Our next Bhagavad Gita class is this Sunday, August 18th from 7-9 pm at Marin Yoga Therapeutics Studio and online. This class is part of a year-long monthly series for students interested in the learning Vedanta to gain an even, steady mind through pleasant and unpleasant circumstances. The course is open to new applicants; previous classes are available via YouTube.
In this weeks class, we will be will dive into Chapter 4 and learn what the Bhagavad Gita teaches us about the inexplicable nature of yourself as a non-doer. In this chapter, Krishna teaches Arjuna that suffering comes from identifying with the body and mind, because the sense of self is based on a limited notion of the self. Gaining the non-dual vision of oneness allows you to transcend the limitations of the body and mind, which means to know yourself as one with a vast nature that transcends all limitations that come and go in time. You are awareness by nature which is timeless. As awareness you don’t come and go. As awareness you are a changeless being who is already whole and already healed.
Here is a brief review of the Bhagavad Gita teachings we have studied thus far:
In Chapter 1 we were introduced to Arjuna’s mythological quest to gain the highest happiness—that which is transcendent of duality-based worldly experiences such as gain and loss, pleasure and pain. Sensitive Arjuna realized that he would never really be happy even if he fought and won the epic war of good over evil against his cousins who had unjustly taken over the throne. Suddenly, Arjuna saw the limitations of gaining the throne and realized that it would never bring him any real happiness. Even though he could gain fame and fortune with a kingdom in his reign, he would have to kill his relatives and archery teachers to do so. When he was pushed to the edge, he finally saw the inherent paradox of life: that there is always a mixture of gain and loss in any human experience and there is never a permanent gain from which lasting happiness ensues. Seeing the futility of attempting to achieve permanent happiness, and seeking to transcend his dire circumstances, Arjuna asked Krishna to teach him exactly what is the highest happiness. Krishna, the enlightened charioteer, known to be a carrier of the knowledge of ultimate happiness, saw Arjuna’s sincerity and decided to teach him the non-dual teachings of Vedanta scriptures on the vision of oneness.
In Chapter 2, Vedanta’s non-dual vision is introduced as a means for gaining the highest happiness and the promise of freedom from being a wanting person, one who always needs something more in order to simply be happy. Karma yoga is discussed as the lifestyle that helps one grow in this knowledge by striving to gain an abiding attitude of glad acceptance through the ups and downs of life.
In Chapter 3, Karma Yoga Attitude is defined as recognizing that you only have choice in action and not in the result of your actions. Humans suffer due to the attachment to getting what we want when we want it. This demanding attitude towards life is a set up for misery. With karma yoga there is a recognition that the results of action come from a higher order, a cosmic algorithm that determines the outcome based on the law of karma. God calls the shots, not one’s desires and choices. Right choices are not in the hands on the individual alone. This common assumption is seen as arrogant, entitled, not giving credit where credit is due. The right circumstances for making good choices are provided for unknown reasons by an order over which we have only a little control, one choice at a time. Many factors are not in our control. A humble attitude towards the results of our actions leads to a more lasting happiness. Gaining the knowledge of the highest happiness is promised by enlightened Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita for it is through gaining the non-dual vision of oneness that we transcend worldly experience of duality, including pleasure and pain, right and wrong, good and evil. Attachment to our desires and to the outcome of our actions leads to misery in the long run. Understand that the pursuit of desires is necessary and helpful, but expecting the results to accommodate our desires leads to unhappiness. The outcome of our desires can be: 1) less than expected 2) more than expected 3) equal to expected 4) opposite of expected. The result of our actions is based on the law of karma, a complex topic that requires further teaching from Krishna. The point is to give up the results and understand that the results are in God’s hands, a higher power, or the law of karma. This respectful attitude can transform a person as they become humble with regard to results and open to receive what is wanted or unwanted. One simply accepts the results with equanimity and glad acceptance, knowing it comes from a higher intelligence than one’s limited mind, which does not understand how to gain permanent lasting happiness.
