By Shakti Mhi
The reason why we practice, in the west, fast and vigorous yoga, is because we have lost the ability to slow down or be still. We go fast internally as well as externally. On a daily basis we move fast and we think fast. We get up in the morning with the feeling that we are already behind. We sit in front of our computers bombarded by demands to reply NOW. We are constantly catching our breath… and you know what catching the breath means? It means your breath goes faster than you, running away from you, and you try to catch it. In the action of catching our breath we run out of breath and we are left with fast minds and no breath, which leads to disease, restlessness, insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, and general exhaustion and depression.
So, we started searching for something to slow us down, realizing that if we keep going this fast we will burn out. This is how the west discovered yoga… we were looking for a change because our bodies and minds could not tolerate anymore the pace of modern life.
Yoga is the practice of mindful stillness and mindful breath, the opposite from how we live our lives as modern human beings. But instead of letting the ancient yoga practice change us for the better we changed the yoga practice to suit our inability to maintain stillness.
Reasons for practicing slow yoga
The Physical aspect – the Nervous system
If you feel stressed out, if you feel you are under pressure, if you keep running all day feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things that need to be done…. If you are worried about money and you hate your work, if you’re afraid to die, if you do not eat well, sleep well, and not go to the washroom regularly, if you have allergies, skin conditions, injuries, or if you breathe fast and short… this are all indications that your nervous system is in a state of fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system). That means your brain and nervous system are under the illusion that you are in danger 24 hours a day.
As a result your body acts under high voltage of “electricity” so you can act strong and fast to save yourself, as if a tiger was chasing you.
The only problem is that the body can only be under the extreme of “fight or flight” state for a short time, with breaks of shifting back to a relaxed mode, otherwise it burns out. The natural state for the body, the brain and the nervous system, is in a relaxed mode. In life this burn out may manifest as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, problems with the period, inability to produce babies, migraines, overall exhaustion, and many more other symptoms.
When the body and mind are in a constant fight and flight state they cannot slow down anymore or be in stillness. Look around and you will see how we are all on the go all the time.
This is the reason why in the west so many acrobatic, fast and vigorous yoga styles developed in the last 30 years. We brought our restless bodies and minds to class and turned yoga to be another one of our restless actions.
When you practice slow yoga you shift your nervous system from fight and flight to a relaxed mode. When the nervous system is relaxed our bodies and minds calm down. But it is not easy to shift in one day from being in fight and flight for so many years to a relaxed mode. Often very advanced and experienced western yogis that try slow yoga report that it was very hard for them, not the physical aspect of the practice but the stillness of mind and body.
The aim of yoga is to increase the amount and quality of the Prana in our physical and energy bodies, since Prana is the fuel for high consciousness. That means we want to avoid consuming our Prana while doing the yoga asanas, and instead, store it in the chakras, the energy centers. Fast and vigorous exercises require a large amount of Prana to maintain the workout of the muscles and organs. That means lots of Prana is consumed in forceful yoga.
What is the point of eating food that supplies us with less energy than it requires to digest it?
The same goes with fast and vigorous yoga. The practice takes more Prana than it provides us with. The energy people feel after they finish fast, vigorous yoga, sports or any other work out, is the energy that comes form the fight and flight systems in their bodies, from the adrenal glands for example, and should not be confused with Prana – life force.
This is why there are so many injuries in the modern yoga practice. When the body has no more Prana to maintain itself, it falls apart.
There is nothing wrong with working out and sports, but yoga is NOT a workout or a sport. It is a spiritual discipline for calming down the body and mind, increasing Prana in the body, and finally, expanding our consciousness beyond mind and body.
So next time you tell yourself that you prefer fast, active yoga, check well with yourself: is it really a preference or you are just following your restless mind that cannot slow down any more?
Change comes only through change and not by keeping the same behavior and habits that caused us the conditions we do not want to suffer any more. That means we should practice yoga differently than we live our busy lives until our lives become our yoga and not vice versa.
