Category Archives: Yoga

Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara

The Bodhicaryāvatāra or Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra, is a Mahāyāna Buddhist text written c. 700 AD in Sanskrit verse by Shantideva (Śāntideva), a Buddhist monk at Nālandā Monastic University in India. Translation is by Stephen Batchelor, 1979. Chapters:

Ch.1, The Benefits of the mind of awakening (Bodhicittānuśaṃsaḥ) Ch.2 Disclosure of evil (Pāpadeśanā): 9:31
Ch.3 Full acceptance of bodhicitta (Bodhicittaparigraho): 24:50
Ch.4 Conscientiousness (Bodhicittāpramādo): 31:10
Ch.5 Guarding Alertness (Saṃprajanyarakṣaṇaḥ): 45:03
Ch.6 Patience (Kṣāntipāramitā): 1:15:14
Ch.7 Enthusiasm (Vīryapāramitā): 1:52:54
Ch.8 Meditation (Dhyānapāramitā): 2:15:50
Ch.9 Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā): 3:13:08
Ch.9 verse 30: 3:28:16
Ch.9 verse 52: 3:43:50
Ch.9 verse 73: 4:00:08
Ch.9 verse 98: 4:15:17
Ch.9 verse 116: 4:28:56
Ch.9 verse 137: 4:43:35

Recorded in San Francisco, CA, USA. Narrated by Judith Skinner during retreat. Audio editing by Kate Harper.

20 Black Yoga Teachers with Online Classes in 2020

There are a growing number of black yoga teachers with online classes. Even though yoga is for all, representation matters. It is affirming to practice with teachers that represent your image. Anything that can maximize black healing and health is needed in today’s world.

Bias and systemic racism contribute to trauma, mental illnesses, diseases, and death disproportionately impact African-Americans. According to the CDC, African-Americans are more likely to die early from all causes and are 20% more likely to suffer psychological distress than white counterparts. 

Accessible, location-independent tools can maximize black health and empower a healthy, happy, and fulfilled life. Join these black yoga teachers with online classes to maximize your health regardless of your location. 

Take their online classes at yogagreenbook.com.

(Listed by number of classes available online)

Starbird (Raleigh, NC)

[Black Yoga Teacher] Starbird

Starbird discovered yoga while in the midst of recovering from alcohol addiction. She is endlessly inspired by the natural flow of the universe, as well as helping others connect with themselves. Her classes are a mix of spirituality, strength building, and keepin it real.

She also uses her Instagram to inspire others through asana, and it has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, MindBodyGreen, and The Huffington Post. She is eternally grateful for the peace and clarity she has found through yoga, and looks forward to sharing her passion with as many awesome people as possible.

Online classes:

  • Black Girl Magic Yoga
  • How to Pigeon Pose
  • Introduction to Yoga
  • Introduction to Inversions: A 3-Part Series
  • And, over a dozen others!

Follow Starbird on Instagram: @lotus_the_flower_so_bomb


Hortencia Campbell (Houston, TX)

[Black Yoga Teacher] Hortencia Campbell

After witnessing her mother use self-awareness practices and an alkaline, plant-based diet to cure herself of a rare form of cancer and type 2 diabetes, the trajectory of Hortencia “Tenci” Campbell’s life changed forever.

That day planted a seed in her of devotion to holistic wellness that inspires others to create their own well-being, define their own destiny, live for freedom, and feel free to BE… any and everything they choose. 

Tenci is a Certified Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) Yoga Teacher, a holistic healer, a performing artist, and above all, a Freedom Seeker. Tenci and her husband, Maurice “Sol Xprsn” Clark, have created, Ufulu Child, a home for Freedom Seekers worldwide rooted in handcrafted arts and wellness experiences.

Online classes:

  • Introduction to Kemetic Yoga
  • A Deeper Look at Kemetic Yoga
  • Kemetic Yoga: Morning Rejuvenation & Self-Discovery
  • And, over 5 other Kemetic Yoga classes!

Follow Tenci: @ufuluchild


Tiana Hill (Scottsdale, AZ)

[Black Yoga Teacher] Tiana Hill

Tiana Hill is a 200-hour certified yoga instructor. Tiana started practicing yoga over a decade ago. Though, seven years ago her practice became a way of life as she was looking to deepen her understanding and grow on a personal level. Yoga keeps her balanced and emotionally at peace, most times! It is a practice!

