“If we want our Earth to be a safe place to live on, then we have to work with love. It’s a very simple interchange. It’s not even very profound; it’s pure physics.” – Yeva Gladwin
As we begin our exploration of the enchanting Tree of Yoga (or Yoga Tree), it may help to consider that the true purpose of yoga aligns us with love, not religion.
If you want to learn about traditional yoga philosophy, religion and ritualistic practices, visit India. Immerse yourself in Hindu culture in its home territory of India. Visit Rishikesh, the birth place of yoga. Understand that yoga has African roots, while the system of yoga that’s been shared with the world was developed and disseminated by sages, writers and doctors from India—a system that’s been some 5,000 years in the making.
Yoga and sacred dance can be traced back to Atlantis. Sacred movement rituals exist in all cultures decorating our globe.
Renowned Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi said that love ends all arguments, while contemporary global coach and spiritual teacher Robert Holden used yogic terminology to describe love as “the cessation of suffering.” Love ends all suffering, and Yoga was a technology given to humanity to alleviate suffering in our world. What is Yoga? Yoga restrains the modifications of the mind-stuff, according to the second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It’s the modifications of the mind-stuff (fear) that is said to cause all suffering. Just as the word “black” describes the absence of colour, the word “fear” describes the absence of love.
The technological aspect of Yoga becomes clear when we begin to work with the body. Working with the mind feels more nebulous, though after a physical yoga practice we tend to feel energized and less strained, while clear thinking is within our grasp. Each time we consciously direct our thoughts, we practice Yoga. Distinctions need only be made when we direct our thoughts in the absence of love.
In Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the first sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he writes, “Mere philosophy will not satisfy us. We cannot reach the goal by mere words alone. Without practice, nothing can be achieved.”
Yoga is a mental, physical and spiritual practice, which is why we call Yoga a mind-body-spirit discipline.
Yoga, first and foremost, requires practice. Practice requires discipline. An understanding of the body’s energy system—using the Chakra model—gives us insight into how we can direct our thoughts and actions in the presence of love, paying particular attention to the heart chakra. Chakras are typically thought of as wheels or vortices of energy. Perhaps this could explain why contemporary raja yoga teacher Esther Hicks calls enlightenment The Vortex. Enlightenment, Hicks insists, is temporary. Yoga teaches us methods to expand these temporary states of enlightenment through thought alone, without needing worldly (or material) stimulation. Here’s where Yoga dances a fine line with asceticism, and where an unconventional exposition of the eight wisdom traditions of Yoga comes into play. Loosely, we’re looking at Yoga through the lens of a tree. Relax into this meditation on ideas, and use your imagination to conjure your own interpretations of the material.
Raja Yoga, often referred to as Ashtanga Yoga, denotes the study of the mind and thus forms the roots of our proverbial Yoga Tree. Without The Mind, in essence, nothing could exist. Here we see Yoga converge with Hermetics, which asserts that the universe is mental. The overlap continues on into physics when English physicist, astronomer and mathematician Sir James Jeans noted that, “… the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.” For whatever reason, capitalism (that is, Christian Conservative Commerce) is clinging to outdated Newtonian science and didn’t catch onto that one. Jeans lived from 1877 to 1946. All good scientists know that their work is merely a stepping stone and can be proved wrong or insufficient at any time. The problem isn’t with science; the problem is with ego. Ego is a focusing mechanism. We can focus our resolve through love or fear. Either influences its own kaleidoscope of experiences. Prolonged fear corrupts ego.
In 1930, astronomer, physicist and mathematician Sir Arthur Eddington added the following statement to the discussion: “It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character.”
Raja yoga addresses the physics, or mental character of our universe, and thus underpins the cosmic nature of yoga. Upwards of 200 sutras (or threads of knowledge) go on to explain the workings of the mind as expounded by the great yogic sage Patanjali some 2,500 years ago—with only two of these sutras addressing the physical practice of yoga as we know it in the West today.
