Yoga and how it changed my world

Yoga changed my life and formed me in all aspects of whom I represent today.My healing work received it's most important ingredient besides knowledge of Anatomy, Physiology, the different massage techniques, etc.: universal, unconditional love. The awareness of that particular energy, which is not depending on receiving anything in return, transformed my work into true healing of my clients.

Below you find more information about Sivananda Yoga and different aspects like Biography, History, and the main aspects.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati (September 8, 1887—July 14, 1963) was a Hindu spiritual teacher and a well known proponent of Sivananda Yoga and Vedanta. Sivananda was born Kuppuswami in Pattamadai, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. He studied medicine and served in Malaya as a physician for several years before taking up monasticism. He lived most of the later part of his life near Muni Ki Reti, Rishikesh. He is the founder of The Divine Life Society (1936), Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy (1948) and author of over 200 books on yoga, vedanta and a variety of other subjects. He established Sivananda Ashram, the location of the headquarters of The Divine Life Society (DLS), on the bank of the Ganges at Shivanandanagar, at a distance of 3 kilometres from Rishikesh. Sivananda Yoga, the yoga form propagated by him, are now spread in many parts of the world through Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, which have been created by Swami Vishnu-devananda, his most dedicated disciple.Sivananda was born Kuppuswamy in Pattamadai near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, India as the third son to his parents on 8 September 1887. As a child he was very active and promising in academics and gymnastics. He attended medical school in Tanjore, where he excelled. He ran a medical journal called Ambrosia during this period. Upon graduation he practiced medicine and worked as a doctor in Malaya for ten years, with a reputation for waiving his fee for poor patients needing treatment. Over time, a sense that medicine was healing on a superficial level grew in him, urging him to look elsewhere to fill the void, and in 1923 he left Malaya and returned to India to pursue a spiritual quest. Upon his return to India in 1924 he visited Varanasi, Nashik, and then Rishikesh, where met his guru, Swami Vishwananda Saraswati. It was Vishwananda who initiated him into the Sannyas order and gave him his monastic name. However, since Sivananda spent only a few hours with Swami Vishwananda, the full Viraja Homa ceremonies were performed later by Swami Vishnudevananda (not to be confused with his own later disciple, Swami Vishnu-devananda), the Mahant of Sri Kailas Ashram. After initiation, Sivananda settled in Rishikesh and immersed himself in intense spiritual practices. Sivananda performed austerities for many years but he also continued to help the sick. With some money from his insurance policy that had matured, he started a charitable dispensary at Lakshman Jhula in 1927, serving pilgrims, holy men and the poor using his medical expertise. After a few years, Sivananda went on an extensive pilgrimage and traveled the length and breadth of India to meditate at holy shrines and study with spiritual teachers throughout India. During this Parivrajaka (wandering monk) life, Sivananda visited important places of pilgrimage in the south, including Rameshvaram. He conducted Sankirtan and delivered lectures during his travels. He visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and met Maharishi Suddhananda Bharati. At the Ramana ashram, he had the Darshan of Ramana Maharshi on Maharshi's birthday.[6] He sang bhajans and danced in ecstasy with Maharshi's bhaktas. He also went on pilgrimages to various places in northern India including Kedarnath and Badrinath. He visited Kailash-Manasarovar in 1931. During Sivananda's stay in Rishikesh and his travels around India, many came to him for guidance in the spiritual path. He permitted some of them to live near him and instructed them. Sivananda asked his students take copies of his short articles and send them for publication. Over time, large numbers of people started coming to him and his circle started growing. Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society in 1936 on the banks of the Ganges River. The free distribution of spiritual literature drew a steady flow of disciples to the Swami, such as Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Satyananda Yoga. In 1945, Swami Sivananda created the Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy, and organized the All-world Religions Federation. He established the All-world Sadhus Federation in 1947 and Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy in 1948. He called his yoga the Yoga of Synthesis.
