When you are strong and healthy,
You never think of sickness coming,
But it descends with sudden force
Like a stroke of lightning.
– Milarepa, Famous Tibetan Yoga master
Yoga and Good Health
The practices often called Tibetan Yoga are many and varied. Some have various postures similar to Indian Hatha. For developing power over our own health there is the mental Yoga method of Nyida Khajor. In Tibetan Nyida means “sun and moon”, khajor means “union”. That is the title of the original teaching taught by a famous Tibetan Lama called Vairochana, one of the most important students of Guru Padmasambhava.
Yoga in the Sanskrit usually carries the meaning of “union”, the Tibetan word naljor means “primordial knowledge” or “understanding”: nal means “original,” or “never changing or modified”, “the original condition”; jor means “discovering knowledge”, or “understanding”. So the real meaning of this form of Tibetan yoga is that we discover our real condition of self and mind.
In Nyida Khajor we use our three primary essences of body, speech, and mind to create the desired results. The body is disciplined through positions (asana) and or movements such as forms or dances as found in Nine Dragon Baguazhang Qigong, speech means breathing or mantra exercises. There are many methods of pranayama (breath control) or mantra, and in meditation we train the mind to concentrate and visualize our true aim of going beyond judging and thinking, which we call inner contemplation. This is how our three essences of body, speech, and mind are related, and when applied all three together, you have the possibility of arriving at real knowledge, at the understanding of our primordial state, our original condition. So this is really the meaning of yoga in Nyida Khajor Tibetan Yoga.
Achieving Balanced Health
The practice of Nyida Khajor Yoga is more about adjusting the mind. It is more concerned with helping achieve a degree of good health in mind, body and spirit. Does that mean you must never have a cold, hay fever, an ache or pain, weak eyes, etc.? No! To be totally free of disease is an ultimate state of harmony between body, mind, and spirit. To be absolutely free from excess tension and to have body and mind in harmonious working condition is a life long quest. There are no absolutes, and no one’s body works perfectly. To have a degree of good health may mean you have a cold for only two or three days instead of seven to ten. Good health may mean that, when you begin to feel a little under the weather, you make a slight change in your diet or routine, rest and meditate a bit more and avoid a major illness.
A degree of good health means you are getting better moving toward a state of balanced health. With Nyida Khajor you explore your own mind and body. You come to understand the root causes for many illnesses, the mind and that wrong thinking and stress often rob you of your vitality. Once you accept responsibility for this concept you may begin the long journey of internalizing this knowledge so it becomes second nature. You begin to look into your own body and mind to discover and tame the dis-ease within you.
The Path of Dis-ease
Nyida Khajor teaches that almost all disease is created or at least exacerbated by an imbalance of mind and body. A system that is out of touch with the inner and outer nature cannot function properly. When we are angry, frustrated, living in fear or repressing our true feelings this creates a feeling of being ill at ease. We call this having a feeling of dis-ease that creates disease. To work toward this state of superior health, it becomes desirable to establish a daily Yoga program for the body, and development of awareness and a mental discipline for the mind. When we start on this path we will begin a long and arduous journey of self-discovery. It is a journey that has many pleasures and many moment of discomfort. It is a journey out of our illusory world into one of reality and freedom from emotional anxiety. It is a hard journey but one will worth the trip.
During Yoga meditation practice thoughts must remain on the task at hand. Your mind must not be allowed to wander. To do this, the mind must first be centered and calm. You may have heard the term “centered” before or read such books as The Centered Athlete, Centered Tennis, or Centered Skiing. Just what do all these authors mean when they say “centered”? What do we mean by being “centered”?
Four aspects of living centered:
1. Being physically and mentally in the Present:
2. Living each experience to its potential fullest.
3. Experiencing without any judgment calls as to good or bad.
4. Conservation of your energy through proper physical movement is also a goal.
1. Mind and body in the present
This may sound simple, but take for example your daily drive to work. How many times do you get in the car, start the engine, and later you find yourself at work without a clear memory of getting there? You were probably thinking about something that had already happened, or something you were anticipating in the future. Your body was in the present, but your mind was not. During a Yoga practice you cannot be working on your body and making out your grocery list or thinking about your coffee break. Your body deserves your undivided attention. You must be mentally in the present.