In her classes, Tiana fuses her Ashtanga background with vinyasa, creating a powerful flow with longer holds.

Tiana is a mother to two beautiful souls, a vegan for the animals, and a native Phoenician, where she enjoys vegetable gardening, and raising her menagerie that includes 2 dogs and 7 chickens!

Online classes:

  • Yoga for Self-Care
  • Yoga for Strength & Flexibility
  • Quick & Easy Green Juice Recipe
  • And, many more

Follow Tiana: @tianahilllivewellbewell


Jessica Young (Cambridge, MA)

[Black Yoga Teacher] Jessica Young

Jessica Young started practicing yoga in college to help her deal with the stresses of student life and to cope with debilitating depression. Since 2006, she’s developed a practice that has sustained her on life’s journey. In 2010, she began studying at Tejas Yoga in Chicago, where she completed her 200-hour teacher training. Jessica is devoted to crafting yoga experiences that create a safe, balanced and engaging experience for every level of practitioner. She has found yoga to be a tool for connection, integration and a deep connection to the self and the Divine.

Online Classes:

  • Yoga Nidra
  • 10-Minute Guided Meditation for Calmness and Centeredness
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing
  • Sun Salutations Tutorial
  • Bedtime Yoga
  • And, more!

Follow Jessica: @jessmyoung

To read the full article and see the full list go to YogaGreenBook

Yogi Selects – Yoga_Enchantress

What has been the most lesson you have learned from following your heart?The most valuable lesson I learned from following my heart is that it may be scary at first but it is absolutely for fulfilling. I can’t take concessions where my passion is concerned. When I lead with an open heart I am certainly aligned with my authentic self.

What can be the hardest aspect to control about your emotions that yoga can help with?

Control. Yoga helps me to let go of trying to control and shape everything. To be in flow and align with my highest self. Pranayam helps me to breathe through any emotions that arise or get stuck.

In which ways can your body communicate with you?

Your body always tells you the truth! Body awareness, embodiment and somatic work is integral to my work. Once we understand the link between emotional events and physical symptoms we will have a better understanding of how to heal. My body tells me everything and I listen.

How are some of the ways you manifest soulful joy? 

I manifest soulful joy by not taking myself so seriously! I dance often, go for walks in nature, and do my best to connect with my inner child. She likes swimming naked, laughing and doing cartwheels in the grass. 🙂

Have you had any meditation experiences that have been hard to explain?

Movement meditation is where I communicate with my ancestors. The way I move, breath, speak transforms. It’s so magical. In the early hours just as I slip from sleep state into consciousness, I discovered that this is a great time to meditate. It’s when I listen to Divine consciousness. That’s all I can say about that because it is easier experienced.

Can creativity be used as a way to push pass old memories and trauma?

How have you utilized it? DEFINITELY. Creativity is essential to work through old memories and trauma. I write until my hearts content about any and everything. Movement especially somatic movement is a great way to connect with your individual creative side. I believe it gives you an opportunity to face yourself. In order to heal from trauma, you can’t bury them you have to face them. I was able to begin that journey through creative writing and  movement.

What is your favorite myth and what is the lesson you received from it? 

Well, I don’t know if I have a favorite. I believe there is some truth and lessons in all myths. Mythology is important for every culture especially Black Americans. Our language, customs, culture and spirituality was suppressed but still lives in our DNA and the stories told by our elders.

How has yoga helped you open space for others especially the divine feminine energy? 

When women come to my yoga sessions they most likely come to fulfill some superficial purpose. I help them to dig depose. My intention is to guide them to be more expansive with their energy. To reconnect with their body beyond some physical goal. Yoga has been a gateway for me to reveal how essential it is that women be more loving and accepting of themselves just as they are.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of infocus247?

You are worthy. Just as you are. It is important for me to center my work around creating greater ease in the mind and body. So much of our struggle is because we don’t feel worthy and so we just do more and more to feel valued by others. Do you know who you are? Take time and be present with yourself. Be willing to soften, flow and let go so the you can rediscover your authentic self. You don’t need to become anything or anyone else. You are worthy. Just as you are.

