Which yoga to practice?
Suggested reading list
For the complete reading lists for self-study, click here.
List-7: Yoga, energetics, and healing
Good physical health is essential to seekers treading the Path. The body is where all the spiritual energies are alchemized and anchored into the physical world. And through it we become useful to our Soul and eventually, to the Great Ones in the collective task of redemption and of manifesting the Plan.
Modern health sciences all concur in the need for physical exercises or regular work outs to maintain one's cardio-vascular well-being, and the proper functioning of one's nerves, bones, joints, and glands. This need is even more amplified for those who are practising psycho-spiritual techniques such as meditation, yoga, or any energy cultivation process.
These spiritual practices generate or focus enormous amount of energies to the body which can congest or overwhelm the etheric or bio-magnetic field, which can strain the chakras leading to various nervous stress, weakening of the glands and organs, and even the so called "kundalini syndrome". Physical exercises or work outs can greatly alleviate these side-effects by circulating the energy evenly throughout the body and "squeezing out" excess ones.
Many physical work-out options, that were scientifically developed and already proven to be safe and helpful, are readily available such calisthenics, aerobics, swimming, cycling, dancing, and the good old plain brisk walking, jogging or running, among other things. In fact, these are the only exercises we recommend in conjunction with the suggested advanced meditational practises suggested in a previous reading list.
Yoga has also become a popular alternative work-out option these days but, in our opinion, it is more complicated than how most people think about it. There are issues surrounding it that should be understood first before one jumps into a yoga class. One must bear in mind that the ancient Indian Yogis and Sages did not develop this as a mere gym work-out option to lose weight or tone our muscles or achieve cardio-vascular health; Yoga is a comprehensive spiritual system, and the physical component - the asanas- is just small fragment of it. To practise it independently and ignore the other components might be dangerous to the modern westerner.
Unknown to many, the yoga asanas or postures function like a human mandala or a yantra (geometrical shapes formed by the postures) that act as pranic generators. The postures appear to shape like animals, but in fact these are geometrical formation of the nadis (or energy meridians within the body) that stimulate certain chakras, direct pranic flow in certain areas of the body, and focus the kundalini force in certain areas of the body (through the geometrical patterns formed by the chakras and the pranic flow).
Health implications: Chakras directly affect the glands of the body, as well as the nervous system. Imbalances lead to diseases, libido and hormonal issues, emotional states, and psychological aberrations.
So if one feels uncomfortable with a posture or is unsure on how these postures affect one's chakras or how it will affect one's existing health condition, better stop the practise and just settle for the more traditional forms of work-out. Unless of course, one is ready to embrace the whole spiritual system and disciplines associated with yoga (and not practise asanas as an end in itself) under an able guru or yoga master, in that way will it only be safe to "play with one's fire".
Yoga in its simplest meaning connote union or unity with the Divine, or the Supreme Spirit, or with one's higher Self or Soul (Self realization). It is a comprehensive spiritual system or disciplines that started in India around 3,000 BCE (or maybe much earlier). In the West, the term "Yoga" is often associated to the series of physical postures known as "asanas" and several breathing exercises called "pranayamas", but is disconnected from its philosophical system and its higher practices. It is ridiculous to think that the mere physical postures or breathing can lead to its lofty aims. Therefore, it is but logical to assume that there are other processes involved and that it is not practised as an end in itself (stand-alone) but in conjunction (or as a preparation) to other integrated disciplines, as well.
Indeed, there are other branches or schools of yoga. Some authors classify them as four, and some seven. The enumeration below is based on the classification of Wallace Slater (with quotation marks, from him):
1."Hatha yoga- which is based on control of the physical body to open it to the cosmic energy (prana) by breathing (pranayama) and physical exercises (asanas)." Under hatha yoga, you can find several schools or brands. Usually, they prefix it with the name of the teacher or the tradition from where it came from, or from a quality that characterizes the style. It could range from (as an example) "scooby-do yoga", "freezing yoga", or "super duper yoga", etc..
