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December 02, 2008

The Yoga News - December, 2008
International Yogalayam
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December 02, 2008

The Yoga News

Yoga Feature ...
The Origin of Christmas
Ancient vedic roots of a modern gift-giving tradition
yoga-and-Communism Yoga Feature
Are Yogis Communists?
Of course not ... I think ...
Yoga Combats Low Back Pain

    More Yoga News ...

The Indian Yoga Association: It's Official ... Fashion Hopes to Boost Yoga's Image UK Funds Hindu Education

The Origin of Christmas

This gifting tradition has some roots in ancient India
By: Dr Swami Gitananda

Where did it all start? Who is to be blamed? Blame it all on the Hindus. It's time we took the blame rather than all the credit.

It just so happens that the Hindus have been around for a long time. They're rather an old member on the family tree. So intent were they on study and realization of spiritual and material things that the UPANISHADS, the ancient scriptures of India, report their conclusion that "there is nothing new under the sun."

Many of the customs and rituals associated with most of the world's religions and holidays originated in India, going through various changes in the societies which adopted them. For instance, the story of gift-giving at this Christmastide and the originator of such gifts are both of Hindu origin ...

In the KATHOPANISHAD, we have the story of the Brahmin Vajasravasa who fathered a son called Nachiketas, which is Sanskrit for Nicholas. The boy dies and goes to the abode of Yama, Lord of Death where he lingers for three days while Death is away. When Yama returns he is embarrassed to discover that he had kept a Brahmin waiting. He grants the boy three boons, or favours, and the boy returns to life again bearing gifts for his father and family.

Sant Nachiketas (Saint Nicholas) is depicted driving a chariot-like sledge loaded with the boons and gifts for the good of mankind. His vehicle is pulled by reindeer that are able to fly, and he distributes all of the ratnas, or celestial gifts to mankind, including the knowledge of life after death.

The western story of St. Nicholas grew up many millennia later around the life of a father of the early Christian Church in Asia Minor who gifted a dowry for three ugly daughters of a poor parishioner. Later, St. Nick was a "good guy" who went around blessing little children on December 6th each year. "Bad" little ones were soundly caned by a blackamoor who accompanied the old saint. The American super-tale was created by the Reverend Samuel Clement Moore when he wrote "Twas The Night Before Christmas."

This is the winter solstice and the season when mankind dreads the loss of heat and light; when ancient man lit his fire, he also lit it for the Gods in hope that they would return the warmth and the day-light.

Their yule fire was an ancient offering to the sun. First candles, and then electric lights replaced the fire. Modern electric lights like their earlier counterparts, also represented the planets in our solar system, and for the mystic Yogi, represented the chakras of the inner cosmos. The fir tree represents the spine and the cranial nerves upon which the chakric lights resplendently appear. 

At this time of year, Hindus are celebrating the Festival of Lights, Muslims and Jews their own period of Id and Chanukah, while in many other cultures the "season of light" is also acknowledged. Let us all strive for that Light that illumines all worlds.

About the Author:
Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj (1907-1993) was one of the most potent and effective forces in the field of ashtanga yoga worldwide. Learn more about Swami Gitananda here ...
Also visit the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research

Got an opinion? Send us Your Comments ...


Are Yogis Communists?
By: Yogacharya

Yoga and Communism are rarely two words that find themselves in the same sentence. On the contrary, yoga has become so popular in the West, that it is now often identified as much with Americana as it is with its deeply communal Indian roots.

This ancient science has done much to satisfy our desires for bodily health and wellbeing in recent times. It has even provided a few small elixirs of spiritual nourishment for many along the way.

