Why is Yoga and Yoga Training considered a spiritual practice in the ShambhavAnanda School? How is it different from Health Club Yoga and Trainings?
Hatha Yoga in the ShambhavAnanda Yoga tradition is more than physical exercises; it is part of a comprehensive system that can lead to the experience of the innate perfection within each of us. We teach and practice hatha yoga in the context of the Siddha yoga tradition as taught by our Guru, Swami Muktananda. Our yoga ashram is part of a 5,000-year-old spiritual tradition which, uses hatha yoga as a means to prepare one’s body and mind for meditation. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, meaning to yoke. The idea is to yoke or harness the body and mind as a path to enlightenment.
Our approach to teaching Yoga includes Patanjali’s yoga Sutras and the eightfold path. These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.
Within our teacher training students are taught proper alignment of the body as a means to prepare oneself for proper sitting, learning to quiet the mind and regulate the breath-flow to come into harmony with the body and one’s own inner self or consciousness.
Aspects of ShambhavAnanda Yoga training that are not included in commercial yoga trainings:
1) Arrive at the ashram and begin practice of yoga stretches, pranayama (breathing techniques to quiet the mind and enliven the body), sacred mantras or aphorisms which remind us of our true inner nature which in yoga is described as Sat-Chit-Ananda or Being, Consciousness and Bliss. We repeat the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” which means I bow with respect to Shiva or the conscious energy of the universe. I also respect the divine in you.
2) We include Seva or selfless service as a part of our training. This involves giving back and being of service.
3) We include instruction on the subtle body system of chakras and energy centers and how to awaken and purify the 7 main chakras.
4) We teach purification practices including negative tension release.
5) We teach visualizations as part of meditation practice for both Buddhist and Hindu pujas and sadhanas.
6) Meditation is part of our daily routine and training.
7) We teach students the Guru Gita – an ancient Sanskrit mantra consisting of 182 verses followed by Arati, waving of lights, and silent meditation. The practice takes 90 minutes and is done every morning at the ashram. Teacher trainers are not expected to come daily.
8) We teach the importance of a Guru or spiritual teacher and a spiritual lineage.
9) We teach respect for all religions, races or ethnicity and gender or sexual orientation. All people are viewed as having Buddha nature or consciousness.
10) We practice Medicine Buddha practice to heal oneself and to benefit others with physical mental and emotional afflictions.
11) We teach Sanskrit language as the Sanskrit names and mantras are believed to have Matrika Shakti or the spiritual power of words.
12) We teach and practice Buddhist and Yogic mantras for mental purification and to train the mind.
13) We teach compassion and kindness as the path of helping others.
14) We find it extremely beneficial for students to be on retreat while studying so that they are immersed in the yoga lifestyle throughout their studies.
15) We teach Vedic fire ceremony, one of the oldest purification practices from Hinduism and Buddhism.
Are all of our students taking hatha yoga to become enlightened?
No, while that is our path and our religion (to become enlightened) the benefits of yoga are far reaching. Our graduates have used Yoga and Meditation to work with:
• Veterans suffering from PTSD.
• School teachers who incorporate yoga and mindfulness exercises into their classroom to help kids deal with stress and anxiety. One of our graduates teaches inner-city kids in Boston.
• Our teachers work with seniors to increase their flexibility and peace of mind.
• Our teachers offer classes at universities giving tools to help students with the pressures of academic and social life.
• Some graduates simply use the training to go deeper into their own spiritual practice.
Not all graduates use hatha yoga as a path to enlightenment or as their primary religion. Hinduism and the practice of yoga and meditation do not conflict with Christianity or Judaism or any religion. They encompass all religions.