Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Third Chakra - Empowerment

Picture two people walking into a room. One seems to glide across the floor with balance in her center. She bends down to pick a pencil off the floor and maintains excellent posture. As she turns and moves you notice how stable her core remains. The other one comes in dragging her feet slightly. Her shoulders bow forward towards the front body as if she had spent too many years behind a computer. As she stoops down to pick a paper up off the floor, her low back curves demonstrating the lack of core support. As she continues to move about the room, you become aware of a lack of struture or integration--her body seems to flop about haphazardly.

Who do you think feels better about herself? Who is empowered and more likely to be living their own truth? Which lady would you guess stands up for what she believes in and acts from a place of courage?

It's a pretty good bet, that the first woman is the one living with self-integrity and power. Odds are the second one is simply going through the motions as she truges along in life.

Of course, this is not always the case, but think about it. Do you feel better emotionally when your body is slumped and dragging? Or when you are fit and strong? I'd be surprised if you choose the former of the two.

Hatha yoga is directly related to the strength in your body and thus your mind. In Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, David Coulter says, "...concentrate at first... to build strength and to do this from the inside out, starting with the central muscles of the torso...." (page 18).

When you increase core strength, you open the third chakra and grow in personal power. As yogis it is our responsibility to use that power to live our own truth as well as to nourish and inspire others.

Check out these core strengtheners at Yoga Journal.

Love Much,


Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ujjayi - Yoga Breathing

Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jI-ee) breath is frequently misunderstood. Several years back, I had a teacher that encouraged us to breath very loudly--"the louder you breathe, the more I know you are paying attention to your breath." He viewed it as an "advanced" yogic state.

Then there are others, like a local energy worker that says, "Pranayama [using the breath to extend life force] should feel as graceful and silky smooth as a ballet dancer."

Further still, I had a meditation student that absolutely loved Ujjayi breathing. She took the practice home with her and returned a couple of weeks later to say that her heart rate actually increased during the practice and was wondering why. I watched and listened to her Ujjayi and it was not a toning in the glottis (in the throat area), but rather a tight constriction.

Ujjayi breathing, meaning victorious uprising, is NOT about constricting to the point of raising the heart rate and blood pressure. Quite the opposite. It is a method to automatically slow and steady the breath. It also greatly enhances awareness of the quality of your breath--and thus your energy and mind. As you steady your breathing and motion, the thoughts in the mind follow suit. This is one of the wonderful benefits to practicing pranayama; Ujjayi being one of the many pranayama techniques available and a foundation for many of the more advanced life enhancing exercises.

If you'd like to grasp the details of Ujjayi check out this amazing article by Doug Keller. He explains and understand the true art of this wondrous practice more than any other teacher that I've run across.

Love Much,


Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Benefits of Yoga - Inversions

There are many health benefits of yoga that cover the gamut from flexibility, strength, peace, confidence, balance, to awareness. One of the many aspects that makes Yoga so unique is it's incorporation of inversions.

Inverting your body (and sometimes your way of thinking) can help in numerous ways, such as the following:

Gives the heart a break.
Stimulates the endocrine system.
Calms the mind.
Strengthens the core.
Enhances ability to concentrate and remain focused.
Increases body awareness.
Helps with circulation.

To include all of these gains to their fullest, you need to remain inverted 3-5 minutes (according to Yoko Yoshikawa at Yoga Journal).

Yoga Journal's web site offers steps of the most common inversions. If you are a beginner, then too be honest, I wouldn't recommend any of these. They all involve, great core strength, some flexibility, and great awareness. These are wonderful states that come with practice of easier postures.

A common pose used in the sun salutation and found in almost all Hatha classes is called downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana). This is a partial inversion, as is a standing forward fold. Already you reap some, albeit not all, of the benefits being upside down can bring.

How can a beginner take advantage of these postures? Or what if you have a shoulder injury, or simply don't feel safe inverting while supporting yourself? There are options. Here is my favorite: Legs on wall pose (viparita karani)

One of the keys to remember is that this is a restorative posture; you are not necessarily looking to stretch the backs of your legs. So, feel free to scoot farther away from the wall.

Getting into it, is the toughest part. But once you've figured it out, it's really quite easy. Just start by sitting sideways close to a wall. As you turn, place one leg up and then the other.

Feel free to modify. If the supports cause any discomfort at all, then adjust them, remove them and/or seek out an experienced teacher to help you place them.

Rumor has it that this pose heals whatever ails you. As long as inversions are contraindicated for you (glaucoma, pregnant, heavy menstruation, etc), then give it a try for at least 5-10 minutes. (I usually go for almost 20 minutes.)
Love Much,


Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mindfulness Meditation - Being Mindful of Your Thoughts

The other day Jake, my youngest son, was playing soccer in the rain. Wanting to see the game, but not wanting to stand in the rain, I parked my car in a prime spot to watch the game. The windshield started out clear and the view was great. Within a few minutes a smattering of rain drops sat on the window, but I could still see what was happening although the clarity was diminished. After five minutes or so, the view was almost completely obstructed and I'd have to flip on the wipers to clear away all the water and see clearly again.

Like the mind and thoughts. When we remove (or release attachment) to our thoughts, we can see clearly and know our source and live from a place of wisdom. Each thought that we hang onto becomes the raindrop on the windshield--gather enough of them and we cannot see (or even remember) our spirit that connects us all together.

Meditation, breath awareness, Hatha yoga, and walking in nature are a few methods to turn on the wipers and return to a place of knowing. Sometimes life is like being in a thunderstorm and that place of knowing is only a glimmer and disappears quickly. At other times it is easier to clear away the grasping thoughts and be in peace for longer periods.

If you find yourself attached to thoughts or just not "getting it", you might try Eckhart Tolle's suggestion of periodically throughout the day notice your thoughts and ask these two questions:

1. Am I the thoughts running through my mind?

2. Or am I the observer of these thoughts?

Finally, one last bit of wisdom from Tolle:

"Don't take thoughts too seriously."

Love Much,


Today is the first day of the rest of your life!