Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chakra #2

My friend Meikka recently emailed me with a questions for strengthening her second chakra. I am no expert on the chakras, or the management of kundalini energy, but I thought it might be good for me to do a bit of research. You never know when the info might be useful.

As it turns out, the second chakra--located a few inches below the navel--is a pretty powerful one. Its color is orange (symbolic?) and its element is water. Its Sanskrit name is svadhisthana, meaning sweetness, and it is considered the "seat of life." This is the chakra that controls emotions and sexuality and is connected to all the liquids of bodily functions--reproductive, excretory, circulation. A field day for Freudians...

Since it is related to water and emotions, it is connected to change and the need to create balance. Too open and you are overly emotional and tend to have problems in your relationships, too closed and you are dull, lifeless and have no sex drive.

Meikka is extremely eruidite (and an accomplished horsewoman), and I suspect her second chakra weakness was more a sly reference to needing to strengthen the core and lower back; either way, poses that aid in balancing of Svadhisthana also work on the abs and back. Here are some possibilities:

Bhujangasana (Cobra)-Lie on the stomach with the hands at the shoulder. Lift the chest off the floor, while keeping the legs and hips pressed down. Use the palms on the ground as a support, but don’t push the chest up; let your back muscles do the lifting. Repeat, and this time you can use your hands to push the chest up and get a deeper stretch in the spine. Keep the hips pressed to the ground.

(Forward Bend) Sit on the floor, with your legs straight out in front of you. Wrap your belt around the balls of the fee
t and begin to pull yourself forward, leading with the belly button. You are now tipping the pelvis forward to lengthen the back of the legs. Don’t round your lower back and keep the side ribs lifted as you did in the previous pose. If it’s comfortable, release the spine and fold further over the legs.

na (Boat Pose) Sit with the knees bent and the hands behind the thighs at the knees. Lower the torso back to a 90-degree angle from the thighs. Keep the chest lifted and the neck long. Gently roll back onto your sitbones and balance with the shins parallel to the floor. Keeping the spine long, straighten the legs and, if you can keep your chest lifted, release the hands and straighten the arms with the palms down. Keep Breathing!

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) is one of my favorite relaxing hip openers. Sit on the floor in Bound Angle Pose (knees bent, soles of the feet touching), with several pillows or rolled blankets in reach. Make a large loop with your belt and place one end around your lower back and over your hip bones. Then slip the other end of the loop around the outside edge of the feet and tighten the belt so that the feet are pulled close to the body (as close as is comfortable). Then ease yourself back, first onto the elbows, and then to the floor. Place the pillows or blankets under the knees so you can relax your legs into the support of the pillows, while keeping the feet drawn towards the body. If it is uncomfortable to lie on the floor, keep yourself at an angle by leaning on a pillow or just rest your back against the wall.

So, some meager offerings from a novice...anybody else have any thoughts? (I realized I have no good pix in my archives...check out Yoga Journal for good descriptions and modifications for all these poses)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Too Old to Die

Chauffeuring children is chore of great contrasts--a constant drudgery and yet a source a great revelation. Conversations held over shoulders seem to provide a lot more information about offsprings' thoughts and concerns, more so than face to face. Eamonn (4.5 yr.) always has a ton of questions, some completely mundane--Are trucks too big for the carwash?--to very heavy--Where do you go when you die? So, coming up with answers always keeps me on my toes--How did my baby brother get in your tummy? (cough, cough, what? I can't hear're breaking up...)

Not too long ago, he asked, "Is Gram too old to die?" I paused, then answered that, unfortunately Gram was not too old to die, but that our memory of her would live on and on. (My mother later asked, "does he know something I don't?")

I've been thinking about that question, and my answer, in light of the passing of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga Yoga yesterday. It is a very sad time for his family and his followers, and a wistful time for everyone who practices a version of Krishnamacharya's yoga--whether via the teachings of Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar or T.K.V. Desikachar. The longevity of these great "gurujis" is both a testament to the power of the practice they represent to heal and keep the body healthy, but also the reminder of the temporality of the physical self.

