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The Sivananda Companion to Yoga: A Complete Guide to the Physical Postures, Breathing Exercises, Diet, Relaxation, and Meditation Techniques of Yoga Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1st Fireside Ed edition (April 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684870002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684870007
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

The Sivananda Yoga Center is a worldwide network of teaching facilities and is recognized internationally as an authority on Hatha and Raja Yoga, with locations throughout the United States and Canada and in Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, India, Israel, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Relaxation

Living with mind and body relaxed is our natural state, our birthright -- it is only the pace of our lives that has made us forget. Those who retain the art possess the key to good health, vitality and peace of mind, for relaxation is a tonic for the whole being, liberating vast resources of energy.

The state of our minds and the state of our bodies are intimately linked. If your muscles are relaxed, then your mind must be relaxed. If the mind is anxious, then the body suffers too. All action originates in the mind. When the mind receives a stimulus that alerts it to the need for action, it sends a message via the nerves to contract the muscles in readiness. In the hustle and bustle of the modern world, the mind is continuously bombarded with stimuli which may cause us to freeze in the alerted "fight or flight" pattern of response. As a result, many people spend much of their lives -- even while asleep -- in a state of physical and mental tension. Everyone has their own particular trouble spots -- whether it is a clenched jaw, a furrowed brow, or a stiff neck. This unnecessary tension not only causes a lot of discomfort but is an enormous drain on our energy resources and a major cause of tiredness and ill-health. For energy is being used both to tell the muscles to contract and to keep them contracted, even if we are only half aware of it.

In this section we present the technique of relaxation, that is an essential part of your yoga practice. There are three parts to proper relaxation -- physical, mental and spiritual relaxation. To relax the body, you lie down in the Corpse Pose and first tense then relax each part of the body in turn, working up from your feet to your head. This alternate tensing then relaxing is necessary because it is only by knowing how tension feels that you can be sure that you have achieved relaxation. Then, just as in normal life your mind instructs the muscles to tense and contract, you now use autosuggestion to send the muscles a message to relax. With practice you will gradually learn to use your subconscious mind to extend this control to the involuntary muscles of the heart, the digestive systems and other organs too.

To relax and focus the mind you breathe steadily and rhythmically and concentrate on your breathing. Mental and physical relaxation can never be complete, however, until you achieve spiritual peace. For as long as you identify with your body and mind, there will be fears and worries, anger and sorrow. Spiritual relaxation means detaching yourself, becoming a witness of the body and mind, in order to identify with the Self or pure consciousness -- the source of truth and peace that lies within us all.

As you relax, you will feel sensations of melting down, of expansion, lightness and warmth. When all muscular tension is gone, a gentle euphoria suffuses the whole body. Relaxation is not so much a state as a process, a series of levels of increasing depth. It is a matter of letting go, instead of holding on; of not doing, rather than doing. As you relax the whole body and breathe slowly and deeply, certain physiological changes occur: less oxygen is consumed and less carbon dioxide eliminated; muscle tension is reduced; and there is a decrease in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and an increase in parasympathetic activity. Even a few minutes of deep relaxation will reduce worry and fatigue more effectively than many hours of restless sleep.

The Corpse Pose

The Corpse Pose or Savasana is the classic relaxation pose, practised before each session, between asanas and in Final Relaxation. It looks deceptively simple, but it is in fact one of the most difficult asanas to do well and one which changes and develops with practice. At the end of an asana session your Corpse Pose will be more complete than at the beginning because the other asanas will have progressively stretched and relaxed your muscles. When you first lie down, look to see that you are lying symmetrically as symmetry provides proper space for all parts to relax. Now start to work in the pose. Rotate your legs in and out, then let them fall gently out to the sides. Do the same with your arms. Rotate the spine by turning your head from side to side to centre it. Then start stretching yourself out, as though someone were pulling your head away from your feet, your shoulders down and away from your neck, your legs down and away from your pelvis. Let gravity embrace you. Feel your weight pulling you deeper into relaxation, melting your body into the floor. Breathe deeply and slowly from the abdomen, riding up and down on the breath, sinking deeper with each exhalation. Feel how your abdomen swells and falls. Many important physiological changes are taking place, reducing the body's energy loss, removing stress, lowering your respiration and pulse rate, and resting the whole system. As you enter deep relaxation, you will feel your mind grow clear and detached.

