Hatha Yoga (the yoga of physical movement).

Hatha is the branch of yoga in which we use the physical practices – including postures, breathwork, dietary selection, and other “external” means – to build better control of our thoughts in order to move ultimately toward one-mindedness.

As part of this, we strive to balance the body and mind, with the understanding that they are always in fluctuation.

Goal: To gain freedom through physical discipline.

How to get there: Through practicing the 8 limbs of yoga.

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Yamas and Niyamas,

The five yamas are moral directives intended to guide the practitioner’s behavior towards others.

  • Ahimsa: Nonviolence towards others.
  • Satya: Truthfulness.
  • Asteya: Not stealing from others. Though this probably had a literal meaning originally, it has been extended to mean not putting others down to build yourself up.
  • Brahmacharya: Chastity. Whether this means celibacy or simply controlling one’s sexual impulses is open to interpretation.

While the yamas direct one’s behavior towards others, the niyamas describe how to act ethically towards oneself.  The 5 niyamas are:

  • Saucha: Cleanliness. Again, probably a practical meaning originally but has a modern interpretation keeping your intentions pure.
  • Santosa: Contentment with oneself.
  • Tapas: Self discipline. Having the commitment to sustain a practice.
  • Svadhyaya: Self study. Having the courage to look within yourself for answers.
  • Isvara pranidhana: Surrender to a higher power. Whether that is a deity or the acceptance that the world is governed by forces outside of our control is up to you.

Together, these two sets of rules were meant to guide one to a righteous lifestyle.

Asana

The practice of yoga postures, although it should be noted that the word asana means seat.

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Pranayama

The practice of breathing exercises. Choosing to control the breath for specific effects.

Pratyahara

The withdrawal of the senses, meaning that the exterior world is not a distraction from the interior world within oneself.

Dharana

Concentration, or the ability to focus on something uninterrupted by external or internal distractions. Dharana builds upon pratyahara.

Once you can ignore external stimuli, you can begin to direct your concentration elsewhere.

Dhyana

Meditation. Building upon dharana, your are able to expand your concentration beyond a single thing so that it becomes all encompassing

Samadhi

Bliss. After you have achieved dhyana, the transcendence of the self through meditation can begin. The self merges with the universe, which is sometimes translated as enlightenment.

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Bhakti Yoga. (the yoga of devotion)

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While Hatha Yoga requires a strong and flexible body, Raja Yoga requires a disciplined and concentrated mind, and Jnana Yoga requires a keen intellect, the only requirement for Bhakti Yoga is an open, loving heart. 

GOAL: To develop a personal relationship with the ‘divine’, which could include a higher power, nature, or the self.

HOW TO GET THERE: Prayer, chanting or your own preferred way of expressing devotion.

MORE INFO:

Bhakti means “devotion” or “love” and this path contains various practices to unite the practitioner with the Divine.

Bhakti Yoga is considered the most direct method to experience the unity of mind, body and spirit.

This deeply spiritual practice draws heavily on the Hindu deities. Each of these deities is seen as representing a human aspect of the single Godhead or Brahman (similar to the way Christian saints represent specific attributes and qualities of God). The use of Hindu deities in Bhakti Yoga can be a large obstacle for Western practitioners, especially for those with a deeply religious background. But the use of the Hindu deities is not required for this practice.

 

The most popular limb of Bhakti Yoga in the West is  Kirtan,  with national and local Kirtan walas performing weekly in small to large cities. Bhakti Yoga can be practiced by itself or be integrated into other types of yoga or spiritual practices.

Branches of Yoga.

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What opens your heart to being receptive to new ideas, creativity and compassion?

There are many branches of yoga that reflect the diversity in our temperament, personalities and goals.

There is a style of yoga for everyone! Maybe your goal is to exercise, or open your heart and quiet your mind, maybe it’s music or service to others?

Here are a few of the modern forms of yoga and I will be writing a short blurb about each individually.

