Another aspect of my teacher training required me to read and review David Frawley's book 'Yoga and Ayurveda', below is my review. May you find it inspiring and informative. I hope that my review helps you to look at the way you use yoga going forward in your life.
- Most compelling topics of "Yoga & Ayurveda" by David Frawley
1.1. Is My Soul Ready
The seriousness expressed by David Frawley in “Yoga & Ayurveda”, when he’s highlighting the concept of starting on a yogic journey is captivating. In the book it is stated that “Yoga as spiritual practice is not possible for the un-awakened ego, as it will simply be utilised for purposes of personal enjoyment more than anything else.” This is why even before taking into consideration all the yamas and niyamas a yoga practitioner should first ask themselves if the “soul is awake within me and ready to return to divinity?”
For many this is quite a significant question, in a way it is as if we are asking ourselves “am I going to die right now”, because this “return to divinity” is something so unknown. It is something that is far beyond our abilities to comprehend in the same way that we would begin to understand the phenomenon that is death. But on the whole as I understand it this “return”, must be quite literally the opposite of death, which is disappearing, while from my viewpoint divinity suggest vitality, life and something quite splendid, which has never been known to us before.
From my reading it becomes evident that a yogi should sacrifice his ego, and use it as fuel for the sacred fire of his/her spirit, though the ego will undoubtedly try to do anything at all to prove to us that it is he who really is the master of life and it’s impossible to give it up for all that is unknown. This process can be quite difficult and taxing for the majority of us, who have gotten used thinking that ego (Ahamkara) represents our true self.
Here I feel that it is necessary for us to understand that Ahamkara literally means the "I-fabrication" which means that the ego is a process, not reality. “It is simply a series of thoughts but not a real entity unto itself. It is a necessary power in life, and part of evolution, though it does not represent the fundamental truth or nature of any being. It helps the to identify with different bodies, without revealing our true self, which is awareness beyond all embodiment.”
On completing my reading of Yoga and Ayurveda, I feel that it is important to raise questions to oneself such as the following, “Can you accept that ego is a process and that all around you is not stable, not set in stone?” and consequently “are you yourself ready to surrender to the process and progress of getting to know the True Self?”. If and when one can answer these questions, it becomes positively evident that a real readiness is there for one to surrender to the unknown.
In todays day and age many people in particular those who are fond of Ayurveda state that “we are what we eat”. I have often experimented with different diets, as there were times when I was overly fanatic about food and most of time I would find myself thinking about food: when to eat, where to eat, what to eat, how to eat, how to cook, etc.
I realised that to an extent this was silly, and I brought myself back too real world and my fascination with food vanished. As I started to become more conscious with food my habits changed dramatically when it came it. At the same time I noticed that I had started to think less and less about food.
After reading David Frawley’s "Yoga and Ayurveda" and learning of what true food consciousness is, I've become to analyse the contents of the food that I eat and realised that though a vast majority of it is good and healthy, there is much that is still full processed sugars and preservatives, eggs, milks and a significant amount of baked items, foods brought in cafes and restaurants that have been cooked in a brisk manner with little care to what has gone into them – all of which was quite a large shock for me.
In terms of Ayurveda it is without a doubt starting to become much hard to eat in a food conscious manner, taking into account the fast pace of the ever-growing modern world. It is therefore, my recommendation on reading David Frawleys’ book that in order to eat better one should spend more time shopping from fresh food markets to and taking the time in the kitchen to ensure that the food/s are prepared and cooked correctly.
Through my own experiences, I understand that people who are not conscious about what they eat - really don't care about food at all, they eat everything without care including what others eat (even junk food) but still they’re full of energy and love, some have a great life and relations, and are capable of helping a lot of people - they are good people, who have a life that is full of love.
I have also found that in the same there are many people who pretend to be spiritual and conscious, but in reality they are very egoistic, they often spend so much time taking care of themselves and of the food they prepare and eat, that they loose sight and tend to not act in such loving and friendly manners.
After reading this book I feel that it is important to indicate that one should be very careful when making decisions about changing there habits. As there is no one rule for all, as everyone is unique in their own way.
I do however agree with the author on the fact that “a true yogi should be among those in the forefront working for towards the protection and preservation of the Earth” and agree that “we must learn to grow our own food, as well as support local and organic farmers, and to aware of environmental matters around us”, because if we are not careful the future for all of us stands to receive not only poor food, but a combination of bad water and bad air as well. We must take care of the most precious sources of food for us.
