Ayurveda Informed Yoga Therapy with Hansa Knox

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Using the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, yoga therapists are able to offer a unique and personalized experience for their clients. Today, Hansa Knox explains how she uses Ayurveda in her yoga therapy practice.

👉 What is Ayurveda Informed Yoga Therapy?

👉 How Hansa uses the wisdom of Ayurveda in her yoga therapy practice

👉 The scope of practice for an Ayurveda specialist and a Yoga Therapist

👉 Best ways to learn more about Ayurveda Informed Yoga Therapy

Today, we are diving right into this topic. If you desire to learn about an intro to Ayurveda or Yoga Therapy check out these links:

About Hansa:

Hansa Knox left the corporate world in 1988 and received her Yoga certification at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Incorporating her B.S. degree in Behavioral Science, Hansa has been able to develop a keen insight into the collaboration of the Body, Mind, and Spirit. She has studied and integrated diverse body oriented therapies including Kripalu Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Therapeutic Body work, Body Reading, Health Education, Homeopathy, and Ministry to facilitate Spirit connection. She is a Holistic Lifestyle Facilitator and her therapeutic work integrates Yoga Therapy and Massage.

She holds an advisory position for the International Association of Yoga Therapy and is a member and past president of both Yoga Alliance and Yoga Teachers of Colorado. She is on the Board and acts as the Executive Director for SANGA, an educational non-profit organization. 

Hansa is the Director of PranaYoga & Ayurveda Mandala in Denver. She is a VERY experienced teacher and leads programs in Advanced Yoga Teacher Training Modules and the Yoga Therapy Training.

Check out Hansa online: http://www.pyamandala.com

Key Takeaways

[00:15] About Hansa Knox

[01:32] What is Ayurveda and what is Yoga Therapy?

[03:14] Our 3 different constitutions – Vata, Pitta & Kapha

[04:47] Different diseases, mentalities and more for different dosa’s

[06:55] Allison’s personal & professional growth from learning about Ayurveda Informed Yoga Therapy with Hansa

[10:09] Different asana and meditation practices for each dosa

[12:41] The difference between an Ayurveda specialist and Ayurveda Informed Yoga Therapy

[13:41] Just listen to this- there’s too much good information here to type 🤩

[17:19] How to learn more about Ayurveda Informed Yoga Therapy

[22:06} Cold water- why you shouldn’t drink it

National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA)

Colorado Ayurveda Medical Association Conference

Upcoming Workshops at Prana Yoga and Ayurveda Mandala

9.14- Ayurvedic Tonics with Helgrid Randolph

10.19- Cooking for the Phases of Life with Ayurveda

Quotes from this episode

Our goal in Yoga therapy is to draw people back into their wholeness. We forget about our connection to spirit and the body starts calling. Ayurveda is important because it’s the body component, the anatomical body, that also gets out of whack. 

I think the greatest gift that yoga therapists can give is to say, “this has been awesome. Come back when you need me.” The less I see you, the more successful I probably was. 

Because it’s yoga therapy and Ayurveda, it’s about self-care and awareness.

Each Dosha has balancing asana practices, balancing pranayama practices, and balancing meditations.

When someone comes in for Ayurveda, I’m looking at your anatomical aspects and putting pieces together from there. Yoga, on the other hand, if we really look at the classical texts, it’s about our spiritual evolvement. So what we’re going to be looking at is where did you separate yourself from the spiritual connection to the higher self and then how did that begin to manifest in the body because that spiritual connection is going to manifest usually based on the Dosha. 

So now as a yoga therapist, I’m going to be looking at how the body transferred that information into the posture that it’s carrying. 

Ayurveda is going to show how it’s showing up in the body and yoga is going to say “here’s the story behind it.”

Yoga therapy is a way that opens the door for expanded self. 


Iyengar Yoga for Healing with Rick and Michelle Gindele

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Iyengar yoga is heavily based on alignment and form. Join us as we chat with Rick & Michelle Gindele of Santosha Yoga and hear their experience of Iyengar Yoga and its healing power. 

We are talking about these topics today:

👉 The Philosophy of Iyengar Yoga

👉 The importance of “proper alignment” for yoga teachers

👉 Rick’s recent experience of Iyengar Yoga’s healing benefits

👉 How to learn more or become a certified Iyengar yoga teacher

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado.