 

BHAKTI YOGA (Devotion)

HATHA YOGA (Physical Exercise)

JNANA YOGA (Wisdom)

KARMA YOGA (Service)

MANTRA YOGA (Sound)

RAJA YOGA (Meditation)

TANTRA YOGA (study of the universal from the point of view of the individual)

One Love San Francisco

one love serve

I’d like to invite you to join me and my friends, Danni Pomplun, Martin Scott and Susannah Freedman to take your yoga off the mat and help us give back to underserved and homeless youth.

Please join us for One Love’s San Francisco 2016 Charity Yoga Event! Help us give back to the SF community and make a positive impact in the lives of local and global underprivileged youth. Your ticket purchase will be a direct donation locally to Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco, aiding to get homeless and at-risk kids off the street, and globally to the One Love shelter in India, which is home to 20 kids rescued from the streets.

Date: Saturday, June 18th 2016
Time: 1:30 – 3:30pm (doors open 12:45pm – arrive early to save your mat space)
Location: Yoga Tree, Castro (97 Collingwood St, San Francisco, CA 94114)
Tickets start at $30. available here: https://www.movewith.com/at/onelovemovementsf

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Yoga Teachers

teachers

Thank you to LYFT for making it easy for our yogis to get around
NEW LYFT USERS get $50 in credit towards their first 10 rides. Promo code: lyfttoonelove
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EXISTING LYFT USERS get a 25% discount on their Lyft ride to or from Yoga Tree Castro on the day of the event (June 18th). As long as your ride begins or ends at the event, the code will be applicable. Promo code: Ridetoonelove
https://www.lyft.com/invited/Ridetoonelove

From cell to birth… (a yoga lesson)

The human body (which is made up of about 100 trillion cells) begins as a single, newly fertilized cell.

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Nutrients need to get through the cell membrane, and once inside, the cell metabolizes these nutrients and turn them into energy that fuels its life functions. As a result, waste is generated and needs to somehow get back out through the membrane.

Any impairment in the membranes ability to let nutrients in, or waste out, will result in the death of the cell via starvation or toxicity.

The observation that all living things take in nutrients provides a good understanding of Prana, which is what nourishes a living thing. Prana is not only what is brought in as nourishment, but also the action that brings it in.

The yogic concept that complements prana is apana. Apana refers to what is eliminated as well as the action of elimination. Prana and Apana describe the essential activities of life.

In order for a cell to thrive, certain conditions need to exist. The cell needs to be permeable so nutrients and waste can pass in and out of the cell, but it can’t be so permeable that the cell wall loses its integrity.

The yogic term that reflects these opposites are sthira and sukha. All living things need to balance containment and permiability, rigidity and fluidity, persistence and adaptability, space and boundaries, etc…

 

Let’s look at the things that happen at the start of life on earth.

In utero, oxygen is delivered through the umbilical cord (the mother does the breathing), your lungs are sealed off and non functional or mostly collapsed. The circulatory system is largely reversed, with oxygen rich blood flowing through the veins and oxygen depleted blood flowing through the arteries. (I will go into much finer detail of this in another blog post)

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Being born means being severed from the umbilical cord, which has sustained you for nine months. Suddenly, and for the first time, you need to engage in actions that will ensure your continued survival.

The first breath causes blood to surge into the lungs; the right and left sides of the heart to separate into two pumps; and the specialized vessels of fetal circulation to shut down and seal off. Your first breath is the most forceful one as it needs to overcome the initial surface tension of your previously collapsed, fluid-filled lungs.

 

Another first time experience that occurs at birth is the weight of the body in space. Inside the womb, you are in a weightless, fluid filled environment. At birth, your universe expands and you can move freely in space, your limbs and head can move freely in relation to your body and you must be supported in gravity.

 

Right away, you have to start DOING something, you have to find nourishment, which involves a complex action of simultaneously breathing, sucking and swallowing. All the muscles involved in the act of survival create your first postural skill – supporting the weight of your head.

