Given below is an outline of the Yoga psychology group that Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary facilitated in Sydney , Australia between Sep 2005 to Aug 2006.
Format of the course:
Sixteen full day weekend intensives of 112 contact hours comprising of:
Self-study (swadhyaya) 164 hours - Required readings
Reflective essay designed to engage the student in at least 24 hours of reflective thinking (vichara)
Total= 300 credit hours
Some of the emails to the group have been reproduced here. These emails will give the reader an outline of the course as well as its structure.
Yoga: The spiritual psychology of awakening
This email is meant to serve as an introduction to what we as a group intend to work for, the objectives and purpose behind a group like this. We could call ourselves the Yoga group or the Yoga-Vedanta group or Yoga psychology group or anything else. Does the name matter so much? Yes and no. The name chosen could at times tell the essence of the name, the purpose and the scope.
This learning *could* be hazardous to your ego! It contains ideas and tools that are designed to awaken the heart and focus the mind.
Yoga is not a religion. It is a system of spiritual and psychological practices that developed in the Indian sub-continent over a period of at least 10,000 years. But it is not merely about something we do, but is more about who or what we are. Yoga without this sense of who we are is like heat without light. So first and foremost Yoga addresses the question regarding who we are. Deep within the human spirit, there is a search unfolding for a vision and experience of why we are here and what we may become. Yoga is born in the fire of direct experience. Mere scholarship will not do. Though a theoretical understanding is very useful, Yoga is not just theory; Yoga is about sadhana (practice). It is about balancing learning with practice, practice involving both the head and the heart. And what is the purpose of these practices? To lead from bondage to freedom, from suffering to release, from time to eternity, from weakness to strength, from death to spiritual immortality.
Which school of Yoga?
Those of you who know me well enough know that rather than restrict myself to a single manner of approaching a field, I prefer the 'whole' big picture, the grand synthesis. Our approach to Yoga will also be on the same lines. Yoga is a rich and diverse tradition, encompassing both agnostic as well as theistic approaches. Thus we have Patanjala yoga (or Raja yoga), Vedantic yoga (comprising of bhakti/love, gnana/knowledge & karma/action) Buddhist yoga, Jaina yoga, Tantric yoga, Hatha yoga etc. My approach is to give you a bird's eye view of all these sub-systems within the hoary yogic tradition while being thoroughly grounded in the foundations of Yoga. The practical teachings will comprise of techniques and ideas from every tradition and will include (among others):
The eightfold royal path of sage Patanjali
The Upanishadic/vedantic path
The yoga of action; work as spiritual practice
The yoga of meditation
The yoga of emotions: love; devotion/bhakti & compassion
The yoga of life affirmation/Tantra: Kundalini, chakras, visualization techniques, mantra, yantra, mandala, personal deities, ritual worship.
What we will most probably not do much:
Yoga is not physical exercise as is often misunderstood in the modern times. It is only Hatha yoga, a much later development in the yogic tradition, which is particularly focused on developing the body's potential, as a preparation to Samyama yoga, the actual process of yoga. Thus Hatha yoga is the preparation for the real purpose of Yoga, though there is a possibility that Hatha yoga can be a full-fledged path by itself. We will not focus much on this though you will be given a comprehensive idea as well as a CD to take back in case you are interested in practicing Hatha yoga. Our approach to Hatha Yoga will be in the classical Sivananda yoga as taught by the disciples of Swami Sivananda, particularly Swami Vishnudevananda. There are two reasons for this choice. My training in Hatha yoga is predominantly in this tradition. Secondly it is the simplest and comprehensive approach that serves the purpose of preparation for Samyama yoga (unless your main objective is to be a rubber-man or rubber-woman!).
The tools and techniques of transformation:
Apart from a study of Yoga related texts, the practical work for Self-development will include
1. Breathwork for emotional healing, heightened awareness, and trance states. Here I am using the word 'trance' as non-ordinary states of consciousness which some researchers refer to as altered states. In yoga psychology, breath is the link between the body and the mind.
2. Kirtan yoga (sacred music/singing/ aimed at addressing the emotions); do not under estimate this using the analytic mind.
