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Posts Tagged ‘Yoga Sutras’

The Foundation of Steadiness and Ease in Yoga

Posted on November 4th, 2016 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

 

 

 

bidalasana

By Sarah Powers

Patanjali’s linked concepts of “sthira” and “sukha” — steadiness and ease — can help structure your teaching. Learn how situating your instruction between these two poles can help your students find harmony.

In describing the qualities of asana with the adjectives “sthira” and “sukha,” Patanjali uses language very skillfully. Sthira means steady and alert–to embody sthira, the pose must be strong and active. Sukha means comfortable and light–to express sukha, the pose must be joyful and soft. These complimentary poles–or Yin and Yang co-essentials–teach us the wisdom of balance. By finding balance, we find inner harmony, both in our practice and in our lives.

As teachers, we need to help our students find that balance in their practice. Our instruction should assist them in an exploration of both sthira and sukha. In practical terms, we should begin by teaching sthira as a form of connection to the ground, and then move to sukha as a form of lighthearted exploration and expansion. In this way, we can teach from the ground up.

Manifesting steadiness (sthira) requires connecting to the ground beneath us, which is our earth, our support. Whether our base is comprised of ten toes, one foot, or one or both hands, we must cultivate energy through that base. Staying attentive to our roots requires a special form of alertness. Our instruction should begin there by helping students cultivate this alertness at the base of a pose. I will demonstrate this form of instruction for Tadasana, the blue print for all the other standing poses. The principles of Tadasana can be easily adapted to any standing pose you wish to teach.

In all the standing poses, steadiness comes from rooting all sides of the feet like the stakes of a tent. We need to teach students with high arches to pay particular attention to grounding their inner feet, and show students with fallen arches to move their ankles away from each other.

After rooting the feet, we move up, reminding students to draw the kneecaps up, the upper inner thighs in and back, and the outer sides of the knees back. This allows students to notice whether their weight feels evenly distributed between the right and left leg, the front and back of the foot, and the inner and outer thighs.

Next we should remind our students to adjust the pelvis, allowing the weight of the hips to be above the knees and ankles. This often requires them to draw their weight slightly back in order to allow the point of the coccyx to face down. In this alignment, the tailbone is not tucked nor lifted, but merely directed down between the fronts of the heels. Those with flat lumbar spines will need to allow the tailbone to move slightly back, moving away from tucking, while those with over-arched backs will need to encourage the tailbone to draw slightly in.

We should then instruct our students to lengthen the side waist, lift the top of the sternum and relax the shoulders down the back, aligning them over the hips and ankles. They should bring their heads above their shoulders, aligning the chin in the same plane as the forehead. Finally, they should relax the jaw, allowing the tongue to float freely in the mouth and the eyes to soften.

Once our students have attended to steadiness, the other qualities of alertness and comfort become accessible. They are now ready to bring their hands into Namaste position and reflect on their motivation before beginning their practice.

Encourage your students to view this grounded base as their home base, the foundation from which they can create, explore, and at times expand. From there, they can navigate to a place of ease or sukha. Just as steadiness requires and develops alertness, comfort entails remaining light, unburdened, and interested in discovery. By teaching this quality, we encourage a balanced equilibrium rather than impose rigid rules for alignment. This helps students develop a natural respect toward their bodies and themselves, while encouraging them to fully inhabit their bodies. They can then learn to move away from commanding their bodies to perform poses, and instead breathe life into them from the inside.

With sthira and sukha as the points on our compass, we can organize our teaching and help our students enjoy exploring their places of limitation and liberation in every pose. As a result, regardless of your students’ individual abilities, their practice can focus on celebration and refreshment.

At a deeper level, the way we practice and teach yoga poses mirrors the way we live the rest of our lives. As we reflect on our practice and our teaching, we can use yoga as a tool for developing greater insight into ourselves and the world around us. Sthira and sukha can then become not only tools for teaching or understanding yoga, but also principals that help guide the way we live.

Sarah Powers blends the insights of yoga and Buddhism in her practice and teaching. She lives in Marin, California where she home schools her daughter and teaches classes.

