Friday, April 9, 2010

Movement and Stillness.

Last night I took a wonderful class with Elena Brower, an amazing Anasura Yoga teacher.   In the class she combined vinyasa flow with her knowledge of Anasura instructing.  I found it to be that magical, wonderful blend of movement and stillness.  Although the flow aspects of the practice were more stagnant at times than some students were used to, this allowed her to honor the clear anatomical instructions that Anasura Yoga does so well.  Once I settled into the slower pace of movement I found that my breathe deepened in the postures.  It is always easier to hold revolved triangle when I know that a series of movements will soon follow.  I love the marriage between holding poses and moving through poses.  It is a lovely balance of yin and yang, prana and apana, sun and moon, movement and stillness.    

My tendency is to want to move more than I want to be still.  Since I know this about myself I try to set a timer  and commit myself to stay in the pose until the timer beeps. While other days, I put on some good music and flow in and out of postures until my heart is content.  It just depends on my mood and what I have been experiencing that day.   This variety keeps my practice flexibile.  Types of Yoga that honor continuous movement include Vinyasa, Flow, Kundalini, and Yogalates, to name a few. Types that honor holding of postures are Iyengar, Classical Hatha, and Yin yoga.  These  practices put a lot of emphasis on getting the structural alignment correct and deepening into the postures, thus strengthening the correct muscles.  When I need a good challenge and a little bit of discipline these classes really hit the spot. I don't want to be misleading when I make the distinction between these two groups as if it were a hard and fast rule containing each style, because there is always elements of stillness and movement in all of these types.  After all Desikachar says "that dynamic practice of asanas [postures] should be an essential part of every yoga session."   Dynamic meaning movement in and out of the poses.  

I want to encourage everybody to explore a variety of practices in regards to holding versus moving.  Notice what your tendency is and allow the opposite element to enter into the practice.   Whatever emphasis you choose keep pace with the rhythm of your breathe and let that determine how deep you go!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Simple Seated Postures for the Heart

A student asked me for a group of simple seated postures for opening the heart before meditating.   Here is a sequence that opens both the front and back of the heart.  In yogic philosophy the front of the heart is where we forgive and feel love for others.  The back of the heart is where we forgive and feel love for ourselves, often more challenging to do.
1. Begin in staff pose.  Sit up tall. (If you feel tightness in the low back or hamstrings.  Feel free to modify by bending the knees slightly or sitting up on a pillow or phonebook.)  Do a few shoulder rolls.  Rolling shoulders up and back and  down.  Then reversing the direction. Scoop belly in and up and feel yourself lengthening from the top of the head down to your sit bones.

2. Then reaching out in front of you, you will begin to bend your right elbow as if you were drawing back a bow and arrow. Energetically feel the tension of a bow resisting.  Follow your elbow with your eyes, so that you turn your head. Continue to open the chest and roll that shoulder back.  Pull the elbow back as you inhale and then return to start position on the exhale.  Repeating second side. Pulling  left elbow back as you  inhale. Exhale and return back to start position.  Do this several times.

 3. Then bending your knees wrap your arms around your knees and curl up into a ball.  Resting your head on your knees.  Breathe slowly and deeply into the back of the heart and feel a nice stretch through the shoulder blades and neck.  Honor yourself as you turn inward and forgive yourself for anything that perhaps has been weighing on you. Feel the comfort and fullness of each breath. Allow each inhalation to soothe you with unconditional healing love and each exhalation soften the back of the heart.

4.  Then reaching your hands back behind you open your chest.  Breath into the front of the heart.  Feel a softness in your elbows and continue to draw the shoulder blades down your back.  Open your heart to all those that you love. Sending them unconditional love. Each inhalation lifting the heart. Each exhalation softening the shoulder blades.

Work to deepen into the shoulders, all the while keep the chest lifted.
With slow and deep breaths move gently back with the hands. Never losing that connection to the lift in the sternum and a softness in the elbows.  Finally finish by returning back to center and then rolling the head in towards the chest. Hugging your knees, curled up into a ball one more time. Take a few breathes once again honoring the back of the heart.

5.   Place your feet to the right.  Rest your right hand down beside you and lift your left arm up and overhead.   Feel a nice stretch in the left side as you continue to anchor the left hip down.  One long breath.

As you exhale, shift the torso by reach your left arm out to the left placing it on the ground  and begin to raise your right arm up and over head.   Allow that right arm to circle down to the ground and reach the chest down towards the ground.  Exhale every last bit of air out to prepare for a grand inhalation that gracefully lifts your torso back up to that start position with the left arm once again swooping overhead.  Do this several times with the feet to the right.

Then switch the feet to the left. Anchor the right hip down. Repeat the sequence now switched to the other side.  Right arm is raised over head.

Take a deep inhalation and as you exhale extend that right arm down to the ground beside you. Now raising the left arm up and over.

 Circle that left arm all the way down to the ground and stretch through that left shoulder.  Repeat this sequence several times.

