Yoga Knowledge – July 2016

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“Yoga is as much a practice involving breath as it is involving the body.” – TKV Desikachar

The breath links the inner and out body. How we feel shows in our breathing. For example, when we feel pain or when we are distracted or anxious, our breathing changes. Under these conditions, the breath can be shallow, inefficient, and might over-rely on secondary respiratory muscles rather than the diaphragm. Exploring the link between our breath and our body’s movement is the first step toward changing uncomfortable or inefficient habits of movement and posture that cause stiffness and blockages of energy flow through the body.

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Yoga Knowledge – June 2016

Energy-opening poses

“Life energy flows up and down the spinal column. In yoga, the seven chakras [see our January 2016 Newsletter for detailed Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 12.30.02 PMdescription of the chakras] are connected through three energetic pathways known as Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. Ida carries prana through the left side of the body, conducting feminine, lunar energy. When you are breathing through your left nostril, your Ida channel is open and receptive energy is active in your body/mind.

Pingala is the conduit for energy on the right side of the body, transmitting masculine, solar energy. When you are breathing through your right nostril, your active, goal-directed energy is more dominant.

Sushumna runs up the middle of the body, providing the connection between the root chakra at the base of the spine and the lotus center at the crown of the head.

When these channels are open, vital energy is able to flow freely. The vital energy rising up through the spine is known as the awakening of Kundalini, sometimes visualized as the uncoiling of a snake at the base of the spine.” (Chopra & Simon 2004, 165).

Poses such as Spine Twist (Matsyendrasana), Camel (Ustrasana) and Triangle (Trikanasana) help release congestion in the spine, enabling prana to nourish every organ, tissue, and cell in your body.

Yoga Knowledge – May 2016

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“Most people identify themselves with their mind, intellect, and ego, which are the components of the subtle body. The seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes is famous for his statement, “Cogito, ergo sum”, meaning “I think, therefore I am.” People continue to believe that they are their minds, but Shankara [ninth-century teacher of the philosophy of yoga and Veda] encourages us to recognize that the components of our subtle body are simply coverings of the soul.

According to this framework, the mind is the repository of sensory impressions. When you hear a sound, feel a sensation, see a sight, taste a flavor, or smell a fragrance, the sensory experience registers in your consciousness at a level of your being called manomaya kosha. The mind cycles through different states of consciousness, and your sensory experiences change with these changing states. The impressions that enter your awareness during a waking state are different from those generated during dreaming. Yoga reminds us that reality is different in different states of consciousness – different filters of the mind layer.

“The second layer of the subtle body is the intellect, known as buddhimaya kosha. This is the aspect of mind that discriminates. Whether you are trying to decide what kind of toothpaste to purchase, which partner to choose, or what house to buy, your intellect is at work, attempting to calculate the advantages and disadvantages of every choice you make. This layer integrates information based upon your beliefs and feelings to come to a decision. According to yoga, the ultimate purpose of this intellectual layer is to distinguish the real from the unreal. The real is that which cannot be lost whereas the unreal is anything that has beginning and end to it. Knowing the difference is the essence of yoga.

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Yoga Knowledge – Apr 2016

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“We can understand the whole practice of yoga as a process of examining our habitual attitudes and behaviors and their consequences.”TKV Desikachar

In yoga, our interaction with others – our attitude toward things and people outside ourselves is called yama. Our attitude and behavior toward ourselves – how we relate to ourselves inwardly is called niyama. Yama and niyama are the first two of the “eight limbs” or “steps” of the body of yoga described by the sage, Patanjali. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali expressed his reflections on the human nature and the norms of society during his time in the form of aphorisms. These aphorisms outline the fundamental tenets of yoga and explain the codes of ethical behavior which will ultimately lead to self-realization (BKS Iyengar, 2001). Yamas explain the principles of ethical behavior one should follow in everyday life, and practice on all levels: actions, words, and thoughts. Practicing the yamas and niyamas creates a solid foundation for practitioners to develop their yogic process and to move to deeper stages of yoga with increasing inner-strength, awareness and freedom. While modern yogis might not be compelled to follow such a pure yogic path, the yamas still offer highly relevant and valuable guidelines to lead a conscious, honest, ethical and healthy life. There are five yamas:

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Yoga Knowledge – Mar 2016

Understanding your constitution can help you create a satisfying life/work balance.” – Shannon Sexton