Who, then, would dare suggest that a yogi could be anything but a free-living, you can have it all, proponent of the utopian democratic dream? I surely would not dare …

After all, Communism, that antithesis of the American spirit, strives to attain a classless society, where no one stands in privilege or dominion over another…

The yogis, of course, would recognize that the “true self,” the essence of each and everyone of us, is identical; that we are, all of us, children of the same Divine spirit, with neither class distinction nor right of dominion over another. Ok, maybe that was a bad example …

How about this though? A popular slogan of the Communist movement claims that “Communism is a world in which each gives according to their abilities, and receives according to their needs.”…

Hmmm ..., the Bhagavad Gita implores mankind to find liberation from their desires for personal gain; to selflessly serve humanity; to view the fruits of this world as a Divine gift, not for personal possession, but for the equal use of all. Ok, I guess that was another bad example…

Really though, Communists view that a master and slave, lord and subject, the “oppressor and oppressed,” stand in constant opposition to one another, an arrangement that forms the root of inexhaustible disharmony in life…

Actually, that sounds strangely like the concept of dwaitam, or duality that our ancient Rishis warned us of! They taught us that it is this thing called “ego”, the perceiving of ourselves as unique, individual and separate entities, that is the cause of all our troubles. They told us that we are not alone in this world, but “all one” in it, and that freedom from our discontent can only come through the realization of the unity of all of nature and the equality of all mankind.

Ok, forget all those things. In the end, Communist ideals are surely too radical for the yogi; after all, Communists openly declare that their goals can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. “The people have nothing to lose but their chains,” they say, “but they have a world to win!”…

WAIT A MINUTE! The cultivation of the “warrior spirit” is vital in yoga too. In fact, yoga masters have demonstrated that immense effort is needed to overcome the many obstacles on the yogic path, to conquer the ego-self and to pull back the veil of ignorance that overshadows our Divine inner light.

“People of the world,” cry the yogis, “a revolution of the spirit is at hand. You have nothing to lose but the chains of ignorance that bind you. You have the greatest possession of all to win - Freedom … Liberation… Communion with the Universal Divine!”

Are Yogis Really Communists Then?
Communism is a simple three-syllable word that evokes such strong emotion. The root meaning of the word itself simply means to "commune," to "come together," to "connect." Similarly, the word Yoga means "union," a joining of our lower, worldly self with the higher Divinity; a "communion" of the individual with the Universal.

Does that make Yogis Communists? Surely not in the political sense of the word. In fact, Yogis are no more Communists than they are Republicans, Democrats, Socialists or Anarchists. The "communion of yoga" subscribes to no dogma or politically motivated ideology; it does not strive to subjugate people or impose beliefs. Yoga enlightens, empowers, and liberates.

It seems that great ignorance, misunderstanding, and misuse have befallen
this lofty concept of "communing" in our time, both in and out of the political arena. Perhaps in that respect, Yoga and Communism do share some common ground. 

And they continued steadfastly in fellowship. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common. And they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
~ New Testament, Acts of the Apostles

About the Author: Yogacharya is the director of International Yogalayam,

Got an opinion? Send us Your Comments ...


Intensive Yoga Combats Chronic Low Back Pain

A recent study conducted at the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Institute, near Bangalore, South India, demonstrates the effectiveness of a short-term, intensive yoga program for sufferers of chronic low back pain (CLBP).

Eighty patients diagnosed with CBLB participated in the study. They were randomly placed into two groups: Forty into an experimental yoga group, and forty into a control group. The experimental group engaged in a week-long yoga-based program, while the control group was prescribed a non-yogic, physical exercise based intervention.

Both groups carried out a comparable daily schedule for seven straight days, with the yoga group engaging in meditations, yoga postures, chanting, pranayama (yogic breathing), yogic relaxation and devotional hymns (bhajans), while also attending discourses on a yogic based lifestyle.

The control group engaged in walks, therapeutically designed exercise routines, non-yogic breathing practices, listening to music and watching video shows on nature, while also attended healthy lifestyle lectures.

The Results:
Spinal flexibility was measured, and a special “functional disability test” administered to the participants, both at the beginning as well as the conclusion of the seven-day period.

The results showed an improvement in spinal flexibility in both groups, with the yoga group demonstrating a considerably greater improvement in spinal flexibility than the control group.

The functional disability test was in the form of a self-assessment questionnaire, which included graded questions for assessing the degree of pain in 10 different areas of living, such as walking, standing, social life, etc. The total score of this test was expressed as an index ranging from zero to 100, with zero representing the least amount of disability, and 100 the most.

