Here you will find useful information about how to use the site and our network, as well as practical tips and insights on various aspects of Living Yoga, based on questions from students.
There is an opportunity to ask more in depth questions in the discussions in the Living Yoga Project network community spaces.
Or find out more through the live or recorded courses and events.
What is “Living Yoga”?
The use of the word “living” in our name implies that rather than focussing only on the practical / physical aspects of yoga, we approach yoga in its wider context, as a complete science of life.
Why “classical” yoga?
While yoga is immensely popular in the West, the vast majority of brands and styles out there come from a small pool of practices developed relatively recently in the south of India where yoga has a very limited – mainly physical – function compared to the northern / himalayan traditions.
There is no harm practising a lot of asanas (postures) and some breathing practices: as long as they are done correctly, they will lead to better physical health and the removal of physiological reasons for lack of joy and a sense of fulfilment in life.
However, when taken out of the wider context of yoga, they will only bring partial results, and most certainly will not lead to the transcendence of our limitations or removal of deeper causes of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
Classical yoga has no brands, labels, or styles – its reach and diversity of practices and approaches is too vast to confine it in any way. However, since the word “yoga” is now generally understood in the limited sense described above, we feel it is necessary to emphasise that our approach is different, based on the all-encompassing and universally applicable principles of yoga, in light of the teachings of the Bihar Yoga system.
What kind of yoga is taught here?
The techniques taught here as well as the approach and direction of the Living Yoga Project are based on the teachings of the Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, Bihar, India.
The Bihar Yoga (aka Satyananda Yoga) system is not limited to any particular set of practices, or even a particular type of yoga. It draws from all the classical yogic paths such as hatha, raja, and bhakti yoga, with the aim to provide a suitable path of complete personal transformation to anyone willing to make the effort.
You can learn more about the system inside our network, but in a nutshell, what you get here depends on what you are looking for: practices for better physical health, strength, balance; for better mental health, focus, stress management; advice on how to adjust external circumstances to get the most from the practices; practices for advancing in spiritual life and exploring one’s purpose in life, and much more.
One important detail to add here is that the Bihar Yoga system is vast, and that the Living Yoga Project should be seen as an effort to promote a selection of its teachings in ways deemed most suitable and applicable, and not as being representative of Bihar Yoga as such.
How do I join the network?
Simply click “Join for free” anywhere on this site and you’ll be taken to the Free Access plan.
When you click on “Member Login” without being a member just yet, you will also be taken to our landing page where you can find the Free Access plan as well.
Why do you charge £1.08 for a "free" plan?
First of all, the Free Access plan comes with a 12-month free trial period – so the only way the symbollic annual fee of £1.08 will leave your account is if you stay on a free plan for a year, without upgrading to any course bundles.
The Living Yoga Project is a safe, supportive space dedicated to a growing community of people with sincere interest in yoga and spiritual life, and we want to keep it that way.
We do not tolerate spammers, scammers, unsolicited advertisers, bots, and/or other online pests.
The easiest way to prevent such things from happening is to require every member to verify their identity by registering their card details.
The only times your card will get charged is when you purchase a course, group access, or make a donation; you will never be charged without your express wishes and consent.
We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this matter.
What do I get from network membership?
Once you become a member of our network, you will get access to all free content, courses and events for only £5 per month – and even that after a 3-month free trial period if you join with the Course Starter plan. The growing offer of live and pre-recorded courses is there for you to experience yoga from all angles and find a path that is right just for you. Unlike purely course-based platforms, however, the Living Yoga Project is also a growing community of like-minded people from all over the world, and the more you participate in it the more you get in return.
I am only interested in live courses, not network membership. What do I do?
The best option is to get the Course Starter subscription, which will give you access to all courses and events available at the time of joining. After your course is over, you can cancel your subscription before the membership fee starts.
You may also consider, however, that if you continue with the membership subscription of only £5 per month, you will retain your network membership as well as access to any courses and course materials (where applicable) that you have purchased in the past.
I want to purchase a course, but it shows as "unavailable for purchase". How do I fix that?
To purchase any plans on our network, it is necessary to visit our network on your web browser or an Android app, if using.
You can use any web browser, including on the same iPhone where you have installed the Mighty Networks app.
After you have purchased a plan or course, all you need to do is refresh your iOS app and your purchases will appear there as well.
This workaround is necessary to prevent iOS purchases from being more expensive than on other platforms, and will be made redundant if and when Apple change their App Store commission policy…
Why do we chant mantras in every class? Why not just start with the practices?