1.3. Dharma, Karma, Ahimsa
In “Yoga and Ayurveda” it has been noted that - Dharma a Sanskrit word that references the laws of truth that oversee the universe. It is a fundamental principle that helps to keep everything in harmony and works to sustain a yoga student’s higher growth and development. One of the most important aspects to mention when it comes to Dharmic law is the law of Karma; that is “as we act, so must we experience the fruits of our actions, not only in our present life but also in our future lives as well.” It is in a sense the absolute justice of the universe, “however this transpires through a multitude of manifestations and as a result is unable to be understood just by look into human affairs.”
Here I feel that it is important to mention that it is “not a justice in the sense of outer rewards or punishments but one on the development of ones consciousness”.
Furthermore, it has been found that “Dharmic action provides inner peace and happiness and works to allow us to pursue a spiritual practice. Adharmic action on the other hand does the opposite by constricting our consciousness and condemns us to a darkness and turbulence of mind, even if we feel that it gives us transient external gains.”
Due to modern culture changes that are creating tendencies for the human race to believe that spiritual development will work to lead them to a greater level of prosperity and overall well-being – similar to the manner in which a person becomes wealthy and successful through being a Hollywood actor or a businessman. However, from personal experience I feel that the more spiritual he or she becomes, the more suffering they will see, which can ultimately be bring them down if they do not learn to use this ability for the better.
Ahimsa, meaning non-harming is on an ethical standing one of the other most important aspects of Dharmic Law. It means that one should have an attitude that leads them to not wish injury to befall any creature in any of their actions, speech and thoughts.
The big question then is “How are we able to sincerely engage in spiritual practices if we are involved in actions that are considered to be violent, destructive or manipulative in any way?” On considering this question, I was pushed to evaluate my understanding of life, my attitudes and my profession. Where I feel that at times I have not acted in manners that were less than spiritual.
It is mentioned in Yoga and Ayurveda that - we are unable to triumph in life or wisdom at the expense of the world in which we live”…as a result, our calling in this life should be filled with an energy of love and be conducted in a manner that is not harmful to other beings…”.
Thus, my desire to get away from the crux of the 9-5 cubicle style of job I have at the current time, where I feel that I am doing little to benefit society and the environment. Of course there have been hundreds of circumstances have influenced this desire of mine, but to be honest inner attitude was my primary reason. For now I still don’t know what or how I will fulfil this desire, but I am ready to really feel inner peace and find a path that truly allows me to pursue my spiritual path.
- Concepts that affected my personal practice of yoga and meditation
David Frawley comments on the fact that meat has the affect of increasing the animal fire within ones body, bringing about a considerably larger number of samskaras (tendencies similar to that of carnivorous animals) to grow within us. From this it can be understood that a largely meat filled diet would affect us by promoting feelings of anger, lust, fear and a multitude of other negative emotions within our mind. The flame created within us by a largely meat filled diet is considered in the yogic teachings to be impure and one that puts out an emotional smoke that has the ability to distort the mind and the nervous system cohesively. It is a diet that portrays energies of destruction to the bodies’ cells, which as a result promotes disease and decay within them. Furthermore, it has a hint of the energy of death, which leaks into the auric field, creating a reduction in the flow of the higher pranas into and around the body and mind.
Digging further we come to understand that many creatures loose there life at die even at the expense of making Bread. Milk and cheese production - almost the only source of proteins for vegetarians, have also been found to cause suffering and death to many creatures. It becomes easier to for one to live and survive after reading Mahaparinirvana Sutra, where it is indicated that meat should never be eaten under three circumstances: when it is seen or heard or suspected (that it was purposely slaughtered). Further more it is indicated that eating meat has the ability to extinguish the seed of greater compassion.
During my time on Earth to date, I have had experiences with many a kind of diet, many including trying out a vegetarian diet which I felt left me feeling weaker then normal, but the time I found a diet that truly suited me was through my yoga practice. I found that my diet changed for the better and as a result at the present time I really feel that it is yoga that puts one on the true path when it comes to a diet that suits them best.
One’s environment has a strong influence on us as human beings. According to a Buddhist tradition in traditional Tibet there used to only be meat and flour available — as there was no other staple food available, not many fruits and vegetables this is a result of being very high altitude. This is in stark contract to the variety of food found in for instance South East Asia, where one really doesn’t have to follow Tibetan customs of eating only meat and tsampa. This is due to the fact that there are many types of fruits and vegetables available to eat. Thus indicating just how the environment has the ability to influence human being and what they can eat a considerable amount, this leaves us to consider the whether one should therefore change the place where he/she lives.