Postural development continues from the head downward, until you begin walking, with the completion of your lumbar spine at about 10yrs old.

 

To summarize: At birth you are confronted by two forces that were not present in utero: breath and gravity. The practice of yoga can be seen as a way to consciously explore the relationship of breath and posture.

 

In the language of yoga: Life on this planet requires an integrated relationship between breath )prana/apana) and posture (sthira/sukha). When things go wrong with one, they go wrong with the other.

 

Content from Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff

 

Yin Yoga explained.

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“Why does my body not move the way I want it to?”

To answer this question we will look at our joints. There are many tissues that form a joint: bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, synovial fluid, cartilage, fat, and sacks of fluid called bursae. Sufficient to our purpose we need only consider three of them: Muscle, Connective Tissue and Bone. Each of these tissues has different elastic qualities and each responds differently to the stresses placed upon them by Yoga postures. By learning to feel the differences between these three tissues Yogis can save themselves a great deal of frustration and possible injury.

We begin our analysis by classifying the three tissues according to quality. Muscle is soft; it is the most elastic, and mobile. So Muscle is the most Yang of the three. Bone is hard; it is the least elastic, the least pliable and is immobile. So Bone is the most Yin. Connective Tissue lies between the two extremes.

It is interesting to note that this classification of the Three Tissues remains the same when we examine them not by quality but by location. The muscles are the most external and exposed. They are Yang. The bones are the most internal, the least accessible. They are Yin. The connective tissue lies literally between the two.

Why bother with this analysis? Because Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in Yin way. The characteristics of Yang exercise are rhythm and repetition. The characteristic of Yin exercise is prolonged stasis or stillness. We are all familiar with Yang exercises like running, swimming, and weight training. All of these activities are rhythmic. We alternate the contraction and relaxation of our muscles to run or swim or lift. It would be unproductive to just contract a muscle and hold it until it spasms. It would be equally unproductive to just let a muscle stay relaxed. Healthy muscle requires the rhythmic contraction and relaxation that Yang exercise provides. The rhythm is very important. Indeed, it could be said that it is rhythm that distinguishes exercise from simple manual labor.

Manual labor is rarely of the proper rhythm or of adequate repetition to make a person “feel good”. It is usually a haphazard mix of too much of some movements, not enough of others. This leaves us feeling sore and “kinked” at the end of our labors, not pleasantly perspired and relaxed. In cultures where long days of manual labor are unavoidable Human Beings have responded by making up “Work Songs” and soldiers have invented an endless variety of “Marching Songs”. The purpose of these songs is to create a rhythm to work to. Labor is still labor but it is made more palatable and less destructive by moving, singing and breathing with a rhythm.

Yang exercise is easy to define and identify. It is what we are all familiar with. By contrast Yin exercise seems a contradiction in terms. How can something that is gentle and static even be called “exercise”. One purpose of these articles is to expand our conception of exercise to be more inclusive. Yang exercise is not the only form of exercise.

The characteristic of Yin exercise is stasis or stillness for long periods of time. Yin exercise has a rhythm but it is a much, much longer rhythm than Yang activities like running. A common misinterpretation of Yin stillness is “passive” or “inactive”. But this misconception is due to our cultural bias to muscular, Yang activities. If nothing were happening in Yin exercise then it would indeed be a contradiction in terms. But tissues are being stressed in proper Yin exercise, particularly connective tissue.

The most common example of Yin exercise is traction. If someone’s leg were broken it would not be beneficial to rhythmically pull on the injured area. But gentle, steady, continuous traction might be absolutely necessary for healthy recovery.

An even more common and less dramatic example of the Yin principle of prolonged stasis is orthodontia; braces on our teeth. Teeth are bone anchored in more bone and yet even they respond to the practice of Yin Yoga which we call “braces”. Bone is the ultimate Yin tissue of the body. If we were to exercise our teeth in a Yang way it would be disastrous.