Copyright © 1983, 2000 by Gaia Books Limited

Text copyright © 1983, 2000 by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Highly recommended for the beginner or advanced yoga student.
Joyce J. Griffith
It has very clear and crisp instructions aided by excellent pictures.
SB
Definitely worth it for me...it's one exercise book I actually use!
Mrs. Langers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Langers on August 23, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To my mind Sivananda is the perfect type of yoga-- just the right mix of spirituality, workout, stretching and relaxation all in one. I always feel fantastic afterwards! So when I moved and couldn't find a class in my area, I really missed it. Tried Ashtanga--too many pushups! Iyengar...so much time on alignment and never broke a sweat! Gym yoga class...how do they even call this yoga? So I got this book, and it basically took me right back to the classes I used to take at the Sivananda center on 24th St., minus the chanting and a few of the variations. I use it all the time. The poses are explained well, especially if you have practiced them in a class before, with lots of diagrams and pictures and they include plenty of variations. The quick reference chart is great to remind you what order things go in or if you just want a quick half-hour session. Also good advice on diet and meditation and yoga in general. Definitely worth it for me...it's one exercise book I actually use!
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By M. Schutz on June 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the most well rounded and authentic book on yoga i have ever seen. The pictures in it are bright and lively. and the discriptions are short and to the point. it includes many handy variations and even a practice chart to keep your yoga practice continual. and unlike other yoga books this book includes not just the postures but the vital breathing and relaxation exercises along with a food guide. I was actually forced to buy it for the teacher training i'm going to and i'm more than glad i have it!
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Fabrega on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This Yoga companion is a wonderful guide for any beginner or inntermediate yoga lover. The book has a wonderful variety of poses, all of which are broken down into step by step instructions and accompanied by wonderful illustrations, pictures, and breathing instructions. This book also contains history, a diet section, and a recommended yoga schedule which is what I started on and like to follow. I use this book with my friends and we like it very much. It is a wonderful reference and I recommend it to everyone! Enjoy your yoga!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "ksotelo" on May 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
I received this book as a gift after I had been diagnosed with fibromyalga.I had already been practicing for a few years, but this book enabled me to depen my practice. I have since been certified to teach through the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Centers. I love this book I come back to it again and again. It is complete in its approach. There is not too much to overwhelm the beginner, but enough substance for advanced yogi or yogini. As yoga sweeps through the West with a heavy emphasis on the asanas, this book offers ways to bring all aspects of yoga to your life. My husband uses to book for his practice and we have bought it for other family members. Om Shanti
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent resource for learning & discovering Hatha Yoga. It covers everything from the histroy & philsophy of the Sivananda Yoga Center to warm-ups, basic & advanced postures, breathing, diet, cleansing, & purfication techniques. There are excellent illustrations & inspiring photographs of extremly talented instructors performing basic & advanced asanas (postures.) It also includes a detailed outline for learning the asanas & organaizing a practice routine. There are even sections which discuss routines for the young, elderly, & pregnent. Although nothing beats hands-on instruction, this book allows you to learn the fundamentals of Hatha Yoga in a clear, detailed manner. If you are lucky enough to have a good teacher, you'll find yourself going back to this wonderful book for review & inspiration.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joan Budilovsky on November 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent overall book on hatha yoga. It is simply stated and easy to understand. It also introduces the reader to deeper aspects of the yoga study. I often refer people to this book, and I refer to it myself often.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By justplainkaren on December 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is traditional hatha yoga i.e. yoga as a complete lifestyle and spiritual path. In other words, this isn't the yoga you'll find at your local gym. I love it. Beautiful pictures.

The only potential drawback I see is that even some of the basic poses are so difficult (like headstand) that beginners may be discouraged, unless they already know how to adapt poses to their own needs. Beginners should check out the sections for pregnancy and the elderly, and they'll find some good alternatives to the basic sequence.

This also isn't the first yoga product at Amazon where I find a review cautioning practicioners that yoga makes one "dangerously" flexible, and is an incomplete fitness program. Somebody appears to have made this their project. There are also studies which have found that weight-bearing yoga poses ward off osteoperosis as well as weight training. As for cardio -- pick up a heart monitor and check out what happens to your heart rate during Sun Salutations. Add that to the fact that were it not for yoga's gentle approach, there are people (like myself) who wouldn't be exercising at all.

In any case, there are at least a hundred conflicting theories when it comes to health, diet, and exercise. The best exercise is the one that you'll keep doing i.e. the one you don't hate.

I love yoga, and hate 'most everything else. And the Sivananda guide is a succinct yet complete textbook you can refer to again and again. It's also a good starting place if you want to get into the more spiritual side of yoga -- breathing, meditation, vegetarian diet, and philosophy.
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