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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!


Katya Ki is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of SOLANCHA Magazine, a Feng Shui Master, a Metaphysical Expert, a Reiki Master, and Human Rights Attorney. She has been studying Eastern metaphysics and esotericism for almost 20 years now. And she's still discovering new knowledge, which is hidden in ancient teachings. During her pilgrimage to the monastery of Saint Catherine in Egypt, she discovered the SOLANCHA System. This is how the SOLANCHA journey started!

Yoga

Murcha Pranayama: Essence and Benefits of the Swooning Breath

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Murcha Pranayama is one of the eight types of pranayama. “Murcha” is commonly known as “fainting” in Sanskrit. It is believed that through this pranayama you experience “conscious unconsciousness”. The purpose of this pranayama is to expand consciousness and accumulate and preserve prana. People who are successful in completing this breathing exercise experience prolonged euphoria and semiconscious swoon. Therefore it is recommended to perform it only if you are well advanced in all other branches of pranayama.

In this article, I will share with you the benefits of the Murcha Pranayama and the techniques of its performance.

What Is Pranayama?

Pranayama for Beginners Image

Pranayama is a system of breathing exercises that can significantly increase your energy level.

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”.

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 of Hatha yoga.

Murcha Pranayama

Murchha pranayama can only be performed by advanced practitioners who have already purified their bodies and who have good training in holding their breath. As you learn this breathing practice, the number of cycles may increase. The time to complete it may increase from five to ten minutes. However, if you feel that your head has become light, stop practicing.

The feeling of loss of consciousness during Murcha Pranayama occurs for two reasons. First, continued breath retention reduces the concentration of oxygen in the blood entering the brain, that is, causes hypoxia. Second, by squeezing large blood vessels in the neck, Jalandhara Bandha affects the pressure receptors on their walls, and in response to this, the pulse and blood pressure change.

Benefits of Murcha Pranayama

Murcha Pranayama is a very powerful breathing technique that has many benefits! Here are some of them:

  1. provides mental tranquillity and a sensation of euphoria;
  2. gives a blissful experience where the mind becomes free from negative emotions;
  3. increases mental efficiency by providing energy and removing distractions;
  4. effective in the cure of headache and muscle weakness;
  5. raises the level of prana by energizing ida, pingala, and Sushumna;
  6. helps to create a state of unconsciousness where your mind is calm, and the body is relaxed, yet you are alert (a state of ‘conscious unconsciousness’);
  7. brings steadiness and contentment by infusing joy and happiness;
  8. reduces body fats;
  9. helps to prepare the body for deep meditation.

Precautions

Murcha Pranayama is not meant to be practiced by everyone and it’s best to find a competent teacher for guidance. Murcha breathing practice requires a competent teacher’s help if you have:

  • mental disorder;
  • high blood pressure (hypertension) or low blood pressure (hypotension);
  • heart disease;
  • epilepsy;
  • brain disorders;
  • glaucoma.

If you get wholly fainted or unconscious during your practice, discontinue it immediately!

Murcha Pranayama should not be practiced after meals, and a minimum of 3-4 hours gap should be there.

How To Perform Murcha Pranayama?

Murcha Pranayama Benefits Image

There are two ways to perform Murcha Pranayama.

Technique 1

Sit in Padmasana or Siddhasana. Place your hands on your knees and close your eyes.

Count till 5 and at the count of 5, slowly and deeply inhale through your nose. Perform Kumbhaka with Jalandhara Bandha and Shambhavi mudra.

Hold your breath for 5 seconds or as you feel comfortable.

Keep your eyes closed. Relax the Jalandhara Bandha. Slightly lift your chin. Exhale while closely monitoring the exhalation.

Before starting the next cycle, breathe normally for a minute or two.

Concentrate on the feeling of emptiness.

Technique 2

Sit in Padmasana or Siddhasana. Place your hands on your knees and close your eyes. Make sure that the body is firmly fixed in its position.

Slowly inhale through both nostrils, raising your chin and tilting your head back, but not so far that it requires tension and effort.

Perform Kumbhaka with your arms straightened at the elbows, your shoulders raised, and your Shambhavi mudra fixed. Hold your breath a little longer than is comfortable for you.

Then close your eyes, slowly lower your head and shoulders, and exhale in a controlled manner.

Before starting the next cycle, breathe normally for a minute or two.

Concentrate on the feeling of emptiness.