Moving upwards, we find Bhakti, Jnana and Karma Yoga in no particular order forming the trunk of our Yoga Tree. Bhakti speaks of our devotion to Love—our connection to what Esther Hicks calls our inner being, and what Louise Hay called her inner ding; the Source, as it were, of Creation. Bhakti yoga connects us to our brilliance within the context of the Great Mystery, and soothes the amnesia we experience upon our birth into this physical reality.
Traditionally Jnana yoga covers the study of sacred scriptures and texts in relation to self-inquiry. In the Aquarian Age, self-inquiry (or self-development) is as nonoptional as exercise, and liberates us (moksha) from the bounds of indoctrination. Jnana yoga sets us free to roam the individual path amidst juicy oneness. Think cooperation.
Paramahansa Yogananda called Yoga the science of self-realization, while contemporary master yoga teacher Anand Mehrotra said, “Yoga is the spiritual heritage of humanity.”
In other words, how we train our minds is both individual and irrelevant. The best any of us can do is share our methods without attachment. Krishnamacharya, for example, influenced yoga and repurposed asana (or the physical practice of yoga) to suit the temperament of the twentieth century, inspiring the likes of Indra Devi, K. Pattabhi Jois, and B.K.S. Iyengar (to name a few methods from which newer methods arise). Anything we call “New Age”—including mantra, chanting or reciting affirmations, and even accessing angelic assistance—would fall under the category of repurposing Jnana yoga with respect to methods. Note that what Yoga calls “weapons of consciousness” are a division of Jnana yoga. I consider angels a weapon of consciousness. Yoga refers to the fairies, or nature angels, as devas. The difference between angelic and devic realms is ego. On the one hand, apparently, angels are pure love consciousness and don’t fall prey to fear. Referencing the khanda, or sword, Love doesn’t discriminate. Fairies, on the other hand, are mischievous and apparently haunt big business moguls in their dreams.
Vedanta (a Hindu philosophy based on the doctrine of the Upanishads) appeared first on the timeline, followed by the more empirical offerings of Patanjali. Patanjali, it’s worth mentioning, is as elusive as Shakespeare.
When we hear the word “karma,” often we think in terms of punishment and reward, but Karma yoga refers to the action and intention (or samkalpa) of heart-centered living—what Esther Hicks would call enlightenment or being in The Vortex. The late, great Dr. Wayne W. Dyer said, “Enlightenment is the quiet acceptance of what is.” In 2004, Dyer published a book titled The Power of Intention. In this book, Dyer reimagined intention as a “force in the universe that allows the act of creation to take place.” The book “explores intention—not as something you do—but as an energy you’re a part of.” Dyer was inspired by the following words in Carlos Castaneda’s book The Power of Silence: “In the universe there is an unmeasurable, indescribable force which sorcerers call intent, and absolutely everything that exists in the entire cosmos is attached to intent by a connecting link.” Sorcerers are concerned not only with understanding and explaining that connecting link, but also with “cleansing the numbing effects brought about” (Castaneda) by living at ordinary levels of consciousness (Dyer). I can’t help but contemplate the inverse hypothesis; imagine instead that love is the invisible energy we’re apart of, whereas intention is the invisible connecting link. I see it as the difference between benevolence and malevolence. When we’re consciously connected to the flow of love, we attune our body instruments to inspired action, what Esther Hicks calls guided action. You cannot abuse your power or inflict unconscious harm upon others when under the influence of extraordinary levels of consciousness—that is, under the influence of love.
Knowing the location of the heart chakra and the science of placing a hand on the heart opens the doorway to a heart-centered life. Placing the hands together in Anjali Mudra (hand gesture of appreciation), harmonizes the right and left hemispheres of the brain, thus establishing mental coherence. Next, placing the connected hands with the thumbs resting on the sternum, or heart chakra, energizes the connection between the neurons in the heart and the neurons in the brain. The Vagus nerve connects the brain to the heart and all other vital organs of the body. When we relax the tongue away from the roof of the mouth and rest it on the floor of the mouth, the hypoglossal nerve in the tongue sends a signal to a nerve plexus at the back of the skull next to the Vagus nerve. The Vagus nerve then sends a signal to let the heart and all other vital organs know that the body is calm and safe now. This simple exercise consciously relaxes the nervous system. You can’t be angry or afraid and relaxed simultaneously.
