Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Anuloma Pranayama


"Pranayama is not just automatic habitual breathing to keep body and soul together. Through the abundant intake of oxygen by its disciplined techniques, subtle chemical changes take place in the body. The practice of pranayama regulates that flow of prana throughout the body. It also regulates the body's thoughts, desires and actions, give poise and the tremendous will-power needed to become a master of oneself." Light on Pranayama, B.K.S Iyengar



This technique is used to balance the male (right side or sun)/ female (left side or moon) energies of the body and cultivates peace and stillness. This also cleanses the nasal passages, balances high blood pressure, improves awareness and concentration, and when you expand the lungs and chest, you are opening the heart to gratitude.

Sit in a comfortable easy seated pose, Sukasana or other mediation posture.
Inhale deeply through nose, filling the lungs full; Exhale deeper.
Allowing the tongue to role back, inhale through nose, followed by an exhale with both nostrils partially closed for 3 rounds.
Or in Vishnu Mudra, alternate one nostril, then the other, while lengthening the breath.
To do this: Inhale through one nostril, apply pressure to close the other nostril.
Pause the breath.
Then, change the closure to the other side, exhale through the other nostril.
Practice slowly for 5 to 10 rounds with concentration.
Emphasis is in the exhale, which can be longer than the inhale. (Although, Anand preferred the inhales and exhales the same length in a 1:1 ratio. "Progressing only when there is no more discomfort". i.e. 1:2, 1:3... )

Vishnu Mudra: Placing the thumb on one nostril, the pinkie finger on the other and the middle fingers to the 3rd eye.

Caution: Do not practice this technique with heart conditions and only after Ujjayi and Viloma breaths are mastered.

Breathing,

Mel

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blueberry Dessert

In Hood River, Martha, knowing my crazed addiction to blueberries*, showed me how to make the most delicious treat from them! Rinse and put them in a microwavable safe bowl, sprinkle generously with sugar and microwave until the blueberries just pop and warm (a few minutes). Eat warm or put in the freezer for a frozen slushy-like treat. I certainly ate enough to turn into a blueberry (which is what I tell my kids when they eat too much of a good thing)!

Martha, with the gift of mercy and hospitality, wrote a gorgeous cookbook of recipes she shared with us in Hood River. She gracious enough to allow me to share (and modify slightly) this addictive recipe for yet another blueberry splurge.

Thank you Martha; You're an amazing woman.

Martha's Blueberry Dessert
Mix together-
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon cold water
¼ cup sugar
Spread this mixture in a 9 by 13 inch pan

In a separate bowl combine-
1 and ½ large packages of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
5 tablespoons milk
Spread this mixture over the crumb crust
Top with 16oz of microwaved blueberries (*recipe above), **whipped cream, and sprinkle the top with some more graham cracker crumbs. Chill and serve.

**Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla
Whip cream in a chilled bowl few minutes, then add sugar and vanilla and whip again until stiff peaks form.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Perseverance




"Perseverance will finally conquer. Nothing can be done in a day. Hold to the ideal a 1000 times, and if you fall a 1000 times, make the attempt once more. The ideal is to see God in everything." --Pathways to Joy

Patience when I don't have it... courage when I have fear... and practice to the ideal to remove poor patterns in my life. Pilates and Yoga have more in common than you think. Learning a new movement pattern in the body ("teach to the body, not the brain" J. Pilates) proved to be more challenging this weekend during my training than I thought. I have an overflowing gratitude for my dedicated peers and passionate trainer. "It is much more effective to work on our rough edges with a light and forgiving heart" (E.Lesser), and thank goodness Melody does that with us. We would be smart to do that with ourselves, too. I am a lot blessed and yep, a little tired.

Moving,

Mel

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pranayama




"Shallow breath creates shallow thoughts."-- Anand

Prana is energy, and everything is a manifestation of Prana. Breath is one of the 5 pranic systems, and the only one we have control over.

Over the next week or so (as life and children allow...), I'll share some of the breathing techniques Anand taught us this summer in Hood River.

This one seems simple-- but because we tend to breathe in our upper chest cavity, it requires discipline to turn the mind away from distractions (see yesterday's post) and breathe deeply. Allow more time than you'd like to. Sitting in stillness for any length of time requires willingness to begin and gets easier with practice.

Sitting in easy seated pose, Sukasana, breathe deep into your navel until you become aware of your breath. Place one hand on heart as an expression of gratitude and one hand on your navel center while breathing in and out.

Just breathing,

Mel

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yoga Sutra 1.12


Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah.

Yoga Sutra 1.12

"The control of (chitta vrittis or mental modifications) is brought about by practice and non-attachment of the mind."--Anand

Yoga is not a faith but rather a practice or willingness to be so detached that you learn from your mistakes rather than making them a habit. Attachment is a desire for ownership. Detachment shows an appreciation for life and things without a desire to own it or look for approval. Detachment is not avoiding life but rather not attaching (basing) your identification on maya, which is the illusion of "name and form". In other words, who you think you are. Avoid seeking security and peace in changeable things.

