Yoga is considered a slow paced form of exercise and not everyone who wants to tread on HIIT form of exercises would choose yoga as their primary source of losing sweat. But if you believe the experts at Jeevmoksha Yoga Gurukul in Rishikesh, these three exercises will make you sweat as hard as intensity training.
1. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
It may seem simple at first, but when combined with few changes, it becomes one of the hardest pose you will ever try your hands on.
You have to engage your arms and legs, and push into the mat with your widespread finger tips while nudging your heels to keep them as close to the ground as possible.
2. Boat Pose (Navasana)
Boat pose looks extremely easy to someone who isn’t performing it. To someone who is, he may not be in his easiest form. Shivering legs, crying abs.This pose will test your will to its wit’s end.
3. Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
Nope Nope Nope! Not for the faint harted. This pose make a second pass like an eternity, that too if you are able to perform it. But hey! The sweat drops on your yoga mat will definitely make you proud after your practice.
So go ahead and give it the best you got.
Trataka or yogic practice of concentrated gazing is an ancient hatha yoga exercise used for all round development of our body, mind and soul. The meaning of word trataka is ‘’to look fixedly’’ or ‘’to stare pointedly’’. The concept of trataka is defined clearly by some yogis and old yoga texts like hatha yoga pradipika. This is how hatha yoga pradipika defines it:
“Nireekshaennischaladrsâ sukshmalakshya samâhita
Asrusampâtaparyantam âchâryaisrtâtakam smrtam”
Being calm, a practitioner should gaze steadily at a small mark (a small thing), till eyes are filled with tears. This is called trataka by the âchâryas.
It comes under one of the shatkarmas or shatkriyas—six purification techniques in hatha yoga designed to make the body strong and healthy. It is an extremely powerful technique which helps us to cure and improve all eye disorders, removes laziness and controlling our mind.it actually aids in directing the nervous system in a definite direction and also increases our energy level.it quietens all our mental faculties and helps in attaining complete concentration and peace of mind.
Types of Trataka
Conventionally there are three kinds of trataka that can be practiced: Antar trataka, Madhya trataka and Bahya trataka.
Antar trataka : this is done with closed eyes and we have to imagine that we are gazing in the midpoint of our two eyebrows(bhrumadhya dhrishti),or heart,navel or any other internal organ.
Madhya trataka:in this exercise still gaze is fixed on centre of the eye(bhrumadhya)or tip of the nose(nasagra)or any nearby object made of any material.it can be practised with aum written in paper, or concentric circles having a black dot in its middle, or a single black dot with open eyes.
Bahya Trataka : It is performed by fixing our gaze on an distant object like rising sun, moon or a bright planet.
Practice of Trataka
The practice of trataka is done by gazing at a fixed point or object without blinking the eyes. The main objective is to bring the mind into focus, and control its wavering tendencies thus making it single pointed and arising the inner vision. All the thoughts and powers of mind are directed into an unbroken flow.it should be a smooth and easy process without any stress. After achieving this state the hidden potential and powers of mind are awakened naturally.
Technique of Trataka
The practice of trataka is done by sitting on ground in padmasana(lotus posture), ardha padmasana or sukhasana(comfortable sitting posture) keeping the spine and the back straight. A cow’s ghee lamp is placed at the same level of your eyes at a distance of one metre. Now keeping the mind relaxed one should look at the bright portion of the flame without blinking, till the tears start coming out of your eyes. This is the last phase of trataka. After doing this the eyes should be closed for a while and the practitioner should relax and sit quietly for 3-5 minutes and then slowly open his eyes. The exercise can be repeated 2 to 3 times. It is advised that after performing trataka one should wash his eyes and face with water. The time period of trataka from the beginning till the rolling down of tears differs from person to person.it also depends on the mental condition of the individual. The duration of trataka in normal individuals is generally 3-5 minutes and some people can extended the practice to longer periods.
Benefits of doing Trataka
Hatha yoga states that if one does trataka on a regular basis,it helps in curing all types of eye related problems and overcoming laziness. Regular practice of trataka assists in the practice of shambhavi mudra which finally leads to a state of dharana(contemplation).the practitioner gets a great vision and intuitive insight.
According to Gherand Samhita a yogic text trataka helps in training and guiding the nervous system in a particular direction. It also aids in reducing and curing all kinds of mental tensions.it leads to a state of peacefulness and calmness. The sleep pattern is corrected within a small time with the practice of trataka. It’s curing and improving tendency depends upon the mental and physical state of a person. It also assists in arising hypnotic powers and sixth sense if practiced regularly. Trataka acts as a means of advancement between physically oriented exercises and mental exercises which finally lead to higher awakening.it acts as a vital link between hatha yoga and raja yoga. Conventionally it comes under hatha yoga but it may also be considered as a part of raja yoga.
Physiology of Trataka
Trataka is really helping in removing all kinds of neural disorders and blockages and it also assists an individual in gaining deep concentration and meditation. The practice of trataka is very conducive in gaining control on our parasympathetic nervous system, lowering of heart rate and respiration rate.it also increases the amplitude of plthysmogram(vasodilation). It increases the peripheral blood circulation of our body.it aids in gaining complete mastery of our mind by eliminating all the emotional disturbances. All kinds of anxieties are removed by doing trataka regularly. Practicing trataka quietens our mental faculties and relaxes our mind by producing well modulated chain of alpha frequency. It is a process of purification.it acts as a catharsis or cleansing by eliminating all our repressed and suppressed emotions and desires from the subconscious level. The practioner of trataka experiences great relaxation and state of calmness and peace at both physical and mental level.
Avoid using candle or other lamps for doing trataka. Always use cow’s ghee lamp for practicing trataka for best results. Do not practice trataka on a flickering flame. Hypersensative persons should do trataka after doing shavasana. Emotionally and mentally disturbed people should do trataka only after practicing the basic postures (asanas) and processes (kriyas), never rub your eyes after doing trataka. Do not strain your eyes too much and do it as per your capacity. Do not read anything or watch television after doing trataka.
Traya means three, and Sharira means body, thus Traya sharira simply means three bodies. Our self is seemingly attired in three bodies and delights in three interrelated states namely sleeping, dreaming and waking respectively. According to the Ancient Hindu Philosophy and the ‘’Tenet of three Vital bodies’’ Every human being constitutes three vital bodies namely, Sthula sharira or the Gross body, Sukshma sharira or the Subtle body and the Karana sharira or the Causal body. The panch kosha or five cardinal sheaths resides in these three bodies.
The food body is called the Gross body (sthula sharira).The physiological systems, the emotions, the intellect and the self-counterpart (ego) are called the subtle body. The seeds of one’s past experience are hailed as the Causal body because they cause one to think, feel and act. The Gross, Subtle and Causal bodies are substantiated by the atman (the self), if the self identifies with the gross body it seems to have a waking existence. When it identifies itself with the subtle body it seems to be in a dreaming or thinking state. If it tags itself with the causal body it seems to be in a sleeping state. This process is akin to an actor playing different roles in a play, or a crystal that takes on the colour of the object near it. Similarly just like an actor the self is distinct from the roles it appears to take over or assume. Therefore the self is called the Observer or Witness (sakshi) of the three bodies and their respective states. The self is ‘’I’’ and the three bodies are ‘’this’’.
The Gross body is the outmost and revealed aspect of a thing. It is the exterior material sheath. Thus the ‘’crude body’’ (sthula sharira) is the perishable corporeal frame. It is the gross tangible body of the soul or the atman. The gross body embodies the five cardinal elements (panchmahabhutas) –space (aakash), air (vayu), fire (agni), water (jal) and earth (prithvi) after they experience the process of splitting and combining (pancikarana). It is born as a result of worthy and creditable deeds of the past. It is the prime channel through which the soul communicates with the outward entities and experiences both the pleasures and miseries of life. It undergoes these six changes namely Birth, Subsistence, Growth, Maturity, Decay and Death. It is actually a dense physical body.it is an instrument of all other principles (bodies) during physical existence. The food sheath (annamaya kosha) and part (physical expression) of the vital breath or Energy sheath (pranamaya kosha) inhabit the gross (physical) body. The Annamaya kosha and Pranamaya kosha provides food, drink and air to the gross body for fulfilling its needs. When one dies the physical body vanishes and its five cardinal elements pass into oblivion. According to the Hindu philosophy the prime objective of the Gross body (Sthula sharira) is to attain the knowledge of the self, experience divine bliss and reach the acme of spirituality which would lead to Salvation (Moksha) finally in this short span of human life. The human soul gets entrapped in this mundane world of untold desires and thereby experiences all sorts of pain and pleasures resulting from the attachments to various desires and wants. Constant practice (Abhyasa) and Dispassion or Detachment towards all worldly pleasures (Vairagya) is the means to attain Moksha or final emancipation (a state of perfect bliss).