2. "Laya yoga- which works on the psychic centres (chakras) to awaken the primordial cosmic energy of the individual (Kundalini)." From under this school came the many schools of kundalini yoga and kriya yoga brands in existence today.
3. "Mantra yoga- which makes use of the repetition of certain words and phrases to steady the mind." Many eastern meditation schools were derived from this type of yoga. Christian devotional practises such as the Rosary and the Gregorian chants seemed to be influenced by this yoga.
4. "Jnana yoga- which seeks to effect union of higher and lower by a change of thought, resulting from the attainment of deep understanding of the working of the laws of the universe (Yoga of Knowledge)". Penetrative reasoning, discourses, and the Socratic methods of classical philosophers belong to this category.
5. "Bhakti yoga- which seeks to effect union by a change of one's emotional consciousness through devotion to an ideal (Yoga of Devotion)". Many religions that use rites, hymns, dances, and devotional love for the deity belong to this approach.
6. "Karma yoga- which seeks to effect union by control of one's actions from the inner spiritual Self (Yoga of Action)". People who dedicate their lives to causes, advocacies, and selfless service, (even though not belonging to any organized religions) are unconsciously practising this type of yoga.
7. "Raja Yoga- the earliest and most scientific treatment of the subject of self transformation for the attainment of union with the Real, the Eternal." It uses the mind and the will to align the lower self (personality) with the Soul, and it encompasses the other yogas enumerated above, in a systematic, calculated, and progressive manner.
The suggested reading list are as follows:
- Hatha Yoga: A Simplified Course
by Wallace Slater
This small book is highly recommended for those wishing to try or practice the yoga asanas (postures) and pranayama (control of breath) for the first time in a simplified and safe manner. It suggested only 7 essential postures for stretching and toning to ensure spinal and nervous health. For those who are serious and wants to practice with a class, we suggest to look for a local center of either the Ananda Marga Yoga or the Sivananda Yoga Centres due to their long and deep experience on this ancient discipline. Avoid instructors who treat yoga asanas lightly, or only as among one of those gym work out options.
In one wishes to go the DIY route and use this book effectively, one should purchase supplemental materials because it contains very little graphical illustrations. So either get a video CD/DVD or carefully browse available free materials in youtube.com or buy a standard yoga book with lots of illustrative pictures. Imitate the step-by-step procedures in going into a pose or asana, but follow the program outlined in Slater's book, not from your supplemental materials.
Important things to remember in hatha yoga self-practice:
- One should not have any medical conditions that will make challenging physical movements hazardous to one's well-being
- Work and move slowly in going to a pose or asana. No abrupt, jerky, or fast movements. Comfy room temperature, not hot or cold.
- In going out of a pose or standing up, make sure to move slowly and lean on your side first (fetal position) before slowly straightening up or standing up (on your knees first). This will protect the lower back and the spine
- Always rest on the corpse pose (savasana) after each asana.
- Raja Yoga: A Simplified Course
by Wallace Slater
If one wants to have a glimpse of real meditation or Raja Yoga (or the Royal Road) and try some of its practices without any serious commitment, this is the book to grab. It introduces simple exercises for practicing the yamas (values for internal purification), niyamas (observances for self-discipline), pratyahara (sensory restraint), dharana (concentration), dyana (meditation), and even tips for achieving samadhi (contemplation), all as part of a daily program. However, if one is serious about the path of Raja Yoga for achieving mental development, meditation, and Soul alignment, see the more comprehensive reading list, List-5: Advanced meditation techniques.
- Esoteric Healing by Alice A Bailey
There will be times when a seeker is confronted by illness. This books is a comprehensive treatise on the psychological, occult, and karmic causes of disease, its purpose, and the corresponding requirements and rules for healing. The physical causes diagnosed by a physician are often but a reflection of inner causes explained in this important work. Without addressing the inner causes, healing will only be temporary and superficial.
- Esoteric Healing: A Practical Guide
by Alan Hopking
The materials in this book are based on the ideas presented in Alice A. Bailey's excellent book. It tries to make practical the concepts and suggestions for esoteric healing. It also contains detailed instruction on administering a typical esoteric healing session based on the author's own innovative interpretations, experiences, and training program.
