Embodying the Restorative Practice in the Pancamaya Model

Restorative yoga provides a balance between physical and mental that allows the individual to manage stress and anxiety through the supportive use of props that allow you to hold the pose for longer periods of time with ease.  A restorative yoga sequence typically involves a handful of poses, supported by props and retained for five to twenty minutes. Restorative poses include light twists, seated forward folds and gentle backbends and inversions. A lot of restorative poses based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar. You get the benefits of deep, passive stretching while learning the life skills to reflect and rest. Lives are lived at such a fast pace, a restorative practice allows you to manage your nervous system and move into the parasympathetic nervous system, a slower paced system. As you practice restorative yoga, you develop an expanded awareness of self and introspection. There is a profound oneness on a universal level of consciousness while feeling safe and nurtured.

Introduction

To maintain a sense of center and balance in our lives, we must work with all the layers of the Pancamaya model. At one point in our healing history, we thought we could treat human beings by applying the biomedical model of health thus treating purely biological factors while excluding psychological, environmental and social considerations. Research has shown over the years the interplay of biological, psychological and social considerations, while this is a new way of thinking in western medicine; it is not new in yoga teachings. As the ultimate goal of yoga is to have freedom of sukkah (movement/ease) and freedom from dukkha (suffering/pain), yoga therapy is a safe place to start to explore our physical body, energy body, learning body, the body of belief and our bliss body. Restorative yoga by nature is a receptive practice, and that receptivity can guide you toward a healthy state of being. When you are in passive postures feeling supported by the props you release the grip of muscular and inner tension, become spacious and receptive, and are exploring what happens when you slowly release your habitual holding patterns. Our curiosity grows and we question, what am I left with? Can I accept this new space within my body, mind, and spirit?

Personal Practice of Restorative Yoga

During my therapeutic practice with Margareta Ewald at Mind Body Balance, I experienced four restorative poses which were crocodile, hero, supine Tadasana and mountain brook. She used the yamas with each posture. In crocodile, she used ahimsa (non-violence), hero asteya (non-stealing), supine tadasana Aparigraha (non-coveting), and mountain brook sayta (truthfulness). She matched mantra and color with each pose as well. In Crocodile “I softly surrender” with the color gold. Hero the mantra was “I control my health” with the color green. Supine Tadasana “I can let go of what does not serve my greater good” with the color yellow. For mountain brook “My truth guides me” with the color blue. She mainly focused on equal ratio breath throughout the practice.

 I spent approximately ten to fifteen minutes in each pose. In hero pose, I used two bolsters and a chair. One bolster was under my bottom between my legs, and one bolster was on the chair, and my hands grabbed onto the chair. In supine tadasana, my feet were against the wall, a blanket under my knees, a sandbag on my femur bones and neck roll. In crocodile, I had a blanket folded in fours that started under my last rib and covered my belly with a rolled mat under my ankles. In mountain brook pose I had a bolster under my knees, a folded blanket under my ribs and a neck roll. This sequence appeared to focus on the chakras of three (Manipura), four (Anahata) and five (Vishuddha). Her use of the yamas allowed for me to relate to my world immersed in ethical guides that were faithful to my inner wisdom.

I feel the practice followed the Pancamaya model. There was the physical practice of the poses – annamaya physical body to be nourished. The incorporation of equal ratio breathing allowed for the –pranamaya energy body to be fed by my life force. The use of chakra and color- manomaya, learning body, to focuses my feelings and emotions that I felt. At times I felt sadness, complete surrender, and joy. The use of the mantra-vijnanamaya body of belief allowed me to focus the patterns of mind onto one right design that supported my greater good. The multitude of tools used allowed my expansion of self –anandamaya body of bliss as my sense of self-grew beyond my minds limited boundaries.

 Restorative Plan of Care for Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can help us be alert to dangers. Anxiety disorders differ from daily nervousness and involve more fear. The American Psychiatric Association state that roughly twenty-five million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders which often cause feelings of panic, fear, and intrusive thoughts and may result in interrupted sleep difficulty, functioning at work, disturbances in relationships and physical symptoms.  Various things contribute to anxiety disorders such as genetic, environmental, psychological and developmental factors. Stress and trauma play key roles in the development of anxiety disorders and triggering of symptoms. Anxiety disorders general have imbalances of the SRS (stress-response-symptom), ANS (autonomic nervous system), HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), overactive SNS (sympathetic nervous system) and underactive PNS (parasympathetic nervous system). These imbalances affect the client’s emotional regulation, perception, cognitive function, social relationships and the following systems- cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, neuroendocrine and immunological. Yoga Therapy (YT) bottom-up and top-down mechanisms may ameliorate pathophysiological processes that contribute to anxiety through sympathovagal balance and increase the release of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). (Khalsa, 2016)

Stephen Porges and the Polyvagal Theory shows stress can impair the ability to trust and form close, loving relationships. Yoga practices increase PNS and HRV (heart rate variability) and supporting the social engagement systems. The vagal nerve stimulation enhances the release of oxytocin. Yoga increases trust, bonding, and reconnection with Self. Anxiety entails misappraisals of cognitive malfunctions, impaired integration, failure of higher brain centers to modulate over-reactivity of lower centers and stress response, and misappraisal perceptions of danger far in access of presenting reality. While using bottom-up methods in yoga, it circumvents in intellect and activating interoceptive pathways to both higher and lower centers can resolve anxiety and restore impaired cognitive function. (Khalsa, 2016)

An individual presenting with anxiety may be experiencing shallow rapid breath, heart palpitations, excessive worry, vata dosha imbalance, migraines, intestinal problems, obsessive thinking, dizziness, insomnia, and nausea. The overall treatment plan would be to use chanting (sa, ta, na, ma) belly breathing (using a sandbag in C.R.P. –constructive rest position for weight training diaphragm breathing) or balancing equal ratio breath (viloma) to shift from SNS to PNS (pranamaya kosha). Reframing strategy would help in welcoming anxiety symptoms as messengers and recognize them as changing sensations and perceptions. Unpleasant feelings warrant deeper exploration to a root cause (vijnanamaya kosha). Starting with active asana, pala mudra (core quality of reducing anxiety) (LePage, 2014) and moving into a restorative practice (annamaya kosha). The language that the YT uses would be to keep the mind engaged with gentle mindfulness instructions often and exploring svadhyaya (self-observation) woven into the practice (manomaya kosha) and ending with a twenty-minute side lying Savasana with a Yoga nidra meditation (anandamaya kosha).

The asana portion follows Rolf Sovik protocol for anxiety starting with an active series of movement which entails lateral flexion with the rationale of opening intercostal muscles to assist breathing (restorative revolved head to knee pose, chair, two blankets or basic side lying stretch pose, four stacked blankets). Tree pose to practice balance and build confidence (restorative supine tree, wall, strap, blankets as needed). Wide-leg-forward-fold pose with head on the block to quiet the effects of the brain (restorative seated wide-angle pose, blanket and bolster).  Rolling-like-a-ball for twenty reps to massage the spine and playing with inversion in a fun way. Seated twist pose to work with breathing that is restrictive or tight using it as a practice to remedy anxious feelings (restorative revolved knee squeeze pose, bolster and two blankets). The last active pose would be shoulder stand at the wall for thirty or ninety seconds to build comfort in inversion (also wheel over a physio ball works or stacked bolsters). Moving into supported legs up the wall (wall, bolster, two blankets) to get use to the idea of being upside down and ending in restorative crocodile (three blankets) to witness the breath in a safe manner. “Inversions are a powerful way to visit a place of anxiety free living” – Judith Lasater.  Each restorative pose can be held five to fifteen minutes depending on the goal you wish to reach.  (McCall, 2007)

The overall rationale for this practice is to pick a middle road between vigorous and restorative. Moving right into a therapeutic practice when someone is in a high level of anxiety can increase their agitation, therefore having some moderate movement, in the beginning, allows for settling into calming and grounding practices of breath work and restorative asana. This practice was also breath heavy because disordered breathing plays a significant role in both the production and maintenance of anxiety symptoms.  The poses allow for breath awareness into the abdomen, creating a gentle massaging effect that increases circulation and lengthens the exhalation slowing the breath rate helping to reduce anxiety. Apana vayu the downward moving current of energy was activated as well as gently opening the first and second chakras to build on safety and self-nourishment. With greater tranquility we can witness fearful thoughts, and as the symptoms of anxiety decrease, we experience sensations of wholeness.

 Restorative Plan of Care for Back Pain

Back conditions include structural and functional disorders as well as lumbopelvic spine and thoracic pain. Low back pain (LBP) is the most common and while specific causes such as discogenic pain, spinal stenosis is roughly fifteen percent of all back pain. LBP is categorized by the length of the illness acute LBP is up to eleven weeks of pain, chronic LBP is anything exceeding twelve weeks. Non-specific LBP is better approached with a biopsychosocial approach rather than the traditional biomedical paradigm as it allows for a more appropriate understanding.  Biomedical is a better approach to rule out things such as cancer, infection, compression fracture and abdominal aortic aneurysm. The multifaceted practice of yoga and using the Pancamaya model which parallels the biopsychosocial model may be important in the management of LBP.  LBP often appears to somaticize with life stressors.  Therefore the effects of yoga can be contributed to increased physical activity, enhanced body awareness, and reduced maladaptive movements, correction of postural strain and relief of physical and mental stress. (Khalsa, 2016)

An individual presenting with back pain may present with symptoms of weakness; problems with bladder and bowels; persistent aching or stiffness, sleep disturbance; sharp localize pain; pain is radiating from low back to buttock to back of thigh, calf, and toes; and to an inability to stand straight without muscle spasms. Back pain the impediment in which causes pain is a vata dosha imbalance because vata is responsible for all movements in the body. The overall treatment plan would be the breath of joy, hands on heart/belly while breathing, nadi shodana,  chant (Om Mani Padme Hum – the jewel is the Lotus- represents both the direct experience of peace and the desired to share peace with others).  Breath is part of the stress or pain response which is the easiest to consciously change by doing breathing practices, it interrupts the stress or pain response reducing stress and making you feel better (pranamaya kosha) using a gratitude journal, feeling gratitude in the body as a whole and specific body area (vijnanamaya kosha).  Mudra Anudandi with the core quality of back pain relief (LePage, 2014), asana used will be gentle movement with restorative movement (annamaya kosha). The language that the YT uses would be to keep the mind engaged with gentle mindfulness instructions often and exploring svadhyaya (self-observation) woven into the practice (manomaya kosha) ending with a fifteen-minute meditation such as body scans and loving kindness. (anandamaya kosha).

The asana portion follows Judith Lasater’s protocol for back pain which starts with a gentle movement practice into a restorative practice of yoga.  It starts with cat/cow flow for twenty repetitions, into tail wag for five times each side, quadruped twist for five times each side, locust/flight fundamentals three to ten times with a supine pigeon for seven to ten breaths per side.  Then moving into hanging dog pose (using a door, block and strap) to allow the feeling of letting go that brings relief to those with LBP, this pose puts the long muscles of the back in traction using gravity to relieve the habitual postural effects. Supported half-dog pose (use a table or Pilates Cadillac and stack blankets long ways to desired height) gently stretches the muscles along the spinal column and reduces stiffness. Supported Backbend (bolster and 2 blankets) reflects the way a healthy back moves during daily activities improving flexibility being the antidote to slouching. An elevated twist on the bolster (bolster, neck roll and blanket) stretches the external rotator muscles located deep in the outer hips as well as the latissimus dorsi. This pose does multiple functions, stretches the small muscles of the spine, a little inversion which places the lower back in traction, and the back bend helps to release tension on the intervertebral discs. It improves the lungs and diaphragm function and stimulates the kidneys. Supported child’s pose (bolster and two blankets) provides a counterbalance stretching the lower back, relieving shoulder tension and quieting the mind. Basic relaxation pose (chair, sandbag, neck roll, and blanket) with legs on a chair with a sandbag on the belly relaxes the muscles and organs of the abdomen as well as the muscles of the lower back while refreshing the legs. All restorative poses can be held five to fifteen minutes depending on the need. (Lasater, 1995)

The overall rationale for this plan is to release tension from the back and support optimal posture. This practice is designed to direct breath awareness into the entire back, release tension, and increase circulation to the back muscles and to enhance awareness that increased movement supports the optimal alignment of the spine. It balances prana and apana vayus while opening the first five chakras. Over time the practice facilitates relaxation and sense of relaxation that is helpful for back pain. As the individual develops greater trust in the healing, a connection with true Self-deepens naturally cultivating a sense of wellbeing allowing the body to source positive feelings.

Discussion

Yoga therapy is not a talking practice it is a contemplation practice. Suffering becomes functional for our awakening; our pain becomes our grace. Think of the ocean and a wave as they are one, the wave gets puffed up but then it dissolves as we learn to get out of our way; we are just water and full of love. For when we allow our self the permission to experience any pose from within our inner wisdom it is good enough to erode residue that no longer serves us, this is an effort with ease. Restorative yoga gives us the grace to slow down, to listen to our inner wisdom which is the quietest voice within each of us.

References

Khalsa, S.B.S., Cohen, L., McCall, T. B., & Telles, S. (2016). The principles and practice of yoga in health care. Edinburgh: Handspring Publishing.

 

Lasater, J. (2011). Relax and renew: restful yoga for stressful times. Berkeley, CA: Rodmell Press.

 

McCall, T. B. (2007). Yoga as medicine: the yogic prescription for health & healing. New York, NY: Bantam.

 

Page, J. L., & Page, L. L. (2014). Mudras for Healing and Transformation (2nd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: Integrative Yoga Therapy.

           

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Restorative Yoga Practice Journal

For my practice, I chose to do revolving knee squeeze pose (Parivrtta Pavanmuktasana, both sides), restorative plow, supine tadasana with strap. I did each of these poses for fifteen minutes each from February 13th to the 20th with a five-minute sprint journal at the end of every practice.  In revolving knee squeeze pose, I used one square bolster and two blankets (one between the knees and one to cover the body). In restorative plow I used one square bolster under the sacrum, a folded blanket on the belly (between belly and thigh) and a yoga strap around the feet to draw the legs overhead slightly. In Tadasana, I was supine on the floor with two blankets under my legs and a long strap that went from the waist to the feet ( strap crossed once). All poses chosen were grounding restorative poses.