"The sun is covered by layers of clouds, but remains unaffected by them. The work of the wind is to drive the clouds away and the more the clouds disappear, the more the light of the sun appears. There is no change in the Spirit- it is the Infinite. God alone is eternal; everything else is transitory. He never changes. WE make our own destiny- - The sun shines for the weak and for the strong. All the strength you need lies within you." --Pathways to Joy

Learning some hard lessons along the way,

Melissa

Friday, September 25, 2009

Heathy back

“Make peace with the present moment.” Judith Lasater

I've had so many questions regarding back pain and injuries in yoga (usually after class- rather than before when I can monitor the student and give more specific options.) While Yoga can be very healing, many classes you can go to, are meant for the general population (without injuries) or are often too fast to address the needs of someone with this type of injury.

Low back pain is often the result of minor muscle, ligament or joint issues in the lumbar spine area as a result of strain from one activity (how you use your body AND how you sit, stand and sleep) or years of misalignment (poor posture), muscle tightness or weakness, stress (life) or other injuries.

Lack of body awareness is a huge contributor as well: rounded shoulders, forward head, and kyphosis (concave spine), swayback, or lordosis (arched spine). Sciatica is much more severe (with pain shooting down the leg from the back) and happens when the spinal vertebrae bulges out and compresses the nerve from the spinal cord. If you have a "radiating, constant pain which could infer an impingement of the nerves from a constricted piriformis muscle pressing on the sciatic nerve or herniated disk, and are not able to find a pain free posture (even lying down)", Judith Lasater, author and PT recommends a medical evaluation. In addition, there are several life-threatening causes of back pain (infection, cancer, spinal fracture and neurological problems) which seeking a physician is in order. However, most injuries are resulting from postural or poor body awareness.

Are you slumped in a computer chair while you're reading this? Move to the edge of your chair, pull your sitz bones together (and higher than your knees), place your feet flat on the floor in front of you, and draw your belly and chin back. There, now don't you feel better already? (Alexander technique is great and was founded 100 years ago.); )

"Movement heals." (J. Pilates)

Resting (lying in bed) will not allow the muscles to rebuild to support the spine. The more you lay around, the more muscle loss you'll have (studies show up to 3% a day). Studies also show that most pain will subside within 6-8 weeks, regardless of what you do and that surgery is generally not the most effective option. A recent study of yoga practitioners found that 98% of 1000 people with back pain found yoga helpful. Now that's powerful.

What can you do in your Yoga practice?

AWARENESS of:
Create internal warmth first
Focus on breath
Placement or stacking and proper rotation of joints (ask your teacher for adjustments)
Avoid overstretching or forcing a pose
Develop core strength & stability (ask your teacher to evaluate what muscles need strengthening and to recommend specific exercise for that)
Use of Bandhas, which are muscular and energetic locks to protect the spine and generate energy
Choose the appropriate choice of movement by knowing when to give yourself permission to stay in a pose or modification rather than progress with the teacher
Avoid seated forward folds (supine is a better option)
Avoid jumping into poses

Aim to feel balanced through the pelvis and lower spine, not overarching the lower back and not over tucking the pelvis. It should feel like you're standing right down through the center of your body with the feet firm and the crown of the head lifted. "Engage your mind, bring attention to what you're doing, and precisely how your doing it to build the ability to feel your body's signals." (Yoga as Medicine, by T. McCall, MD)

Enjoy a healthy practice and back...

Mel







Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beginning a new class

"We have only the gift of sharing perceptions that hopefully can help those on their journey. There is no such thing as an expert on the human experience. The human experience is an experience in movement and thought and form, and, in some cases, an experiment in movement and thought and form. The most that we can do is comment on the movement, the thought and the form, but those comments are of great value if they can help people to learn to move gracefully, to think clearly, to form-like an artist-the matter of their lives." from The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

Words



"Speak what you feel, not what you ought to say."-- Leigh McLeroy

There are four "gates of speech" in Yoga. Before speaking, examine what you are about to say to help maintain Right Speech.
-Is it truthful?
-Is it helpful to say?
-Is it the appropriate time?
-Can it be said in a thoughtful way?


Weighing my words carefully,

Melissa

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pilates



Centering..." is a unique trinity of a balanced body, mind and spirit..." Joseph Pilates

This past weekend was another step of faith (or insanity with the amount of training I've been doing over the past year?!) ... a 3 month Peak Pilates (PPS2) training with a fun, talented, and amazing group of women that I got to know a year ago at our first (PPS1) training (http://smithfamilyinkaty.blogspot.com/2008/12/pilates.html). With hundreds of hours of practice and teaching behind us, we have more to come... and I cannot wait.

This past weekend was exhausting but in a good way. With another 2 day session coming up this weekend. (After I lead a power yoga class at the Y, then 108 sun salutations at City Center Lifetime on Saturday -- I might have myself confused with someone who has super-powers?!)

