Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sat Nam.

Some things attributed to Buddha:
"All that we are is a result of what we have thought.We are made by our thoughts; we are molded by them."

What does it take to change our minds? They sometimes spiral in a direction we don't want them to go; but once spiralling, they gain momentum and we become slaves to them. The mind can spiral downward or upwrad. Changing the direction of the spiral is linked to the breath; change the breath and change the mind.

We began class with a simple breathing exercise based on the teachings of Yogi Bhajan. He said to change the mind, inhale deeply, retain the breath for seven seconds, then exhale slowly. While holding the breath we repeated one of our tune-in mantras, Lokha samastah sukhino bhavantu - May the whole world be happy, and may my thoughts and actions contribute in some way. We spent a few minutes with this exercise before we officially tuned in. This was followed by kaplabhati and nadi sodhana for several rounds each. Our opening ensure the upward spiral of the mind!

Asana began with a soft uttanasana, deepening as we held it. It's a semi-inversion which prepared us for sirsasana, the headstand. After that, we returned to uttanasana. Each of these was held for about two minutes, three for those who could hold the headstand that long.
A standing sequence to open the hips, stretch and strengthen the spine was next. We did warrior 2, triangle, twisting triangle, parsvokonasana, twisting parsvokonasana, and wide leg forward fold. Then came balances - 2 eagles, 2 dancers, and a tree (sounds like a fairy tale).

Reminders to check in see where the mind was spiralling came often here, due to the challenge of balancing poses. No matter how "well" they're performed, the after effect feels like the legs were deeply massaged.

Cow's head arms accompanied the next forward bends to prepare the shoulders for handstand. handstand was practiced three times, 10 breaths each. Child's poses sandwiched 1/2frog, two bows,and two camels.

Then came the forward bends - wide leg seated forward fold, double pigeon with cow arms (we called it the freak of nature), and paschimo., the full seated forward fold. We then completed our inversions with shoulderstand, plow, and fish.
We lied down and did our favorite reclining twist, knees to chest, and then fell back into a deep savasana. At the end, we returned to the first breahing exercise with the mantra. It was a hot evening outside, the sun setting earlier, the room filled with calm and focussed sadhakas.

If you don't have time for the asanas, please be sure to practice the breathing exercises and meditation at home. And please call me if you have any questions regarding how to adapt these practices to suit your needs and environment. Love, Rosie

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Monday, August 31
Both evening classes were dedicated to our friend's mother, who is vey ill. We wish you peace, M.C.!

The 6:15 Gentle Beginning class was about cooling down. We sat crossed legged and visualized walking our awareness up the ladder of the spine, lifting each "rung", or vertebra up off the one beneath it; this created length and awareness and prepped us for practice. We sat here for about 5 minutes. Then came chandra bhedana pranayama. Last month we did a lot of sitali; both are cooling and mellowing breathing exercises.

Chandra bhedana means "to pass through the moon". In it, we inhale through the left nostril and exhale through the right, continuing in that loop for a couple of minutes. It's a digital pranayama, meaning the index finger and thumb of the right hand control the opening and closing of the nostrils. We did between 3 and 5 minutes.

Baddha konasana, sitting with the souls of the feet together and the knees wide, followed. We engaged mulha bandha on exhale; mulha bandha is similar to practicing kegals. The pose tones the kidneys and brings circulation to the contents of the pelvis. Then we straightened the legs, keeping them wide, and practiced side stretches over each leg, raising the opposite arm and spinning the belly toward the sky. It's called ardha upavistha konasana; that was followed by upavistha konasana, coming forward through both legs. But we prepped for these by simply sitting long and tall , balanced over the sitbones with the legs in this position. We returned to baddha konasana, interwove the toes, and drew the heart way out over the toes in a long forward folding stretch.

It was then time to stand. Tadasana and urdvha hastasana reminded us to maintain a long spine and brought energy to the upper back and shoulders. All these were perfect preps for trikonasana, the triangle pose. We practiced twice - once in the regular fashion and once with the top arm wrapped around the back of the waist to stretch the chest and shoulder.

Chest expansion was done 3 times. Inhaling, we clasped hands and reached back; exhaling, we bent the knees and folded forward, resting the ribs on the thighs and staying for 3 breaths. The standing sequence ended with uttanasana, the classic standing forward fold.

Heather L., a student teacher who was assisting me, passed out bolsters and we lied back in chest expander, allowing the bolster to support us along the length of the spine. This was our back bend. It's always a favorite in this class! We used the bolster again in child's pose, lying over it.

Bharadvajasana, a classical and beautiful twist, came next. Then Heather taught janu sirsasana and paschimottanasana expertly. We ended with more chandra bhedana, 2 or 3 minutes, and an OM meditation. It's the 1/2 meditation. In it, you listen to the silent sound of OM on the exhale; and on the inhale you can do whatever you want! Eventually, the mind decides to stay with OM on the inhale as well, since doing so was so peaceful. It's a simple and lovely way to start meditating with OM.
Savasana and closing ended our practice.

The Kundalini yoga class at 7:45 came from the book, Sexuality and Spirituality. We did sets for the pituitary and pineal glands. The pituitary is also known as the master gland because it produces hormones which support the function of all the other endocrine glands, as well as producing human growth hormone. The pineal secretes melatonin and seratonin. These were intersting and fun sets. I'll write here just the pineal gland set:
ONG NAMO GURU DEV NAMO (I honor the Guru within and around me.)
1. Interlace fingers overhead in Venus Kyiya (right thumb on top of left for women; other way for me) and bend elbows lightly as if you are embracing your arc line. Try to pull the hands apart with long, deep breathing, inhale SAT and exhale NAM. 2 minutes.
2. Meditate on center of top of head (sahasrara chakra). 5 minutes.
3. Same arm position, but interlace fingers and streth thumbs back as far as you can. 2 1/2 minutes.
4. same as 2.
5. same arm position, thumbs as in the first exercise, stretch the index fingers up toward the sky for 2 1/2 minutes.
6. same as 2 and 4.
7. Stretch arms overhead straight, open fingers apart, arms shoulder distance apart, breath of fire for 3 minutes.
8. Meditate on crown of head as done throughout sequence.

We rested and then began a healing meditation, the last few minutes dedicated to M.C.
Sat Nam.