The Subtle body (Sukshma sharira) is also known as the Astral body (Linga sharira). It is subtle psychological or functional body.It comprises of the subtle aspect of the five elements before they experience the process of splitting and recombining.it is a consequence of good deeds done in the past and is a means to feel subtle experiences. It embodies seventeen parts: the five perceptive senses(jnanendriyas),the five organs of action(karmendriyas),the five vital airs : respiration(prana),evacuation(apana),circulation(vyana),digestion and assimilation(samana)and the power in the body discard undesirable objects(udana). Udana is also active at the time of death and is also responsible for ousting the subtle body from the gross body. The subtle body also contains the mind and the intellect. The gross body is sustained by the subtle body which manage the organs of perception and action, the pranas and the physiological systems. When the gross body perishes the subtle body also leaves. The subtle body varies from one person to another .the association of the self with the emotional aspect of the subtle body gives rise to feelings like ‘’I am mirthful’ ’I am sad’ ’I am angry’’etc. The subtle body is the seat of the mind and the intellect.manomaya kosha(the mental sheath), vigyanmaya kosha(intellect sheath) and part of pranamaya kosha( energy or vital air sheath)lie in astral or the subtle body. The subtle body consists of the cognitive and the cerebral coverings which carry the emotions and feelings of the mind and ideas and ideals of the intellect. All these are mere perceptions. The subtle body comprises of the thoughts.
Causal body (karana sharira) is that which is unexplainable (anirvachaniya) and beginningless (anaadi). It is free of division and the source of self-ignorance. It is the foundation of the gross and the subtle bodies.it is called the karana sharira because it is the germ or seed of the gross and the subtle body.it is the main basis of the gross and subtle bodies and also results in the future birth of the soul that is not set free or liberated from the causal body. The causal body regulates the growth and evolution of the other two bodies, and shape every aspect of the next birth. The causal body is the emanation of higher consciousness.it is related to the state of dreamless sleep and Samadhi of highest order. It conjoins the microcosm (individual consciousness) with the macrocosm (collective consciousness). The past life mindfulness and perceptions are saved in the causal body, it permeates the information and knowledge attained during the previous births. All the mundane moorings and intense desires for the carnal objects and pleasures named ‘’vasanas’’go hand in hand with the karana sharira or the causal body.
The causal plane of our personality –the insentient intensity layer of our mind is elucidated in the Upanishads as ‘’Nescience”or Ignorance (Avidya).The ‘’Ignorance’’ of the ethereal vitality, and its eternal splendour and completeness in us the root cause of our sense of restlessness, loneliness, fear etc. and thereby the intuitive “uges’’ for, the mind ‘’shakes’’ with, and the sense organs ‘’indulge’’in the world of sense objects.
Anandamaya kosha (blissful sheath) inhabit the causal body (karana sharira). It confers upon the bliss to the causal body. After the death of the human being, both the causal and astral bodies (that exist together) separate from the physical body. Once the soul gets isolated from its causal body it commingles with the divinity. There is no need to come back to this worldly plane for the soul except for God’s wish. When they do return they arrive as a divine soul who leads the ordinary masses and exalt them to the path of enlightenment or divine essence (moksha).
The life span of each of the bodies varies largely. Since the gross body is nurtured by the gross food thereby it has very short life. The subtle body is nourished by thoughts and feelings so its life span is a bit longer than the gross body. The causal body has the highest life span as it needs only bliss and peace. The soul is distinct from all these three bodies .it does not requires anything because it is the experience and the observer and thereby it is imperishable and immortal.
