Yoga is a living science - one that has evolved over thousands of years and continues to evolve in accordance with the needs of humanity. One of the most important figures in its recent development has been Swami Sivananda. This great Indian master trained and worked as a Doctor before renouncing the world for the spiritual path. A man of prodigious energy and strength, he published over 300 books, pamphlets and journals, bringing the authority of his medical background to bear on the teachings of yoga, while explaining the most complex philosophical subjects in straightforward terms.
In addition to establishing an Ashram and a Yoga Academy, Swami Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society in 1935, dedicated to the ideals of truth, purity, non-violence and self-realisation. At his Ashram in Rishikesh, he trained many exceptional discipes in yoga and Vedanta - among them Swami Vishnudevananda, whom he sent to spread the practice of yoga in the West.
Swami Vishnudevananda arrived in San Francisco in 1957 and travelled for several years throughout the United States, lecturing and demonstrating asanas, before establishing an International network of Sivananda Yoga Centres and Ashrams.
As well as being one of the foremost exponents of Raja and Hatha Yoga in the world, Swami Vishnudevananda was also actively dedicated to the cause of peace and universal brotherhood - on one of his peace missions in 1971, he piloted a small plane to the troublespots of the world - Belfast, the Suez Canal and Lahore, West Pakistan - "bombarding" them with leaflets calling for an end to violence.
A teacher of great personal dynamism, Swami Vishnudevananda inspired thousands of students at his Ashrams and changed the lives of many more through his writings. By closely observing the lifestyles and needs of people in the West, he synthesised the ancient wisdom of yoga into five basic principals that can easily be incorporated into your own pattern of living, to provide the foundation of a long, healthy life.
It is around these five principles, that the framework of Ripple Retreats are based. For additional information on Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda and their teachings, please visit the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre website.
The Five Points of Yoga
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a complete science of life that originated in India many thousands of years ago. It is the oldest system of personal development in the world, encompassing body, mind and spirit.
'Yoga' means union of the mind, body and spirit with the Divine and while this refers to a certain state of conciousness both individual and Universal, it is also a method to help one reach that goal.
- Proper Exercise (Asanas) - Yoga poses help develop a strong, healthy body by enhancing flexibility and improving circulation.
- Proper Breathing (Pranayama) - Deep, conscious breathing reduces stress and many diseases.
- Proper Relaxation - Helps keep the body from going into overload mode, easing worry and fatigue.
- Proper Diet - Eating simple, healthy and vegetarian foods that are easy to digest notably have a positive effect on the mind and body, as well as the environment and other living beings.
- Positive Thinking (Vedanta) and Meditation (Dhyana) - These are the true keys to achieving peace of mind and eliminating negativity in our lives.
Swami Vishnudevananda elaborated by explaining that
"...Yoga, the oldest science of life, can teach you to bring stress under control - not only on a physical level, but on mental and spiritual levels too. The human body can be compared to a car. There are five things that any automobile needs to run properly, whether it is a Rolls Royce or a rusty old car - lubrication, a cooling system, electric current, fuel and a sensible driver behind the wheel.
In Yoga, the asanas or postures lubricate the body. They keep the muscles and joints running smoothly, tone all the internal organs and increase circulation without creating fatigue. The body is cooled by completerelaxation, whilst pranayama or yogic breathing increases prana, the electric current. Fuel is provided by food, water and the air you breathe. Lastly you have meditation which stills the mind, the driver of the body. By meditating, you learn to control and ultimately transcend the body - your physical vehicle."
Swami Vishnudevananda from The Sivananda Companion to Yoga
The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta website is a wonderful resource for additional information.
Content reproduced with permission of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre