Yoga, Meditation & Pranayama

Yoga, Meditation & Pranayama

At Sitaram beach retreat, yoga, meditation and pranayama have been incorporated to aid panchakarma and other treatments as a catalyst in the healing process. Our experienced instructors will train you at a basic or advanced level of yoga, based on your prior experience.

There are general sessions open to all, but you can also have personal sessions as required and recommended by the doctors to practice exercises that specifically suit your health condition or requirements. *You are advised to avoid yoga and pranayama on the days of the ghee therapy and on the cleansing days.



Invocation

At the beginning of every yoga practice, we begin with the invocation to Sage Patanjali, the one who authored Yoga Sutras. Sage Patanjali, is believed to have lived between 200 B.C and 450 A.D. and is credited with “purifying body, mind and speech” with his writings on medicine, Ayurveda and grammar. He is particularly known for systemizing the Yoga Sutras, from which the modern practice of Yoga is derived.

To purify the mind (citta), purify the consciousness, Patanjali gave the science of yoga (yogena) to us. To purify our use of words (pada) and speech (vacca), he gave a commentary on grammar to us, so that our use of words and way of speaking is clarified, distinct and pure.

To remove the impurities (malam) of the body (sarira), he gave us the science of medicine (vaidyakena), through his treatise on Ayurveda, of language through his treatise on grammar (Patanjala Mahabhashya) and the impurities of the Chitta (mind field) through his treatise on Yoga (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).

Let me go near the one who has given these things to us

Let me bow down my head with my folded hands to Lord Patanjali Then after knowing the work of this Lord

*The second stanza says what Lord Patanjali looks like. To do any meditation first the form has to be in front of the eyes.

From the hand up to the head he has the shape (karam) of a human (purusa).

In his hand he is holding the conch (sankha) and disc (cakra)

On top of his head (sirasam) he has got a thousand (sahasra) hoods of the cobra, because he is the incarnation of Adishesha, the greatest cobra. Svetam means white.

I bow down to Patanjali.

*This version is from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar, with the addition of approximate pronunciation guides.

Origin of Yoga and Ayurveda

Yoga and Ayurveda practices originated in the same era and place. They first appeared more than 5000 years ago in the oldest sacred texts called the Vedas. The Vedas are a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals. Yoga has been mentioned in the oldest and the most revered Veda - the Rig Veda dating back to 1500 B.C.E. and Ayurveda, the oldest healing science was first mentioned in Atharva Veda.

Ayurvedic knowledge is often called the “Science of Life”, or the “Mother of All Healing”, and was taught for thousands of years in an oral tradition from accomplished masters to their disciples. The principles of many of the natural healing systems now familiar in the west have their roots in Ayurveda, including homeopathy and polarity therapy.

Relationship and Integration between Yoga and Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the physical counterpart of classical Yoga. It provides the basis of a complete medical system in both theory and practice, and reflects the yogic point of view.

The ancient sages of India developed Yoga for realizing a higher consciousness and Ayurveda for health and well-being. Yoga deals with the harmonizing of mind, body and soul, while Ayurveda takes care of the person's physical and mental well-being through the means of diet and lifestyle changes.

Ayurveda and Yoga are sister sciences that have evolved from the Vedas, and are a part of the same ancient healing tradition with common goals of preserving our health and raising consciousness. Yoga and Ayurveda provide for an entire line of lifestyle, physical, psychological and spiritual treatment measures that help bring out the higher dimension of health and overall well-being. The human being is a whole person, which extends to the entire mind, body and beyond. Even if we may somehow be physically limited or impaired, we still want to be treated like a whole person. This principle of wholeness is the Atman or Purusha, the higher Self that pervades and upholds both body and mind. It is that same consciousness principle that is the principle of wholeness in the world of nature and is responsible for the integrity of the ecosystem and the linking together of everything in the universe like a single organism. Yoga begins with the principle of wholeness as establishing consciousness as the foundation of all that we do. Ayurveda recognizes the wholeness and integrity of body, mind and the natural world through the power of Prana. Holistic living implies living in the wholeness of our own nature, which is linked to the wholeness of the entire universe.

Introduction and Existence of Yoga and Ayurveda in Kerala

The three original and highly respected Ayurveda acharyas, respectfully called Brihat Trayees were Sushruta, Charaka, and Vagbhata.