Imagine an enthusiastic body builder taking what she learned from the gym and applying it to her mouth. If she had decided she was going to straighten her crooked teeth by rhythmically wiggling them back and forth in multiple sets it would not be long before her teeth fell out. Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in a Yin way.

We will finish this article with a reminder of the Taoist conceptions of Yin and Yang. When we analyze things we are comparing them to something else. There is no absolute Yin. There is no absolute Yang. If we recall the Tai Ji symbol of spiraling half circles of Black and White we must remember that there is a black dot within the white spiral and a white dot within the black. This is to remind us that when we use language such as “Yang is rhythmic but Yin is not.” that this is not absolutely true. Yin has a rhythm but it is much longer than Yang. Likewise it is not absolutely correct to say “Yang is active but Yin is not.” There is activity in Yin but it is of a different type. It can be tedious to be meticulously accurate in our speech. One of the great benefits of Yin/Yang terminology is that we can express ourselves in terse, memorable ways but always with the understanding that this is not the final word. Like poetry; a deeper analysis might be necessary for different purposes.

To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at www.paulgrilley.com

Transitions are hard!

Something I have been speaking about at length in class lately is Transitions, or the time between poses.

Each shape we take in class is different from the previous one, which is different to the next one and once we arrive in a pose and settle into the correct alignment, we can usually find some sort of ease or peace, however fleeting that may feel.

We live in a world of goals and moving forward and rushing to the next great thing that we forget or hurry through the transition time of getting to where we want to be. So I have purposely slowed the sequencing down to really feel into how we arrive in a pose, aiming for grace and making it as effortless as possible.

This is a relatively easy thing to accomplish when in a yoga class and you are only focusing on the physical body slowing a movement down to completely experience the journey, but how does that translate to real life?

How do you take what you learn on your mat and apply it to your life when you leave the studio?

I think people have thought I am trying to be funny and make a joke when I mention what I am working on…but it is something I am truly struggling with and worth mentioning. I have a terrible temper when I am driving and before I can even take a step back from my anger and evaluate my reaction, I have honked my horn, opened my window and called someone a F*cking  Wanker or Idiot or Asshole.

My transition time from getting into my car and arriving at my destination is a little lot clunky and ungraceful. After one particularly rude remark on my part, I closed my window and asked myself “Jacqui Rowley, when did you loose your God Damn mind?”

So I have been paying extra special attention to my reactions in class lately. I get irrationally triggered in standing balance work and have found myself silently cussing my beloved teachers for putting me in stupid poses and making me do stupid things that challenge me. I have even wished I had stayed at home because I wasn’t angry when I was at home in my warm bed. I hadn’t failed at anything before stepping on my mat.

Transitions are hard! Whether you are in transition from waking up to having your first cup of coffee, or transitioning from one job or house to another, maybe you are transitioning from being engaged to being married….Whatever your ‘space between’ might be, it can be a challenging time filled with opportunities to learn and fail grow.

Creating a little space in your mind, and by that, I mean a little space between your thoughts, you learn to take a step back and become a better responder as opposed to being a reactor. When you are triggered by a something, try to notice your natural reaction and then give yourself the space to decide how you wish to respond to your reaction. There is certainly a time and a space for getting angry and frustrated, but do you need to respond with anger and frustration every single time you are triggered? And where are you directing that energy? Is it helpful or serving you in a healthy way?

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Give yourself permission to fail, repeatedly, and then come back to trying again, and again, and again…until eventually you have that fleeting feeling of accomplishment. Your success rate will increase if you pay attention to where you are failing.

Keep me posted, I would love to hear what you are working on.

Bandhas.

The Word Bandha means to hold, tighten or bind. These locks have an effect on the flow of prana where various muscles are contracted and controlled in the physical body that retain the circulation of prana in the subtle body.