This pdf copy is not the official Value of Values book by Swami Dayandana; and it isn’t copyrighted. Many pages from the original book are missing, so it’s a unique and special manuscript. It is made available to my students for course study because Swami Dayananda’s book Value of Values is presently out of print.
Feel Free to Download
Why restorative Yoga? Stress is an integral part of our life experience and one’s skill in managing stress plays a significant role in determining one’s quality of life. Well managed stress can make the difference between a good night’s sleep or not or being overwhelmed by the many challenges of life. We all desire to meet each situation with a composed mind but when there’s an excess build-up of stress, we often react from frustration or anger instead of the more desirable attitude of empathy and understanding.
Stress is inevitable, yet is linked to a myriad of unwanted health conditions. The practice of restorative yoga provides a clear and efficient path to relieving that stress on both a short and a long-term basis. In Restorative Yoga, a person lies over bolsters and blankets thereby lengthening the spine in a way that enhances deep breathing and relaxation. Restorative yoga poses provide gentle traction which decompresses the spine and other joints giving a sense of comfort and relief from pressures in the body.
In my bodywork/yoga therapy sessions, I take restorative yoga to a higher level of pain and illness management than can be done in a yoga class.I offer hands-on deep tissue bodywork in carefully chosen restorative yoga postures. My sessions are guided by what structural release makes the breath deeper, breath is the guide to safety. The result of a session is renewed and healthier structure as well as physiology.
Just one session can bring significant change to one’s structure including the spine, shoulder or pelvic girdle, ankles, knees, hips and often all of the above influence one another. So changing sturcture, improving joint alignment and flexibility changes pressures through out the body, creating more chances of relieving pain than having a focused approach on one body part at a time. And physiologically, pressures are reduced, and energy is enhanced around the heart, lungs, abdominal organs, brain, nerve plexus, hormones, etc.
Because of my own spinal injury in 1980, I pursued Iyengar yoga for its advanced therapeutic results, and to this day I continue to enjoy amazing results for my spine as well as for my overall health. Iyengar Yoga is the original source of the now popular Restorative Yoga which utilizes yoga props to enhance the use and benefits of yoga for all ages, particularly the more aged populations who are looking to put out less energy and to gain more relief from their myriad health conditions.
Restorative yoga is based on a vast body of knowledge that comes directly out of the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India, including the use of specially designed yoga equipment/props for working with what they call in India; medical conditions. There they call this work “medical yoga” or “therapeutics”. I have studied Iyengar Yoga in India and in American for over 30 years. It continues to grow and this outpouring of knowledge of what I consider to be based in both eastern yoga as well as western science. In America, and other continents outside India, the term Restorative Yoga has captured mainstream media attention.
I’ve had mentors since the early 90’s in this work, my early teacher, Ramanand Patel, to interpret Iyengar yoga as a system of hands-on bodywork for pain management. Today it comprises the foundation of my work in my private practice.
Another mentor of mine of 24 years and counting, is Doug Greene, DC. Dr Greene is a co-owner of Marin Yoga Therapeutics. He has an ability is grasp the science and art of various pain conditions with mastery and clarity. He elevates my mind to see subtle nuances of pain management from both a scientific as well as a broad holistic mind body view.
I continually incorporate Doug’s knowledge with all my accumulated knowledge to enhance my use of Iyengar Yoga for rebuilding healthier structure, particularly to joints and their surrounding areas, to rebuild healthy posture, to enhance deep breathing and, most importantly, to inspire clients and yoga students to increase their awareness of how to live in their body in the healthiest and most sensitive way.
These western and eastern principles are effective with all levels of health and healing, especially with all pain conditions from head to foot as well, as well as for issues that are deeper in the vital organs as well as to the nadis or prana otherwise known as vital energy, the nerve plexus and hormonal secretions. Nadi is the basis for the chakra system in yoga similar to meridians in Chinese Medicine. Conditions such as hypertension, blood pressure, asthma, digestion disorders, sleeplessness, panic attacks, and even benign tremor all show amazing improvement, to my continual amazement. The more people I work with the more I learn how effective is this combined system of eastern and western knowledge I fondly call yoga.