Swami Vishnudevananda (December 31, 1927, Kerala, South India—November 9, 1993, Uttarakhand, India) was a disciple of Swami Sivananda, and founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and Ashrams. A close disciple of Swami Sivananda, Swami Vishnudevananda, a Nair, was born in Kerala, South India on December 31, 1927. After a short career in the army, he coincidentally found interest in the teachings of Swami Sivananda through a copy of Sadhana Tattwa (Spiritual Instructions). Its introduction read, “An ounce of practice is worth tons of theory. Practice yoga, religion and philosophy in daily life and attain Self-realization”. Impressed, he travelled to Rishikesh to meet the author and the meeting, taking place on the stairs of the ashram leading to the Ganga (Ganges River), would change his life. Swami Sivananda was walking up the stairs and according to the custom, people were prostrating. The young army officer did not want to bow his head to anyone and hid in a doorway out of sight. A moment later, Swami Sivananda appeared unexpectedly, and prostrated to the arrogant young man. This lesson in humility was the first given to Swami Vishnudevananda by his guru. Swami Vishnudevananda entered the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh in 1947 at the age of twenty. He took sannyas (became a monk) and was appointed the first professor of hatha yoga at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy, and eventually trained scores of Indian and western students. At the same time he continued his own practice, mastering advanced hatha yoga techniques. When asked how he perfected these ancient practices, some of which had become obscure in modern times, Swami Vishnudevananda answered, “My master touched me and opened my eye of intuition. All this knowledge returned to me from past lives”. For ten years, he lived and worked under the direct guidance of his master. According to stories, in 1957, Swami Sivananda placed 10 rupees in Swami Vishnudevananda's palm, and urged him to take all he had learned and bring to the people of western culture, with the words “People are waiting”. Swami Vishnudevananda travelled throughout North America, teaching yoga and observing the western life style. His mobility then and later in life would earn him the nickname "The Flying Guru". He would eventually decide to create several settlements, choosing to begin this process in Canada, with the first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Montreal. The first Yoga camp, in 1961, was at the summer home of some students, who opted to surrender material comforts, to sleep on the floor and take cold showers. In February 1962, Swami Vishnu-devananda saw the present site of the Yoga Camp in Val Morin, Quebec, and intuitively chose to settle in the dense forest area near the Laurentian Mountains. By summer the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp had opened. From the modest beginning of a few small cottages and tents,there has been considerable expansion. It consists of several temples, a yoga hall, guest lodges and offices, swimming pool and sauna. In 1967, Swami Vishnudevananda went on to establish the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in Bahamas. Situated on four tropical acres on Paradise Island, a short boat ride away from Nassau. In the mid-1970's a west coast Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre operated in Vancouver, B.C. Swami Vishnu visited the downtown Ashram in the Summer of 1976 for a talk and Satsang. In the foothills of California’s Sierra Mountains, Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm was established on an 80-acre (320,000 m2) area. A fourth ashram, located in Woodbourne, New York, a 77-acre (310,000 m2) plot near the Catskill Mountains. Swami Vishnu-devananda named it the Sivananda Yoga Ranch Colony, hoping it would grow into a colony of families in a yogic environment. In February 1978, Swami Vishnu-devananda inaugurated the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhawanthari Ashram in Neyyar Dam, near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. The ashram is set on 10 acres (40,000 m2) in the foothills of the Sahyadri Mountains. A small Himalayan ashram, known as Sivananda Kutir, was established in Netala, just outside of Uttar Kashi. It is situated on the banks of the Ganges and was to become the site of Swami Vishnudevananda’s jala-samadhi (sacred drowning). In reaction to a vision (seeing people running in terror from a giant ball of fire) conceived during meditation at the Nassau ashram, Swami Vishnu-devanand was prompted to found the T.W.O. (True World Order), aimed at promoting world peace and understanding. Feeling the need to train future leaders and responsible citizens of the world in the yogic disciplines, he founded the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course in 1969, intent to create a chain of students who turn into teachers perpetually. Swami Vishnudevananda died on November 9, 1993. His body was then placed into the Ganges at the Sivananda Kutir, and the rite named jalasamadhi was performed, merging the abandoned body with the water. His motto was, "Health is Wealth. Peace of Mind is Happiness."
The 4 Paths of Yoga
There are four main paths of Yoga - Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga. Each is suited to a different temperament or approach to life. All the paths lead ultimately to the same destination - to union with Brahman or God - and the lessons of each of them need to be integrated if true wisdom is to be attained.