Maintaining focus on the breath stills the awareness and distracts the mind so that oxygen can interact with both the brain and the lungs. When we breathe deeply, that oxygen then interacts with the blood in the lower lungs, and the heart then circulates that freshly oxygenated blood throughout the body.
According to physics, each cell in the body is a biological circuit with positive and negative charges (that is, a battery), which indicates polarity. Each cell is a capacitor, a resistor, as well as a transmitter and receiver; each cell absorbs and emits photons of light from the universe; each cell “radio” tunes, so to speak, to wavelengths; each cell has the ability to self-regulate; and to borrow Dr. Deepak Chopra’s words, each cell is a nonlocal point of consciousness having a local experience. Our cells are mere fractals of ourselves. When we distract the mind from mental disturbances by focusing on the breath, we improve cellular communication, meaning that the cells can do their jobs without us mentally interfering with the chemical, electrical and molecular processes of our bodies.
Heart-centered living allows the cells of our bodies to be in their natural states of intelligence, and underscores the importance of mind and body getting along. In Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the forty-seventh sutra of Book Two of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he wrote, “the mind ultimately has to obey us because it needs the body’s cooperation in order to get anything.” Karma yoga, thus, is the first on our Tree of Yoga to examine the mind-body-spirit interchange.
Continuing up our Tree of Yoga, we find Tantra Yoga serving as the stem from which all other limbs branch. Often, when we hear the word “tantra,” we think in terms of tantric sex (as in the Kamasutras), but neither refer solely to sex. Tantra yoga embraces sex, as well as all pleasurable sensory experiences, but only in the sense of celebrating life. Tantra refers to what Raja Choudhury calls the “throbbing, vibrating universe of Shiva-Shakti,” and focuses on the Shakti or goddess energy of existence. When broken down, tan means energy while tra indicates expansion. In keeping with the cosmic nature of yoga, Tantra addresses the pulsating/contracting expansion of our universe, and how that pulse lives within us. Two steps forward, one step back.
Long before corroborating evidence existed in astrophysics, ancient yogis envisioned the center of creation as an unmanifested cosmic womb—what we now know today in science as a black hole. Tantra yoga savours life without attaching to sensory experiences. Sensory experiences rise and fall like the Sun amidst the creative pulse of our universe. We feel this creative pulse in our sinuses, our hearts, and our loins. These creative pulses, or rockets of desire as Esther Hicks calls them, launch out of us and into the universe. Consciousness inspires these pulses from deep within our beings, while the universe merely responds. It’s not our job to cling to sensory experiences, but rather to be nourished by the mere thought and feeling of them, and let this psychoemotional nourishment be enough—for now. Step one, you launch the desire; step two, the universe responds. Step two isn’t your job. We don’t experience water by gripping it; we experience water by relaxing and playing within it.
In scientific terms, you can flood the body with growth hormones through thought alone. Experiences delivered back to us are contingent upon our connection to intentional or heart-centered living. Think appreciation. Mind nourishment directly affects our energy and shifts our vibrational frequency upwards. When we increase what Esther Hicks calls our personal vibrational countenance, we attract in life what we desire. We fulfill our dharma, or more accurately, our divine life purpose. It’s not about stuff; it’s about service. Karma.
From here our Tree of Yoga directly addresses the energy of existence with Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini energy is often likened to a serpent rising up the spine—or central Shushumna energy channel that is said to house the chakras in the etheric body—from root (or base of spine) to crown. Envision the caduceus. The energetic lila, dance of Shiva and Shakti, then bursts through the crown where it merges with the cosmic, universal forces of the Great Mystery. This is where we see the spontaneous, ecstatic movement of ultimate receptivity come into play; Spirit as master puppeteer. Operative word, play.
Note here that the caduceus, or Staff of Hermes, is a contemporary symbol in medicine but an ancient symbol in astrology. Think Egypt. Creation (and thus our universe), in Hermetics, is a mind. Hundreds of years ago, doctors used astrology to heal people. Kings used astrology to wage wars. Our ancestors tracked the stars for hundreds of thousands of years.