I believe Pilates and Yoga are a beautiful compliment to each other. The order of exercises or the method of Pilates has a purpose of creating a muscle memory in the body. The same is true when you do Surya Namaskar or another Kriya in Yoga. When done with proper alignment and form, the body creates an engram (muscle memory) of it and then you have the possibility to progress or give yourself permission not to.

For me, it all comes down to movement. There are some days where I should just move (or dance as Puja would say-- without fear of incorrect form and with total freedom in the body) and there are other days where the art of practicing a sequence creates something beautiful within me. Just moving. Simply moving.

Loving what I do...

Mel

Monday, September 21, 2009

Multitasking




"Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich." -- Sarah Bernhardt


As usual, I wake up before my alarm, 4.45 which is usually set for 5am. My new rule, if it's within 30 minutes of my alarm, I get up rather than laying there thinking about getting up. Once up, coffee maker on, start lunches, turn on computer, open journal and then.... boys wake up. Drew's started a new habit of waking before 6 (sometimes before 5am). So, a favorite book or two later and a snuggle... he's back to bed for at least thirty minutes before Nathan goes barging into his room and wakes him up for a fun game of let's go "steam roll" (tackle) mommy and ask for breakfast... sigh. So the morning begins.

It occurred to me this morning, that my multitasking has gotten a little overboard. After starting lunches, making breakfast, I go to use the bathroom (am I really blogging about this??? wait, it does have a point...), and because I just can't do just one thing at a time, I start to read an article about what else? Multitasking... in the article, the author sets out on an experiment for 30 days to "untask" or do just one thing at a time. Is that possible? Do people do that? Well, I'm pretty sure they do... I've witnessed that with men. Most women, I have observed are a one-thing-at-a-time kind of person and generally do two or more things at one time all day long. (Now this is a very broad generalization, no comments on this, please.)

My typical morning: check email, listen to itunes (click to buy new song and while that is downloading), start blogging, while Nathan asks me to sign his homework page and Andrew needs cream put on his mossie bite, I drink my coffee and change out a load of laundry, referee a war over a toy, contemplate and make notes on classes for the day.... I could go on and on... surely I'm not the only one?

If you're familiar with Ayurveda and the different Dosha's (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha)... you could probably guess that I'm a Vata/Pitta. (If you're not, take a quiz to find your Dosha: http://www.yogajournal.com/health/498?utm_source=DailyInsight&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_content=b&utm_campaign=DI_2009_09_16)

I'm not saying multitasking is wrong. I'm just observing my strengths and acknowledging areas that need improvement or balance. The benefit of knowing your Dosha is to create and find that balance... and it helps you determine the kind of yoga practice is best for you. Pitta's and Kaphas would do well to have more strenuous exercises. Vata's benefit from slowing down, calming the mind.

Trying to find balance for today--

Mel




Sunday, September 20, 2009

Joy


"In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost." --Dante Alighieri






I'm still reading Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. In her book, she talks about a woman who emerges from these woods... with nothing left to lose. And, in that dark place she discovered qualities she forgot she had, retrieved her soul, reinvented herself...it was as if she was born a second time. This is how I feel.

Most times I feel completely alone, even though though I'm surrounded by supportive and loving friends and a God who I know loves me regardless of my actions. Actually, I've never been more at peace with my life, and it's direction. Yep, it's scary and, I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time. It feels entirely selfish to focus on myself-- but I've got a joy- not happiness. A real joy that I have not felt in a very long time. And that joy is not coming from another person or outward circumstances. I don't know what will happen in the months to come. But I do know, whatever I do, I will make the right choice. (http://graceyoga-live-move-breathe.blogspot.com/2009/09/choices.html)

I've been sharing with my classes this week about joy. Trying to find joy in pose or in the moment... "Joy is inside you. Not in attainment of things desired, nor in the achievement of goals made. But in the simple feeling that lies within you. Know that this joy is unaffected by outer circumstance, and joy will be yours forever."

I love that no one or no one thing can take your joy from you. It's yours to cultivate and yours to keep.

Joy.

Mel



Saturday, September 19, 2009

Faith



Faith

It empowers you and the people you meet. Like a river that flows, faith (Sraddha) runs through you into others. Faith becomes the grounding force. Without it you are a ship without an anchor. When you have faith, fear evaporates. With faith fear cannot bind you... courage will. And energy to go on will come. (Yoga Sutra 1.20)

Some days are harder than others. I began to feel that sleep was over rated. Until today. Began to boil the water for coffee until I realized I didn't refill the water... it was a sign to go back to bed. And until Drew came in wanting breakfast, it was the most restful 2 hours I've had in a very long time. Funny how we preach all the good things, eat well, sleep well, take time for yourself, your family and friends, balance... and then we go full steam ahead and don't heed all of our own advise.