Mantra yoga is an incredibly vast subject, and even though we do mantras a lot at the Living Yoga Project, we’re still only touching the tip of the iceberg. So, no long explanations here – you can explore the subject deeper in our classes.
The reason for the inclusion of simple mantras such as Om and Om Shanti is that by repeating these sounds at the end of a short meditation – like we do at the start of virtually every class – the mind becomes more focussed and receptive, as well as more present and less fluctuating.
This means that the practice that follows will be more likely to be done correctly, safely, and with a better body-mind connection.
Even if you have never done mantra chanting before, if you keep an open mind and just go with it, you will experience these effects in due course.
However, if your conditioning is such that chanting mantras brings some kind of reaction, negativity and aversion, simply skip this step for now.
How can I become happier?
In yoga, happiness is seen as the natural, optimal state of the mind, in the same way that perfect physical health is seen as the natural, optimal state of the body.
In other words, happiness is the natural state of a balanced and peaceful mind, something that arises from within and is not dependent on external events and circumstances.
We then only need to discover the reasons and sources of unhappiness, whenever experienced, and make an effort to remove them. Ultimately, we should strive to generate the feeling of happiness and contentment for no reason: this will free us from attachment to things that only give us fleeting satisfaction or pleasure, and allow us to connect with lasting joy, creativity, and peace within.
At the Living Yoga Project, happiness is a big subject – just as it is in the field of modern psychology – and you will come across this theme a lot in our courses.
That sounds simple enough. Why is it so hard to do?
The answer to this is relatively simple, too: it is mainly due to the combination of mental dissipation, imbalances in energy and emotions, and lack of willpower. All of these problems can be managed through different yogic techniques, in combination with the adoption of a wholesome, regular lifestyle.
Why is there so much emphasis on daily practice? Other workouts can be done much more sporadically.
First off, yoga is NOT a workout, even though you may be totally forgiven for thinking that as this is how yoga has been largely portrayed outside India…
What we are trying to do with regular practice is to develop a set of positive psycho-physiological habits – habits that will also manifest in other areas of life if we are consistent.
A good example is the concept of balance and harmony: These are developed in the body through certain asanas / postures, in the nervous system through pranayama / breathing, in the mind through various types of meditation, and in our relationships, actions and interactions, by understanding and applying the principles of yogic lifestyle.
Once this habit has been developed, balance and harmony will become an integral part of one’s personality, expressed in whatever one does.
This will unfortunately never happen if you take yoga to be just another exercise to be done once or twice a week…
Are there any asanas you can hold for more of an extended period of time? Does holding particluar asanas static with awareness internally on energy or a chakra for longer than say a few seconds bring any benefits? Does this help in perfecting, and mastering that particular asana?
Likewise, the asanas we do as part of our hatha yoga practice are practised dynamically at first, then slowly increasing the hold time, until ultimately we achieve mastery over that asana, i.e. we are able to stay still and be comfortable in it.
This changes the effects profoundly, as this is the stage where the asana is really doing the work of clearing pranic pathways; until then it is more a practice for the body to become stronger and more supple etc.
While that is definitely desirable, only once we transition to long holds do we experience the true effects of the asana. Hatha yogis often perfect one or two asanas so that they hold them for very long periods of time, even hours.
A person living in society shouldn’t think of a classical Hatha yoga training as being compatible with normal life – the texts stress the need for complete seclusion, extremely simple diet, and many other such rules.
Therefore, as part of our practice, we should aim for 3-5 minute holds of a few asanas such as the headstand, paschimottanasana and others – not so much the more strenuous asanas like the locust.
The only asanas that should be held for much longer – and here we have a beautiful meeting point with the ideas of hatha yoga – are the meditative postures. Beside the obvious benefit of being able to meditate or do pranayama effectively and without interruption, the posture of siddhasana specifically is hailed in Hatha Yoga Pradipika as the ultimate asana to benefit all layers of the person: physical, pranic, mental, and beyond.
Lastly, there is the relationship between physical steadiness and mental focus – which are interdependent. In other words, one can be achieved by working on the other. In fact, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’s state that steadiness of the body is achieved by “meditating on the serpent Ananta”, indicating that this goal, i.e. comfort and steadiness in the posture, is achieved not by stiffening the body but by focusing the mind.
