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Journal Post

Ishvara Pranidhana is the essence of Yoga and the goal of spiritual aspirants. There is no higher practice. Devotion to God is renunciation of all actions and ego to the Lord. Lose all sense of “I”-ness, “me,” “the do-er”—all separateness. Renunciation and surrender of the ego is Ishvara Pranidhana.
The foundation of yoga is Yama and Niyama. These are the moral and ethical guidelines of yoga; the first and second stages. The ethical and disciplinary precepts that serve as the Sadhaka's guidelines for right conduct in life. Applying these principles helps to purify the Sadhaka's actions and thoughts by removing Rajas and Tamas, so Sattva may prevail. The Yamas and Niyamas Click on any Yama or Niyama to read more. Yama Ahimsa (non-violence)Satya (truthfulness)Asteya (non-stealing)Aparigraha (non-hoarding)Brahmacharya (continence/celibacy) Niyama
"May the Lord bestow upon us the Divine way to obtain Ahimsa" Of all the virtues involved in the science of yoga, there is none higher than ahimsa. Ahimsa is the golden thread that runs through all yoga practice and is the foundation on which all Yogis build the inner spiritual life. The one message of all saints and sages is the message of unconditional love. Practice of ahimsa develops this pure, unconditional and universal love, and is the highest of all traits found in the mind, speech and actions of all perfected souls. There is only one religion—the religion of love, of peace. There is only one message, the message of unconditional and universal love.
For over 40 years, legendary and humble yoga Master Sri Dharma Mittra has been promoting a live food diet to students around the world. A Disciple of Sri Swami Kailashananda, Dharma Mittra has spent his life in service to humanity, and has been personally responsible for the advancement of healthy living through a live diet as taught to him by his own Guru, Yogi Gupta. From his days in the Ashram, preparing live food and juices for the Guru and Ashram residents, to his earliest days in the 1970’s as a celebrated teacher in NYC, sprouting almonds and juicing vegetables and fruits for his students, this saintly Yogi has been living and spreading the knowledge of a live diet long before it gained the popularity of today.
Kirtan is the practice of devotional chanting, the coming together to sing God’s glories and elevate one’s consciousness from the mundane to the Divine. The uplifting vibrations created by singing the names of the Lord purifies the mind and stirs the heart.
Kirtan gives strength and awakens nobility. It harmonizes the nerves and eradicates doubt. By reflection and worship of God, love, serenity and compassion are greatly increased, promoting a positive and pleasant temperament. The cosmic harmony and divine intoxication the Sadhaka acquires through Kirtan removes the erroneous ideas of birth, death, bondage, and all dualities.
Brahmacharya is not merely the life of celibacy and spiritual study, but the purification of all the senses. The practice of brahmacharya is the vow of abstinence for all sense objects, in particular mentally. Overeating, oversleeping, overtalking and dwelling on, or longing for sense objects are all breaks in brahmacharya. Purity and freedom from lust in thought, word and deed is an essential part of the vow, however. It is freedom from sexual thoughts and sexual urges.
Of all the qualities to be cultivated by the Yogi, there is none higher than Satya. Satya is complete truthfulness, in which thought, word and act should agree. Satya does not twist or modify in any way.
God is truth. Truth alone prevails. Whatever you have heard or seen, it must be spoken of as it is. By living truthfully, the mind is purified and the Divine light dawns. A Sadhaka is of noble countenance—nobility is truth.
In response to my students requests for help in establishing a home practice, I have just released a new CD called Healing Moves Yoga. The 72-minute practice is divided into five sections, so you can do just one section, two, three, four or all five, depending on your time. Two sections are completely restorative: Centering and Breathing (12:24 minutes) Relaxation (13:37 minutes) a guided head-to-toe tension reliever.
Did you ever stop and wonder how you got here? Not here as in this website, but HERE, this spot in your life? How did I end up in this job? This relationship? How did I put on those extra 10 lbs?