Living by faith,

Mel





Thursday, September 17, 2009

Joy



"When you do something from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy." --Rumi

After a flow class yesterday, a student courageously came to me to share. More than a week ago she was at her breaking point (a stay at home mom with 4 children) and asked her husband for a little break on Friday night. By the time Thursday rolled around, he went into the hospital with a serious infection. She was already fragile when that happened. Today, he's home and recovering... but she's still weary and beyond fatigue. For Savasana at the end of class, I offered her a blanket. Just a blanket. She said that simple act of placing it under her brought on a flood of tears.

To be able to cultivate a safe, loving environment where a student feels able to release fears and experience a kind of calm that transcends where you are... this is why I teach. It's really not about what you do on the mat, is it?

"You can feel that river flowing when you reach out and help someone in need, when you are in love, when you come through the fire of a difficult endeavor, or when you finally surrender to a painful situation- when you stop fighting the fear and heartache, and you give the reins to something greater. When you tire of your own constriction and you open, come what may to the flow of life, you and your soul become one, and you feel a river moving in you, a joy." -- Broken Open, by E. Lesser

It's an honor and joy to teach...

Melissa

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gayatri Mantra

To hear Deva Premal sing this is just beautiful. I have found so many different interpretations of this mantra but for me, Anand's below stands out among them as one that is genuine and from the heart.




Gayatri Mantra

Om Bhur bhuvas svaha
Thath savithur varaynyam
Bhargo dheyvasya dhimahih
Dhyoyonah pratchodhay-yath

The goddess of wisdom we call upon that which is full of bright luster to enlighten our darkness which only through complete understanding is possible. We call upon surrender to carry us onward.

Surrender is difficult for me. I tend to want to control things that come my way. But, when I do live from a place of surrender, wonderful things happen. And, I'm much more open to seeing the beautiful in others. It's when I'm in a hurry or focused on a task or myself that I miss out on those serendipitous moments.

Yesterday was a great day getting to talk on Skype with girlfriends in KL (Kuala Lumpur)-- Wai Quan, Michelle, Chandra and Chin. And, to see Chin's gorgeous baby, who's no longer a baby at 15 months! When I was there we had just had the full moon party! (http://smithfamilyinkaty.blogspot.com/2008/08/kuala-lumpur_635.html). Living in KL gave me a whole new perspective on the world and the friendships made were priceless. It's effort to keep those friendships alive and not bury myself in the daily grind of routines and classes. It's that focused intention and surrender that make life so gorgeous.

Life to the full,

Mel

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Samadhi


Meditation

"Meditation is matching your intention with attention."-- Anand





Sitting still. Cultivating stillness. Letting go of agenda, thoughts, distractions.... single pointed focus and concentration. This has always been a challenge for me, although through practice seems to get a little easier and worth the time invested.

Adi had a beautiful way of bringing about a meditative state-- by anticipating the next thought... as if they were sticks in a stream of water. Watching in your mind's eye as each one floats by, waiting and watching for the next one to come, then the next, and the next. The anticipation brings about a focus and yet it assisted in letting go of your own attachment to your thoughts. (YS 1.15)

Ksina Vrtter Abhijatasyeva maner grahitr grahana grahyesu tatsha tadanjanata samapattih.

Water takes on the color of what it is next to. When a yogi's mind is so clear that it can understand there is no separation between yourself and the reality, that is meditation. Samadhi (culmination of meditation) is the state of union (there is no corruption or violence physically or in the mind). The yogi empties the mind, so that he can refill himself, and he can understand fully and at the same time, stay detached. Your attitude, expectations, habits, and attachments are obstacles to your freedom and to meditation.

Yoga Sutra 1.41


Repeating a mantra (or scripture) is one meditation technique that I use. Not just saying it but seeking to memorize it. Committing it to my heart. Then, continuing to repeat it. At that point, a new meaning or understanding of it usually begins to unfold. Afterwards, I find myself recalling it throughout the day, and it serves as a great sense of positive encouragement.

Just breathing,

Melissa




Monday, September 14, 2009

As a Man Thinketh




"All that man achieves or fails to achieve is the direct result of his thoughts." J. Allen



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Restorative Sequence for Chakra 1

Restore

The restorative workshop that I took in Hood River was profound for me. I had never held poses for quite that long. You end up in a space that is almost dream like. And, we were given permission to actually fall asleep, if our body needed it! One thing Leanne stressed was that restorative was like putting together a puzzle. The goal is not to use all the tools in your bag but to get to a feeling of being restored. It's "all levels in all the different layers". Developing an eye for props means "noticing where your eye or curiosity goes", not in how you can "fix" your student. In other words, not looking for gross misalignments, just for small enhancements. And, most importantly, you won't always know what to do, and it's OK.

Muladhara (Chakra 1) Yoga Class Sequence

Grounding, based in the root of the spine, the beginning of awareness.

