This year (I think it’s my fifth time in Helsinki), we have decided to add a dedicated chanting class to our program. Chanting is one of my favorite practices. Within Ashtanga Yoga, it falls under the category of svadhyaya, and has a wide range of benefits that are emotional, psychological, and physical, all while directing our awareness inward. In this class we will be chanting the Lakshmi Ashtakam, the Eight Verses to Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of Prosperity, both material and spiritual. It is melodic and meaningful, and is a devotional practice that you can add to your daily sadhana.
Adyanta rahite Devi adyashakti Maheshvari | Yogaje yogasambhute Mahalakshmi Namostu’te
“Salutations to the great Goddess, who is without beginning or end; the primordial energy behind all creation; salutations to Devi Mahalakshmi, who is born out of Yoga, and who is always united with Yoga.”
Over the past few years in Helsinki we have spoken quite a lot about Samkhya and Yoga, specifically chapter two of the Yoga Sutras. This year we are going to dive a little into chapter three, called the Vibhuti Pada, or the chapter on accomplishments, or perfection. The Vibhuti Pada discusses the final three limbs of Ashtanga Yoga: concentration, meditation, and samadhi. One of the controversial aspects of this chapter are the many powers that Patanjali speaks about that the Yogi can attain by concentrating on particular objects. He states, towards that end of the chapter, that the powers are an obstacle to enlightenment, so the yogi should be wary of them, and this is one of the reasons why this chapter is not dwelled on at length in most of the Yogic literature.
However, while the powers may be an obstacle to enlightenment, they are not an obstacle to experiencing the world, and Patanjali indeed also says, earlier in the Sutras, that the world exists for two purposes: experience, and liberation. In these lectures we will look into the process that gives these attainments, and some of the attainments that are very useful for having a positive experience of the world we live in. For example:
“Through deep meditation on friendliness and other similar virtues, one obtains great strength (of virtues)”.
In the Vibhuti Pada, Patanjali takes us on a journey from the exploration of time, to an understanding of the present moment, and all of the phenomena that takes place in between.1
It is always great fun (and great honor!) to work with GOOP and try to answer the yoga and science questions they throw at me. This installation: the multifaceted vagus nerve. I hope it’s basically correct!
What’s important to know about the vagus nerve, and how it affects our overall health?
Emotion, stress, inflammation, heart rate, blood pressure, vocal expression, digestion, brain-heart communication, adaptivity, epilepsy. What do these things all have in common? The vagus nerve. It allows for communication between the brain, inner body, emotions, and world. The vagus nerve takes its name from Latin—it means wandering, like vagabond. It is the longest and most complex of the cranial nerves. Most of the cranial nerves (there are twelve), stimulate or direct only one or two particular functions; for example, the first cranial nerve controls our sense of smell, the second our sense of sight. The vagus, however, which is the tenth cranial nerve, extends from the brain stem down into the trachea, larynx, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, pancreas, and intestines. Among its many, many functions, the vagus stimulates the voluntary muscles that effect speech and expression (which is why Darwin called it the nerve of emotion); it’s associated with digestion and relaxation of the GI tract; it slows the heart rate and reduces inflammation. It is the oldest branch of our parasympathetic nervous system, and carries within it imprints of hundreds of thousands of years of the evolutionary imperative that we all have within us to feel safe, connected, and loved.
An earlier GOOP article on Yoga and aging (an excerpt from the book GOOP Clean Beauty) can be found here2
Please join us for an exciting one-day pop-up Yoga + Science conference that will bring together the brightest minds doing scientific research on yoga and meditation’s effects on cellular regeneration, longevity, consciousness and health. Internationally recognized speakers will describe their own groundbreaking research, demonstrate models integrating eastern and western perspectives, and provide practical guidance for ways in which research evidence supports specific yoga practices. What can the yogis learn from science, and what can science learn from the yogis? Find out during this one day event!
Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts @ LIU Brooklyn, One University Plaza 112011