*Practicing bandhas should be done with the supervision of an experienced teacher.  bandha all The Neck Lock (Jalandhara Bandha)

Jala means a net, a web, a lattice or a mesh. This lock releases energy blocked within the upper chest. It creates space in the upper spine and aids in releasing tension which builds up as a result of mental activity.

1. Sit in an upright position with the palms of your hands resting on your knees.

2. Inhales deeply and hold your breathe.

3. Bend your head forward and draw your chin to your chest  as you contract the throat.

4.Retain the breathe comfortably. Exhale and release the lock. jalandhara bandha

Jalandhara bandha regulates the flow of blood and prana to the heart, the glands in the neck and the head, together with the brain.

If pranayama is not practiced with Jalandhara Bandha, then pressure is felt on the heart, behind the eyes and inside the ear cavity, resulting in light headedness or dizziness.

The Diaphram Lock (Uddiyana Bandha)

This lock stimulates the solar plexus chakra (Manipura). As this is the distribution center for prana throughout the body, this lock improves the flow of prana throughout the body. A gentle Uddiyana Bandha engagement provides powerful structural support for the abdomen, waist and low back. bandha uddiyana bandha 1. Sit upright with your hands on your knees, palms facing down.

2. Exhale deeply, emptying your abdomen and chest.

3. Lift your diaphragm, pulling the organs of the upper abdomen up and back towards the spine. (Imagine the feeling of taking in breathe (Inhaling), but without the actual inhale.

4. Lock the posture and hold while it is comfortable. Release and inhale.

Uddiyana means flying up. The process of this lock is to lift the diaphragm high up into the thorax and to pull the abdominal organs against the back towards the spine. It is said that through this lock, the great bird of prana is forced to fly upward through susumna (the main channel for energy flow inside the spinal column)

It is important to note that this should only be performed at the end of an exhale when breathing is suspended. The cavity created by the lift of the diaphragm gives a gentle massage to the muscles of heart, thereby toning it. This lock exercises the diaphragm and abdominal organs.

* Never attempt this bind on an inhale or at the end of an inhalation: This will put strain on the heart, diaphragm and eyes.

The Root Lock (Mulabandha)

This is the most complex of the locks. It has a powerful effect on the energies at the base of the spine . If the body is viewed as a container with energy both entering and leaving, then the amount of energy can be increased by closing the bottom of the container through Mulabandha. This bandha strengthens the abdominal floor, providing support for the reproductive organs.

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1. Sit up straight with hands facing down on your knees.

2. Inhale deeply. Contract the muscles at your perineum and draw them upwards.

3. Draw the lower abdomen towards the spine.

4. Hold the lock while comfortable. Release and exhale.

Mula means root, source, origin or foundation. Mula bandha is the region between the anus and genitalia.  By contracting this region, Apana Vayu (the prana in the lower abdomen which moves downward), is made to flow in an upward direction to unite with Prana Vayu (the prana in the region of the chest, which moves upward)

First attempt this lock after inhalation, where the entire region of the lower abdomen (between the naval and the anus) is contracted toward the spine and drawn up toward the diaphragm.

*Note: Uddiyana Bandha is the upper abdomen lifting up and the Mulabandha is the lower abdomen lifting up.

The practice of contracting Asvini Mudra (in the diagram above it is spelled Ashwini), helps one to master Mulabandha.

That’s how we roll.

Foam rolling is essential in the recovery of tight, overworked muscles. By using your own body weight you can perform a variety of self massage techniques to break up trigger points, soothe tight muscles and increase blood flow and circulation. A foam roller can help release tension in connective tissue, work out knots in sore muscles and also stretch muscles and tendons.

Here are a few of my favorite stretches.

What you will need:

* Foam Roller

*Tennis ball

*Patience

1. Quad Massage.

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Start by coming to forearm plank, with both of your thighs on the roller (be sure to engage your abs to protect your lower back). Roll back and forth from your hip to your knees. If you would like to increase the pressure, try lifting one thigh off the roller and leaning into the roller with the leg you are massaging. Roll each leg for 60 seconds.