You may wonder how all this is experienced in one of my private bodywork sessions. A person is placed in appropriate restorative yoga positions with yoga props to aid in providing a deep sense of quietude and relaxation that starts to occur almost immediately. Over the hour or hour and a half, the body lets go of myriad layers of tension. Along with a sense of yielding to the positive forces of the props and their vector of force or intended angle of support, along with my hands-on adjustments. Both enable a person to relax deeper and breath more fully and feel a sense of lightness and spaciousness building over time.
You emerge refreshed, enlivened and with far less pain not to mention less anxiety or stress. Another benefit is your body begins to find its ideal posture for both standing or sitting that naturally yields an increase in flexibility, strength, mobility, energy and endurance. You can’t help but enjoy the reward of renewed confidence, bouyant youthfulness and natural beauty.
I’m inspired to share some of these successes in a few testimonials below, so you know how much people in pain can find relief.
Julia Lorimer C-IAYT, e RYT- 500, CNMT
Pain Management Specialist
Yoga and Meditation Teacher
Health and Life Coach
Article Re-Posted from https://nypost.com/2016/08/08/this-85-year-old-proves-yoga-can-keep-you-young/
When Anna Pesce was visiting her children in Wagener, SC, in November 2014, the then-85-year-old Orangeburg, NY, native almost collapsed trying to climb a set of stairs.
“I had this horrible pain shooting up my back,” Pesce tells The Post. “I had to be carried up the stairs and put into a wheelchair for the rest of my stay.”
For the past few decades, Pesce suffered from hunchbacklike posture — the result of a herniated disc, scoliosis and osteoporosis, which weakens the bones and can lead to curvature of the spine.
“I tried everything: acupuncture, a physical therapist and seeing a chiropractor,” Pesce adds. “You feel good temporarily, but [I’d be] in pain again soon after.”
Three months after her South Carolina visit, she began working with certified yoga instructor Rachel Jesien, 28, who also suffers from scoliosis — a curvature in the spine that usually develops during puberty — and specializes in back care. Pesce’s granddaughter, also a yoga teacher, introduced the two.
Jesien visited Pesce in her home once a week, teaching her restorative poses and stretches such as child’s pose and chair savasana, in which Pesce would rest her lower legs on a chair while lying on the floor with her knees slightly bent and a strap around her thighs. After one month of sessions, Pesce was able to walk again.
“After two months, another big milestone was that [Pesce] knew what poses to do whenever the usual pains would come up for her,” Jesien says. “For example, if she was having hip pain, she’d sit on a chair and do an ankle-to-knee pose.”
By her fourth month, Pesce could do a modified headstand, with her back against the wall and her feet parallel to her head in an inverted V-shape.
“[Pesce] was timid at first, because just moving caused her so much pain,” says Jesien, who received her yoga and back-care certification from the Yoga Union center in Chelsea in 2011. Luckily, the 86-year-old was a quick learner, and they still continue to do weekly sessions after nearly two years.
Jesien says that yoga, done with the guidance of a back-care specialist, can strengthen bone density and muscles and alleviate back pain caused by osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and other conditions that affect the elderly.
She discovered back-care yoga in 2010 upon the recommendation of a massage therapist. “I had to wear a back brace for five years and went to physical therapy every week, but this was the only thing that worked,” says Jesien.
Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management at Mount Sinai Hospital, agrees that doing yoga poses can help some people manage painful back conditions.
“Doing weight-bearing exercises like squats and lunges can definitely increase bone density,” says Danesh. “Yoga poses can be easily extrapolated to have the same effect. Physical therapists have been incorporating yoga stretches into their sessions as well.”
While Danesh recommends that people go to a physical therapist first for a proper diagnosis, he stresses that one-on-one care with a specialist is key.