Karma Yoga, The Yoga of Action It is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing nature. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them up to God, you learn to sublimate the ego. To achieve this, it is helpful to keep your mind focused by repeating a mantra while engaged in any activity.

Bhakti Yoga, The Path of Devotion or Divine Love This path appeals particularly to those of an emotional nature. The Bhakti Yogi is motivated chiefly by the power of love and sees God as the embodiment of love. Through prayer, worship and ritual he surrenders himself to God, channelling and transmuting his emotions into unconditional love or devotion. Chanting or singing the praises of God form a substantial part of Bhakti Yoga.

Jnana Yoga, The Yoga of Knowledge or Wisdom This is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and intellect. Taking the philosophy of Vedanta the Jnana Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature. We perceive the space inside and outside a glass as different, just as we see ourselves as separate from God. Jnana Yoga leads the devotee to experience his unity with God directly by breaking the glass, dissolving the veils of ignorance. Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths - for without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for self-realization can become mere idle speculation.

Raja Yoga, The Science of Physical and Mental Control Often called the "royal road" it offers a comprehensive method for controlling the waves of thought by turning our mental and physical energy into spiritual energy. Raja Yoga is also called Ahtanga Yoga referring to the eight limbs leading to absolute mental control. The chief practice of Raja Yoga is meditation. It also includes all other methods which helps one to control body, energy, senses and mind. The Hatha-Yogi u ses Relaxation and other practices such as Yamas, Niyamas, Mudras, Bandhas etc.. to gain control of the physical body and the subtle life force called Prana. When body and energy are under control meditation comes naturally.
The 5 Points of Yoga
These 5 principles constitute the essence of the teachings of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. To clarify the science of Yoga and make it accessible to the majority of seekers, Swami Vishnu-devananda extracted its essence and presented it in these universal principles for physical and mental health as well as spiritual growth.

1. Proper Exercise (Asanas) Our physical body is meant to move and exercise. If our lifestyle does not provide natural motion of muscles and joints, then disease and great discomfort will ensue with time. Proper exercise should be pleasant to the practitioner while beneficial to the body, mind and spiritual life.

2. Proper Breathing (Pranayama) 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.

3. Proper Relaxation (Savasana) Long before the invention of cars, planes, telephones, computers, freeways and other modern triggers of stress, the Rishis (sages or seers) and Yogis of yore devised very powerful techniques of deep relaxation. As a matter of fact, many modern stress-management and relaxation methods borrow heavily from this tradition. By relaxing deeply all the muscles the Yogi can thoroughly rejuvenate his nervous system and attain a deep sense of inner peace.

4. Proper Diet (Vegetarian) Besides being responsible for building our physical body, the foods we eat profoundly affect our mind. For maximum body-mind efficiency and complete spiritual awareness, Yoga advocates a lacto-vegetarian diet. This is an integral part of the Yogic lifestyle.

5. Meditation (Dhyana) Here is the most important point of all, we become what we think. Thus we should exert to entertain positive and creative thoughts as these will contribute to vibrant health and a peaceful, joyful mind. A positive outlook on life can be developed by learning and practicing the teachings of the philosophy of Vedanta. The mind will be brought under perfect control by regular practice of meditation.
Summary
It is safe to say that Yoga can be practiced by everyone, independent of age, or physical condition. The surprise was on my side after I experienced the positive changes through Yoga over ten years ago. I took a class of Sivananda Yoga, without the knowledge of the different styles and their focus. Then, I was very skeptical of Yoga and the scene of "bare foot nature lovers!" It was then, after my very first class, that I taped, by the grace of the teacher, into a very different, balanced state of body and mind: spiritual inner peace. It created a certain sensation of timelessness that I had to stop for a while afterwards to comprehend what just happened. I am very knowledgeable in sport and practiced oftentimes twice a day in different disciplines. But never, over the course of decades has it happened, to feel this liberated.
I believe that many diseases can be avoided by the lifestyle one chooses to live. Character habits can form a positive outcome on your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, as well as a negative. Through Yoga you learn how to reprogram yourself and to focus on the things that influence your life for the better.
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