RSVP receive a reminder FB message: https://www.facebook.com/events/371137380168968/

About Michelle & Rick:

Michelle is the founder of Santosha Yoga and a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher (CIYT). She began practicing yoga in 1997 and started teaching in the Denver area in 2002. Michelle is very grateful for the opportunity to study the yoga sutras, yogic philosophy, meditation, and astrology for over fourteen years with her guru, GOSWAMI KRIYANANDA. Her primary yoga instructors include Craig Kurtz, Leslie Bradley, and many senior Iyengar Yoga teachers. Michelle’s compassionate and balanced teaching style incorporates principles of alignment, focused awareness, and mindfulness.

Rick a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT) started practicing yoga on his own in 1984 when he bought a used copy of Richard Hittleman’s Yoga 28 Day Exercise Plan in order to relieve chronic back pain. In 1988 he began taking Hatha Yoga classes as a way to bring balance back to his body from years of serious athletic training and outdoor pursuits. Since 2001, Rick has dedicated himself to the study and practice of yoga.

Check them out online http://santoshayogastudio.com

Key Takeaways

[00:16] Introducing Michelle & Rick

[01:40] What is Iyengar Yoga and the Philosophy behind it?

[05:39] What does “alignment based” mean in the Iyengar tradition? And where did Iyengar come up with alignment based yoga?

[15:58] Rick’s personal experience of the healing benefits of Iyengar Yoga

[19:34] What is the first step in becoming an Iyengar certified teacher?

Quotes from this episode:

BKS Iyengar’s quote about yoga – “I just try to get the physical body in line with the mental body, the mental body in line with the intellectual body and the intellectual body with the spiritual body and and so they’re all balanced. It’s just pure traditional yoga from our gurus, from Patanajali.”

“You can reach all the other limbs of yoga through the postures.”

“The point of holding the poses longer is so you can go deeper. It’s an inward journey so you can go deeper into your own body into those different layers and you know, get to the core of your existence. And so it’s all that self exploration that you go through with the help of the teacher of course.”

“Another purpose of proper alignment is so the Prana does move through the body, less restricted and therefore there’s more healing that will take place and all sorts of other things can take place too.”

“if you want to learn more about the alignment than go to an Iyengar class and learn from your own experience. Experience is your best teacher.”

unlocking the upanishads: 4 key lessons for yogis

these texts may be ancient, but they are a powerful source of inspiration for modern yogis

While the Vedas are considered the most sacred and treasured texts of India, it is the Upanishadsthat transferred the wisdom of the Vedas into practical and personal teachings.

The word ‘upanishad’ literally means “sitting down beside,” and the collection of Sanskrit texts known as the Upanishads are thought to be the direct teachings received at the foot of the ancient Indian sages. This illustrates the position of receiving wisdom and guidance humbly from a teacher or guru.

Continue to Read Full Article Below

YOGI TIMES

Ayurvedic Flu Remedy

Natural Remedies to Help Fight the Flu

Sarasvati Buhrman, Ph.D., Ayurvedic Medicine and Classical Yoga Therapy, 5757 Central Ave, Ste 210   Boulder, CO 80301 303 443 6923

As almost everyone is aware by now, this year’s flu shots have been less effective than they usually are in preventing the flu. This also means that for those who don’t usually take them, the “herd immunity” provided by those who do will not be in effect.

While the efficacy of herbs in treating various ailments continues to be favorably studied, and sometimes even results in the discovery of new properties that we traditional medicine practitioners were unaware of, these results rarely attract media coverage. (as an example, I have pasted below from PubMed the abstract from the 2000 clinical elderberry trial in Norway, one of the earliest elderberry-for-the-flu studies.) Thus communities without an active holistic health network are sometimes deprived of knowing about simple and safe remedies that could be of great benefit.

I have listed below remedies drawn from several natural health care traditions. While these should not be considered “cures,” they have been used effectively either to enhance prevention, or to reduce to the severity of the illness.  The following recommendations are not intended to be an exhaustive list, they are simply the ones with which I am most familiar.

Prevention:  The Chinese herb astragalus (contraindicated with blood thinners, immuno-supressant drugs, and serious autoimmune conditions) is popularly used to enhance the immune system. Lysine (an amino acid) appears to increase resistance to viral illnesses by strengthening the connective tissue, especially in the sinuses.  Both of these are intended to be taken during times when exposure risks are high. Both are available in veggie caps in health food stores.  In addition, coconut oil, which also has anti-viral properties, can be used Ayurvedically to rub inside the nose as an antidote to winter dryness.