The average total disability scores in the yoga group decreased from 36.5 to 18.7, representing a 49% reduction, and a shift from “moderate” to “mild” disability. Surprisingly, however, the reduction in functional disability for the control group was statistically negligible.

These results indicate that the yogic-based regimen was significantly more effective in the treatment of CLBP than the non-yogic therapy approach, providing convincing support for intensive, yoga-based lifestyle programs in the treatment of patients with chronic low back pain.



Official Registration of The Indian Yoga Association is Announced

In July, 2008, we published news of the newly formed Indian Yoga Association. [Read “IYA: India Bends Toward Yoga Regulation"]. Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, one of the founding executive committee members of the IYA, and their Director of Publicity and Public Relations, recently updated us with the following news:

On October 31st, 2008, the IYA was officially registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act XXI, 1860. It will be initially supported administratively and financially by the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddhi and Homeopathy (AYUSH), and the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY), and will be initially based out of the MDNIY.

The following aims and objectives of the IYA were explained by Dr I Basavaraddi, Secretary of the IYA and Director of the MDNIY, during a meeting at the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research in Pondicherry, India on the 6th of November 2008:

1. Promotion and advancement of Yoga and its applications.

2. Maintaining and promoting the different Indian Yoga traditions.

3. To provide extensive research facilities for carrying out fundamental and clinical research in the discipline of Yoga and its applications keeping in view the socio-economic needs of all sections of the society.

4. To hold Conferences, Seminars, Workshops, Camps and Public meetings to propagate information and knowledge of Yoga, its various techniques and practice in various parts of India as well as abroad.

5. Accreditation and affiliation of Yoga Institutions including the prescribing of basic requirements for affiliation of Yoga Institutions.

6. To conduct experiments and research on emerging trends in Yoga.

7. To develop techniques and approaches based on the Ancient Yoga Texts and Granthas (books) of Yoga to meet the challenges of the modern era.

8. Development and dissemination of new approaches to the practice, teaching and research of Yoga.

9. To prescribe different courses for imparting education and training in Yoga; to prescribe syllabus and curriculum for various Yoga education, therapy and training courses and programmes; also to prescribe guidelines to carry out research in Yoga and its applications at various levels.

Dr I Basavaraddi also stated that the general body would be constituted soon along with the various committees such as the Academic Committee, Accreditation Committee, Research Committee, Finance Committee, Publication Committee and Public Relations and Publicity Committee.

The first Executive Committee meeting of the IYA will be held in the last week of December, 2008 at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai.


Fashion Hopes to Boosts Yoga’s Image

Yoga has just received a big injection “from style” by well-known fashion designer, Dona Karan. The founder of the DKNY label, Karan donated $850,000 through her Urban Zen Foundation to fund a one-year yoga research project at the Beth Isreal Medical Centre in Manhattan.

The project aims to demonstrate the effects of yoga, meditation and aromatherapy on cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

In January, 2009, fifteen yoga teachers will begin working in the hospital’s cancer ward with non-terminal patients, while at the same time training nurses in yogic relaxation techniques.

Karan, who lost her husband Stephan Weiss to lung cancer in 2001, hopes to demonstrate that the use of yoga and meditation practices can reduce the familiar side effects of cancer treatment, such as pain, nausea and anxiety, and serve as a model for replication elsewhere.

Hindu School Opens in London

Imagine your child being educated through passages from the Bhagavad Gita. Imagine that the curriculum at their school includes harmonium and mridagam lessons, the instruments of Indian classical music.

For Britain’s 1.5 million Hindus, that dream has become a reality with the recent opening of the first state-sponsored Hindu school in London. Krishna Avanti Primary School promises to merge the government approved school curriculum with the religious and cultural values of Hinduism.

Of the motivations behind this project, head teacher Nania Parmar said, “We aim to create an effective, calm and happy learning environment where the vision and mission statements are 'lived' by combining the wisdom of vedic teachings and exemplary professional practice.”

With 23 pupils entering the first batch, the school plans to gradually increase enrolment to 236 students by the year 2014.

