Yogitaratna Chaitanya taught yoga at Ashram Yoga on Sunday mornings and we thought it would be a good idea to explore the knowledge she has accrued during her time living as a yogini in India and Spain.
Yogita’s passion for yoga was ignited while living in Madrid. A friend took her along to a workshop with Swami Shankaratilakânanda who impressed her so much that she resigned from her job and moved to the Ashram in Granada, in the south of Spain to study yoga and allied subjects fulltime.
Yogita has been initiated in the traditional way – given a sacred thread (Yajnopavita) – and is currently a Naisthika Brahmacharini. She maintains a direct and traditional relationship with her guru.
Based in India for the last three years, Yogita helped to set up a sister Ashram in Rishikesh, India. Her mission now is to share the teachings of Yoga and Dharma in New Zealand.
Everyday she does several hours of sadhana (spiritual practice) comprising of yoga âsanas (postures), meditation, mantra japa and reading from the ancient Vedic texts. When she is not practicing yoga, she is teaching it to others.
A core part of her practice is Vyayam Yoga, which she learnt from her Guru. Vyayam Yoga is a dynamic mix of martial arts, Hindu dance and traditional yoga. It is a very powerful practice and works with the projection of energy through the breath. Until recently it was closely guarded practice, which is why it is not well known in the West.
Her guru Swami Shankaratilakânanda discovered Vyayam Yoga’s amazing healing power on his deathbed. After contracting malaria in India his health declined to a point that doctors gave up on him. So he put his knowledge of Vyayam Yoga to the test. He visualized the postures in his mind and aligned his breath with his fingers – the only part of his body that he could move. In time he made a full recovery and now passes this knowledge on to others.
Vyayam Yoga is very creative and some parts are taught sequentially, while others are more free and spontaneous. Part of Vyayam Yoga is samyama, which is taking on the attributes of a particular form. Many of the postures (vyangas) in Vyayam mirror nature: animals, plants and trees. Part of the practice is to take on the attributes of the object you are mirroring and attempt to embody those qualities in yourself. In the Eagle posture your arms move like wings and so you try to feel the qualities of an eagle – like grace and strength – within yourself.
Yogita’s advice to other yogis is to apply yoga to every single aspect of your life. Don’t just practice yoga in class, but try to implement it in other activities in your daily routine. Learn to be present and focused on one thing at a time and try not to let yourself become divided by the multiplicity of distractions that compete for your awareness in modern life. Aim to be fully engaged in your activity.
Her guru says, “A wise man is someone who eats when he eats, sleeps when he sleeps and walks when he walks.” Meaning when you are doing one thing, keep you mind focused on that one thing to cultivate dharana – the ability to concentrate. Yoga teaches us not to live in the past or the future, but to learn to relish the present moment.
Another practice to train us to live in the present is to observe your breath. Are you breathing superficially? Are you breathing in your diaphragm? Is it slow or agitated? Using your breath in this way will help you understand your mind and body better.
Yogita recommends that you also observe your thoughts with the purpose of eradicating any negativity in your mind. Cultivating a positive mind is extremely important, so learn to observe and analyze your thoughts; what are you thinking – are your thoughts negative or positive? How is your attitude making you feel today? How does it affect you emotionally? How does it affect the people around you? Study your mind and your reactions and learn what is behind them. Get to know yourself better. Get to know your body and where tension lies within it so you can localize it and begin to release it.
Yogita says that a part of yoga is about becoming more aware of your actions, your senses, your emotions and transforming unconscious life into artful living.
To contact Yogita email:
To find out more about Vyayam Yoga: www.vyayam.org/Indexenglish.html