Yoga
for Men

Spiritual Development


Many people often ask how we can believe in an intelligent Universe when our history is littered with instances of inequity, and strife. When we experience these horrible events it is understandable that we may begin to question the randomness of the universe. This illusion can be pierced through Yoga and spiritual practice.

Almost every group of peoples at one time or another has been a victim of oppression. The Holocaust is viewed as a dreadful event in the annals of human history, in which twelve million souls perished but what if those souls were self sacrificed in order to raise the general level of consciousness of humanity? Perhaps these souls were also addressing some of their own Karma in the process.

This was a horrific event; did it succeed in raising the awareness of the danger of hate and violence? Have we evolved into a more peaceful world order as a result of these sacrifices?

After September 11, it may seem as f we have taken some steps backward.

Being in a state of elevated consciousness allows us to recognize that the departed souls helped to elevate our consciousness and raise awareness to the hate certain groups foment. They have protected us against even worse disasters and continue to protect us from afar.

The battle against hate can only be won by changing the hearts and belief systems of those who embrace anger.

A few years ago I was at the Wailing Wall for Shabbat service. I sat down and began to meditate as I touched the wall. As a descendant of Abraham, Moses and Jesus I felt a profound sadness for the suffering of my people.

As the commotion began to calm I got into a very deep state and lost all connection to self. The message I got from spirit was that there are no holy places, all places are holy, there are no holy days, all days are holy.

We are whole, in fact we are holograms of the universe. Spirit cannot be tied into a location in space or a moment in time.

This misconception is the source of all of our self-inflicted pain and can only be overcome from liberation from limited thinking. Then I also realized that spirit has a very profound sense of humor and a great deal of patience. What appears to many as a tragic cosmic joke is in reality just a transition in our education and spiritual development.

I was later told that, as the nigh wore on groups of religious leaders had been stopping to observe me. When I regained consciousness almost two hours had lapsed, it was dark and the grounds were quiet. I had no concept of the passing of time. I will always cherish that experience as a major awakening for me.

Slavery, was yet another crime against humanity that caused much pain and suffering amongst the peoples of Africa. Is it possible that millions of souls involved in this barbaric and brutal captivity were sacrificed to create a nation of diversity? Isn’t America inspiring in its diversity and tolerance of different ethnic and religious persuasions as a result?

While we may not comprehend the methods of the Universe, it’s possible these horrible events occurred for much higher reasons. We have all been victims at one point or another in our lives. The key to leading an enlightened life is to avoid he “victim trap”

Victimization is the most crippling form of ignorance because it tells us that we are helpless and insignificant. We have become a nation of victims.

Being a victim excuses us from responsibility for our actions and gives ammunition to those who are prejudging us. The “victim trap” will also retard spiritual evolution and the healing process. Yoga can help us by letting us view the event as a spiritual lesson, which can be your greatest teacher in life. If you can control your emotions you will see that this is an opportunity to grow and evolve. The alternative is experiencing the same Karmic episodes again in you next incarnation.

Forgiveness is another important concept to be learned by the Yoga student.

It holds the key to unlocking your potential to grow and expand in your spiritual journey. Often times in my meditation I will end it by praying for someone who has hurt me or treated me unfairly. I forgive them and send them love. It is a very freeing and liberating experience. Furthermore, I believe that the energy you send can have profound affects on their behavior.

For spiritual practice to be effective we need to move away from the melodrama of the daily news. This doesn’t mean you should be ignorant to what is going on outside in the world, but your emotional attachment to it must be diminished.

Focus on news sources that offer objective coverage of events without sensationalism. When negativity and sensationalism are used to sell a story, it produces negative Karma. Clouding the mind with disturbing images will also interfere with meditation. Empowering oneself means limiting the power the media has over your life. Only through the introduction of spirit can we have a more loving and compassionate world.

The ultimate purpose of Yoga is to promote spiritual development. Sometimes you have to give it up in order to save it. The Buddha once said, “This life of ours is as transient as autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like watching the movement of a dance. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky, like a torrent flowing down a steep mountain.

We have stopped for a while to love to share, but this moment is transient, ephemeral. If we share with light heartedness and love then this moment will have been worthwhile”

When we can view the movement of our life from a place of detachment, we can enjoy the process and begin to see the larger picture. Finding your purpose in life and achieving your Dharma should be your ultimate objective. It is after all why your spirit has made the journey; there was a lesson to be learned.