Peace,

Thanks again for reaching out. These were great questions and it was a pleasure to sit with them and answer them truly.
– LaToya Maria 

Taking Yoga While Black w. Desiree Cooper

Microaggressions and feelings of exclusion when doing yoga in white spaces has got us bent out of space.

yoga

The first yoga class that I took turned out to be my last. It was the ’80s and I was a young mother of two elementary school children, juggling the stress of work and home life. I was doing everything that the articles said I should be doing except taking care of myself – and that made me feel like a loser.

Determined to get my priorities in order, I decided to take yoga. I signed up for a class during my lunch hour so that I wouldn’t have to worry about child care. I arrived at my first class late (of course) and plopped my mat down in a sea of whiteness. For the next 20 minutes, I huffed and groaned as I tried to keep up – and then the class was over. At least that’s the way it seemed when I woke up and everyone was leaving.

I laughed it off, but deep down, the experience was defeating. I couldn’t hold the poses like the younger, whiter participants. And I couldn’t even be quiet for a moment without falling asleep. I went back and tried harder. But entering into a yoga competition didn’t feel like my idea of “self-care.” I quit and never tried yoga again.

Decades later, I talked to my friend Dr. Gail Parker and realized that my feelings of alienation while taking yoga weren’t unusual. Parker, who is also African American, spent much of her career as a renowned psychologist, once a staple on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” But several years ago, she shuttered her suburban Detroit practice to become a certified yoga therapist and yoga therapist educator.

She now uses yoga to help people heal from racial trauma. The idea began years ago when Parker was the only person of color in her yoga class. “The environment was comfortable and inclusive,” Parker says. She added that often the teacher would touch students supportively to offer postural adjustments during class.

“At the end of class, during the final pose of rest, when the instructor would touch our heads and massage our necks, all the issues around trauma and hair came up for me,” she says. “Even though she didn’t mean anything by her touch, the pain(ful) memory of past insults around texturized hair came to mind. It was hard for me.”

These microaggressions happen all the time for those taking yoga while black, from the location of studios, to the pressure to wear Lululemon fashions, to the perplexed look on an instructor’s face when she asks, “Are you here for yoga?” Couple that with the “perfection pressure” that many people of color carry with them in public and what should be the path to peace can become the road to turmoil.

Certainly, yoga in the United States bears little resemblance to its sacred roots in India where it is a lifestyle, not a weekly class. But even as our version of yoga becomes more diverse, Parker says that instructors need to be more culturally competent so that racial trauma is not exacerbated.

“For example, African Americans have been raised to understand that to get half as far, we do twice as much,” Parker says. “When a yoga instructor tells you to push hard to ‘find your edge,’ we’ll go over it because we will do everything 200 percent. That’s when physical injury occurs. People of color have a Ph.D. in going too far.”

For yoga to be instrumental in healing racism, it can’t be a space where people of color remain on high alert. It must not only be both culturally sensitive but also restorative, says Parker, whose book about healing racial trauma through yoga will be published next summer.

Restorative yoga emphasizes deep-muscle relaxation, allowing the body to release the fight or flight tension that racism engenders. The pace of restorative yoga is slow, and pillows, bolsters and blankets can be used to help people sustain a pose long enough for the body to relax.

“People who are traumatized do not feel safe being relaxed and still,” Parker says. “Your nervous system is keyed up; you’re always looking for a way out, just in case. We need a place where we can lower our defenses and know that we’re safe in doing so. Restorative yoga can be that place.”

Imagine, all these years I thought that I wasn’t good enough for yoga, when it was yoga that wasn’t good for me. No. 1 on my list of New Year’s resolutions: Find a restorative yoga class that holds me up instead of stresses me out.

Desiree Cooper is the author of Know the Mother.

Source – BlacDetroit 

Daily Focus 024

Today the topic of discussion is movies and randomess. The cultural importance of proverbs. We do a deep dive in a shallow pool of analysis on the newly released documentary Netflix.  If I were mayor and how would I fix things in Hells Kitchen. The importance of influence and that one time I ran into 2pac as a young yodahan

Quotes of the day

Doings ones best drives away regret

Its better to spend the night in the irritation of the offense than the repentance of revenge

The kings dog thinks they bow because of his bark

Honorable Mentions

Avocado & Honey Dear Mama Episode #72

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Gat Damn

Benefits of Surya Namaskar: How It Transforms Your System

The benefits of Surya Namaskar and Hatha Yoga can be maximized by following a few simple steps during practice. In this post, Sadhguru looks at the surprising role water and sweat play in sadhana.