“I would rather patients see a great physical therapist over a great yoga instructor,” Danesh says. “But what’s important is that people get individual care and attention.”
While older people may feel intimidated by yoga, Jesien says it’s worth seeking out a certified back-care instructor, and Pesce agrees.
“I feel wonderful now because I can drive by myself and do the things I wasn’t able to do before,” Pesce says. “I would recommend this to other people.”
Pesce’s daughter, Rosemary Pitruzzella, says she’s definitely seen a change in her mom’s demeanor.
“My mom is a lot more independent, and even how she carries herself — she just seems a lot happier and brighter now,” says Pitruzzella, 57.
Every day, Pesce practices a series of poses, from pranayama breathing exercises to a supported downward dog achieved with the help of a sling.
“She’s a tough cookie,” Jesien says. “Before we were working together, [Pesce] was so down about her condition, but now she has such a different outlook and feels so much better about her life.”
The notion and practice of thanksgiving is a very human celebration. Taking note of blessings is recognized worldwide as a worthy and healthy activity. While taking solace of the blessed good times, for many people the practice does not include memories of all the past traumas of life and their effect on us. One thing is for certain; we are all a product of all of our experiences, both helpful and hurtful. Most of us struggle to heal the impact and pain from the myriad disappointments of life, be they involving physical pain, emotional abuse, incomprehensive loss from act of violence, or deep regrets over personal past actions. One thing is for certain; we are all a product of all of our experiences, both helpful and hurtful. Most of us struggle to heal the impact and pain from the myriad disappointments of life, be they involving physical pain, emotional abuse, incomprehensive loss from act of violence, or deep regrets over personal past actions.
A helpful concept as the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches is to shine a light on our past painful experiences and see them in a new way. One thing is certain is that it is so very difficult to identify the root benefits of our traumas in our lives as well as how to quantify the lasting affect. The temptation is to slap a band-aid on the pain by vilifying a perpetrator or a circumstance. A more useful method is to see if the experiences enhanced your own sympathy or empathy for the pain that is exhibited around you and if you respond to others. There is a difference in feeling the pain of others and how you treat others. For some, their undigested pain has them try to stuff the pain down and to feel less, a numbness sets in, thus limiting their ability to respond to their environment. You may feel the pain of others but a sense of fear may cause you to freeze up and not act on those feelings. On this occasion of national thanksgiving (however the masses experience it) it can be a wonderful aid to truly take note of all that we are and to allow the action of self-forgiveness to assist us in transforming our pain into a fuel of peace, acceptance and action that forwards our most heartfelt desires.
Article written by Jason Wallach
In the mid-nineteen-nineties, a young French geneticist and physician named Gerard Karsenty became curious about a mysterious protein, called osteocalcin, that is found at high concentrations in the skeleton. He worked with mice that had been engineered to lack the substance, expecting to find problems with their bones. But their skeletons appeared essentially normal, he says, a result that left him “deeply depressed.”
The mice did have issues, though. Their abdomens were fatty, they had trouble breeding, and they were “stupid,” meaning “they never rebelled or tried to bite or escape,” said Karsenty, now fifty-nine years old and the chair of the department of genetics and development at Columbia University Medical Center. He has studied osteocalcin for almost two decades. While its role within the skeleton remains unknown, he has shown that the substance has wide-ranging effects on mice’s fat stores, livers, muscles, pancreases, testes, and even, as new evidence suggests, their brains. It turns out that osteocalcin is a messenger, sent by bone to regulate crucial processes all over the body.
The finding represents new ground in how researchers view the skeleton: not only do bones provide structural support and serve as a repository for calcium and phosphate, they issue commands to far-flung cells. In mice at least, they talk directly to the brain. “This is a biggie,” said Eric Kandel, the neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate. “Who thinks of the bone as being an endocrine organ? You think of the adrenal gland, you think of the pituitary, you don’t think of bone.”
