Yoga

Yoga is a Sanskrit word, and it means Union. The practice of Yoga is simply the practice of union. Union of body and mind, big mind (consciousness) and little mind (ego), or union of the human being and universe, any type of union that aligns one’s internal and external realities could be considered Yoga.

 

Yoga is a state of being, and developing a strong practice leads us to a state of Yoga. In Yoga, we find wholeness, and wholeness is pretty much all we need. To achieve wholeness, we try different Yoga styles and techniques, and in due time we find a practice that suits us. 

Yogic Techniques

Breath work – we start with breathing techniques, which we use to control the breath, and focus our awareness. Starting with breath work sets us up for a session. The practice is grounding and opens up the internal energy flow.

 

Movement – we stretch the whole body and work on untying knots to release tension and stress. We use both body and breath to fine-tune our awareness, and gently shift to a state of presence. Asanas, or Yogic postures, improve our focus, flexibility, muscle strength, and blood flow, amongst other things. To deepen our practice, our bodies must be healthy.

 

Meditation - this is what Yoga is all about. Through meditation, we comprehend the true power of Yoga. We must understand that in traditional Yoga, we practice breath-work and movement/asana’s because they set us up for meditation.

 

In meditation, we sit, upright, in silence, and focus on the breath, or a mantra that follows the breath. There are many different types of meditation, and each individual will have their own method. By trying different meditation techniques, we find one that fits our current state of being, and phase in life.

 

Chanting – we use different chanting techniques, and different mantras. The only way to truly understand the power of chanting is to practice it for some time. Different styles of chanting engage different parts of the body, and require different breathing techniques. In due time, we learn how to focus our sound vibrations, and as a consequence release tension and flow. 

Most of us breathe, and use our voices, with no second thought. Through breath work we realize we need to develop the breathing process, and with chanting we realize that our voices/sound vibrations are multidimensional and can be used in different ways to achieve many different things.

 

Kundalini Yoga

As taught by Yogi Bhajan. A Kundalini session consists of breath work/pranayama, movement, chanting and meditation. Kundalini Yoga is also known as the Yoga of Awareness. The power of Kundalini Yoga lies in activating the subtle/energetic body, and to activate the subtle body, we work the spine through movement (Kriya's) and breath.

 

Kundalini is a powerful and energizing practice, and must be practiced with caution as it can overload the nervous system. It’s probably best to start with a simpler style like Hatha, and then delve into the world of Kundalini.

 

It’s also worth mentioning that with a strong Kundalini practice, some people experience a Kundalini Awakening, or get a glimpse of it. A Kundalini Awakening is a powerful experience that expands one's awareness into subtle realms. Scientists have studied these experiences for decades, and are still scratching their heads in awe. That said, and as is true with all forms of Yoga, it's not really about the awakening, it's about cultivating presence and freedom from the mind. Presence is one's key to a peaceful and fulfilling life. 

Kriya Yoga

As taught by Paramahansa Yogananda, is focused on meditation techniques. Like Kundalini Yoga, Kriya focuses on the spine and on the energy centers found along the spine. We use breathing and meditation techniques to increase our awareness on all levels. Connection to the subtle body is a major aspect of this practice. Kriya Yoga is a soft and well-structured practice that has gained wide appeal. If you find yourself attracted to the meditation and metaphysical aspects of Yoga, I'd recommend giving Kriya a go. 

Hatha Yoga

A system of movement/asana’s that balances both body and mind. The flow, as always, is breath based, and is relatively slow.  The sequence of postures differs with each session, depending on the current state of the body and mind. Hatha is soft, soothing, and a great place to start practicing Yoga. Many people develop a Hatha practice and that's all they do for the rest of their lives. 

Yin Yoga

A restorative sequence of movement/asana’s that is designed to deeply relax all aspects of our being. Minimum effort is needed as most of the session is spent lying down. The breath is deep, stretches are soft, and we hold each stretch for two to three minutes. If total relaxation is the end goal, Yin/Restorative Yoga is unparalleled.

 

Yoga Therapy

Yoga therapy is a mix of everything I’ve learnt over the years. I’ve worked with both psychological and physical ailments, and with each individual the practice is always unique.

 

We start by trying different styles and techniques until we find what works for both body and mind. Once we find the right formula, we begin to fine tune the practice. 

 

We also have a chat before and after each session, because understanding what’s happening within the psyche is key to working things out.

 

The approach is holistic, and the options are endless. Within Yoga Therapy, we can integrate Zen, Sufism and Jungian Depth Psychology. Once again, the practice is tailored to each person, and the opportunities are endless.

These days, a greater proportion of my sessions are focused on Yoga Therapy. 

On Yoga

As shown above, there are many different styles and techniques of Yoga. During a session, we work together to find what is needed at that particular moment. We try different styles and techniques, and we fine tune our practice until we’ve found the right formula. The beauty of Yoga is its flexibility; it can be tailored to anyone, and it always works – so long as we develop a disciplined practice. 

