15 May 2017

The Muscle of The Soul

Psoas muscle

Our psoas muscle is a long pelvic muscle. For some mysterious reason, it has now assumed great importance in modern, western yoga. Some are calling it, The Muscle of The Soul, the seat of the soul, and many believe that it is the most important muscle in one's body.  And, apparently, it is called the seat of the soul in the Taoist system.

                                    Image result for psoas muscle

Reptilian part of the brain

I read a weird article "confirming" all this by an author who linked it all back to the part of the brain called the "reptilian" brain. This is the very old part of the brain which controls our vital functions such as breathing, heart rate. So it is very important in terms of us having a lifetime in this physical plane of existence. We need this part of the brain to operate effectively.

                           Image result for reptilian brain

These are not our Soul

But, it is important to know that the brain is not your soul. Neither is the physical body. Nor are one's emotions, nor are your thoughts. These are all manifestations of the human experience. Our feelings plus our resulting states of mind and thoughts are important, and, as you know, can change from moment to moment.

But they are not the soul.

The heart and the muscle of the Soul

I would suggest, rather, that the heart is closer to being The Muscle of The Soul, for it is within Anahata (heart) chakra (energy and consciousness spiritual quality), that the symbol of The Soul is revealed.

                               Image result for jyoti flame
                             (the still, golden flame of the Soul)

The Higher Expression of the heart

Furthermore, our physical heart is close to our Inner Essence. When we are experiencing Love, our heart is involved. I have learnt, through experience, that Love is also the great emotion and vibration of expressing via our Higher chakras, which are the heart chakra and the chakras above it.

3rd eye and the heart vibration

Even when we are immersed in Ajna chakra, often referred to as The Third Eye, that Love vibration, we are cloaked in it, and it is in every tiny particle of our being. In these moments, that love vibration, it emmantes from us. I can tell you that if this vibration is not present when you believe that you are seated, in your pysche, in Ajna chakra, then you actually are not there.

Our heart is the bridge between our human experience, our feelings; and our Higher Consciousness. The Higher Consciousness is not a muscle, it is the third eye, Ajna chakra. In Maori lore it is called the Whatumanawa, which means the both the eye of the heart, and the eye of the soul. On the physical level there is a direct relationship with the pineal gland.  The Higher Consciousness is indeed very close to one's soul, it is an integral part of it.

The heart is part of our Soul's journey in a lifetime

I find that, for me personally, calling the psoas muscle, The Muscle of The Soul, does not make sense to me. When our heart stops beating, we "die" and the Soul's expression of the current lifetime that we are in, is finished in the manner of expression that it has undertaken. For that life. The heart and the lungs are interconnected, for we also "die" when the breathing is ended, and the heart is still, stopped. We need to have our heart and our lungs working at birth in order to experience a lifetime.

Come close to your soul essence via the heart

For anyone to come close to one's soul, I would say: listen to your heart, for it whispers to you. It calls you back time and time again to your essence.

5 May 2017

cold weather yoga

be warm

As autumn settles in, here in New Zealand, it is a good time to reassess your yoga practice, and for teachers to modify their classes, to accommodate the cold.

Our bodies move easier when we are warm, so:

  • practising or teaching in a warm room is preferred
  • and so is adding some dynamic warm-ups. Dynamic just means "moving"
  • dynamic standing twists, hip rotations, shoulder joint rotations using the whole arm, squats, are all useful to start your session. 
  • so is taking your arms up the front of the body, to overhead, as you arch backwards. Then, sweep the arms forwards as you go into a forward bend, with knees a bit bent. 
  • Do 5 - 10 times of all of these movements to warm up and loosen.

Any variation of sun salutes is good. At home, just a few will suffice. They are incredibly warming, if they are done at a brisk pace. So are the wide legged standing poses, such as warriors, triangle, and forward bend. If you do these, either skip the squats or do just a few squats.

Image result for standing back bendImage result for standing forward bendImage result for standing monkey poseImage result for downward dog poseImage result for striking cobra pose

a little warming and loosening sequence

A nice example of warming dynamic poses, is:

1. mountain (down dog), swinging through to cobra with toes tucked under and knees off floor; done several times. 

  • You can start as for sun salute, and step back into mountain, go to cobra, do this three to five times, finishing with mountain, jump or step forward to forward bend, then stretch up and back, then to prayer. This makes it like a salute. 
  • Or, even build up to it: start as for sun salute, go to mountain, then all-fours for three to five repetitions of cat pose, then back to mountain, and finish as for sun salute. 
  • The next version could be moving into all-fours then child, from mountain. Then slink forwards into cobra, go into mountain, all-fours, child, three to five times. After the last mountain, come forwards as previous. 
  • You could even do mountain, all-fours, then repeat child-cobra-child three to five times, then mountain, then return to start. You could do this before the previous version. 
  • If you do three times for each version, going from easy to hard, you will have an excellent series to teach, or to do at home.

  Image result for striking cobra poseImage result for striking cobra pose  transition pose
   Image result for striking cobra pose

2. An easier, but equally effective routine would be three to five repetitions of the following, starting from child or all fours. And done after standing poses: 

  • cat; child-cobra-child
  • child-cobra-mountain-all fours-child
  • mountain-cobra with toes tucked under-mountain 
  • You could rest in child between each variation, with the option of resting in mountain instead.

more warming asanas

Back rolls especially plough to forward bend are very warming, and can be done as a transition from standing to lying on your back. And back bends are warming too. Generally you would do more back bends in the morning. I was always taught that back bends are too stimulating to do at night, but as an asthmatic, I have found that an evening back bend opens up the lungs, making it easier to sleep. If you are someone who gets anxious, the softer poses like child pose will be better for you.

winter warming breath

Pranayama, the yoga breathing techniques, can be many things: 

  • cooling,
  • warming
  • calming
  • stimulating
  • balancing. 

Obviously, in colder weather, pranayama for warmth is recommended. The absolute best warming pranayama is bhastrika. Bhastrika is rapid breathing in and out of the nostrils, at the rate of one to two per second.:

  • start with five bhastrikas
  • then when you are used to doing them, add another set of five
  • when you can do four sets of five bhastrikas, move into two sets of ten. 
  • the next step is to do twenty without stopping
  • now, gradually increase moving up to one round of one hundred and twenty bhastrikas.

The best pranayama to accompany bhastrika is the alternate nostril breath.