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Sunday, July 12, 2015


Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, Jillian Michaels—the list of celebrities known for their workouts goes on and on. There’s one famous name, however, that rarely appears on this list: Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe, best known for being a mid-century sex symbol, is rarely thought of as a fitness icon, but during a 1952 interview with LIFE magazine, she revealed that she lifted weights daily, and in a 1948 set of black-and-white photos, she showed off some asanas. This wasn’t just a publicity stunt; Monroe was a devotee of yoga, and was photographed many times in different poses.
Some of her lesser-known quotes reveal a more introspective Marilyn who was much more than just a blonde bombshell.
 1. “I am trying to find myself. Sometimes that’s not easy.”
2. “We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle.”
3. “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015



Hridayakasha dharana

The development of this practice of antar darshan is the practice of hridayakasha dharana. Although hridayakasha dharana has been taught in the past, it is not the first practice that we need to do. The first practice is antar darshan. The perfection of antar darshan will lead us to hridaya-kasha dharana. Hridayakasha dharana comes when the mind and the emotions have become stable and steady, and when we have attained some degree of mastery within and without ourselves.
We need to look at the meaning of dharana to understand the practice better. Dharana means 'to bind, to focus, to hold the mind at one point'. It comes from Dmust be stable. Right now none of us has that stable base. Just as the earth shakes during an earthquake, in the same way we are also shaking like that much of the time. The practice of dharana comes when we have become steady, stable and unshakeable. We are unshakeable because we understand ourselves. We understand our mind, our emotions and our thoughts. We have come to terms with them so we are unshakeable. Whatever faces us and whatever situation arises we can manage it without being affected. Dharana is a higher stage, not just in meditation but in life.
The word akasha means space. The practice of hriday-akasha implies that we are going to find a steady base within the element of space. We can think of space like the sky, like the openness in a room. There is space and then there are things within the space. Mentally this space symbolizes the aspect of consciousness. Within the consciousness the mind exists and the emotions exist. The different aspects of the mind exist, the ego exists, all the experiences in life exist, but they are not the space. The space is just space like the sky is open.
Hridayakasha dharana means that we are going to become stable. We are going to practise steadiness within this space and we are going to localize that space within the heart. Hridaya means heart. Hridayakasha dharana means to find a stable base within the space of the heart. When we are able to find a stable base, when the mind is able to function in a focused, one-pointed manner within this space, then we will begin to have intense emotional experiences and we will be able to handle them. Things will come with great intensity but because our mind is trained and we are focused and have developed strength of mind, we can face them without becoming unbalanced and unhinged. This is the development of and the result of antar darshan. Antar darshan will lead to the further stage of hridayakasha dharana.

Pancha Dharana

Prithvi Dharana
There are five elements, viz., Prithvi, Apas, Agni, Vayu and Akasa. To the body of the five elements, there is the five fold Dharana. From the feet to the knees is said to be the region of the Prithvi. It is four-sided in shape, yellow in colour and has its Varna the Sanskrit letter ‘L’ along the region of the earth, i.e., from the feet to the knees. Contemplating upon this, one should perform Dharana there for a period of two hours daily. He then attains mastery over the earth. Death does not trouble him since he has obtained mastery over the ‘earth’ element.
Ambhasi Dharana
The region of Apas is said to extend from the knees to the anus. Apas is semi-lunar in shape and white in colour. It has the letter ‘Va’ for its Bijakshara—seed-letter. Carrying Up the breath with the letter ‘Va’ along the region of Apas, one should contemplate on God Narayana, having four arms, a crowned head, dressed in orange-colour clothes and as decayless. Practising Dharana there daily for a period of two hours, he is freed from all sins. Then there is no fear for him from water.
Agneyi Dharana
From the anus to the heart is said to be the region of Agni. Agni is triangular in shape, red in colour and has the letter ‘R’ for its Bija. Raising the breath with the letter ‘Ra’ along the region of fire, one should contemplate on Rudra, who has three eyes, who grants all wishes and who is of the colour of mid-day sun. Practising Dharana there daily for a period of two hours, he is not burnt by fire, even though his body enters into the fire-pit.
Vayavya Dharana
From the heart to the middle of the eyebrows is said to be the region of Vayu. It is black in colour and shines with the letter ‘Ya’. Carrying the breath along the region of Vayu, one should contemplate on Isvara, the omniscient. The Yogi does not meet his death through Vayu.
Akasa Dharana
From the centre of the eyebrow to the top of the head is said to be the region of Akasa. It is circular in shape, smoky in colour and shines with the letter ‘Ha’. Raising the breath along the region of Akasa, one should contemplate on Sadasiva. By practising this Dharana one obtains the power of levitation. The Yogi gets all the Siddhis.



