Yoga: The Discipline of Transforming Oneself
“We believe that it is to make the yoga the ideal of human life that India rises today; by the yoga she will get the strength to realise her freedom, unity and greatness, by the yoga she will keep the strength to preserve it.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 8, p. 24)
Sri Aurobindo Society is a recognised member institution of the Indian Yoga Association, a premiere institution working for the advancement of Yoga and its applications.
IYA aims to bring together all yoga traditions and work as a self-regulatory body to facilitate activities of its member institutions. It provides extensive research facilities to carry out fundamental and clinical research and organises conferences and seminars on a variety of themes to promote the knowledge of this ancient science. IYA provides accreditation to Yoga institutions based on high standards of excellence. It continues to work on imparting various courses for dissemination of research and application of Yoga to various fields of life.
SAFIC Asana and Pranayama Classes
SAFIC, as the specialised unit of the Sri Aurobindo Society focusing on Indian Culture, organises and conducts regular yoga classes (asana and pranayama). These hour-long classes have been going on since November 26, 2018. SAFIC team member, Ranjana Swain is a certified yoga teacher conducts these classes. The classes are held six days a week, – three days in the morning, three days in the evening in order to cater to interested participants with different schedules. Generally, 20-25 participants from the local community as well as visitors to Pondicherry and Ashram attend these classes.
Feedback from the participants attending SAFIC Yogasana and Pranayama classes
- I have attended classes elsewhere. There is a difference in SAFIC classes. At SAFIC, we have a dedicated teacher, she concentrates on breathing technique, demonstrates the Asanas. The teacher corrects each one’s mistakes. Those having difficulty in certain Asanas, the teacher guides them with an easier technique. She explains the benefits of each posture and the corresponding glands that are activated in the body. The yoga teacher motivates every practitioner; she is excellent. Yoga practice has increased my energy level, flexibility and given a natural glow. The yoga teacher has taught lots of asana which I never considered doing earlier. Also, she encourages chanting mantras, (mainly the chakra purification mantra) which I had not done earlier.
- Yoga teacher at SAFIC is guiding us in proper way to follow the yoga practice.
- SAFIC classes are therapeutic.
- SAFIC classes are systematic and address the body, mind and soul.
- The punctuality and very disciplined approach in the class appeals to me the most. The teacher asks the practitioner to discover their potential and gradually improve upon it.
- These classes are systematic, punctual, and with personal attention and guidance, all of which make these classes highly relevant.
- The atmosphere in the class is good. Yoga teacher shows interest in improving individual yoga practice and corrects the mistakes if any.
- I feel in these 2 months, after yoga class, I feel more energy. Other yoga classes I did elsewhere made me feel tired. The teacher’s way of teaching is so beautiful and perfect.
- The complete sincere attitude of the teacher has helped me achieve better health. Her effort is terrific and I thank her for her individual attention. It has progressively helped my health.
- Our teacher’s sincerity, regularity, punctuality appeal the most to me.
- The teacher has the most dedicated approach.
- Punctual, orderly and every second is put to maximum benefit of the students and everyone’s needs are taken care of.
- The yoga acharya’s sincerity, dedication and commitment and she herself being a good practitioner. Also, her punctuality is admirable!
- Personal touch of the teacher with each and every student. She takes special care of each one.
SAFIC also organises specialised Mantra Yoga workshops, as well as mantra chanting sessions as part of its various other workshops and courses. The importance of Mantra Yoga lies in the fact that it helps improve all human activities, as mantra connects us with the whole life.
In our workshops and mantra chanting sessions, the aim is to help participants understand the nature of the mind, and the importance of concentration, attention and memory. The participants are introduced to the power of Mantra and the practice of Mantra yoga. There is also a session on the primal sounds, the beeja-akshara-s, which are at the basis of all Mantras.
Participants are also introduced to the art of listening to the pure sounds without any distortion or mind’s interpretation, which is the secret of success in the practice of Mantra Yoga. Omkara-sadhana, practice of mantras for the purification of different chakras or energy centers, and other collective chanting sessions are also included.
Chandoyoga is the program of healing through rhythmic sound patterns or sound movements. The Rishis and ancient poets of India consciously sought to mould the language to express higher truths through words, sounds and rhythms, thus leading Sanskrit to its sculpted perfection. The Chandas, or metre, is an important and highly developed tool reflecting such perfection. To the ancient Rishis, metre was not a lifeless formal construction but a representation of the great creative universal rhythms. These rhythms lend an aesthetic value in dance, music and language, thereby making one conscious of the beauty, harmony, symmetry and proportion present in nature. A neuroscientist and yoga teacher, Gabriel Axis states that ‘The Sanskrit language is code for the patterns of nature, sonic representations of the way nature works’.
The presence of Chandas in language has been since the Vedic times, embedded in hymns, mantras, songs and poetry. According to Acharya Bharata, the author of Natyashastra, “No speech is possible without chanda and a chanda without speech is equally impossible”. The Vedic mantras are said to hold scientifically structures metres, while also carrying with them the quality of resonance, which evoke certain movements of energy within the person who recites as well as who listens to them. The healing quality of mantras on the human system have been under scrutiny for the past few decades in the scientific community, which has discovered the innumerable benefits of chanting some of the popular mantras such as ‘Aum’ and the ‘Gayatri mantra’.
One can begin to wonder that if the chanting of verses in Vedic metres can be acknowledged for their benefits towards the health of human beings, then it may be possible that the metres (chandas) in Classical Sanskrit poetry also provide similar benefits to mankind.
Here the participants are introduced to the technique of chanting or singing Sanskrit verses composed in specific meters.
