I Don’t Know What to Believe – My Purpose

For me staying on my purpose was and is a process. I used Rod Stryker’s book the four desires to build my soul dharma code. As I did this process, I included my therapist to guide me; they served as an impartial guide to the process.

Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means custom or my purpose it has been spoken since the 1800’s and picked up in popularity in from the 50’s and on. We each hold many dharmas’s. We have dharmas as daughters, wives, friends, mothers, business owners, aunts and so on. We also were each born with a dharma which is our soul dharma that we are here to fulfill you may even think of it as your legacy that you may leave behind.

All the problems we experience during daily life originate in ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practice Dharma.” –Anonymous

When we live our dharma, it is a method for improving the quality of our human life. The quality of life depends not upon external things or material attachments but the inner development of peace, self, and happiness. Without discovering your inner peace outer peace is impossible. The key is to always work on the self. I had a client tell me a story that when we point the finger at someone else in judgment remember that there are always three fingers pointing back at you. If we first establish peace within our mind, body and spirit outer peace will come naturally. If we do not do our work on our self-growth than world peace will never come no matter how many people campaign for it.

You have a purpose in life and unique gift that is special and needed in our world. Are you living it? When was the last time that you gave it some thought? I have turned my soul dharma code into a piece of art, and I look at it often especially when I have a decision weighing on my mind. I read my soul dharma code, and then I ask which option will help the most people.

Here is a tip to start today:

  • Make a list of your unique talents. Then create another column on the ways you love to express your unique talents in service of humanity.
  • Ask yourself each morning- How can I serve humanity with love? How can I help?
  • Sent an intention- to lovingly nurture your soul dharma. Pay attention to that quietest voice within you as you awaken to your stillness of the heart vs. the thinking mind only. I will carry the consciousness of my heart in the midst of this time-bound intellectual experience.

Kim’s Soul Dharma Code:

I live creatively! I play often! My life and work are filled with 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.

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Chronic Pelvic Pain Evidence Informed Protocol

Abstract

Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS) is pain in the area below the belly button and between the hips lasting six months or longer. Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome can be its own condition or symptom of another disease. CPPS is a complicated situation requiring a combination approach to healing. Treatment is symptomatic abortive therapy to reduce acute exacerbations. There is currently little research on yoga therapy and chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Overall research on chronic pelvic pain syndrome appears to be lacking rigger. Chronic pelvic pain syndrome is a problem for health care providers because it is misunderstood and poorly managed. CPPS has an unclear etiology, complex natural history and poor response to treatment plans of care. Arnold Kegel, in 1950 was the first author to talk about PFM (Pelvic Floor Muscles) and have been recommended for some time. In 1963 Jones suggested that anatomic characteristics could influence the performance of PFM. In 1984 the introduction of biofeedback provided confirmation of the use of Kegel exercise in changing PFM function. In the 1990’s randomized control trials began related to PFM training. CPPS is a public health problem for women throughout the developed world.

Introduction

One in seven women suffer from CPPS outpatient visits in the United States for Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS) is estimated at $881.5 million per year for women between the ages of eighteen to fifty (Mathias, 1996).  Similar to other chronic pain conditions CPPS may lead to prolonged suffering and a lifetime of therapies while affecting their personal and professional relationships and leading to loss of employment or disability. To optimally manage this condition a variety of health care professionals are needed. A CPPS patient may see a gynecologist, gastroenterologist, urogynecologist, physiatrist, and a physical therapist. It is suggested that the patient and their family be educated on the multifactorial approach to chronic pain. Patients should avoid stressful situations and poor posture. It is suggested that exercise, good sleep hygiene, balanced meals, biofeedback and relaxation techniques may be beneficial to CPPS (Singh, 2015).