Though similar schools for other faiths already exist in Britain, this is the first time that a Hindu school funded by the British government has been established. This welcome initiative provides expatriate families with a supportive vehicle for the teaching of Indian Heritage and the transmission of its spiritual and yogic ideals to their children who are growing up in a land so far removed from their own cultural roots.

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In This Issue
The Origin of Christmas
Are Yogis Communists?
Study: Yoga Helps CLBP
IYA Made Official
Fashion icon funds yoga research
London's first Hindu school
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Yoga Classifieds

Open House - Sunday, January 4th, 2009
12 Noon - 2PM. Free classes, door prizes, fun! Join us for a smorgasbord of myriad yoga types, styles, and classes. All are welcome.
Location: Yoga Center For Healthy Living, LLC. 4437 Old US 23, Brighton, MI. 48114
Tel: 810-225-1288

North London Hatha Yoga Classes
Yoga is an excellent way to relax and de-stress,while improving strength and flexibility. This class includes breathing exercises, postures and relaxation and is suitable for all levels. Morning, early and late evening classes at reasonable prices.
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Yoga With Sangeet
Student of Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Swami Gitananda Guru Maharaja, Smt Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, Dr Ananda Balyogi Bhavanani. OM-Kara Kriya® 2 year Graduate Teacher.
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Snowdonia Yoga Retreat 20-22 March 2009
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Offering all-inclusive Retreats including Yoga, Meditation, Cooking Classes, Surf Lessons, locally inspired Vegetarian and Living Food Catering. Inspiring personal growth and unity with nature.
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Level 1 and Level 2 full time, part time and intensive courses available. Maximum 20 students. High contact hours and experience teaching public classes. Low cost. Experienced Instructors Ashram style accommodation. Content includes Asana, Anatomy and Physiology, Sequencing, Adjustments, Pranayama, Philosophy and Meditation.
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Yogic Trek in the Himalayas
Learn Yoga while hiking in the Himalayas - the Abode of the Gods. Join us on treks through the incredible Himalayas to places of immense power, energy and divine serenity, where the great masters have meditated.
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Tel: +91-94183-56585

Pre and Postnatal Yoga Teacher Diploma Course Online
Accredited by the Yoga Alliance for 20 non-contact continuing education credits, this 5 module fully illustrated course covers all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth and provides qualified, experienced yoga teachers with the necessary tools to teach yoga in pregnancy and the postnatal period with confidence and authority.
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Sarada Ayurvedic Remedies
Our centuries-old Ayurvedic formulas are traditionally prepared in India. We offer Ayurvedic Herbal Body & Massage Oils, Joint & Muscle Pain Relief, Tarika Ayurvedic Skin Care, and more!
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Banyan Botanicals
We offer a complete line of premium quality Ayurvedic herbs and products. We also offer certified organically grown herbs, herbal tablets, massage oils, chyavanprash and more.
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ShivaShakti Yoga
Hatha Yoga classes in East London with reference to Ayurveda and Tantra. Mantras & Pranayama. March 2009: Yoga retreat in India visiting Tantric shrines and spiritual practice in Ujjain (M.P) and Varanasi (U.P).
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Yoga Teachers' Training - January 2009
RYT 200 & 500 hr. Please call to register for our Yoga Alliance Teachers' Training, with more than the required hours in teaching techniques, methodology, philosophy, ethics, practicum, anatomy & physiology.
Location: Brighton, Michigan, USA
Contact: Lee Ann Louis-Prescott, Ph.D
Tel: 810-225-1288

Gitananda Yoga Retreat May 2009
Join Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani for an inspiring weekend of yoga surrounded by natural bushland at Mercy Place Retreat Centre from Friday to Sunday. Includes Yoga, accommodation and meals.
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Contact: Margo Hutchison
Tel: 07 3268 4082

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Erich Schiffmann is coming to Naramata!
Erich Schiffmann is one of the most innovative Yoga Teachers of our time, and the South Okanagan Yoga Academy is bringing him to Canada to share teachings with you! Spend a weekend retreat with him in lovely Naramata BC. More about Erich at 
Location: Naramata, BC Canada
Contact: Marion (Mugs) McConnell, South Okanagan Yoga Academy
Tel: 250-492-2587

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