Through mediation and regular Yoga practice you can begin to understand your Karma and design a program to transmute any Karmic debts. In addition at a very subtle level you will begin to experience your Dharma and a path will unfold which will lead you toward enlightenment.

Understanding the Space Time Illusion

We have been deceived by our senses into believing that we live in a material world. For example there is a whole eco-system residing under our covers and we don’t see it. If we did we might not want to go to sleep.

Our senses tell us that objects are material but physicists know they are made mostly of energy.

We are currently witnessing a major evolution in our understanding of life and science is beginning to confirm what the ancient mystics have been saying for thousands of years.

The great physicists of modern times now tell us that time may be circular and not linear as we had once thought. The universe is a series of expansions and contractions of mind-boggling proportions. Physicists are also telling us that we may be in a few dimensions at one time. That is our physical bodies are like the images on a television screen. In fact you are really not material, but a projection o energy and information coming from a quantum field. The key is to understand how the broadcasting process of your spirit.

Scientists have been studying areas in our universe called black holes.

These are extremely large areas where normal laws of physics do not apply.

Light cannot escape from these regions and all notions of time/space are turned upside down. It is possible that these unique areas may be windows to other dimensions of reality.

Since we are made of the same stuff of the universe, stardust the elements of the black holes are inside us. When we go into deep states of transcendence during meditation we are really entering a unique dimension that is a natural part of us, as much as it is a natural part of the universe.

But what is the darkness, the silence we experience during meditation? I like to think of it as the womb of creation itself. The unlimited possibilities that exist for the expression of universal intelligence. For example, in music the silence gives the notes their meaning. There are infinite possibilities for the way the notes are arranged. When the sound ends it doesn’t die, but merely returns from where it came. Without the silence, the music or tones would have no meaning.

In life, the silence of meditation helps reveal the meaning of our existence. So the most important thing you can do each day is to meditate and you will create the music of your life.

Meditation

Meditation is a mental process, which involves focusing one’s attention to detach one’s awareness from the objects of the senses. The meditation can either be objectless or focused. For beginners it is recommended that they focus on an object. In this section we will gain an understanding of what the meditative state is and practices for attaining meditative awareness.

Here is one of the images that Ram Dass uses in one of his audiotapes to describe the essence of the meditative state:

Have you ever been walking along the beach when you got lost in the totality of the moment? The feeling of the sand on your feet, the warmth of the sun on your shoulders, the gentle movement of hairs on your arm as a breeze picked up. You weren't thinking, "they’re looking at me, or concerned about yourself. You had surrendered to the moment and your every step was gentle and deliberate. Your breathing had also slowed and you were aware of a heightened sense of smell, if fact all your senses were more focused, it was as if you were gliding through life. This is the beginning of the meditative mind.

Focusing the meditative mind can be based upon a physical experience to begin with. For example, every time I sail my sunfish I have this experience. When I catch the wind at the right angle, and lean my body over the edge of the boat, I become one with the boat and the elements. I am not concerned about how messy my hair looks or the spray of the salt water on my body. My breathing becomes very relaxed and my senses become heightened.

For me this is a spiritual experience.

I begin to loose track of where my body ends and the boat begins as the time passes unnoticed. There is a feeling of openness, being unbounded by the normal limitations of geography, space and time. In the middle of the bay I can even get the sensation of the curvature of the earth from the pattern and shapes of the clouds bending on the horizon.

We may not always have the opportunity to get out on a sailboat or be in a special place, but we can take the journey in our mind and experience a mini-vacation right now where your are.

Here is an exercise to get your meditation started. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep belly breaths. Imagine the sounds of the gentle waves as they lap against the boat and the shades of indigo and green in the sails. Your feet are positioned in the hull to support your body weight.

As you trim the sails the boat picks up speed and you are sailing off into a brilliant sunset.

If you are distracted by your thoughts you will drift off course and the sail will fill with air and your progress will be halted. Come back and focus on the image of the sail, the destination, the purpose. You are the vessel that can maneuver through the water letting your thoughts drift by like waves, no matter how compelling they are. You are struck by the sheer beauty of the total scene, but you are focused on nothing specific.