First Published in Yoga Journal Newsletter, September 2005

 

To learn more about Sarah Powers, visit her website at www.sarahpowers.com, and check out her DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

powers

 SARAH POWERS

An internationally acclaimed master teacher, Sarah Powers weaves the insights and practices of yoga and Buddhist meditation in an integrated practice that seeks to enliven the body, heart, and mind. Her yoga style blends a yin sequence of long-held poses to enhance the meridian and organ systems, with a yang or flow practice influenced by Viniyoga, Ashtanga, and alignment-based vinyasa teachings. – Read more HERE.

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What is Prānāyāma?

Posted on December 10th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

lungs-linked-to-brain-inside-image-image--2

By Gary Kraftsow

According to theories in neuroscience, the evolutionary origin of the limbic system is linked to the sense of smell and can be traced to that part of the limbic brain known as the olfactory lobe. It is primarily through the sense of smell that animals identify danger, food, or sexual partners; and it was from the olfactory lobe, in its most primitive form, that reflexive messages were sent to the rest of the nervous system, initiating appropriate behavioral responses. The limbic system still forms the “emotional core” of our own vastly more complex brains and, as we have seen, still has the capacity to powerfully influence and even override the   rationality of the cerebral cortex.

The ancient masters specifically developed the practice of prānāyāma (regulation of the breath) to balance the emotions, clarify the mental processes, and ultimately to integrate them into one effectively functioning whole. In light of what we now know about the close connections between the various structures of the limbic brain and the prefrontal lobes of the cerebral cortex, it is interesting to speculate about exactly what the ancients actually did understand concerning the power of prānāyāma.

Though a full treatment of the complex and highly evolved science of prānāyāma is beyond the scope of this work, it is interesting to note that the practice of prānāyāma has a significant impact on the olfactory lobe and, in this way, on the limbic brain. In fact, the ancient masters taught that states of physical and emotional arousal or nonarousal can be regulated via control of the breath at the nostrils. Specifically: inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left (sūrya bhedana) is said to activate or stimulate our system; and inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right (candra bhedana) is said to calm, soothe, and pacify our system. We can also use both inhalation (brahmana) and exhalation (langhana) techniques to stimulate or soothe our systems respectively; and we use different ratios between the various parts of the breathing cycle— i.e., between inhale, retention after inhale, exhale , and suspension of the breath after exhale —to achieve very specific degrees and types of stimulation and pacification.

Excerpt from: Yoga for Wellness: Healing with the Timeless Teachings of Viniyoga by Gary Kraftsow. 

Use the PROMO CODE SACREDCOW FOR 10% OFF any products at www.pranamaya.com

 

KraftsowGary Kraftsow

Gary Kraftsow, the leading proponent of viniyoga therapy in the US, has been a pioneer in the transmission of yoga for health, healing, and personal transformation for 30 years. After studying in India with T.K.V. Desikachar and his father T. Krishnamacharya, Gary received a special diploma from Viniyoga International in Paris. In 1999 he founded the American Viniyoga Institute where he is currently director and senior teacher of the Institute’s teacher and therapist trainings.

To learn more about Gary Kraftsow, check out his DVDs here at Pranamaya.

Image is from a great article on onlymyhealth.com

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So Hum Meditation with Sri Dharma Mittra

Posted on September 7th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Sri Dharma Mittra explains the So Hum meditation. So Hum is said to be the mantra that we are born with. It is the mantra of the breath. In many traditions this will be the first mantra that a student is given, because as it were, he or she already has access to it. It is said that the mantra can be heard if you listen closely to the sound of the breath. Using this simple technique can bring a sense of clarity, balance, ease and even bliss. If you are interested in beginning a practice of Japa meditation this is a great practice to begin with. The word Japa means repetition and usually refers to the repetition of a mantra.  Once you are comfortable with this simple practice it may be time to move on to other practices that use this mantra following the breath like Ajapa Japa meditation part one. At some point you may even begin to notice the sound of the mantra repeating itself. This is a great sign that you are beginning to embody the resonance of the mantra.

This clip is from Dharma Mittra’s Maha Sadhana level 2 DVD from Pranamaya. Use the Promo code SACREDCOW for 10% at checkout.

 

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Can Yoga Heal a Broken Heart?