Begin with a centering breath (2 natural breaths, inhaling and exhaling equal lengths. the 3rd lengthen inhale and exhale, then repeat) (from Judith Lasater's Relax and Renew)

Standing Warm up
Hip circles
Hip flexion and lungs
(stepping back)
Lateral flexion (one hand on hip and other arm reaches up)
1/2 sun salutation (utanasana, ardha utanasana, tadasana)
Standing shoulder flexion

RAP (Restorative Active Poses: generally standing holding for 1-3 minutes)
Cues:
Yielding movement with stillness toward the fullest expression of the posture.
Feel the ability to be like a tree, to root, creating structure, freedom, space and joy
Yield the mind and body with intention and understanding
Nothing acts on it's own; poses feed energy from your center into your limbs

Adho Mukha Svanasana, improves blood flow (facing wall, hands on wall, block between legs)










Uttanasana, stretches spine & massages pelvic organs (either facing wall or away, leaning into wall, with head on block)













Warrior I, tones muscles (facing wall, knee on block, hands into wall)












"Mini" standing Parivritta Trikonasana, tones spine(facing side, inside foot to front, outside foot back, hands on wall, twist from naval center)













Tadasana, centering counter pose (facing wall, forehead into wall)













RIP (Restorative Inactive Poses: seated, prone or supine, holding poses for 2-3, 6, 9, or 12 minutes or longer as you progress or as time permits)
Cues:
You are perfect the way you are. Would you
however, consider (moving into this pose by...)
How does it feel? (When adjusting a prop)
Find a balance of pulling your energy in and letting your energy go
In poses held for long periods, the feelings are much stronger. Rather than being agitated, acknowledge that. WAIT. And, listen to your body.

Trikonasana, reduces fat around waist and thighs (supine, feet to wall, torso moves to one side)










Janu Sirsasana, tones abdominal organs (seated, head on chair, hips elevated with blanket)









Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, soothes nervous system and mind (with block or blanket under back, head and feet)










Paschimottanasana, removes mental and physical fatigue (elevate with blanket, head resting across arms on chair, legs extended)











Balasana, quiets the mind (lying on bolster or blankets)










Savasnana (supine, blankets under knees, head, feet and arms) 10-20 minutes, minimum
Cues:
Asana prepares the body for relaxation and meditation
There should be a quiet quality to the pose
In final relaxation, fidget for a minute, then do it again, if needed. Over time, make your spaces of stillness and longer
Listen to your breath to quiet your mind










I have the strength and groundedness to endure whatever life brings my way.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Service




Serve

Linda shared with us the story of her daughter, Heather's accident that left her seriously injured and in the hospital. When they were trying to make sense of all the chaos and why's of when bad things happen... a priest came in to see them. He encouraged them by saying that because of her accident, she will now one day be of service to another person who will have experienced the same thing.

Isn't it true that when you love or are passionate about something, you have and find the energy to do it?

I am still learning that service for me has to start at home first. When you get busy serving your world or doing great things for others but not those closest to you and what have you gained? You begin to see what you both have lost.

I'm making subtle changes starting now that I hope my boys will see and will enable them to know how deeply I love them. Not all choices are the best for everyone. There are sacrifices along the way. Sometimes just because something is good to do, doesn't mean it's the best thing to do. Saying no to someone, even when you feel like you're letting them down. Sometimes you just have to say yes to no.

"Drop your ego, and be of service. "-- Anand

Friday, September 11, 2009

Choices




Trust and Choices

These notes are from a Satsong at Heart Gate. Anand's response (and Jules input as well) to making choices in life...




When there is a fork in the road... you have a choice (or decision to make), how do you know you're making the right one?



It's important to know the difference between a choice and a decision: A choice is a selection at a given moment. A decision is a cutting off or removal (death) of something. Choosing doesn't mean losing something, it's simply stepping into the new, moving you forward. You choose because you have the ability to do so, therefore, there should be no need to defend (or be defensive) the choice.



When you are making a choice, there is no difference between your ego and emotions. They are the same and no matter what the choice is, there will always be some doubt. But, when you make it, be at ease. We choose a path to continue on, then we continue on it until we are confronted by the next choice. Then, we make that one, and another one, and so on... we continue to make a series of choices each refining the first.



Insecurity is the biggest hurdle in LOVE. Being insecure, means there is something to protect, a lack of trust, and acknowledgment. Insecurity and fear will come, and sometimes it will paralyze you. Don't allow it. There will be a moment when you can move beyond it. A deep knowing without doubt is TRUST. Trust is the essence of God. If He is all, then why is there any fear?

In the most difficult decisions, you usually know in your heart what is TRUE. If your intention is love and expansion, then you already know the right choice to make. You can be transformed (from judgement or whatever it is that's keeping you from making the choice that's in your heart.)

When you move from a place of intuition, you are dropping the mind, and coming from a place of clarity, peace and stillness rather than emotion. When you use intuition, time lapses. You are already on top of the mountain you are climbing ("your life"). So-- listen, wait, and meditate in the stillness, and there you will receive true answers from your heart.



Svpan nidra jnanalambanam va.

If you really want to understand, hear when you are silent.


Yoga Sutra 1.38






Thursday, September 10, 2009

Muladharra Chakra




This has been challenging to piece together for me. I hope to spend time each week on a chakra (and a restorative asansa sequence to go with it) and would welcome comments and thoughts-- on how you teach it or apply it to your life.

