Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer Session: May 26 - July 4th -- 6 Weeks

Here we go again!  Summer Session May 26th - July 4th. 6 Great Weeks of Yoga going deeper into the Gunas, the 7 Chakras and into a related concept called the Prana Vayus as we progress through June.  I hope you will join me.

I'm making a slight adjustment to how I am pricing my classes that reflects the commitment and support of those who sign up for the whole session, which is really the backbone of my being able to offer 3 regular weekly classes.  The best price per class goes to those who sign up for the whole session (6 classes) at $9/class for a total of $54.  The next best price is $10/class for those who buy up to 5 classes good through 7/4 (paying in advance).  And finally, for those who spontaneously heed the last minute call to come to class -- the new price is $12 to drop-in.

I hope you'll join me! I am traveling to Chicago to study with my teacher the weekend of June 5-7 and am hoping to line up a substitute for the 6/6 Saturday class.  (Let me know if you want to come study with me and 2 other students that weekend with Rod Stryker -- see www. parayoga.com). Otherwise, I am around through July 4th.  After that I'll be back in DC (where I moved from 2 years ago) to visit family and friends for 2 weeks and then back to Viroqua for the rest of the summer -- perhaps a limited teaching schedule based on interest and then a full-fledged return to Yoga with more class times in the Fall.

Look forward to another great series of practices.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Great Spring Session

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Spring Yoga Session.  It was a dynamic 2 months -- yes, 8 weeks, imagine that!  What a journey up through the chakras touching into the different energies that we encounter as we do asanas and breath work that attune us to each energy center.

Stability is KEY to asana practice.  Cultivating a connection to the steady center is a pre-requisite to going more deeply into practice.  Through the practice of yoga we expand our energy, our capacity, our power in the world.  If we are out of balance -- lacking in stability, the steady center -- and we activate more power, we'll be more powerfully out-of-balance.  Yikes. No thanks.  

So, from the outset and throughout the session we worked with a balancing steady breath, moved in concert with the breath, grew in relationship with the breath.  The breath is simply the gateway to mindfulness, to awareness, to center, to connection to source.  From this place of stability, the practice of yoga empowers us in our bodies and our minds -- building strength, vitality, flexibility and clarity.  

But despite steps to balance prana through mindful breathing, you still may have experienced in an energy center (a chakra) an inherent, long-standing lack of balance as we progressed through the session -- if an area was holding an imbalance, a lack of awareness, or a stuckness --  and we spent 90 minutes activating it, something was bound to release, move, shift.  Several times through the session, I noticed things happening in my life outside of class and sure enough I could relate them to what I was doing in my practice that paralleled our classes.  For instance, I survived the whole winter without a cough, but as we moved through 5th chakra and the energy around 6th (which are connected), a weakness presented itself physically in this area of speech, speaking truth, showing up in the world on my own terms -- areas I've struggled with for this whole lifetime.  I found myself speaking very frankly and somewhat unapologetically -- spontaneous, clear truths straight out of my inner world that I typically keep inside for the sake of diplomacy.  But especially during the 5th/6th chakra weeks, the clarity of the inside demanded a platform and to be heard.  Bringing power to these areas brought forth a break-through, more awareness -- even if the awareness slipped into an aggravating cough or in aggressive speech, both of which I would have preferred to skip, but I take as an indicator that there were deeper levels of clearing necessary to be more clear and balanced.  

Always pay attention to what's going on on the outside.  It reflects the inner world.  Be present to all the little nuggets and gems that revealed themselves to you through images, dreams, thoughts, and actions over the last 8 weeks.  Take some time to write them down.  

The whole practice of shining awareness to the energy centers is a mighty one that we'll continue as we step into the fire season of summer and the bright light of the crescendo to the Solstice.  I look forward to the continued journey.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This Week (8): The Seventh Chakra, Sahasrara Chakra. The Crown Chakra, The Thousand Petal Lotus Chakra, Akaha - All Knowledge, Seat of Shiva
Location: Top of the Head, Space between the brain and the skull
Basic Right: The Right to Know
Bija Mantra: OM
Celestial Body: Uranus
Color: Violet
Developmentally: 12 & Up
Element: Thought
Goals: Wisdom, knowledge, spiritual connection
Guna: Beyond the Gunas - Transcendence of Time and Space
Major Psychological Life Area: Spirituality
Malfunction: Confusion, apathy, overly intellectual
Plane: Beyond mind, form, sense
Yoga Path:  Jnana Yoga
Yantra: White petals with golden tips

Monday, May 11, 2009

6th Chakra, Ajna Chakra

This Week (7): The Sixth Chakra, The Ajna Chakra. The Third Eye Chakra, The Perception & Command Chakra
Location: Behind Eyebrow Center in the Mid-brain
Basic Right: The Right to See
Bija Mantra: Hum Sa
Celestial Body: Neptune
Color: Indigo Blue
Developmentally: 7-12 Years
Element: Light
Goals: Psychic perception, imagination, ability to see patterns
Guna: Sattwa
Major Psychological Life Area: Imagination
Malfunction: Headaches, nightmares, hallucinations
Plane: Beyond mind, form, sense
Yoga Path:  Yantra Yoga
Yantra: White wings, a circle with  golden triangle

Ajna (Pronounced Ahg-knee-ya) Chakra is the home of your 3rd eye -- your inner sight, higher seeing.  This is how we clearly see the world and intuitively navigate it from connection to Brahma -- to source by cultivating a relationship to our higher Self through practices such as meditation.  Connection through meditation puts us in touch with possibility -- it is the realm where past, present and future all merge and anything is possible and all things can be imagined.  It is where we clearly perceive the world and also command our destiny in it through our capacity to project our consciousness into creation.