Annamaya Kosha: I noticed that it was harder to twist my body to the right in revolving knee squeeze pose. As I turned to the left in revolving knee squeeze pose, I felt at ease and by body seemed to cool in time. In restorative plow physically it is hard to get the belly blanket in the hip crease over the belly, it takes a little coordination. In tadasana at first, I would feel the tension in my lower legs to feet, which were hard to manage. At the end of the practice, my belly was smaller (plow), I felt less bloating (twist), and my legs felt light.

Pranamaya Kosha: When I turned right in revolving knee squeeze pose my breath quickened and was shallow, yet I was not in any physical pain and as I twisted left my breath was full and smooth.  The twist worked on balancing all of my prana vayus. My breath in restorative plow was quiet and moved laterally in my body. Halasana balanced udana, prana, and samana energy while cooling the body. Smooth full three-dimensional breath in tadasana. Tadasana was balancing my Prana and Apana energy.  It was interesting for me to explore how my breath could change rapidly between poses. I contribute the right twist breath quickening to the stuck facet joint on this side. Apparently, I need this type of twist in my practice, therefore I have switched to this one in my personal practice.

Manomaya Kosha: As I twisted right in revolving knee squeeze pose I felt very anxious, and as I turned left I relaxed to the point of sleepiness. I was able to witness my thoughts in restorative plow. The mind would start off busy and slowly reach a more relaxed state. It took a lot of negotiation with my nervous system to allow the tension in my lower extremities to let go and be supported by the strap and blankets.

Vijnanamaya Kosha: I was able to witness the opposites in my life here in all poses. For example, in supine Tadasana, I was able to witness that my vata element is out of balance and that the grounding of my feet and legs with the wall, strap, and blankets supporting me gave me a felt sense of grounding and support. This grounding in turn also calmed my pita qualities as the release of strain and added effort left my legs, allowing me to feel relaxed. While I was in Tadasana, I did a loving kindness meditation as well.  During revolving knee squeeze twist, I was able to focus on calming my vata tendencies by grounding down into the bolster and my pitta tendencies by surrendering into the sensations of my physical body. By the time I made it to the other side I had relaxed the torso.  In restorative plow it would take a moment for the mind to integrate within the pose however with discipline and breath awareness, I was able to negotiate a sense of deep relaxation within my mind and nervous system.

Anandamaya Kosha: In Tadasana, I was able to feel a place of steadiness and security. I felt supported by the stability of this pose and was able to attune to the natural joy that I experience from my real self. In revolving knee squeeze twist, I was able to see as I rested into the pose, there was an expansion of my inner self. In restorative halasana (also known as three, two, one pose) once I integrated my body, mind, and spirit with this pose it was very cooling and soothing as I felt a deep sense of peace.

Overall this practice allowed me to witness my thoughts, to experience my need for support and grounding. Each practice was a gift and a journey into my inner sanctuary self and stillness of consciousness. My lesson was, as I develop calmness and security, my witness of consciousness will grow. I am worth slowing down and making time for my needs on this journey, such as writing a book, increasing my speaking engagements, developing yoga teacher training, exploring my hypotheses in research arena and creating my video content.

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The Mudra Experience

Prashana Upanishad II.3 – All that exists in the three heavens rests in the control of prana. As a mother her children, oh prana, protect us and give us splendor and wisdom. To affect change, we must first understand the energy that affects it. To bring about change in the body, mind, and spirit, we must first understand the energy in which they work. The five pranas fall under the Pranamaya Kosha. Prana forward moves air, apana air that moves away, udana upward moving air, samana balancing air, and vyana outward moving air. They each work together in harmony much like a machine.  As the Vedas say, we are under the control of the Pranas. We will explore each of the pranas, conditions for each vayu and mudras that may have therapeutic effects for healing.

Introduction

Mudras are gestures for the hands, face, and body. Mudras promote health, psychological balance, and spiritual awakenings. The word mudra means gesture, seal, attitude or signature. Mudras is found in everyday body language such as crossing your hands in front of your chest, to clenched fists when angry .Shaman used them and Sages of ancient India used. If you look back at centuries old pictures most have the hands in some gesture. (LePage, 2014)

There are different types of mudras. Shambhavi Mudra is facial gestures said to awaken subtle spiritual energies. Viparita Karani Mudra is a full body mudra to enhance and maintain the flow of subtle energy for extended periods of times. The most common mudra used are hand gestures because fingers contain a large number of sensory-motor nerve endings. Fingers are extremely dexterous, each finger is related to one of the five elements and supports the health of the hands themselves. (LePage, 2014)

The Five Prana Vayus

Prana means life force or vitally energy. Vayus is the wind within the body, and there are five primary functions or components to these winds. The five prana vayus are prana vayu, udana vayu, samana vayu, apana vayu and vyana vayu. Our practice will enhance or channel this vayus in such a way that we balance the body and mind with a greater sense of inward awareness and higher states of consciousness. Remember whatever body part is open and elevated will be stimulated and whatever part of the body is lowered (inverted) or closed will be cooled or passive. The energy directions never reverse or change directions, but they can slow down or speed up.

Prana Vayu is the dad or head of the household, and the energy current runs upward. Prana Vayu is located in the heart, chest, and lungs. The energy moves to the brain affecting Buddhi (intellect), indriyas (senses), and chitta (mind). The purpose of prana vayu is the heart function and respiration, circulation of the heart, contraction and expansion mudya the middle and spondya the outward movement of vibrational energy and light. The role of prana vayu is the first and most important. The other vayus are extensions of this primary energy. Since the power begins at the heart and moves upward, it also governs ingestion, chewing and swallowing, sneezing, belching & coughing. When an imbalance occurs here, there are heart and lung conditions and lethargy. Prana vayu is associated with Anahata Charka and the element of air. (Ramirez, 2011)

Udana Vayu is like the mom and has a circular energy of movement in the body located in the chest, throat, and head. “Ud” means upward similar to prana but lighter and the energy moves in a circular clockwise direction. The purpose of udana vayu is exhalation, speech and controls the tongue. It complements prana and initiates effort. Promotes enthusiasm and governs memory and thought, provides communication between the senses and the nervous system. Usually, a disorder with udana vayu will also result in confusion with prana vayu since the exhalation and inhalation are independent until death.  An imbalance here is related to problems with cognition and communication.  Udana vayu is associated with the chakras of Vishuddha and Ajna and the element of ether. (Ramirez, 2011)

Samana Vayu is like a brother and expands in all directions in the body and is located in the belly and gastrointestinal tract; abdomen expands out from the body. The purpose of samana vayu is absorption of nutrients from food. It separates waste from food and is associated with Agni or digestive fire. The function of samana vayu is to carry essential nutrients throughout the body from the intestines. Malnourishment is apparent when samana vayu disorders are present, an imbalance can affect the digestive organs. Samana vayu is associate with Manipura Charka and the element of fire. (Ramirez, 2011)

Apana Vayu is like a sister, and the energy moves downward in the body below the navel. The location of apana vayu is the sacral plexus, sacral region, bladder and reproductive organs. The purpose of apana vayu is to govern the function of all the pelvic organs including excretion of waste products elimination as well as childbirth. It is the root that sustains all other vayus. The role of this apana vayu is very active during menstruation and disposal. The energy facilitates the meeting of sperm and egg and the process of birth. For psycho-emotional connection, it is what we use to manifest our thoughts and desires, to give birth or move potential into reality, the opposite of udana. Imbalance can result in menstrual problems, sexual dysfunction, constipation and hemorrhoids. Muladhara Chakra and the element of Earth is associated with this mudra.  (Ramirez, 2011)

Vyana Vayu is like the nanny or the housekeeper. Vyana Vayu circulates and permeates the whole body and is located in the circulation system and moves from the core to the extremities. The Vyana Vayu energy current spirals a while through the body to carry oxygen and nutrients and to produce warmth. Its purpose is to circulate emotions and feelings in the body and is associated with the peripheral nervous system and circulation, distributing energy derived from food and breath to the blood vessels and nerves. Various psychosomatic illnesses may occur as a result of underlying emotional stress that has chosen to manifest in a particular part of the body. The imbalance may lead to poor peripheral circulation or numbness. Vyana vayu relates to Svadisthana chakra and the element of water. (Ramirez, 2011)

Olgakabel in Yoga for Energy has a theory “that western medicine grew out of studying cadavers, while in the eastern world cutting up the dead bodies were frowned upon. As a result, western medicine does not have a concept of vital energy in the body, while eastern physicians had developed sophisticated ideas about the flow of human energy from having to study living breathing people.” (Olagkabel, 2015) Prana and Apana work together, right food sustains apana, and accurate impressions feed prana. Vyana and Samana are opposing forces of expansion and contraction. Udana is responsible for growth.  When a yoga practice is established, there is a way of understanding the self from personal observation, curiosity and the flow of prana is of major significance.

Conditions/Disease that may affect the Prana Vayus

Prana Vayu conditions are those that affect the heart and lungs. These conditions may be coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, peripheral artery disease, stroke, congenital heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease chronic bronchitis, emphysema, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, acute respiratory distress syndrome and so on. Explore their capacity to receive sense and let in. When doing a breath evaluation see if there is expansion up into the heart and chest and how deep the inhalation is. View the relationship of movement and sensation. How open and able are they to connect to movement and postures? How much can they sense inside their body? Can they experience emotions, and thoughts as they are moving and holding poses? Apana Vayu conditions are those that affect elimination and menstrual.  These conditions may be a premenstrual dysphoric disorder, menopause, fibroids, anemia, iron deficiency, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, colitis, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer, nephrolith, urethritis, nocturia, and enuresis and so on. Explore the capacity to let go, release patterns habits, thoughts and behaviors. When assessing the breath how much do they expand the lower abdominal area and how deep is the letting go on the exhale (ability to exhale fully)?  View the relationship of movement and sensation, can they let go of sensation, emotion, a belief that does not serve them in a posture and relax afterward.

Samana Vayu conditions are those that affect the digestive system, GI, and absorption.  These conditions may be functional gastrointestinal disorder, indigestion, acid reflux, dyspepsia, nausea, vomiting, peptic ulcer disease, abdominal pain syndrome, bloating, flatulence, gallstone pancreatitis, malabsorption, celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, vitamin B12 deficiency, and so on. Explore the capacity to integrate and assimilate. In assessing the breath, how much movement and expansion is in the ribs and side body, is the breath integrated well? View the relationship of movement and sensation, can they integrate what they are feeling and letting go of and have movement into Buddhi.

Udana Vayu conditions are those that affect the throat, thyroid and speaking. These conditions may be a sore throat, common cold, strep throat, flu, tonsillitis, laryngitis, thyroid nodules, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, stuttering, selective mutism, dysprosody, clustering, and so on. Explore the capacity to articulate witness and observe sensation thought and emotion. In assessing the breath, how much movement expansion is there into the collarbones? View the relationship of movement, feelings and the ability to understand and articulate the qualities of sensation, emotions beliefs that arise in the body and mind as they move, release and hold postures.

Vyana Vayu conditions are those that affect circulation, distribution of energy and nervous system flow movement. These conditions may be Raynaud’s disease, neurological disorder, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, demyelinating disease, degenerative disease, dysautonomia, and so on. Explore the capacity to be fluid, to change and to expand beyond the egoic self. In assessing the breath, how much transition of the breath from one to the other?  How does the breath move throughout the body? View the relationship between movement and sensation and the ability to bring in a different perspective cultivate change in the relationship of sensation while in postures. What is the capacity for Buddhi and self-awareness and to modify the story and patterns of body and mind?

Mudras that May Provide Relief and the Potential Therapeutic Effects

Prana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions of heart and asthma, we could use apana vayu Mudra and Matangi mudra to provide relief for heart conditions. Apana Mudra is also known as the gesture of downward current of purifying energy. Touch the tips of the middle and ring fingers of each hand to the thumbs of the same hand. Extend the index and little fingers. Rest the backs of the hands onto the thighs or knees. You may consider silently repeating this affirmation “the downward current of energy purifies my body and mind completely” while you hold this gesture. The potential therapeutic effects of this mudra is supporting in lowering blood pressure, relieving stress and anxiety and releasing attachment. (LePage, 2014)  Matangi mudra also known as God of inner harmony and royal rulership can be used. Try doing this throughout the day three times to four minutes each while silently saying the affirmation “rest, silence and peace fill me completely.” The potential therapeutic effect is an excited heart becomes noticeably calmer and inner tension that disrupts digestion is resolved. Fold your hands in front of your stomach area, point both middle fingers and place against each other. (Hirschi, 2000)

 We can use more mudras and bronchial mudras to provide relief for asthma. Mira mudra is also known as the gesture of the ocean. Join the tips of the thumbs to the tips of the little fingers of the same hand. Bring the joined fingers and thumbs of each hand together. Touch the tips of the ring fingers together, extend the index and middle fingers and then rest the hands below the navel. As you hold this mudra you may consider silently repeating “Greater harmony in all my activities supports me in breathing freely and easily.” The potential therapeutic effects are to help respiratory issues and enhance abdominal breathing, reducing stress and relieving anxiety. (LePage, 2014) Bronchial Mudra is holding both hands and placing the little finger at the base of the thumb, the ring finger on the upper thumb joint, and the middle finger on the pad of the thumb while extending the index finger. Try doing this once a day for five minutes while silently saying the affirmation “Every breath gives me strength. It strengthens my body, mind and soul.” The potential therapeutic effect is in building up inner strength and keeps up the energy level as shallow breathing does not create the inner reservoir of strength and is often the cause for feelings of inner loneliness, isolation, and sadness. (Hirschi, 2000) 

Apana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions menopause and anemia, we can use Trimuriti mudra and Yoni mudra to provide relief for menopause. Trimurti mudra is also known as a gesture of the Trinity. Hold the hands in front of the pelvis with the palm facing the body and the fingers together and pointing downward. Extend the thumbs out to touch at their tips and join the index fingers to form a downward facing triangle. Rest the hands onto the pelvis below the navel. As you practice this mudra you may consider repeating this affirmation silently “Balanced at the center of my being, I embrace life’s transitions as opportunities.” The potential therapeutic effects are supporting all life changes, help support menopause and other reproductive issues including infertility, reduce stress and instill equanimity and sense of centering. (LePage, 2014)  Yoni mudra is also known as gesture of the womb. Interlace the fingers inward with the left little finger on the bottom. Join the pads of the index fingers and extend them forward. Accede to the pads of the thumbs and extend them back toward the body. Rest the hands below the navel or in your lap. As you hold this gesture you may consider this affirmation “Attuned to the rhythms of my inner being, I live in greater harmony and fluidity.”  The potential therapeutic effects are PMS and reproductive health, including menstrual imbalances, infertility and menopausal symptoms, attuning to the feminine, intuitive aspect of our being. (LePage, 2014)

We can use Merundanda mudra and Vajra mudra to provide relief for anemia. Merundanda mudra is also known as gesture of the spine. Make your hands into fists with the thumbs to the outside. Point the thumbs straight up, maintaining a gentle pressure of the fingernails into the palms. Rest the hands on the thighs or knees. Consider this affirmation while holding this hand gesture “Aligned with the central axis of my being, I live with complete integrity.” The potential therapeutic effects of this gesture are increased optimism and vitality, enhances awareness of the earth-sky axis, cultivates an ideal balance of life and grounding, supporting alignment of the spine, creating optimal space for the functioning of all organs and systems. (LePage 2014) Vajra mudra is also known as gesture of the diamond and its core quality is self-empowerment. Touch the tips of the thumbs to the tips of the index fingers of each hand. Bring the thumbs and index fingers of each hand together. Join the pads of the middle fingers together, forming a diamond shape. Curl the little and ring fingers naturally inward toward the palms. Hold the gesture at the solar plexus with the middle fingers facing forward. As you hold this gesture use the affirmation of “Attuned to my inner jewel, of radiant energy, self-esteem awakens naturally.” The potential therapeutic effects for this mudra are, enhances the movement of the diaphragm which massages and supports the health of the digestive system while increasing circulation into the mid back, kidneys and adrenal glands. (LePage, 2014)

Samana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions of irritable bowel syndrome and digestive conditions, we can use apanayana mudra and bhramara mudra to provide relief for irritable bowel syndrome. Apanayana mudra is also known as the gesture of the vehicle of elimination. Make the hands into soft fists with the thumbs inside. Extend the little and index fingers straight out. Rest the backs of the hands on the thighs or knees and its core quality is to balance elimination. As you hold this gesture repeat the following affirmation “Balance in all of my activities supports my body in functioning optimally. The potential therapeutic effects are; supporting the treatment of IBS, reducing stress, instilling a sense of balance and conservation of energy. (LePage, 2014) Bhramara Mudra is also known as the bee. Place your index finger in the thumb fold, and the tip of your thumb on the side of your middle fingernail. Extend your ring and little fingers. Do this with each hand. You may consider doing four times a day for seven minutes each while silently repeating the affirmation “In love and serenity, I like (your name).” The potential therapeutic effect is to improve the immune system and to become aware of your fears while working to dissolve them. (Hirschi, 2000)

We could use Pushan mudra and Varuna mudra to provide relief for digestive conditions. Pushan mudra is also known as the gesture of the god of prosperity and its core quality is balanced digestion. On your left hand touch the tip of the thumb to the tips of the middle and ring fingers while extending the little and index fingers straight out. On the right hand touch the tip of the thumb to the tips of the index and middle fingers while extending the little and ring fingers straight out. Rest the backs of the hands onto the thighs or knees.  As you hold this gesture repeat the mantra “As my entire being is nourished completely I experience optimal health and vitality.”  The potential therapeutic effects of this mudra are; supporting optimal digestion, assimilation and elimination while facilitating digestion of life experiences. (LePage, 2014) Varuna Mudra is the god of water. Bend your little finger of your right hand until the tip touches the ball of your right thumb, place the thumb of your right hand on it. Press the little finger and thumb slightly with your left thumb. At the same time, your left hand encircles the right hand lightly from below. You may consider practicing this three times a day for forty-five minutes each while silently repeating the affirmation “I always have possibilities letting go of something, searching for a solution and changing things.” The potential therapeutic effects are to reduce mucus from the stomach and lungs and to evaluate the root cause to your overstimulated nerves, inner tensions and unrest, being pressed for time and experiencing fear. (Hirschi, 2000)

Udana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions of thyroid and endocrine conditions and cold and flu, we can use Garuda mudra and pashini mudra to provide relief for thyroid and endocrine conditions. Garuda mudra is also known as the gesture of the eagle and its core quality is to balance metabolism. Hold the right palm facing the chest. Place the palm of the left hand onto the back of the right hand. Slide the thumbs toward each other until they interlock. The hands are angled diagonally, forming wings, with the fingers held together or slightly open. A mantra to use with this gesture is “A balance of rest and activity supports all my body systems in functioning optimally.” The potential therapeutic effects are to promote health of the thyroid, throat and vocal cords while balancing rest and activity. (LePage, 2014) Pashini mudra or noose seal (simplified form mainly knees to chest pose). Draw your knees to the chest, wrap your arms under the hollow of your knees, and place your palms on the ears. Hold this position for ten breaths and then remain in the fetus position for a few seconds longer. While you hold this pose you can silently repeat the affirmation “Repose and peace fill me completely.” The potential therapeutic effects of this pose are to calm the nerves and regulate the thyroid gland. (Hirschi, 2000)

We could use Madhyama mudra and Linga mudra to provide relief for cold and flu. Madhyama mudra is also known as gesture of the middle finger with core quality of balanced energy. Hold the palms in front of the solar plexus. Gently press the tips of the middle fingers together, allowing the other fingers to relax inward. Release the shoulders back and down, with the elbows held slightly away from the body, the forearms parallel to the earth and the spine naturally aligned. A mantra to use with this gesture is “Cultivating balance in all of my activities, I experience greater energy and vitality.” The potential therapeutic benefits are to stabilize our level of energy and balance both giving and receiving. (LePage, 2014) Linga Mudra means upright mudra. Place both palms together and clasp your fingers. One thumb should remain upright; encircle it with the thumb and index finger of your other hand. You may consider doing this three times a day for fifteen minutes while silently repeating the affirmation” My powers of resistance develop more and more from moment to moment.”  The potential therapeutic effects of this mudra are to increase the powers of resistance against colds, coughs and chest infections by helping to loosen mucus that has collected in the lungs. (Hirschi, 2000)

Vyana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions of multiple scoliosis and Nervous System Conditions, we could use Vayana Vayu mudra and Anushasana mudra to provide relief for multiple scoliosis. Vyana Vayu mudra is also known as gesture of all-pervading current of energy and its core quality is to provide a healthy nervous system. On the right hand touch the tips of the thumb to the tip of the ring finger. The other fingers are extended. On the left hand touch the tip of the thumb to the tips of the middle finger. The other fingers are extended. Rest the hands on the thighs or knees with the palms facing upward. A mantra to use with this hand gesture is “Nourishing all my energetic pathways supports my nervous system in functioning optimally.” The potential therapeutic effects are improving circulation to the extremities, enhancing body awareness and promoting the free flow of energy within the subtle body. (LePage, 2014) Anushasana mudra is also known as gesture of direction and its core quality is all-pervading current of energy. Make the hands into fists with the thumbs to the outside, resting on the second knuckle of the ring finger. Extend the index fingers straight out and rest the backs of the hands onto the thighs or knees alternatively hold the hands out to the sides of the body with the index fingers pointing upward. A mantra to consider with this hand gesture is “Attuned to the all-pervading current of energy all facets of my being are integrated as a seamless unity.” The potential therapeutic effects are; directing breath and awareness from the center of the body to the extremities, supporting the functioning of the peripheral nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems. (LePage, 2014)

 We can use Kartari mudra and Hakini mudra to provide relief for nervous system conditions. Hakini mudra also known as gesture of the goddess hakini and has the core quality of integration. Hold the hands facing each other in front of the solar plexus. Gently touch the tips of all the fingers and thumbs to the same fingers on the opposite hand. Hold the hands open and rounded as if hold a globe. A mantra to use with this hand gesture is “All the facets of my being are integrated as a seamless unity.” Potential therapeutic effects can be in creating an ideal balance between alertness and relaxation and directing breath and awareness to the entire body, balancing and integrating all systems of the body as well as the five elements. (LePage, 2014) Kartari mudra is also known as resting position. Lie in a supine position; place your hands next to your body or on your abdomen, with the right hand on top of the left. Now begin three-part breath.  With each exhale let the body become heavier and heavier. The potential therapeutic effects are to improve and deepen breathing, regenerating the autonomic nervous system and relax the entire body. (Hirschi, 2000)

Discussion

In my experience mudras are very powerful. I have had great success in with following the fibromyalgia, anxiety and joint health mudras in LePage’s book with clients over the years. When I partnered with my cohort Ola recently, I taught her Matsya and Jalashaya mudra. It was interesting to observe her go from restless to calm. I also gave her permission to relax in between the two mudras. Afterward, she shared with me that she had a hard time during Matsya to settle in. However, when Jalashaya mudra started, she felt robust, secure and energy rising in her body.  Matsya’s core quality is healthy joints and activates Apana Vayu. Jalashaya’s core quality is serenity and enables Apana while opening and balancing the first and second chakra centers of safety and self- nourishment, releasing the peace of our true being. I have been fascinated by mudras for eleven years now. There is so much to learn and explore about their potential health benefits.

 References

Five currents of prana and how they organize your physiology (5 Vayus ). (2015, January 08). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://sequencewiz.org/2014/09/03/5-vayus/

 

Hirschi, G. (2000). Mudras yoga in your hands. SanFrancisco, CA: Red Wheel.

 

Page, J. L., & Page, L. L. (2014). Mudras for Healing and Transformation (2nd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: Integratie Yoga Therapy.

           

Ramirez, S. (2011). YogaFit Restorative Teacher Training Manual (Vol. 4.14). CA:YogaFit

 

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Get Naked- Love Your Body

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”

― Amy Bloom

Time is highly elastic.  Have you ever asked someone how many hours they work? People on average work 40-65 hours in a week. If they say 75+ hours, they are most likely overestimating and not even realize that they are doing this. We sleep on average 52 hours a week. For me in my current life, there are 168 hours in my week of which I sleep 52 hours, work 65 hours leaving 51 hours for me. Since I am in grad school 40 hours is taken away leaving me 11 hours of my time. Leaving me time to apply my self-care.

Time will stretch to accommodate what we chose to accommodate.  The words “I don’t have time = It is not a priority.”  All of a sudden your water heater broke you would find the seven hours to resolve the problem and all aspects of your life would still work. Proving you could find time to practice your yoga, pilates and to have a walking program. You will accomplish what you prioritize. Is your health a priority? You have goals for your career, relationships, and health. Do you mind your self-care? Is self-care making it on your list? Sit down and take an honest look at your schedule and priorities.

There is nothing rarer, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.

― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

Here are five suggestions to look at as they might be thwarting your efforts in reaching the desire of self-care:

1.)    Are you surrounding yourself with martyrs? Take a close look at your circle of co-workers, family, and friends. Are they reaching their self-care goals? Is self-care even on their radar? Or are they taking better care of their jobs, relationships, cars than themselves? Chose to surround yourself with positive, healthy people that are further along the self-care path than yourself so that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

2.)    Are you expecting that Rome was built in a day? In the time of expecting immediate gratification,  reality TV shows claiming that it can happen and social media only showing highlight reels of other people’s lives the mind can run away with expectations, judgments, and competition thoughts. Creating a new habit takes time, and there will be moments of irritability, frustration, poor me feelings and guilt for prioritizing your self-care. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing task starts small 10 minutes a day and lead up to a daily practice.

3.)    Do you feel like you don’t deserve self-care? Can I put myself first without being selfish? Feelings of guilt and shame lead to half-hearted attempts and self-sabotage. Self-worth is the issue at heart and, this limiting belief is destructive in your life. If you are feeling frustrated, it is time to seek professional help to make a healthy investment in self-care. The time is now because your health is priceless because without it you cannot accomplish your other desires.

4.)    Are you paying yourself last? Are you trying to fit in your self-care after the to-do-list is done? Is this setting yourself up for success to do your self-care when you are already exhausted? Quality self-care and sitting in front of numbing activities such as TV and Mobile Device are two very different things. Do you think you are spending family time just to find out that everyone is really on an electronic device and not connecting with each other? Try connecting with your self-care be a role model and see if the dynamic of connection changes with your Self and those around you. Schedule some time when you are feeling energetic and can focus on your goal of improving your self-care. You are worth being paid first.

5.)    Are you trying to meet your needs on the sly? You can’t fit your self-care in by not inconveniencing others. Why? Because self-care takes time, money and support to accomplish it. Leave filling silly, guilty and uncomfortable behind and get back the empowerment of your self-care, be a powerful role model for others. Take a stand for your self-care time and put in your planner and your families shared planner, give your family a chance to support you because they do want to see you healthy. In sharing your intention with those that love you, you are creating a robust support system that has the momentum to propel you to reach your goal of health.

The human body is the best work of art.”

― Jess C. Scott

Keeping your self-care on your to-do list is essential, and it is the difference between surviving and thriving.

You were meant to get naked with your time and priorities to RENEW your body, mind, spirit through daily integrative sustainable movement practices and LOVE your body.” Kim Searl

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Yoga and Ayurveda

 

 

Vata is the carrier, and the colon is its main site in the disease process. When Vata accumulates, it spreads to the blood, bones and other parts of the body. Vata acts primarily through the nervous system through which it flows like an electric current. Yoga therapy can help to calm, center and relax the body. You can do this through a slow asana practice, and keep the breath deep with emphasis on the inhalation. Pitta pushes or provokes, and the small intestine is its main site in the disease process, in which excess acids or toxic pitta accumulates and spreads through the blood to different parts of the body. Pitta acts primarily through the digestive system and the blood as the body’s primary thermogenic power. Yoga therapy can help to chill and relax the body. You can do this by surrendering to your asana practice and keeping the breath relaxed and exhaling through the mouth to relieve heat as needed. Kapha strengthens or resist, and the stomach is its main site in the disease process in which excess mucus accumulates and spread through the blood and lymph to different parts of the body. Kapha primarily acts through the plasma or lymphatic system as underlying nutrient solution making up the bulk of the body and providing nourishment to all the tissues. Yoga therapy can help to lighten the body and movement. You can do this through an active vinyasa practice, taking deep breaths with an intention for your overall practice to be with effort.

Introduction

Ayurvedic medicine practiced as an ancient healing system used in India and worldwide. The theory of Ayurveda is based on balancing the individual’s three constitutional doshas (i.e., Pitta, Vata, Kapha). Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors are considered such as indiscriminate diet, undesirable habits, not observing rules of healthy living, seasonal abnormalities, lack of movement, misuse of body, mind, and spirit can cause disease. Typically in an Ayurvedic session, there is a diagnosis based on a comprehensive history, detailed physical examination, measurement of vital signs including pulse, and relevant laboratory tests. (Qureshi, 2013)

Yoga Therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress towards improved health and welling through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga according to IAYT (International Association of Yoga Therapists). A yoga therapist uses tools such as asana/postures, adjustments to movement, pranayama/breath work, meditation, lifestyle and Yama and Niyama to guide the experience. A yoga therapist does not diagnose, medicate, give nutritional advice, massage or do psychotherapy. The process involves an intake, assessment, evaluation, plan and review and uses the Panchamaya Kosha Model of healing which is an ancient model of the human system (i.e., Anamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijnanamaya Kosha, Anadamaya Kosha).

Both Yoga and Ayurveda reflect the Vedic idea that we must live according to our unique nature and its particular capacities.

 Characteristics of Dosha

Dosha means “fault, impurity or mistake” which is a bit hard to understand in a yoga and Ayurveda context, therefore, we may think of dosha as an organization. It is important to comprehend that all three doshas are present in everybody and everything. When the doshas are in balance they maintain a harmonious psychophysiology as when they are imbalanced they pollute the bodily tissues which lead to disease. The three doshas Pitta, Vata, Kapha bind the five elements into flesh. Vata is space and air; Pitta is fire and water, Kapha is water and Earth. Each of these doshas has their attributes.

Vata means a vehicle to carry or move. Vata regulates movement from the activity of how many thoughts we have to the efficiency of how our food moves through our digestive track.  Vata tends to have few or no children, delicate in health, irregular appetite and thirst. A vata behavior may be easily excited, easily alert and quick to act without thinking. They have great imaginations, daydream, tend to love someone out of fear of loneliness, do not like sitting idle, seek constant action, make good money, have difficulty saving, faith is flexible, and are ready for a change. (Lad, 2002) When Vata is in a sattvic state, the individual is creative, open-minded, communicates well, is a source of constant inspiration and possess a strong sense of human unity. When Vata is in a rajasic state the individual is very active and running to achieve various goals that change continually, they are restless, easily distracted, talkative, superficial and disruptive. When Vata is in a tamasic state the individual is fearful, goes against the order, easily addicted to things, can be suicidal and cannot be trusted. (Frawley, 1999)

Pitta means heat and to be austere.  Pitta usually has strong appetites and like cold drinks and sweets. Pitta is usually disciplined, leaders, confident, wisdom, like to learn, and can concentrate. At times they are judgmental, critical, and perfectionistic. They like noble professions; make large amounts of money, like expensive items, lower sex drive, moderate strength, medium life span and material wealth. (Lad, 2002) When Pitta is in a sattvic state, the individual shines like the sun, disciplined, discriminating in their thinking and always consider the viewpoint of others, friendly, courageous, natural leaders with strong wills for growth and development. When Pitta is in a rajasic state the individual aims at achievement no matter the means, promote themselves and their agendas, critical, controlling, prone to anger and intolerance and reckless. When Pitta is in a tamasic state the individual is destructive, violent, resentful and hostile in life and takes it out on everyone around them, they do not respect social laws or feelings of others and can be psychopathic.  (Frawley, 1999)

Kapha means water.  Kapha has a steady appetite and thirst with a slow digestion and metabolism which result in weight gain which is hard for them to shed. They like to eat, sit, do nothing and sleep for extended periods of time. They have deep, stable faith, love, compassion, calm, and steady mind. They have good memories, deep melodious voices and monotonous patterns of speech. They make money and tend to save money. (Lad, 2002) When Kapha is in a sattvic state the individual is loving, devoted, faithful, they have a comforting presence, patient, a balance of mind, loyal, forgiving and supportive. When Kapha is in a rajasic state, the individual is dominating, controlling, greedy, materialistic, accumulates wealth and possessions until they are overwhelmed by them. When Kapha is in a tamasic state, the person has different addictions, depressed, incapable of self-reflection, blame, trample over others and is usually overweight and full of toxins. (Frawley, 1999)

How Imbalances Present for each Dosha

Vata attributes are dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, clear, astringent taste and brownish/blackish colors. Vata imbalances produce fear, anxiety and abnormal movements, however, when in balance it promotes joy, happiness, creativity and flexibility. Vata governs breathing, blinking, muscle, sneezing, elimination, and tissue movement, the pulsation of the heart and all changes in the cytoplasm and cell membranes. (Lad, 2002)

 Kapha attributes are thick, slow/dull, cold, oily, liquid, slimy/smooth, dense, soft, static, sticky/cloudy, hard, gross and a sweet and salty taste, white in color. Kapha imbalances produce attachment, greed, passiveness, apathy, laziness and congestive disorders, however, when in balance it promotes love, strength, peace, longevity, memory retention, calmness, and forgiveness. Kapha forms the body’s structure, organs, provides the cohesion that holds the cells together and supplies the water for all bodily parts and systems; it lubricates joints, moisturizes the skin and maintains immunity. (Lad, 2002)

 Pitta attributes are: hot, sharp, light, liquid, spreading, mobile, oily and sour, pungent and bitter to taste. Pitta imbalances produce anger, hatred, jealousy, and inflammatory disorders; however, when in balance it promotes understanding and intelligence. Pitta governs digestion, vitality, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, and body temperature. (Lad, 2002)

 Plan of Care for each Dosha

In teaching a vata individual it is best to use words like calm, slow, steady, grounding, strengthening, and consistent. The goal of a yoga practice would be the removal of stiffness from the joints, steadiness of the muscles, feeling of groundedness, calm and support. If you chose to do sun salutations with this individual, they should be done slowly and consciously.  Pranayama techniques like right nostril breathing, retention after the inhalation and Nadi Shodhana (combination of heating and cooling) are beneficial for this dosha.

The sequence of vata reducing asana practice is designed to build core strength while maintaining their flexibility. Some things to consider when teaching a vata sequence is to do it in the quiet, to hold the standing, sitting, forward bends and twists longer than the client is inclined to do as this longer hold will be a challenge and a reward for an individual in the long run. Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) holding each pose for a breath before moving on, to practicing being conscious of the movement. Adho Mukha Svanasana (or Wall Push), Tadasana (Mountain), Utkatasna (Chair), Trikonasana (Triangle), Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1), Parsvottanasana (Pyramid), Padangushthasana (Gorilla), Navasna (Boat), Prep for Sirsasana (Dolphin), Child’s pose, Legs-Up-the-Wall, Locust, Dandasana (Staff), Pashimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold), and Marichyasana III (Seated Spinal Twist).  (Kozak, 2001) Pala Mudra helps with anxiety relief and can be paired with an affirmation of “At peace within my inner being, I experience a greater sense of security.” and can be held for a couple of breaths or as long as fifteen minutes. (LePage, 2014)

For meditation, corpse poses with knees, ankles, wrists supported, eye pillow, neck roll, folded blanket around the top of the head and covering the ears, and a blanket to cover the whole body. You may even consider a sandbag on the belly. Long mediations for at least twenty minutes are needed to calm the fear and anxiety that is their inherent tendency.  Meditation can help them sleep, alleviate nervous digestion, strengthen their immune system. Mantra and visualizations work well for them.  Visualizations such as earth, water, mountain, ocean, lotus, rose, the light of the sun at dawn can help as well as color therapy of gold and saffron will contribute to clear their mental field. Mantras of RAM, SHRIM, HRIM are ideal for them to use throughout the day if they find themselves losing balance to worry and anxiety. Devotional meditations that a vata might resonate with are Vishnu as the avatar and savior of Rama, Ganesha as grounding, Hanuman power of prana and represents higher vata characteristics. Vata’s are learning to stabilize their inner nature so that the every changing external world does not un-ground them. (Frawley, 1999)

In teaching a pitta individual, it is best to use words like cooling, relaxing, surrendering, forgiving, gentle and diffusive. The goal of a yoga practice would be to feel the coolness, calm, openness, patience, tolerance; reduction of inflammation, and acidity. Rather than doing the sun salutation, the Moon Salutation (Chadra Namaskar) works better for them. Pranayama techniques like shitali and sitkari and left nostril breathing decrease pitta.

The sequence of asana is for pitta reducing and practiced in an effort with ease that is non-goal oriented. Focus on the breath monitoring the level of work intensity. Forward folds and twists are effective in reducing and bringing up pitta. If you are reducing pitta, hold the postures for extended periods of time. Chandra Namaskar (Moon salutations) done at 50-60% of their effort level works well for them, and they will still be working harder than most. Cat Stretch, Locust, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Low Lunge, Padottanasna, (Standing Straddle fFold), Legs up Wall with Pelvis lifted, Child’s pose, Supta Padagusthasna (Hand to Big Toe), Paschimottansana (Seated Forward Fold), SupineTtwist. (Kozak, 2001) Padma Mudra helps to reduce anger and find unconditional love and used with the affirmation of “nurturing the garden of my heart allows for the blossoming of unconditional love.” and can be done at any time for a couple of breaths up to fifteen-minute practice. (LePage, 2014)

 Savasana for fifteen-twenty minutes with a bolster under the knees, wrist, neck and eye pillow and using a strap at the thighs will help release anger, aggression and let go of their willful control approach to life. For meditation helps them concentrate their energy in a positive way toward an inner goal, however, ensure that they do not turn it into another form of achievement. Focus on expanding the mind and heart to reveal truth like waves move across the lake in the moonlight. Use non-fiery images like a mountain forest, lake, ocean, rain clouds, deep blue skies, the moon, and stars. For color therapy use the colors such as white, dark blue or emerald green. Mantras such as SHAM, SHRIM, OM are helpful throughout the day if anger arises for them. Forgiveness prayers and Meta can help them find peace and happiness for themselves and for those that they have harmed from their forceful actions. For devotional practices Lakshmi born of the ocean, Vishnu and Shiva in their forms of water and space, and God. Meditations that focus on the infinite space beyond the limitations of their critical mind is the art of developing discrimination for them. (Frawley, 1999)

In teaching a kapha individual it is best to use words like stimulating, moving, warming, lightning, energizing, and releasing. The goal of a yoga practice would be to normalize the body weight, reduction of congestion, removal of excess fat, mucus, and water from the body, a greater sense of detachment. Sun Salutations can be active and flow.  Pranayama techniques like Bhastrika and Kapalabhati decrease kapha in the body.

The following sequence is to help reduce Kapha.  Their practice should be energetic with a goal to first strengthen shoulders, arms, and legs so they may master the art of inversions. Hold Forward Folds shorter as this can increase kapha.  Surya Namaskar should be strong considering doing seven repetitions to bring up their heart rate. Adho Mukha Savasana (Downward Dog), Tadasana (Mountain), Vrksana (Tree), Trikonasana (Triangle), Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1), Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2), Prep for Sirsasana (Dolphin), Sarvangasana I (shoulder stand at the wall), Locus, Niralamba Bhujangasana III (Cobra), Navasana (Boat), Supine Spinal Twist. (Kozak, 2001)  Svadhisthana Mudra is helpful with addictions and can bring in self-nourishment qualities. It can pair with an affirmation such as “completely at home at the center of my being, I experience deep nourishment and inner healing.” and can be done for a couple of breaths up to fifteen-minute practice. (LePage 2014)

Savasana should be five to fifteen minutes on the ground in corpse pose to help them release possessiveness and heaviness into a space of consciousness of true happiness and abundance. Meditation for a kapha may take a more disciplined approach as they are most likely to fall asleep, therefore doing more active meditations that include mantra, pranayama and meditation may work better for them. Focus on images that increase the fire, air and either elements like sun, wind moving through trees, an expanse of clear blue sky in colors like gold, blue and orange. Mantras of OM, HUM, AIM are good for stimulating energy for them. For a devotional practice, they may connect with Shiva or the Kali to stimulate them. Devotion should not become a form of self-indulgence but the purity of heart and mind. (Frawley, 1999)

 Discussion

The Vedas relate to an important practice of yoga and Ayurveda, which reflect an approach that comprehends all aspects of life. Yoga is the application of Vedic wisdom for self-realization. Yoga provides the means for purification of the mind (Chitta-shuddhi) to enable us to gain self-realization through Vedanta (self-knowledge).  Ayurveda is a Vedic method for healing and right living.  Ayurveda affords us purification of the body (deha-shuddhi) for optimal health and energy. As you learn the Vedic system and combine the related disciplines, you have a tremendous resource. (Frawley, 1999) In the modern world, you see these practices in integrative medicine. The body of research seems to be growing faster for yoga therapy, but both yoga and Ayurveda face difficulty. The challenge is in conducting randomized control trials because most of the treatments are individualized and targeted to the entire person. Future research may include looking at combining these integrative modalities and collect data with scientific rigor.

 

References

 

Frawley, D. (1999). Yoga & Ayurveda Self-Healing and Self-Realization. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin: Lotus Press.

 

Frawley, D., & Kozak, S. S. (2001). Yoga for your type: an Ayurvedic approach to your Asana practice. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus.

 

Lad, V. (2002). Textbook of Ayurveda. Albuquerque, NM: Ayurvedic Press.

 

Page, J. L., & Page, L. L. (2014). Mudras for Healing and Transformation (2nd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: Integrative Yoga Therapy.

Qureshi, N. A., & Al-Bedah, A. M. (2013). Mood disorders and complementary and alternative medicine: a literature review. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment9, 639–658. http://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S43419

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Meant To Be- Be Satisfied with YOU

As we finish a year and begin to start a year anew, depending on your relationship status with yourself, it might have been a great weekend or it may have been the loneliest, most depressing couple of weeks that you have experienced all year.