In reflection we see that there were a lot of small choices that were made along the way. We may have had bigger dreams , but in the meantime, the groceries have to be bought, the bills need to be paid.....maybe sometime we'll get to those goals......right?
 With so many styles of yoga available the question inevitably rises: what makes this one different than the next? Each lineage seems to claim that they have the answers, that they are the safest, or most informed, or most spiritual. What about the seemingly non-denominational yoga teachers out there, the purely physical practitioners? Are they really practicing yoga or merely acrobatics? And how is a student to choose? 
You can tell alot about a person through the food they eat. The choices we make about food begins to show what a person thinks about herself, her environment, her body, even her beliefs. For instance, Yoga Teacher = Vegetarian. Right?  It turns out, not as often as you'd think. I for one,  did not become a vegetarian for "yogic" reasons, nor because of PETA ads, nor did I harbor a particularly large sentiment for the animals we eat (that all came later).
As we step into spring, we move forward out of darkness and into light. Flowers bloom and babies are born. It is a time of renewal.  If you're like me, there are times when your practice has become routine and lackluster. Stale. Even boring.  Use spring as a time to introduce a new sense of play and investigation into your practice.  Take this time to address a pose or series of poses that are challenging to you and approach them without attachment. I particularly like arm balances and inversions(who doesn't love a little handstand at the wall at impromptu moments?) but any remix of your old routine will do.  Always do triangle first? Maybe make a pact not to do it for the next week.
There's an old Native American saying that I quoted in We're All Doing Time:
If you seek to understand the whole Universe, you will understand nothing. If you seek to understand yourself, you will understand the whole Universe.
Many of us complain about how hard it is to start doing daily meditation or yoga, or to quit smoking or lying or biting our nails or masturbating or any number of things connected to "turning over a new leaf." We may make solemn resolutions, but within a short time we often find everything is back to the way it was. Then we gradually become cynical and conclude that we may as well give up; that "we'll never change."
Vow practice is more formal than making verbal resolutions. Most of us at Human Kindness Foundation work with vow practice and we have found it extremely helpful for making real and lasting changes.
Here's an almost effortless practice that will definitely change your life for the better if you are willing to commit just ten to twenty seconds a day to it. But first, a little background about how the brain works.
Transcribed from a sermon Bo gave at Unity of the Triangle Church in Raleigh, NC.
When I teach meditation, I'm a stickler for keeping the body still. In the Old Testament there is a curious passage that says, "Be still and know that I am God." Isn't that curious? Be still, not "be righteous," not "be busy," not "be productive," not even "be kind," but "be still" to know God. Do we make enough room for stillness in our lives to know God?
This idea of being at home wherever we are, like virtually every other part of our spiritual journey, has a lot to do with faith. It's easy to say "I'm a person of faith." But what does it mean to us in a practical way? How does it affect our experiences and our state of mind all through the day? Are we just using empty words when we talk about faith? Do we put any time into it? We may believe in food, but we still have to take the time to eat!
Dear Family,
In the ancient Hindu epic The Ramayana, there's a passage where Rama, a young prince who is actually God born as a human being, is supposed to be made King the next day, and his people are the happiest people in the world because they love him so much. There's a classic line in this part of the story that I have remembered so many times in my life - "Many things can go wrong in the dark night before a King is made." How true!
Transcribed & edited from a talk given by Bo Lozoff in Costa Mesa CA, in March, 2006
From a talk given by Bo Lozoff at a meditation center in Tallahassee, FL, December 11, 2005.
Quit Smoking & Drinking !
Over 60 million Americans, including most prison inmates, smoke. A pack-a-day smoker these days is spending about $60 per month, or $720 per year. Double that amount for two people in the same family, or if somebody smokes a couple packs a day. Add in a similar amount for beer, wine, or liquor, and you can see that many people who may consider themselves poor are working about a quarter of their time to pay for these habits which shorten their lives, weaken their health, and provide a bad example for their children. Voluntary, suicidal slavery.