The Literature Review

Having a good working relationship between the clinician and patient is a necessity due to the compounding nature of CPPS. A treatment plan should be tailored to the individual with a goal to reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life. While managing the pain using a contemporary approach of both psychological and physical therapy is needed, if a particular cause is found treating this condition as well. The complexity of the pelvis and the anatomical proximity of pelvic visceral means that symptoms frequently overlap traditional medical specialties, leading to diagnostic delay (Vincent, 2008).  Inadequate treatment happens to twenty-five percent of women and often after three to four years they still do not have a diagnosis. During this time these women saw a forty-five percent productivity reduction at work.  CPPS can present anywhere along a spectrum of organ-specific to regional to systematic pain (Vincent, 2008).

CPPS pain symptoms can range from mild to annoying to severe where the patient is missing work, cannot sleep and cannot exercise. Standing for extended periods of time may intensify symptoms; symptoms may be relieved by lying down. Some symptoms that may accompany CPPS are severe and cover a broad range of constant pain, intermittent pain, dull aching pain, sharp pains or cramping, pressure or heaviness deep in the pelvis, pain during intercourse, pain while having a bowel movement or urinating, pain when you sit for extended periods of time.  There is no gold standard diagnostic test for CPPS; it is a diagnosis of exclusion (Sherkhane, 2013). Causes for this condition are complex as there may not be one single cause but many amongst a wide range of conditions including reproductive, GI, urologic and neuromuscular disorders. Diagnosis for CPPS is usually a process of elimination. A detailed past health history, family history, journal of pain and symptoms, pelvic exam, lab tests (infection, blood count cells and UTI), ultrasound, x-rays, CT scans, musculoskeletal (piriformis syndrome, dysfunction of obturator muscle or fascial, herniated disc, dysfunction of psoas or flexion abduction and external rotation)  and MRI’s (Neis, 2009).  What women want out of a CPPS consultation is personal care, to be understood, to be taken seriously, explanation and reassurance (Vincent, 2008).

The pharmacology of CPPS generally starts with pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. It is common to prescribe hormone treatment (birth control) and/or antibiotics (tizanidine) and/or antidepressants (doxepin, desipramine, protriptyline, buspirone).  Other therapies prescribed are physical therapy (stretching, massage, relaxation techniques, TENS-transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), Neurostimulation (spinal cord stimulation), trigger point injections, psychotherapy (working on root cause cognitive behavioral therapy), biofeedback, acupuncture, meditation and deep breathing. If surgery is an option the most popular surgeries used are laparoscopy and hysterectomy. Other surgery procedures may be presacral neurectomy (superior hypogastric plexus excision), paracervical denervation (laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation) and uterovaginal ganglion excision (inferior hypogastric plexus excision) (Singh, 2015).  Tizanidine is not a conventional method; the theory is that it may provide improved inhibitory function in the central nervous system. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft are commonly prescribed to CPPS patients (Singh, 2015).

Pelvic floor muscle (PFM) function is a group of muscles and connective tissue that extends as a sling across the base of the pelvis (medical dictionary). It is comprised of two layers, the superficial perineal muscles and the deep pelvic diaphragm providing support for the pelvic organs, the bladder and elements of the spine.  Stiff muscle fibers have a decreased ability to generate power. Overactive pelvic floor muscle (OPFM), experience muscular weakness and early time-to-fatigue. PFM have a higher percentage of slow fibers to maintain its tone and contraction, except during voiding.  Alternative methods, such as Pilates and Yoga may be an effective tool to improve the strength of the body core musculature (Marques, 2010).

Comorbidities for CPPS are depression. The association between abuse, psychological morbidity, pathology, and CPPS are sufficiently consistent and suggest that they may well be causally related (Latthe, 2006).  CPPS is challenging treatment strategies most successfully if they are undertaken in a broader scope of an integrated care model (Engeler, 2013).

 

Pancamaya Model

Yoga therapy can be used as a self-treatment tool for CPPS.

