Sivananda Yoga –
a way to physical and mental health balance
The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres is a non-profit organisation with locations around the world.
We teach yoga with an holistic approach so that we can achieve our goal of a healthy body, a balanced mind and inner peace. Yoga helps remove inner obstacles and gives us the fortitude to stay cool, calm and collected when confronted with the everyday challenges of modern life.
A global network of ashrams, centres and yoga instructors guide students in developing an integral practice of yoga and meditation. More than 33,000 yoga teachers have graduated from the international Sivananda teachers’ training courses since 1969.
The 5 points of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda
Swami Vishnudevananda summarized the wisdom of the Yoga in 5 principles. These 5 points state how physical and mental health as well as spiritual growth can be developed:
- Proper Exercise (Asanas)
- Proper Breathing (Pranayama)
- Proper Relaxation (Savasana – Autosuggestion)
- Proper Diet (Vegetarian)
- Positive Thinking and Meditation (Vedanta – Dhyana)
Swami Sivananda integrated the 4 main paths of the Yoga as a balanced Sadhana (personal spiritual discipline). The essence of the teachings can be summarised as follows:
"Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realise."
1. PROPER EXERCISE – Asanas
asanas (postures) work systematically on all parts of the body, lubricating
the whole bodily system by stimulating the circulation and increasing flexibility
. Executed slowly and with focus (the term asana means steady posture),
asanas not only promote physical well-being, but are also a mental exercise
in concentration and meditation.
Yoga asanas work first and foremost on the health of the spine
spinal column contains the central nervous system, the communication
system of the body, supporting the health of the whole body. If the flexibility
and strength of the spine is maintained with proper exercise, circulation
is intensified, the nerves are assured of a supply of nutrients and oxygen,
and the body retains its youthful condition.
Moreover, asanas activate
which when stimulated, increase the flow of prana (life
force or vital energy) in the body. They massage the internal organs
resulting in improved functioning. Since yoga asanas are always practised
in conjunction with deep breathing, accompanied by relaxation and concentration,
they help to develop mental concentration
. The restless mind is withdrawn
from the sense objects of the world, turns inward and is stilled.
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2. Proper Breathing – Pranayama
or proper breathing connects the body with its battery, the solar plexus,
where enormous reserves of energy can be stored and retrieved. Through the
breathing techniques of pranayama, this energy is released creating physical
and mental invigoration. When we consciously regulate our breath, we are able
to store and access a greater amount of prana.
Most people use only a small part of theirlung capacity for breathing.
They breathe superficially with shoulders slumped forward, resulting
in tension in theirupper back and neck and a concomitant lack of oxygen.
Tension and even depression can be overcome with proper diaphragmatic
breathing. A person who possesses an abundance of prana, shines with
vitality and strength.
In addition the yoga breathing exercises teach us not only to gain more
prana but how to control it and in doing so to control the mind, for
the two are interdependent. All diseases of the body can be destroyed
at the root by regulating the prana; this is the secret of healing. Acupuncture,
shiatsu, spiritual healing, laying on hands, etc. are all examples of
the conscious or unconscious control of prana.
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3. Proper Relaxation – Savasana
relaxation is a vital part of keeping the body and mind healthy and a tonic
for the whole being
, which when practised properly releases vast resources
of energy. Proper relaxation cools down the system, like the cooling system
of a car. When the body is cool, nature more effectively recharges the body.
When the body and mind are constantly overworked, they overheat and we feel
The stresses of the modern world make it difficult for a person to relax.
We expend a large amount of energy on unnecessary physical and mental
During the course of a day our body produces all the substances
and energy needed for the following day. Very often this is dissipated
within a few minutes by bad moods, anger, feelings of hurt or irritability.
During deep relaxation only a small amount of prana is used to maintain
the most important metabolic activities. Even a few minutes will reduce
worry and fatigue more effectively than many hours of restless sleep
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4. Proper Diet – vegetarian
yogic diet is essentially a lacto-vegetarian one, consisting of unadulterated,
natural food. As well as being simple, natural and health-giving, this diet
takes into account the subtle effect food has on the mind and prana.
Unprocessed, natural food (preferably organic, free from chemicals
and insecticides) ensures a better supply of nutrients. Treatment,
processing and overcooking destroys many vital nutrients required in
our daily diet.
The sun is the energy source of all life on our planet. Vegetarians
take their food supply from the upper end of this food chain since they
eat plants which receive their nutritional value directly from the sun.
The yogic attitude to food is that we eat to live, not live to eat,
taking food which have the most positive effect on body and mind, and
the least negative consequences to the environment and to other creatures.
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5. Positive Thinking and Meditation – Vedanta And Dhyana
Positive thinking and meditation are important keys to achieving peace of mind.
is the art of slowing down and focusing the mind. Regular practice enhances
mental, physical and spiritual well-being. In order to meditate, we need first
to still the mind through concentration techniques and positive thinking.
A mind full of negative emotion and thoughts cannot be stilled.
Through concentration techniques negative
thought waves are dissolved, leading to a meditative state and ultimately
samadhi (superconscious state). Samadhi is a blissful union with
the highest Self which leads to a direct intuitive experience of the
eternal. It is an inner spiritual experience, beyond language and thought.
The senses, the mind and the intellect cease working and we experience
the supreme essence which pervades all of life, bringing us peace,
compassion, joy and understanding.
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