When we stop asking, ‘Why Am I alone?’ And start asking, ‘Why am I here?’ Our whole world will change – for the good.” – Michelle Hammond

But there is always chocolate, alcohol, TV, and so on, right! For the Christmas season $409 million was spent on chocolate alone. For Halloween 90 million pounds of chocolate was purchased and for the upcoming Valentines holiday, 58 million pounds of chocolate will be sold. On average $220 billion is spent on alcohol in the United States annually. The average American adult watches 33 hours of TV per week that means that last year you spent 1716 hours in front of the TV. One of my favorite mass chocolate companies is Dove Chocolate. I enjoy reading the messages inside each wrapper. Dove includes these notes as a reminder to us to love and care for ourselves. The cool thing about these words is that they focus on the individual and encourage the person at the moment. No matter where you are in life with your relationships with self or others, if you allow yourself one piece of Dove Chocolate after a meal you can be encouraged by the wrapper. No, Mind Body Balance does not have a stockpile of Dove Chocolate at the studio, but most of us do love chocolate, and it can be used as a reminder to love ourselves and to care for ourselves.

This year we are kicking off our 2017 season with the word RENEW and a theme of “MEANT TO BE.”  Often there is so much tension around self-love and self-care that you can feel the tension.  How often do you take your relationship with self and your health for granted? How often do you focus on the negatives about your body, mind, and relationships? Allow a simple piece of Dove Chocolate to remind us that there is a kind of blessing that comes from being connected relationally with ourselves.

What about you? How has your journey with your self-care and self-love been going for you? What triggers cause you to feel: Sadness, Anger, Anxiousness, and Desperation in relationship to your self-care? I hope that you can lean into Mind Body Balance this year and experience the Mind Body Balance community entirely. Do not allow another year to go by where you feel the crushing feelings of loneliness, weight gain and depression. Instead we hope that you lean in and feel the blessings and life purpose “Dharma” that is a side effect of spending 15% (260 hours/year or 6.5 work weeks) of TV time  with us at Mind Body Balance. (This still leaves you 1500 hours or 29 hours a week for TV- although Kim recommends 10 hours of TV per week-ish, we won’t tell if you don’t).

This year I am struck by the word “RENEW” it means to resume activity after an interruption, to re-establish a relationship or to repeat a statement.  How many of us make a mistake, an act of error and judge ourselves harshly and punish ourselves through a lack of self-care and self-love? If you are doing this, you are also doing this to others. If you are judging others for doing this, they are a mirror to you that you also do this to yourself. It is okay to have a misstep and lapse as you can count on life throwing you some curves, the goal is not to have a relapse. If you don’t love yourself than others cannot love you.  I am not talking about narcissistic behavior I am referring to a regard for your well-being and happiness and that you work on you first so that others have the opportunity to connect with you in a productive and meaningful way. We are wired for love. Mantra or affirmation and chanting are great ways to start this relationship with you anew.

“Just as Mother Nature teaches me about the flow of seasons and that transformation is a natural part of life. I use these seasons as a way to observe whether I am in harmony with these rhythms or if I am in need of establishing new boundaries. When I am in flow through life naturally and effortlessly I am in a valley of change where I have renewed freedom within my spirit and with others.” – Kim Searl

We are currently in winter, and this is the season for reflection, hibernation and planning. Spring is the season for learning, opportunity and progressive thinking. Summer is a season for rewards, celebration and fulfillment. Autumn is a season for survival, mistakes and problems. Understanding the life cycle flow as they are short phrases and transformation is unavoidable, inevitable and yet very manageable is a guide to your personal growth, self-love and self-care.

Here is a mantra to get you started. I will write in Sanskrit and English, pick the language that works best for your belief system.

Atma Hrdaye:

Atma Hrdaye

Hrdayam Mayi

Aham Amrte

Amrtam Anadam Brahmani

My true nature is the heart.

The heart is my true nature.

I am the bliss of the heart.

The heart I am is the everlasting bliss of oneness.

This mantra comes from Rose Kress. It is a chant that comes to the heart from the heart.  Dr. John Douillard once said, “The heart’s true nature is to love for no reason at all.”  Consider chanting this daily for 3 minutes or 108 rounds for 40 days and see if something in your spirit changes. We are familiar with the physical heart which pumps blood to the whole of our body, organs, and brain. The heart maintains our physical life, and at the same time, we refer to our heart as the residence of our emotions both negative and positive this is our emotional heart. I guess you could say we have three hearts: anatomical heart, emotional heart and our innermost heart (hrdaya) or spiritual heart. The heart never changes, it doesn’t have good days or bad days, our previous experiences do not condition it. Our body is our temple, and our innermost heart is the shrine within that temple where the light of our consciousness dwells. This light of consciousness is where we manifest love that is our divine nature. Opening our hearts means to dis-armor ourselves, to uncover our heart. Any suffering we experience is the separation from the love that exists in our heart-of-hearts.

Integrative Sustainable Movement is MEANT TO BE in your life to inspire you to Be Satisfied with YOU!

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Understanding Health and Disease through Yoga Concepts II

 I will discuss the meaning of these concepts: Gunas and their relationship to suffering; Prana and the relationship to prana vayus, chakras, granthis, nadis, and sushumna. I will discuss these concepts about classical yoga texts: The Bhagavad Gita (written about 1795 C.E.), The Yoga Sutras (written about 400 C.E.), The Samkhya Karika (written about 2500 B.C.E.), and the Upanishads (written about 800-300 B.C.E.). I will share how these concepts are present in my life. You will also learn how these concepts relate to the understanding of health and disease.

Everyone has the aspects of the three gunas in them. A guna is a quality (specifically the qualities of matter and energy that make up the world). The three gunas are sattva (law, harmony, purity, and goodness), rajas (energy, passion) and tamas (inertia, ignorance).

In the Upanishads (1.9) “Conscious spirit and inanimate matter both have existed since the dawn of time, with maya appearing to connect them, misrepresenting joy as outside us. When all these three are as one, the self-reveals his universal forms and serves as an instrument of the divine will.” (Easwanan, 2007) The appearance that separateness and happiness come from an outside source in the world entangles us through maya. Maya is an essential idea in Vedanta.  Hidden behind the gunas is our true self.  Maya has this phenomenal reality and the appearances, or illusions of a world of separate entities yet the divine power, which creates the world, can be identical with Brahman.

Sutra (I-17, II-18, IV 12-14, and IV 32-34) views the gunas as one of the qualities of nature. The Sutra sees sattva, rajas and tamas as balance, activity, and inertia.   The gunas are constantly intermingling, thus creating prakrti. Nature is here to give experience to the reflected purusa upon our “mind stuff” so you could say that prakrti is the mental mirror of our gunas. The duty of prakrti is to torture our soul with storms of life until the soul renounces the world- sannyasa (abandoning or throwing down). When our soul detaches itself, it is pure, prakrti then stops because it has fulfilled its purpose. Prakrti’s job is to experience purusa to achieve its objective or dharma. Prakrti is present when the gunas are not manifesting separately, when the gunas manifest, prakrti functions with purusa.  Once that job is over, the gunas withdraw their actions from purusa. The force of prana is the three gunas (sattva/tranquility, rajas/activity, tamas/inertia).  When they are in equilibrium, they do not affect matter, but once there is a disturbance, a motion is created in the matter, which gives rise to various forms.

Prakasa means illumination and stands for sattva. Kriya is action and represents rajas. Sthitti is inertia or tamas. The purpose of prakrti is to give us knocks in life.  Prakrti is here to give us experience and ultimately to liberate us from bondage. The secret of our wanting change is in that mind changes. All of life is a short show. If we want to hold it, even for a minute, we have tension. (Satachidananda, 2005)

Samkya looks at the three gunas according to the worldview, which has always been (and continue to be) present in all things and beings in the world. Sattva is goodness, constructive, harmonious, quality of balance, purity, universality, holistic, constructive, creative, building, positive, peaceful and virtuous. Rajas is passion, active, confused, neither good nor bad, sometimes either, self-centeredness, egoistic, individualizing, driven, dynamic and moving. Tamas is vicious, lethargy, violent, imbalance, disorder, chaos, apathy, inertia, ignorant, anxiety, impure, delusion, negative, dull, inactive, darkness, destructive, and chaotic. The qualities of the gunas are present in all of us all the time. The interplay of the gunas defines the character of someone or something as nature determines the progress of life. The force to change comes from raja; sattva empowers towards peaceful and constructive change, and tamas retards the process. (Miller, 2012)

The Bhagavad Gita in chapters fourteen, seventeen and eighteen discuss the gunas as qualities of nature. Guna means “strand” or “fiber” like strands of a rope. The three gunas are woven together to form the objective of the universe. How and what the world made of is philosophically the gunas. From a yoga perspective, it teaches us if we are moving forward in life (sattva), running in place (rajas) and losing our way (tamas). Krishna portrays the gunas as the scope of guna, activities, and teachings that inform us that nothing is free from prakrti and the gunas. When we sharpen our self-observation skills and discernment with practice and the right intention we can learn to witness the activities of the guna employing balance and purpose. (Satchidananda, 2005)

The gunas are present in my life by representing signposts to guide me where I am and where I aspire to be. Raja (attachment) and Dvesa (aversion) seem to be my habitual pattern where I lean hard into pleasurable experiences and lean away from the un-pleasurable. Leaves Prakrti needing to give me some good knocks and bumps to get me moving. While I feel rajas are at the forefront of my personality, it can either create movement toward sattva or tamas. In my forties, I am just getting to a place where I can observe my language cultivate rajas and tamas in service of sattva. The interplay of the gunas in my life seems to be more in the subconscious or outside of my conscious awareness. Nevertheless, as I start to understand the gunas more, and I allow my mind to label what is rajas, tamas or sattva behavior in my external environment, I begin to notice the distinctive qualities. I realize that I have a choice in how I respond and act, allowing me to work on cultivating my gunas. For example, when I am choosing to overwork as a form of self-protection, I can give myself permission to cultivate more tamas to be in service of self-care of stability and rest. When I am choosing to ignore a character issue with someone close to me, I can give myself permission to cultivate more rajas and modify the relationship. When I am choosing to allow my mind to run in habitual thought patterns and making decisions based on yesterday’s dirty dishes or living in the future, I can give myself permission to pause to check in with my breath. Cultivate sattva like a transparent piece of glass.  Allow the light of my conscious awareness to reveal my true nature, creating clarity and elevating my awareness so I can foster new patterns that serve my greater good.

In the context of understanding health and disease, the gunas provide a way for us to observe what could be out of balance, in balance and harmony. If the gunas are, in harmony, we have a loving mind, clarity, bliss, good health, longevity, a surplus of prana and our immunity is high. If sattva is great or we may have receding gums, muscle spasms, gas, constipation, dry skin, low back aches, insomnia, sciatica, feel anxious, insecure, and fearful, have other neurological or mental problems and gives us an irregular metabolism. If rajas is high we may experience intense cravings for sweet, nausea, vomiting; inflammatory conditions start to arise, judgmental and critical toward ourselves and others, hyperacidity, gastritis, hypoglycemia, colitis, diarrhea, dysentery, heartburn, hot flashes, indigestion. A sharp and hyper-metabolism in the body. If our tamas is high, we experience hypo-metabolism, dull, congestion, cough, allergies, nausea, mucoid vomiting, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, lethargy, excessive sleep, weakness of the body with the mental attachment of greed and possessiveness. The gunas control the five koshas.

Prana is our life force. Prana’s relationship to prana vayus is as the life-force “winds” that govern the movement of energy in the pranamaya kosha. Prana’s relationship to chakras (wheel or disk) is like the energy point or doorway to the subtle body. Prana’s relationship to granthis is as energy knots or blocks on our personality where the energy and consciousness interact and manifest.  Prana’s relationship to nadis is as pathways or highways in which prana travels. Prana’s relationship to sushumna is like the central energy channel that travels the full length of the middle of the spinal cord.  Pranic energy (vital life force) flows here as we experience kundalini (latent energy believed to lie coiled at the base of the spine). All of these concepts aid in the constant motion of Prana in the human body and are the energies responsible for the body’s life, heat and maintenance. 

Just as modern science describes two types of nervous systems SNS (sympathetic nervous system) and PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) and the two nervous systems interconnect with every organ of the body.  Pana and consciousness connected to every organ of the body. Energy supplied to the organs comes through the physical and emotional bodies creating channels. Ida nadi represents the mental energy and pingala nadi represents the prana energy while sushumna nadi represents spiritual awareness.