Atma-Shatakam / Nirvana Shatakam
The Song of the Self

by Adi Shankara
788-820 CE

( by Shankaracharya)
The great Adi Shankara (first Shankaracharya) of the eighth century summarized the entirety of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualistic philosophy) in six stanzas. When a young boy of eight, while wandering in the Himalayas, seeking to find his guru, he encountered a sage who asked him, "Who are you?" The boy answered with these stanzas, which are known as "Nirvana Shatakam" or "Atma Shatakam." "Nirvana" is complete equanimity, peace, tranquility, freedom and joy. "Atma" is the True Self. The sage the boy was talking to was Swami Govindapada Acharya, who was, indeed, the teacher he was looking for.
These few verses can be of tremendous value to progress in contemplation practices that lead to Self-Realization.
1)I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego,
    nor the reflections of inner self (chitta).
I am not the five senses.
I am beyond that.
I am not the ether, nor the earth,
    nor the fire, nor the wind (the five elements).
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
2)Neither can I be termed as energy (prana),
    nor five types of breath (vayus),
    nor the seven material essences,
    nor the five coverings (pancha-kosha).
Neither am I the five instruments of elimination,
    procreation, motion, grasping, or speaking.
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
3)I have no hatred or dislike,
    nor affiliation or liking,
    nor greed,
    nor delusion,
    nor pride or haughtiness,
    nor feelings of envy or jealousy.
I have no duty (dharma),
    nor any money,
    nor any desire (kama),
    nor even liberation (moksha). 
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
4)I have neither merit (virtue),
    nor demerit (vice).
I do not commit sins or good deeds,
    nor have happiness or sorrow,
    pain or pleasure.
I do not need mantras, holy places,
    scriptures (Vedas), rituals or sacrifices (yagnas).
I am none of the triad of
    the observer or one who experiences,
    the process of observing or experiencing,
    or any object being observed or experienced. 
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
5)I do not have fear of death,
    as I do not have death.
I have no separation from my true self,
    no doubt about my existence,
    nor have I discrimination on the basis of birth.
I have no father or mother,
    nor did I have a birth.
I am not the relative,
    nor the friend,
    nor the guru,
    nor the disciple. 
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
6)I am all pervasive.
I am without any attributes,
    and without any form.
I have neither attachment to the world,
    nor to liberation (mukti).
I have no wishes for anything
    because I am everything,
    every time,
    always in equilibrium.
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.

Mano Buddhi Ahankara Chitta Ninaham
Nacha Shrotra Jihve Na Cha Ghrana Netre
Nacha Vyoma Bhoomir Na Tejo Na Vayu
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham
Na Cha Prana Samjno Na Vai Pancha Vayu
Na Va Saptadhatur Na Va Pancha Koshah
Na Vak Pani Padau Na Chopastha Payu
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham
Na Me Dvesha Ragau Na Me Lobha Mohau
Mado Naiva Me Naiva Matsarya Bhavah
Na Dharmo Na Chartho Na Kamo Na Mokshah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham
Na Punyam Na Papam Na Saukhyam Na Dukham
Na Mantro Na Teertham Na Vedo Na Yajnaha
Aham Bhojanam Naiva Bhojyam Na Bhokta
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham
Na Me Mrityu Shanka Na Me Jati Bhedah
Pita Naiva Me Naiva Mata Na Janma
Na Bandhur Na Mitram Gurur Naiva Shishyah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham
Aham Nirvikalpo Nirakara Roopaha
Vibhur Vyapya Sarvatra Sarvendriyanam
Sada Me Samatvam Na Muktir Na Bandhah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham



At Sandhya kalam (Pradosha kalam) Shiva dances at all places not only at Chidambaram. Wherever he dances, Pathanjali muni, Vyagrapada muni, Nandhi and Bhringi will be with him. While Bhringi and Nandhi stay with Shiva always, Pathanjali and Vyagrapadar are there whenever and wherever he dances.
Pathanjali is stated to be the Avatar of Adisesha and is depicted with a human face and the body of a snake. Vyagrapadar has also a human face and his legs are like that of a tiger with long nails. Nandhi, the divine vahana has two horns (Kombu, in Tamil) and four feet (Kaal in Tamil). Bhringi has three legs. Pathanjali was teased by the other three saying that he has neither Horn (Kombu) nor Kaal (legs).
Pathanjali gave a rejoinder stating that the other three have separate eyes and ears which was a disadvantage. If they concentrate on Ishwara’s dance form by seeing, they will miss the laya or thala and if they concentrate on the laya and listen, they will miss out on the visual treat. However, Pathanjali, in his serpent form, had a common organ for perceiving sound and sight (it was commonly believed that snakes make use of the same organs for hearing and seeing) and therefore could concentrate on both the form and laya simultaneously.
Pathanjali also stated that inspite of his not having Kombu and Kaal, he can appreciate the cosmic dance of Shiva better and will sing His praises. The trio of Nandi, Bhringi and Vyagrapadar teased Pathanjali further saying that he had no Kombu and Kaal and how will he sing Shiva’s praise without Kombu and Kaal. Pathanjali said that since he himself had no Kombu and Kaal, he will sing Shiva’s praise also with a sloka in which the letters had no Kombu or Kaal ( e  E  a etc.)
The Shambu natana sthothram has no words with Kombu or Kaal. This was sung according to the laya/ thala of Shiva’s cosmic dance.
Shambu Natanam - Text in Sanskrit

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Greetings From Gems Of Yoga !

I would like to share this article with you. Wishing you all Happy Holi.

Dear Divine Souls,
Holi – The Holi-day to Let It All Go
Today is the sacred and beautiful day of Holi, a day celebrated across India with great joy, gaiety and festivity. There are many meanings and much significance attached to this day. For some, it is the festival of Springtime, the heralding of warm weather and bidding farewell to the winter. It is also seen as a festival of love, the return of fertility. The Puranas describe Holi as a celebration of virtue over vice. It is a time when we rejoice in the victory of pure, divine Prahlaad over his aunt Holika.

This year, I want to talk about another meaning, one relevant to all of us at this time. If we look at the actual semantic derivation of the word, we see it is made up of Ho and Li. There are two different meanings to this:

First, “Holi” means that which has happened, “Jo hogaya, holi,” that which has passed. So Holi is a time to acknowledge what has happened, what has passed and then to move on. It is the “moving on” holiday. On this day of Holi, we introspect and look back on the past year or many years, to see “kya ho-li” what has passed, what has happened. We see it, witness it, acknowledge it, take the lessons from it and then let it go. The most famous story of Holi is the one associated with the divine devotee Prahlad and his aunt Holika who tried to burn him in the fire. However, rather than burning divine Prahlad, evil Holika was burned in his place. Hence an important symbol of this holiday is to let the badness, the evilness (ours or others) be burned in the symbolic fire so that we can move on. Too frequently in life we hold onto grudges, anger, pain, jealousies for year after year. We are bound by our own guilt over acts of commission or acts of omission – that which we did and should not have, or that which we should have done and yet failed to do. We become stuck, chained, imprisoned by the deeds of years past – what others have done to us, what we have done to others. Holi is the time to say “Ho-li.” It happened. Yes, it happened. However, today is a new day, a new time, a new year. We let the pains, grudges, angers, habits of the past be burned in the fire of our prayer so that we too may emerge from this day, colored not only with paint and powder, but colored with prayer. We must use this divine holiday as a way to just let it all go. That which has happened, is over. Ho-li. It has happened. And now, today is a new day. We must not carry the chains of the past into the present.

Another meaning of the word Ho-li, is to look at it as two roots, Ho and Li. Ho means, as I mentioned above, that which has happened, already occurred. Li is a form of the verb “lena” (“liya”) or “to take.” What do we take on Holi? We take pledges, sankalps for the future. So, the past has happened (ho) and now we take (li) a pledge for the present and future. A new pledge for a new you.  We cannot control the past. We can only control the present and future. That which we plant today will grow into the tree whose fruit we will eat tomorrow. If we are unhappy with the fruit of today, we look back upon the past, accept and acknowledge that we planted the seed of the harvest we are reaping today – sweet or sour – and pledge that we will plant seeds today of love, peace, forgiveness, compassion and unity. So, today on this day, we look at the past, with deep, deep honesty, we let it go with forgiveness, acceptance, and understanding and then we take a pledge for the present and future that we will move forth with newness, new light, new love, new vision of unity and peace.

As we burn the effigy of evil Holika, let us also burn all the grudges, pain and chains of the past. As pure, divine Prahlad emerged unscathed from the ashes, let our true selves – pure, holy, compassionate, loving, peaceful, generous, devoted – also emerge from the celebration.