Treatments:

  • • My favorite is black elderberry, long a European remedy. It is available in health food stores in liquid form as “elderberry extract” or “elderberry syrup.”  Dosage varies according to the strength of the preparation, usually 2 T. or less every 3-4 hours. (Do not eat the wild berries raw–they are not considered safe for consumption until properly prepared—in extract/syrup form the herb is considered very safe).  A clinical study done later than the one below reported that recovery time from the flu was reduced by approximately 50%.
  • • The Ayurvedic herb tulsi (“holy basil”) is traditionally used to treat respiratory infections, and is taken as a tea or a decoction. Teabags are available in health food stores (Om organics makes several tulsi  tea combinations in tea bags—my preferred combo for infectious illnesses is tulsi jasmine, (however jasmine is not recommended during pregnancy, and lots of tulsi may not be safe with blood thinners). Add a bit of honey, and drink frequently.
  • • Small amounts of the Ayurvedic herbs turmeric, licorice root, and garlic are also considered helpful adjuvants (caution for pregnancy)
  • • For students of Ayurveda,  influenza is described in one of our ancient texts as “vata-kapha jwar.”  Fasting using boiled water or boiled light herbal teas (eg. tulsi) is recommended, until the appetite returns.
  • • Although I have never personally used it, a colleague in California recommends the homeopathic remedy, Oscillococcinum.  She reports having used it during several late winter residential Yoga teacher trainings in which one or more participants had the flu.  Her experience is that it is quite effective in reducing symptoms and duration, but only if taken in the first day of illness.
  • Finally, and most importantly, if your symptoms are severe, please seek medical attention.

________________________________________________

Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.

Zakay-Rones Z1, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J.

Author information

Abstract

Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat influenza, colds and sinusitis, and has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and herpes simplex. We investigated the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. Sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 h or less were enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season of 1999-2000 in Norway. Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.

PMID: 15080016 DOI: 10.1177/147323000403200205

Thinking Twice: Our “Second” Brain

Most people are unaware that we have a “second” brain, located in our gut. Yet how many times have we heard the admonition, “Trust your gut?”

 

There is good reason for this. Known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), this second brain is part of the autonomic nervous system. ENS reacts to emotions, receives and sends impulses, and records experiences. It doesn’t have thoughts like our brains, yet the ENS can affect our moods and our thoughts.

 

Sheaths of neurons are embedded in the alimentary canal. They run some nine meters end-to-end from the esophagus to the anus. There are more neurons in the alimentary canal as part of the ENS than in the brain or the spinal cord. Wow! Who would have ever guessed?

 

Most of the ENS work is done in the digestive process, yet it has also been tied to abdominal epilepsy and abdominal migraines, and most recently, research as being one of the causes of autism.

 

Our center of gravity, the hara, lies just below the navel. We talk about “listening to our gut” and living our authenticity” from our core.

 

The good news is that the belly is an important center of energy and of consciousness. In yoga and in Buddhism, many of thedevas and icons have large bellies, thought to be full of prāna.

 

Since abdomen is a sacred space in our bodies, we would do well to stop being judgmental about how it appears and shift to respecting how it feels. Now that sounds good to me.

 

 

 

Arthritis Diet from Indra Devi

Indra Devi gave this diet to me during the Unity in Yoga’s Peace Conference in Jerusalem January, 1995. Mataji Indra Devi is called the “mother of Yoga” as she was the first woman teacher in the western hemisphere. Currently 102 years young and quite healthy, she is living in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she has over 2000 weekly students at her 6 major centers. Mataji claimed that 90% of those people who followed this diet get relief from their symptoms within ten days.

For ten days eat a diet consisting only of 90% whole grain (brown or basmati) rice and 10% of any type of cooked squash. Cook one cup of rice for two cups of water. Every spoonful of rice is to be chewed at least 50 times until only a watery gruel remains in the mouth. Every two hours between meals have a relaxing non-caffeine tea. During the diet consume no other foods – no coffee, sugar or condiments. Drink as much water as you can.

Be prepared for your body’s release of toxins that are the cause of the arthritis. This may take the form of headaches, body pains, constipation, moodiness, irritability, etc. Practice being present to yourself and do not medicate yourself to avoid your feelings with addictive substances – sugar, caffeine, food cravings – nor avoid your true feelings by watching excessive TV or seeking other sensory stimulation. Take plenty of water and herbal teas. You might consult an herbalist or take a Bach flower remedy (see me for a personal formula) to assist with the emotional or mental difficulties that may arise.