"Mindfulness" is a word that is seen and heard more and more often these days, and the simplest definition is usually that mindfulness means to pay attention to what you are doing at the moment; do one thing at a time, and do it well. This is true, but our practice of mindfulness often stays at a pretty superficial level, and we may fail to grasp how powerful and life-saving the practice can really be. The primary purpose of mindfulness practice is to prevent the mind from running wild and always keeping us at a distance from where we are right now. Every spiritual tradition reminds us that "right now" is all that exists.
Occasional periods of silence are recommended by every wisdom tradition. Modern life (and prison life) can be extremely noisy, and this constant noise can keep us from experiencing life as honestly or clearly as we may like. Sita and I have found great value in many periods of silence. For several years, each of us spent one day a week in silence. There are two main types of the practice of silence, and they are both very valuable in different ways.
I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high wall that I was imprisoned; no, it was God who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell but it was not the tree, I knew it was God. It was God whom I saw standing there and holding over me His shade. Or I lay on the coarse blankets that were given me for a bed and felt the arms of God around me, the arms of my Friend and Lover...It was not the magistrate whom I saw, it was God, it was God who was sitting there on the bench. I looked at the Prosecuting Counsel and it was not the Counsel for Prosecution that I saw; it was God.
- Sri Aurobindo, 1908
A friend of mine got out of prison on the last day of 1997. He was thirty-seven years old and had been in prison since he was nineteen. Because he was on a 90-year sentence, he had spent his whole prison time in one old maximum-security facility in mid-Florida which has a very tough reputation.
In all those years, William (not his real name) was never encouraged to get a G.E.D. or any other education or skills training. There were precious few programs offered at his prison because all the inmates there had such long sentences, the state felt, "Why waste the money? They're never getting out of here."
A Simple Path, a book about Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity, describes some of the prayers they use in their spiritual practice. One especially caught my eye, because it seems to be specifically geared to letting go of our whole sense of the personal self.
Terry Dobson, an American martial arts master and former U.S. Marine, was a big, powerful man who learned nonviolence by studying the Japanese discipline of Aikido, which means "Way of Harmony." In Aikido, the emphasis is on restoring peace rather than winning a battle. Terry told many stories to illustrate that the "enemy" is usually no further away than our own mind and heart. This is one of our favorites:
The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty - a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.
All of us at Human Kindness Foundation had a rare privilege when we brought the Vietnamese Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tic Not Hon), into his first American prison to talk with inmates and staff about the practice of deep mindfulness. We chose Maryland Correctional Institution at Hagerstown for this special event because Bo had been there recently and had been very moved by the spiritual sincerity and strength of the prisoner community. Many of the prisoners have taken the Alternatives to Violence Project training and have been involved with our books and tapes as well. (Special thanks to Emma Lou Davis, of CCSC in Hagerstown, for coordinating the whole event).
This practice can be a very powerful tool for letting go of false beliefs about who or what controls our moods. We recommend you take this vow for at least one month, and repeat it aloud at the beginning of each day. If possible, let a few friends know about your vow so that they can help remind you if you seem to be slipping.
I pledge to stop blaming others for my negative states of mind.
I pledge to stop blaming circumstances for my negative states of mind.
Dear Family,
There are times in our lives when our problems seem so overwhelming we don't have any idea what to do next in any significant way - how to change our lives, how to address the biggest problems, how to heal the damage between us and our loved ones, how to motivate ourselves to even get out of bed to tackle each new day. Our prayers may be sincere but we may not be hearing any answers. We don't understand the Big Plan a loving God may have for why our lives are so hard, and we just don't have a clue as to what to do next.
Many of us say we have faith in God. We say we believe in prayer, we believe that God loves us and has a plan for our lives. But do we actually walk through the day feeling comforted, protected, and secure in those beliefs? Do we go to sleep at night knowing God is with us and is guiding us? Jesus said, "Take comfort and be of good cheer. I am with you always." Notice the two verbs, "take" and "be," suggesting that it is up to us. We must take comfort from His presence, not wait for it or hope for it. He is delivering the good news to our doorstep, but it is clearly up to us to open the door and let it in. So this practice is to take comfort in an active way.