3. Mantra yoga/ Japa yoga: Chanting
4. Cultivating discrimination and reflective thinking to manage reactivity as well as create *insight* (dealing with *ignorance* or avidya)
5. Value education: Spiritual discipline & yogic values
6. Meditation: Two types of meditation (i) Mindfulness based and (ii) Concentration based
7. Brahma Vihara bhavana: Meditating on the four sublime states of mind- Unbounded friendliness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity
8. Theoretical appreciation of the Mind-Body as per Yoga-Vedanta for a positive model of one self; Healing the self and others
9. Ayurveda the knowledge of longevity- The holistic principles of Ancient Indian Medicine
10. Training the mind in the art of Happiness
11. Sacred Art in Yoga: Mandalas for re-integration of the unconscious forces within
12. Work as spiritual practice- Brahma Yajna
Other areas covered will include:
Yoga-Vedanta as psychology and psychotherapy, meditation as therapy/healing, emphasis on a psychology of strength and happiness: This is the future of yoga in modern times. While it is most useful to appreciate the possibility of yoga as therapy, one would miss the true significance of yoga tradition if the full potential of yoga as a spiritual discipline is compromised upon. The true aim of yoga is freedom from suffering of all kinds, not just healing or therapy. Both the personal and transpersonal aspects of Yoga need to be appreciated. The psychology of Yoga will help us deal with unhappiness and destructive emotions; but it is the spiritual dimension of yoga that liberates one fully.
- Life span development, Interpersonal dynamics, Relationships & Family Orders: A study of the best of ancient and modern models. This will include the intra-psychic and systemic factors as outlined in some of the best models in modern western psychology. The idea is to approach life from all levels- the personal, the interpersonal, the social and the transpersonal.
While there will be practice sessions intermingled within the learning process everyday, there will be two exclusively experiential days out of the twelve days that we will meet (there will be four optional days after these twelve compulsory core learning days). These two experiential days will be tentatively in the 4 th or 5 th week and the 9 th week. Breathwork and sacred artwork are the two main components of the first experiential day. The second experiential day is for 'The Yoga of Emotions', which will cover Brahma vihara bhavana meditation, Nada yoga and Kirtan. These workshops have great potential in their experiential value and *could* lead to deep self-exploration for some. It is up to each of you to be open to this powerful and transformative experience.
Ideally we could plan these meetings over a period of 9 to 12 months.
Time : 9 am to 5 pm
First session : Sunday the 11 th September
Before you come:
Think of one personal goal that you wish to work on. It may be your anger, jealousy, depressing thoughts, grief, reactivity in a relationship, or anything else that you think is relevant to your self. You need not share this with the others though you are welcome to. This will be your personal/individual goal that you set for yourself. It might be most useful to work on something mundane and immediately relevant too, apart from the spiritual objectives. I will explain more in the class. But think it over. What is it that you wish to change about yourself? This is where you are right now. Yoga starts from where you are. More when I see you personally.
Looking forward to see you all fellow-yogis in the wonderful awakening of consciousness,
Your friend and guide,
Brief outline of the 12 compulsory core classes:
Classes 1-4 (Foundations, Yoga sutra chapter 1); Foundations: What is Yoga? Types of Yoga, Cosmogenesis, Introducing Kirtan chanting, Japa yoga, 8 limbs of yoga, Shivaratri day, Tantra, symbols, Upanishadic philosophy of strength & divinity, spiritual log/diary, Satsang, Swadhyaya, Tapas, Being and Having, Agni-Someeyam-1, Surya Namaskara,
Class 5 Breathwork
Classes 6 & 7: Brahma Viharas 1 day, Happiness 1 day
Classes 8 & 9: Kundalini, Kula Kundalini, Agni-Someeyam-2, triune model of the brain, Family of Origin, Differentiation of Self, Dealing with Crises, Reactivity, Damage Control, Family Orders
Class 10: Mind-Body Studies, Healing self and others
Class 11: Nada Yoga, Bhakti & Karma yogas, Mahabharata
Class 12: Gita
Classes 6 & 7: Brahma Viharas 1 day, Happiness 1 day
Sat Feb 11, 2006
The topics/themes for tomorrow are:
1. Cultivating the four sublime states/brahma viharas
as an antidote to all life problems
2. Mudita-Happiness (discussion & practical exercises)
3. Maitri- Friendliness/Love (practical exercises)