If you start to connect to your inner silence and stillness in your yoga practice you may start to apply this state, as well, after your yoga practice ends.
By Shakti Mhi and Pepe Danza
(The difference between thinking and having thoughts)
The general assumption is that when we think, we have thoughts, in other words, the source of our thoughts comes only from our thinking.
Actually, if you could observe the mind of a person, from childhood to adulthood, you may find that many of our thoughts never arrived from our thinking… they were planted in us by our surroundings and environment.
When we think, we have thoughts, but we do not need to think to have thoughts! Many of our “planted” thoughts become permanent thoughts that mold who we are.
The first thought that was “planted” in us as babies is the thought “this is mummy and daddy”. This thought never sprouted from our thinking.
From the first planted thought about our parents there is an ongoing process of taking thoughts in, without thinking them out.
Here’s an example of “planted thoughts” we received in our childhood, that later flourished to be the deepest roots of our being:
You are a boy or you are a girl
This is your body, your room, your house, and your country…
You are an Israeli, an American, a Chinese, or French.
You are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist….
God is watching you, loving you and testing you…
Even when we become adults more and more thoughts keep being externally planted in us like:
- “Doctors are here to heal us and our well-being is the only priority they have.”
- “Leaders are here to take care of us”
- “Armies are here to protect us”
- Death is a scary thing
- Status is important
- Owning a house is essential for security
- Having a family is the essence of happiness
- Job with benefits and pension is more important than self contentment
- Drinking milk is healthy
The planted thought like “a job with benefits and pension is more important than self contentment” is the seed, and the self thinking thought such as, “it is fine to work in job I hate because I get benefits and pension” is the plant growing from it.
So planted thoughts (the seeds) influence the frequency of the thoughts we think ourselves. The thought that was planted and the thought that was thought out vibrate on the same frequency.
The planted thoughts, in our minds, dictate the thoughts we “think” for ourselves.
So if the planted thought is :”Doctors are here to heal us and our well being is their only priority they have”, the self thinking thought will be: “We trust our doctors with closed eyes, they know what they are doing”
If the planted thought is “Owing a house is essential for security”, the self thinking thought will be: “We need to dedicate our lives and sacrifice our freedom for a life time mortgage”
Once a while a self thought may leave the seed root and take off. At that point the self-thinking frequency increases and is not dependent anymore on the planted thoughts as the source of its life force..
Disconnecting from the seed of the planted thoughts may raise up the first authentic thought: “do my thoughts belong to me or are they planted?”
Needless to say… authentic self thinking is never encouraged by the “system”. One of the many systems that is established on the foundation of planting thoughts in peoples minds is religion.
When self thinking disconnects and frees itself from the root of the planted thoughts, Science, Art, Philosophy, Spirituality, Creativity, Genius, and the extraordinary, unfold into existence, and we start manifesting our own reality.
by Shakti Mhi
For a few years, my husband, Pepe Danza, and myself, have been teaching a special class called “The yoga Experience”, a yoga class with live music where Pepe plays endless celestial music on many instruments while I am teaching the asanas. For many years, while we were living in Vancouver, Canada, we had a dream to conduct this wonderful practice outside of an ongoing yoga class with a large number of yogis, and together create a strong energy buzz. But life is busy and there is always something more important to do, and the dream that kept coming up in our discussions remained in the form of “one day ….”
A few months ago we moved to Israel and we connected with one of the greatest organizers of Yoga Arava, Roni Friedman, who offered us to come and teach the ‘Yoga Experience’ as part of an amazing yoga weekend that takes place, every year, in Timna, a magic place in Arava, the desert of Israel. One little powerful woman turned our dream into reality.