"He whose mind is not shaken by adversity, who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of the steady mind." Bhagavad Gita, II.56

Chakras

Chakras are a wheel of energy used to awaken and enlighten the body. There are seven chakras that correspond to the planets. This energy aligns in the spine.

Chakras (meaning wheel or vortex of energies). Often referred to as a spiritual tree. Energy can flow from the brain down or the root up. In the first chakra, there is the deep rootedness of the tree, the unforgetfullness.

First Chakra or Muladhara Chakra.

It's the root Chakra. Muladharra, meaning flow. There is no flow until there is deep stillness. This Chakra is the seat of Kundalini (base of the spine or first 3 vertebrae) or the seat of infinite potential which can burst within you or it can happen gradually. It represents the manifestation of the individual consciousness into human form (physical birth). Many people talk about certain chakras being" blocked" but no chakra is actually "blocked", it's only imbalanced or unused. The potential is there but you're just not using it.

Element: Earth (which is the root or grounding of something; We all come from the earth, and we all go back to it).
Color: Red
Planet: Saturn (the farthest planet and the slowest moving; 30 years on earth = one year on Saturn)
Animal: Elephant (calm, powerful, and biggest vegetarian mammal)
Senses: Sense of smell begins to awaken when this chakra is balanced

Teaching Asana: When I (Martha) share regarding muladhara, I mention the grounding effect of the chakra and relate it to the roots of a tree being sent down to the earth and drawing energy up through those roots into the body. Grounding-giving the stability and the energy to be grounded in our poses. We begin with the earth chakra and return back to it.

Meditation: Focus on the tip of the nose induces the beginnings of awareness, freedom from disease, lightness, inspiration, vitality, stamina, and security. The foundation is the root of all growth and awareness of the divinity in you.

Inner Balance (gunas or 3 states): Tamas, Rajas and Sattvic. (The root chakra is usually more tamas/rajas in nature).

Tamas: slow, lazy, lethargic and lacking life force
Rajas: fast, dynamic, and action-oriented
Sattva: alive, alert, balanced/ relaxed state with a clear mind and body

In an imbalanced state: this chakra is the seat of fear or primal urges (the reptillian brain).
Balanced state: is grounded in trust, love, faith, light, and devotion.

You can be in any state at any time, and there is a possibility of dropping back to another state at any time. If you're attentive, however, you can keep transcending through sustained practice.

If too tamas: There is no movement. Fear is overwhelming and there is no hope left. You are only dangerous to yourself, not others.
Tamas/Rajasic: You are active but your life is based on how to save yourself from fear or loss. Relationships are often abusive.
Rajasic/ Tamasic: This is where you have the most consciousness and activity (more movement) but still fearful and insecure. There is hoarding, accumulating, or deep consumption because there is a fear of loss.
Rajasic: There is no acceptance of fear but a deep fear inside. Other's think you are OK (an illusion), but deep inside you are not.
Rajasic/ Sattvic: Recognizes the fear but you are detached from it. There is more faith here and love begins to occur.
Sattvic: This is the balanced state. There is total fearlessness and an experience of light and ease of flow. When this fearlessness comes after Rajasic/sattvic state, there is effortlessness and understanding. Love replaces the fear.

"The only way to be fearless is to accept fear. Then the energy is released and becomes FREEDOM". Osho

Feeling freedom,

Mel

*notes from Natty, see comments


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Numbers




09/09/09

Numbers. We had a lot of lectures about the significance of numbers. And, today marks that coincidence of 3's again.

Multiply 9 by any two, three or four-digit number and the sums of those will always come back to nine. 3 is a sacred number... the trinity- and of course the rule that everything seems to happen in threes, including celebrity deaths.

9 is on the list of auspicious digits for the Chinese and is associated with long life, due to how similar its pronunciation is to the word for long-lasting.

108 is also significant. It's the number of malas (prayer beads) which is used to count the number of mantras. The beads turn like the planets around the sun. 108 also connects the sun, moon and earth, with the average distance of the sun and the moon to the earth is 108 times their diameters. There are also 108 Upanishads, 108 marma points (sacred) in the body, and 108 sun salutations, a moving meditation or Kriya.

I had a major accomplishment yesterday. With the help of Kristen, I applied for an LLC and domain name on the web. It's funny what we put off and when we actually sit down (with the encouragement of a friend) and do it, it's not as difficult a task as just simply starting it. When I applied, I had to enter a start date. That day is today, 09/09/09.

A day of new beginnings... new possibilities...

"Perseverance will finally conquer. Nothing can be done in a day. Hold to the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more. The ideal is to see God in everything." Pathways to Joy

Keeping my heart open to what the future brings,

Melissa

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Hill



Concentration

"As a drowning man wants air, as the lover seeks their beloved, this is the way you must focus on that which you want. This intensity of concentration will remove all obstacles. "-- Unknown





This hill* is was a saving grace for me while in Oregon. I walked it sometimes up to 3 times a day. Listening to my favorite music. At the top, a huge reward: a valley of orchards, with a cool breeze and an amazing view of Mt. Hood. I can still feel the air- smell it's sweetness. Texas has nothing like it. Anticipating my trip to Austin this weekend. I may have found my next saving grace...

