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Why Navratra rules

Yogi Ashwini's article n New Indian Express
http://www.newindianexpress.com/lifestyle/spirituality/Why-Navratra-Rules/2015/03/21/article2721630.ece


Navratras come twice a year, marking the transition of seasons. In Ayurveda, during this time, consume nourishing foods in minimal quantities to rid the body from toxins collected during the rains. The nine nights and ten days of Navratras hold the energy of ten forms of Shakti–Shailaputri, Brahmcharini, Chandrakanta, Kushmanda, Skandmata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, Mahagauri, Siddhidatri and Aparajitha. The weather changes, and various energies of creation move from imbalance towards a new normalcy, including in our body. Our body’s prana shakti undergoes realignment, from imbalance to a new balance for the new season.
For this realignment, the body has to be kept light. Therefore, the ancients prescribed fasting or upvaas during these nine days. Upavaas has a  greater connotation than merely holding back from certain foods. At Dhyan Ashram, sadhaks observe upavaas in its authentic sense—giving up all pleasures to observe austerities during sadhna, through celibacy, consuming food for energy and not sensual pleasure, following a niyam of the sadhna the Guru has given—a mantra, dhyan or a tantric practice, keeping  the senses under strict control, focusing on your ishta deva, towards whom all thoughts and actions during these days are devoted to. Charity and service are an intrinsic part of such sadhnas.
Apart from fasting, certain mantras are to be chanted for a complete physical detox. For the beginner, these days may be divided into three parts of three days each for the three parts of body: below the navel, between the navel and the shoulders and the upper head region corresponding to the energies of the goddesses Sarawati, Lakshmi and Durga respectively. The nine devis originate from these three, who in turn originate in Adi Shakti. These three parts are further divided into three parts each, dividing the body into nine parts in all.
In the first three days of Navratras, the sadhak abstains from spicy food and performs havans in the morning and evening with chants invoking Ma Durga. Offering of kala til along with ghrit is made and desi cow’s upla and palash samedha are used. In the next three days, the sadhak stops taking anna and only light foods are ingested. A havan for Ma Lakshmi is performed at the two sandhyas with offerings of sweets along with ghrit. In the last three days, the sadhak only consumes water and juice (not even milk as it is considered an animal product) and a havan for Ma Saraswati is performed at the two sandhyas by making offerings of ghrit and guggal. On the tenth day, a complete fast is kept and once more Ma Durga or Ma Kali is invoked as on this day Ravan had invoked Ma Kali and Ram had invoked Ma Durga. This process brings about the required realignment. After this, the sadhak performs his sadhna and chants the mantra as prescribed by his/her guru. With yog sadhna, all the energies that are invoked come to the sadhak. It prepares the body to accept the new energies of the coming season. For nine days, you realign your body, after which on the tenth day you get new energies.
Most people lighten their bodies by fasting for nine days, only to make it heavy on the tenth by crowding to restaurants and liquor shops. This is like cleaning your room and bringing all the garbage back later. Fasting or any such technique will bear fruit only if carried out with detachment, for the purpose of evolution. The guru knows the capacity of a shishya and prescribes a fast depending upon his/her requirements. Therefore it is of utmost importance to observe fasts in tandem with yogic practices such as the Sanatan Kriya under the sanidhya of a Guru to reap maximum benefits.
 Yogi Ashwini is the spiritual head of Dhyan Ashram.(dhyan@dhyanfoundation.com)

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