In Tantra it has been indicated “Rules are put in place for those who can't control themselves”. Thus students of Tantra should break the rules though they often have sacred meanings to test their individual levels of control. Yoga practitioners have knowledge of energy control so to an extent is not dependent on outside circumstances. However, from reading Yoga and Ayurveda and its look into Tantra, it is highly recommended that one ensures that they remain aware of what they are doing, they should never partake in anything without awareness – at this will result in the losing of ones control which leads to no more Tantra. Tantra indicates to us that "nothing should be avoided as everything can be transformed to the way in which we desire it."
At times I have contemplated practicing Ganapuja where I would eat meat as a spiritual practice of compassion towards the animal from which the meat cam. However, I have found that when eating diets heavy with meat I become susceptible to ill health, suffering from a lack of energy. I have tested this a number of times over a period of 18 months – the result was the same each time. I have tried to investigate what could have caused this. My investigations have lead me to believe that consuming smaller amounts it better, for including meat in one’s diet is completely different to eating it as a means for liberating the animal through certain meditative practices.
When considering my own experience with music I've come to realise that through music on many occasions I have been able to open myself up to feeling energy course through my body in the form of goose-bumps running across my body when playing the clarinet throughout high school, which I felt filled me with life, in a way that made me feel strong and happy. These energy feelings in my mind were always an indicator of good music that resonated with my soul.
Throughout my life, my taste in music has changed quite a great deal during my life as I myself changed. Since I began practicing yoga, mantras I feel have become the major music-style that fills my heart with light and energy.
After taking the time to listen to a lot of different songs and mantras one can really start to feel the difference of mantras and how truly profound they are as opposed to a simple song. Mantras are so full of ancient knowledge and have the ability to transmit the energy of light and love into those who listen or join in with singing the mantra. Songs that are considered shallow such as, pop music that are written simply with the purpose of entertainment should not be used for Yoga or Ayurveda practice.
Studies have shown that ancient music (including mantras) have a relatively good influence over the listeners, while modern forms of music have a bad influence to an extent, this is due to emotional response it is able to encourage. Modern forms of music have the ability to disturb the mind filling it with aggregated impressions that have an ill effect on the listener.
Facts such as these drove me to listen to more mantras and to where I could begin to study the Sanskrit language so as to be able to understand the genuine meaning of mantras.
Prior to reading David Frawley’s Yoga and Ayurveda, I had no idea just how much mantras were used in Ayurveda, as I had always thought that Ayurveda was more about herbs and right diet, so this lead me to dig further into the connection between the two. I also found understanding the importance of using mantras for healing ones mind to be just as important as understanding how asanas are important for the body. This understanding has empowered me and encouraged my urge to learn mantras well and try to practice mantras daily.
2.3. Yoga practice
For me as someone with tendencies of a Pitta-type practitioner I feel that it is important for me to take into account the advice of “Yoga & Ayurveda”, which states that Pittas should perform their asanas in a way that is cooling, nurturing and relaxing. Ultimately this means they should incorporate relaxing breaths and quiet sitting periods between some of the stronger more firing asanas that they might partake in. As a Pitta, it is also taught that one should ensure they be careful when partaking in strong workouts where additional heat is generated by the body. When doing so they should be careful to compensate for the additional heat by ending the class with cooling postures and pranayama practices.
According to Yoga & Ayurveda and my own personal practice it has been found that Pitta people can benefit from postures that work in a way that releases tensions from one’s mid abdomen, the small intestine and liver, places where Pitta tends to accumulate. Such poses include, bow, cobra, boat and fish poses. Forward bends are also deemed very good for Pitta due to having the ability to bring more energy to the mid-abdomen whilst having a cooling and grounding effect when performed gently. It is my understanding on reading this book that as a Pitta, I should always leave a class or practice feeling cool, calm and content especially in the mid-abdomen where tension should have been released.
When reading “Yoga & Ayurveda” it becomes clear how much this book is devoted to the Doshas Vata, Pitta & Kapha. In the book it is explained how different energetic conditions and circumstances have the ability to influence a practitioners’ state/s of mind, as a result, it’s interesting that in the book it is casually mentioned that the “particularities of an individual's body structure and organic condition are more important than the doshic type when it comes to asana practice”. However I have felt that all the recommendations the book makes when it comes to the energetic condition known as pitta work for me in a positive way.