Ultimately, the whole point of this is obvious from the progression of raja yoga: mastery of asana will enable pranayama, here defined as “cessation of breath”, and then pratyahara (sensory disassociation) and so on, each stage building on the previous one until the final transcendence of limited individual consciousness (samadhi)
Long way to go, but holding asanas longer is a good start!
If time in the morning means one cannot complete asana, pranayama, and a meditation in one session, can you do asanas, and pranayama, and then do meditation later on when back home? Or is it better to shorten time spent in all parts, so you can get them all in?
Yes! This is exactly what the “capsule” system was designed for. You can learn more about it in the free Study Programme called Yoga Capsules (network membership required).
If one wants to just meditate at a given time in the day, should one always do a few asanas, pranayama before, or can one sit relaxed focus on breathing and centre oneself and proceed to meditate?
1. A given time of day: this is the most important factor, as practising at the same time daily will condition the mind to get into an internalised state more easily and more quickly.
2. The rest depends on factors like time available, and the physical and mental state. Often, a quick session of a few stretches and a short shavasana should do the job of helping the body to be more comfortable, and a simple nadi shodhana is also very helpful – but I wouldn’t recommend a strong practice with bandhas etc in the evening unless tired – but also, when one is quite tired, it is not recommended to meditate in the first place.
So, common sense and self-observation would be the best guides here; practising asana and pranayama before meditation is not a general requirement.
What is the difference from performing trataka as meditation, and doing it is as a shatkarma (cleansing practice)?
Generally, in our tradition, we do trataka as a method of concentration, where there is a process in which we start with an external object and then transition to internal “gazing” on the after-image; the final stage is to create the image at will, without prior gazing on an external object.
This leads to the mind becoming quite focused, as the eyes – which are very directly protruding right out of the brain itself – become very still, allowing an internalised state to be produced even when they’re open, let alone once they’re closed.
Big claims are made for the Morning Mantra Sadhana (complete transformation, vitality, resilience, protection from negativity etc.) - how does this work? What are the mechanics of this process?
As to the “claims” for the morning mantra sadhana, these are in line with the general understanding of mantra yoga and its place in our daily lives.
Like any other part of yoga, its effects can only be experienced when serious, regular practice has been established and continued for some time.
Unlike in most other of these parts, however, the effects are much harder to recognise as mantras deal with the very subtle and ever-changing mind directly. It is a lot easier to experience the effects of asana and pranayama, for example, which are quite immediate and palpable.
To understand how mantras work, we need to remember that they are merely the sonic forms and representations of subtle energies that are part of both our inner being as well as “cosmic”, i.e. transcending our limited personality and operating on a universal level, common to us all. This will undoubtedly be a concept quite alien to the Western thinking, much influenced by scientific materialism, and we need to keep the mind quite open in this regard.
As such, mantras should not be thought of as texts that were composed or invented; rather, they were “heard” (experienced) by the various rishis (“seers”) who the mantras are attributed to, and while the mantras we know today are in Sanskrit and can be traced to the various Indian sources, the underlying energies that they represent are universal. Here, again, we should remember that India seems to be the only place on Earth where this science has been preserved in full and cultivated, having been global in the ancient times but lost elsewhere.
In Tantra – of which yoga is an offshoot in terms of practice – there is great emphasis on personal experience rather than dogmatic belief, and in the case of mantra this is especially important as any discussion on how to deal with the elusive concept of “mind” will lead us to a place where the deepening of *subjective* experience is the only way to truly understand the effects of the mantra. This is quite contradictory to the Western understanding of how science should work – i.e. removing the subject out of the equation as much as possible – which is where a lot of misunderstandings tend to arise.
In order to establish what the mantras are doing in our lives, a relatively long period of observation is required as the states of the mind change a lot, on account of a large number of internal as well as external factors.
Here, an important thing needs to be considered: while a positive mental attitude is most helpful in all areas of yoga – and life in general – in mantra yoga it is an essential requirement. Not so much by generating some kind of new belief, but by watching out for scepticism and other negative attitudes towards the practice, as they will act as active blocks preventing the mantras from doing their work. In my personal experience, the attitude of “I have no idea how these things work but I am fully open to the possibility that they do” is a useful one to cultivate for people without previous exposure or conditioning.
As to the “mechanics”, the primary principle is relatively simple: mantras, in terms of personal experience, gain potency through repetition. In fact, Tantra mentions specific numbers of repetitions required to “activate” a mantra (usually they’re in the area of hundreds of thousands). In other words, the more a mantra is done, the greater and more obvious the effects will become. The “catch” here is that for the potency to really increase, one-pointed focus is required so that the mantra repetition takes place on all levels, not just the verbal one. This is where the bhakti yoga aspect comes in, as intense emotional involvement leads to spontaneous concentration.
