Mudra: Energetic Seal

Mudras become the placeholder for my energy to remember what it's like to fell whole and connected.  This gesture attunes my body, breath and mind to one single stream. It anchors me to the here and now.  Uniting all of the pieces and parts of myself within the simplicity of palms pressing or index finger and thumb touching.  Each time I touch my palms together my begin remembers what my nature is meant to be and the tension and anxiety melt away.

Moving in and out of asanas brings a sense of recognition, also.  As you fill the shape with breath and energy or notice how the breath and energy changes within a shape, we become more attuned to our own presence. When a pose feels easy, I feel ease. In more challenging poses, my focus and attention are challenged in ways that actually the pushing and pulling to soften. 

Any gesture - outward or inward - leaves an imprint.  A smile, a kindness, these shape you in incremental ways.  Depending on the day, these things might have the power to alter our state of mind, if we allow it to.  Frequent small gestures pave the way for changes and shifts within our practice.  

Shakti: the energizing and animating principle of the Universe

In the quiet stillness of the morning, my breath is soft and steady, my mind undisturbed by the pull of the external.  The energetic quality of my being in this moment is in a state of equanimity.

Stillness, the act of being. Movement the act of becoming.  The two interwoven into the fibers of my body.  Asanas hold a container for energy and breath.  My steady meditation seat a vehicle for shake to do her dance of thought, images and memory - floating, intermingling in the space of my mind.  Tap into the steadier rhythm of breath to tame, to quell, to soothe . . . 

I forget that this energizing principle is also at play in my daily life.  The ebb and flow of motivation and inspiration coming and going like waves on the shore.  There are moments of quiet reflection and moments of action.  Shakti's untapped potential is always there, waiting to bring forth inspired moments of creativity and resourcefulness, but it is the moments spent in stillness that make space for her to invigorate and animate.

As my body settles into a pose, the breath inspires more connection, fuels a sense of spaciousness.  The steadiness of my gaze, whether towards an internal or external point, allows the mind to quiet, to let go of enactment and take a step closer to embodiment. 

Guru: teacher

It's so easy in this world of instant information and endless access to social media to lose connection to our own guru, or inner teacher.  With a constant bombardment of messages on how to be better, not good enough and do more - we forget that we are already devoted to a guru.  We sit at the foot of a guru the instant we sit in silence.  The moment we turn away from the external and sit in the weight of our own experience. 

Meditation on the Nadis

If we want to bring more presence into our lives, the easiest thing we can do is to breathe more consciously.  However, Westerners have become a culture that does not breathe intentionally.  One of the wonderful gifts of starting a yoga practice, and perhaps the most important, is to learn how to breathe.  

For students who are new to the practice, this can seem daunting and often create more tension and anxiety when a teacher is leading the student through Pranayama.  Our Prana is that which calls us into existence.  It's the force that animates us.  It is the very inspiration that can guide us out from the maze of suffering that can often feel suffocating and claustrophobic. It's the muse that motivate us to create and live an artful life. 

When we talk about breath, we talk about the flow or stream of breath - the way that the breath moves.  According to yourdictionary.com, the word stream comes has it's origin in the Indo-European form of sreu, which means to flow from source.  A steady flow of Prana and Consciousness can soothe the nervous system in way that softens the edges of narrative that can lead to a place of reactivity.  When we breathe consciously, it's as if we are following the origin of a river back to it's source.   How do we define this source?  For me, it's the recognition of all that is true and meaningful.  It is a remembrance of deep seated love and compassion that is patiently waiting for you to access it.  

When I teach Restorative Yoga, I like to offer students the opportunity to connect to breath in a way that doesn't feel too controlled or regulated.  There is a fine line between being aware of breath and trying to interfere with it. Visualization is an excellent skill to open up the Pranic pathway without overstimulating the nervous system.  The following guided meditation uses the system of nadis (energy channels) and alternate nostril breathing to bring awareness to the fullness of breath. 

