What is Karma?
Karma: it’s a word that brings up many different impressions. For some people it brings up ideas about past lives. For others it conjures up the idea that what goes around comes around. It is an ancient word with a rather complex definition- a vast spiritual law that many try to explain using only their intellect.
photo by Fern
When people talk about karma they often refer to the law of Karma which states that every action will have a reaction. But it is incredibly important to look further into this philosophy to understand the true definition that seeks to heal people, bring them together and not to create a new method for judgment and division. Our yoga in Kreuzberg focuses on just that- unity, not division, and we caution people to discover this complex term for themselves.
Karma – the word Karma in itself literally only means “action, work, deed”. Today many people in the West use the word Karma loosely and irresponsibly to mean “you get exactly what you deserve”. These are oversimplification of the Vedantic philosophy that often do more harm than good.
What is Bhramari?
Do you every feel like you are suffering from brain clutter? It doesn’t really matter what you do for a living. It makes no difference how you have set up your social structure. The mind is a masterful and intricate machine, assigned the all-important purpose of sorting through your influences and possibilities and helping you to make decisions. And frankly, sometimes, your mind can seem to have a “mind of its own”.
Part of what we do in our Berlin Yoga classes is attempt to give your mind a break. The premise being that with a little space, a little clearing, your mind will be able to work more harmoniously with your body and your soul. It’s hard to calm this busy machine down. But the practice of yoga is a wonderful way to regularly tune in to yourself in an effort to make peace with the world around you.
This week’s Terminology Tuesday is dedicated to a yoga breathing technique that helps to calm the minds sometimes obsessive thoughts. By explaining these yoga terms we hope to demystify this all important practice so that it may become a part of your everyday life.
Bhramari – is yet another form of Pranayama. The word Bhramari literally means “bee”. This breathing technique requires a humming sound while shutting your ears with your fingers. The sound effect created is very similar to the sound of a bee, making the name quite an accurate description. The after effect is a feeling of calm and wellbeing.
Pratyahara: withdrawl of the senses
Pratyahara: withdrawl of the senses
In this hectic world of ours we often suffer from overstimulation. Too many headlines, deadlines, voices in our lives and in our heads. There are things all around us that of course, deserve our attention. And so we organize our time and our minds to accommodate the overload- to do the best that we can in a world that just keeps on bringing new things to us, to worry about, work through, discover.
One of the best uses of practicing yoga is to find appropriate detachment from the world around us. Not to a point where we no longer know what is going on but to a point where we can selectively withdrawal from the overload our senses have to offer when it becomes vital for our benefit or even survival.
That leads us to a fine question for this Tuesday, what is Pratyahara?
Pratyahara- means the withdrawal of senses. This is one of the eight steps of Raja Yoga and in our English Yoga in Berlin classes gets practiced through Yoga Nidra (yoga of conscious deep sleep), Pranayama (the breathing techniques), Tratak (candle flame gazing) and concentration on the eyebrow center. Pratyahara teaches us appropriate detachment which is necessary in order to attain inner peace through Raja Yoga. The word pratyahara comes from prati and ahara. Ahara means “food” or anything that we take into our body. Prati is a preposition that means “away”or “against”. Together it means turning away from external stimuli, and thus the withdrawal of senses.
photo by Fern
People still look confused in class sometimes when I use yoga terminology. That’s why I started English Yoga terminology Tuesday. I guess I could always just use plain English in order to avoid these confusing moments, but as a person who enjoys looking up the etymology of words, how their meanings have evolved from what their original meanings were, and how words between different languages overlap- I would find it a shame not to introduce one of the oldest languages in the world in our classes (Sanskrit). So in this blog I would like to try and explain the meaning of one of the most common words used in my Berlin yoga classes. What is Pranayama?
Pranayama – Prana means vital energy. People often confuse vital energy to mean spirit, or soul, or just the energy within a specific person. That is not the case. Vital energy is the energy you find in all living things. It’s the energy that gives life. This is found in humans, animals, plants, and some people even believe it’s found in stones. Everyone and everything alive has prana. Yama means “control”. So pranayama is the “control of vital energy”. In yoga we learn how to control and manage our energy through breathing. So Pranayama is a series of breathing techniques that we practice in order to learn how to control, manage, direct or increase our vital energy.
Yoga in Berlin can come in all sh
apes and sizes. Everything from the truly devout practices to the trendy, cult-like fashion of yoga- there are many styles and many different kinds of people practicing. Because there are so many people from all over the world who currently find this amazing city to be their home, we specialize in teaching Yoga in English. And because we believe that it can actually change lives, we teach the practices of Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga.
Although the classes are in English, sometimes I use Sanskrit words in our Berlin Yoga classes when wanting to describe a pose or the reason behind something we are supposed to do. As a consequence I often see confused faces looking up at me. I think many yoga teachers take their students understanding of these terms for granted and just keep going. But in an effort to be very clear and to make understanding of why we do things as simple as possible, last week I started something I call Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday. Each week we will be posting info about a term to help increase depth of understanding within your practice.
This week’s word is the basis for Hatha Yoga:
– literally means posture in Sanskrit. All the yoga postures we do in class are asanas. A specific asana has a name describing the posture and then the word asana at the end of it. For example take Matsyasana, Matsya literally means fish and asana posture- in plain English- it’s the fish pose.
As a teacher of Hatha Yoga in Berlin, I often use Sanskrit words in our classes when wanting to describe a pose or the reason behind something we are supposed to do. I try to always accompany these words with a translation, but every now and then I still see confused faces looking up at me. I realize that sometimes, especially when teaching yoga in English, it is important to not only describe the action in Sanskrit but to also offer a translation in plain English.
No matter how long you have taken yoga classes or how deep you are in your own personal practice, it’s important to understand the words being used over and over again. In an effort to explain the terms that many Berlin Yoga teachers (myself included) often take for granted that their students already understand, I am starting something I call Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday. Each week we will be posting info about a term to help increase depth of understanding within your practice.
Perhaps the beginning is the best place to start….
Yoga: yolk (as in the yolk of an egg.)
The yolk of an egg has the capacity to bind ingredients together. Yoga also strives to bind or unite the three aspects of the self: the body, the mind and the soul. Over the centuries, it has become common for people to also translate the word yoga as “union”. And since the practice of Yoga affects people in so many different ways, the definitions of Yoga seem to be multiplying as yoga spreads throughout the world.