What We Teach
After closely observing the lifestyles and needs of people in the West, Swami Vishnudevananda synthesized the ancient wisdom of yoga into five basic principles that could easily be incorporated into one’s own daily life, to provide the foundation for healthy living. It is around these five principles that the activities at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre of Montreal are based.
|Proper Exercise (Āsanas): Yoga poses help develop a strong, healthy body by enhancing flexibility and improving circulation. The Yogic physical exercises are called āsanas, a term which means “steady pose”, because the āsanas are meant to be held for some time. However this is quite an advanced practice. Initially, our concern is simply to increase body flexibility.|
|Proper Breathing (Prāṇāyāma): Deep, conscious breathing reduces stress and helps in the healing process. Yoga teaches us how to use the lungs to their maximum capacity and how to control the breath. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. This increases vitality and mental clarity.|
|Proper Relaxation (Śavāsana): Relaxation helps keep the body from going into overload mode, easing worry and fatigue. During complete relaxation, there is practically no energy or “prāṇā” being consumed, although a little is keeping the body in normal condition while the remaining portion is being stored.|
|Proper Diet (Vegetarian): 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. The yogī is concerned with the subtle effect that food has on his mind and astral body. He therefore avoids foods which are overly stimulating, preferring those which render the mind calm and the intellect sharp. One who seriously takes to the path of Yoga would avoid ingesting meats, fish, eggs, onions, garlic, coffee, tea (except herbal), alcohol and drugs.|
|Positive Thinking (Vedānta) & Meditation (Dhyāna): These are the true keys to achieving peace of mind and eliminating negativity in our lives. When the surface of a lake is still, one can see to the bottom very clearly. This is impossible when the surface is agitated by waves. In the same way, when the mind is still, with no thoughts or desires, you can see the “Self”, and this is called Yoga.|
The Four Paths of Yoga all lead to the same place – union with the Divine – but help in getting there by giving options that fit different human temperaments and approaches to life. Which one fits you best?
|Karma Yoga (selfless service): Also known as the Yoga of action, Karma Yoga is the core of the entire Sivananda Organization. Put in a simple way, it is the path of Yoga where one serves with no expectation or reward. The duties are performed with the feeling that one is serving God through humanity. Karma Yoga is meant to purify the ego, for as one serves, one becomes an instrument in the hands of God, losing his/her identification with the work done and forgetting about his/her own wants and needs.|
|Bhakti Yoga (Devotion): In Swami Sivananda’s words, Bhakti Yoga is the easiest and surest way to attain God-Realization in this present age. Through prayers, chants and worship, one turns his/her emotions into devotion, developing an unconditional love toward all creation, for God is beheld everywhere.|
|Rāja Yoga (Meditation): Rāja Yoga deals with the control of the mind through the study and understanding of its workings. A set of practices is prescribed to discipline and control the different components of the human being: the body, prāṇā (vital energy) and the mind. With the tools provided by these practices, one develops will-power and clarity of mind.|
|Jñāna Yoga (Knowledge): Jñāna Yoga is the intellectual approach of Yoga. Through the practice of Vedānta and a deep philosophical enquiry, one investigates the nature of the Self. This path is said to be the most difficult one, for the aspirant needs some previous qualifications as well as great will power and courage to face the Truth.|