In love,

Melissa

*Thanks Martha for this beautiful photo. Means more than you know. xx



Monday, September 7, 2009

Clarity

Clarity

Be clear in all things. As a calm pond reflects the full moon perfectly. Let your actions REFLECT your speech, and your speech reflect your actions.


In our last share circle in Hood River. We all stood in a circle, then turned around and faced the outside. One at a time, we went around the circle holding each person's hands, they had to tell you a word that embodied who you are or how they see you....

It was very touching and emotional to not only tell others their attributes but also hear them say amazing affirmations about you. Words like: beauty, focus, grace, strength were repeated... but clarity hit home. Both Jules and Linda both spoke that word over me. Ironically, it's a word I hadn't yet formed about myself or my situation... and then, when I heard it, it was such a confirmation of my heart, that it's become something that I've taken with me- to encourage and to ensure that each day I continue on the path I'm meant to take.

Clarity is defined as "the state of being clear or transparent to the eye; lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from ambiguity." To know where I am now, and where I want to be, what I want to become, and where my heart lies... now that's freedom.











Sunday, September 6, 2009

Staying Present

The most challenging asana (posture) is to stay present. I'm challenged this week to stay in the moment and not run ahead of myself (dreaming, wishing, planning...). My hope is to reflect on the joyful moments (not the painful ones)... then in that moment think, I can do that (joy) again. It's important for me not to leave the joy (the experience) I'm having now in order to try to relive past experiences or move to new ones just yet. I have to save those conversations until I am finished... allowing me to be HERE (present) now.

This lesson came out of one of Stephanie's sessions at Heart Gate. We all began to talk about leaving and then when would we see each other again? And, we still had a week left of training! It's so easy to get caught up on the excitement and then want to re-create that as soon as possible. When we do that we may miss the things that are there right in front of us to experience... at this moment.

"Our biggest gift: to be present. Be attentive without judgement or thought. Just BE without expectations. Total attention and availability. Being totally present shows love and respect for others. Only when you're attentive, can you receive."-- Anand


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Agape Love




Love

That's what's on my mind these days. There's a lot of schools of thought on it... but I think what's universal, is that LOVE is answer to almost any question you ask.

Martin Luther King, Jr's teaching on love:

"Eros..a romantic love for your mate. It's inevitably a little selfish. You love your lover because there is something about your lover that moves you. It may be the way he talks or the way he walks or the personality or the physical beauty or the intellectual power-- but it's always based on that there's something that attracts you.

Philia...intimate affection between personal friends. These are people you like. It's reciprocal love. You love because you are loved. You love the people that you like. People that you like to sit down at the table and eat dinner with. People you dial the phone and talk to. People you go out with. This is friendship.

Agape...is more than romantic love... more than friendship...it's understanding. It is creative and redeeming good will toward all men. It is the love of God operating in the human heart. It is the overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. And when you rise to love on this level, you love people who don't move you. You love those that you don't like. You love those whose ways are distasteful to you. You love every man because God loves him."

Love is always the giver, never the taker. Real love doesn't ask for anything in return. Where there is love, there is no fear.

Love...

Mel

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
Mother Teresa






Friday, September 4, 2009

Remembering




Journaling

I've been consistently writing now every morning (no surprises, there, right?). I managed to fill nearly 3 notebooks full of journaling, lectures, and letters to loved ones while I was there just 4 weeks. It's not that I have much of anything interesting or funny to say or that I want to be "heard". For me, it just seems like the best way to process life and remember.

I recently spent a sleepless night going through old journals dating back to the early 90's. Not to relive the past but to recall the turning points (or "ah ha" moments). Falling in love, getting engaged (to someone else), graduating from college, learning to cook (oops, I still can't do that), my first job (selling light bulbs), the birth of my first child (long induced labor and a miracle), the loneliness of moving again and again, the joys of making it all work.... all of my life in small written snapshots.

"Acknowledge whatever is going on and let yourself feel it, then transform. Let the feeling come and go, do not be defined by it. To stay with known is easier than the unknown. "-- Anand

Remembering the mistakes and triumphs of the past- and yet moving beyond them feels so good. From strength to grace.

Moving to the unknown,

Mel


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mantra



Mantra

A mantra is a sacred sound used in mediation practices.

Shanti Mantra

Om sarve bhavantu sukinaha
Sarve santu niraamayaha
Sarve bhandrani pashyantu
Maa kaschid dhukha bhaagavet

May all beings be happy.
Let all living beings experience joy.
May all be established with their true nature.
May all be established with their true nature by overcoming all the pain and suffering.

When I'm teaching, usually don't sing mantras. Weaving philosophy in my classes feels natural but mantras still seem awkward to me, as if I'm not being genuine or true to myself. (A tall Texas Aggie singing a mantra just seems odd...) Maybe one day...