Ajna is the essence of sattwa -- of clarity and light.

We will build on last week's practice and focus on lateral poses (parsvakonasana and trikonasana with very bowed upper ribs and arm extended laterally); ardha matsyendrasana and bharadvajasana twists, back bends (supta virasana, up dog and pincha mayurasana; and extensions (baddha konasana, gomukhasana, virasana, tadaka mudra and maha mudra).  

Everything I said last week with sattwa is pertinent here, as well.

Be present with all that is coming up for you -- these chakra areas are opening and becoming more activated.  How is that manifesting for you?  Like me, you may find yourself being more direct, more forceful, more clear.  Just note the changes and reflect on them in the context of your practice.  These releases demonstrate your dominant guna and what practice you might need to do to move toward sattwa.

I look forward to seeing you this week and hearing your thoughts and reflections.


Monday, May 4, 2009

5th chakra and Sattwa

This Week (6): The Fifth Chakra, The Vissudha Chakra. The Throat Chakra, The Meaning Chakra
Location: Throat -- Behind Larynx
Basic Right: The Right to Speak and Hear Truth
Bija Mantra: So Hum
Celestial Body: Mercury
Color: Bright Blue
Developmentally: 6 - 10 Years
Element: Space and Sound
Goals: Clear Communication, creativity, resonance
Guna: Sattwa
Major Psychological Life Area: Communication
Malfunction: Sore throats, stiff neck, poor communication
Plane: Total evolution in will-power and strength
Sense: Touch
Yoga Path:  Mantra Yoga
Yantra: Mauve petals with a dark Well, white shines up from the bottom

Wow, week 6 and the 5th Chakra -- we are more than halfway through and moving up to the higher realms.  Panditji says that if you get established in the first four you have a life well-lived.  Anything above the 4th chakra is rarified territory.  Well, let's talk about it and seek an experience of it.

We have been focusing on the 3 Gunas (Tamas, Rajas and Sattwa)-- the attributes; qualities that pervade our human experience.  They correspond to the chakras and Sattwa corresponds to the 5th and 6th chakras.  Sattwa is Being, Purity, Ease, & Light.  Sattwa is the Mission of Yoga -- to get a more clear and accurate perception of the world and what the world offers.  The goal of all spiritual traditions is to shine light so that we can see and be seen.

One way to look at these three gunas is that when mired in Tamas it is dark and we cannot see.  So we increase our light, do things to see more clearly through Rajas and finally, when we shine enough light into the darkness we can see -- resting in the purity and clarity of Sattwa.
Once you can see, you are awake and can see what's possible and take your destiny, your dharma into your own hands, realizing that, "I am the creator of my circumstances."  The reason we want to see more clearly is to have more choices and choose the more pleasant and joyful path.  You have to SEE the path first in order to choose it, of course.  Through Sattwa we choose the easy path that will make us happy in the long run.  

Emotionally, the three gunas play out very differently.  If you are in Tamas, you might withdraw and go into a state of paralyzed, inert, self-destructive behavior.  If in Rajas, you generally look outside yourself to place fault -- on the stock market or your partner, planning punishment or melodrama.  But when Sattwa reigns, common sense prevails and quickly the mind assesses, "What am I supposed to learn from this?  What do I need to do?"  You are able to examine the situation and react from a place of steady centeredness.

Whatever guna is dominant (activated) dictates our thoughts and reactions.  Our reaction is predetermined by whichever Guna is activated -- so how do we move into Sattwa -- establish ourselves in relation to Sattwa?

The practice this week to build Sattwa will focus on the Throat Chakra -- Vissudhi (which means pure).  In terms of asanas, a key piece is to do inversions to encourage the energy to move to the throat and head.  We'll also do laterals to lengthen the side body and effectively move the energy upwards; twists to balance all the energy; and extensions to create vertebral length and open the body and clear vision.  

The breath to focus on will be Sama Vritti (Equal Waves Breath-- the inhale and exhale the same length).  In the process of doing this breath, any areas that are out of balance reveal themselves -- if the inhale is longer than the exhale, if the beginning of the breath is catchy or flimsy, the breath will reveal it's tendencies and our job is to bring it mindfully even.  

The bandha that is new this week is Jolandhara Bandha at the throat -- you simply lengthen your neck with upper spine to keep energy from rising above the collar bones where it could activate your intellect (not the goal in yoga) -- or you can drop your chin to the breast bone -- either way you gently seal the energy at or below the throat.  

Meditation is all about the witness -- observing the mind.  Passively watch stream of thought and not get involved with what thinking (this is the essence of Sattwa).  A powerful way to anchor the mind is first to get established in circular breathing (sama vritti breath with no pauses) and then to begin Mantra - to hear the eternal vibration and align with the sounds -- the streams of Consciousness that point us to divine presence.

All this establishes us in Sattwa -- we practice aligning with Sattwa so that when the stuff of life inevitably hits the fan we can shift into Sattwa and navigate our way through it very mindfully and Consciously -- making the wisest most astute choices for all.

Hari Om.  Good night.