4. Mantram chanting as meditation (practical)
Date: Fri Mar 24, 2006 3:42 pm
Subject:: yoga-vedanta class no 8- outline for the day- a must read
In the previous 2 sessions the emphasis was on Soma and the practice of Brahma Viharas (Boundless Friendliness, Compassion/Empathy, Cheerfulness/Joy and Equanimity). As you know it is neither Agni nor Soma that can exclusively give results. It is a balance of both the forces of individuality and togetherness (Self-Others) that sustains life in its totality. So now we will focus fully on Agni and attaining a balance of Agni-Soma in the next three sessions. This week and the next fortnight the emphasis will be on Agni yoga
Objectives and the methods of Agni yoga:
- Cultivating Awareness of and Gaining insight into
- our Selves
- our core beliefs and their origins
- how our core beliefs manifest as our external reality
- how our core beliefs limit us and hold us back from achieving our full potential, from achieving happiness in our lives and relationships
- our habitual deep seated protective defenses of the mind
- how we continuously operate in the same "patterns" of thinking, feeling and relating that sabotage our relationships and aspirations
2. Managing reactivity or Practicing non-reactivity/vairagya through the practices of viveka/discrimination and vichara/reflective thinking, Abhyasa of "Sakshi bhava"
3. Practicing awareness or mindfulness/Vipassana - Choiceless Awareness
How I plan to lead the group into this complex and most rewarding path of Agni-Someeyam in the next two sessions through the best of ancient and modern methods:
- Exploring the Mind, how our beliefs, attitudes and experiences are shaped- Understanding the Intra-psychic and Interpersonal forces that make the Mind what it is
- Life as a web of relationships in both Yoga and Family Systems theory
- Understanding the Self in relationships
- Evolutionary Neurosciences, Family of origin, Tradition/Culture, Early experiences
- Patterns of relating/Our relationships
- Living Consciously in the moment as opposed to Living Automatically in response to old evolutionary and family of origin influences
- Revisiting the family of origin
- Healing ourselves of the past before letting go of the past
- Right thinking-Replacing the old self-defeating beliefs with new Positive and life-affirming beliefs/thoughts through Swadhyaya/ Studying Positive Psychology/Spirituality
- 'Differentiation of Self' and "Self-Realization" through Abhyasa : "Coaching the Self" through evidence-based Mind-Body approaches adapted from both Yoga as well as Modern studies
Please sleep well on Saturday night so you can stay alert on Sunday. This might ensure optimal alertness in your learning experience on Sunday.
There are six articles in all as of now. Please read the articles before coming to the class. This is part of the foundation on which we will continue to work as per the integral model of human behaviour and functioning. We already explored the basis for such a model that addresses all levels (intrapsychic, interpersonal and transpersonal) of functioning.
We will explore relationship patterns and communication patterns this week. There will also be a discussion in the class on "TEN MISCONCEPTIONS THAT CAN DEFEAT A RELATIONSHIP". The article on "Defense mechanisms" is not required reading and is optional. Please read the other articles especially "Bowen theory" and Relationship patterns and myths. The articles are attached in order of importance. Last session's introductory outline of Agni-Someeyam (in the email) can be read for this week too.
Last but not the least Kundalini and Kula kundalini will continue to fascinate us this week too.
From: Dr Satya Prakash Choudhary <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu Apr 20, 2006 2:27 pm
Subject:: Mind-Body Healing Workshop -YV class 10/VENUE CHANGED to Paramatta
As informed in the previous class we have 3 more classes for the Yoga-Vedanta group including this Sunday. This week we have the Mind-Body Healing workshop
Outline for the Mind-Body class:
- Consciousness and Healing
- Integral approaches to Mind-Body Healing
- The Agni-Someeyam model
- Overview of the best of Leading Edge Thinkers, Research and Practice in Mind-Body Medicine
- Psychoneuroimmunology: Evidence-based research studies
- Prescriptions for Self-Healing: Taking responsibility for Self
- Lifesaving Self-Awareness techniques
- Afflicting & Healing Emotions
- Brahma Viharas & Healing
- Essential Tools, Strategies and Resources for Healing & Recovery
- Pranic Healing & Reiki: Healing approaches based on Yoga
- Hypnosis, Visualization and Yoga: Similarities and Dissimilarities
- Using Mind-Body awareness to achieve other life goals
- Commonsense & Nonsense: Questioning the Emperor's clothes!