To help you achieve this particular aspect of centering, practice this simple exercise: take a pillow outside and sit comfortably in a quiet place, and relax. Now practice diaphragmatic breathing for about fifteen minutes. While you are sitting there and after your breathing has become natural and deep, begin to listen to the sounds around you, and just enjoy them. For the best results, practice this exercise twice a day, every day.
2. Savor each experience as if it were your last.
This is a by-product of the first aspect. You can never enjoy an experience to the fullest if you are not attentive to what you are experiencing. If you are having a disagreement with the boss, then have a disagreement. If you are stuck in traffic, then be stuck. If you are caressing your spouse, then enjoy the touching and loving experience. The point is doing everything as if it were your last day on earth. In this way things become very important, but you also become detached from the corporal things around you. Just remember — each moment is completely individual, and comes only once in a lifetime, then it is gone forever.
3. Experience without making judgments
This may be a hard one. Our conscious mind is constantly taking in information, categorizing and analyzing the information and storing it. We are always labeling the information as to whether it is good, bad, important, or unimportant for us. When you first begin meditation exercises you most likely will start listening to the sounds around you, you probably labeled each sound — car, bird, dog, door shutting, etc.
We are trained to experience things by what we label them. A bird chirping is a bird chirping – nothing more or less by what we label it. This is not a centered attitude. By doing this you are constantly going from present to past. You are in the present to hear the sound and are drawing from the past to label it, missing many other experiences in the transition. When you are doing your meditation exercise, experience each sound as something totally new, without labels or pre-conceived ideas. Experience each sound as if it were for the very first time you have experienced it and you have no name or label to attach to it. Experience each sound fully and separately, as well as part of a symphony of sounds. Also, listen for the still, quiet space in between. In the practice of Zen this is called, “having beginner’s mind.”
When you apply this centered attitude and inner, non-judgmental calmness to a Yoga practice, you will find yourself open to the most subtle changes, tensions and feelings of dis-ease. You will begin to experience each session as something new, challenging and full of potential. You will be establishing the potential for change in yourself.
4. Conserve your vitality by moving correctly
What is proper physical movement? There are many books with varying opinions written on the subject. Proper movement is simply moving each muscle in accordance with proper physiology in order to achieve a particular result, using the least amount of energy possible with a minimal amount of tension throughout the body. The Chinese call this attaining no unnecessary tension (song).
You would not attach a heavy weight to your feet if you were trying to perform a running broad jump, yet many people carry around hidden weights in the form of excessively tense musculature or excessive deposits of body fat. All those hard muscles in people’s backs, shoulders, legs and arms are impediments that impair proper, fluid movement.
Movement must also incorporate the entire body, not just small, isolated muscles. For example, if you were to reach for a heavy object with just the muscles in your arm, you probably would not be able to move it, If you add the strength of your shoulder — still no budging it. Now add the muscles in your back, and you move it with difficulty. Add the muscles in your buttocks and legs, and the object now moves much easier, and without injury to you.
To go along with a calm mind, there must be a strong, flexible body, unhindered by dis-ease and tension. You need not only strength, but also stamina to maintain smooth movement and a steady, untiring pace throughout your daily routine of just living and working. During your physical movement session of Nyida Khajor Yoga you are helping to train coordinated, integrated movements. Your hands, arms, body and legs must all move in a well coordinated, rhythmic fashion. With daily practice in time your joints and movements will become more flexible. You must make being rigid your enemy, for rigidity is the forebear or old age and death. Your own life energy must not be blocked or allowed to stagnate.
There are many other forms of Tibetan mind development methods. In a future issue we will discuss the art of Dumo (Gtumo) or internal heat a method of meditation that allows the practitioner to move about in sub-freezing temperatures clad in only a thin cotton garment with no ill effects from frostbite.