31 May 2018

Another Vintage Sadhana (practice)

                               Image result for surya namaskara

I wrote a vintage sadhana a few posts ago. It included preparation for being able to do surya namaskara, salute to the sun. All of the poses are in the previous vintage sadhana post.

The next step is to combine parts of the poses that we did.

1st set of moves:

  • Start standing: hands in prayer/greeting, in front of our heart centre. Inhale raising arms overhead, whilst stretching backwards. Exhale as you do a forward bend, Move forwards from the hips, tilting up your tailbone. Bend your knees if you need to, going backwards or forwards.
  • Place your hands shoulder width apart, either: at the sides of your feet; or, forwards of your feet. Step your right leg back into a kneeling lunge. If this is too hard, keep your right knee off the floor, otherwise it goes to the floor. This is all on an inhale.
  • Exhale as you bring your right leg forwards, dropping your torso into a standing forward bend. Inhale, standing upright, taking your arms overhead and stretching back. Exhale to standing straight with your hands back in prayer.
  • Repeat with the left leg. Alternate your legs as you keep repeating the move.
  • To complete: do a back bend then go forwards, fold your arms, hang, or take hold of your legs, and relax for a few breaths in this position.
2nd set of moves: 
  • On all fours: inhale to cat, exhale to Down Dog
  • Inhale cat, exhale child.
  • Inhale as you slither forwards into cobra
  • Exhale as you tuck your toes under to go up into Down Dog. 
  • This is one round, do as many as you feel that you can, and rest in child after, going from your last Down Dog > cat > child.

When you feel up to it, the next steps are:

Do the first step above several times, then add this:
  • Stand
  • Back bend
  • Go forwards
  • Step back with one leg then the other to Down Dog. 
  • Step forwards with the same leg into a standing forward bend
  • back bend to prayer
  •                  Image result for plank asana
                             Image result for ashtanga asana
Omit the 2nd step above, and do this:
  • Stand
  • Back bend
  • Go forwards
  • Step back with one leg then the other to Down Dog to plank, exhaling.
  • Inhale as you drop your knees to the floor
  • Exhaling, drop your chest and chin to the floor (knees, chest, chin to floor = astanga asana)
  • Inhale to cobra
  • Exhale to down Dog 
  • Step forwards with the same leg into a standing forward bend
  • Back bend
  • Prayer  
With the stepping backwards and forwards in the two above steps, don't worry too much about whether or not you are actually doing a lunge

Another variation of the last step is to start on all fours:
  • Cat
  • Down Dog to plank all on an exhale
  • Inhale as you drop your knees to the floor
  • Exhaling, drop your chest and chin to the floor
  • Inhale to cobra
  • Exhale to down Dog 
There are so many variables to Surya Namaskara. So many different ways to do it. If you practice at home, find one style and stick with it. If you are a yoga teacher, knowing a few variations is invaluable.

 Surya namaskaras do so much! They restore flexibility to the body, and, if one is stretching within the poses, the whole body starts to become toned and stronger. They are somewhat aerobic due to the parts of the body moving up and down, plus can be done quickly with a brisk style of breathing to increase the aerobic effect. 

23 May 2018

how to use mindfulness

Why is mindfulness the latest spiritual "thing"?

This subject is either: a "don't get me started"!! topic; or, I get really inspired and delve into the spirituality of mindfulness.

But first: our minds are not the be-all and end-all of ourselves. No, not at all. We are so much more than just our minds!! And this, for me, has a lot to do with the problem of mindfulness. I feel that mindfulness limits us. And it is tiring. It is tiring being aware of so much by using 'mind', and the brain. When our brains are being active so much, they use up a lot of oxygen and glucose: our primary brain foods. And, when our brain gets tired, our whole body gets tired.

Our minds, according to my Tohunga (Maori spiritual guide) teacher, Ruatau Perez, are for working things out. In other words, like a computer. Data goes in, gets sorted, and collated. From this, decisions are made.

Instead of doing this, the current obsession of mindfulness is encouraging us to obsess about our thoughts, by always being aware of them.

Our senses and mindfulness

We have senses which absorb information. We are also encouraged to be aware of what we are receiving through our senses. Do we need to be aware of each piece of sensory input? How can we possibly? Our senses are always active. Often we are receiving very subtle sensory input, too subtle to notice.

