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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Yoga Therapy, shhhhh part one

Most of us have heard of Yoga, or even dabbled in a few classes. We know it's a set of postures that you do to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance. We these great Yogis in ridiculous pretzels and we hope one day to reach these heights of flexibility and hell it might improve your sex life.

But Asana (posture) practice is not even the tip of the ice berg when it comes to Yoga. It is merely an aid in calming the mind and strengthening the body for meditation. Self realization is the ultimate goal of this all encompassing practice and lifestyle.

In order to delve further into the art and science of Yoga Jose and I fled to the Western Ghats (mountains in Kerala) to spend time in an ashram dedicated to the study of yoga. Our program included pranayama, asanas, karma yoga, meditation, and mind calming meals. We lived with a mildly regimented schedule. Waking up at 6:45 to head up to the yoga hall or, weather permitting, the hill with a spectacular view of Idduki lake and wildlife reserve. Here we practiced early morning Pranayama - or breathing meditation. Pranayama actually means controlling the prana or energy (also known as chi)/ If you can control your breath you control the energy system of your body. This was also followed by what was always an intensely deep meditation - finished with a rewarding view of lake, mountains and forest.

We then got to relish a warm cup of tea before heading back up the hill to the yoga studio for Asana practice. Unlike Yoga classes I've taken in the west our asana practice involved more rest than anything. After ever posture we would rest on our backs in corpse pose for several minutes before continuing.

Following our morning calisthenics we got to eat breakfast which like our other daily meal consisted mostly of rice with some mild curries. nothing too stimulating to the taste buds or the mind. From there we usually took a small a break before heading back up the hill to perform karma Yoga. The idea is that by performing unpaid labour, or I mean selfless work for the sake of working at your best and looking for perfection, you will come closer to enlightenment or self realization.

and what is enlightenment? and what does yoga have to do with healing - stay tuned for the next edition of holistic nomad (to be updated in the next couple of days)

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