Going Home

The practice of yoga conditions us for life and helps us to tolerate and integrate the challenging experiences that we encounter in our lives. Elena Brower, a teacher I admire greatly, often says something like, “We accumulate moments of healing in the time spent on our mats”.

As someone who has had a consistent daily practice for years, I can attest to the truth of her words. As often happens however, when something beautiful is perpetually right in front of you, I lost a little of my reverence for the nourishment provided by my practice. It took missing out on that practice for a few days during my recent trip to North America to help me to regain my gratitude for the healing power of yoga. Continue reading “Going Home”

Breathing meditation for Chakra Balance

Breathing meditationSince I’m away, I thought I’d offer you a breathing meditation practice you might recognise from one of my classes if you’ve come along recently. This practice is tremendously balancing and helps me to remember my connection to the rest of the world and encourages me to carefully cultivate the kind of influence I would like to have on the people around me. It has evolved from my own practice, taking influence not only from the Yoga tradition but also another form of eastern wisdom, the Japanese Jiu Jitsu form – Seishinkan. The philosophy and breath form are from the Yoga Perspective while the movement pattern is based on a Jiu Jitsu warm up.

BACKGROUND

There are seven energetic centres along the spine that, within the Yoga tradition, we call chakras. In Western medicine, these energetic centres correspond with massive crossing points of nerves, the communication channels within your nervous system. In yogic theory, it is thought that you can have an excess or a deficiency of energy in any of these centres which will affect your way of being in the world. There are many techniques of balancing the various energies in the body, but from my experience, pranayama is among the most effective.

Beginning just above the pelvic floor, we find Muladhara chakra (root chakra). This centre is said to govern your sense of foundation in the world – your family, your home, your finances. A little further up, just in front of the sacrum is Svadisthana chakra(sacral chakra) which is your emotional, creative, sexual centre, governing the gifts you have to offer to the world. Next between the navel and the sternum is Manipura chakra (solar plexus chakra), your personal power centre which influences the way you assert yourself in the world. Then at the level of the chest is Anahata chakra (heart chakra) and this is the turning point in the chakra system. It’s your connection with the outside world – how you manifest all of the things you generate in the lower chakras in relationship to other people.

In the first phase of the practice (described below), I spend a few rounds of breath drawing energy from the root to the heart, smoothing the breath, regulating my own energy. After some time, I move up the chakras to the final 3 which have more to do with your relationships to the outside world and to spirit.

At the level of the throat, Visshuda chakra (throat chakra) governs the way you communicate with others. At eyebrow center, Ajna chakra (third eye chakra) is your connection with your intuition and the vast amount of wisdom that is available to you from the universe if you are open to it. Finally at the top of your head and just beyond is Saharara chakra (crown chakra) which connects you to Source. (Universal Energy, God, Spirit, Divine or however you see it).

In the second phase of the practice, after I’ve spent some time generating energy for myself, I consciously choose the kind of energy I would like to send out. Energy must be exchanged to be sustained. You can’t horde the energy you generate for yourself and expect to nourished by it. Yes, first you generate energy for yourself but in order for it to live, to breathe and to be manifested the way that is most life-affirming, it must be shared. It must be perpetuated. To create abundant energy, you must share what you have and in a timely fashion. Energy that is hidden is wasted.

THE PRACTICE

This breathing meditation can be done from seated or standing. If you’re sitting, take your time to establish a good, steady seat, grounding through your sit bones and inner thighs while extending tall through the spine. If you’re standing, have your feet hip distance apart and second toes parallel. Ground through the four corners of your feet and lift tall through the spine. With your eyes closed, let your awareness come to your breath. Gently begin to lengthen and deepen it, using the ujjayii technique if you wish.

Check out the video for visual instructions of the first two phases of the breath

PHASE ONE: Nourishing yourself

Once you’ve got a sense of breathing fully and deeply, begin first phase of the moving meditation, which helps to balance and harmonise your first three chakras.

Interlace your hands and let your arms hang straight down in front of you, palms facing up just in front of muladhara chakra. Inhale to a count of three and as you do so, draw your hands up to the level of anahata chakra (chest-height). In the pause between the inhale and the exhale, flip your hands to have the palms facing down. Then exhale to a count of three and, keeping your hands interlaced, release your arms to hanging in front of you again. In the pause before the inhale, flip your hands to face up again. Repeat this for 10 cycles of breath or two to five minutes, as you like. You might like to visualise your spinal column being filled with light from the base of your spine to the level of your heart as you inhale. See that light getting brighter and brighter with each inhalation. Feel that you are offering nourishing energy to yourself and attracting more of the same with every breath.

PHASE TWO: Offering your energy

When you are ready to move to the next phase of the breath, extend the inhalations and exhalations to a count of six. Beginning with the hands interlaced, palms facing up in front of the base of the spine (as before), inhale to a count of three and draw the hands up to the level of the heart. Continue counting and flip your palms to face up (signifying the transition from internal to external) and extend your arms straight, palms reaching past sahasrara (crown of your head) facing the ceiling. In the pause before the exhale, release your hands and face the palms forward. As you exhale for a count of six, radiate your arms wide and scribe a semi-circle with them until your hands are hanging by your hips. In the pause before the inhale, interlace your hands again, palms up in front of the base of the spine. Continue with this breath for 10 cycles or two to five minutes. As you inhale, visualise drawing light up your spinal column from the base all the way past the crown and then as you exhale, visualise radiating that light out through your fingertips, surrounding yourself with white light. Consider what type of energy you would like to be radiating and consciously send it out along with the light.

OPTIONAL PHASE THREE: Balancing internal generation with external radiation

As a reminder that it’s important to balance the energy you offer out to the world with the energy you direct to your own self-care, it’s nice to combine phase one and two of this practice for a few cycles of breath or even a few minutes. Begin with a three count breath as described in phase one, lifting the hands to heart height as you inhale and exhaling to take the hands back down. Let the next breath be a six count breath as described in phase two, lifting the hands all the way up to over head as you inhale and radiating them outward as you exhale.

When you’ve finished your practice, it’s nice to stand, sit or lie quietly for a few moments, absorbing the experience of this meditation.

~article by Kelly Fisher

Off the Mat

One of the things that has been on my mind an awful lot lately is what I want to be when I grow up and how I can be of service to the world. How can I, as one tiny part of the massive population on earth, make a difference to my community and the world at large? What skills do I have to offer and what do I like to do? And how do I figure that out?

Since mid-January, I have been fortunate enough to be part of a Wellington pilot programme of the worldwide Off the Mat (OTM) initiative. This programme is meant to help yogis to figure out how to be of service to the world using the innate talents and gifts that have been uncovered or accentuated by their yoga practice. Continue reading “Off the Mat”

Inward Bound

There is an old Sufi story of a man who was looking for a key outside of his house. Neither he, nor the sympathetic friend who was helping him look could locate the key. Then the friend asked where the key had last been seen. To this the man replied that it was last seen in the house. Indignant, the friend wanted to know why they were bothering to look outside of the house if the key was not likely to be there. The man explained to his friend that it was far easier to look outside of the house in the daylight because it was really very dark inside of the house.

What was your first response to the story? It seems quite silly to search for something where it is unlikely to be found, doesn’t it? Funnily enough though, isn’t that what we often do in our own lives? When we’re struggling and uncertain, we tend to look outside of ourselves for the answers because it can be too confronting to look inward. Continue reading “Inward Bound”