If there is pain from the arthritis symptoms, take a raw potato and slice it to the size of the painful area. Lay the flesh of the potato against the painful site and tie it there with gauze. Let it stay until the potato becomes hard then replace it with another. This can be done during the day though it is especially good for overnight use.

If there is inflammation, apply a milk compress (a small towel soaked in milk) at room temperature. For fever apply a vinegar and water compress on the shin and calf area down to the foot. Wrap your lower legs fully to retain the moisture then lay in a warm bed and within four hours the fever will be gone.

If you become constipated take an enema or one tablespoon of castor oil just prior to bed.

Following this an anti-pitta regimen (to lessen heat and inflammation) is recommended for your regular routine – eliminate all night shades (potato, tomato, eggplant, bell pepper, and tobacco) and spicy foods. This will help you to identify the most likely aggravating foods and activities. More details can be found in Ayurvedic Healing by David Frawley or other Ayurvedic books.

Asanas, Koshas & Elements: An Essential Relationship: by Mark Giubarelli

“The five elements and Koshas are essential to your proper understanding of this art. You cannot understand balance of harmony if you do not perceive all these layers and elements.” That is what my teachers told me in my earlier years. Many thousands of classes down the road and the clarification has come. Not only has the clarity come, but with it is the ability to give a clear presentation of these theories and concepts to people, even those with no understanding of yoga.
It is complicated to write about these matters and how they are viewed in the yoga postures. So I will just touch upon them. The elements start with the heaviest: earth–skin, bone, and flesh;water—fluids in the body; fire–mental charge that is applied to the body; Air–the air in the body; Space–viewed by my teachers as mental presence. The Five Bodies (Koshas) starting with the heaviest: Anatomical Body; Physiological Body; Psychological Body; Intellectual Body; Blissful Body.

It is necessary to consider each body; otherwise it is almost impossible to reach a blissful state in not only the Yoga posture being performed but also on the sequence and transitioning from posture to posture. We can think of the five bodies like this while in a posture. How is the bone structure? Can I push any further? What effect does this have on my nervous system and mind? How does this posture affect my breathing? Is there that state of lightness in the pose where I am engulfed in light and that light is engulfed in me…where I am no longer inside or out…where I am one with the light that is all around me?
I hope you can attend this presentation talking first about the theories above and then applying those theories to a Yoga Sequence. (Note: Sanskrit left out.)

Mark has taught thousands of classes in the Denver Area, specializing in Vinyasa style, the art of sequencing. He is originally from Scotland, where he began the study of Yoga that eventually carried him to further studies in California and a teaching life in Colorado.

The Yoga of Freedom by Roseanna Frechette

From the time we enter our first hatha yoga class, we are told that yoga means union. But it is the way in which we experience yogic practices that gives personal truth to this meaning. If, through pranic breath and asana practice, the mind becomes clear as the physical body relaxes and opens, we may connect with our inner truth and the presence of spirit. As we find ourselves progressively on the yoga path, embracing an array of time-tested practices, we may begin to identify the underlying value of these practices, the reason for having yoga in our lives. We may begin to understand what Patanjali, yogic sage and author of the Yoga Sutras, identifies as the goal of our practice. We may experience freedom. Or not.
Somewhere in my experience as a teacher of yoga, I have understood that the yoga of freedom lies in my willingness to continually open the door for my students’ independent experience of the practice we share. Thus I become a steward of freedom. But what exactly is freedom? Webster says it is “the quality or state of being free,” with free meaning “to relieve or rid of what restrains, confines, restricts, or embarrasses” also “not subject to the control or domination of another.” In his book Freedom and Destiny, author Rollo May points out that: “Freedom is the possibility of development, of enhancement of one’s life; or the possibility of withdrawing, shutting oneself up, denying and stultifying one’s growth.” May implies that freedom includes choice.
As teachers of yoga, we are in a position to exert power and control over others in such a way as to impart our subjective experience of yoga on those others. We are also in a position to lead others through a series of shared moments in such a way as to encourage those others to find their own personal meaning for the freedom that lies at the heart of this practice. We are in a position to ride that fine line between tyranny and freedom, the line between having students submit to our will or discover the truth of their own. The subtle differences that comprise this line are, in my opinion, very important.
For instance, I can always tell when I’m teaching too much. I begin noticing a change in my attitude and language. When this happens, I begin to sense that I am telling my students what to do more and leading them into making independent choices less. If not careful, my teaching agenda can become a prescribed practice that forgets the individual. To be fair, we must have structure, some sort of boundary we can recognize and bump up against in order to measure our freedom. Our job as teachers of hatha yoga is one of creating a sturdy framework for our students’ practice. How we do that is worth noticing.
I consider myself blessed to have learned early on that asana practice is meant to be a form of meditation in which we can find personal equilibrium, personal equanimity. It is meant to be, as Mukunda Stiles states in his interpretation of Patanjali’s Sutras, “…steady and comfortable…” I believe that by offering our students choices, we can more surely facilitate their experience of steady comfort. I also take Webster’s words re: restriction, confinement and embarrassment to heart when striving to honor the goal of freedom. Some teaching techniques I favor include:

  • giving students step-by-step instructions that invite them to find their uniqueness and the right place for them to be in a pose, often encouraging them to move towards a place rather than all the way to a place (a favorite cue being “as best you can”);
  • taking long reflective moments of still time in between times of action;
  • giving students full permission to do something different than what I am doing if what I am doing is not okay for them;
  • being playful and offering creative movement as a way of self-exploration and release;
  • allowing for moments of spontaneity within the class structure;
  • using occasional cues that specifically honor free will such as: “you may choose to…” “if you will….” or, another favorite, “if this challenges you, you may stay here;”
  • reminding students now and then that this is their practice, not mine, and inviting them to take care of themselves throughout; AND
  • to “stay tuned in” for their own needs and awareness within the practice.

By inviting our students’ willingness to explore who they truly are rather than who they are expected to be in this practice we also invite their experience of freedom. In his freedom discourse, Rollo May asks: “Have we not too easily and readily seized upon freedom as our birthright and forgotten that each of us must rediscover it for ourselves?” As translated in Barbara Stoler Miller’s Yoga: Discipline of Freedom, Patanjali tells us “Freedom is…the power of consciousness in a state of true identity.” Let us remember the power we have, as teachers of hatha yoga, to offer our students such freedom. Or not.

Roseanna Frechette is Founder & Director of Inner City Yoga in Denver where she teaches all populations and trains instructors. Creator of the audiocassette “Refreshing Hatha Yoga” and www.yogabtyes.com, her writings have appeared in various publications including Yoga Journal. Roseanna is V.P., Programs, for Yoga Teachers of Colorado as of January 2001. This article was written out of a presentation Roseanna has previously made to YTOC.

Practicing More Than Asana

Today there are many teachers who excel at teaching wonderful asana classes.

There is more to Yoga than asana. If one explores the Ashtanga Path as defined by Pantanjali in the Yoga Sutras or the Hatha Yoga path as outlined by Svatmarama in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, asana is only one aspect of Yoga. The classical texts include even more techniques.

A basic listing of techniques includes: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi, shat karma, mudra, bandha, drsti, mantra, multiple forms of meditation and ayurvedic attunement to practice.

You may be familiar with many of the practices. How many techniques do you practice? Practice is the door to real understanding.

How many techniques do you integrate into your classes? Granted, it is difficult to “lead” dharana, dhyana and samadhi in a yoga class, as these are the inner experience of Yoga. Class does create the safety and the space for students to experience these levels of union. The other methodologies listed facilitate the opportunity for students to find and explore the meditative practices fully.

It is important to start with an understanding of yoga and need for practices. Yoga is union. It is the quieting the mind. It is action in inaction. To do this effectively, we must maintain our prana instead of continually allowing ojas (a particular yogic form of reserves) to escape by releasing energy through the nine gates (eyes, ears, mouth, nose, anus and uretha) or by spreading ourselves so thin in a multitude of activities we have no way to sustain inner stamina or ojas.

Many of the techniques are about containing and channeling prana and sustaining ojas. The practices are about opening the channels in our body so the prana can flow in our body fluidly. As you practice your own sadhana, notice if you are doing practices to contain and sustain prana or if your practices allow prana to escape.

In this months’ YTOC newsletter, I will define the practices. If there is interest, I will be glad to continue to contribute articles exploring the techniques in an experiential format. The methods are listed the following in alphabetical order as I feel each is equally important.