Sadhguru looks at the impact of Surya Namaskar on the human system, and presents a few simple steps that can maximize its benefits.सूर्य नमस्कार
சூரிய நமஸ்காரம் செய்யும் அற்புதங்கள்

Sadhguru: Generally, people understand Surya Namaskar as an exercise: it strengthens your back, your muscles, etc. Yes, it definitely does do all that and more. It is quite a complete workout for the physical system – a comprehensive exercise form without any need for equipment. But above all, it is an important tool that empowers human beings to break free from the compulsive cycles and patterns of their lives.

Surya Namaskar: Making the body a stepping-stone

Surya Namaskar means to bow down to the sun in the morning. The sun is the life source for this planet. In everything that you eat, drink and breathe, there is an element of the sun. Only if you learn how to better “digest” the sun, internalize it, and make it a part of your system, do you truly benefit from this process.

The physical body is a fantastic stepping-stone for higher possibilities, but for most people it functions like a road block. The compulsions of the body do not allow them to go forward. Being in sync with the solar cycle is an important part of balance and receptivity, a means of taking the body to the point where it is no longer a hurdle.

Surya Namaskar: Syncing with the solar cycle

It is quite a complete workout for the physical system – a comprehensive exercise form without any need for equipment

Surya Namaskar, which is known as “Sun Salutation” in English, is essentially about building a dimension within you where your physical cycles are in sync with the sun’s cycles, which run at about twelve-and-a-quarter years. It is not by accident but by intent that it has been structured with twelve postures or twelve asanas in it. If your system is in a certain level of vibrancy and readiness, and in a good state of receptivity, then naturally your cycle will be in sync with the solar cycle.

Young women have an advantage in that they are also in sync with the lunar cycles. It is a fantastic possibility that your body is both connected to the solar cycle and to the lunar cycle. Nature has granted this advantage to a woman because she has been entrusted with the extra responsibility of propagating the human race. So she has been given some extra privileges. But many people don’t know how to handle the extra energy that is generated by that relationship and so they treat it as a curse and even a kind of madness, as evidenced by the word “lunar” turning into “loony.”

Using cycles to go beyond the cyclical

Between the lunar cycle, which is the shortest cycle (a 28-day cycle) and the cycle of the sun, which is over twelve years, there are many other kinds of cycles. The word “cyclical” denotes repetition. Repetition means that in some way it is compulsive. Compulsiveness means it is not conducive for consciousness. If you are very compulsive, you will see that situations, experiences, thoughts and emotions will be cyclical. They keep coming back to you once in six months or eighteen months, three years or six years. If you just look back and see, you will notice this. If they come once in over twelve years, that means your system is in a good state of receptivity and balance. Surya Namaskar is an important process to enable that to happen. The sadhana is always to break the cycle so that there is no more compulsiveness, and you have the right kind of foundation for consciousness.

The physical body is a fantastic stepping-stone for higher possibilities, but for most people it functions like a road block

The repetitive nature of cyclical movements or systems, which we traditionally refer to as samsara, is the necessary stability for the making of life. If it was all at random, it would not be possible to house a steady life-making machine. So, for the solar system and for the individual person, being rooted in cyclic nature is the firmness and steadiness of life. But once life has reached the level of evolution that human beings have reached, it is natural to aspire not just for stability, but for transcendence. Now, it is left to individual human beings either to remain trapped in the cyclical, which is the basis of stable physical existence, or to use these cycles for physical wellbeing and ride them and go beyond the cyclical.

Maximizing the Benefits of Surya Namaskar

Hatha yoga is about creating a body that will not be a hurdle in your life but a stepping stone towards blossoming into your ultimate possibility. There are a few simple things you can do to prepare your body and get the most out of your practice.

  • Bathe in cool water to charge the cellular structure

Before starting your practice, take a shower or a bath using water that is a little cooler than room temperature. If a certain volume of water flows over your body, or your body is immersed in water that is cooler than room temperature, the epithelial cells will contract and the intercellular spaces will expand. If you use warm or hot water, the pores of the cells will open up and absorb water – that is not what we want. For the practice of yoga, it is important that the cells contract and the intercellular spaces open up, because we want the cellular structure of the body to be charged with a different dimension of energy. If the cells contract and allow space in between, practicing yoga will charge the cellular structure.