Nadi Meditation

Begin seated or lay down on your back with a rolled blanket or bolster supporting the backs of your knees. Feel free to use any other support that would allow the body to rest comfortably.  

Let your breath begin to deepen without any strain or force.  Tuning into your normal, natural breath pattern.  

First, let your attention move to the pelvic floor.  Imagine the space just in front of your spinal column running from the pelvic floor to your throat.  This is the Sushumna Nadi: an energetic superhighway that allows Prana to flow through all the different parts of your body. Think of it as the great river. Imagine your breath as a stream of water flowing freely along this major energy channel.  Notice if there are places where your breath becomes stuck or jagged.  Can you smooth out the rough patches?  Notice where you feel a freedom of movement in your breath along this pathway?  

From the Sushumna nadi, run a series of smaller nadis.  Think of these as nerves, vessels, meridians or ducts.  Continuing to see your breath as a ball of light, breathe in through your nostrils in a single stream and then it branches off of the Sushumna nadi and spreads to the different parts of your body.  As your breath flows out, you can imagine these small tributaries of energy moving up and out carrying your attention beyond your body.  

In addition, to the Sushmna nadi, there are two main energy channels called the Ida nadi and Pingala nadi.  The Ida nadi begins and ends on the left side of your body. The Pingala nadi resides on the right side of your body.  The channels criss-cross the Sushumna in a double helix pattern.  

Visualizing Alternate Nostril Breathing

Bring your attention to the left nostril.  Inhale your breath through the left nostril and visualize the flow of your breath down the left side of your body.  Hold the breath in.  Feel the prana growing in intensity.  As you breathe out, let the flow of breath travel up the right side of your body. 

Inhale right nostril, allow the breath to flow down the right side of your body. Hold and feel the Prana swirling and churning within the body.  Exhale the breath up the left side of your body out through the left nostril.  Repeat for 5 more cycles.  Notice the effects of your practice.  

During this practice you may notice that within the subtle energy channels you encounter a knot or blockage.  These are called granthis in Sanskrit.  As we let our breath flow from source, we can use this current to break apart or break through these obstructions.  You can imagine as the rivers and streams begin to thaw, there is a flood of water rushing towards the sea.  The force of water has the potential to move logs, debris and rocks out of its path.  Our breath can serve as a similar force in overcoming obstacles.

References:

The Inner Tradition of Yoga by Michael Stone

The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work by Donna Farhi

Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton

Om: the vibratory sound of everything

I feel Om as a deep resounding vibration, moving from my pelvic floor, into my heart and finally, in the space between my eyebrows. The silence following the Om leaves my body pulsing with connection to something bigger.  I feel deeply rooted to the present unfolding of this one moment.  

To participate more deeply in the Universe means to have our inner and outer states reflected in one another.  To be able to notice the state of our heart and have our hearts be in the same place as our head and the rest of our body.  As Mark Whitwell writes, " . . . . all the power and intelligence of life is appearing in you, as you." 

Adhikara: your gifts

Overlooked, unseen or denied . . . I sometimes have an inability to what is unique or special about ourselves until we step into a particular challenge, problem or opportunity.  And then it seems my gifts and talents make themselves know.  Sometimes I haven't honed a particular skill  . . . I know what I want to cultivate, but sometimes its hidden beneath the fear and doubt.  Then I must coax those strengths out from underneath that heavy cloak of denial . . . as I settle into my own skin, a recognition emerges that I do have something to offer - sage, explorer, writer, teacher thinker, nurturer, listener, partner . . . 

Sankalpa

I align my practice to the qualities of strength, ease and peace for my body, mind and heart.  It's more of a wish that my practice will allow me the ability to remember this intention.  On my mat, my intention is held within the inner sanctum of my heart . . . stepping off of my mat requires a lot more tenacity to hold steady to this vow, this promise, this resolution.