I do, however, often closed by saying (not singing) with "Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu" which is a universal prayer. "Let all be happy". And don't we all want our own slice of happiness and joy?

Loving life,

Mel



Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My meditation

Nothing "out there" is going to make me richer, happier, or healthier. Today all that I desire starts with me. From the stillness inside arise thoughts that create my world. Today that world holds everything that I need.

Kosha




"Mistakes are our teacher, but when they become a habit they become our master."
--Anand

Anand's lecture on Koshas
July 24, 2009


There are 5 Kosha's (coverings of self) of the body. We usually live within the first 3 stages: Physical (Annamaya Kosha, "sheath of food"), Energy (Pranamaya Kosha, "energy or vital* force behind the senses and physical body"), and Mental (Manamaya Kosha, "level of processing thoughts and emotions".

For true wisdom body, we should work in the Vijnanamaya Kosha. Vijnana is knowing or discriminating between what's useful or not. It creates awareness of self (or "I-am-ness") but loses strength when we see our self through our story, past experiences or dramas. Often when we are in our wisdom body we often begin to defend (become defensive) our stories, showing our insecurities. But if you can die to attachment to yourself, you can begin to transform. Transformation is not easy, it takes courage! Recognizing the need for that detachment is good but to sustain it, it will take practice. Cultivate willingness.

The 5th layer is the bliss body or Anandamaya Kosha. "It is beyond bliss, it is peace, joy and love underneath the mind, free from any stimulus that causes happiness. It is simply being; resting in bliss." It is where effort becomes effortless.

The more you have, the less you are free. What do you want freedom from?

Mel

*pronunciation of "vital" varies : )






Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Relationships




Relationships

We had satsong on the topic of relationships one evening... I think relationships are all about compromise, whether or not it's a marital relationship, friendship, your children, parents, etc. And, for me it boils down to being aware, authentic, non-attached (to outcome, things and people), and being self-less.

Living with 10 other women in close quarters this summer- let's just say emotions ran the gambit. But here at home... I'm learning all over again the art of communication. Living with three males, I'm a little out numbered in the female department. However, I get enough female highs/lows from other places (almost all the people I work with or teach to are women)!

Here are just a few of my own observations and life "lessons" based on my own experience. This is in no way an attack or a critical look at men (or even a certain man). I'm really just looking at my own life and realizing, really seeing for the first time my own role in the undoing of a relationship. I feel that the more awareness I have... the greater the opportunity for change within me.

Relationship Lessons...
A man's actions speak louder than his words.
Men seem to need exterior motivation (or broken-ness) in order to be willing to change. On the verge of losing his wife, children or in pain or misery... what is he afraid of? Fear of change?
The way a man acts/patterns in the past...probably indicates how his patterns of behavior will be in the future. (Unless he gets that exterior motivation...)
When under stressful situations, flaws are only magnified.
You learn a lot about a man in how he interacts with others (friends, family, strangers...). Quick to anger? Quick to laugh? Humbled or insulted?
What is the root cause of... anger?
A man who doesn't take care of himself or his belongings shows a great lack of respect for himself and his loved ones.
When a man lacks confidence about something, is it based on fear? Then does he go into a cycle of the lack of confidence leading to avoidance, avoidance leading to lack of self-confidence, and so on and so on... This non-threatening lifestyle leads to boredom and discontent. Now afraid to take risks for fear of failing?
By not taking a leadership role in the relationship, he never risks making a mistake. Mistakes are good... that's how we learn, grow and grow together.
A man thinks that talking about problems is complaining. But, for a woman, this establishes a level of intimacy. Intimacy for a woman is 80% mental, 20% physical. For men, the opposite appears to be true.
For a man to be intimate, it requires (a lack of) pride or vulnerability. Trusting a woman enough to give her the power to emotionally connect or even injure (pride), is healing.
Accountability is critical. If he's not accountable to anyone, there is no motivation to evolve.

"A hesitant man is the last thing in the world a woman needs. She needs a lover and warrior, not a Really Nice Guy." J Eldredge

What I CAN do...
Act, not react.
Show respect. I think a man wants respect and admiration, more than to be told he is loved.
Encouragement daily.
Show honor: requiring me to put others' needs ahead of your own.
I can use my influence to help him recognize and realize the consequences of his choices. If I keep sacrificing my needs for his, will he ever grow or be challenged?
Don't criticize his choices when he does decide to take the lead even if he doesn't do things the way I thought they should be done.
Keep it simple; only one topic at a time.
I cannot change a man's essential character- only he can do that. BUT I can enhance or diminish whatever qualities he already possesses. In other words, I can't "fix" a broken man, no matter how much I want to.
Timing... isn't life all about timing? Things will unfold when they are suppose to happen. The best things happen when we allow them to come to us rather than forcing it or trying to change the circumstances.

"A hundred times we will hurt ourselves, a thousand times we will tumble, but in the end we will all realize our divinity."
Pathways to Joy

Learning through experience.

Melissa