The day came and we finally took the right turn away from highway 90 into the untouched desert. As we drove deeper into the land away from the highway, an overwhelming natural environment embraced our car full of instruments. Red, brown, yellow and pink where the colors that the ancient land reflected back to us and we felt as if drunk…and the silence…the primal silence that got lost in our noisy busy world echoed from the giant rocks around us that truly know what stillness is, the stillness we aim to achieve in the practice of yoga.
The car kept moving in the dirt road while we both stared in awe at the magnificent views that kept being revealed to us with each turn we took.
When we finally arrived at the spot where the magic yoga class had to take place we were not alone. A few rain clouds that are rarely seen in this time in the desert arrived with us. Before we had the time to share our concerns with each other a strong rain started pouring, covering the earth and the rags that were being placed on the ground for the coming yoga practice. We were sitting in the car in silence watching the beauty of the colors; sky and earth connected through water, wondering if this is how far our dream goes. But deep inside us, we both knew that this heavenly yoga event would happen… we had already felt its signature in our destiny. We felt it, but we weren’t sure how it would come about… there were two more hours before the start of the event and even if the rain would stop, the ground and all the rugs could be too wet to be practiced on. But then, the rain stopped and a powerful sun came out like a big mama and dried the ground and the rugs with a huge warm smile. And we were laughing with joy, knowing this event is blessed.
Pepe started to arrange his orchestra station and I was sitting quietly watching the horizon. Buses carrying yogis from all round the Arava started to arrive. These yogis spent three days with different senior yoga teachers in different retreats, and now they all gathered together to share a big community class. Most of them were wearing white and all of them were holding yoga mats. My heart was melting with love and gratitude for being part of such experience. Five hundred yogis arrived to share a moment together, where the intention is the harmony and union of body and mind, breath and energy and being here and now. Watching such large group of yogis moving and breathing together confirmed my long path as teacher. The yoga practice started to Pepe’s healing music. Very quickly we all felt the prana of the people combining with the prana of the desert getting stronger and stronger. The only way to describe this experience would be through silence! No words to describe it. As we were moving through time and space mindfully, sunset started to color nature with golden light.
It will be so wonderful to see this group of dedicated yogis growing every year, together, creating an abundance of high frequency energy, peaceful minds and high consciousness. May it shift the distressed, restlessness energy that often takes over our beautiful earth, and turn it into LOVE.
Prana Yoga College
watch the video clip from the event:
By Shakti Mhi
A few days ago one of the main Rabbis of Israel died at the age of 93. Rabbi R. was known for his brilliant mind and depth in the knowledge of the Torah and Judaism in general. A day after his death the newspaper was full of stories and quotes describing his impact on Israel, both in the religious and political spheres. In one of the many articles about him we read about rabbi R. saying that a man who walks between two women is like a man that walks between two donkeys. The article kept going describing his great virtues, as if comparing women to donkeys is just a brilliant thing.
Putting women on the level of donkeys demonstrates, in general, what is the perception and approach about women in the eyes of Rabbi R. In Judaism donkeys are discussed mainly in relation to other things, they never stand on their own. Because the perception of women is the same as towards donkeys, the same applies to women then. Women do not stand on their own as equal to men. Women are important because they are the men’s wives and the mothers of the men’s children. Like dinkies they are just vehicles to carry the men through their religious evolution.
Donkeys do not mix with men… the same with the women in the Rabi’s court. Women cannot be among men. They are always separated and often hiding behind curtains. Why? Because women represent temptation, the source of all evils, and of course, it has nothing to do with the men being weak and driven by their un-mastered desires. It is simple, as if you had a big weakness for cookies… so instead of mastering your weakness you are removing all the cookies and declaring it’s the cookies fault.
This is not a feminist article, this is about discrimination that gets accepted because it is represented by a holy man on the behalf of god. Comparing anyone to donkeys, be it man or woman, white or black people, gays or straights, demonstrates great ignorance. Rabi R may have been a genius in the Torah and Judaism, but his greatness was in a very limited aspect of existence. His knowledge and depth were within the shallowness of a religion that was conceived by men for men. Rabbi R.’s vast knowledge did not encompass people that are not Jewish or women or donkeys or gays or the rest of the whole existence. His immense knowledge dwelled within a very limited perception that deals and serves a very small group of humanity while leaving the rest of humanity outside of it.