6. Allow your legs to shift to a simple cross legged position.  Sitting balanced on your pelvis, draw your belly muscles in and take your right hand to your left knee and your left hand behind you.  Keep the heart lifted and the left shoulder rolling back.  Feel the sternum lifting with each inhalation.  As you exhale see if you can twist a little bit deeper drawing the navel in for support.  Take several deep breaths.

Then on an inhale  reach your left arm up towards the sky. Feel length through the torso.   As you exhale cross that left arm over the right. Then wrap the forearms together.  If you can reach the right hand up and grab the left do so.  Otherwise simply squeeze the forearms together. Allow the shoulder blades to soften down the back. 

Repeat sequence to the second side. with left hand on right knee.  Rolling open the right shoulder. Inhaling to lengthen and exhaling to twist. After several deep breaths. Inhale and lift the right arm up.

Exhale and cross that right arm on top of the left for Eagle arms.  Continue to draw shoulder blades down the back. 

7.  Come to center sitting up tall. Reach the hands behind you on the ground once again opening the chest.  Let each exhale send love to all those that surround you.  Inhale deeply as you lift the chest. Take a couple more breathes. Then as you exhale fold forward over your crossed legs.  Continue to reach the heart towards the ground lengthening the back body.  Take several deep breaths until you are ready to rise up with an open heart and begin meditating on unconditional love.   Perhaps allowing this meditation to have the intention of healing those places in the body and soul that perhaps have stored pain left over from times of conditional love.  Allow each  inhale to be a soothing comfort of pure love with no strings attached.  

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Candy Cravings

Everybody has addictions.  Mine is candy, and Easter candy is my favorite. We all have patterns that we can't seem to break.  In my journey to explore the various styles of yoga I have been looking into Kundalini yoga.  I found that these yogis have a particular kriya or meditation that is designed to cure cravings. So instead of reaching for cadbury eggs I am going to reach for my higher self in this meditation.  I have been teaching it to my classes as well and observing how my students respond to it.  One women said, "it was the first time she was able to meditate fully because there is so much going on in the meditation she wasn't able to think of anything else." Whether or not it helps with cravings for her remains to be seen, but to be able to clear the mind is worth a lot. Plus an added bonus is you can't take yourself too seriously when you do this meditation. Give it a try and you will see what I mean.

It is researched and explained by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. This comes from his book Meditation as Medicine. A very interesting book especially in the face of the health care crisis that the US is finding itself in these days.

He recommends all meditation sessions begin by chanting "Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" 3 times. This chant is specific to the practice of kundalini yoga. It translates "I honor all the teachers that have come before me and my highest self."

Here is the directions for the meditation:

Sit in a simple cross legged position or in a chair with your spine straight.

The eyes are closed and focused on the space between the eyebrows.

You make fists of your hands.  Extend your thumbs straight (like hitchhiker thumbs) and place your thumbs on your temples in the niche where they fit.

Close your jaw and lock your back molars.  Keep your lips closed.  Vibrate your jaw muscles by alternating the pressure on your molars.

Repeat silently in your mind SA TA NA MA.  Meaning of this mantra: SA means infinity, TA means life, NA means death, and MA means rebirth.

Start by doing this for 3 - 7 Minutes, with practice you can gradually build up to 20 - 31 minutes.

When you are done inhale deeply, hold your breath for 10 - 20 seconds, exhale and relax.

Here is the research and reasoning behind this particular meditation:

"The pressure exerted by the thumbs triggers a rhythmic reflex current into the central brain.  This current activates the brain area directly underneath the stem of the pineal gland.  It is said that it is an imbalance in this area that makes mental and physical addictions seemingly unbreakable.

"In modern culture, the imbalance is pandemic.  If we are not addicted to smoking, eating, drinking, or drugs, then we are addicted subconsciously to acceptance, advancement, rejection, emotional love, etc.  All these lead us to insecure and neurotic behavior patterns.

"The imbalance in this pineal area upsets the radiance of the pineal gland itself.  It is this pulsating radiance that regulates the pituitary gland.  Since the pituitary regulates the rest of the glandular system, the entire body and mind go out of balance.  This medical  meditation helps to correct this problem.  It is excellent for everyone but particularly effective for rehabilitation efforts in drug dependence, mental illness, and phobic conditions."

~ Meditation as Medicine, page 269.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Journey Begins

I have become inspired to write a blog that charts my journey as a yogi. I have an eclectic approach to yoga and have explored many forms. I find that I am in constant search of the form that is right for me.  So my attempt to catalogue this journey is perhaps a way of pinning my transformations down in a tangible way for all to see.  It is a wonderful time to start a new adventure as today is Easter. A day of spirit and fertility.  I intend for this to be rich with creativity and inspiration. I also hope this may be a practical guide for others on their own journey, practicality being important to me as a Virgo. I am in constant motion due to my Gemini rising, which will hopefully bring a spark of entertainment and adventure. But with a Libra Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto in my chart, I will always strive for balance.