Why do we think that our senses are to do with our minds? Sensory information does have nervous system input, however, if we take it back to the experience of:
  • feeling, such as the breeze on our face when we are walking 
  • seeing, using our eyes fully rather than trying to engage other mental activity
  • hearing a sound, in our ears, where we are supposed to recognise a sound
  • using the acute sense of smell to recognise an odour, whether pleasant or unpleasant
  • focus on the experience of taste especially when we are eating
Then we can tap into the wonderful experience of being more whole. This in itself is intensely spiritual. We can just be. Be still, and just be. Luxuriate in be-ingness. Let the senses roll.

                           Image result for hafiz on awareness

I was taught, in the Satyananda system, as an example with senses: there is a sound, we receive this sound in the ears. We are aware of the sound, the reception, and also aware of the awareness. Simultaneously. 

This gives an incredibly intense head rush. Our brains are firing with nervous impulses. This is quite addictive. In retrospect, I cannot understand why this was considered to be beneficial. It was touted as a way to get into the state of pratyahara, pratyahara being sensory withdrawal. 

But pratyahara is not difficult. Truly. And why do we want to get into sensory withdrawal? It is for the purpose of deep states of meditation.

But, those states can be achieved with eyes wide open, with being simultaneously in the inner and outer worlds. It can be done, and it is is an advanced state of being. It is not, however a state to remain in. 

The happiness of mindfulness?

Do you know what happens when we allow stillness of mind to happen? Do you know that in these moments, we can 'Just Be'. We can Just Be in a place of harmony, peacefulness.

When we restrict ourselves to being aware of so much that is going on, we are not allowing that space for that Inner Stillness to manifest.

16 May 2018

the three forces

                       Image result for iccha shakti

What are the three forces?

The three forces are goddesses, known as shaktis. In yoga parlance, being shakti, they would also be called energies. An energy is a force. But they are far more than that: they are goddesses.

They are:

Jnana Shakti: this Goddess is the force of knowledge

Iccha Shakti: this Goddess is the force of will

Kriya Shakti: the Goddess force of action

These three Goddesses/Shakti are all present in all of creation. They are creative forces, and without them, where would manifestation be? Without them there would be nothing created. And, this includes oneself. 

Just as the manifest, manifesting, and unmanifest universes are part of the interplay between many forces, between many energies, between many Gods and Goddesses, so are we.

Where do they fit into our own humble lives? In the grander scheme of things, each is present in many ways. However, according to Swami Sivananda, 

  • Jnana Shakti rests in the vijyananmaya kosha, which is the sheath where our chakras and Higher Intelligence, reside. 
  • Iccha Shakti rests, inside oneself, in the mind sheath, the manomaya kosha. 
  • Whilst Kriya Shakti rests in the pranamaya kosha, which is our life-force energy sheath.

Jnana Shakti - knowledge - vijnanmaya kosha - Higher Mind
Iccha Shakti  - will            - manomaya kosha  - mind
Kriya Shakti  - action        - pranamaya kosha  - life-force

The Three Bodies

Interestingly, these three sheaths: vijnanmaya kosha, manomaya kosha, and pranamaya kosha, all form our subtle body. As being distinct from our phyical body, and our Bliss body. The three bodies create a descent, a lineage, as thus: bliss > subtle > physical.

The Koshas

As do the koshas, the sheaths: 
anandamaya (bliss sheath) > vijnanamaya > manomaya > pranamaya > annamaya (food sheath/physical body). 

Each of these sheaths/koshas rest their base on a pertinent aspect of each sheath, which (sort of) 'feeds' each:

anandamaya:   the cause of one's existence
vigyanamaya:  the inherent powers contained within the chakras; the tattwas (elements) which lie behind the chakras; the power of kundalini
manomaya:      mind: conscious and subconscious; sense organs of knowledge
pranamaya:      life-force. There are several different types of prana
annamaya:       the food sheath

The Ascent, The Descent

In yoga, we start with fine-tuning the physical body and then work on ascending upwards through the sheaths. It is an excellent spiritual method, and, done properly, it 100% works. But, this is not the only way to live a spiritual life. I study with a Tohunga (Maori spiritual guide), and here we are are learning a descent from the original nothingness, down through creation, the Gods and Goddesses involved with the differing aspects of the universe, and down to one's existence.

So, yoga is an Ascent. Maori spirituality deals with The Descent.

There could be some confusion about the role of Jnana, Iccha, and Kriya Shaktis. The Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge, however it is a different sort of knowledge than that of manifestation. And, many people believe (erroneously, I might add!), that Manipura chakra is where our will-energy emits from. And of course, there are still mistaken beliefs about our life-force and our physical body.

