“We are nothing but d-i-v-i-n-e.”
Contagious love, lasting happinness and optimism, were some of the inspiring reflections that echoed Sri O.P. Tiwari’s—Director of the Kaivalyadhama Center in Lonalva, India—teachings.
Spring has finally arrived in Paris and the divinity of many yogic hearts was embraced during the progressive five day workshop on pranayama (breath), the fourth of the eight Ashtanga limbs, at Ashtanga Yoga Paris.
“Thank you all for being here, thanks to you all I am here with my son. Thank you, especially Linda and Gérald for bringing us here.”
These humble words concluded Tiwari Ji’s workshop on Wednesday April 17th, during a sunny afternoon in the City of Lights. The workshop compiled together his teachings on embracing pranayama practices to channelize the functions of the mind. These eventually can lead us on to dhyana (meditation) and the seventh limb and, ultimately to samadhi, the eighth and last limb, the culmination of the Yogic Path.
Each session started early morning with two pulses taken by both Tiwari Ji and his son Sudhir. Their fingertips delicately pressed the area of our forearms close to the wrists to take our Ayurvedic and Pranic pulses. With the pulses they examined internal bodily and doshic imbalances of the Vatta, Pitta and Kapha doshas.
Afterwards, we started the preparatory practices for pranayama taught by Tiwari Ji as follows:
>> Uddiyana bandha (five): the raising of the diaphagram were the muscular contraction of the diaphagram and the ribs enable the spiritual force to rise up.
>> Agni Sara (five): Agni referring to the digestive fire and Sara as strength helping with constipation while strenghtening the gastric juice.
>> Simha Mudra (five): Mudra of the lion which exercises the pharyngeal muscles, where the mouth is wide open and the tongue is pulled out attempting to make its tip to touch the lowermost part of the chin, while the eyes are gazing the third eye, between the eyebrows.
>> Tongue Lock (ten): Jivha bandha which exerises the tongue by lifting it fully and pressing upon the palate. The exercises locks the back of the pharyngeal wall, the soft palate and the root of the tongue activating all the muscles.
>> Brahma Mudra (five): Symbolizing the four heads of Brahma—one of the three Indian deities—guiding the head to move from left to right, upwards and downwards during a one minute timeframe, toning up the neck muscles and bringing a good circulation above the neck.
The Pranayama sequences were recommended according to our breathing capacities and doshic composition. These included:
>> Nadi Shodhana or alternate nasal breathing, with or without retentions.
>> Ujjayi: victorious breathing by inhaling and exhaling through the nose while making the sound of the ocean accompanied by,
>> Surya Bhedan: inhaling through the right and exhaling through the left nostril.
>> Kaphalabati followed by Chandra Bhedan—inhaling through the left and exhaling through the right nostril.
>> Bhastrika as the combination of one Kaphalabati and one Surya Bhedan.
>> Sheeta Li: inhaling by the mouth with the tongue curled and exhaling by both nostrils with retentions for some practitioners.
Each morning session ended up with a resting savasana before our break for lunch. In the afternoon, Tiwari Ji with a smiling face welcomed questions or doubts from the practitioners. He shared stories, made us laugh and even played around.
Full of bright metaphors, he was able to explain complex subjects on Patanjali’s Sutras in a fun, clear and concise way.
“Every being is like a diamond covered up with dust, one should clean up the impurities to let its true surface shine; and this is when divinity appears.”
He went on explaining the power of the mind (chitta vrittis):
“The mind is negative in nature. It works only on the desires. We can’t control it, we can’t even calm the mind, but we can go over it and leave it behind.”
He went on explaining how western science has advanced research in explaining the cognitive, thinking and feeling parts of our mind, but that no research has demonstrated what goes on beyond the cognitive part.
“Nowadays, we are able to realize that language is beyond our cognitive mind. Beyond thinking we are able to identify that a human being is a human and not an animal before even thinking anything else. Language naming is engrained in our minds and that is how we identify ourselves, but what if we lost our names? We also know that beyond a language we have sentences and words that construct them. These words are made up by syllables, letters and characters grouped into an alphabet. The alphabet is made up of phonetical sounds, all combinations of aum, the sound of divinity, the ultimate reality, one we use as preparoty practices to dharana (concentration) or sixth limb. And this is all we try to do—go beyond the cognitive mind.”
Patanjali—an Indian sage who composed the most precise and concise yoga textbook of up until today—provided humanity with 195 aphorisms or sutras that have no verbs written or even indirectly actions referred. Each sutra is composed of words that make up a short phrase.
“Patanjali gave humanity numerous options for each of us to pick whatever technique works for us. He never attempted being dogmatic or telling us what we should be doing. So try fulfilling your needs rather than the desires of the mind…without being dogmatic.”
“Our goal with the pranayama is to channelize the functions of our mind, to control the prana that flows throughout our internal body. All of India’s nine philosophies want to make us happy, and they all agree upon the capacity that Pranayama practices have in reaching this state. There are thousands of techniques, many dedicated to improving our health, as well as many others guiding our spiritual path. So find your way and practice.”
After numerous questions kept rolling, I decided to jump in. Curiousity was begging my heart to find out how this amazing Guru sitting right in front of me came across yoga and how was he was able to found his teacher. So I asked if he could shared some of his life stories…silence took over the room as he started narrating.
“My father passed away when I was seven years old. When I was a kid I was not interested at all in spiritual practices but was very greedy, especially with food.”
Laughter took over….
“I remembered my father, a professional lawyer who used to arrive home from court work to take a bit of my mother’s dinner to go and offer to a saint. I used to go with him, even if I had to climb a small hill. When we got there, I had to do all the ritual of touching and kissing the saint’s feet, and even eat burnt ashes, but later I was able to taste an ash that turned into sugar…giggles took over, this was my greed for sugar. Later, when I grew up and went to university, a professor recommended me to go visit my teacher, Swami Kuvalayananda. At that time he only received five students…and that’s when the real story began…I am who I am because of my teacher”.
Tiwari Ji was emotional and his bright eyes were sparkling…
“He never told me that he was friends with Krishnamacharya and that he was a teacher of Mahatma Gandhi. At Kaivaldyadhama, we found about 80 letter manuscripts written back and forth between Gandhi and my teacher….”
At the very end of each session we practiced a Bija Mantra Meditation (a progressive chakra based meditation) guided by Sudhir. “Thinking more and more of less and less things,” is one my favorite definitions for meditation, explained Sudhir.
Each day we concluded with a savasana (corpse pose). During this short and precious moment we allowed our physical bodies to delve into Tiwari Ji’s teachings and keep reminding ourselves that divinity is not created, but is deeply planted in the bottom of our hearts.
From day one, Tiwari Ji explained three key concepts of yoga practices:
“Firstly, one has to continuously experience Prayoga (the stage of practicing) accompanied by a lifestyle that is based on discipline and moderation where our needs and not our desires are fulfilled. As we advance, a rigourous practice we are then able to understand Samprayoga—the positive effects of the Yoga that keep us wanting to come back to the practice. This stage is when our physical and spiritual body is able to fill the bliss of the practice. And lastly, this allows us to fully embrace Samprasad—when our consciouness totally understands our Yogic self-transformation. This is when the real long-term transformation happens, where the true Yoga takes over our hearts.”
“Whatever we are practicing is not meditation, these are all preparatoy practices, as meditation itself cannot be defined but the bliss is experienced by each of us.”
~ O.P. Tiwari
Throughout the course of the five days, Tiwari Ji’s clarity of mind and concentration were impressive—his presence allowed my imagination to view the aura of a true liberated soul.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise