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Please add to your address book to ensure our emails reach your inbox. - Monthly e-Magazine - September 2009

Connecting to the Infinite: 10 Steps to Transformation in a Yoga Pose Practice
by Robert Butera, Ph.D. - September 2009

Yoga is a transformational process. This simple fact is something that has become more and more evident to me during the twenty-plus years that I have been teaching yoga. While people practice yoga for many reasons, everyone comes to realize its benefits of self-improvement and healing. Over the years, I have seen people join yoga programs to lose weight, improve their study skills, reduce stress, heal injuries, strengthen their body and mind, find compassion, feel better . . . and the list goes on. We all face challenges in life and struggle to transcend them. Yoga is a great way of doing just that.

I find that most students come to yoga class assuming that they need to either have or learn how to maintain an extreme, gymnastic-like flexibility, only to discover that their mind was the bigger hurdle. It is at the mental level that feelings of worry, dread, fear, and agitation are generated, feelings that naturally prevent us from being calm, peaceful, and self-assured. Yoga goes straight to those feelings and helps alleviate them. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of yoga is that it puts the brain to rest.

In modern yoga, there seems to be an over-emphasis on external form. If you do this pose precisely, get into the position, and then breathe—then you’re doing everything just fine. If you aren’t flexible enough, then use some props and you can get it close to perfect. With minimal teaching on the psychological and spiritual aspects of yoga, students may struggle with the meaning of yoga, which develops and deepens if they are able to commit to it, and are left on their own to possibly discover higher states of consciousness along the way. This makes learning yoga more difficult, time consuming, and ultimately less effective.

Understanding this inherent flaw in the Western approach to yoga, as well as working with people of different ages and backgrounds, has been an interesting part of my journey. Everyone is unique in terms of what they specifically need to work on, yet at the same time, a variety of similar experiences and patterns based on the universal human experience continued to emerge. It was through observing these patterns in my students that I came to understand that a system needed to be formed. The system needed to be fluid and allow for individual differences, and at the same time offer a template that a broad amount of practitioners could work within. Through many years of thinking about my students and their processes, I outlined 10 yogic principles/practices that can work as a foundation for beginners and also serve as an outline to keep advanced practitioners engaged in their practice over a lifetime—a guide for all those interested in transformation via a yoga pose practice.

The desire to stimulate advanced students came out of my own experiences of practice—at different times in my yoga teaching career, as well as in my own personal practice, I have felt bored. I love yoga, yet after a few years of intense teaching and practice, I started to daydream. Recently, this kind of boredom has been termed “yoga burnout.” The 10 steps outlined in this article offer many perspectives to keep yoga pose practices fresh and full of new personal discoveries. The steps can work together in a linear fashion, or they can be practiced and applied individually, with a more circular approach. All that a person needs to begin is an open mind and a desire to evolve on multiple levels. Regardless of age or level of yogic experience, they will offer something useful to transform your yoga practice. It also doesn’t matter what style of yoga you are currently practicing, as these steps affirm all forms of yoga practice as positive.

One of the nice things about yoga is that it contains no religious dogma and allows for anyone who practices it to follow their individual spiritual beliefs. In this way, the religious person might understand his or her connection to the infinite as a process of becoming one with God, while an atheist might call it transcending the human ego. Yoga can be adapted to a variety of belief systems while remaining equally effective and transformative. One of the reasons for yoga’s popularity is that it is extremely adaptable and can be practiced alongside other belief systems. In the end, yoga provides a path to quieting the mind so that we all can feel the innate stillness and joy of being alive. Swami Aranya, great yogic scholar, has said that the purpose of a yoga pose practice is “connecting to the infinite” (ananta-samapatti) and describes this feeling as “My body has become like void dissolving itself in infinite space and I am like the wide expanse of the sky.”

One of the foundational texts on yoga is The Yoga Sutras, written around the second century BCE by the great Indian sage Patanjali. The Yoga Sutras provides a theoretical and philosophical basis for yoga as well as clarifies many important esoteric concepts. It is a highly influential book on yoga philosophy and practice, and as you feel inspired, I encourage you to read for yourself. Like Swami Aranya, The Yoga Sutras also describe the experience and purpose of yoga, especially the poses, in terms of the infinite: “By relaxation of effort and meditation on the infinite, postures (asanas) are perfected.” Here we begin to understand that the goal of a yoga pose is no different from the goal of spiritual life: to put you in touch with the larger universe or reality.

You may have already had an experience of connecting to the infinite, as there are many paths to leading to it, most of which are spontaneous. It may have happened one day when you were walking in the woods, swimming in the ocean, or witnessing the growth of a child. It could have happened in a church, a cave, or at the top of a mountain. It could even have happened while you were sitting in your favorite chair next to a roaring fire. There is no predicting when or how grace falls upon us. It comes in a flash and then disappears again. The Pure Heart of Yoga offers you the tools to proactively work toward that place of connection, rather than waiting for it to spontaneously happen in your life.

Click here to read the full article.

Back to Top - Author Interview - September 2009

An Interview with Robert Butera, Ph.D., Author of The Pure Heart of Yoga
by Llewellyn

1. Yoga has become increasingly popular in the past decade. Why do you think that is?The Pure Heart of Yoga

I think that there are a lot of contributing factors, but I’d have to say that I really noticed things taking off in the mid 1990s. I can remember having a conversation with some fellow yoga teachers around that time, and we were all surprised to see our class attendance growing at an unusual rate. The direct correlation was the Hollywood factor—a lot of movie stars were professing that yoga was their secret to a maintaining a lean body and youthful appearance. That got the media talking, and all of sudden yoga wasn’t a strange esoteric thing practiced by hippies and eccentric Gurus. Yoga was positioned to become more accessible to the average individual.

We all know that a trend doesn’t have the ability to sustain itself without some substance behind it, and I believe that the continued popularity of yoga has more to do with the practice itself. It is a process of slowing down that offers people the opportunity to become more grounded and calm. In many ways, it is the perfect antidote to modern life. As technology becomes more and more ingrained into daily experience, we are forced to do more with less time—it is very easy to feel like life is spinning out of control. The stress of this new way of living creates the ongoing potential to lose touch with ourselves, and doing yoga is a wonderful way of setting time aside to reconnect with who we are at a deeper level.

2. How exactly would you define yoga?

This is an interesting question, one that you could ask a hundred different yoga teachers and get a different answer from each of them. Many people use the Sanskrit root word “Yuj” to define Yoga, which means “to yoke” and describes the yoking of the lower self to the higher self. While this definition is true in the literal and metaphorical sense, it has become something of a cliché in yoga circles. When any concept is overused, it can lose its deeper meaning.

At first, many students only experience the physical practice of yoga poses. As they experience the first level of mind/body changes brought about by practicing, students become curious as to why and how yoga works. They start to study the theories behind the practices and discover the pure definition of yoga—the cessation of the thought waves of the mind. The waves represent sources of stress, whether they are minor issues of daily existence or profound life struggles. Yoga tells us that the source of suffering is the resistance to the fact that everything in the material world is in a state of change. We live in ignorance of this simple truth and continue to resist change, creating a revolving source of stress and unhappiness. To remedy these vicissitudes of life, the process of yoga aims to help us calm or still the mind and find a sense of harmony within.

Personally, I define yoga as a holistic lifestyle—a peaceful way of being in the world and connecting to something that is larger than the individual ego. It is an all-encompassing process that allows us to be more skillful in our actions, and create balance in our relationships, health/food choices, at work, and in our spiritual lives. From this perspective yoga is both infinite in scope and timeless in nature.

3. I’ve heard that yoga can be used as part of a holistic approach to living; why is this?

As I mentioned in the previous question, yoga in its true nature is a holistic lifestyle. There are five main branches of yoga, and each category represents a different facet of the human experience. In order to bring about individual union with the larger reality, each one of these categories will need to be addressed. We are all born with different dispositions, so the emphasis of what are working on at any given time can shift if necessary.

Tantric Yoga is often thought of as a sexual practice, but it actually relates to the care of the body, including energy, health, and nutrition. Yoga poses and pranayama (breathwork or mastery of the energy body) fall under this category. Raja Yoga or meditative yoga includes Yoga’s psychological principles. Karma Yoga concerns attitudes towards work and outlines a method of transforming work into a spiritual pursuit. Devotional or Bhakti Yoga offers insights into relationships and love as well as spiritual practice. Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of Knowledge consists of the study of self and of scriptures. Each branch is sophisticated and detailed, and when practiced together, they become an integrated and universally holistic path.

4. You’ve spent several years abroad; how has your past experience overseas enriched your yoga?

My experience overseas essentially shaped my life path. As a student with the Friends World College in Japan (1985-88), I began to clearly see the suffering of the world. It was during those years that my desire to help people transcend their pain was solidified. Also in Japan, I met my first teacher of meditation, and considered becoming a monk. This teacher sensed that yoga was the correct approach for me and sent me off to India, where I found a comprehensive spiritual path.

As a student living at The Yoga Institute of Mumbai, India, I had the privilege of bearing witness to the effects of prolonged spiritual practice on a community. Through interacting with my teacher, I was able to apply the deeper philosophies to my own suffering and understand the ego’s role. I also observed how a spiritual teacher could live simply and still have a profound effect on the direction of student’s lives. Ultimately, living in India offered me the opportunity to experience the transformative power of a yoga practice and see the same power at work in others. When I began teaching yoga in 1990, the process continued in my own students. These collective experiences gave me the conviction that yoga really works.

Living in Japan and India also imbued my life with the essence of the Eastern approach. Through experience, I learned that life there is more about inner-balance than material success. As a young adult, these lessons were invaluable.

5. Your new book, The Pure Heart of Yoga, provides 10 steps to enrich personal yoga practice. What is the goal of these 10 steps?

Click here to read the full interview.

Back to Top - Llewellyn Journal - September 2009

10 Foods and Spices You Can Use for Healing
by Ellen Evert Hopman

Most every kitchen is stocked full of herbs and spices. We use them to flavor our food and preserve it. But did you know that these simplest of herbs and spices can also be used to heal us? Ellen Evert Hopman, Druid Priestess and author of Priestess of the Forest, details 10 everyday foods and spices that can easily be used to heal.

Read More

The Legacy
by Barbara Moore 

Seven years ago Ciro Marchetti began a journey into tarot he could never have foreseen, simply by sending a portfolio to a publisher. Now, tarot expert Barbara Moore details just what exactly the legacy of the Legacy of the Divine Tarot is—Ciro Marchetti's latest, and most likely, last tarot deck.

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Ghostly Traces: Can Hauntings Count as Evidence?
by Adam Selzer

Adam Selzer, author of Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps and a tour guide for Weird Chicago Tours, took a chance one night on a stop at Sobieski Street (or at least where Sobieski Street should have been) to investigate H.H. Holmes, America's first known serial killer. But with all the conflicting information about Holmes, can a haunting be proof of a crime?

Read More

Back to Top - Try This! - September 2009

Windowsill Culinary Herb Garden

The Choices Spread

The Language of Magical Herbalism

Llewellyn Journal - September 2009

10 Foods and Spices You Can Use for Healing

The Legacy

Ghostly Traces: Can Hauntings Count as Evidence?

September is Yoga Month!

Llewellyn's Psychic Development Sale, September 23-26! - New Releases - September 2009

Black is for Beginnings
Black is for Beginnings
by Laurie Stolarz

Legacy of the Divine Tarot
Legacy of the Divine Tarot
by Ciro Marchetti

by Colin Wilson

Spirits Out of Time
Spirits Out of Time
by Annie Wilder

The Fairy Tale Tarot
The Fairy Tale Tarot
by Lisa Hunt

The Pure Heart of Yoga
The Pure Heart of Yoga
by Robert Butera, Ph.D.

True Ghosts
True Ghosts
by Andrew Honigman - September 2009

New Worlds September/October 2009

The September/October issue of New Worlds  is here! Download the PDF file of the latest issue of New Worlds or click here to sign up and have it delivered to your home! - Reader's Top Picks - September 2009

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