Great teachers are the ones that embrace in their teaching the whole universe with no separation of any kind!
Few days ago there was a horrifying story in the newspaper about a young single mother who killed her two little children with a knife, and then she tried, unsuccessfully, to kill herself. She was brought in a very critical condition to the hospital where the doctors tried to save her life.
This article is not about the horrible event where a mother kills her little offspring. It is not as well about the intense life we live that can bring some people into madness through despair. This article is about not respecting adult choices when they decide to check out of their reality and leave their own lives behind.
I felt very angry when I read that despite the clear action of the woman to kill herself by cutting off her own throat, and by doing so, ending the nightmare she perceived herself to be in, the authorities around her, decided against her will, to keep her alive. For what reason? Besides the fact that they act against her choice, if “they“ successfully keep her alive, a very predictable reality is waiting for this already poor woman. Either she will be sent to jail for the rest of her life or she will be checked into a mental hospital for the rest of her life, and in both situations she will have to live the nightmare she created, day after day, until her last day on earth.
Is anyone around who would wish themselves such a reality? What on earth can be the reason to keep such a woman alive when she demonstrated clearly that she’d rather be dead? There is only one answer: PRETENSE! The pretense is that we declare people lives have the highest value.
We pretend the above while we send young people to die in nonsense political wars.
We pretend the above while we create nuclear weapons so we can kill as many people possible in one shot.
We pretend the above while we can pass by a sick and lonely homeless person on the street on the way to a restaurant or for shopping.
We declare the high value of life while people kill people for greediness, jealousy , beliefs and principles.
But when an adult decides to check out of her own life, everyone jumps to save the unwanted life ignoring the one that owns this life and her decision to die.
What right do we have to stop an adult to die when they wish for it? After all, compared to a murder, they are not harming anyone else.
We did not chose when to come to this world… we should at list have the choice when and how to exit our movie.
I am turning this article to be my public will: If a day will come and I chose to leave my physical body, please stay away and do not disturb my wish to die.
With love and compassion I am praying for this woman, that her wish to die will be fulfilled.
by Shakti Mhi
Often people call Prana Yoga College and ask if we have showers. This question indicates again and again how the spiritual practice of yoga in the west lost its spirit and has become one with sports and gym activities.
No true yoga center should have showers in the facilities!
The aim of practicing the asanas in yoga is to increase the amount, quality, and frequency of the prana in the physical and pranic bodies. Prana is a life force, the essence of all energies that is the fuel for high consciousness. Beside expanding our consciousness, Prana enhances our health and well being. If we practice the asanas in the spirit of yoga, it means no forcing, pushing, working with pain or practicing in over heated rooms. At the end of the yoga practice our physical body will have lots of prana. Taking a shower after a yoga class washes away all the prana we created during the practice. The reason why western yoga centers offers showers is because they teach a very physical “yoga” practice where people are a doing a work out instead of yoga. As a result, the practice of the asanas includes forcing, pushing, jumping and working in over heated rooms while exhausting the prana in the body and creating lots of the sweat that the westerns are worshiping so much
The Sanskrit word asana means “to sit” or “to be present” and has nothing to do with “workout”. Hatha Yoga is a form of meditation. Every posture, every breathing practice is a form of meditation. It calms your body, breath, and mind. The asanas are completely different from other forms of exercise, which are usually done with quick movements and a certain amount of strain”. According to Patanjali, asana literally means a “posture that brings steadiness and comfort”.
So, the Yoga asanas should be practiced with utmost ease and comfort.