As you come ashore you notice an unusual rock glimmering in the water. You pick up the stone and put it in your pocket. This is your gift from this special place. You follow a trail of tall dune grass glistening in the afternoon sun and settle in a shaded area where soft breezes are whispering through the trees. It is here you will receive your mantra.

In this special place where the ancient Native Americans once watched the strange European vessels arriving, you feel their presence and the gift they are about to bestow upon you. Their gift is to name your boat after a mantra, this way wherever you are, you can sail through your thoughts and stay unattached.

Please choose a mantra that will have the most meaning for you.

(Hebrew) To hora he: My soul, she is pure.

(Buddhist) Omine Pidme Hume: The all is a precious jewel which blooms as the lotus flower in my heart.

(Christian) Amazing grace open my heart

(Hindu) Om shanti in me: God, peace in me.

(Moslem) Salam in me: Peace in me.

I am love.

Body is pure mind is pure spirit is pure.

Repeat your mantra seven times as you follow your breath. With your gift of the mantra and your special stone to remind you of this journey, begin to set sail back to your present reality. You may begin to get a sensation of being back in the room, noticing the sounds around you. You may want to wiggle your toes, move your hands and stretch out to bring your body back to a full state of consciousness. This meditation can be found on track 15 of the CD that comes with Yoga for Men.

The mantra can be used anytime. You may be walking along a crowded street feeling isolated and unnerved by the incredible panoply of activity vying for your senses, but if you stay with the mantra, you can stay quiet inside and continue to view the world with loving eyes. The meditation we just experienced was a guided visualization, which is recommend for beginners to get an appreciation of the meditative state. It is a tool, which can be used until you feel you no longer need it.

The focus can be on any one of the following:

1) Bodily Sensation (breathing)
2) A Mantra (A repeated sound or phrase that can be used in conjunction with breathing)
3) A bodily location (such as one of the seven Chakras)
4) A Visualization (creative imagination)
5) A thought (i.e. peace, love. Can be combined with the Mantra)
6) An external object such as a flame or a candle.

The breath is my favorite because it is the natural rhythm and intelligence of life that courses through your physiology. It may be helpful to wear soft wax earplugs, which heighten the silence and accentuate your breathing.

The earplugs can help you block out any distracting noises in your environment. The mantra’s used in the sailing meditation are especially effective in opening the heart Chakra.

Meditation should preferably be done in the same place at the same time every day. The reason for your meditation can be enlightenment for the benefit of yourself and others.

Begin seated in an upright position, or sitting in a lotus position on the floor. Keep your back straight, but relaxed with your chest open and neck free. Correct posture is extremely important to open the movement of energy throughout the body. It is also helpful to use a cushion under your sitting bones to stop your legs from going to sleep. Rest your hands comfortably on your lap with palms open and facing upward. Close your eyes and take an inventory of your body and relax any areas that are tense.

A meditation time of anywhere from 15-25 minutes is recommended. At the end of the meditation you can choose to ask a question of a pressing problem.

You may be amazed to find how easy it is to solve problems in this enlightened and detached mode. You can also choose to say a prayer for loved ones and friends that are facing challenges or ask spirit too walk with you in all your steps during the day.

Your ego may come up with many different ways to disrupt your meditative practice such as:

  • doubt
  • fear
  • boredom
  • physical Discomfort
  • plans and To Do’s
  • negative Thoughts
  • past Hurts
  • feeling Superior

In order to get past these distractions use either the sail image or the leaf in the stream method that Ram Dass described in his tapes when you lose concentration. Imagine those disruptions are autumn leaves falling in a stream. When you get caught up in a distracting thought imagine it is an autumn leaf that has just fallen into the stream and has gotten caught up on the side. Gently nudge the leaf back into the flowing water, back into the stream and watch it get carried away by the currents. You should not get upset because your awareness will get caught many times. Through dogged persistence and faith you will eventually arrive at an awareness of you life that is more flexible and flowing.

Most people will find that meditation is the most difficult part of Yoga practice but it is critical. The universe has existed billions of years; your life span in this form is only about eighty. The investment of time you make in meditation will assist in your spiritual development beyond the narrow time frame of these living boundaries.