The Upanishads describe Prana as Pra “forth” and Na to breathe “living energy.”  Prana “Vital Energy” the power of life… the underlying substrate of all forms of energy and one of the five kinds of vital energy in living creatures. The five pranas are prana, apana, samana, vyana, and udana. Vyana is responsible for distributing energy throughout the limbs and organs. Udana Ud means “up” And means “breathe” this is an upward moving energy and is responsible for the power governing the rise of spiritual energy or tejas (the subtle essence of fire that governs digestion on both subtle and gross levels). Samana is equalizing and responsible for harmonizing and balancing energy in the body. Apana is active in biologic functions and controls downward energy processes such as elimination and the expenditure of sexual energy. Nadi is a track of prana in a living creature. Pippalada (ancient Indian Vedic sage and philosopher) names the primary polarity prana and rayi (stuff, materials) roughly as consciousness and matter. You could say he wrote a hymn to prana: prana is energy, which fuels evolution, powers the vital processes in all forms of life and ultimately becomes thoughts and desires in the mind where it becomes accessible for us to conserve or redirect. Prana is a comprehensive theory of life, which accounts for everything from health to morality.  Prana Vayu works with the other four vayus to carry out different functions in the body. Apana Vayu dwells in the eye, ear, mouth, and nose and is a downward force of the wind in the organs of sex and excretion. Samana Vayu is an equalizing force in the middle, digests foods and kindles the seven fires. Vyana Vayu distributes energy moving through a myriad of vital currents radiating from the heart where it lives at the time of death through the subtle track that runs up the spinal channel. Udana Vayu leads the selfless up the long ladder of evolution, and it leads the selfish down, but those that are both selfless and selfish come back to this Earth. (Easwaran, 2007)

The Sutra (1-34) looks at prana as vital energy and the dualities of prana and apana the ascending and descending energy within the human body. The force that moves upward is prana, the force that moves downward is apana, and the aim is to bring them together in equilibrium just as Hatha yoga is two forces (sun and moon) to gentle establish peace in mind, the two opposites must blend. Regulate and watch the breath because where the mind goes the prana follows. (Satchidananda, 2005)

The Bhagavad Gita (6:13, 15:1, 15:14) views prana as the vital energy.  Prana and apana are the life currents within, and as such, is the digestive fire. Krishna said earlier in the Gita that “The fire is me; the offering into the fire is myself; the one who accepts the offering is myself; the offer also is myself. It is all ultimately myself. So I am playing all the parts.” He appears to multiply himself into all of us. The Chakras are subtle nerve centers along the spine which when concentrated upon yield experiences of various levels of consciousness. The nadis are subtle nerves, and the sushumna is one of the major nadis or subtle nerves. The Gita gives us a suggestion of spinal alignment and gaze; it says that the flow of energy should be easy through the spine along the Ida, pingala and sushumna as these nadis are important since they pass through all the chakras. If we work on our posture, we will find our center of gravity allowing the whole body to be very still. When this energy is flowing, and we are focused on the center of the head, in the location where the king and queen glands are (pituitary and pineal), the location of the seat of consciousness it allows our intuition to flow. (Satchidananda, 2005)

Samkhya (XXIX), the standard function of the three internal organs, is the five vital airs: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana. Prana resides inside the mouth and nose; its circulation is the common function of all the thirteen organs since the organs come into being when there is prana. Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawra describes prana as a bird in a cage, giving motion to all, it breathes. Apana takes away, and its circulation is the common function of the organs. Samana resides in the center of the body; it distributes food and rest properly. Udana carries up, draws or lifts energy.  It lies between the navel and the head, and the circulation it provides is a common function of all the organs. Vyana is that which pervades the body and divides its interior-like space. Its circulation is a common function of all the organs. The five vayus offer circulation to the organs; this is why you see it explained as the common functions of all organs. (Bawra, 2012)

I am not sure where I heard this analogy before but I think it is exquisite and describes the vayus eloquently. Sun is the prana of the universe and rises to bring light to our eyes. The Earth draws the lower fire of apana. The space between sun and earth is samana. The moving air is vyana; fire is udana – when this fire goes out the senses draw into the mind, and rebirth happens.

The concepts of prana in relationship to the vayus, chakras, granthis, nadis, and sushumna, are present in my life as the vayus can act as a mirror if I take the time to check in with my breath, it can lead to information about what is happening in my chakras, granthis, and nadis. Being able to have my vayus flowing allows my charkas to be open and determines how I will grow and evolve as a human being. Do I want to create more shakti in my life? The more that I learn to work with my vayus and chakras the more my emotional and physical harmony will come into unity with the universe. The granthi’s and I have a love-hate relationship, to say the least. Many times I want to be tamas with them and ignore them, but I am learning to honor the information and work with them, especially the Brahma Granthi (located at the base of the spine between Muladhara and Svadhisthana chakra). The primitive brain lives here. When I am feeling fear, anxiety about basic survival needs of shelter and food, overworking, etc., this is telling me that I lack grounding, and my fears are preventing me from reaching my greater good. Vishnu Granthi (located between Manipura and Anahata chakra) is where ego and power live. Clinging to something, fear of feeling ignored or losing power and possessions is telling me I am not exercising my “letting go” muscle. I need to be more vulnerable and to put my facade aside and challenge the status quo. Rudra Granthi (located between Anhata and Ajna chakra) is difficult for me; it brings up a level of vulnerability that I leave me uncomfortable. I love to serve others to the point I have to remind myself I do not need to fix anything, and I need to be mindful of not imposing my will on them. Also, when I am performing my seva actions at the homeless shelter or raising awareness around human trafficking, I have to remind myself to bring light to these dark subjects since we are not separate from them. I could easily have been (or could be) part of this darkness. I ask others and myself these questions: Would you want to be treated how we treat homeless people? Would you want your loved ones treated how we treat those rescued from human trafficking? When you look away would you want someone to look away from you? I usually get silence with no acknowledgment, to which I ask the questions again.  Then, in dead silence that I let linger, I express that this veil of separation lifted, and we do this by healing ourselves and choosing to live a full life. 

The concepts of prana in relationship to vayus, chakras, granthis, nadis and sushumna are understood (in health and disease assessment) by noticing which chakras appear to be closed or struggling.  We look to these concepts to identify possible diseases rooted within them.  In the Muladhara chakra, we can see such diseases as addiction/addictive behavior, anorexia, colitis, constipation, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, glaucoma, hemorrhoids, hypertension, impotence, kidney stones, knee problems, and weight gain. In the Swadhisthana chakra, we see such diseases as a testicular disease, prostatic disease, pre-menstrual syndrome, muscle cramps, menstrual problems, kidney complications, irritable bowel syndrome, fibroids, fertility issues, and endometriosis, cystitis, and bladder issues. In the Manipura chakra, we see such diseases as food allergies, coeliac disease, diabetes, digestive problems, gallstones, hepatitis, liver disease, pancreatitis, peptic ulcers, stomach problems, and ulcers. In the Anahata chakra, we see such conditions as immune disorders, heart diseases, fatigue, and circulation, breast cancer, high blood pressure, and allergies. In the Vissudha chakra, we see such diseases as asthma, bronchitis, ear infections, hearing problems, lost voice, mouth ulcers, sore throats, teeth and gums, thyroid problems, tinnitus, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, and upper digestive tract. In the Ajna chakra, we see such diseases as visual defects, tension headache, shortsightedness, migraines, long-sightedness, insomnia, deafness, catarrh, cataracts, brain tumor, and blindness. In Saharara chakra, we see diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression, dizziness, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and senile dementia.  Self-study through the chakras, gunas, and vayus, can help us prevent and delay some of these former disease states.

If the gunas control the five koshas then the vayus point to the energy of the chakras.  Tamas primarily affects the chakras Muladhara and Swadhisthana. Rajas primarily affect the chakra Manipura. Sattva primarily affects Ajna and Sahasrara. Rajas and Sattva together primarily affect the chakras Anahata and Vissudha. (Judith, 2015) While Vyana Vayu pervades the whole body, you can find it mainly in Swadisthana chakra.  You find udana vayu primarily in the Vishuddha chakra, prana vayu primarily in Anahata chakra, samana vayu mostly in Manipura chakra and apana vayu in Muladhara charka.  Vyana vayu is associated with the nadis and the two primary nadis of ida and pingala intertwine the length of the body, passing around and through the chakras until they reach the base of the spine (the entrance to the main nadi of sushumna). Their intertwining generates the energy of the swirling charkas. (Keller, 2015) While yoga is not a cure all for these diseases and does not fix someone, it can add in delaying or alleviating symptoms for these disease states. Our body does speak our mind, and we can choose to heal or not, the yoga lifestyle is a wonderful compliment to anyone’s life at any stage of health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Bawra, B. V. (2012). Samkhya Karika with Gaudapadacarya Bhasya. USA: Brahmrishi Yoga Publications.

 

Easwaran, E. (2007). The Upanishads (2nd ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press.

 

Judith, A., Ph.D. (2015). Wheels of life: The classic guide to the chakra system (2nd ed.). Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

 

Keller, D. (2015). Refining the Breath: Pranayama: The Art of the Awakened Breath. South Riding, VA: Do Yoga Productions.

 

Miller, B. S. (2004). The Bhagavad-Gita Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

 

Miller, R. (2012). The Sankhya Karika: A New Translation.

 

Satchidananda, S. S. (2005). The Living Gita: The complete Bhagavad Gita: A commentary for modern readers (6th ed.). Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications.

 

Satachidananda, S. (2005). Sadhana Pada Portion on Practice. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (11th ed., pp. 131-151). Buckingham, Virginia: Integral Yoga Publications.

 

 

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Understanding Health and Disease through Yoga Concepts I

 I will discuss the meaning of these six concepts: Nature of Self, Dharma, Path of Yoga, Causes of Suffering, Samskaras, and Kleshas. I will explain these concepts concerning these classical yoga texts: The Bhagavad Gita (written about 1795 C.E.), The Yoga Sutras (written about 400 C.E.), The Samkhya Karika (written about 2500 B.C.E.), and the Upanishads (written about 800-300 B.C.E.). I will share how these concepts are present in my life. You will also learn how these concepts relate to the understanding of health and disease.

            Nature of Self in the west, we think of as a person’s particular personality, the qualities that make them unique. The Upanishads refer to this as Atman “the self”, and they distinguish it from the individual character. The Upanishads are known as their equation “the Self is Brahman” pointing to the unity of pure consciousness. Upanishads means “secret teaching” and is the beginning of profound conjectural thought. Who Am I? The real self is unchanging, so it continues throughout all process of change. It cannot be the physical body because the body changes throughout our life and dies.  It cannot be the mind because it is always evolving. It cannot be social identity and the roles it plays. No, consciousness itself is subjective, experiential, and seamless, it lacks distinctions and boundaries, not subject to change, have no ending or beginning; it is the one true self.  All creatures are the same, and it is not an object. In the west we focus on the objective and disregard the subjective or physical and mental – we view them as separate systems. In the east body/ mind are seen as an integrated system that includes the senses (hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, smelling), perceptions, thoughts, organs of actions (speaking, grasping, walking, excreting, procreating). The pure self (the unchanging self) is Atman, eternal and indestructible. How do we get to know this person?  We seek to understand it through self-study and pure awareness, the unified power underlying all things, our universal self – known as Brahman. Therefore, you might ask what the relationship between Atman and Brahman is. Upanishads say they are identical that the self at the core of existence, pure consciousness is the very ground of the universe itself – in the west we mistake this as “I Am God.” The world spun out of Brahman – the human soul is Brahman. (Easwaran, 2007)

 Sankhya Karika views the nature of self as spirit. Sankhya means the number or perfect knowledge, considered as a realistic theory, and represents the method. Yoga represents the application or the practical aspects. It looks at the nature of self as a dualistic Prakriti and Purusha. Prakriti is the first and ultimate cause of all gross and subtle objects. The non-self has the three gunas: Sattva (happiness, pure, light, brightness, and essence), Rajas (action, motion, objects, restlessness, pain, dust) and Tamas (ignorance, inaction, coarseness, negligence, indifference, insensitivity, darkness). Prakriti is not produced but has an inherent nature to create matter. Purusha is the material cause of Prakriti. Purusha is the supreme spirit (neither produced nor produces), it is the transcendental self non-attributive consciousness. A person or Purusha are unchangeable, inactive, conscious entities that gain something from contact with nature. (Miller, 2012)

The Yoga Sutra views the nature of self as the seer (1.3). Self-realization transcends the mind.  We experience pure consciousness. We are separate from the Prakriti (seen) and Purusha (seer).  Asmita is false identification.  We confuse the nature of the seer or self with the nature of perception. It is when we mistake the mind, body or senses for the real self. When we identify with parts of the self that change instead of the quiet place within us, that does not alter we are practicing Asmita. Who we are at our core is unchanging. Known as the seer or purusha who sees the world through the lens of the mind. The mind includes our thoughts, emotions, sensory input from our body and is the instrument of perception the seer uses to engage with the world around you. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            This concept is present in my life because I have experienced my body as a vehicle and my soul as a driver. When I had an accident, and my body did not work, I had to explore the consciousness as it spread through the body. As I laid in a hospital bed for months on end, I was given time to reflect on the respect for life, shared values, tolerance, patience, compassion for others. Who am I? What is my real identity? What is it that changes and what does not modify?  The nature of self-understood in the context of understanding health and disease by recognizing that when we identify too closely with the changeable aspects of our identity we create disease in our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies affecting the Anadamayakosha (bliss body). It affects our true self/purusa. It does not effect by our physical sensations, energetic fluctuations, mental and emotional upheavals or intuitive blockages. Meditation and Yoga nidra are tools that we can use to help balance this area.

The Bhagavad Gita lays out a four-path journey that we can follow toward self -realization.  The four paths are meditation (deeper states of awareness), knowledge (intellectual/ scriptural), action (practiced with total involvement and detachment from results) and devotion (divine in some form) (Satchidananda, 2005)

 Westerners do not seem to know the word Dharma, and it comes up very little in daily conversations. The Upanishads do not offer a single comprehensive system of thought, but they do provide a metaphysical scheme or principals such as samsara, karma, dharma, and moksha. Dharma is the truth, the universal principle of law, order and harmony, all those things and pure reality. You may see it written as right behavior or duty or social obligation or as a particular set of responsibilities performed tino the best of our abilities. There is no higher dharma than non-violence. (Easwaran, 2007)

 Samkhya Karika looks at Dharma as jiva, the individual soul influenced or functioning under an influence of dharma and Prakriti. They view dharma as a virtue. Virtue and vice are one of the eight pairs of disposition discussed. When we increase dharma we have sattva, however, we do not gain perfection and emancipation from practicing virtue or dharma. We gain a divine place in which to reside. (Bawra, 2012)

            If you do a quick google search, you might see dharma described as “that that upholds supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe”. The Yoga Sutra’s (4.29) talk about dharma as our duty, righteousness, and moral obligations.  Our world is woven together by countless interdependent strands that make up our universal whole. Dharma is the original cosmic order that sustains this web.  Therefore, we should do our part and know in our daily life and public life if the help we are seeking is the right kind of help or not. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            Dharma is the first word in the Bhagavad Gita (3.35) when they come upon “the field of dharma” worrying that war will lead to a violation of dharma and permanent residence in hell. One’s duties must be performed for our dharma and not neglect it in the name of dharma. We cannot keep it to ourselves. We must protect the principals of dharma. Dharma is the “law of the universe”, “social and religious rules”, and our “own individual mission or purpose”. We cannot escape our dharma; we must fulfill it. Dharma is grounded in the proper use, and we cannot throw caution to the wind.  If we provide for others with whom we live amongst, we must still be mindful of the effects of our actions on those around us. In other words, you cannot leave the loved ones you support to go to perform Svadharma. Your individual duty comes naturally for you, and you can start making steps toward finding a balance.  Dharma also implies benefits to others.  There is no personal desire behind it. Svadharma can change over the years, but it flows smoothly, one into the other even without your knowledge or planning new things to come. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            Dharma is present in my life right now in a big way. I had an unplanned change that rocked my world that made me pause and question everything in my life.  Was I in disharmony and how? I have spent the last year getting down to the root of my soul’s dharma, my duty dharma as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, business owner, and mentor. I have developed a dharma code that helps me stay grounded in and to focus my energy. Here is my dharma code: I play often! I live creatively! My life and work are full of love that moves people to heal; I am light in a dark world. I am centered, adventurous, and courageous, so the joy of Integrative Sustainable Movement can grow. I ask myself how my Dharma can benefit the most people. I often play with my spouse and friends. I tend to my creative side through painting, art journaling, blowing glass. I play in nature with my dog, meditate at the beach and walk in the woods. I have a Seva practice for my business and myself. In teaching others about yoga principals and concepts and learning corrective exercise through mind/body modalities, I am serving the community in which I live, giving it meaning and purpose beyond a selfish existence, and it nourishes my soul daily. Dharma applied in the context of understanding health and disease.  Dharma interpreted as by living in disharmony with your dharma, you are starting a chain reaction of disharmony feeding out from your family to community, nation and universe in the physical, spiritual and emotional bodies. There is so much unhappiness in the world I cannot help but wonder if we learned to use the word dharma in our daily conversations, would there be more peace. Our western nation defines success as doing things individually. Westerners need to understand the aspect of the dharma of self-expression as someone who is primarily on a spiritual journey and the following truth ethically. If we do our work in Dharma in agreement with our greater good, we will support our families, our professions, our communities, our nations and the entire universe peacefully. Dharma is in line with the Manomayakosha (mental/ emotional body).  Our thoughts, feelings, opinions, judgments, memories, reactions and psychological disorders are affected at this kosha level. We have tools of Mudra, Yoga nidra, mindful practice, and journaling to assist in healing.