 

The way I teach is intuitive, and I always focus on awareness. My end goal is for you to learn how to control your mind, and by doing so, cultivate a state of presence and flow.

 

The mind is active all day, and that is usually the cause of most of our challenges. It can feel like the mind is in autopilot, wandering freely with no restraint, and we’re either caught up in our past/memories, or in our future/imagination.

 

I’m not saying its wrong to think about our past or future, what’s wrong, and in fact unhealthy, is unconsciously dwelling in that space, getting lost in it, and creating narratives that are far from reality.

 

In Yoga, we take back control, the mind begins to work for us, and we gently shift to a wider and subtler state of consciousness. 

Zen

Zazen & Koans

Zen meditation is known as Zazen. Zazen is a powerful meditation technique, and as with all meditation, is focused on the breath. In Zazen, there is no mantra, and posture is key. The power of Zazen is in the emptiness it yields. If one seeks a state of emptiness and internal silence, Zazen is unparalleled.

 

Zazen is not usually taught to beginners as it is quit rigid to begin with. But once we have some experience in meditation, incorporating Zazen into our practice can be extremely beneficial.

 

Zen Koans are riddles/short stories that we try to solve, and they work hand in hand with Zazen. To be able to solve a riddle, we need to get out of our default state of consciousness; a new mind set is required. A strong Zazen practice helps us solve these riddles, and by solving them, we begin to transcend the mind, and better understand our essence or true nature. I can attest to how difficult they are to solve, they truly require a shift in consciousness in order to be understood.

 

Beyond Zazen, Zen is a way of life. The focus on emptiness naturally leads to detachment and presence. We learn how to accept, and let go, of both thoughts and emotions. In due time, the mind clears up; we become lighter, calmer, and we feel and understand what it means to be in a state of Zen, a truly unique state. 

Sufism

Meditation & Chanting

Sufism is an interesting practice for many reasons. I’ve met Sufis who had fully integrated Islam into their practice, and I’ve met others who weren’t even Muslims. The concept of Sufism is deeply embedded within our nature, and it can be understood and practiced in different ways.

 

In Sufism, we mostly practice heart meditations. If Yoga is about alignment and harmony, and Zen is about emptiness, then Sufism is about love. When it comes to the subtle body, in Yoga we focus on seven energy centers, in Sufism we focus only on one, the heart. We use breathing techniques, mantras and focused states of awareness to develop our connection to the heart. In due time, a wonderful feeling begins to settle in the heart. Its this feeling that made the Sufi poets write all their mystical poetry. 

 

Another big part of Sufism is practicing asceticism. To have an effective practice, we must control our desires and purify our being. The Sufi’s say "to be in this world, but not of it" meaning we maintain enough mind and sensual desire to simply survive in this world, and by doing so we master both body and mind. Once we attain this form of mastery, we begin to understand the Sufi process of purification and expansion.    

 

To better understand Sufism, Sufi poetry is a good place to start; it’s some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. Just by reading it, we might get a taste of a Sufi state. It's all feel in Sufism, it’s a practice where we hammer the head into the mighty heart.

 

Since Sufism is focused on the heart, it can be quite emotional and intense. Its best therefore to develop a strong and grounding practice before delving into the world of Sufism.

Sound

Chanting & Instruments

The practice of presence through sound is fascinating. At first, it might feel like we’re simply chanting or playing an instrument, but as we progress in our practice, and develop a higher state of awareness, we begin to realize how sound creates a unique state of presence, and stimulates the subtler aspects of our being. 

At Takween, we have options when it comes to sound. There is session music that is carefully curated and mixed, chanting and instruments. The instruments we use include a piano, santoor, different types of percussion, singing bowls, different types of chimes and last but not least, a shruti box.  

Carl Jung & Ibn Arabi

As a life long student of the psychologist Carl Jung, and mystic Ibn Arabi, I have deeply integrated their teachings into my practice. In whatever I do, they are always there in the background.

 

Through rare moments of insight, I’ve come to realize that both men had an understanding of the human psyche that was far beyond anything I’ve experienced. What they taught, if understood and practiced correctly, leads to a fundamental shift in consciousness. Jung mapped the unconscious for me, and helped me understand the universe within. Ibn Arabi helped me wrap my head and heart around a unified reality. 

 

Both men saw life as a journey towards wholeness. With Jung, it was the process of individuation, and with Ibn Arabi, it was the journey towards Al Insan Al Kamil, which translates to the Whole Human Being. Both journeys, begin by understanding one's purpose on earth, then transition into to a process of purification and integration, and end, finally, in a state of wholeness.

 

All these cosmic concepts we struggle with, these two brilliant men were able to understand, experience and articulate. I believe reading Jung and Ibn Arabi is essential for anyone who seeks to truly understand consciousness. And please know that I have not mastered their teachings, but whatever I was able to understand and experience, became a part of who I am.