Death is nothing but the falling off the gross body. The soul remains along with the suble and causal body where samskaras are stored. Man would take human birth again and again with the help of gross body till the samskaras are fully exhausted. We can only use and burn all our samskaras (karma phala)only in our human life by conscious living and our will power. It is not possible in any other life besides human life and that is the prime reason why human birth is regarded as greatest from liberation perspective.
Pancha Kosha is a Sanskrit term made up of two words Pancha and Kosha. Pancha means ‘’five’’, and Kosha means ‘’sheath’’or ‘’layer’’.The concept of Pancha Kosha or five cardinal layers or sheaths was elucidated in many sacred Ancient Hindu texts like Taittiriya Upanishad, Vivekacudamani and Panchadasi. According to the Yoga Philosophy there are are five cardinal layers or sheaths that surround the human soul named Pancha Kosha. Pancha kosha or the five cardinal sheaths are five different layers of our human growth and evolution. The Yogic Philosophy of the five cardinal sheaths believes that that every human being is endowed with certain physical and psychological features that work together in a holistic manner. The five cardinal sheath system considers these different facets as various layers of subjective experience. These sheaths have a wide spectrum starting from the closely packed physical body and evolving gradually to more subtle and sublime levels of emotions, mind and finally the spirit is the last stage of evolution. The Upanishads state that our very essence or prakriti comprises of five different extensions .our perishable body (the abode of our imperishable and immortal soul) unfolds into more ethereal layers of energy surrounding our spiritual core. All living beings contain five distinct energy layers or sheaths called pancha kosha that encompass our soul. Every kosha resonates at different speed and they communicate and go beyond each other spanning from earthly to metaphysical planes of existence.
The human soul is encompassed by five cardinal layers or sheaths of arishadvarga(the six cardinal internal foes within us) namely, annamaya kosha(food sheath), pranamaya kosha(vital air sheath),manomaya kosha(mind sheath), vigyanmaya kosha(intellect sheath) and anandmaya kosha(bliss sheath). Besides these five layers there are two more layers of human existence named chitta kosha(spiritual wisdom) and sat kosha(the ultimate state of commingling with GOD).
The arishadvarga(ari means enemy, shad means six and varga means classes)are the six enemies of the mind namely kama(lust or desire), krodha(anger or hatred), lobha(greed), moh(illusionary emotional bondage), mada(ego or pride) and matsarya(envy or jealousy). They act as a covering or veil between the human soul and the cosmic soul. The human soul has to overcome these to become one with the universal consciousness. The complete development of all the seven sheaths is indispensable for the complete evolution of the human soul.
Annamaya kosha is the outermost cardinal layer or sheath. It is also known as the food sheath because it is nurtured by the food.it is the unrefined physical body preserved and aided by the intake of food.it incorporates all the five organs of perception(sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and the five organs of action(prehension, locomotion, articulation, excretion, procreation). This kosha has the most compact and slow rotational frequency.it cannot survive without the other koshas.it is the most susceptible of all the koshas and reveal any deficiencies on the other koshas. Our overall personality (physique and traits) in past, present and future births are all dependent on annamaya kosha.it is the bodily understanding of the divinity. It is regarded an enclosure of flesh and blood in terms of spirituality. Complete cleansing, perfection and expansion of annamaya kosha is done by the techniques like upavas(fasting), yogasanas(physical postures of yoga), tatvasuddhi(inner purification)and tapascharya(practice of austerity).Western or Allopathic medicines affect and make an impact on this kosha. It acts only at the physical level.
Pranamaya kosha(vital air sheath) or the energy sheath is the vital life strength that permeates our body. It is the subtle sheath of cosmic energy that penetrates and surround our physical body. It comprises of the breath and the five pranas, namely prana, apana, udana, samana and vyana. All these five pranas are responsible for various functions of the physical body and they are indispensable for our life.all our body movements and mental thoughts are dependent on it. The prana flows in the circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems. The pranic current flows between the physical body and the various sheaths through the nadis(astral tubes). Prana is in the form of mental, vital, psychic and spiritual energy. Even though this sheath is subtle, it is quite similar to the physical body. Acupunture, reiki and magneto-therapy have a profound impact on this kosha. Homeopathic pattern of medicine in moderate potency also affects this kosha.