Why some people seem to be far more alive than others is essentially because their cellular structure is more charged. When it is charged with energy, it will remain youthful for a very long time. Hatha yoga is a way to do that. In South India, tap water is generally just a little cooler than room temperature. If you are in a temperate climate, the regular tap water may be too cold. Three to five degrees centigrade below room temperature would be ideal. A maximum of ten degrees centigrade below room temperature would be acceptable – the water should not be colder than that.

  • Rub sweat into the skin to retain energy

Whether you practice asanasSurya Namaskar or Surya Kriya – if you start sweating, do not wipe off the sweat with a towel – always rub it back, at least into the exposed parts of your skin. If you wipe off the sweat, you drain the energy that you have generated with the practice. Water has the capability to carry memory and energy. That is why you should not wipe off sweat with a towel, drink water, or go to the bathroom during practice time, unless there is a special situation that makes it absolutely necessary.

And, after practicing yoga, wait a minimum of 1.5 hours before taking a shower – three hours would be even better. Sweating and not showering for two to three hours could be a bit of an olfactory challenge – so just stay away from others!

Learn to consume the right amount of water

After practicing yoga, wait a minimum of 1.5 hours before taking a shower

Learn to just drink as much as the body needs. Unless you are in a desert or you have habits that dehydrate you – such as excessive consumption of caffeine and nicotine – there is no need to constantly sip water. About 70% of the body is water. The body knows how to manage itself. If you drink according to your thirst plus an additional 10%, it will be enough. To give an example – if your thirst is gone after two sips of water, drink 10% more. That will take care of your body’s need for water. Only if you are out in the sun or trekking in the mountains, sweating heavily and losing water rapidly, you need to drink more – not when you are doing yoga under a roof.As I already said, rub back the sweat as much as possible, but you need not do that all the time. It can drip a bit – just don’t use a towel. Push it back because we don’t want to drain energy – we want to build it up.

From Surya Namaskar to Surya Kriya

Through the practice of Surya Namaskar, if one attains a certain level of stability and mastery over the system, one could then be introduced to a more powerful and spiritually significant process called Surya Kriya. Surya Kriya is the fundamental process. Surya Namaskar is a “country cousin” of Surya Kriya, and there is another process called Surya Shakti, which is a far-off relative. If you want to just use the process as a physical culture to build muscle and become physically strong, you do Surya Shakti. If you want to be physically fit but also want some spiritual element in it, you do Surya Namaskar. But if you want a strong spiritual process, you do Surya Kriya.

Editor’s Note: Isha Hatha Yoga programs are an extensive exploration of classical hatha yoga, which revive various dimensions of this ancient science that are largely absent in the world today. These programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore Upa-yoga, Angamardana, Surya Kriya, Surya Shakti, Yogasanas and Bhuta Shuddhi, among other potent yogic practices.
Source – Sadhguru.org 

Bikram Documentary | Netflix

Netflix has taken aim at Bikram. Seems like they figured out a formula for monetizing controversial subject matter by restoring the pot which has simmered down. If your familiar with Bikram then this may be old news to you. There has been many documented cases of “guru” taking advantage of their students whether it be monetarily or physically. When you look up to someone you can become vulnerable to a degree. Me personally I practice yoga by myself and for myself so I won’t be letting a yogi/yoga instructor rub my crotch while in downward dog to activate my kundalini. Ain’t happening captain. Unfortunately there are students that let things of this nature slide for the sake of “respect” of the gurus knowledge. On the flip side I’m sure some people are comfortable with being compromised and fully accept what they are signing up for.

Thee 8 Limbs Of Yoga

Patanjali’s eight-fold path offers guidelines for a meaningful and purposeful life. Delve into this prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.

1. Yama

The first limb, yama, deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The five yamas are:

Ahimsa: nonviolence

Satya: truthfulness

Asteya: nonstealing

Brahmacharya: continence

Aparigraha: noncovetousness

2. Niyama

Niyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal meditationpractices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice.