In advanced mantra practice, other elements come in, such as meditation on the meaning (often transcendental and requiring initiation); combination with a yantra – the visual form of the energy invoked through the respective mantra; and purascharana – long periods of mantra activation through a large number of repetitions in a secluded place, often combined with fasting etc…
For practical purposes, regular chanting of a small number of mantras – such as the morning mantra sadhana – is the best way to go in order to experience the effects in life. Once you have been able to establish that there have been significant changes in how your mind and body work on account of mantra practice, most questions about how they work might just drop away…
Do your wounds heal a lot faster than they used to? Do you get into fewer accidents, and when you do, do they have lesser consequences? Do you find yourself being aloof and clear-headed in situations where you’d habitually express strong emotions? Are you suddenly able to easily tackle problems that you used to find unsurmountable? These are just a few of many different things that start consistently happening in the lives of those who take to the morning mantra practice regularly and earnestly. I hope that in view of the above, it is a little clearer as to what we need to do on our part to assess how mantras work. In short:
- creating a mental environment that allows them to do their work,
- eliminating hopes and expectations to the maximum extent,
- becoming more aware and note the experiences over a longer period of time
What one practice is the most effective quick-fix remedy to alleviate anxiety (unwanted obtrusive thoughts)?
In short, there is no quick fix. What is required is, first of all, a firm rejection of the idea “I am the mind”. This is one of the central efforts in yoga, and is achieved through the regular practice of meditation such as antar mouna.
This, then, is the starting point for the only practice that directly deals with the mind at its thinking level: pratipaksha bhavana, or substitution of thoughts and feelings. There is no other way, really, because thoughts – whether negative or positive – cannot just be “removed”. They represent the superficial level of an activity that is happening in the deeper layers of the mind, and so an effort to control them is like trying to stop the waves in the ocean.
This point should be remembered quite firmly: Do NOT try to remove negative thoughts. The mind and the restless thinking process are the same thing: no thinking = no mind. But the positive destruction of the mind and its merger with unconditioned consciousness – known in yoga as “manonasa” – is only possible for those who have achieved a high level of transcendence of the material awareness.
For aspirants towards that goal, pratipaksha bhavana is the only reliable method, because we are not trying to remove anything and thus create a kind of vacuum. Rather, the effort is made to first disassociate from the thought – remembering “I am not the mind” – then finding the opposite of that obnoxious thought, and concentrating on that. This will take a lot of awareness and a lot of effort in the beginning, but gets much easier with practice.
Auxiliary techniques such as regular mediation and, even more so, pranayama, are vital here as they give us the perspective necessary to perform the mental work of pratipaksha bhavana efficiently and with clarity.
In short, in order to manage negative thoughts:
- Practise pranayama and meditation regularly.
- When the thoughts come, take it as an opportunity to observe your own mind, not as an “attack”.
- Reject the notion that the thoughts have anything to do with your inner nature, which is Sat (existence), Chit (awareness) and Ananda (bliss). Any other experience is, by definition, external to you and can be modified at will (with practice).
- Trace the thoughts to their source; often, this much is enough to deprive them of intensity. This search will lead you to the underlying idea at the base of that thought process. For instance, thoughts of insufficiency, helplessness and limitation can be traced to the idea that “I am not capable”, “I am not enough” etc., all of which are false, and imposed over our true inner nature due to past conditioning, traumas etc.
- Create the opposite idea – where “idea” includes both the mental and emotional component – and focus on that idea regardless of any initial resistance or doubting. As the positive “counter-idea” strengthens, it will naturally push out the negative one, just as easily as light obliterates darkness.
- Remember again and again, one should NEVER try to remove negative thoughts. The mind does not accept emptiness and will fight any such effort vigorously.
- Be VERY patient. Many of our most deeply ingrained habits were formed when our bodies were young and minds a lot more pliable than they are once we get older – and have been reinforced through many years of “use”. It will take a long time to develop a new, positive habit – but on the plus side, even a little success in this area, even a glimpse of the experience that “I am the master of the mind, not its slave” will give us so much inspiration that further effort becomes easier and easier.
To conclude: pratipaksha bhavana is the only “quick fix” out there – but it only becomes quick(er) through a lot of practice, and without taking this effort out of the more general context of yoga lifestyle.
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