The Greek word psyche means “soul.” The mind is a soul. All mystical wisdom traditions are founded upon ancient psychological study. Ology means “study.” Before psychology appeared as a scientific study in Germany in 1879, astrology studied the soul. But, from approximately 1231 A.D. to 1826 A.D., we burned the so-called witches during the 600-year Inquisitions, and we had to hide astrology (study of the soul)—which had been operating in the underground occult scene—in modern-day convoluted academia to satisfy the Christians and their brethren the nonspiritual atheists. The more recent genocides of North and South American Indigenous peoples are extensions of the European witch hunts. The joke here is that the nonspiritual, or as I like to call them—Christian Atheists—are unwittingly advancing the agenda of fundamentalist Christian conservatism. We’re talking racism, assimilation, marginalization, classism, colonialism and capitalism here. If your mind can make the leap, we’d call the systemic oppression driven by political and economic ideology, as well as religious and scientific dogma, White Supremacy. Read chapter 5 of Thomas King’s book The Inconvenient Indian for a more thorough yet mouthy investigation of Christianity and Commerce. Here we see sacred activism embedded within Yoga. We could be generous and call it journalism. Caring in this instance requires attuning to the love that flows freely from the heart chakra.
Traditionally there are seven chakras we work with in contemporary yoga:
First – Muladhara/Root (red)
Second – Svadhishthana/Sacral (orange)
Third – Manipura/Solar Plexus (“jewel in the city,” yellow)
Fourth – Anahata/Heart (green, pink)
Fifth – Vishuddha/Throat (sky blue)
Sixth – Ajna/Brow (indigo blue)
Seventh – Sahasrara/Crown (violet, diamond white)
Notice that the colours associated with each chakra match the colours found in the spectrum of light, which is divided into seven colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called “visible light.” Quantum mechanics—the world’s most truthful and empirically verified science—tells us that matter appears as particles with observation, but appears as waves without. Science has known for two hundred years that photons of light display the nature of quantum mechanical phenomena. Electrons, atoms and molecules all show the same behaviour. Refer to Thomas Young’s “double-slit experiment” from 1801, which demonstrated that light and matter can exhibit characteristics of both waves and particles, for more information.
Shamans in Central and South American cultures work with an eighth chakra, which they call the luminous body or luminous energy field. It is this energy field where all mental healing takes place. Yoga and Shamanism, I insist, are cousins. The ancient yogis and shamans were cousins.
Although it would be misleading to state that pranayama breathing techniques fall solely under the realm of Kriya Yoga, the Kriya limb of our Yoga Tree develops the various breathing techniques (like India developed Yoga), then hands them out to the various other branches, including tantra, kundalini, hatha and even nada yoga. Prana refers to life force. Kriya suggests cleansing techniques to balance the chakras, or body’s energy system. I typically count breathing and chanting as part of my daily kriyas, and I even recite affirmations in English (using Louise Hay’s affirmation theory and mirror work principle) to reprogram what Wayne Dyer called the habitual mind. Science now tells us that 95 percent of human behaviour originates from the habitual mind, meaning that 5 percent of our behaviour is conscious. Fortunately, the habitual (or subconscious) mind, can be reprogrammed. Think neuroplasticity.
It’s also worth mentioning here that Paramahansa Yogananda died in 1952 with a perfectly preserved body. He practiced traditional Kriya Yoga daily. Mortuary Director of Forest Lawn Memorial-Park Harry T. Rowe of Los Angeles, California, reported the following:
“The physical appearance of Yogananda on March 27, just before the bronze cover of the casket was put into position, was the same as it had been on March 7. He looked on March 27 as fresh and as unravaged by decay as he had looked on the night of his death [March 7]. On March 27th there was no reason to say that his body had suffered any visible physical disintegration at all. For these reasons we state again that the case of Paramahansa Yogananda is unique in our experience.”
The great yogi demonstrated the value of yoga in life and in death.
Kriyas, or cleansing techniques, can also include the physical practice of postures. Tantra, kundalini and hatha yoga all utilize some variance of asana or movement to generate and direct energy in the physical body. Asana means “comfortable, steady position.” Yoga in general focuses on life-affirming movement (and in the case of tantra, connection) rooted in love.
