The Theory Underlying Sivananda Yoga

The ultimate goal of Sivananda Yoga is to enable us to maintain control over the mind. According to the adherents of this approach to yoga, only when the mind is stable can we be calm, centered, and at peace. In common with other approaches to yoga, the teachings of Sivananda Yoga maintain that much of our discontent and illness stems from imbalance and lack of control. We become attached to external objects and lose our true sense of self and focus. The ultimate goal of Sivananda Yoga is to develop stillness of mind so that we can be at peace under any circumstances.

This goal is not so easy to achieve, though. The mind is very hard to control. It has a tendency to be scattered by uncontrollable thoughts and emotions. Sivananda Yoga aims to help develop control of the mind through a complete five-point system comprised of the following disciplines:

1. Proper exercise (asanas, or yoga postures). Proper exercise is introduced in hatha yoga courses. These courses teach a series of yoga postures that help stretch and strengthen the body, improve circulation, and promote proper functioning of the internal organs and glands. In addition, they help develop control over the body and nervous system in preparation for proper relaxation and meditation.

2. Proper breathing (pranayama). In Sanskrit, the breath is called prana and it refers not only to

Sivananda Yoga is based on the teachings of the revered Indian saint, Sri Swami Sivananda (1887-1963). It is characterized by a simple and well-balanced synthesis of the four main traditions of yoga—bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, and raja yoga. It is based upon a five-point system that can help men develop physical, mental and spiritual health by promoting proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation. This system was designed by Swami Vishnu-devananda (1927-1993), a student of Swami Sivananda, to make the classical teachings of yoga more accessible to the Western audience. Swami Vishnu-devananda helped spread these teachings by founding the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres in 1959. Sivananda Yoga is one of the most widely studied and practiced styles of yoga in the world today. With close to 80 centers worldwide, the International Yoga Vedanta Centers have trained more than 15,000 teachers of yoga.

breath, but also to vital life energy. Pranayama, or the science of breath, teaches specific breathing exercises that help to stabilize the body and mind. In addition, it recharges and balances the nervous system and the flow of life energy through subtle pathways in the body.

3. Proper relaxation (savasana). Proper relaxation helps us to absorb the many benefits that are derived from yoga practice. It also helps to release tension and toxins from the body. Often, in our own lives, we deplete our energy during our so-called leisure time in frenetic pursuit of what we call, perhaps mistakenly, "relaxation" activities—such as staying up late reveling or club-crawling. Sivananda Yoga teaches proper relaxation techniques, which conserve energy and quiet the body, mind, and spirit.

4. Proper diet (vegetarian). Proper diet is essential to the optimum functioning of both body and mind. Sivananda Yoga advocates maintaining a simple, vegetarian diet of mainly organically grown food that eschews spices, intoxicating beverages, caffeine, and heavy food—all of which slow the body down. Such a diet can be tastefully prepared and can satisfy all of our needs.

5. Positive thinking (vedanta) and meditation. Vedanta literally means the "end of the Vedas" and refers to the metaphysical wisdom contained in the Upanishads, which are the final parts of the Vedas? Meditation enables us to still the mind so we are able to contact our Timeless Self and find true happiness. Such happiness is not dependent on the vagaries of the external world.

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