Yoga Philosophy Course Outline Sept – Nov 2021

Each lesson includes meditation, reflection on premises, including your own philosophy and values (yamas and niyamas), asana practice, pranayama practice, meditation and yoga nidra, including the clear use of sankalpa
Each lesson lasts 1.5 hours. There will be twelve sessions, including an introduction, and presentation sessions during which students will demonstrate their understanding, and a final session for feedback and discussion.

Lesson One
Overview of Yoga through the ages, from the Indus Valley civilization in Sind, Pasupati Seal, to Yogis in Modern Times.
Lesson Two
Yoga in Traditional Hinduism
The Six Schools
The Upanishads within the Vedas
Lesson Three
The Upanishads and the Shastras
Lesson Four
The Bhagavad Gita
Lesson Five
The Sutras of Patanjali and of Yajnavalkya: dualism and non-dualism in Yoga
Lesson Six
Natha Yoga to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika: the controversies in understanding Yoga from the perspectives of colonialism and theosophy
Lesson Seven
Hatha and Raja Yoga explored: The Autobiography of a Yogi, Vivekenanda, Emerson and Thoreau
Lesson Eight
The Yoga Body in the Modern Era, including a reflection on lucid dreaming and yoga nidra
Lesson Nine
Yoga and the ecological emergency: dualism and non-dualism revisited, yoga as skill in action, non-violent communication, and the creation of communities for resilience.

ECOnnect Patanjali! Week Four assignment reminder due in two weeks …

Please reflect on the Yamas, and your understanding of this course so far: create a piece of work in response. This could be a painting or a poem, it could be a short asana practice or meditation (recorded). It will reflect how you are incorporating your understanding of what you are learning here into your daily life or professional or academic work. This need only be a five minute recording, although if you want it to be longer, up to half an hour would be good. If you create a written piece, between 500 and no more than 3000 words would be good. I look forward to you being as creative as you like with this. Please recall that this is not intended to put you under pressure. Allow this to be a part of your practice-realisation and good luck!

ECOnnected Yoga: what is it?

What I offer is a way of seeing and being

Newly qualified Yoga teachers graduating from Hot Yoga Studio Dundrum’s YTT course in Claremorris, Co Mayo, 2019. I teach the Philosophy module.

My courses offer a deeper insight into the connections between self, other and the more-than-human world. During the courses we consider free will, practice realisation and the attitude that emerges as a result of an attunement to cooperation, and compassion. Thus we practice Yoga not just on the mat but as The Way, in the Daoist sense, of doing and being what love does and is. This way, this practice, becomes the way in which we respond not just to our own healing and re-intergration as functioning, cooperating systems within a dance of functioning, cooperating systems, but is also the way we respond to others. Thus our relationships, internal and external, become lessons in cooperative practice. And this extends to the more-than human world and thus allows us to respond to the ecological emergency, which is clamouring for our urgent and critical attention.

In these posts and on these pages, you can find out about my book, Love is Green: compassion as responsibility in the ecological emergency (Vernon Press https://vernonpress.com/book/442) in which I set out the philosophical basis for this approach to yoga, and indeed to living.

I also offer a course on Udemy, which is more philosophical, and which I have called No Nonsense Non-Dualism https://www.udemy.com/share/103lOA/

I teach the Philosophy module on http://www.hotyogastudios https://hotyogastudios.ie/

I’ve written various contributions to philosophical and other books, journals, magazines and other blogs over the years and I’ll bring these in under Writing so those of you who are interested can see how my thinking has evolved over the years.

A review of The Common Good

What is The Common Good? Among other things, it’s a book by Jonas Mortensen which gives an overview of the philosophy of Personalism. I wrote a review of the book which you can find here:

https://www.britishpersonalistforum.org.uk/12a-lucy-weir.html

In the review I argue, as I have done countless times elsewhere, that we need to accept that we are neither on the road to Utopia (as Stephen Pinker might be said to argue) nor are we on the road to Hell (as the doomsters are wont to argue). Here are two paragraphs from the piece. Please feel free to discuss this which, obviously, informs my approach to yoga, and to life:

Firstly, then, is the question of whether or not humanity is in a state of crisis.

In Enlightenment Now! (2018), Stephen Pinker would most likely argue that personalism advocates are ‘progress deniers’, and that the world in which we now live is quantifiably better in every measure than the world in which our ancestors, or even our grandparents, lived. James Hansen’s Storms of our Grandchildren (2009) invites us to ponder a more sobering view of ‘progress’ than the version offered by Mortensen….

Episode One

I recently began to practice lucid dreaming. I’d read about lucid dreaming, and I’d had some early half successes in my teens and early twenties, but something about the experiences scared me. It seemed too out of control to think of everything, I mean everything, as a dream. Did that mean I had control over everything? During one early (waking) meditation experience, I had an almost overwhelming sense that I was losing any choice over what I could or could not believe. Not quite a voice in my head, nevertheless something said, Submit! There is nothing but God! You must believe this or you will go mad!