Vagbhata’s contribution to Ayurveda was redacting his grandfather’s voluminous medical text called Ashtanga Sangraha into a much more lucid volume called Ashtanga Hridaya - the heart of the Ashtanga knowledge composing the eight branches of Ayurveda medicine. Vagbhata was from the Indus Valley Civilization, which was called Sindhu Desha, the land of the people of the Sindhu River. The special therapeutic system of Kerala Ayurveda came about after Vagbhata, or one of his followers, travelled from the Sindhu river region of the Indus Valley to the nearly inaccessible South of India, Kerala, possibly through a merchant ship. Vagbhata or one of his followers brought the Sanskrit medical text “Ashtanga Hridaya” which he had distilled from the various practices prevalent in North India.

Vagbhata or his disciples were warmly received in Kerala and established schools of learning called Sabhaamadhams in Pulamanthole village. Originally eighteen families took formal discipleship and studied Sanskrit. These traditionally trained hereditary practitioners were folk healers, poison experts, herbalists, and performed priestly rituals for well-being. These families came to be known as the Ashtanga Vaidya families, or the Ashta Vaidya families. As time passed they took their craft to Thrissur, to Calicut and beyond, to Vellode, Cherthala and other regions in Kerala.

While colonialism wiped out the knowledge of Ashtanga Hridaya from most of North India, the Ashta Vaidya families in Kerala preserved the original practices especially that of panchakarma cleansing. The Ashta Vaidyas offered Ayurveda physician training to all classes through apprenticeship schools of their own and the knowledge spread far and wide in Kerala.

Yoga and Ayurveda being counterparts to each other thus stayed in Kerala and became a way of life. It is here in Kerala, we see the integration and application of yogic lifestyle complete with Ayurveda and Yoga.

Yoga Nidra

The art of yoga nidra was adapted by Swami Satyananda Saraswati from the traditional tantric practice of Nyasa. It can be applied in various applications ranging from deep relaxation, to the learning process in education, to harmonize the deeper unconscious and awaken inner potential as a meditative technique. We practice yoga nidra for a restful body and as an effort to the gateway to the subconscious. It is just between the deep sleep and wakefulness’, the mind registers messages and has the capability to connect to the inner world. Yoga nidra is a good example of Pratyahara or yogic relaxation which aids in Ayurvedic healing. This shows how we can draw in our mental, sensory and physical energy for rejuvenation.

At Sitaram, we practice yoga nidra to calm ourselves, to align our thoughts and to have a restful state of mind.

Meditation

When we are aligned to our centre, and become single-focused, our mind is at a state of absolute bliss devoid of any emotions, feelings, that state is meditation. For a child, play is meditation, when the child has deeply immersed himself in the play and he is oblivious to the mother's calling or even hunger or thirst. Similarly, for artists it is through their brush, for sportspeople, it is their game. It is a very common misconception that meditation can happen only when one sits in the lotus pose, with hands in a mudra, with eyes closed and in complete silence.

To silence our inner selves, we do not need external silence, but a simple understanding of our own selves. Some people are visual, some are auditory, and some prefer conversations with Self. So, for everybody, the approach to meditation is different.

Buddhist monks meditate by looking at a stone or sometimes a dead body for days together. Ancient yoga transcripts also mention meditating through the flame. Prayers, Vedic chants have a powerful influence over our minds and can also lead us to meditative trance. Dharana or Yogic concentration is the way to develop our intelligence, buddhi or prajna, so that we can avoid mistakes of judgment that can end up causing disease and suffering. Meditation or dhyana is one of the ways to take care of spiritual suffering, which is rooted in the disturbances of the mind and is helpful for psychological ailments. It is also a great aid for the rejuvenation of the body and mind.

At Sitaram, we experiment with the many methods of meditation and try to observe, absorb and experience which way can bring us closer to ourselves. How do we lead ourselves closer to the Divine Supreme?

Pranayama

In Pranayama, “prana” means life energy and “yama” means control. It is an ancient practice of breath regulation which is done by controlling the breath through timing, duration and frequency. This technique involves breathing exercises and patterns, wherein, we purposely inhale, exhale, and hold our breath in a specific sequence. The practice of Pranayama has therapeutic effects by supplying our body with oxygen while removing toxins and providing healing physiological benefits. Pranayama helps us in increasing our energy and vitality and can help correct other pranic imbalances in the body and mind. It is a main component of yoga as an exercise for physical and mental wellness.

In yoga, pranayama is used with other practices like physical postures - asana and meditation - dhyana. Together, these practices are responsible for the many benefits of yoga.

Pranayama involves different breathing techniques.