The five niyamas are:

Saucha: cleanliness

Samtosa: contentment

Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities

Svadhyaya: study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self

Isvara pranidhana: surrender to God

Also see Tap Your Higher Power

3. Asana

Asanas, the postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third limb. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation.

EXPLORE Yoga Poses A–Z

4. Pranayama

Generally translated as breath control, this fourth stage consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. As implied by the literal translation of pranayama, “life force extension,” yogis believe that it not only rejuvenates the body but actually extends life itself. You can practice pranayama as an isolated technique (i.e., simply sitting and performing a number of breathing exercises), or integrate it into your daily hatha yoga routine.

These first four stages of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga concentrate on refining our personalities, gaining mastery over the body, and developing an energetic awareness of ourselves, all of which prepares us for the second half of this journey, which deals with the senses, the mind, and attaining a higher state of consciousness.

5. Pratyahara

Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Keenly aware of, yet cultivating a detachment from, our senses, we direct our attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. This withdrawal allows us to objectively observe our cravings: habits that are perhaps detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth.

6. Dharana

As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. Having relieved ourselves of outside distractions, we can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself. No easy task! In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, we learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound. We, of course, have already begun to develop our powers of concentration in the previous three stages of posture, breath control, and withdrawal of the senses. In asana and pranayama, although we pay attention to our actions, our attention travels. Our focus constantly shifts as we fine-tune the many nuances of any particular posture or breathing technique. In pratyahara we become self-observant; now, in dharana, we focus our attention on a single point. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.

7. Dhyana

Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage of ashtanga, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) may appear to be one and the same, a fine line of distinction exists between these two stages. Where dharana practices one-pointed attention, dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. At this stage, the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness is quite impressive. But don’t give up. While this may seem a difficult if not impossible task, remember that yoga is a process. Even though we may not attain the “picture perfect” pose, or the ideal state of consciousness, we benefit at every stage of our progress.

8. Samadhi

Patanjali describes this eighth and final stage of ashtanga, samadhi, as a state of ecstasy. At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes the “peace that passeth all understanding”; the experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. On the surface, this may seem to be a rather lofty, “holier than thou” kind of goal. However, if we pause to examine what we really want to get out of life, would not joy, fulfillment, and freedom somehow find their way onto our list of hopes, wishes, and desires? What Patanjali has described as the completion of the yogic path is what, deep down, all human beings aspire to: peace. We also might give some thought to the fact that this ultimate stage of yoga—enlightenment—can neither be bought nor possessed. It can only be experienced, the price of which is the continual devotion of the aspirant

Source – yogajournal.com

Bandhas for Beginners

In Sanskrit bandha means to lock, to hold, or to tighten. It also refers to a lock in and of itself.There are 3 principle bandhas in the body, and a fourth that ties them all together. The ancient yogi philosophers said, and I concur, that when you master the locks, your master the yoga practice, the practice on the outside — floating in and out of asanas, holding for long periods of time, and managing new positions – and the practice on the inside – consistent single pointed concentration, steady and long breath, and a calm, clear mind. And in a straight-up modern, western sense, the bandhas help you regulate and control all your internal systems, hormonal, sexual, metabolic, digestive, and more. Whether you care about the east, the west, or both, the bandhas are a critical factor to a killer you, and to yoga. Note, bandhas should not be practiced while pregnant.

Mula Bandha: In a way Mula Bandha is the easiest bandha to explain. Just imagine you are in the middle of a 3 hour traffic jam to the airport, the highway has turned into a parking lot, and you have to pee. Or, ladies, you are in white short shorts walking through the park and you get your period a day early. The muscles you instinctually contract to pull up and hold in what is dying to flood out can be generally considered Mula Bandha, or at least the Mula Bandha region.

In Sanskrit mula means root, and thus Mula Bandha is the root lock. To find it, sit, stand, or even be in an asana, and if you are a man, contract the area between the anus and the testes. If you are a woman, contract the muscles at the bottom of the pelvic floor, behind the cervix. Initially the anal sphincter will also contract, but with time and practice you will be able to hone in on the Mula Bandha region and leave the rest aside.