Here’s a further YouTube video I made on the bandhas. This is the last one I’ll do for a while, at least in this format.

Writing into the ether

I don’t know if anyone reads this. No matter. Keep going.

This is a guide that outlines the practice of restraints as bandhas

Sit in a cross legged position on a cushion on the floor. Get as comfortable as possible with the spine inviting itself to lengthen like a snake being charmed upwards by the sound, or song, of the breath. Then just sit for a few minutes. If you can’t sit on the floor, sit in a chair. If you want to, lie down, but make sure your spine feels as fluid as possible, and this is more difficult on the ground. Rest your awareness now, and again, now, here. What is happening right now, right here? Keep coming back to this.

Yoga is fundamentally about self control. This is not controlling by exercising the will, though, in my (non dual) view. It’s control by taking a step back in your conscious awareness that you are here, now, with the flow of cause and effect happening in and around you without any way to control what is going on. Instead of focussing on the exercise of your will, which is an illusion, I invite you to exercise your capacity to realise, to become aware of yourself. This capacity gives you a way to develop, or elicit an attitude. What is the most profoundly rational attitude to have to an awareness that you are caught in a web of cause and effect? To the realisation  that you, that none of us, that no system, does anything but react, react, react, in waves and waves of cause and effect? Is it hatred, blame or judgement? No. It is compassion. See if you can feel compassion arise now.

Pause. Keep coming back to the sound of your breath in your throat, the sounds around and within you, the sensations, your spine in its dance with awareness.

Now feel the urge to squeeze and lift mula bandha. Mula bandha is the base lock, or restraint, at the pelvic floor. Crudely put, you squeeze like you are stopping yourself all your organs of elimination, front and back, and you do this at the end of every exhalation. If you’re more used to mula bandha, you’ll know it’s more subtle, more in between the front and back organs, that you focus your awareness. Exhale and hold. This is a kind of stepping back. Are you controlling what is happening? No, this too is cause and effect, the chance happening of you listening to this, as a result of a previous happening, and a previous happening. Only now you can be aware of it. If you were sitting, you can now lie back with knees bent. Practice setu bandha. You push the lower back down towards the floor and squeeze in and up… if it’s uncomfortable to tuck the tail bone under and flatten the lumbar onto the floor, leave the spine where it is and just squeeze. Restraint is a retraining of the mind to step back to its original job of watching, of awareness.

Now straighten the legs and bring one knee at a time into the chest, straighten one leg at a time up towards the ceiling. Again have an awareness of your attention, how quickly you can come back to awareness without judging any inattention, so you are restraining even your judgement. Bend knees, take them side to side. Wind screen wipers. Clearing the illusion of control. Even my words are not my own, but created as a result of earlier events. Let the breath out as you let the knees drop. Keep the awareness really refined, really subtle, and notice what works. Where do you need to rest? If there’s pain, do you need to respond? Can awareness allow a kinder response to arise? Less movement?

Now roll over and come onto all fours, step one foot into a lunge, then forwards into a forward bend. Bring chin towards chest. Jalandara bandha, the throat lock. Restrains the breath. Look forwards in a half fold, getting the spine as flat as possible, then see if you can experience uddiyana bandha, the diaphram lock. Exhale and pull the belly in and up as though you were inhaling but without letting air in. This may not work for you if you have high BP (I do and it works for me). Three times here. Then stand up. Spine long. Extend arms and sway side to side. Once or twice is plenty. Gently. Mula bandha engaged. Chin down at end of exhale. Belly lifting at end of exhale. Now step back lunge on the left, back to all fours, cross ankles if flexible, otherwise just sit one side and swing legs around and come to a cross legged position. Remember you can also do this in a chair. The three locks. Inhale where you are and exhale squeeze base, centre and chin to chest. Inhale and repeat, with the affirmation I restrain from illusion and invite love to do what needs to be done through me, love at the base, the centre, in the spirit. My spirit is my attitude. Love be my ground, my rhythm, my attitude. Let love do what needs to be done.

Namaste.

First Video: Restraint Practice

I hope this helps some people. It’s based on surya namaskar and the five restraints, or yamas. I’ve included my own philosophy of non-dualism from an evolutionary biology/ scientific/empirical standpoint (as outlined in my book). I did this with the pandemic in mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsbk5GCwIpw

bdr

This is a very challenging time for so many of us. I want us to see if we can act more kindly, more compassionately, not just to ourselves, but also to the more-than-human world, and in remembrance of all that is caused by our reactions, including all the suffering of so many other humans, and of other systems. India is in lockdown. There are millions of people at risk of starvation and disease, not to mention abuse. For a little while, the more-than-human-world is slightly less at risk from human activity, but we must see the connection between human suffering and the kinds of systems that we have allowed, in our reactivity, to develop by default. We can step back from these exploitative systems and create instead systems that allow love to do what needs to be done.

Gassho.