If you practice yoga as a meditative discipline you wont drip gallons of sweat. Instead, you will feel internal heat coming to the surface that creates a gentle layer of warm energy on your skin and maybe invisible layer of odorless sweat . Taking a shower in the end of the practice will wash this wonderful prana away. In the scripture of yoga not only it mentions not to wash the body for few hours after the practice but it mentions as well that if you have a light sweat, to massage it back into the body as it is full of prana.
Offering showers in yoga centers displays a misunderstanding of the yoga practice, relating to it as a work out instead of as a high spiritual practice that is far beyond the body and mind.
In most of the yoga centers that offer showers to students there is not much harm in taking a shower after class since the students, anyway, in most classes, already lost their prana in the vigorous practice by working too hard, too rough and too fast. So by the time the students finish their class they are Prana depleted and the only energy they experience is a physical energy that comes from the endocrine system, for example, the adrenal glands, because they did the class mostly from a fight and flight state, where the nervous system is under stress.
If you practice yoga at home or in a yoga center do not shower for a few hours to keep the prana in your body. In case you feel it is necessary for you to take a shower because you are sweaty as a result of your yoga workout, then do not worry… go ahead and shower, since you anyway didn’t create much prana during the class so you have no prana to lose
by Shakti Mhi
In Yoga, shoulder stand is known as the queen of all asanas while headstand is the king of all asanas. Thus, subtly suggesting that headstand is superior to shoulder stand.
But we all know that behind every powerful king there is an even more powerful queen…J
The question remains: is headstand stand actually ‘better’ or more powerful than shoulder stand?
1. Many people that are practicing headstand are not strong enough in their shoulders, arms and back muscles so they lean on their head and compress their neck to compensate. The small neck vertebrae were never designed to hold the weight of the body alone. When head stand is done correctly the head should be lightly above the ground while all the weight is on the hands and shoulders. In shoulder stand the weight of the body is divided between the shoulders and arms leaving the neck free of compression and if there is still compression on the neck we have the option to move the pelvis away from the head and lower the legs to 45 degrees, an option we do not have in head stand.
2. Another concern for some people who are practicing headstand, is the risk of retinal detachment; as a result of gravity – blood rushes to the eyes. Retinal detachment is a disorder of the eye in which the retina peels away from its underlying layer of support tissue; it can be very serious. However, in shoulder stand the blood is slowing down in the neck area before it reaches the eyes and this effectively reduces the pressure on the eyes.
3. Headstand is a very advanced pose and is not suitable for beginners that are not strong enough to get into the pose with full control and slow motion. When it is practiced by beginners, they usually kick their legs up to the sky and sway on the fragile neck vertebrae with the risk of pinching the nerve in the neck or falling with their legs over the head with the risk of cracking their neck. Shoulder stand can be easily modified for beginners that are not yet strong or flexible by lowering the legs over the head to 45 degrees.
In other words, you can get the same if not even more benefits doing shoulder stand than doing headstand and eliminate potential injury.
The author of “The enigma of Self-Realization”
Prana Yoga College
The purpose of practicing the asanas (yoga postures) was and is, according to the yoga tradition and spirit, for elevating and expanding our consciousness beyond our physical body and mind beyond time and space, which exist only in the mind as absolute dimensions.
The reasons for working with the physical body as a path to high consciousness in Hatha Yoga are:
Our high consciousness expresses itself through our physicality so the body becomes the vehicle for our higher self in the physical realm.
Obviously as beginner seekers it is much easier to expand our awareness, first into the body before we take off and start being aware of our energy and our higher “bodies”.
And last, if we live constantly with pain and aches we are depleting our Prana, the life force that is the ultimate fuel for our high consciousness. If you maintain the physical body free of pain and healthy through the asanas you conserve and expand the prana in your body.
Therefore, practicing the asanas is very internal and has nothing to do with “posing”, showing off, or external awareness.
Internal practice means you are not relying on your physical eyes to know where you are at. Instead, you develop an internal knowing of being aware where and how your body is at while doing the yoga asanas. Practicing yoga in front of mirrors make us rely on our eyes.