- The Ancient Science and Art
of Pranic Healing by Master Choa Kok Sui
Pranic healing is systematic and practical and can be learned easily by reading this book and doing the suggested experiments, compared with other healing systems that need an initiation or attunements from a master before they can work. In short, to our mind, pranic healing techniques are more empowering. The book also clearly explains where prana is coming from, how to generate it, and methods to direct it systematically to a patient's etheric body or bio-magnetic field. In other systems, it all depends on the attunement made by a master and the use of secret symbols/scripts but don't explain how the healing energies are generated or sourced; everything is based on faith and on the "universe" on how healing is achieved.
- Theories of the Chakras:
Bridge to Higher Consciousness by Hiroshi Motoyama
Dr. Motoyama introduced the theories of the existence and functions of the chakras from the point of view of various traditions, and at the same time performed scientific experiments of his own using accupunture machines to detect the energy points' magnetic fields. Asanas, mudras, pranayamas, and bandhas (muscular locks) were presented in the book and their effects on the chakras, the energies of the body, and on human consciousness. We believe these were made part of the book just to show his experimental design or procedures done to gather data regarding the chakras, and were not necessarily there as instructions to be tried by any reader, without the guidance of a competent teacher or expert.
- Your Sacred Anatomy:
An Owner's Guide to the Human Energy Structure by Desda Zuckerman
This is a detailed exposition of the human energy structure that included the 13 chakras, 7 layers of the soul and anatomical systems, the 9 frequencies that hold them together, among many other things. The author uses some terminologies not commonly used in related literatures or genres. The contents will interest energetic practitioners, healing professionals, and spiritual seekers. Aside from revealing the underlying systems, mechanics, and subtle anatomy of the soul, it presented specific exercises to awaken your consciousness. Rich in charts, diagrams, and vibrant color illustrations of the human energy field. This is a fresh addition to the study of human's energetic anatomy in mainstream esoteric sciences.
- The Art of True Healing
by Israel Regardie
Dr. Regardie offers an alternative method for maintaining health of the etheric body or the human bio-magnetic field, for those who find the other energetic methods too complicated to follow. Commonly known as the "middle pillar" technique that uses symbols, colors, and active visualization, the body's energies are put into motion and circulated to bring about a healthy auric atmosphere that promotes well-being and healing. In many Western magical and qabalistic traditions, the middle pillar technique contained in this book, is considered to be the basic energetic practice for the neophyte wishing to pursue higher magical work.
- The Third Eye: A Universal Secret
Revealed by Master Del Pe
An important and pioneering contribution of the author to the entire field of modern esoteric sciences by introducing for the first time in mainstream literature the spiritual technology involved in developing a person's "third eye". Prior to this, what were repeatedly passed off as a "how-to" method for supposedly awakening the 3rd eye usually revolves around self-hypnosis (going down to the Alpha or Theta level brain waves) or the stimulation of the Ajna chakra between the eyebrows. The "third eye", as it turned out, is not just the Ajna chakra as we know it but is an integration of several chakras and spiritual cords that form the so called "spiritual third eye apparatus". Prior serious esoteric authors, such as Alice A. Bailey and Torkom Saraydarian corroborated the fact in their books but they preferred not to elaborate on the actual techniques involved.
The book also discussed how the alchemy of the Kundalini fire and Soul's light are important to fuel this apparatus. The framework and techniques for developing the third eye was presented in a step-by-step approach. It also revealed, through diagrams, the changes that will occur in our energetic design and spiritual anatomy as we enter the Aquarian age.
If a student is serious to pursue this path, we suggest that they enrol into the program and study directly under the training institute of Master Del Pe, apart from reading the book. This will make their training safe since this involves alchemizing the various internal fires in one's body. They also offer various courses in energetic practices such energy healing science, antakharana building, meditation, and cultivating the chakras and the kundalini fire. Contact them at the Belife Institute for Higher Consciousness (BIHC).