More and more of our prison friends are spending time on lockdown during this difficult age. Many of them feel frustrated that they cannot do anything to help others. But we can all help others. Praying for others is very real and, depending on the strength of our minds, can be very powerful as well. Below is one specific "goodwill meditation" you can use at a regular time each day which will benefit others during times you are unable to be in closer contact.
My major feeling about Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3 pose) used to be relief when it was over! Recently I have been exploring poses I haven't previously enjoyed and Warrior 3 made the list! Its particular combination of strength, flexibility, and balance are difficult to master with grace and ease. I have discovered that this pose is transformed by my choice of focus. Instead of just trying to stay up (and endure the pose till it is over!), I can direct my energy on lengthening from my low belly in two directions: out through my legs all the way to my toes and from my low belly forward through my torso, arms, and into my fingertips.
Six Years ago I attended an Intermediate/Advanced Yoga Workshop taught by John Friend in Utah. We practiced all kinds of challenging and unusual poses, as well as the more typical postures. One day John had me demonstrate Adho Mukha Vrksasana, the Handstand Pose. I love this pose and have practiced it for years. However, he had me demonstrate in the middle of the room. He caught my legs as I kicked up and helped me find my balance and maintain it for about a minute in the middle of the room.
People often come to yoga looking for a way to feel less stressed and more relaxed, and the practice of yoga can certainly make a significant difference. So much so, that I often wonder how people who don't know yoga and relaxation can manage when life gets bumpy! However, the potential benefits from yoga and relaxation training go far beyond just immediate stress relief. They change the lens through which we view our stressful life events, and thereby eliminate many stressful feelings at the source.
In a teacher training application recently, the participant stated that she had expressed concern to her first yoga teacher about the time and money involved in taking yoga, saying that she didn't think she could afford to do it. Her teacher responded, "You can't afford NOT to!" After more than 5 years of yoga she wholeheartedly agrees!
Learning to decipher what is important in life is a key ingredient in creating a life of happiness, balance, and joy, and yoga trains us how to do this. Students usually come to yoga first for the physical benefits, although it soon becomes apparent that yoga has profound effects on the psyche as well. Yoga teaches focus and concentration, and over time these skills have the effect of reducing mental clutter. In class, for instance, instructors draw students' attentionto the specific muscles and actions that are important in doing a particular pose. An
often overlooked benefit of a home practice is that students begin to make these choices for themselves.
Discipline is one of those qualities that many of us wish we had more of! In fact, a study several years ago listed lack of discipline as one of the most common regrets as people looked back on their lives. My favorite definition is framed on the wall in the yoga center and in my office: Discipline is remembering what you want. This definition established discipline from the inside out, so it's an inspiration rather than a control imposed from the outside in.
Yoga offers us a fascinating lens through which to view our lives. Yoga philosophy tells us that the core of our being is conscious pulsating energy. This reality is hidden from us by five layers, or sheaths, called koshas, that are made up of increasingly finer grades of energy. The outer layer is the densest and is made up of matter. The other sheaths are energy states, invisible to the physical eye, although as we develop greater sensitivity we can become aware of their presence. To live a fully balanced and healthy life, yoga urges us to keep each layer strong and healthy through various yoga practices. From the yoga perspective the game of life is to penetrate these cloaks, so that our true nature can be revealed.
Most students report that they come to yoga because of strees; and certainly yoga can bring relief. However, yoga offers many more benefits in addition to relaxation, such as flexibility, strength, increased circulation to organs and glands (often resulting in enhanced health), better sleep, improved digestion, and a quieter and more centered mind. Over several years, this practice can add up to the true essence of yoga: living life with a joyful spirit and a peaceful mind in a relaxed and healthy body. Although these benefits are tremendous (and I have found as I get older they are truly priceless!), they cannot occur if students don't come to class.