Hand and Eye Mudras

When you look at images of the Buddha you will notice that the hands and eyes are often in different positions. These stylized positions exemplify specific mudras as well as identify the specific attitude or relationships to the Universe. For example, if the hands together in a prayerful attitude this will accentuate a peacefulness of mind. The mudra associated with putting the hands together in this way is extremely powerful when doing balancing exercises.

Each Mudra corresponds to an energy flow in the body and mind. Similar to reflexology, where a part of the foot is associated with an organ, these mudras can be very powerful in opening channels to certain parts of the mind and body. Some of the mudras are incorporated into different poses. For example the prayer mudra is used at the beginning of the “Opening Bell and “Firm Footing” poses. There are other mudras suited for meditation as well. For example, the “Guyan mudra” is where the tip of the thumb touches the index finger, stimulating knowingness and imparting receptivity is often used in the lotus position during meditation.

There are many additional mudras that can be applied. One good source for further research is “Transitions to a Heart Centered World” by Guruarattan

K. Khalsa, PH.D.

Along with different hand mudras, there are also a number of eye mudras that you can practice before going into meditation. These will enhance your mental performance by improving learning, attention span, creativity and memory retrieval. The specific eye movements also help to activate the five codes of intelligence, which are sight (visual), sound (auditory), touch (kinesthetic), taste (gustatory) and smell (olfactory), and the sixth sense, which is intuition. The following list includes eight different eye mudras and their specific benefits that you can utilize before your meditation to deepen the experience.

Mudra One: Looking up and to the left – stimulates visual memory

Mudra Two: Looking down and to the left - stimulates auditory memory

Mudra Three: Looking down and to the right – retrieves kinesthetic memory

Mudra Four: Looking up and to the right - creates new visual expression

Mudra Five: Looking Horizontally and to the right – creates new auditory Expression

Mudra Six: Looking at the point between our eyes – stimulates the pineal gland, linked to intuition

Mudra Seven: Looking at the nose – stimulates olfactory (smell) memory

Mudra Eight: Looking at the tongue – stimulates gustatory (taste) memory

Mudras are an important part of Yoga practice. Performing eye mudras about two minutes prior to meditation will help deepen and strengthen your practice. Medical studies have shown it is also an excellent tool to induce relaxation and can be used during the day as a relaxation technique.

Daily Affirmations

The following affirmations are a combination of the virtues listed by Yoga master Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra and other Yoga principles. These are daily affirmations to be recited at the end of the meditation.

1) I will maintain an attitude of loving kindness to all people and things. (Includes sympathy, compassion, patience, humility and forgiveness)
2) I will always speak the truth
3) I will never take that which is not mine. (This includes material as well as non-material possessions, or credit for another’s work.) Aspire to become a person of integrity.
4) I will observe devotion and loyalty to family and friends.
5) I will overcome the trap of greed. (This is a vice of our consumer oriented culture, remember to repeat, “enough is enough” before making a purchasing decision.)
6) I will never give up on my goals and vision. (There is a time and place for good things to manifest. I will be patient)
7) I will stay un-attached, but in the moment
8) I will practice discipline through, retreat and daily Yoga practice.

Practicing these daily affirmations is meditation in action, the essence of a spiritual life.

In this chapter we explored the specific methodology developed over thousands of years by the ancient yogi’s for accessing your spiritual self, and living a more rewarding life. I hope this information will be helpful in motivating you to move forward on your inward journey.

© 2007, Bruce Eric Van Horn

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If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. - Hippocrates

Author, CPA, MBA and yoga instructor Bruce Van Horn founded Yoga for Business, Inc., a company devoted to organizational and individual wellness. He presents a daily Yoga Workout routine that provides a complete physical, mental and spiritual workout. He is the author of Yoga for Prostate Health and Yoga for Men, designed for all levels of experience with yoga.. He has renamed (Asanas) positions in Yoga using terms from business to help you identify with the movement and focus your attention. He is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Center for Complimentary Medicine at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Bruce also leads a volunteer yoga program designed for cancer patients and healthcare workers at Beth Israel Medical Center. He lives outside New York with his wife Michelle who is a Reiki Master. Bruce has two daughters who have asked that he refrain from headstands at the town pool. His website is www.yogaforbusiness.com If you have any questions, feel free to write: E-Mail.



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