Asana practices can be done as a stretch or with an internal awareness. Asana can be done with gross muscles or an inner attention to the intrinsic muscles. Asana can be done with containing energy or throwing energy away. Which factors do you consider when practicing asana?

Ayurveda is not really a practice. It is the sister science of Yoga which addresses our health, balance of life and lifestyle. We can do asana, pranayama and other techniques, which do not support our inner balance. For example, too many fire breaths or warming asanas are not good if you are already a fiery person. Understanding and integrating ayurveda knowledge will allow you to develop a balanced flow to enhance your life.

Bandha means “lock”. The major purpose of bandha is to lock energy into a specific region of the body, stimulating the vayu or prana. There are three major locks that are emphasized in the Hatha Yoga writings. They are the mula bandha ” root lock”, jalandhara bandha “throat lock”, and uddiyana bandha “stomach lock”. The locks are used to contain the prana in the subtle bodies. They can be used in pranayama practice or in asana to hold in or lock energy into a specific area for focus, for healing, creating agni and channeling kundalini to the sushumna if the vayus are balanced and the nadis are open.

Drsti is gazing at various points of the body, which changes the energy flow. The most common gazing areas are the chakras or the lingham. Lower gazes root into the earth. Mid body drsti is normally on the heart and creates a calming cooling effect. Third eye gazes can be warming and invigorating as well as deep penetrating energy. Explore a pose such as Paschimottanasana with your gaze at the root chakra and then the ajna chakra. How does it feel?

Mantra is the use of vibrational sound. In the context of the Vedic tradition, essence comes first and sound represents an essence. We therefore, chant sounds that stimulate or awaken aspects of physical, emotional or spiritual body when we use mantra. Mantras are energy based and often have no “translation.” Mantras are chakra based, representing the petals of the chakras. Mantra energizes prana and can be likened to purifying fire. Mantras quiet the mind Mantra can be chanted externally or internally. Do you do dhun, bhajan or vedic chanting with you practice?

Meditation is more than setting and stopping the mind. It is an unfolding process to quiet the mind, a practice that for some is simple, others very difficult. Therefore, in the yoga world there are many styles of meditation to accommodate different types of persons, whether you are more audio, visual or kinesthetic. (These parallel vata, pitta and kapha.) Examples of meditation include: chanting, mantra, japa, nada, ratak, Sambhavi, jyotir, pranayama, inner visualization, subtle body focus, Vipassana, metta. Are you doing a meditative practice, which supports your dosha and feels effortless?

Mudra have two forms both which are used to channel energy in the body. The classical mudras are asana practice with the energy contained by bandhas and channeled with drsti. In more recent years we have developed hand mudras. Each finger has a different energy, planet, organ, part of the body etc. which it effects when touched. Various angles of the hand impact a nadi. By aligning the hands in different positions with the fingers touching, energy is channeled. For example, we can change the breath from the right lung to the left lung, upper lobe to lower lobe just be the position of the hands and fingers!

Pranayama practices can heat the body, cool the body, stimulate or balance different doshas, calm us down or excite the body. We can do breathing practices or pranayama. Breathing practices allow us to strengthen our breath. Pranayama increases life force and sustains prana in the body. Pranayama should not deplete our energy. Do you use pranayama in a way to augment your practice and lifestyle?

Pratyahara is commonly defined as the withdrawal of senses. Have you ever been so engrossed in a book you became oblivious to movement around you — pratyahara. As a yogic technique, we do it as an inward focus rather than through external concentration. Bringing our senses inward, or pratyahara, is the first step of meditation; we can practice pratyahara doing asana by attending to the inner sensations rather then the external alignment and detail.

Shat Karmas or Kriyas are the practices of cleansing the body. Energy cannot flow through the body channels if they are clogged physically. The basic shat karma practices are an internal cleansing of the dhatu’s (tissues) and srotas (body channels). The practices include: neti (nasal cleansing), dhauti (cleansing of the body through washing and vomiting), vasti (enema), trataka (candle gazing), nauli (intestinal wash) and kapalabhati (a breath for “skull shining”).

Yama and niyama are, in my humble opinion, the two most important steps in a yoga practice, and the ones most often forgotten. If we are not living right livelihood, containing our energy appropriately, being distracted by our actions in the world, etc., we will be restless. Our mental time will be spent evaluating and examining ours and others actions. Yoga practice really begins with conscious thought to Yama and Niyama. (Note: there was an article on the Yama and Niyama two issues past.) I find students enjoy the inclusion of different aspects and techniques of yoga. More important is for me to enjoy, benefit and understand the practice. Once I “get” the practice, the inclusion in class comes from my personal experience, not a surface or book knowledge of the technique. Try them . . . you may enjoy the results.