Annamaya Kosha- Muscle guarding is a sign of a tight pelvic floor and is a maladaptive self-protection process that leads to injury and increased pain. Nerve pain leads to muscle atrophy which may cause less blood flow. The diaphragm works in coordination with the pelvic floor. Think of the autonomic nervous system as yin and yang. The sympathetic nervous system is our flight, fight, and freeze pain is overactive here as our run from the bear chemicals is in overdrive.  The parasympathetic nervous system is our rest, and digest and our chill out chemicals are working. Vigorous yoga with lots of sun salutations and lunging is not a good fit for CPPS. A treatment plan using gentle and restorative yoga, while using language on letting go,  and allowing the nervous system to relax is more efficient.

Pranamaya Kosha- Three part breath and letting go breath, works well with this condition. Shallow breathing deprives organs, and muscles of oxygen and is a common trait in those suffering from chronic pain thus the yoga therapist can guide the patient into conscious pranayama. There is a decrease in Apana vayu energy along with chakras one, two and three. Focusing on expelling exhalation and what is not needed, grounding and cleansing to support the need for becoming calm and rooted.

Manomaya Kosha- Starting with tamas which is a dull mind that is hiding awareness, fear interprets experience and hinders self-inquiry and bringing chakras one and two into balance (imbalance, disorder, anxiety, inactive). Rajas will eventually happen as anger, anxiety, frustration, aggression, and boredom seep in as you balance chakra three.  Grounding meditation while working on survival, emotions/suppression, and breaking powerlessness. Managing the emotions can be done through meditation, chanting, mudra, journaling and so on.

Vijinanamaya Kosha- Discussing ahimsa “do no harm” teaching the patient to not push to discomfort because they will gain more by listening to the boundaries their body is telling them. Learning to parent ourselves through listening to the body and mind with kindness. Ishwara Pranidhana is letting go of control and practicing humility so looking at your yoga practice not as what it can do for you but approaching it as a practice in the spirit of an offering. This niyama is a way for us to listen to our minds and to dissolve the endless agitations that may live there.  Swadhyaya letting go of blame and practicing curiosity this can be looked as self-study that uncovers our strengths. It can also be a way to ruthlessly reveal our weakness such as habit patterns and negative tendencies. While this may be uncomfortable work the grace of it is locating the soft spot and not beating ourselves up for what we perceived as a fatal flaw. Learning to welcome and accept our limitations as we do this we get close enough to ourselves to see the roots of our anger, impatience, and self-loathing and instead meet it with compassion for the conditions that molded the behaviors and beliefs in the first place. Aparigraha is letting go of expectation and practicing letting go or flowing with whatever comes our way it is a way for us to practice letting go of some of the physical, emotional and mental baggage that we amass during our journey. We let go it opens up our energy so that something new can come allowing us to grow. It is cleaning out the clutter physically and emotionally, forgiving ourselves and others, observing nature enabling it to teach us to flow along the journey and to learn about our breathtaking it on and off the mat.

Anandamaya Kosha as you focus on security, self-nourishment and self-empowerment then fear and anxiety are released, inner nourishment increases and clarity arises. Sensations of comfort and bliss can stem from the pelvis while radiance unfolds naturally. An inner peace and harmony are obtained.

Yoga has been found to be effective in reducing pain intensity and improving function; however, studies do not mention the sampling methods used (Sutar, 2016).