            The path of yoga: Karma (way of action), Jnana (way of knowledge), and Bhakti (way of devotion) from the Upanishads perspective they introduce Karma yoga (actions, deeds, words) as a principal of cause and effect based on the measures. The Upanishads also talk about the importance of doing good deeds from the perspective of Karmic Law (past lives and freedom). Jnana yoga of knowledge is unyielding in the Upanishads. The yoga of the philosopher liberates us from impurities of human existences, namely egoism, desire-ridden actions and illusions we are different from the rest of the world. In the Upanishads, they discuss Bhakti yoga of devotion as personal theism and the doctrine of grace – personal god choices; however, it is stronger in the Bhagavad Gita than the Upanishads. (Easwaran, 2007)

            Karma (2:11, 3:5, and 4:19) is one of the three paths to realization. It is part of nature Prakriti and the most active way to lead a spiritual life. In the Bhagavad Gita, Karma seems to be a law that functions by itself with no external control. One struggles alone against its drive to attain better incarnations from one existence to the next. Dharma and Karma is a pair of forces in everyone’s (anyone’s) life. Dharma/Duty and Karma/Global is the nature of Prakriti, the way the three gunas influence one’s mind under the effect of past Karma. Think of past Karma or lives like a card game… you need sound cards dealt on the first hand to play well and win (ninety- nine percent good karma one percent skill). We can only perform actions in harmony with dharma. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            Jnana (2:39, 3:3, and 13:24) consists of the mind, the body, the atman or self. Purification of the body and the mind through self-discipline, acquiring a genuine awareness of the world around the supreme self beyond the knowledge of Sat (Truth) and Asat (falsehood),  practicing various disciplines and other techniques as a means to self-purification and elevation and elimination of thought process. The Bhagavad Gita is most concerned with one’s attitude when performing social duties. The purpose Jnana achieved liberation by realizing our true nature, overcoming our ignorance, and transcending our limited selves are usually sense dependent and bound by karma. The benefits of practicing Jnana are equanimity of mind through control of the senses, desires and mental discipline, detachment, impassion, and sacrifice. Knowledge obtained through the study of scripture, contemplation, intuition, service to God and teachers, divine grace, discussion, teaching, observation, and personal spiritual experience. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            Bhakti (12:1-12:20) is the path of goodwill and talked about in chapter twelve of the Bhagavad Gita as love.  Innocence and pure intentions are the most powerful forces in a devotee’s spiritual life. With universal love, chanting and devotion, we can with love in the heart see beyond faults and judgments that often muddy our views of relationships with others and ourselves. Relationships that have gone sour rescued by returning to it with love in the heart. The Bhagavad Gita is divided into three parts and proclaims that these three sections are the teachings of Jnana, Karma and Bhakti respectively.  (Satchidananda, 2005)

            From this perspective, the Sutra Karma (II-2, IV-7) is performing actions as selfless service without attachment to the results. There are three kinds of actions white (good, useful), black (bad, not useful) and mixed (shades of gray). Buddhi discriminates between these. Our actions stem from the root impressions of Samskaras.

            Jnana (I-48, IV-19) is the yoga of self-inquiry, path of knowledge, wisdom, and introspection, deep exploration of nature, exploring and setting aside false identities.  Bhakti (I-23, II-45) is the path of devotion, emotion, love, compassion, service to others/God and all actions performed in context to the divine. It is important we do not avoid or abandon others while on this path. (Satchidananda, 2005)

            The Samkhya Karika perspective of Jnana refers to Samkhya (the school of philosophy). Karma represents the teachings of Patanjali, and he followed Samkhya as the most important.  Bhakti symbolizes Vedanta teachings/Vedavyasa, and he followed Patanjali. All three of these are part of Vaidika Darsanas. The Samkhya philosophy has Purusa (consciousness) it does not mutate and is conscious.  Prakriti (matter) mutates and is inert. These two, Purusa and Prakriti, are synergy and union of two and found in humans, animals, plants and microscopic organisms. Conciseness brings life to matter while matter provides consciousness a medium to exist within and discover its potential. (Miller, 2012)

            Jnana is “to connect” with the difference between Purusa and Prakriti.  The union between matter and consciousness exists for two reasons Bhoga (enjoyment) and Apavarga (liberation). Bhoga represented material potential and construct of matter. Apavarga is spiritual evolution, the state of intuitive clarity. The door is open to which option we want to pursue and for either path or door to work, both bohoga and apavarga must be present. Therefore, no matter our path, karma is defined by our actions. Yoga went a step further from Samkhya, it introduced and insisted on the idea of a supreme principle – Isvara. Knowledge gained in Jnana expresses itself in daily actions in Karma and the practical aspects of Samkhya connect us to our actions.  Bhakti is connected through devotion to both schools of Samkhya and Patanjali and must come from a divine source. Individual consciousness also is known as Brahma (the journey of each is to integrate with this divine ocean of consciousness) it is every consciousness and the final destination. Serve this divine consciousness with love and devotion. (Miller, 2012)

            I like Dr. Kausthub Desikachar’s analogy: River separates itself from earth at its origin represents Samkhya or Jnana Yoga and talks about the distinctions between purusa and prakrti. River moves along its journey and encounters life through cities, mountains, valleys, and other exotic places represent the mirroring of Karma yoga or Patanjali’s integrating knowledge into actions of daily life. The river joins the ocean, merges into a giant body of water that connects all rivers around the world represents Vedanta or Bhakti yoga related to the divine and cradled by supreme consciousness.

            The path of yoga is present in my life, as it has helped me find a new level of health. Every year that I practice, my yoga looks different. However, I seem to have found a new degree of health that I did not know existed. My knowledge of my inner self grows, and it changes my actions towards myself first and then ripples out to other beings. Yoga has helped me discover my spirituality and a means in which to create harmony between my three bodies. It is not always comfortable, but it is always there for me without fail. The path of yoga concept can help us understand health and disease by helping us live a healthy lifestyle in all three bodies (physical, emotional and spiritual) for when we are in conflict with these bodies it causes sickness, pain, suffering, and violence. If we are living a lifestyle that is in harmony, we have good health. The Vijnanamaya Kosha (wisdom body) affects health our balance of wisdom, intuitive, experiences and truth. Again, we have tools such as Yoga nidra, chanting, and meditation to affect our wisdom body.

Causes of Suffering: Ego, Mind, Devolution (Buddhi, Ahamkara, Manas, Senses) when we identify too closely with the changeable aspects of our identity we create suffering. The Upanishads believe if the organs are used for selfish use suffering happens. If desires are the cause of selfish actions, then we are vulnerable to suffering as the same dualities of opposites cause pleasure and pain. Rising above both of these, a battle is fought in the mind and the body. The mind is the seat of all desire and intentions, therefore, the mind is the human battlefield. Karma founded in suffering as ignorance launches Karma into action that causes suffering. Suffering is part of an eternal cosmic cycle. (Easwaran, 2007)

The Bhagavad Gita (1:30, 2:7, 2:13, 4:21, and 4:34) looks at suffering as instability in the mind or defines mental instability as the chief cause of suffering. Mental instability is rooted in desire. Our outgoing nature and dependence on things are how we experience suffering from this state of duality. Suffering is what arises from our ignorance and desire riddled actions.

Freedom suffering lies in achieving freedom through self-restraint, mental stability, detachment, renunciation and absence of desires. The Bhagavad Gita looks at it in three ways: mistaken identity, attachment/involvements and lack of knowledge. Mistaken identity, death, decay, anxiety, fear… lord Krishna teaches that we are not mere body and mind but true self which is eternal. Attachments and involvements – Arjuna suffered because he developed an attachment to family, friends and relations. Our first attachments are to ourselves (what we are, what we have, what we think and do, our likes/dislikes, actions, and reactions, opinions and decisions, dreams and desires, fears and concerns, vices and greed, anger, selfishness, pride and envy). Lack of knowledge influenced through thoughts, beliefs, knowledge, desires and attitudes, which result in good/bad and leading to happiness/unhappiness and success/failure. When we do not have the right knowledge, we suffer from indecision, doubt, confusion, and rationalization.  Part of Arjuna’s egoistic thinking caused suffering. He believed in what he saw and could not think beyond it. We suffer due to lack of knowledge, identification with false selves, attachments to outside worlds and dependence upon senses for knowledge and activities. The Bhagavad Gita suggests through faith and devotion to God and by cultivating equanimity of mind through detachment, by practicing yoga and meditation, we will find that physical and mental discipline will free us from suffering. (Satchidananda, 2005)

The Sutra (1.5) Patanjali talks about the five causes of suffering. He defines them as ignorance of who we really are; egoism (the labels and titles in our life define who we are); attachment (our need to cling to what brings us pleasure); resistance of what we do not want/denial; fear of death (the safety nets we create on a physical and emotional level). He does not divide these into painful/or not as they are the same cause. (Satchidananda, 2005)

Samkhya views suffering as how much we get caught up in the pyscho-mental illusions of prakriti, rajas, and tamas. In the physical body and emotional body.  The proximity of the two great Samkhya systems (purusa-prakriti) postulates that there is a confusion of understanding in the human mind of what is conscious and what is not. The confusion leads to suffering. Samkhya propounds the quest for knowledge of the essential nature of purusa-prakriti and understanding the fundamental difference between the two is the means to have freedom from suffering. (Miller, 2012)

The causes of suffering are present in my life in a very tangible way. While I understand, I determine how much suffering I want to endure; I still struggle to let go. I struggle with the importance of life, the attachment to my loved ones, delusions, and ignorance to which I do not know yet, rajas and tamas influence my thinking, lack of holding strong boundaries and lack of faith in trusting my journey. The more I practice my yoga lifestyle, the more I can become the observer of my patterns and to clear the patterns that are not serving me.  The goal is for my subconscious to leave room for me to create new healthy patterns that serve my greater good.  The causes of suffering  understood in the context of understanding health and disease by shining light onto the root of the system that is out of balance.

Samskaras are patterns whether positive or negative (such as low self-esteem, self-destructive relationships, etc.). Samskaras comes from the Sanskrit sam “complete or joined” and Kara “action, cause or doing”. They are individual impressions, ideas, and actions.  Repeating them creates a groove and which are difficult to resist like fissures in our brain. Samskaras is universal and defines human beings. We are creators of habit – physically and emotionally. The Sutra 11.16 “Pain that has not yet come is avoidable.” I have seen anywhere from one to forty different Samskaras.  If we practice intention/Sankalpa, intensity/Tapas, slowing/Shani, awareness/Vidya, fearlessness/Abhaya, vision/Darshana, and practice/Abhyasa we can clear negative Samskaras. The Upanishads mention Samskaras as a means to grow and prosper in all four aspects of human desires Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Karma/Kama (work and pleasure) and Moksha (salvation).  (Easwaran, 2007) Samskaras imbedded in the subconscious mind; the neurons that fire together stay together. Neural pathways get stronger and so does our automatic responses in our mind and body creating prolonged suffering such as (anxiety, anger, depression, pain). Through Svadyaya ( a study of self), we can become aware of our cycles and develop Maitri-Karuna (love, kindness, and compassion). We can have the courage to strengthen and move in other directions. For when we change by making a conscious effort and reverse the patterns of Samskaras, we free ourselves from suffering.

The Sutra (1.2, 1.50, and 4.9-4.10) suggests that we can control Samskaras thoughts about truth, thoughts based on incorrect perception, thoughts which have no basis in reality (a wild imagination, dream/sleep state of the mind), and memories. The sutra includes cognitive behavior therapy, psychotherapy, mindfulness and compassion within it. (Satchidananda, 2005)

As the samkaras change, we change at the deepest level, changing our neuron net. The cycle of Karma is such: Action – (karma) > Impressions – imprint in subconscious (samskara) > Tendency – mental urges, desires, feelings (vasana) > Thought Pattern – attitudes mental disposition (vritti) > Action – seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, thinking (karma). Samskaras affect the Manomayakosha (mental/ emotional body) through our habitual patterns of thoughts and emotions.

I use, face and replace, mantra, chanting, transcendental meditation in the theta brainwave state to help me overcome negative samskaras. I use my Sankalpa practice, intentions, and tapas to be more mindful of staying in the present moment helping me to create positive samskaras.  Samskaras  understood in the context of understanding health and disease by moving through the Pranamayakosha.  This system feeds every organ and system in the body that is responsible for homeostasis. Samskaras can affect these subtle energy centers causing our organ and systems to create diseases in the emotional body.  There may be a feedback loop of “I am not enough” “I do not have a value” and this eventually shows up in the physical body through chronic tension and pain, postural deviations leading to muscle imbalances.