By exploring the full potential of your constitution (prakriti), you can design your lifestyle accordingly, and increase your levels of energy, vitality and joy. Prakriti is comprised of three doshas, or expressions of prana in the physical body: vata, pitta, and kapha. The combination of doshas creates three different primary types of individual constitutions or mind-body types. Although some people have dual- or tri-doshic constitutions, most of us have one dominant dosha. In this regard, Ayurveda speaks of people as vata types, pitta types or kapha types relative to individual bodily structure and psychophysical functioning (Frawley 1999). The relative constitution of the balance of doshas is affected by diet and lifestyle. Ayurvedic advice and yoga help regain doshic balance.

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Yoga Knowledge – Feb 2016

Mind and Body:  “The body and the mind are in a state of constant interaction.  Yogic science does not demarcate where the body ends and the mind begins, but approaches both as a single, integrated entity.  The turmoil of daily life brings stress to the body and the mind.  This creates anxiety, depression, restlessness, and rage.  Yoga asanas, while appearing to deal with the physical body alone, actually influence the chemical balance of the brain, which in turn improves one’s mental state of being.

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Yoga Knowledge – Jan 2016

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The seven chakras represent energy or nerve centers that exist in the human body. The word chakra literally translates as wheel or circle.  “Energy (prana) is said to flow in the human body through three main channels (nadis), namely, Susumna, Pingala and Ida.  Susumna is situated inside the spinal column. Pingala and Ida start respectively from the right and left nostrils, move up to the crown of the head and course downwards to the base of the spine.  These two nadis intersect with each other and also the Susumna.  These junctions of the nadis are known as chakras or the fly-wheels which regulate the body mechanism.”  (See Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar).

The seven chakras are:

  1. Muladhara (the pelvic plexus or root chakra, located at the base of the spine);
  2. Svadhisthana (the hypogastric plexus or sacral chakra, located at the top of the sacrum);
  3. Manipuraka (the solar plexus/navel chakra, located in the navel);
  4. Anahata (the cardiac plexus or heart chakra, located in the cardiac area);
  5. Visuddha (the pharyngeal plexus or throat chakra, located in the throat);
  6. Ajna (the plexus of command between the two eyebrows or third eye chakra, located between the eyebrows);
  7. Sahasrara (the upper cerebral center/thousand-petal lotus or crown chakra, located at the crown of the head).

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Yoga Knowledge – Dec 2015

When practicing yoga, it is important to understand the principle that is inherent to each particular posture. Knowing this principle will enable you to perform the asana or variations of it in the proper way.  To recognize the principles embodied by postures seek what each asana means, what is its purpose, and what it demands of you?

For example, ustrasana, the camel pose, is a back bend performed from a kneeling position. With hands holding onto the heels, the thighs are pushed forward while the chest expands and opens on each inhalation.  The principle of this pose is to facilitate the movement of breath into the chest.  Space is created in the chest by stretching the intercostal muscles in the pose, and the whole front of the body is opened up. In ustrasana you can experience the feeling of the breath down the entire frontal line of the body.

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Yoga Knowledge – Nov. 1, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 10.44.31 AMWhether you are young or old, beginner or advanced, practicing yoga heightens your awareness of the body and the mind. Awareness helps build control to hold and to move in and out of each posture. From control comes poise and grace. So even if you lack flexibility and ability to do difficult postures, you can experience growing elegance and ease in your practice.

The key is to practice with focus and attention, no matter how difficult or easy the posture. This takes focusing attention within the body. That is, concentrating on breathing, the sensation of tissues stretching, joints opening up, the pace of movement and the relationships between movements and breathing. Continue reading

Yoga Knowledge – Oct. 1, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 11.27.16 AMWith regular practice, the process of how yoga can build a better you through mind, body and soul continues to surprise. The more we strive to understand or unravel it, the more we learn about ourselves and others. What makes yoga so magical?

When you are new to the practice the experience of yoga is mostly physical. You may feel tightness of the muscles, ligaments and tendons. You may feel inflexible and find yourself unable to balance. You sweat and pant, gasp for air, feel uncomfortable or dizzy, even want to leave the yoga room.

Then you come back. For many practitioners, the experience of just one class makes your body feel great. For others, it takes a few more classes to find your practice beneficial and enjoyable. Continue reading