Knowing and being fully aware of the different parts of your body without using your physical eyes takes some time and practice. Until the students reach this point of awareness the teacher becomes the eyes of the students. The teacher keeps adjusting the student while energetically she transmits her energy and consciousness to her student until a moment comes when the student starts to know for herself.
Dance, gymnastics, acrobatics, sports, can all be wonderful but we should not confuse any one of these with the practice of yoga, where the physical body is not the focus but the tool for realization- seeing reality as it is in each moment.
Prana Yoga College
The need for forgiveness arises when a person or people take actions that hurt us physically, emotionally, mentally, or energetically.
You trusted your best friend and shared with her your deepest secrets and then she used it against you. As a result you FEEL you got hurt.
Or, as a child, your vulnerability as an unprotected member of the tribe was abused, and as an adult you keep FEELING hurt.
Or when the nation or other organizations use their power against you as a minority, again, you FEEL hurt.
Forgiveness is the action of letting go of the emotions (anger, hate, resentment, bitterness asking for revenge.) we hold against the person or people that hurt us and instead replace it with compassion and tolerance.
The reason why often it is hard for us to forgive is that when we get hurt by others we feel “we are right”, which gives us the illusion of being in power. The combination of being “right” and being hurt often turns us into “victims”. By forgiving, we will have to let go of our “story” and the position of being victims that often brings us lots of sympathy from others.
The tool for forgiveness is to shine light on the person or people that are the cause of our pain and distress by expanding our perception and seeing the limitations of the ones that hurt us.
To be able to do so we have to develop the understanding that we all perceive reality from our own limited perception only. That means we all have our personal movies that may not always synchronize with other people’s movies and way of seeing reality. When you are aware of this fact you embrace tolerance. I do not say you need to follow everybody’s movie or agree with it, but at least you are aware of where they come from.
You may be angry at your parents and can not forgive them for forcing you, manipulating you, or pushing you to go and study for a career your heart never cared for, instead of going and pursue your true passion, whatever it was at that time.
You forgive your parents because you are aware that in their “movie” it was all about making sure you will have a “good” and “safe” future by having a good job that will enable you to get a life time mortgage so you can buy a house, which in THEIR movie is the ultimate goal . In this case, forgiveness is about knowing that your parents didn’t know better.
The other aspect of forgiveness is being aware that different people have different capacities to perceive reality. This is a tough one to practice but possible. When you see human beings doing horrible things to each other you may not accept it or support it but you forgive, as you are aware of their limited capacity to experience oneness with all.
It is easy for us to apply it with children. Most of the time we understand they have limited capacity to perceive reality because they do not know better, but when it comes to adults we expect that everyone will see and experience reality as we do.
If you see a man kicking a dog, you may act according to the moment, stop the man from doing it, save the dog, or nothing if you can do nothing. But if your heart is full of hate for the man, in a way you are not different from the ignorant man that has no capacity to experience oneness with the dog. If instead you understand that different people are in different states of spiritual evolutions and as a result have different capacities to experience reality your heart will always be full of love, compassion and forgiveness, which are different shades of the color of love.
Few days ago a lovely woman posted on FB a story about how a man badly judged her sick sister she loves so much. She was very angry and ended the story declaring she feels lots of hate toward this man, and asked everyone to share the story. The story had a powerful point to it about how often we rush judging people, but because it ended with a declaration of hate, in a way she asked everyone to “share” hate. Forgiveness for this man could come from an understanding that he didn’t know better.
One of the most inspiring stories of the Dali Lama is about his childhood friend monk that was tortured physically for many years in the Chinese prison after Tibet was invaded by China . After he was released from jail, old and wounded, Dali lama asked him: “what was the most scary moment for you in jail”? His old and wise friend said: “the moment I almost lost my compassion for the ones that tortured me”.
As you walk through life try to keep in mind that different people have different capacities of consciousness and upon this state they will live, act, and experience life.