Kleshas are afflictions, mental factors that produce states of torment both immediately and in the long-term. The five main kleshas, which referred to as poisons are Attachment, Aversion, Ignorance, Pride, and Jealousy.  First, we must acknowledge the klesha is there. We do this through reflection promoting self-awareness, self-understanding and self-knowledge to uncover the klesha. The klesha can overcome through meditation, tapas and seeking wisdom to burn away the impurities of the mind ridding the klesha so we can see clearly and the reality of the world and true nature can be present.

In the Sutra (2.3-2.11, 11.3) it talks about Avidya/Ignorance – mistaking impermanent for permanent, Asmita/Ego “I am- ness” – the labels and judgments that we make, Raga/Attachment – to or desires, Dvesha/Aversion – new ground we are out of our comfort zone, Abhinivesha/ Clinging to live, fear and love of material life. The last four mentioned (ego, attachment, aversion, clinging to life) spring out of the first one mentioned (ignorance). All of our obstacles are tied to our fear and ignorance. (Satchidananda, 2005) The Samkhya talks about knowing the real nature of the universe and that our main afflictions we suffer with are ignorance, confusion, and misperceptions. (Miller, 2012)

The Kleshas are present in my life as I struggle with fear, depression and desires. These mental states muddy the mind and through my yoga practice, I have been able to cut down my talk therapy bills and clear my mind. The Kleshas are understood in the context of understanding health and disease by looking at the emotional root-cause in the subconscious brain. For example, Dr. Loyd has traced it back to three inhibitors (un-forgiveness, harmful actions, and unhealthy beliefs) and the nine virtues (love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, trust, humility, self-control, peace).  I appreciate Dr. Loyd’s work on The Healing Codes.  He has traced disease states back to an emotional root causes (this does not mean that we chuck our western medicine out the door). The Center for Disease Control estimates that 80% of all health care dollars are spent on illness related to stress.  Dr. Loyd suggests that we ask the question “What stress is causing this problem and how can I eliminate it?” The healing codes help heal the body by removing the stress from the body through the neuro-immune system. It is a mudra, transcendental meditation technique held in various parts of the body (third eye chakra, temple, throat chakra and jaw). In knowing our root causes of suffering and the virtues we struggle with we can create healing through self-awareness.

References

Bawra, B. V. (2012). Samkhya Karika with Gaudapadacarya Bhasya. USA: Brahmrishi Yoga Publications.

 

Easwaran, E. (2007). The Upanishads (2nd ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press.

 

Miller, B. S. (2004). The Bhagavad-Gita Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

 

Miller, R. (2012). The Sankhya Karika: A New Translation.

 

Satchidananda, S. S. (2005). The Living Gita: The Complete Bhagavad Gita: A commentary for modern readers (6th ed.). Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications.

 

Satachidananda, S. (2005). Sadhana Pada Portion on Practice. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (11th ed., pp. 131-151). Buckingham, Virginia: Integral Yoga Publications.

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Yogic Principles

What does it mean to incorporate more saucha, santosha, and svadhyaya in a client’s life? How can niyamas (specifically these three mentioned above) affect chronic pain?  Chronic pain is driven less by tissue damage and more by sleep, mood, thoughts, and emotions. Chronic pain diseases interact with their nervous system, immune system, and endocrine system.  Learn how the principals of the niyamas (also known as observances/ moral commitments) help clients relate to their inner self, the private ritual regarding self-care and how they can apply to those living with chronic pain. Learn how saucha, santosha and svadhyaya interact with the disease mechanisms/ pathways and the connections between physical, mental, emotional and social health. Find out how yoga therapists apply the niyamas with their clients. It is a journey, not a process; they check off their list. Taking it one-step at a time and proceeding with compassion (versus worrying about perfection) is needed while the client learns to dance on their edge of pain and comfort.

Saucha/ Sauca (Yoga Sutra 2:40-41) is purity and at the root concerned with keeping different energies distinct and maintaining the sanctity of the energy around us (Satchidananda, 2005). Using the perspective that there are shattered pieces of themselves, what seems like broken pieces are, what make them whole – they are a soupy mess of transformation called growth.  When faced with a chronic disease and rushing to doctor’s appointment… and subsequently rushed diagnoses in allopathic medicine the client leaves feeling fragmented as their body is talked about objectively in pieces. Practicing saucha they can un-fragment and start to see themselves as a whole. As a yoga therapist, using practices like pranayama and chanting Om (Aum) can help unify their head and heart, bringing them into the present moment. Breathing into intense discomfort at times dissipates the pain. Having a pranayama and chanting practice can bring the body into deep relaxation, relieving tension, tightness, reducing mental noise, agitation, and self-doubt.

Clients loved ones mean well; and while the customer is the ones sitting in the room facing the disease head-on, health care providers and loved ones do not see “them” anymore. They, like others, are approaching the experience with a cluttered mind scattered with thoughts. Clients leave their healthcare appointments with even more scattered thoughts than when they came. Taking a moment to practice pranayama at the end of a meeting can bring closure.   Before the appointment, it can bring clarity to the mind resulting in improved communication during the doctor’s appointment. Taking time to slow down is hard especially in our society where hurrying, multitasking and busyness are often viewed as success symbols.   They are killers of saucha (purity). When they can use pranayama to cleanse themselves, there may be a visceral reaction a feeling of being lighter, having more space and mental expansiveness. The side effects of practicing saucha are feelings of being more alive; their mind is clearer, and the heart is more compassionate (Adele, 2009).

Through pranayama, an inner cleanliness can help with being healthy (Deiskachar, 1995). The external cleanliness of the body and internal cleanliness of pure food digested removes impurities of mind such as arrogance, conceit, and malice (Keller, 2015). Sattvic food is light, fresh and nourishing.  Items such as grains, seeds, fruit, vegetables and dairy food promote health (Fields, 2001).

Santosa/ Santosha (Yoga Sutra 2:42) is being content with what they have already attained and wanting what they already have, accepting what is and making the best out of everything (Satchidananda, 2005).  Approach it from the perspective of; they are responsible for their disturbances.  Waves of emotional disturbance such as being upset, hurt, left out, not appreciated, put upon and mourning the past could be considered giving their emotional state away to someone or something outside themselves.  This is their loss of control and contentment.  The verbal explosion and ruminating are a waste of useful energy, silence, withdrawal, confiding in someone can be helpful.  At the time of diagnoses of a disease, using their energy to heal is very important. The toll is high when they are facing disease and at times have tunnel vision their health and well-being are affected, they have emotional and physical pain, misunderstanding and sloppy work. When they are upset and replaying negative events, they are the ones disturbing the flow of life, not the noise and storms in their lives. They keep themselves out of contentment because emotional disturbance can be traced back to them (Adele, 2009).

As a yoga therapist, using journaling and tracking times that clients are not in pain is a useful tool. Journaling what activity they are doing at that time as well as keeping a gratitude journal can help build more santosha (contentment) in their lives. Accept what has happened with the new diagnoses versus dwelling on the past.  Learn during the process and do not attach results with their actions.  Save them disappointment and despair as they navigate the new waters of living with chronic pain (Desikachar, 1995). Journaling can help uncover pain patterns and triggers that increase episodes of pain as well as patterns that bring them great joy and decrease pain. In learning these patterns, it allows for a better understanding of self and improved communication with health care providers. As a yoga therapist clients respond well when focusing on the patterns that bring joy and decrease pain. Journaling does not always have to be about a health record or pain; it can be about happiness, creativity, feelings, and needs. Journaling helps in the healing from stresses and traumas.  It has been linked to boosting the immune function in chronically ill patients (Murry, 2002).  Twenty minutes a day of pen and paper can be cathartic for the writer (Baikie, 2005). Santosha is the absence of desire beyond what is immediately necessary to maintain one’s life.  They feel that what they have been enough (Keller, 2015). The lack of greed results in calmness and serenity regardless of external and internal circumstances and working toward preventing mental disturbances (Fields, 2001).

Svadhyaya (Sutra 2:44) is the study of one’s self through careful observation (Satchidananda, 2005). If they think of self-study from the perspective of “being the witness.”  There is power in becoming the observer of themselves and learning how their belief system works. Can the need for fixing themselves, while controlling to keep things the same, be changed? Can they witness their reactions and respond with choice?  A yoga therapist might suggest to the client to observe their thoughts, feelings and emotional disturbances looking for clues about their matrix of belief systems. What are the stories they are telling themselves? Can they watch the ego rather than identify with it? Listening brings healing.  Beginning to know their self as something different than who they thought they gave them the opportunity to know their true self.  Understanding how they create their reality marks progress in their growth. Be curious to a beginner’s mind stepping outside their boxes and becoming free (Adele, 2009).

As a yoga therapist, using transcendental meditation ( technique, based on ancient Hindu writings and founded by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, by which one seeks to achieve a relaxed state through regular periods of meditation during which a mantra repeated) to help the client build svadhaya or self-study. Transcendental meditation can help support the autonomic nervous system, neuroendocrine axis, cardiovascular and immune systems and well as supporting the physiology state and function through changing life conditions reducing stress (David Lynch Foundation, 2016). 

Yoga eventually influences all aspects of a person: mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Many layers in the yoga philosophy can support a client in approaches to relax, energize, remodel and strengthen body and psyche. As Swami Sri Kripalvanadji stated, “When you pick one petal from the garland of yamas and niyamas, the entire garland will follow.” These niyamas mentioned here can provide direction to participants for clients that are finding it difficult to focus their thoughts and calm their mind. As starting any new endeavor, it ‘s hard in the beginning, but if the client continues to grow and learn about the niyamas, they will bring new behavioral patterns and a deeper understanding of how to build these practices into their life, until one day you realize they have become part of their heart and mind.

 

 

 

 

References

Adele, D. (2009). The Yamas & Niyamas Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice (pp. 105-161). Duluth, Minnesota: On-Word Bound Books.

 

Baiklie, K., & Wihelm, K. (2005, August). Home | BJPsych Advances. Retrieved March 08, 2016, from http://apt.rcpsych.org/

 

David Lynch Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 08, 2016, from http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/

 

Desikachar, T. (1995). Living in the World. In The Heart of Yoga: Developing a personal practice (Rev. ed., pp. 101-102). Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International.

 

Fields, G. (2001). Value Theory and Ethics: Health and the Good in Yoga. In Religious Therapeutics: Body and Health in Yoga, Ayurveda and Tantra (pp. 109-111). Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.

 

Keller, D. (2015). Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras- The Niyamas: Inner Observances. In Heart of the Yogi: The Philosophical World of Hatha Yoga (pp. 145-146). Doyoga.com.

 

Murry, B. (2002, June). Writing to heal. Retrieved March 08, 2016, from http://www.apa.org/

 

Satachidananda, S. (2005). Sadhana Pada Portion on Practice. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (11th ed., pp. 131-151). Buckingham, Virginia: Integral Yoga Publications.

 

 

 

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Forgiveness Meditation Technique Personal Practice Journal

The meditations that I chose to use were: Jack Kornfield Forgiveness Meditation (Produced by sounds true practices, 7:30 minutes in length, I practiced this one on Monday and Wednesday) and The Beginners Guide to Forgiveness: How to Free your Heart and Awaken Compassion by Jack Kornfield (Produced by sounds true practices, 48 minutes long (but the meditation portion was about 29 minutes at the end) and I practiced this one on the other days of the week).  It was interesting because at first I could not even hear the words, as it was too painful; then slowly I started to hear certain words.

What I learned about myself is that it is easier for me to forgive others than to forgive myself. Jack’s words “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly or unknowingly. For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself; I forgive myself.” These words are very hard for me to embody at this moment in my life. I realized how much I am harming myself and have stuffed down over the years by not forgiving myself. I understand that I am in charge of how much suffering that I want to endure. I also know that I am suffering because of choices I have made. Since I have this belief system, ultimately, anything that has caused me suffering has been at my hand not someone else’s; therefore, I have struggled to forgive myself. I need to start to look at these choices as opportunities of growth, learn what I need to and move on.

The last four years I have worked on meditation using magnified healing with Kwan Yin, which has some of these benefits: heal past negative karma, compassion, forgiveness of others, align the spiritual centers, and explain the light channels and self-love. Kwan Yin is the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion and serves us much in the same way as Mother Mary.  This practice with Jack Kornfield leaves me wondering if I have not forgiven myself, have I forgiven others as I had thought. I have always believed when I forgive others that have harmed me through word, action, or deed I have given myself a gift. It does not mean that what they did was right or that they deserved the forgiveness it means that I acknowledge the hurt and let it go so that I suffered less. I know that I am ready to do this when I can sit down beside the person rather than wanting to sit across from the person. If I am having a hard time getting to this point and know that a new boundary needs to be set in the relationship, I write the person a letter telling them how I felt. What I needed, that I forgive them, and this is my new boundary that I respectively wish they follow moving forward.

A book that I like about forgiveness is Forgive for Good by Dr. Fred Luskin.  In his book, he talks about the HEAL method: H is for Hope, E is for Educate, A is for Affirm, and L is for Long-Term Commitments.  We need to forgive ourselves because it is a lot to carry in our body. Would we show up to the beach dressed in our snow-ski outfit? Not forgiving ourselves is the same thing. Recently during a reflective asana practice, it was suggested to me to start small with forgiving myself for little things so that I could learn how to forgive myself for big things. I am currently in a season of change with a broken heart that is so obvious to everyone around me that even my tongue tells a story of a broken heart in my body. The grief is so intense! Right now I feel like I am hanging by my fingertips straddling a great divide unable to let go to jump to the other side because I am not feeling supported in my basic survival needs (shelter, clothing, food, and transportation). Once I feel as though my basic survival needs are being met, then I will be able to foster support and let go. My current mantra is “When I allow universal love to help me I can let go and grow.”

I have a long way to go on a journey toward the forgiveness of me. I suppose along this journey I will come to redefine what it feels like to forgive someone else as well as myself. I will start small and build over time. I think Viktor Frankl‘s quote from his book Man’s Search for Meaning sums it up “Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.” As I rent less space in mind to the things that have caused me, harm through thought, word or deed and move on, I will be able to open my heart more.

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