If, amidst our joyous revelry, we can truly take this deep meaning of Holi into our heart, then purity, divinity, truth and goodness will again – as in the time of Prahlad and Holika – vanquish arrogance, greed, deception, ego and grudges, and we will all be able to move forward into a bright future.
With love and blessings to you all and all your loved ones.
In the service of God and humanity,
Swami Chidanand Saraswati


Sunita Bhalla
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Reach up, you have the sun and moon in you!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Reduce Smoking and Drinking

For those looking for reduced smoking with some damage control, here are some suggestions for the 3 levels of the problem.
i) For the respiratory level, I have found that regularly taking curd  helps (ie. before smoking or in the morning). Curd  is “kapha” producing and leads to more mucus as well as nourishes the epithelium and skin. By taking a bowl of curd in the morning I have found this to counter some of the damaging effects of heat and dryness that smoking causes. In addition,  vitamin E, a natural product like “Slippery Elm” as well as a Himalyan products like Vasaka (as well as Flaxseed, Licorice, Elecampane, Marshmellows, Comfrey, Pippal & Guggul) can help minimise the damage on the cilia and epithelium. Another drink that helps is honey, lemon with ginger is helpful for increasing agni naturally and tulsi with green tea nourishes the throat as well as the latter being an anti-oxidant (but do not use honey if using hot water).
ii) For the circulatory system, I have been told that smoking depletes vitamin C, but have not done enough research on this. Not only does Vitamin C help with the immune system, but apparently, it might help tie up the nicotine in the blood and reduce the potential plaque formation (note Amalaki fruit has 8 times the vit C content than orange juice). Vitamin D is also important in keeping the arteries flexible (ie. eggs, salmon, cheese and plenty of Sunshine!).  And, of course, any additional natural products that help reduce and regulate blood pressure. Also, as one gets older, a  glass of red wine after a meal can be helpful to vasodilation and peripheral circulation.
iii) For the cellular level, I guess anything that helps to reduce free radicals or carcinogens. For this, there are numerous anti-oxidant packages out there. As far as the root cause,  apart from Alan Carrs approach, it is often useful to understand the nature of the mind and see through the problem.  Strengthening one’s will power through auxiliary approaches also helps. For example,  getting a good Ayurvedic analysis and finding ways which not only improve health through natural remedies but also Ayurvedic foods that help strengthen one’s natural constitution.  Along with this, taking up healthy exercises that counter the negative effects of smoking,  such as regular cardiac aerobic workouts, which also compliments developing one’s will power.
But,  from a spiritual point of view, if “pleasure” is in the senses, joy is in the mind and bliss is in the Atma or soul, then often providing a gradual substitution and sublimation of one happiness (smoking or any addiction) for another deeper one, is the most balanced and psychologically smooth approach (getting out of the cycle of “like attracts like” and the game/play of the Gunas – nature’s alternating 3 qualities).
This can be anything; through a loving sex , exercise, uplifting music, meaningful contemplation or offering the act to and with the divine. This method/way makes friends with the mind which becomes the medium through with the addiction for cigarettes can be transferred and transmuted? Otherwise, it often ends up happening due to the outcome of poor health forcing one to quit, or a decision based on foresight that re-inforces the the will power to quit. Like I said, I am looking for a solution!
Here’s the one I am on right now! I went from smoking 20-30 strong cigarettes a day to starting a detox program whilst continuing to smoke 20-30 cigarettes a day! However, I introduced some ‘light” cigarettes of the same brand into the mix, and gradually reduced the number down to 20 light cigarettes a day. I changed and reduced my diet, started exercising and listening to good music and chants, as well as singing “bhajans”! After 1 month I am now down to less than 10 light cigarettes a day and counting. I offer my smoke to the One who smokes All, and enjoy the few cigarettes I do have all the more. The process of detachment brings control automatically, and hopefully the “habit” will fall away by itself, or at least, the one who thinks he is smoking!
Alcohol has two major effects;  it damages the liver (the chemical factory of the body) and it dehydrates the body, notably the brain.  Ayurvedically, it also adds fire into the system and leads to anger.
The only suggestion I have for alcoholics  is to visit AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)!  But the usual problem with alcoholics is that they are in denial about their problem. Other than that, for all those who do like having the occasional binge, remember to leave by your bed a couple of pints of warm water before falling asleep. This will re-hydrate the brain and avoid the headache the morning after as well as  reduce the number of brain cells lost from starvation!
Chronic alcoholism leads to brain atrophy and often the most marked effect is on the cerebellar lobes, which on shrinking causes loss of co-ordination and balance (Fredrick’s ataxia).