Duration

Practice until you start experiencing a fainting sensation. Length of Kumbhaka (breath retention) is very important. The longer you can hold the breath, the better it is.

One inspiration and expiration makes one cycle. Repeat until you feel faint. It should be performed after asanas and before meditation.

It is very useful and provides additional benefits when practiced before going to sleep.

Concentration

It is very important to know what to concentrate on while performing Murcha pranayama. You should have a dual focus while performing this practice: physical and spiritual.

For achieving physical awareness, focus on your breath. Bring your attention to the head movement and also to the center of eyebrows.

For achieving spiritual awareness focus on the void behind the eyebrow center called ‘chidaksha‘. Direct your awareness to this void.

Conclusion

Pranayama is one of the most important yogic practices. It provides different responses in the cardiovascular and autonomic nervous system. Murcha pranayama acts as the bridge between the mind and the body. It brings balance to our breathing, calm down our mind and creates inner peace.

When the mind becomes thoughtless and still, we become more relaxed and calm. We feel the bliss that makes us feel like floating. We are floating away from the worldly affairs and start moving inside. By drawing our minds inward we achieve the ultimate pleasure.


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What Is Mudra? 9 Most Powerful Mudras Explained

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In the tradition of Yoga Tattva Mudra Vigyan or Yoga Mudra, mudras are performed along with the practice of asanas, pranayama, concentration, and meditation. Mudras strengthen the connection of internal organs with their corresponding centers in the brain. The correct practice of mudras will help you to restore the correct work of organs, improve health, fill your body with vital energy, and receive other benefits. If you’re asking yourself: “What is mudra?” and want to learn more about it then this article is for you!

What Is Mudra?

“Mudra” can be translated as “seal”, “mark”, or “gesture”.

Mudras are symbolic gestures often practiced with the hands and fingers.

Connecting the fingers in certain combinations, you can activate the meridians and direct energy throughout the body, restore the flow of energy and eliminate “breakdowns” in diseased organs.

Thus, each position of the hands has its own meaning and can benefit us if we learn to use this knowledge correctly.

How Do Mudras Work?

Mudras image

Different positions of the fingers have the ability to close or clear the energy channels. In addition, performing this or that mudra, we affect the biologically active points of the palms and fingers.

There are about 180 different finger positions. Obviously, it is not necessary to know all the mudras in order to start performing Yoga Mudra. It would be enough to start with a couple of basic mudras of your choice.

Mudras are invented for the correct redirection of energy in the body, for the control of prana and for changing the psycho-emotional state. Also, with their help, you can eliminate problems in the body and in the mind by pressing on particular acupuncture points.

Each finger of the hand corresponds to certain energy. And each phalanx of each finger is responsible for a specific part of the body.

The index finger is associated with knowledge, wisdom, and self-confidence. It is connected to our life force.

The middle finger is responsible for patience and the ability to control feelings. This finger is connected to the heart and Anahata chakra.

The ring finger is responsible for health and vitality. This finger is connected to the respiratory and nervous systems.

The pinkie is associated with a creative component of the personality and the ability to see beauty. This finger is responsible for the pelvic organs.

The thumb is responsible for our ego, will, and logic. Also, this finger is associated with wisdom, mind and awareness.

In addition, each finger is connected with different parts of the body and internal organs. For example, the upper phalanx of the thumb is a “projection” of the head. The ring and middle fingers correspond to the right and left foot, and the pinkie and index fingers correspond to the right and left hand.

By performing mudras with your hands, you definitely stimulate those parts of the body and organs that are directly connected to the energy channels that pass through the palms and fingers.

5 Fingers And 5 Elements

Did you know that each finger is associated with one of the 5 elements?

Thumb represents the Fire element (Agni).

The index finger is associated with the energy of the Air element.

The middle finger is responsible for the Ether.

The ring finger connects us to the energy of the Earth.

The pinkie represents Water.

Fingers Corresponding to the 5 Elements image

Thus, by performing mudras, you redistribute the energy in your body. You regulate its flow through the opening and closing of energy channels as you do when practicing Hatha yoga. The only difference is that in Hatha yoga you achieve this effect by taking different body poses whereas in Yoga Mudras you do the same but with your fingers.

The thumb, representing the element of Fire, is considered the main finger in Yoga mudra. With whatever other finger the tip of the thumb comes in contact, it will strengthen the element that this finger or a combination of several fingers represents.

It turns out that if you connect the tips of the thumb and ring finger, the element of Air will increase through the Fire element. This is how Gyan Mudra (Mudra of Knowledge) is created.

