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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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.

Introduction to the Chakras (part 1)

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‘Chakra’ is a Sanskrit word meaning wheel. They spin on their own axis and in relation to the amount of energy in the system.

Chakras are sometimes referred to as lotuses, which is a great way to bring to life the force of the Chakra system.
The lotus blooms upon the surface of the water, but is rooted deeply in mud far below the surface.  This has come to represent the human condition. Just as a lotus, the chakra can be closed, in bud, opening, or blossoming, either active or dormant.
Just as everyone has a physical body, so too do we each have a subtle body. The Chakras bridge the physical and subtle matter.
Physical body:
Each of the Chakras correspond to a physical system and the related organs.
Base Chakra: relates to large intestine and rectum, it shares responsibility of the kidneys with the sacral Chakra.
Sacral Chakra: relates to the reproductive system, ovaries and testes, the bladder and the kidneys.
Solar plexus Chakra: relates to the liver, gall bladder, stomach, spleen and small intestine.
Heart Chakra:  relates to the heart and arms.
Throat Chakra: relates to the lungs and throat.
Brow Chakra: relates to the brain.
Crown Chakra: not related or limited to one specific part of the body, but rather to the whole being.
There is a relationship between the condition of the Chakra and the relating physical organs. For example, dysfunction of the reproductive system will often manifest with obvious physical symptoms, such as disrupted menstruation. This will then be mirrored by disruption to the related energy network and chakra itself.
Traditionally, each of the chakras are also related to a major gland.
Base: adrenals
Sacral: ovaries in women, testes in men
Solar: pancreas
Heart: thymus
Throat: thyroid and parathyroid
Brow: pituitary gland
Crown: pineal.
The endocrine glands play an important part in our everyday health and well-being. The hormones released into the bloodstream govern all aspects of growth and development, therefore dysfunction by any of the endocrine glands will have a serious effect on the physical body.