Migrate Home with Meditation

birds-216827__340“…No matter how far the wild gander flies, at some point it remembers, and migrates back to its home, always at the proper season. In the same way, we as spiritual beings following a spiritual principle must, like the wild gander, remember, and migrate back to our spiritual home…” – Goswami Kriyananda

When I began exploring a meditation practice some years ago, I found it difficult to remain present at first.  Who hasn’t?  Luckily there are a myriad of techniques available for generating awareness. And, through trial and error, it’s possible to discover a method that speaks to you. In the end, a meditation practice should give you energy, enthusiasm, peace and joy.

Today I am introducing what may be the most effective concentration/meditation technique that I have encountered in my training and practice. It frequently helps to remove the attachments and fluctuations from my mind so that I can focus on my breath and generate positive energy.

What is it? Continue reading “Migrate Home with Meditation”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Elongate the Breath with Four Simple Techniques

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The great sea
Has sent me adrift,
It moves me as the weed in a great river,
Earth and the great weather
Move me,
Have carried me away
And move my inward parts with joy.  – An Eskimo Song

Now that we have created breath awareness and discovered some new ways to expand our breathing vessel, let us address the quality of the breath. This week, I will introduce some simple techniques of pranayama or breath control.

Here are four methods for elongating the breath:

#1 Ujjayi Breathing

This approach can be described as a slight deepening of the normal breath.  It is best done from a supine or seated position in which your body is nicely aligned.   Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Elongate the Breath with Four Simple Techniques”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Expand Your Vessel & Truly Breathe

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“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” ― Rumi, The Essential Rumi

As students of yoga, we eventually learn how to connect with our breathing. We come to understand that the simple act of inhalation and exhalation can be enhanced when our posture is aligned. As we physically straighten, we open ourselves up to experience a fuller range of movement in the upper chest/back, ribcage and abdominal areas.

In an attempt to expand our vessels for the breath, here are three key strategies:

#1 Counteract “Techno – Hump” 

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Using computers and cell phones can adversely affect our breathing function. The head forward position can lead to a spinal curvature disorder called kyphosis which compresses the movement of air by collapsing the chest.

Here is a short posture sequence for reducing upper back tension and straightening the body:

Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Expand Your Vessel & Truly Breathe”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Discover Your Breath

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As we continue to explore the poses and our breathing practices, we are expanding our level of awareness. We are learning to pay attention. We are discovering what it is to be in the present moment. And, it is in the present moment that we experience our true “state of yoga.” It is where we see our connection and remember who we are. 

The fourth limb of the yogic system is pranayama or breath control. It is made up of a range of techniques that begin with simple awareness and continue on with more intensive control approaches.

Although pranayama is an integral part of yoga, the practice is not generally taught until a student is comfortable resting with their breath in either a supine or seated position. In this way, a student learns to relax completely in order to receive the breath.

Breathing practices give your mind focus – you virtually tune in when you pay attention to your breath.  This can occur whether you are in a resting pose or actively performing the asanas. As many teachers will tell you, “if it is not with the breath, it is not yoga.”

A good way to begin the practice of pranayama is to focus on your belly breath: Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Discover Your Breath”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Breathe

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“Pranayama has slowly pried open some of the tighter places in my body and so provided me with new openings in my asana practice. This, in turn, affects my breathing and, so on and so on, asana and pranayama oscillating back and forth to each other’s advantage.” – Richard Rosen

Pranayama or breath control is defined by B.K.S Iyengar as: “… techniques to make the respiratory organs move and expand intentionally, rhythmically and intensively. It consist of long, sustained subtle flow of inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath.”

With the guidance of some of the world’s wisest yoga teachers, I have made it my quest to incorporate pranayama into my practice. Breaking down the art of breathing into separate stages has helped me to gradually meld it into my daily yoga routine. Over the next few weeks, I will share my personal journey towards pranayama with you. Here are the four main categories we will explore: Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Breathe”

YOLY Challenge #32: Breathing in the Moment

When I began exploring a meditation practice some years ago, I found it difficult to remain present at first.  Who hasn’t?  Luckily there are a myriad of techniques available for generating awareness. And, through trial and error, it’s possible to discover a method that speaks to you. In the end, a meditation practice should give you energy, enthusiasm, peace and joy.

That’s what the Hong Sau Kriya technique has given me.  Hopefully you will attune to it as well. Here is the process and some tips:

What is it?

Hong Sau Kriya is a form of meditative breathing.  The practice is simple – you mentally chant Hong as you inhale and Sau as you exhale. When the breath is still, the chanting stops. As your breath elongates, so does the word.

The word Hong is pronounced like “hong kong” & Sau like the word “saw”. Its meaning is simple and profound: Hong= I am  Sau=spirit.

Kriya means action or movement.

How Should I Practice?

Although Hong Sau Kriya can be practiced anywhere and at anytime, it may be best to set up a regular schedule to get the most of its regenerative benefits. So, a quiet place in an upright seated position with no distractions is ideal.  If you already have a meditation practice, then place this technique at the end of your session so that once the mantra fades, you can sit quietly and enjoy the stillness.

Your Challenge this Week:

Try to practice the Hong-Sau Kriya technique for a few minutes daily. Keep it a passive process by allowing the breath to breathe you. The less effort you put into it, the more you will enjoy it. The more you enjoy it, the more it will become a habit you look forward to doing.

The most important quality of a practice such as Hong-Sau is its effectiveness.  Not the technique itself but the outcome. When you approach it with positiveness and joy, it will bring you serenity.

For your reference, here is a lovely story written by Goswami Kriyananda that explains the essence of Hong-Sau in greater detail: 

“In Sanskrit, the word Hamsa (Hong-Sau) means wild gander, and has great symbolic significance. No matter how far the wild gander flies, at some point it remembers, and migrates back to its home, always at the proper season. birds-216827__340In the same way, we as spiritual beings following a spiritual principle must, like the wild gander, remember, and migrate back to our spiritual home. The spiritual home is the inward state of Samadhi. The Hong-Sau Kriya meditation is a key technique whereby you return to the spiritual home.”

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The Air of Our Ancesters

Because the oxygen we breathe in gets converted and leaves our bodies as carbon dioxide, one would assume that we are always drawing in a “fresh breath.”  However, there is 1% of our breath that doesn’t renew as we inhale and exhale. This part of our breath is made up of atoms that are chemically inactive or inert, so they are simply released back into the atmosphere.

Argon atoms. We breathe them in and breathe them out without absorbing them. So, achil-1400696__180when you exhale, those argon atoms re-enter the air to be inhaled by others. According to astronomer Harlow Shapley, a year from now, those same argon atoms will have circulated around the entire planet, and fifteen of them will have made their way back to you to be breathed in again. This means that there is a good chance that your next breath may contain argon atoms that were inhaled and exhaled many, many times by many, many others over many many years …

…this is certainly a topic for Throwback Thursday.