Best practices in Mind-Body healing typically focus on intervention strategies such as relaxation, hypnosis, visual imagery, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, cognitive-behavioral therapies, group support, autogenic training, and spirituality.
As you can see we will explore, synthesize, and integrate the best approaches in the area of Mind-Body healing not only across disciplines, but across time. In the mushrooming new age "Mind-Body-Spirit" market, a balanced, no-nonsense, inter-disciplinary, evidence-based workshop such as this is not so commonplace.
Date: Thu May 11, 2006 5:05 pm
Subject:: Outline for class 11- Nada Yoga & Karma Yoga
We have come to the last two classes now. This is the penultimate yoga-vedanta class. This week's topics have an immediate relevance to daily life.
There will be two important themes for this class.
Nada Yoga is based on the view of the world as Nada Brahma- the world as Sound. Music is Divine! We will explore the importance of music, sound and vibration in the flowering of consciousness. Nada yoga is intricately connected to the great tradition of Indian classical music. There will be an experiential component for 30 mts as part of this. We will also go into bhakti yoga (the yoga of spiritual love) at a deeper level as both nada yoga and bhakti yoga overlap so much. In short we will explore the Yoga of emotions (Together the practices of Nada, Bhakti and Brahma vihara bhavana form the core of the Yoga of emotions). We will also do some kirtan/bhajans/chanting as part of the practice.
Karma Yoga or the Yoga of Action explores the possibility of expanding awareness and deepening perception through engaged action in the world. Karma yoga balances outer life with inner life, and allows us the possibility of extending our practice of Yoga into our daily life, wherever we are, whatever we are doing. Work as spiritual practice (yoga in the wokplace!) is part and parcel of Karma Yoga. It explores livelihood and living, career as swadharma, and the possibilty of transforming work into spiritual practice. The Yoga of Action shows us the way to find creativity, inspiration and accomplishment in our work lives.
Together Karma, Bhakti and Gnana yogas harmonise outer life with inner life. Harmony between intelect/emotion, speech and action is achieved. Yogic Nirvana becomes possible in the HERE & NOW through enlightened action, through action grounded in knowledge.
Note: This Saturday the 13th happens to be the day/night of Vaisakha pournami, the full moon day commemorating the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and final Parinirvana (final liberation through conscious death), all three of which happened on the full moon day/night of the Vaisakha month. This is one of the two most auspicious full moons of the year. Friday night to Sunday morning is a good time for sattvic pursuits.
Date: Sat May 27, 2006 4:30 pm
Subject:: Outline for class 12- Last class (please read)
This is the last of the core classes for the Yoga-vedanta group.
Towards the end of the last session we had a bird's eye view of the Mahabharata and the central message of the Mahabharata- DHARMA . As you already know the greatest text to come from India , the Bhagavad Gita (literally the Song Divine ) occurs within the Mahabharata. Tomorrow we will explore the Bhagavad Gita in further detail. We will study the first six chapters of the Divine Song in depth and the overall message of the Gita briefly.
Chapter 1: The Crisis of Arjuna. (Overcoming Grief and Confusion)
Chapter 2: Samkhya Yoga (Buddhi yoga or The Yoga of the Reflecting Intellect or Awareness of Awareness)
Chapter 3: The Yoga of Action: Work as Yoga
Chapter 4: Brahma Yajna: Life as a Dedication as an Offering as a great Sacrifice: The Wedding of Wisdom & Action
Chapter 5: Karma Samnyasa: Renunciation of the Fruits of Action
Chapter 6: The Yoga of Self-Mastery
The second part of the day will be spent in recapitulation of the entire course, its aims, objectives, techniques etc to help consolidate past learning and future practice. We will also discuss future directions and reading list/bibliography. Finally we will watch a video. Of course there will be kirtan/chanting in between.
Certificates will be awarded in August/September. The certificates will also include a transcript of studies undertaken. One of the course requirements is to submit an assignment. True to the spirit of Yoga it will not test your knowledge of the contents. It will be an exercise in Buddhi-Yoga, a Reflective essay of personal importance, one that ties learning to the journey of the Self. More in tomorrow's class.
1. Please check your inbox today late night or early morning tomorrow. You will recieve a 25-30 pages notes of selected Gita slokas. If you have access to a printer please bring along a personal copy.
2. As usual Archana has offered to cook a simple Indian lunch for all.
See you all tomorrow morning.