But Karsenty has long believed that our skeletons do a lot more than just give our bodies their shape. In 2007, he suggested that bones play a crucial role in regulating blood sugar: mice engineered to lack osteocalcin were essentially diabetic; they were less sensitive to insulin, and produced less of it. When he provided osteocalcin, however, their insulin sensitivity and blood sugar normalized. When Karsenty first presented these findings at a conference, endocrine experts were “overwhelmed by the potential implications,” as one of them told me at the time.
Similarly, Karsenty has raised provocative questions about the skeleton’s role in fertility. In 2011, he showed that bones play a crucial role in male reproduction: mice that did not produce osteocalcin had abnormally low levels of testosterone and were sterile. Mice that produced high levels, on the other hand, had more testosterone and bred more frequently. (The mechanism did not appear to be relevant to females.)
The most recent finding concerns the skeleton and the brain. In a paper published in late September in the journal Cell, Karsenty showed that bone plays a direct role in memory and mood. Mice whose skeletons did not produce osteocalcin as a result of genetic manipulation were anxious, depressed, and almost completely unable to master a test of spatial memory. When Karsenty infused them with the missing hormone, however, their moods improved and their performance on the memory test became nearly normal. He also found that, in pregnant mice, osteocalcin from the mother’s bones crossed the placenta and helped shape the development of the fetus’s brain. In other words, bones talk to neurons even before birth.
What might this chatter mean for human health? As we age, our bone mass decreases. Memory loss, anxiety, and depression also become more common. These may be separate, unfortunate facts about getting old, but they could also be related. “If you ask physicians the best things to do to prevent age-related memory loss, they’ll say exercise,” Kandel points out. Does exercise help partly because it works to maintain bones, which make osteocalcin, which in turn helps preserve memory and mood? (Karsenty speculates that a higher bone mass means a greater capacity for osteocalcin production, though this has yet to be established.) Even more fantastically: Would it ever be possible to protect memory or treat age-related cognitive decline with a skeletal hormone? These are the kinds of questions that can spur either false hopes or imaginative leaps.
Karsenty’s vision of the skeleton as central to energy usage, reproduction, and memory has persuasive evidence in mice. If one of these studies “had come in isolation, I think I would have more skepticism toward it,” Sundeep Khosla, of the Mayo Clinic, said. But they’re “part of a whole series showing that bone helps regulate other tissues, and the findings in mice are well done and compelling.” (Much of the earlier work has also been corroborated by other labs, also using mouse models.)
The question has always been the extent to which these results translate to people. “I don’t know of any hormone that functions in mice but not to some extent in humans,” Thomas Clemens, of Johns Hopkins, told me in 2011. Still, osteocalcin is clearly not the only substance that regulates blood sugar or male fertility or cognition, and its relative importance may be different in people. In mice, no other substance can compensate for a lack of osteocalcin when it comes to these functions, as Karsenty’s work shows. Is the same true in humans?
One tantalizing hint comes from men who are unable to respond to the hormone as a result of a genetic mutation. Karsenty has identified two such men, and they are both infertile and unable to regulate sugar normally—what the mouse models would predict. The real test, however, would be a clinical trial in which researchers identified patients with a genetic defect related to osteocalcin—or patients with low levels of osteocalcin, perhaps as a result of declining bone mass—and treated them with the hormone to see whether it reversed low fertility, poor memory, anxiety, or depression.
Karsenty also believes that we know enough now to recognize that the body is far more networked and interconnected than most people think. “No organ is an island,” he likes to say. And if X talks to Y, then Y should talk back to X. This insistence on reciprocity has animated much of his career, with the skeleton often playing a surprise role: insulin acts on bone, and bone should help regulate insulin. Testosterone has an influence on bone mass, and the skeleton should act on the testes. And just as the brain talks to the skeleton, he says, “I always knew that bone should help regulate the brain. I just didn’t know how.”
Photograph: Marcel van den Bergh/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux
Post by Amanda Schaffer is a frequent contributor to newyorker.com