When you connect the thumb and the middle finger then you activate the cosmic energy or ether. This is how Aakash mudra is created.

If you connect the pads of the thumb and ring finger you will activate the energy of the Earth. This is how the Prithvi mudra is performed.

The combination of the thumb and the pinkie increases the Water element in our bodies. This is how the Varun mudra is performed.

How To Perform Mudras?

Many mudras are quite simple to perform. Once you have mastered the basics, you can move on to more advanced finger combinations in mudras if you want it.

No special preparations are required to perform the mudras. You just need to take a meditative pose, choose one of the asanas (Sukhasana, Vajrasana or Padmasana) and while you are meditating, you can easily hold the mudra.

If you are not in the mood to meditate in one of the yoga asanas, you can simply relax and sit comfortably and begin to perform the mudra.

You can perform mudras anywhere: when you’re riding in public transportation, when you are listening to music or watching a movie, etc. Mudras have one very attractive factor: whether you are focused on their performance or not, whether you deeply believe in their healing power or not – they will work anyways (regardless of the situation and your mood).

Mudras are recommended to be performed daily. The duration of the practice should be 30-45 minutes so that you can feel its therapeutic effect. For convenience, you can divide this time period into several sessions of 15 minutes.

Usually, mudras are performed with both hands, as this activates the work of both hemispheres of the brain. You not only work to correct the problems that have accumulated in your physical body but also stimulate the work of the mind, which, in turn, has a positive impact on the emotional state.

9 Most Simple And Effective Mudras

Enough theory! Let’s start our mudra practice! Let me share with you 9 most simple yet very effective mudras you can start practice today!

Prana Mudra (Mudra of Life)

Mudra of life Prana mudra image

This mudra is designed to increase energy, restore energy potential, give strength, inspiration, increase endurance and even improve vision. It provides energy and health. Also, it reduces hunger pangs during fasting and gives you a good night’s sleep.

How to perform:

Touch the tip of the thumb with the ring finger and the pinkie finger together, while keeping the other two fingers straight. Take a regular breath, breathe in and exhale for a few seconds. Perform this mudra for 30-40 minutes daily.

Padma Mudra (Lotus Mudra)

Lotus mudra image

The Lotus Mudra opens the Heart Chakra (Anahata). It is a symbol of purity, light, and beauty emerging from the darkness.

The message of the lotus mudra is to stay connected to your roots, open yourself to the light and realize that the greatest sense of steadiness in life is an open heart.

The Lotus Mudra helps to heal a “broken heart”, strengthens unconditional love for all living beings or for a particular person, opens the heart, helps to attract a soul mate, drains out the misunderstanding, helps to release tension. It is also practiced to enhance the fire element in the body.

How to perform:

Take a cross-legged position. Bring the base of the palms together at the heart center, touching the thumbs and pinky fingers together. Spread the rest of the fingers out like the lotus flower opening toward the sunlight. Close your eyes and take several deep and long breaths.

Apana Mudra

Apana mudra image

Apana Mudra is a Cleansing – Energy Gesture. The Sanskrit word “Apana” refers to a cleansing form of subtle energy in our bodies that moves downwards and outwards.

Apana Mudra is especially beneficial to women, helping to regulate the menstrual cycle and easing childbirth.

This mudra strengthens the immune system on all levels, detoxifies the body and balances the elements of space and earth within.

Apana Mudra improves digestion and helps clear the skin. It can help you to feel grounded and process difficult emotions.

Most importantly, it helps to harmonize the flow of Qi.

How to perform:

Take a comfortable seated position, stand or lie down. You can also hold the hand gesture whilst performing a walking meditation. Using both hands bring the tips of your middle and ring fingers to the tip of your thumb, keep your other fingers extended and relaxed. This Mudra can be held for up to 45 minutes a day. the time could be broken down into 15-minute sections. To feel the benefits it would be helpful to hold the position for at least 10 minutes a day.

Gyan Mudra (Mudra of Knowledge)

Mudra of knowledge image

The Mudra of Knowledge evokes the most expansive version of the self, so you can flow through your life lessons with ease and calm. It stimulates wisdom and knowledge.

This beautiful mudra helps to eliminate stress, sadness, and sorrow. It gives hope and confidence in the future. In addition, the Mudra of Knowledge improves concentration and helps those who need to process large amounts of information, memorize and concentrate. This mudra improves memory and attention.