2. Hamstring Massage.

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Sit on the floor with the foam roller under your knee and your legs extended straight over the roller. Roll back and forth until your hamstrings feel loose. To increase the pressure, try crossing one leg over the other.

I really like using a tennis ball to stretch out my hamstrings, I find it targets specific knots and kinks a lot better than the foam roller. Here is how:

Place the tennis ball under one of your legs while sitting on the ground. I have found that the best results come from elevating the leg that is not being rolled. Flex the foot of the leg you are rolling (by pulling toes toward you). Here you can really focus on any tender spots.

3. IT Band Massage:

This is one exercise that i have a true love/hate relationship with. It is quite intense when you first start rolling this area, but if you are consistent and patient, it will begin to ease up after a few sessions.

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Lie sideways with the foam roller under the side of your thigh. Start from the hips and roll slowly all the way down to your knee.. As uncomfortable as this is, try to spend a little extra time holding on the more tender areas you encounter. Roll each leg for 60 seconds.

4. Glute and Piriformis Massage.

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This is another stretch that I feel a tennis ball targets the problem areas a little more clearly, but you can try both.

Sit with your buttocks on top of the foam roller. Bend your knees, and cross the right leg so that the right ankle is resting over the left knee. Shift/tilt your weight to your right side. Roll over the buttocks until you feel the tension in your glute, again holding in areas that feel especially tender (this is more apparent when rolling with a tennis ball). Repeat on other side.

Introduction to Chakras (part 2)

Shushumna, Ida and Pingala Meridians.

In the same way that the physical body is more than just a collection of organs, the subtle body is more than just a collection of Chakras. The body has a complicated system of nerves, highly developed senses, intricate piecing together of muscles and bones and a vitally important system of hormone regulators. The physical body has pieces that are connected as part of a whole system, and the chakras are also connected together as part of a whole system.

The subtle body has a vital system interconnecting energy channels called meridians and nadis (nad means to flow).

The shushumna, which is the most important of the nadis rises within the base chakra and flows along the spine. There are two other important a channels; Ida (also known as Chandra, the moon) and Pingala (also known as surya, the sun).
Pingala nadi emerges from the right side of the base chakra and travels up the body in a series of of twists and curves crossing over the Shushumna. The Ida nadi emerges from the left side of the base chakra and travels up the body, creating the other half of a symmetrical pattern.
Ida, Pingala and Shushumna meet at the brow center to form a braided knot of energy.

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Understanding the Chakras:

By working with the energies of the chakras, we are seeking to understand ourselves wholly.
Yoga offers an integrated system for awakening the energy body, incorporating techniques of pranayama (breath), meditation and asana (postures/poses).
Asana functions on many levels, including the obvious effect on the physical body by releasing muscle tension, strengthening the internal systems and releasing joint stiffness. The asanas also impact and work with the nadis to circulate subtle energy. When combined with meditation and working with the state of the mind, it brings calmness and control.

The breath is a profound tool for creating physical, emotional and intellectual change. The breathing pattern mirrors the way in which you interact with the world and yourself (It is frequently shallow and incomplete).
Controlled breathing is quite different from the often shallow and unconscious rhythms of daily life, and should be practiced in a well ventilated room, on an empty stomach and bladder and the body should be relaxed.

Yogic Breathing:
Yogic breath has three parts as air is brought into the abdomen, the chest and then the nasal passages.
1. Deep inhale
2. Allow the air to fill your belly and feel the expansion within your abdomen.
3. Allow the air to fill your chest and feel your ribcage expand.
4. Allow the air to move into your throat and nasal passages.
5. On the exhale, empty your nasal passages, then your chest, and finally your abdomen.

It is important to move the air smoothly and without a break. There should not be separation between the inhale and the exhale.

 

 

 

 

source: The elements of the chakras.