  1. Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
  2. Victorious breath (Ujjayi)
  3. Honeybee humming breath (Bhramari)
  4. Bellows breath (Bastrika)

Laughter Yoga

When we are aligned to our centre, and become single-focused, our mind is at a state of absolute bliss devoid of any emotions, feelings, that state is meditation. For a child, play is meditation, when the child has deeply immersed himself in the play and he is oblivious to the mother's calling or even hunger or thirst. Similarly, for artists it is through their brush, for sportspeople, it is their game. It is a very common misconception that meditation can happen only when one sits in the lotus pose, with hands in a mudra, with eyes closed and in complete silence.

To silence our inner selves, we do not need external silence, but a simple understanding of our own selves. Some people are visual, some are auditory, and some prefer conversations with Self. So, for everybody, the approach to meditation is different.

The benefits of laughter yoga are:

Body: Increased oxygen intake and blood flow, improved blood vessel function and lower blood pressure. This helps protect your heart, boosts energy, dissolves stress and allows you to gain focus. It makes you feel relaxed and energised, as your stress and pain melt away.

Mind: Your mind becomes sharper and clearer.

Emotions: You feel more grounded.

Social: You feel more connected to the people around you.

Spiritual: It boosts self-esteem, making you feel more at peace.

At Sitaram Ayurveda beach retreat, we have regular sessions of laughter yoga. Please join these sessions for “laughter is the best medicine”.

The Labyrinth

Labyrinths offer the opportunity to walk in meditation to that place within us where the rational merges with the intuitive and the spiritual are reborn. People all over the world are discovering that the ancient practice of walking labyrinths not only solves problems but also soothes the nerves, calms the soul, mends the heart and heals the body. It can help bring us into balance, giving us a sense of wholeness.

Intention

It is a common practice to hold an intention while walking the labyrinth. This can focus on seeking a new direction in life or unravelling a problem or issue.

The Center

The centre is sometimes called the ‘still point’. This is a term from the school of craniosacral therapy which indicates a moment of deep and profound stillness in which the body uses the energy present in this therapy to reintegrate and come back into balance. Upon reaching the centre of a labyrinth, it is common to pause.

The Walk Out

On the walkout, simply being present to sensations, thoughts, feelings and experiences offers a way of integrating insight received in the centre and further unfolding the intention.

Please walk the labyrinth at Sitaram Ayurveda beach retreat as a routine of walking meditation to enjoy the calm and soothing experience.

It is a common understanding that Yoga is about Asanas and Pranayama, which when translated is, postures, advanced complicated contortions of the body and breathing exercises. My guru told me that if I am standing correctly with my spine straight, chest out, stomach tucked in, hips pushed back, neck straight, head straight, drishti at eye level, breathing from my nose, mouth closed, that itself is Yoga.

And, if I am breathing completely, laughing open-hearted, that itself is Pranayama.

When the body is stressed, we tend to breathe shallowly, our heart beats faster, and we feel a certain tightness in our chest. When we are in a good mood, we are having a good time, we are laughing, we breathe clear, our heart beats rhythmically, and we feel fresh. Again, it doesn’t mean that we force ourselves into something mechanical, like a manipulative way of forcing ourselves into enjoying, then the wise body will not respond the way we want to. It should be an honest effort, a genuine flow and surrendering ourselves to universal energy. A little child doesn’t have any idea about yoga, but the child is the most devoted yogi in the world, for the child is free of fear, laughs with its heart, cries without any hesitation and rolls over whenever he feels like it.

At Sitaram, it is our endeavour to bring the child back to our soul.

Open up and offer space for conversations, express concerns, unbox the hidden self. The origin of the majority of diseases is an unhealthy relationship either the person has with himself or with his close circle of people, maybe parents or siblings. And, over a period of time, this gets manifested in the body as a disease, and any external circumstance or experience can trigger the underlying disease. There are people who come with a broken heart, people who have not been able to sleep for a long time, and people who felt unheard. How do we approach such cases? It is through yoga practice, through restorative sequences; through meditative prayers, that we offer a sacred space. For any musculoskeletal problems, digestion problems, we offer customized therapeutic yoga sessions which are inspired by BKS Iyengar and basic concepts of body mobility. Yoga in Sitaram is purely customized as per our guest’s requirements. We treat each person exclusively. Each person has a specific requirement; it may be weight loss or a place to press the restart button or management of an already existing disease or the onset of it. We design our sessions based upon our understanding of how the guest can reap maximum benefit rather than us offering them a generalized plan.