The Gyan Mudra:

  • stimulates the Root chakra;
  • eases tension and depression;
  • calms down;
  • brings spiritual openness and ease in meditation;
  • boosts the air element;
  • stimulates the brain;
  • empowers the mind, nervous system and pituitary gland;
  • helps enhance concentration;
  • prevents insomnia.

How to perform:

Lightly touch the tip of the thumb with the tip of the index finger, keeping the other fingers straight but relaxed. Do this with both the right and left hand and hold for at least a few minutes. In Kundalini Yoga, this mudra is usually practiced with the hands resting on the knees and the elbows straight.

Varun Mudra (Mudra of Water)

Varun image

This powerful mudra helps to improve kidneys and liver health. It helps to remove excess fluid from the body, accelerates metabolism and improves health. Also, it reduces the dryness of the skin and helps to improve its luster and softness.

The Mudra of Water is known as a seat of mental clarity. It encourages openness and fluid communication and balances the water element in the body.

How to perform:

Sit in a cross-legged position. Slightly touch the tip of the thumb with the little finger, then put some pressure and see the difference. There is no time limit for doing this Mudra and can be done anytime and anywhere.

Mudra of Earth (Prithvi Mudra)

Prithvi Mudra Image

This is the mudra of protection. If you suffer because of the strong pressure of the surrounding world, if events or specific people take away your peace, perform the Prithvi mudra and you will feel that you are under the protection of the natural forces. It helps to relieve stress quickly.

The mudra of Earth can provide emergency assistance in moments of nervous breakdown, hysteria or severe stress. With regular performance, it helps to achieve inner harmony and improve self-esteem.

The Prithvi mudra increases the earth element within the body while decreasing the fire element. The earth element is a vital component of bodily tissues like bones, cartilage, skin, hair, nails, flesh, muscles, tendons, internal organs, etc.

Also, by performing the Mudra of Earth you’re balancing your Root chakra.

How to perform:

The Prithvi Mudra is created by touching the ring finger to the thumb, with the rest of the fingers extended. It is recommended to begin by holding this mudra in 10-minute increments, slowly building up to 45 minutes a day.

Vajra Arrow Mudra

Vajra Arrow Image

This mudra helps to heal the cardiovascular system. If the body has accumulated too much energy or if the mental tension has reached its peak, perform the Vajra Arrow Mudra. This powerful Mudra can help you to accumulate more energy in your body.

How to perform:

Put your right and left index fingers together. Cross the rest of your fingers. Press your thumbs against your index fingers.

Anjali Mudra (The Mudra of Gratitude)

Anjali Mudra Image

Anjali Mudra stabilizes the lower chakras and opens the heart chakra.

It is a mudra of devotion and offering, of balance and composure, of returning to the heart. It connotes gratitude for self and others. This is a very peaceful and safe gesture, and you will often see it come out unconsciously. It is often used alongside the word Namaste in salutations.

How to perform:

Taking your two hands in front of your chest, press the palms together. Extend the pressure up through each finger and the thumbs to the very tips. Keep the sides of your fingers touching. There will naturally be a little hollow of space between the centers of your two palms. Relax your shoulders away from your ears.

Bringing the joined hands to your Anahata chakra with the forearms parallel to the floor stretches the wrists and directs your awareness to your heart center.

Bringing the mudra in your Third eye (Ajna chakra) focuses your attention on your intuition.

Perform the Mudra of Gratitude at least 10 minutes a day.

Kashyapa Mudra

Kashyapa Mudra Image

This is a powerful protection Mudra you can use anytime you face toxic people, energy vampires, or people with bad attitudes. Also, if you are an empath, this mudra will protect you from absorbing the negative energy of people around you. In other words, this is the mudra you need to protect your energy. It balances and grounds you while creating a seal against negative energy.

How to perform:

Place the thumb underneath the index and middle fingers, letting the tip of the thumb poke out, and make a fist.

Conclusion

Start by mastering the basic mudras and practicing them in your daily meditations. Then you can pick more advanced ones. Your fingers will eventually get used to new positions, and the daily mudra practice will bring not only positive results to improve your health, but also the quality of your life. Be patient, be consistent, and the rest will follow!

Sometimes our bodies give us clues. If at some point you feel like you want to fold your hands and fingers in a certain way and stay in this position – just let it happen. Observe and accept what will happen during this practice. Your body intuitively knows what you need at the moment!


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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 of 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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