Evidence Informed Protocol

A yoga therapist can help by addressing a four process treatment plan creating awareness, releasing and relaxing the PFM, engaging PFM, and using the chakras and koshas (Prosko, 2016).  First address security and survival, then self-nourishment and desire, finally self-empowerment and assertiveness. Poses such as knees to chest, twists, pigeon, child’s, supine butterfly, happy baby, third world squat are a few asana to start.  First teach the client about the bones, muscles, and joints of the pelvis. Creates a foundation on which to build further concepts off and gives us a working language for the workshop. The pelvic floor is the antagonist of breathing muscles and helps with breathing coordination.  Two pubic symphysis joints (PSJ,) note this is not a real joint; it is a fibrous cartilage that doesn’t allow for much movement, two sacroiliac articulations (SA)-real joints between the pelvis and sacrum, the fifth joint is between the sacrum and coccyx. Coccyx can move forward and back and which affects the tension in the pelvic floor muscles. Then move into creating flexibility for the pelvic floor. Many pelvises are tight, so first, we will talk about flexibility. A gripped muscle doesn’t allow strength to take hold which is why flexibility is next. Some asana may be the cow-face pose, pigeon pose, cobbler’s pose, supine pigeon, supported bridge. Develop strength to hold the organs in, to create power to build a strong core. Some asana may be Mountain with a block, chair pose, bridge pose, one-legged bridge, warrior 1,2,3, triangle pose, goddess pose, cat/cow, crescent lunge. Putting it all together and creating a visual picture and felt a sense as a way to embrace the relevance of the pelvic floor.

Discussion

Even though research is scarce for CPPS, it is important that every female who presents to a health professional with pain at whatever age be taken seriously. Validating the experience, managing chronic pain, managing musculoskeletal and psychological secondary consequences must be maintained and is best done within a multidisciplinary setting, will reduce the burden of chronic pelvic pain in women. Chronic pelvic pain is a common disabling condition that has been poorly studied. There is uncertainty about the causes and best treatment (Latthe, 2006). Studies designed with long-term follow-up would be useful in establishing yoga-based intervention as a treatment modality for functional pain disorders.  Soothing pitta imbalances and centering vata imbalances is critical while cultivating a sense of comfort and inner nourishment is an effective antidote for issues of codependency and compulsive behaviors.

 References

Engeler DS, et al. The 2013 EAU Guidelines on Chronic Pelvic Pain: Is Management of Chronic Pelvic Pain a Habit, a Philosophy, or a Science? 10 Years of Development. Eur Urol (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ j.eururo.2013.04.035

Janssen, E. B., Rijkers, A. C., Hoppenbrouwers, K., Meuleman, C., & D’hooghe, T. M. (2013). Prevalence of endometriosis diagnosed by laparoscopy in adolescents with dysmenorrhea or chronic pelvic pain: a systematic review. Human Reproduction Update, 19(5), 570-582. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt016

Latthe, P. (2006). Factors predisposing women to chronic pelvic pain: systematic review. Bmj,332(7544), 749-755. doi:10.1136/bmj.38748.697465.55

Marques, A., Stothers, L., & Macnab, A. (2010). The status of pelvic floor muscle training for women. Canadian Urological Association Journal,4(6), 419-424. doi:10.5489/cuaj.963

Mathias SD, Kuppermann M, Liberman RF, et al. Chronic pelvic pain: prevalence, healthrelatedquality of life, and economic correlates. Obstet Gynecol. 1996 Mar. 87(3):3217.[Medline].

 

Neis KJ, Neis F. Chronic pelvic pain: cause, diagnosis and therapy from a gynaecologist’s and

an endoscopist’s point of view. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2009 Nov. 25(11):75761.

[Medline].

 

Perineal muscles | definition of perineal muscles by … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/perineal+muscles

Prosko, S. (n.d.). Optimizing Pelvic Floor Health Through Yoga Therapy. Yoga Therapy TodayWinter(2016), 32-48.

Sherkhane, N. R., & Gupta, S. (2013). Ayurvedic Treatment For chronic prostatitis Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome: a Randomized Controlled Study. International Journal of Ayurveda and Allied Science,2(3), 52-57. Retrieved March 1, 2017.

Singh, M. K., MD. (2015, January 13). Chronic Pelvic Pain in Women. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/258334-overview#a6

Sutar, R., Yadav, S., & Desai, G. (2016). Yoga intervention and functional pain syndromes: a selective review. International Review of Psychiatry,28(3), 316-322. doi:10.1080/09540261.2016.1191448

Vincent, K. (2009). Chronic pelvic pain in women. Postgraduate Medical Journal,85, 24-29.   doi:10.1136/pgmj.2008.073494

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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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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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