At a recent yoga retreat I was presented with a unique opportunity to fly on a trapeze! I remembered that people at the end of their lives most regretted not taking more risks... So, on the appointed day, 11 other yogis and I headed out for our adventure. After a short practice on a trapeze only 5 feet above ground we graduated to the real experience.
Peter, the trapeze artist in charge, emphasized that we could come down at any time. One woman burst into tears on reaching the platform and another decided to come down after starting the first swing. When my turn came I climbed the narrow ladder and found myself standing on a platform the size of a sticky mat, 30 feet above the ground.
One of the lesser-known benefits of establishing a regular yoga practice is that we complain less. It's probably a surprising and an unintended result ... most students don't come to yoga to stop complaining! But it happens almost automatically ... and surreptitiously.
Sometimes it's nice to site back and reflect on where we have been and where we are now...My husband and I moved to Florida from Virginia five and a half years ago, after he retired. Initially I kept my yoga center in Virginia and went back regularly to run it, so I did not start teaching in Florida right away. However after comparing winter up north with winter down here, I sold my yoga center and decided to focus on Florida! In August of 2000 an opportunity came up to teach in the community where we live. We initially offered two morning classes, with my husband Dave teaching one class and me the other; we had a total of 18 students.
I recently attended the Anusara Certified Teachers Gathering in Denver, CO. A group of 150 certified teachers came together for 5 days of inspiring practices led by Anusara founder John Friend and transformational presentations by Paul Muller, an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Tantric philosophy. One of the major emphases in Anusara is to take our yoga off the mat and into the world, so that we are living our philosophy that we are all part of One Big Spirit. To that end, John invited the Karma Krew to come to our gathering. Karma Krew is a yoga-inspired non-profit organization created by two like-hearted yoga teachers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
We are in challenging times with the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression, 2 wars, international terrorism, and global climate change. People are worried about their finances, keeping their jobs and homes, and the bleaker future that may face their children and grandchildren. Research has shown that stress is a major risk factor in just about every disease and physical condition. One of the most intelligent choices you can make in these stressful times is to invest in your most precious resource: your health and well-being. Making that investment through yoga benefits all aspects of your being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
July 20, 1969 was an historic day for our country and for the world. It was the day that we landed a man on the moon, and Neil Armstrong uttered his oft-quoted phrase, "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind".
We take space travel for granted now, but back then it was an awesome achievement. When President Kennedy set the vision in 1963 that we were going to the moon by the end of the decade, it was an almost unbelievable proposition. At the time the technology had not been developed to support the vision, but Kennedy had faith in the ingenuity and creativity of our NASA scientists and engineers. He trusted that they would be able to figure it out. He set the vision and the rest is history.
In September I read a seminal book that I found transforming: Waking the Global Heart by Anodea Judith. I could hardly put it down! It spoke to me at a deep spiritual level and validated many ideas that I've been contemplating. We've chosen it for discussion at our next book club meeting on February 12 and I will be presenting a short overview of the book. If this resonates with you, please join us!
See God in yourself and see God in others". When I heard this from meditation teacher Swami Muktananda in the 70's it was a revolutionary concept to me. However, something deep inside resonated with this teaching and I felt especially uplifted. It felt like a way to connect with the best in myself and with the best in others.
Most people know yoga as a physical exercise system that increases flexibility and teaches them how to relax. However, yoga is a comprehensive discipline that encompasses principles for living in the world and practices to deepen spiritual life, in addition to achieving physical well-being. Yoga is a nourishing practice on all levels!
Believe me, I get it - what we hear about the dreadful price that yoga has paid for coming West. The apparent absence of its spiritual element in classes, teacher certifications that take a weekend to procure, peculiar fusions with fill-in-the-blank-fad-exercise regimens, yoga pose competitions, overemphasis on the physical elements of the practice, the ubiquitous growth of yoga accessories, yada yada yada. Yoga Incorporated. I get it, I promise.

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