, the release of secretions occurs, which leads to general health improvement.

Yogis of the past believed that those who master this mudra perfectly will “accelerate the onset of deep states.” We are talking here about the possibility of changing consciousness with the help of practice and directing energy to the upper chakras. Also, Khechari Mudra balances the mind and helps to achieve a state of calm.

The regular practice of Khechari Mudra provides the following benefits:

  • opens up blocked salivary glands and prevents painful symptoms of salivary gland disorders;
  • activates the parasympathetic nervous system;
  • relaxes the body;
  • reduces the thoughts;
  • draws the mind inwards;
  • removes symptoms of aging;
  • balances the secretion of the thyroid gland;
  • improves metabolism;
  • contributes the third eye chakra awakening;
  • activates/increases psychic abilites;
  • clears the tongue gag and prevents bad breath;
  • helps to activate kundalini;
  • improves the tone of the voice;
  • reduces abdominal fat;
  • clears the mind of anger, attachment, and ego;
  • increases vitality and energy.

How to Perform?

The instructions listed below have a purely informative purpose. We DO NOT recommend you to practice this mudra without any guidance from an expert teacher.

Instructions:

  1. Extend your tongue up and then roll it back to reach as far as you can. Initially, the tongue may barely reach to the hard palate. Do fake swallowing to slide tongue up to the soft palate. Do it 3-4 times until your tongue rests comfortably at the soft palate.
  2. Now try to slide your tongue further into the mouth.
  3. Reach with your tongue at the bottom of your mouth where it touches the uvula.
  4. Once you reach this far, do it 3-4 times to get your tongue comfortable up to this point.
  5. Now as your tongue touching the uvula, open your glottis and mouth quickly to blow a bit of air inside the throat.
  6. This strong bust of air will push rolled tongue behind the uvula and your tongue will be ready to enter into the nasopharynx.
  7. Once tongue makes its way behind the uvula, now its turn to find a place behind uvula from where the tongue doesn’t come to its previous position. This part will come naturally, the tongue will begin slipping but at this moment there would be a strong urge of throwing out tongue.
  8. Keep breathing slowly, observe what’s happening inside your mouth.
  9. Eventually, your tongue will start slipping into nasopharynx behind the soft palate. This will take tongue to the upmost where it touches a bony structure called the pituitary gland.
  10. Up to this point, the tongue has reached beyond the top of the pharynx.
  11. When the tongue pressed against this, it gets stimulated. Some fluid will start accumulating in your mouth but saliva wouldn’t be swallowed as long as your tongue remains up.
  12. Slowly, bring your tongue down to natural position and you will find the taste of saliva accumulated inside your mouth. In the beginning, the taste of it will be bitter. This is a sign of detoxification of your bodily system. But with practice, you will notice that the bitter taste becomes sweet like honey. It’s called ‘Amrita‘ – the nectar of immortality in Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Duration of the Practice

Start with performing the mudra for 3-5 minutes. Gradually increase the time, bringing it to 1-1.5 hours.

The Bottom Line

Khechari mudra is a powerful mudra that helps us to reach a higher state of consciousness and leads us to immortality. However, if you are a beginner and are not able to do full khechari mudra, a small khechari mudra (nabho mudra) brings many benefits at the physical level. For doing this, simply put your tongue to the soft palate. Give yourself a few months to prepare your tongue for the full mudra practice. Keep in mind that your tongue can be stretched like any other muscle. All you need to do is to be disciplined enough to practice nabho mudra regularly.

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