Designing Specialised Courses
SAFIC has designed three academic courses to highlight some specific applications of Yoga. These courses are a combination of theory and practical aspects of Yoga.
An Introduction to the Art and Science of Yoga
Not many people, including those in its land of origin, fully comprehend what the word ‘Yoga’ actually means, or all that it encompasses. This intensive course sheds light on the deeper meaning of Yoga, and its historical, philosophical and psychological context.
Learners will also learn about the various branches of Yoga and the relevance of Yoga for modern times. Given the increasing popularity of Hathayoga – a path of yoga which includes asanas and pranayama as two key components – the course goes deeper into the study of Hathayoga. While sufficient philosophical background is provided, the emphasis is also on giving learners a more practical view of this particular yogic tradition. Brief introduction is also included on the topics of Mantra Yoga, Tantric Yoga and Chakras – which is sufficient for a beginner student of yoga.
The material covered in this course will serve as the necessary theoretical background for anyone who wishes to begin yoga practice, particularly asana and pranayama. Such a curious learner will become reasonably familiar with the appropriate terminology and concepts as a result of going through this course. We strongly recommend that the learner must begin personal practice under the direct teaching and supervision of an expert yoga master.
Eligibility: This course is open to all who have a general interest in or even a slight exposure to yoga and/or any other system of holistic well-being. A learner who is keen on gaining a deeper knowledge of the meaning of yoga, some of its main branches or systems and the relevance of yoga for modern times will benefit greatly from this course. It will also be of great help to those who are interested in starting or deepening their personal yoga practice.
Yoga for Prisons
Prison can have far reaching implications on an individual’s psychological and overall physical working. One of the purposes of prison is rehabilitation which should enable the prisoner to use the time of isolation from the outside world in an efficient and life changing way. Unfortunately, most prisons lack adequate programmes that offer the inmates opportunities to engage in meaningful activities that would enable them to change their lives, both on physical and mental level. Prisoners rarely receive feedback and guidance from trained and experienced staff that could facilitate their self-advancement and self-improvement.
SAFIC has designed a special programme which focuses on the transformational and rehabilitative value of Yoga. It provides a complete foundation for teachers and educators who want to conduct yoga interventions in prison settings. In order to efficiently introduce yoga practice in this kind of environment and with a lasting effect, one must be not only familiarized with Yoga teachings (both theory and practice), but also what must be studied and understood in depth is the prison environment itself, prisoners’ living conditions and the problems that they face. For this reason, the content of the programme includes following components:
- The teachings and philosophy of yoga tradition, including diverse yogic perspectives on the structure, states, functions, and conditions of the body and the mind, based both on classical texts and the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
- Introduction to Integral Yoga and its practice.
- An overview on the specifics of prison environment.
- Basic knowledge of physical and mental health issues specific to prison population (common pathologies, disorders, symptoms).
- The logistics of organizing a yoga intervention in prison, ways of creating/adjusting a yoga intervention based on specific prison requirements.
- Examples of yoga intervention plans: weekend introductory workshop and a 12-week-long programme. Both examples of interventions are prepared on the basis of research studies conducted in prisons in the USA, UK, and Spain.
Eligibility: Yoga teachers and educators who want to conduct yoga interventions in prison settings.
Yoga for Children with Special Needs
This course provides a full program for Yoga teachers and educators who want to conduct yoga interventions among children with special needs. Material included in the course focuses mainly on the following special needs children:
- Children with physical disabilities
- Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder
- Children with ADD and ADHD
- Children with Sensory Processing Disorder
Given that the range of challenges faced by special needs children is very wide, it is crucial that teachers and caretakers are not only familiar with the proper teaching approaches but also have a good understanding of each child’s experience and challenge on the physical, emotional and mental levels. They must also have the empathy needed to create a safe and friendly space for each individual child to progress.
It is important to remember that children with special needs have the same feelings and emotions as anyone else. Stress, anxiety, fear and anger are typical feelings that all children might experience. Special needs children, however, exhibit some specific responses to stress which include: difficulty with communication, sleep problems, obsessive compulsive or repetitive behaviours and difficulty self-regulating physical and emotional states with body awareness. Such children because of their inability to communicate their feelings might respond to stress in inappropriate ways, and because of the difficulty to regulate their emotions cannot identify and control the level and intensity of their emotional reaction.
Yoga is a movement therapy that not only builds strength, flexibility and balance but also teaches how to quiet and focus the mind which improves one’s capacity to perceive and interact with the world. Yogic breathing techniques calm the mind and the body by developing self-awareness. Yoga practitioners not only stretch the body but also their imagination. And since yoga is non-competitive, it helps to create a sense of community within the group and thus develop more self-esteem and a sense of belonging.
In addition to being a refresher for the Yoga teachers on topics such as the importance of Yoga for healthy living, this course also introduces them to the foundations of Integral Yoga. The major component of the course covers topics related to:
- Various conditions of special needs children.
- Physical and mental health issues specific to this population (common pathologies, disorders, symptoms).
- Introducing Yoga among children with special needs.
- Correct usage of Yoga practice with regard to the specific conditions of special needs children (indications, contraindications, benefits).
- Examples of yoga intervention programmes
Eligibility: Yoga teachers and educators who want to design and conduct yoga interventions for children with special needs.
- Design and conduct yoga therapy classes in the months to come.
- Plan and conduct a formal research project to study the impact of regular asana and pranayama practice.
- Explore and work on possibilities of academic partnership to start offering the three specialised courses designed by SAFIC.
Please contact SAFIC if you wish to know any of our Yoga related projects and wish to collaborate and participate.