Your Brain on Yoga

adorando el solWe are blessed with brains that are both practical and mysterious. Although science has thoroughly studied this amazing organ, there are numerous discoveries yet to be uncovered. No wonder it is so well protected and sits up so high!

These last few weeks I have been exploring what I will call mind yoga. The concept of which is cultivated through energy alignment, pranayama and meditation.

In order to truly be aligned, energy should be generated at all levels of the chakric system – from the muladhara or root chakra all the way up to the sahasrara or crown chakra.

In yoga, there are several postures to facilitate and balance these energy centers. Since I have covered most of them in past posts, today I will focus on the uppermost level of the chakric chain.

Continue reading “Your Brain on Yoga”

What’s Missing from Your Yoga Practice?

Most yoga students begin the practice of yoga to learn and benefit from its physical postures or asana.

It’s the way that I got started. As a former dancer, I was drawn to the slow movements and deep sense of alignment that the poses provided. At that time, I didn’t realize that I was simultaneously tuning into my breath. My first teacher would gently remind the class to inhale and exhale as we stretched and contracted. It felt fluid and natural and my body felt aligned and peaceful at the end of each session. But we didn’t call it pranayama. At the end of class, we took time to close our eyes and sit quietly. We were encouraged to focus on the simple pattern of our breath, the sounds within the space or a specific intention for ourselves. But we didn’t call it meditation. Continue reading “What’s Missing from Your Yoga Practice?”

YOLY Challenge #24: Your Crowning Achievement!

We made it!  We have arrived at the summit – the uppermost chakra.sunset-1791832__180 This marks the end of a long journey that started on week 14 – the site where we laid down our roots for the climb to the top.

This shining star located at the apex is called the crown chakra. In sanskrit, it is known as sahasrara and translates as the “thousand-petaled lotus.” The number 1000 is the symbol for boundless, infinite and tremendous.

The yoga postures associated with the sahasrara or crown chakra are restorative and meditative in nature.  They are the ones that enable you to tune into your inner mind – that divine spirit that is within you and create an infinite connection to the cosmic world.

To achieve this contemplative state, it is helpful to balance your chakra wheels from root to crown so that the energy can appropriately ascend.

Try this 30 minute sequence daily and be sure to leave plenty of time for the “prize” at the finish:

Muladhara (Root) Chakra: Easy Cross Leg Pose

Svadhisthana (Sacral) Chakra:  Cat-Cow to Child’s Pose

Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra: Downward Dog to Plank

Anahata (Heart) Chakra:  Sphinx

Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra: Bridge

Ajna (Third-Eye) Chakra: Seated Staff Pose to Supported Forward Bend

Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra: imagesModified Rabbit Pose – from child’s pose, lift your hips and roll onto the top of your head supporting your weight with your hands.

 

Savasana (well supported with props)

Spend about 1-3 minutes in each “chakra pose” and give yourself at least 10 minutes for Savasana.

 

 

 

YOLY Challenge #21: Find Your True Voice

bird-287109__180Unwavering in its pronouncements, the songbird vocalizes in clarity and honesty. Like the songbird in the sky, we should feel free to sing out and fill our surroundings with positive vibrations.

The 5th Chakra is located in the area of the throat and is your communication center – figuratively and spiritually.  The Sanskrit name, Vissuddha means pure.  When your throat chakra is balanced your self-expression is clear, virtuous, and free of pollutants.

The challenge this week is to incorporate a “Vissuddha” yoga posture into your practice each day. The following poses and practices will target the areas of expression – your neck and throat.

Ujjayi Breathing – a superb pranayama practice for honing your larynx, nasopharynx and all parts related to the breath and speech.  Look back to our YOLY Challenge #5 for directions on this method.

Lion PoseSimhasana_Yoga-Asana_Nina-MelA focus for the mouth, jaw and neck, this posture is especially good for stimulating the platysma muscle – unattractively known as the “turkey neck.”

Upward Facing Dog – Correctly performed, imagesthe shoulders should be aligned above the wrists so that the neck can comfortably balance the head.  Through this pose, all the structures surrounding the neck and throat are learning to support and stabilize.

Shoulderstand (variation with a chair)images  Targets the thyroid to balance the blood flow in this area.  A boon for the entire neck and shoulder areas if supported correctly.  This posture should be initiated under the guidance of an instructor.

Chanting – Find a recording that speaks to you and learn it.  Silently follow along until you are comfortable reciting the words clearly and with purpose.

One of my favorites is this Gayatri Mantra recording.

Here are the words and definition for your reference:

Om bhur bhuvaha svaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat

Praise to the source of
all things.
It is due to you that we attain
true happiness on the planes
of earth, astral, causal.
It is due to your transcendent
nature that you are worthy of
being worshiped and adored.
Ignite us with your all
pervading light.

The Gayatri Mantra is a prayer that allows me to express gratitude to the universal spirit.  I see it as an all-embracing chant that transcends religion and speaks to my intention. The vibration of its sounds is known to be a healing source for our subtle bodies.

 

 

Photos credited to Yoga Journal & LA Times

 

YOLY Challlenge #15: Taste the Sweetness of Life

The second chakra is bright orange, and like the fruit of an orange, it is fluid and nourishing. orange-214872__180.jpg Its sanskrit name is certainly a mouthful, Svadhisthana.  Otherwise known as the pelvic chakra, its focus areas are the hips, sacrum, genitals and kidneys. It is responsible for balancing our creativity and harmonizing our expressions and emotions. With characteristics of the water element, this chakra relishes fluid motion. If you feel emotionally repressed or have trouble going with the flow, grab your board and catch a wave!

Here are your poses for the week.  Try one each day:

  1. Cat/Cow
  2. Spinal Rolls
  3. Bhujangasana (Cobra)
  4. Navasana (Boat)
  5. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle)
  6. Lunges
  7. Setu Bandha as a vinyasa (Bridge as a flow)

 

“Yield to the flow.  It’s the most intelligent fulfilling thing to do. Surrender your best sense of what to do or not to do and trust in the flow of being.”  -Erich Schiffmann

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The Whirling Dervishes of the Subtle Body

dubai-728130__180This week begins our focus on the Chakras – the vortexes of energy that vibrate within our subtle bodies. For those of us that live in Sedona, a vortex is commonplace.  Energy swirls around us everywhere we go!  The subtle or pranic body, however, has its own system of vortexes to contend with.  As yogis, we strive to balance these internal energies by doing yoga, meditation and pranayama.

Prana flows as oxygen does, fueling our bodies with essential energy.  The esoteric pathways of prana are called nadis.  Nadis are the channels that direct the energy throughout the body. There are believed to be some 70,000 nadis located throughout the subtle body. Although they are not anatomically viewed, it is understood  that the nadis join to form three prominent passageways; the ida, pingala and sushumna nadis which are visualized as running from the left, right and center of the spine.5544f8e2c3960ea00ec8214db59ab5e9

The chakras are the whirling centers that collect and direct the energies that flow through the nadis.  There are seven chakras. They begin at the base of the spine and stack up to the crown of the head.

This week, I introduced the Muladhara or Root Chakra through a few key postures.  Hopefully, by now, you are feeling nicely grounded and firmly planted. Here are some other ways to balance your Root Chakra:

  • Use the essential oil Cedarwood – apply it as directed to the soles of your feet
  • Walk barefoot – a tough one to do in the desert!
  • Try gardening
  • Focus on your exhalations
  • Move more slowly – think about how you are connected to gravity

 

 

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