Posted on January 15th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are many ways that we become heartbroken. It can be from years of failed relationships, a betrayal from a partner, the loss of a loved one, divorce, abandonment, disappointment, even loneliness. Some of our heartbreaks are so deep that it feels as though we may never recover. We become so disconnected from ourselves that we need something to guide us back to wholeness.

All too often, we search for something or someone outside of ourselves to make us happy. But those of us who have tried that route have no-doubt experienced the fleeting happiness that is born from a relationship incubated in a bubble of neediness. It is our relationship to ourselves and the understanding of who we really are that will bring us that feeling of completeness and the knowledge that we are never truly alone.

The Yoga Sutras describe a light that resides inside each of us—a luminance that is beyond all sorrow. This light is said to be located at the heart center. If we can access that light by letting go of resistance, offering gratitude, and surrendering to what is, we can once again—and maybe for the first time—taste our true nature, one that is full of joy, freedom, and bliss.

The process of accessing that light requires svadyaya (self-study), abhyasa (diligent practice) and vairagya (dispassion). We have to muster the courage to walk through the fire of transformation, and we should begin by making a sacred commitment to ourselves toward our own healing.

But first, we must learn to become still. Stillness is probably the one thing we’d like to avoid. Busyness keeps us distracted from our issues and the pain at heart. Perpetual motion is a great tool to avoid seeing our patterns, ways we could have acted more wisely or compassionately. It staves off those voices of doubt in our minds that maybe we actually are unlovable or underserving and might always be alone. It seemingly keeps us from feeling the pain. But it’s still there, under the surface, bubbling away, deciding whether to burst forth and release or sink deep and create toxicity and dis-ease. At the end of the day it only serves to keep our healing at bay.

We need to stop our endless television watching, web surfing, overworking, and the countless coffees with friends who just want to cheer us up or rehash the story over and over as they project their own relationship woes onto us.

Even our asana practice can become a way to distract ourselves. However, if we turn off the music and infuse our asana practice with the subtler aspects of yoga like pranayama, mantra, and bandhas, we can use it to prepare us for deep meditation. From this place, we can begin to pry open the door to the cave of the heart.

It is said that, in the stillness, the unknown becomes known. It may be scary to look into those painful and cavernous places within ourselves. But it must be done if we want to be free.

Make the decision now to take your seat, close your eyes, be with yourself, and breathe. Being still will illuminate your inner world, and how you experience the outer world will be shifted. But the practice of meditation is much more powerful when you practice daily. If possible, do it in the same place at the same time every day, and you will see that the cumulative power of a daily practice becomes palpable very quickly.

Here are some things that will help you to move your healing journey forward:
1. Practice non-expectation
2. Observe silence for at least 30 minutes before bed
3. Reduce your media intake
4. Take time to be alone

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Q&A: Nischala Joy Devi Offers a Woman’s Perspective on the Yoga Sutras

Posted on May 17th, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

yoga teacher femaleNischala Joy Devi is a master yoga teacher and healer. She has developed many yoga programs that serve those with life-challenging illnesses, and her teachings emphasize the practice of compassion. She authored two books: The Healing Path of Yoga (on yoga therapy) and The Secret Power of Yoga (a female-centered interpretation of the Yoga Sutras, also made into a CD). She talked to The Sacred Cow about the importance of including a heart-centered—and female—perspective in one’s yoga studies.  Read More »»

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What Makes Yoga Yoga?

Posted on March 2nd, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

dhyana yogaI have a friend who doesn’t practice yoga. But he insists that running is his yoga. He gets up early in the morning, runs long distances, focuses on his breath and the movements of his body, and goes into deep states of meditation. Another friend says that when he lifts weights, he listens to his heartbeat between reps and enters a sort of trance state during his workout. And a musician friend tells me that  when she plays, she feels like she becomes one with the music. So, my question is: Are they all doing a form of yoga? Read More »»

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Is Yoga For the Rich?

Posted on January 30th, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

find a yoga studio

Twenty dollar classes. Swanky studios with extensive boutiques selling $90 yoga pants. Conferences and conventions and retreats that cost half a month’s salary. Yoga can be really expensive. But while many are peeved by the commercialization of yoga, hasn’t it always primarily been a thing for the rich? Read More »»

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