This article was first published in 2010 by Hansa Knox and is still relevant today.

Yoga Beyond the Mat: Yamas and Niyamas

Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras start with saying, “Now, the study of yoga. ” Does that just translate as today, in the moment the yoga teachings are relevant? I feel he wrote “Now” for a more auspicious reason.

In the older traditions, a student went to a teacher to study yoga. The teacher had the student do seva (serving in the household), studying and learning the basic practices of right life. As an example, a friend of mine, Indukanta was studying flute in India. Her teacher often has students play one note for a year before he teaches them the next note! Some students of yoga practiced for years, purifying, cleansing and preparing themselves before they were allowed the privilege of, “Now, the study of yoga.,, Today, some begin asana without even a consciousness of the “living everyday life” practices. Yoga has become a tool for the manipulation of the body. Historically, it was a tool to support our gross life into living earthly life as a Spiritual Being. It is never too late to begin integrating the yogic practices into life transforming moments. The practices are summarized by Pantajali in the second Sutra, as Yama and Niyama.

The yama consist of Ahimsa – non-violence, Satya – truthfulness, Asteya – non-stealing, Aparigraha – non-desire and Brahmacharya – moderation. Niyama include the qualities of- Saucha – purification, Santosha – contentment, Tapas – discipline, Svadyaya – self study and Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to God.

Sounds pretty basic. Let’s look again. Take an inventory of the following questions.

Ahimsa – non -violence. Did you hurt anyone today? Did you possibly say something that hurt someone’s feelings? Did you sit silent instead of responding to a question? Is the subtle violence any less violating than overt violence?

Satya – truthfulness. Did you tell a white lie to protect someone’s feelings? Did you put on a pretense, afraid to let someone know who you really are? Do you know the edge of when speaking is better than silence?

Asteya – non-stealing. Do you feel jealous of the belongings of others? Do you show up for appointments on time? Do you honor time boundaries in your life? Do you want more than you have? Do you desire … ?

Aparigraha – non-possessiveness. Aparigraha is not about owning possessions it is about the attitude towards belongings. Is there an area in your life you experience greed? Are you willing to let go possessions — physical, emotional, spiritual? Can you expand to the point of witnessing ownership?

Brahmacharya – moderation. Do you moderate all sense pleasures — eating, drinking, sleeping, dress, connection with others? Have you dropped your compulsion to seek pleasures? Can you find pleasure in the simplicity of Spirit?

Saucha – purification. Are you physically clean, neat and eat a pure diet? Are you in the process of purifying your emotions? Do you associate with company that supports a healthy mental diet? Do you include practices allowing you to be established in your “bliss” body?

Santosha – contentment. Santosha is not about being apathetic, it is living life with a passion, content and full each moment. Do you have gratitude for all you have? Do you learn and appreciate even the unpleasant experiences? Can you let go of preferences and receive life as it presents itself?

Tapas – discipline, being in the transformational fire. Do you keep your commitments, to yourself and to others? Can you disciple yourself to honor a healthy lifestyle, physically, mentally, emotionally and Spiritually? Does your breathing slow down, allowing you to breathe life, moment by moment? Have you found your self- creative consciousness?

Svadyaya – self study . Do you study the scriptures and apply them as analogy for living? Do you use your asana practice as insights for how you live your daily life? Can you be in objective self observation? Do you live in a balance with life energy?

Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to God. Do you love God/Self? Are you willing to allow daily activities to be love manifest? Are you willing to dwell on the Beloved? Do ever feel absorbed in the Beloved?

These precepts are not unknown in other traditions. The Ten Commandments and the Ten Virtues from the Buddhist tradition represent the same concepts. We all must learn that more important than flexibility of the body, flexibility of Spirit reigns. Do you live a life of loving kindness? Do you practice living Yama and Niyama?

Consider exploring the yama and niyama. Choose one a week for the next ten weeks. Daily focus, practice and reflect on the yama or niyama. See how the practice and awareness will make a difference — first within yourself and then watch it overflow into your relationship with others.

Namasté

This article was first published in 2009 by Hansa Knox and is still relevant today.