Our life-force is gifted from the Gods, as is our Mind and our Higher Intelligence. We are right down the spiritual line....

12 May 2018

Vintage sadhana

A sadhana is one's daily yoga practice.

I found this sadhana that I'd written thirty years ago, for a course that I was teaching, which included yoga. Actually I was teaching a small morning practice for energy, and a small one for evening which was about body toning. And there were no downward dogs, warriors nor chaturangas in the toning sadhana!

Thirty years ago, most people were more slender (including me... ) and that does make for quite a bit of agility. Moreover, it is easier to maintain body tone, when one is slender. What people did not have so much of, was body strength. Nevertheless, this wee practice was to ease people into a small daily yoga practice, in a time when not so many people were into fitness, nor knowing much about yoga. And this in particular, is for easing into learning an old-fashioned, yet excellent, version of Surya namaskara (salute to the sun).

I did this sadhana this morning. It was nice. I felt great afterwards. So here goes....

Warming up....
                                 Image result for yoga dynamic spinal twist seated
Dynamic spinal twist: Sit, with your legs as wide apart as is comfortable. Keeping the arms outstretched in one straight line throughout the exercise, inhale as you raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Exhale as you twist your torso and take the left hand to the right foot, and the right arm to behind the back, keeping it as high as possible, looking back, toward the right hand. Inhale as you return to start, exhale to the other side. Inhale back to start.

This can be done in the above manner, about five times to each side. Or, move briskly, just breathing normally, 27 times each side.
                                        Image result for yoga butterfly pose

Butterfly: a) Sit on the floor, with the soles of the feet touching, and the knees are bent out to the sides. Place the hands on the knees, and bounce knees up and down, twenty-seven times.
b) Clasp the feet as in the above photo, and exhaling, gently push the knees towards the floor, using your elbows, as you bend forwards, aiming the head towards the floor. Inhale to upright. Do this five to seven times.

                                              Image result for yoga standing forward bend

Standing forwards bend: a) Standing, feet together, or a bit apart, with arms hanging by your sides, exhale as you drop your head towards your chest and then gradually relax the torso downwards as though there are no muscles in your spine, until you are down as far as you can do. Have the knees soft, bend them if necessary. Relax and hold the position, for five to seven breaths. On an inhale roll the vertebrae one by one, until you are back upright.
b) Standing, as above, arms by sides. Inhaling, raise arms overhead, arms straight. Drop head back, push hips forwards, weight on heels. Stretch back. Slowly straighten up, then exhaling, bend forwards until your arms and torso are at right angles to the floor, keeping head, torso and arms in a straight line. Then take hands towards the floor, either in front of you or alongside feet, head towards knees, drop back of the head down. Inhaling, swing the arms upright and stretch backwards again. Keep going backwards and forwards until you have done four times.
b) was done with straight legs......

                                               Image result for yoga kneeling lunge

Equestrian Pose/kneeling lunge: On the last time forwards, inhale as you extend the right leg back as far as you can, bending the left leg at the knee. At the same time, look up and arch the back. The weight of the body should be supported between the two hands, left foot, right knee and toes of the right foot. Exhale back to standing forward bend, and repeat on the other leg. Do three to five on each side.
                                            Image result for yoga downward dog
Mountain Pose/Downdog: Begin on the hands and knees. Tuck the toes under. Exhale and raise the buttocks high and straighten the legs. Hold the breath out briefly, then inhale back to all fours. Do three to five times.
                                            Image result for yoga striking cobra     

Striking Cobra Pose: Begin in the child pose, sitting back on heels, forehead on the ground, arms stretched in front of the body, wide enough apart for your body to pass between them Inhaling, bend the elbows as you slink forwards, keeping your chin and chest as close to the ground as possible, until your abdomen is on the ground as you arch the upper body back, look at the ceiling (cobra). Exhale to slink back to start. Do three to five times.Relax after in child pose.

Simple alternate Nostril Breathing: Sitting cross-legged. Raise your right hand, with the first two fingers between the eyebrows and a bit above that. Use your thumb to open and close your right nostril; ring finger opens and closes the left nostril. Close the right nostril; inhale left. Close left nostril; exhale right. In right, close right nostril as you exhale left. This is one round. Do five rounds.

Afterwards, have your eyes closed and be still, be present with yourself, briefly.