Which brings us to the final branch of our Yoga Tree: Hatha Yoga. This is the yoga of movement. Hatha means “powerful” in Hindi, whereas it refers to the Sun (ha) and Moon (tha) in Sanskrit—referring to the balancing of masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) qualities in everything, particularly the human body. This is where science meets spirituality; the polarity of Shiva-Shakti. Hatha traditions range from ancient to contemporary (and any combination in between), while intensity levels vary from gentle to vigorous. Fitness-oriented interpretations of yoga generally fall short of balance and subtle energy body training—that is, mindful movement meditation. Yoga in this context has been rebranded and repurposed to a point where it’s not really yoga; at best, it’s strength training. Hatha yoga must be practiced regularly, preferably daily, to gain visceral, long-term benefit. To understand how the body relates to the mind, practice hatha yoga daily.
That said, our exploration of the Yoga Tree is not quite complete.
Making an encore appearance on our Tree of Yoga, we find Nada Yoga represented by the leaves. Here we’ll find meditation, the most esoteric practice of yoga, along with music and sound—which, like meditation, can take us into receptive trance or theta-like, hypnotic states. Children exist in the impressionable theta brain wavelength states for the first seven of their lives.
Notice how the branches of the Yoga Tree overlap with the leaves. To be fair, meditation finds a home in all mystical traditions, with scientific benefits available to anyone who meditates regularly regardless of spiritual or nonspiritual orientation. Meditation increases delta and theta wavelengths in the brain (boosting immunoglobulin production, and thus, the immune system), while decreasing the beta wavelengths responsible for provoking the antagonistic monkey mind that creates virtually all of humanity’s problems.
Yoga in general is a self-development tool, and (like raja yoga), meditation works directly with the mind, or the unseen. Yoga is said to be the Science of the Mind. In terms of thinking, we experience and receive both ordinary and extraordinary thoughts. The extraordinary thoughts, or Siddhis, are the esoteric elements of yoga; invisible, spiritual gifts not readily understood in what Lao-tzu called “the world of the ten thousand things.” In some Indigenous cultures, maturing Shamans must mentor under the tutelage of masters for seventeen years before they are allowed to use their siddhis, or spiritual gifts.
I find it interesting that those who dismiss the invisible reality of the Great Mystery, don’t often consider the invisible nature of thoughts and thinking. Where do thoughts come from? Why do some thoughts scare us, while other thoughts empower us? Once we’ve dealt with fearful, disempowering (albeit informative) thoughts, meditation stills and directs the mind back to its rightful home in the heart. Forty thousand sensory neurites, or brain cells, are found in the human heart. Science confirms that the electromagnetic field of the heart is prodigious compared to the brain, which begs the following sentiment: The most powerful and conceivably cosmic journey anyone will ever take is from the brain to the heart. Note that Yoga distinguishes between ordinary and divine love. Divine love encompasses romantic love, whereas romance is the spice of the universe. Nothing is authentic in the absence of divine love. Take no abuse, of course, but do no harm.
In all fairness, on that note, sociopathic impostures of empaths do run amok in our world, so skepticism and discernment are obviously warranted. Fear is, after all, a biological response. Nonetheless, in the 41st Verse of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu wrote:
A great scholar hears of the Tao
and begins diligent practice.
A middling scholar hears of the Tao
and retains some and loses some.
An inferior scholar hears of the Tao
and roars with ridicule.
Without that laugh, it would not be the Tao.
So there are constructive sayings on this:
The way of illumination seems dark,
going forward seems like retreat,
the easy way seems hard,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest art seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.
Anything we call “spiritual,” said physicist Nassim Haramein, is the physics we don’t yet understand—the physics of love. Another of Wayne Dyer’s books, You’ll See It When You Believe It, was endorsed by a guru from India, who sought Dyer out after reading it. Our beloved Science is only relatively recently discovering what yogis have known for millennia: Yoga illuminates the physics of love. Beyond appearances, we are all whippersnappers of love.
Featured Image by Zoltán Czékmány of Budapest, Hungary. Visit wildmindstudio.com.