Manomaya kosha or the mental energy sheath is more extensive and powerful than the pranamaya kosha. It comprises of all our thoughts, feelings, mind and passions.’manas’ means mind. The mind and all the five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) comprise of the manomaya kosha. It is also known as monkey mind which jumps on from one thought to another. It is through this glass lens that we feel the outer world and all our likes and dislikes are felt by the five senses. We experience all kinds of pleasures and pains in our life by our mind which affects us in both positive and negative manner accordingly. It is the root cause of all diversity. Our bondage and liberation is all related to the mind. The manomaya kosha is the instinct that accepts all the sensory instructions, interprets them as good or bad and yearns always for the good. It is key to human subsistence. Many modes of therapies like aroma therapy, music therapy, colour therapy, placebo therapy and shamanism acts on this kosha. Homeopathic medicines in higher potencies also influence this kosha.
Vijnanamaya kosha or the intellect sheath consists of vijnana or intellect the special ability to discriminate, determine and reason.it is associated with the organs of perception. It is changeable, insentient, limited and evanescent. ’Vijnana’ means subtle knowledge or wisdom. We attain intuitive knowledge and higher stages of deep consciousness in this kosha. Accordingly the higher mind orients itself towards the soul, trying to find the truth, and search for the eternal core of consciousness. In this sheath the basic awareness of the body and mind is lost, and realisation of higher mind is established. We are able to know, decide, judge and discriminate everything rationally due to our higher consciousness a part of this vijnanamaya kosha. A large part of this kosha lies in the domain of unconscious and it is a storehouse of all the information. Vijnanamaya kosha connects the conscious mind, higher mind and the universal mind by the network of nadis or nerve currents. Psychotherapy and practices like dharana(mental focus on an object), and dhyana(meditation on the divine) are inner disciplines that affect and make a deep impact on vijnanamaya kosha.
Anandamaya kosha or the bliss sheath is the innermost kosha that lies closest to the soul.it is the innermost sheath that veil the supreme soul from the individual soul. It is connected with unconscious or superconscious mind. It is associated with the state of dreamless state or Samadhi. The anandamaya kosha is the most subtle and sublime sheath of human existence amongst all the five sheaths. It is the highest level of vibration in this life. It means a sheath of eternal joy. It consists of ananda or bliss. Bliss or eternal joy is not connected with body or mind. This sheath is a combination of all the three divine attributes of the soul, namely sat (truthfulness and eternalness) chit (alive and conscious nature which differentiates the living with the non-living) and anand(ceaseless joy). This sheath unfolds fully during deep sleep, whereas in the dreaming and wakeful states it acts partially only. The anandamaya sheath is a mirror image of the atma or the soul which is bliss absolute.it is a state of mukti or liberation. Very few people have been able to reach this kosha, like some saints and realised souls. This is when we reach Samadhi. Complete development of all the seven sheaths is indispensable for our absolute spiritual evolution.
Pancha Kosha is not confined to humans only rather it is present in all the higher forms of animals but not so much refined and advanced as in humans. The five cardinal sheaths act as a manual and a guide to understand our psychological and spiritual evolution in a better manner. The five cardinal sheaths are vital for our existence on the earthly plane. We cannot survive without them. In order to prevail over and dissociate ourselves from these five cardinal sheaths we need to attain a very higher level of mental purification and sublimity. When all the impurities and darkness covering our soul are dispelled away and we finally reach the end of our life, the celestial body also vanishes and our soul’s flash of light merges with the cosmic radiance.
All our actions, memories and feelings are accumulated in the five cardinal sheaths. They act as a barrier between the independent soul and all-embracing divinity. Moksha or salvation from all earthly bondages is the final destination of the soul. It is a means to liberate the human soul from the limitations of the five cardinal sheaths. The complete denial of our personal ego and giving up our desires sets the soul free from all the attachments of the five cardinal sheaths leads to the final emancipation of the spirit.
Shambhavi literally means appertaining to lord Shiva.It has two fold meaning. Shambhavi is also one of the names of goddess Parvati(consort or better half of Lord Shiva), so Shambhavi means Parvati or Kundalini Shakti.Another purport of shambhavi is – assumed by shambhu, hence shambhavi mudra is so significant that lord shiva himself posits himself in this mahamudra. Mudra literally means a gesture ,movement or a pose in yoga. Shambhavi mudra is an ancient tantric and yogic technique which was enunciated and taught by lord shiva or mahadeva to parvati or shambhavi. The prime reason behind teaching the shambhavi mudra to goddess parvati or shambhavi was to gain control over one’s senses and self-awakening. It is a cardinal mode for opening the third eye of wisdom by converging all our outgoing and digressive tendencies towards the ajna chakra with eyes open and gazing towards the center of our forehead. Shambhavi mudra is a form of sensory meditation and the final stage of trataka,(concentrated gazing)with internalized one pointed cognizance and external gaze unblinking ,as mentioned in the Vedas.
It is also known as bhairavi mudra or the eyebrow gazing center.(bhairavi is another name of parvati or shambhavi).another appellation of shambhavi mudra is bhrumadhya dhrishti, bhru means “eyebrow center’’ and dhristi means “gazing” hence this is the practice of eye gazing. it is said that practicing this mudra bestows upon the sublime and supreme awakening on the practitioner. Shambhavi mudra or the state of supreme and paramount shiva is a stage of involuntary or extemporaneous meditation, in which the eyes converged within and the mind thrills and raptures in the inner self naturally. Shambhavi mudra is an indispensable tool of dharana used to still and quieten the restive mind in a tranquil state and reach an elevated phase of self awakening.it aids one in opening the third eye and also leads to Kundalini arousal to the hilt.If the yogic practitioner remains with the citta and prana absorbed in the internal object and gaze motionless, looking. He is not seeing it is verily shambhavi mudra. This is the real state of shiva consciousness. Shambhavi mudra has been delineated in details in many texts like gheranda samhita, hatha yoga pradipika and shiva samhita.
The greatness of shambhavi mudra is well elucidated by this famous shloka :
SAMBHAVI YO VIGYANIYATSA CHA BRAHMA NA CHANYATHA||
By assuming the position of shambhavi mudra a yogi beholds the self.when the brahma is seen in the form of a dot he should fix his mind on it and nowhere else. A Yogi who knows the science of shambhavi he himself becomes brahma and none else. I Lord Maheshwara(Shiva), am telling this again and again that this is the truth.
Shambhavi mudra essentially involves focusing the inner gaze and in some cases even the outer gaze at the ajna chakra. It is practiced in order to gain mastery over ones turbulent and frivolous senses.as the practice evolves gradually, light and and variegated visions are beheld at the trikuti or the eyebrow center. The light and various visions that are seen vary from person to person and depends upon many factors. This “game of light’’must be observed incisively without digressing and wavering mind and simultaneously maintaining inner and outer purity.
Anyone who practices the shambhavi mudra gains complete self control over one’s scattering and rambling psyche.the practitioner gradually elevates its consciousness to a sublime and supreme level. From the physical standpoint, shambhavi mudra energizes and beefs up the eye muscles and helps in releasing the garnered strain in this area. From the mental perspective, it soothes and quietens the high-strung mind. It also aids in eliminating the emotional stress,wrath and pent up passions. The salutary benefits that are accrued as a result of exercising shambhavi mudra are deep concentration,mental steadiness,poise and thoughtless state.The regular practice of shambhavi mudra checks the devolution of the pineal gland and owing to this it is specially advocated for children and adolescents to harmonize their emotional advancement.shambhavi mudra is a built-in part of kriya yoga.it is a potent mode of arousing the ajna chakra and is a contemplation practice in toto. It assists in gaining deep insight and profound experiences with regular practice in continuity. However, it should be always performed under the strict observance of an enlightened master. It is also encompassed in asanas such as simhasana(the lion pose). People suffering from eye disorders or eye diseases should not practice shambhavi mudra sans the guidance and supervision of an adept teacher.