Expanding the yoga practice to include meditation in a way that suits my Doshic type. Yoga & Ayurveda discusses how important it is for people with a Pitta constitution to include meditation as part of their yoga practice. Pitta’s need to meditate as a means for releasing anger and aggression, meditation is a means for letting go of their wilful and somewhat controlling approach towards life. However they must be careful to practice in a peaceful manner and avoid turning it into a form of achievement or conquest of any kind. My understanding of the teachings in this book is that after meditation I should always feel cool and calm in both mind and heart.
- Concepts that altered the way I will teach yoga
When considering the concepts of this book that have altered the way in which I will teach yoga, I feel that it is important to take the time to understand the importance that mantras have in both Yoga and Ayurveda. There is to an extent a challenge that presents itself when using mantras in ones yoga classes. This is for their acceptability among the students.
This is due to the fact that people are usually really conservative, even if they look deviant or alternative to the common society. From my point of view association with a church has more often than not created a lot of superstitions concerning God, prayer and other spiritual topics of existence. Singing mantras (say: prayers) touch upon many religious issues and raises questions surrounding the validity of the worldview that most people are far from beingready to discuss and let alone think about. During the training, I felt it was very good of Everett to broaden our experience of mantras by helping us overcome this issue by saying that it really doesn't matter what mantras mean or what culture or religion they belong to - they just work, and this in itself was proved by personal experience at the yoga teacher training. It is not necessarily the words or their meaning but the affect of the sounds in those mantras and the vibrations which they create.
I think this is a good method for encouraging the use of mantra as it has the ability to cut off all the questions that may create controversial disputes and doubts. But those who are really interested in the essence of mantras and religions of India and Tibet, are still able to take the time to ask questions individually. Though it is stated that the background of a mantra itself is not overly important, it is still important that they understand that this does not make a mantra any less integral to yoga than an asana. Following my studies of yoga both at the teacher training and since with my readings of David Frawley’s Yoga and Ayurveda I am of the conclusive belief that mantra is crucial in terms of consciousness elevation and awareness of practices that students partake in and why. My greatest achievement that I seek now, is that I am able to learn to talk with students in different levels of understanding and I hope this will come with further teaching practice.
Secondly, for many people who are ready to practice yoga just for physical benefits, yoga is fitness. This is great as it helps with the spread of yoga around the world, but at the same time can also be the result of losing the essence of ancient meaning of yoga. On reading Yoga and Ayurveda, it has really made a point with me the as a yoga teacher it's very important especially now that I incorporate as much of the ancient knowledge of yoga into my classes so that students can learn to be more conscious and responsible about their yoga practice and everyday life. Through doing this I will also help my students to work on maintaining a life where ahimsa - non-violence in thought, speech and action is prevalent. To ensure that the full power of the mantras used in class, is received by those practicing them it is important that they are spoken in the ancient language not translated to the common tongue this is why it is so important that the teacher should be comfortable speaking Sanskrit language.
To Sanskrit Scholars - the Sanskrit alphabet is constructed on the knowledge of energy. This means that all letters and the correct combinations of letters have the ability to create sacred vibrations that elevate the energy of humans and all creatures around. This is also connected with ability of sacred instruments, such as Tibetan singing bowls that have the ability to cleanse a space with a radius of around 3000 meters. Other experiments have been conducted over time by people such as Masaru Emoto with music, words, prayers to see how such vibrations have the ability to influence even water crystals. Though such experiments are considered non-scientific by many, they are visual example for demonstrating the profound essence of sound waves.
It can be deemed then that as a yoga teacher one should be well-founded in the interpretation of the meaning of mantras especially when explaining the Sanskrit languages ability to emanate and generate positive sound waves, in ways that can influence matter. This notion of sound waves having the ability to influence matter can be further supported it by that fact that in the study of Quantum Physics scientists have found that everything consists of quarks which are tiny particles and waves at the same time and as a result everything in our world can be perceived as different scales of energy waves, so that may prove the real effect of positive waves of Sanskrit language on the "material" world that we live in today.
Today the western world distinguishes Yoga as a practice that leads us towards physical perfection and as a result influences students in ways that lead them to strive to do asanas as they’re shown in yoga journals and photos. That is they try to overcome physical limits through physical force to suit the ideal forms of asanas, which have the ability to harm the whole body-mind structure that is true yoga. Furthermore, it should be made clear that this is not the goal of yoga practice. And it is matters such as this that from my point of view creates a challenge when teaching yoga. This if simply because as a teacher we need to be aware of and have the ability to teach yoga in a way the will discourage these popular stereotypes of yoga, promoted by the mainstream, and as a result inspire the new practitioners to practice yoga with patience and tolerance (Ahimsa) towards their bodies instead of forcing themselves into intricate positions simply for the sake of an instagram photo.