- Hidden Dangers of Meditation
and Yoga by Master Del Pe
This is a highly recommended companion for those practising energy cultivation techniques, such as chi kung, advanced pranayama, the Taoist micro-cosmic orbit circulation, and kundalini activation methods. It outlines a complete discussion of our energetic anatomy, as well as the techniques and sound practices on how to prevent the so called "kundalini syndrome" and other physical or psychological damage arising from it. Ideally, teachers, instructors, gurus, or groups offering kundalini activation programs should be responsible for fixing a messed-up practitioner; it is their moral duty. However, if one falls victim to irresponsible activation programs or workshops, or even misinformed self-directed practice, this book could be very helpful. Or better, even before starting any energetic work, one can consult with the theories and practices presented in this book.
- Awaken the Healing Light of Tao
by Mantak Chia
As an alternative to risky practices such as kundalini yoga, the Taoist internal alchemy system (Taoist yoga) teaches an energy cultivation practice known as the "micro-cosmic orbit meditation" to bring about health of the etheric or energy body and physical well-being. There are instructions from the book to follow so one can easily generate "navel chi" and circulate it to the various meridians or accupuncture points within the body to prevent blockages, congestions or depletions that cause illnessess. However, we feel that the advanced method given in the book for generating and circulating the "heavenly chi" and those from the constellation is a bit too much for individual or unguided practice done for the mere purpose of maintaining one's health.
If one is really serious in pursuing this path as a method of spiritual development, it is important to check out too the following materials by the same author: Fusion of the Five Elements (Part 1), Cosmic Fusion: The Inner Alchemy of the Eight Forces(Part 2), and Fusion of the Eight Psychic Channels (Part 3). These will enable the entire meridians of the energy body to be opened and be "unblocked" to receive cosmic and kundalini forces.
And the most important advice of all is to study and enrol under the supervision of Taoist experts so as to be safe in practicing higher and advanced energy work. Contact the Universal Healing Tao System of Master Mantak Chia for details. Michael Winn's group is Healing Tao USA. Or the Dragon Gate Sanctuary of Master Lao Xie Christopher Lee Matsuo. Support groups and forums that we know of are as follows: The Dao Bums: Discussion on The Way, and Healing Tao USA General Forum.
- Open Kriya Yoga by Ennio Nimis
The site offers free manuals and video instructions for download on the theory and practice of Kriya Yoga. They are coming from the synthesis of the author's personal experience for many years. This system is popularized in the West by Sri Yogananda in his book, "Autobiography of a Yogi" and by other disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya's lineage. The Kriya yoga system consists of a number of levels of pranayama, mantra, and mudra based on techniques intended to rapidly accelerate spiritual development. But practitioners argue that the system is not meant to directly activate the kundalini sacred fire, but rather just to purify and cleanse the spinal column and other meridians of the energy body to prepare for the raising of the kundalini, which only the Atma or Soul or God can activate at the right time.
Some of the more popular support groups or forums we found are as follows: Advanced yoga practices, Yoga Forums, JC Stevens site.
Self-study guide (or the suggested Self-directed training program) because we believe that they can never be done safely via a DIY (do-it-yourself) model. The dangers are real because we are dealing here with "internal fires" that can burn our bodies and lead to various physical and psychological issues. If a student/seeker wishes to pursue the energetic development path, we suggest that he/she finds an esoteric school or seek the help, mentorship, or training from a teacher who's an expert in this field. The informational references below are listed only for the purpose of having an understanding of the theoretical framework involved, and getting an overview and a balanced perspective on how all internal energy cultivation systems work together. Links were also provided for those wishing to contact the best schools along those lines. Check the risks first and be responsible for your decisions.
Alternatively, the non-energetic methods presented in the self-study guide use creative meditation techniques instead of using direct stimulation of the chakra system through energy work. Those creative mental methods are much slower but safer and can be done DIY (do-it-yourself) without the need for supervision of a qualified Teacher because they hinge on building the bridge to the Soul first via meditation, and letting the Soul, on his own volition, to develop and balance our chakras to whatever configuration is best for us, when alignment is reached.