Yoga is the Antidote to Fixity

Over the course of a lifetime, through our various life experiences, we form some strong attachments and opinions. We dig a hole, set up camp, grow roots, and harden. Physically, psychically, opinionally.

Yoga is the antidote to fixity. Yoga practices of asana, pranayama, meditation and energetics bring PRANA (life force) into areas of holding, areas of stuckness. When we bring new fluid and awareness to long-held and tight spots, they open up. SPACE can occur and space lays the groundwork for healing.

My teacher Tias says, "The art of the entire yoga training is to be free of all kinds of fixation, not only mental and physical fixation, but to be free from cultural, linguistic, economic, racial or gender fixation."

So, as much as YOGA can free us up physically, the more SUBTLE implications are equally important. When we are loose and open, we can much more easily merge with the FLOW to let things play out as they will.

The pathways of the NADIS allow energy to flow freely through our bodies, hearts and minds. When we have blockages energetically, we are not functioning optimally. Yoga practice opens us up to SPACE and FREEDOM in all aspects of ourselves.

Breath of Life: Pranayama

Breathing like a MoFo
Isn't it kind of awesome that breathing counts as doing yoga? Well...let me be specific. Awareness of your breath and breathing in a purposeful way counts as doing yoga. Hurray!

There are so many components to breath that it can be hard to choose a main focus.

Am I concerned with the anatomical and physiological aspects of the breath?
In that case, I could talk about the movement of the diaphragm, the muscular support from the thoracic cavity, the role of the spine, potential positions of the tongue and throat, oxygenation of the blood and cells, etc.

If I want to focus on breathing in meditation, then I would be concerned with breath as a tool for concentration, controlling the breath to be even and equal, breath retention, lengthening inhales or exhales for achieving certain outcomes; again potential for lengthy and heady dialogue.

I think one of the loveliest things about the breath worth discussing here is its magnificent simplicity coupled with its enormous complexity. Ah yoga, you slay me with your dualities. In its simplest form, breath is just one inhale followed by one exhale. This pattern repeated over and over thousands upon thousands of times is our life-sustaining mechanism. No breath, no life. At its most complex, breathing performs so many functions for the body that it's overwhelming to consider them all.

The ancient yogis were aware of the energetic potential of breath and devised exercises to use it for the purposes of enlightenment. These complex ways to move breath are out of the scope of this current post but the fact that breath has such a capability is certainly worth noting. Using breath in this way--controlling, moving energy, containing--is what is known as pranayama which is the fifth limb of raja yoga.

The breath is one bodily function over which we have control. Think about it, you can't control your heartbeat or your digestion, but you can direct your breath to an area of the body, lengthen or shorten it, be a belly breather or a chest breather, and practice any number of types of pranayama. Isn't that completely fascinating and moves you to get out there and get your breath on?

In the coming posts, I intend to explore some specific ways to breathe so that you may have a more aware, more present and more healthful existence.
See you then.


The More You Know

I am just coming off a 5 day intensive with ParaYoga teacher Rod Stryker.
See more about him here: Rod Stryker Bio

This was an in-depth study about the teachings of Tantra Yoga which is an incredibly ancient tradition based on the flow of energy in the body and how it can be manipulated to create "awakening" to the inherent beauty and bliss in the world. Another very popular system Anusara Yoga is based on Tantra as well, though there are so many schools of thought within Tantra that I wouldn't know for one iota if they're in the same school.
We spent 5 days doing asana (posture), pranayama (breathwork), kriya (cleansing techniques), mantra (chanting) and meditation with the express purpose of moving prana or life force throughout the body. Incredibly transformational stuff. I am currently overwhelmed with information and the urge to incorporate it all into my personal practice. If only there were more hours in the day....

When I look back to just a few months ago, before I started studying privately with Ben Vincent, before I did a weekend with Bhagavan Das, or when I look back to my newly teaching self 2 years ago, or my teacher trainer self in 2009 or even my "I am only doing this for fitness" yoga self from all the years prior to that, I am amazed by two things. The first is the incredibly vast amount of information available for anyone seeking a yogic path and the second is how exponentially my practice has grown in a short amount of time. And how each time I take a class, do a training or even talk to another yogi, the possibility for growth and understanding presents itself.
While I am pleased with progress, I constantly have the sense that the more I learn, the more questions open up and the more I don't know. At times this is truly disheartening, and other times, profoundly inspirational--that the path upon which I tread will never run out of potential for new techniques and new understanding.

That being said, I feel even further away from understanding my own role in this game of yoga. So many divergent paths all promising the same (or similar) outcomes, how is one to decide? Each time I learn a new method or explore a new path, I feel drawn to pick and choose the things that work for me and discard those that don't. Can I piece together the meditation and pranayama of Tantra with the sangha (community) of Anusara, the long holds of YinYoga, the brilliance of Theresa Murphy and Yinyasa, the alignment of Iyegnar, the dharma talks of Tias Little, the kirtan of Bhagavan Das and my own yearning to forge a new path all of my own?

It all remains to be seen, my friends.
I'll be in India starting next week for 5 weeks. I have every intention of sharing some while I'm away, but sankalpas (intentions) don't always align with actuality.

The Craniosacral Rhythm

Here's a short video on a new technique I've been working with. Why oh why am I stuck in this horrifying half eyes closed shot?

My dad Dennis is a physical therapist and has been developing this movement pattern over the past couple years. I've only been putting it into my practice for about a month, but the connection to the bandhas (yogic locks) is incredible.

As you will see, the most important part of this work (as with a yoga practice) is to completely connect the movements with your breath. Also, keep in mind that this way of moving can feel counter-intuitive at first, but the more you work with it, the more natural it will begin to feel. As my dad would say, "breathe when you tilt and tilt when you breathe!"
There is an anterior tilt to the pelvis which connects to an inhale breath--in other words, make a motion as though you are going to arch your spine and stick out your booty. Do that subtly, but focus on drawing your diaphragm downwards. As you exhale, you'll draw the pubic bone toward your face and tuck the pelvis. As you do so, draw the low belly, about an inch below the belly button, back and up toward your spine. 

You can do this work anytime, not just in your yoga practice. Try fitting it into your downtime throughout the day, such as when you're stopped at a red light or sitting at your desk daydreaming. Also begin to work it into your time on the mat. I will be offering several more videos to come with more specific ways to find the connection.

My time cut off before I could say Namaste... Namaste, ya'll!

The Craniosacral Rhythm