Mula Bandha should be held throughout your entire yoga practice. That’s right — the whole hour or hour and a half. There are countless reasons, but quite simply think of it as the lock that allows your energy to flow up, not down and out. If your energy is forced to flow up, and stay inside you, for that matter, it will grow exponentially, leaving you with that amazing feeling of ‘floating’ as you walk out of out of class. It will also allow you to float IN class, as an engaged Mula Bandha allows you to be lighter on your limbs, and thus lighter on your mat. This lightness prevents you from becoming fatigued when that teacher, aka me, makes you hold something for what seems like forever and a day, or do the umpteenth Chatarunga. In a more physiological sense, Mula Bandha stimulates the pelvic nerves, the genital system, the endocrine system, and the excretory system. It has also been shown to relieve constipation and depression.

Uddiyana Bandha: Moving up from mula bandha we have the second bandha, Uddiyana. In Sanskrit uddiyana means to fly up, or to rise up. This ‘flying up lock’ is thus all about your insides flying upwards, intangibly meaning your energy, tangibly meaning your diaphragm, stomach, and abdominal organs.

To find Uddiyana Bandha start standing up tall, feet about a meter apart. Inhale through your nose and reach your arms up alongside your ears. Exhale out of your mouth and fold forward placing your hands just above your knees. Without inhaling close your lips, straighten your elbows, and feel your abdominal wall and organs push up and back towards your back. It should feel somewhat like a suctioning back and up of everything on the inside. If you are doing it correctly and happen to glance at your profile in a mirror, you should see your waist Marilyn Monroe-style tiny winy, with the ribs noticeably protruding over and in front of your abdomen or belly button. Retain as such for as long as possible, and exit the bandha via inhaling through your nose and standing up straight, raising your arms up along side your ears, then exhaling through your nose again as you move your arms down.

Uddiyana Bandha can be one of the most transformative aspects of your yoga practice, especially as you get more advanced. It moves the energy upwards with much more force than Mula Bandha, thus allowing you to invert and jump more easily, as well as float forward and back more lightly, and twist more deeply. Because the abdominal wall is pressing the organs and tissues of the abdominal cavity backwards, Uddiyana Bandha creates a soft massage for the deeper internal muscles of the lower back.

In a more day-to-day sense, Uddiyana Bandha is the ultimate remedy for abdominal and stomach ailments, from constipation to indigestion. It stimulates your digestive juices, thus increasing your metabolism, and tones your overworked abdominal organs. It also balances the adrenal system, relieving stress, lethargy and tension. And best of all, it is the sure fire way to get flat washboard abs without ever doing any crunches.

Jalandhara Bandha: Jalandhara Bandha is pretty much the only double chin you will want, and try, to have. In Sanskrit jal means throat, jalan means net, and dharan means stream or flow. Thus in the most basic sense, Jalandhara Bandha can be considered the throat lock that controls the flow of energy in the nerves and blood vessels of the neck.

To find Jalandhara Bandha sit up tall, either in a comfortable cross legged position or on your shins with your butt on your heals. Place the palm of your hands on your knees. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, then bring your chin towards your neck and lift your sternum ever so slightly. Press down on your hands and straighten your elbows, pull your chin back further, and retain as long as possible. To exit lift your chin, inhale the remainder of capacity into your lungs, and exhale. If you felt a nasty double chin or were stressing about someone taking a picture of your profile, you did it right!

Unlike the first two, Jalandhara Bandha is normally performed in combination with specific breathing practices, and rarely done on its own. That said, it is immensely powerful, as it compresses the sinuses on the main arteries of the neck and in doing so helps regulate the circulatory and respiratory systems. The pressure on the throat helps to balance the thyroid and metabolism. And if no one is looking at you at work, engage Jalandhara Bandha as an instant trigger for mental relaxation as well as stress and anger relief.

Maha Bandha: This the big Kahuna. Maha in Sanskrit means great, and Maha Bandha is the combination of all three aforementioned bandhas.

Sit in a comfortable seat, on your shins or cross legged, palms of the hands on the thighs or knees. Inhale fully through your nose, and exhale completely through your nose. Squeeze squeeze squeeze until every last drop is out. Without inhaling engage Mula Bandha, then find Uddiyana Bandha. Inhale a tiny bit and lift your chest, and from there engage Jalandhara Bandha. Retain, pressing your palms down, as long as possible. When you have had enough, lift your head, inhale fully, and release all the bandhas.

Maha Bandha gives the benefits of all three bandhas and regulates the entire endocrine system.

Source – MBG 

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