At the same time as a teacher we should be careful to not insult the abilities of very flexible students, who will also expect great flexibility from us as a yoga teacher. Often it can be questioned just how can a yoga teacher become an authority for students to look up to and respect if he can’t do flexible asanas. It’s obvious in this instance that one should “never judge a book by its cover”, especially when taking into account the fact that yoga is more than just asana practice.
This is further supported by the fact that in Yoga & Ayurveda, it is mentioned that some of the worlds great yogis were not even considered to be that great at asana: Swami Vivekananda, for instance, the yogi who introduced yoga to the western world around the turn of the last century, was considered to be quite poor at asanas except for a few sitting postures. In the same way, many people who are profoundly good at asana on all levels may not be as adept at deeper yogic meditational practices.
This I found quite inspiring, because I am not overly flexible and find that I cannot do a lot of postures that in modern world a teacher is considered to be able to do. And that for me is not easy to explain, due to the fact that in today’s society contemporary people have a tendency to compare, students notice that someone is more agile than the another, and such comparisons have the ability to create dissatisfaction and tension due to judgements between everyone in the class which creates a diseased atmosphere that is not beneficial to our progression.
Thus it’s important that we as teachers explain to our students what Yoga is about and also work to create and maintain an atmosphere of trust and non-judgment for each of us to practice in.
This also sets a challenge for me to understand how I as a yoga-teacher should behave in the ever-growing collection of yoga teachers and yoga school throughout the world. From my study of Yoga and Ayurveda it is my personal goal to create another way of communication, one that promotes the deep values of Yoga.
As highlighted in Yoga & Ayurveda Prayahara is considered to be one of the most important limbs in Yoga Sandaha, which is probably the least known among yoga practitioners. It’s stated, “Unless we understand Pratyahara, we are missing an integral aspect of Yoga without which the system cannot work”. Pratyahara refers to us “gaining mastery over external influences” that are not in control. Those who understand and use pratyahara properly reap the benefits of proper coordination and motivation. For me this is the major part of teaching yoga in the class, as our modern world has grown and expanded everybody has begun to evolve in a way were we are used to externalisation and showing off, it’s essential that as yoga teachers we teach in a way that utilises techniques to help not just ourselves but also those learning from us the process for switching off from outer world to focus more on our inner selves.
Ultimately Pratyahara is not by any rate easy to explain, but can be explained through comparison. I will use a yoga teacher as be a lively example of what Pratyahara means. As it is the key for understanding the outer and inner aspects of the world, and yoga is a means for showing us how to move from one state to the other. As a yoga teacher one should master his or her own practice of Pratyahara fire, as with all other practices which he or she teaches his students. In Yoga and Ayurveda, it was said that Pratyahara is twofold: …involves withdrawal from wrong food, wrong impressions and wrong associations, while simultaneously opening up to right food, right impressions, and right associations. So, how can one teach this if they themselves do not adhere to their own teachings, in order to teach withdrawal from wrong food and wrong associations for instance, we as a teacher must first adhere to these practices ourselves.
I found that in my own practice, Pratyahara techniques emerged somewhat spontaneously. And stayed, as I personally loved incorporating them into my daily routine, and so I’m grateful to the book to reveal the importance of them in teaching yoga. From my readings and yoga teacher training, I personally found the most powerful Pratyahara techniques to be and to teach was Yoni Mudra, which is when a student uses his or her fingers to block the seven sensory openings in the head (eyes, ears, nostrils and mouth), to allow their attention to focus better and help ones energy move within.
Another particularly helpful one is Shambavi Mudra this technique is able to be used during asana practice when doing stable postures, this is important for it has the ability to help students to learn Sthira principle of Yoga. Similarly, when partaking in meditation it’s important to use Laya Yoga techniques, which is when disciples concentrate on the bodies inner sound and light energy currents, thus allowing them to focus fully on their subtle senses and withdraw their attention away from gross senses.
It’s crucial that when teaching yoga we take the time to ensure that the students understand exactly what yoga practice is about that is to act, but not to seek a reward for what they do, this is referred to as karma-patyahara. We can do this by teaching pranayama inline with pratyahara to help students learn and focus on connecting the breath with prana and prana with the mind. As by controlling the mind, the senses are automatically are joined in a state of control and withdrawn from external interaction. This helps then to open up the mind to the inner being and prepares student/s for meditation.