That so many students and teachers have found strength and wisdom in their teachings, suggests that each of these mortal men are "too old to die." They have developed and passed on a practice that each yogi out there can refine and modify to suit their physical and mental needs and can make a part of their every living day. So many people have connected to this ancient practice and have learned from these teachers and their acolytes, that it suggests an unbroken chain (yoke?), unaffected by the coming and going of physical bodies.

And yet, even if the soul carries on in a new body, there is still a sense of loss of the old. We reflect and revere the cycle, but mourn the departure of some one truly loved. Eamonn has been asking a lot of questions about these beginnings and endings, and it's been a challenge to explain what I believe, while still leaving the door open for his own thoughts. Too Old to Die? Who knows, but I hope so...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mommy Time

Happy Day to all the mothers out there. I hope certain appreciative offspring gathered to thank you for everything you've done. Or made you something using a handprint or chocolate. Or a supportive relative removed said offspring from the room for another hour of sleep or coffee and the paper or, maybe, yoga.

What a long, strange trip it's been, so far. I've only been a mother for four and a half years, but I really can't imagine what life was like before these two little boys showed up and took over. It's got me thinking about time.

People keep telling me to cherish this time, that it will go so fast. And yet, to me it feels like forever. I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, but it truly seems like this chapter has been stretching on and on. Maybe it's the weird sleep patterns that have set in (waking at the tiniest peep or cough, scheduling everything around naps, a late night ending at 10:30) or major priority shifts (how to fill daytime hours--playground or home, timing shopping so I don't need to pack snacks or diapers, cocktails at 5:30). Being at the beck and call of wee ones is exhausting and inspiring and hilarious all at once, but it definitely doesn't seem like time is passing quickly.

I'm guessing when they head off to school (#1 son in kindergarten this fall!), things will start to speed up. When I don't have to be there every second and start to reclaim my old, adult activities, time will pass more quickly. And, while it will be nice to talk to grown-ups again, I'm not really in a rush for the boys to leave me, either.

So, Childhood/Guruhood continues for these guys and I keep learning new ways to practice non-attachment. To my own hobbies, to cute baby behaviors, to free time, to a clean kitchen floor. I'm not dead yet, so I must be stronger...

I will miss Boynton books, definitely (...they rock and rock and rock to sleep)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dodo bird Yoga

Aahh, the "yoga without chanting" article has been submitted and I'm finally catching up with my life. Despite the fact that I love writing--and love that some one will pay me to do it--I get very anxious trying to meet a deadline. The muse is fickle, that's for sure.

This article was inspired by an earlier post and all of your responses. It made me think that people might be interested in the idea of teaching a class without Ohms or mantras, and I wanted some hard facts about the benefits of such a class.

I interviewed Donal MacCoon, a researcher at Univ. of Wisconsin--Madison, whose research has focused on the effectiveness of Mindfulness. His study was influenced by earlier work done by Saul Rosenzweig in the 1930s. Rosenzweig wanted to see what it was about different psychotherapies that made them work. What he found was that it wasn't so much that a specific approach that was better than another, but that the therapist was well-versed in the cure and believed it worked. A patient would have positive results with any number of therapies, if s/he had a good therapist.

This seems to follow in studies of such mind-body practices as yoga, Mindfulness, and meditation. It doesn't matter so much how or what you practice, but that you are confident the method you choose will help you and you trust your teacher. If you have a dedicated Kundalini teacher, who has a beautiful chanting voice and you enjoy vocalization in class, the class will benefit you. If your teacher is a powerful Ashtanga teacher and you love the energy of Sun Salutes, the class will benefit you.

MacCoon suggested (although it hasn't been tested yet) that you could probably take a class of made-up poses and, if the teacher was articulate and engaging, the class would benefit you. I kinda love that--puts a big hole through the argument that one yoga is "better" than another.

So celebrate your training and teach what you love. Your students will reap the benefits of your enthusiasm and you can be confident that you are helping them. It's all good.

The Rosenzweig study is referred to as the Dodo bird conjecture, because he quoted Alice in Wonderland at the beginning of the paper. I think it's appropriate for this post, too:

"At last the Dodo said, 'Everybody has won, and all must receive prizes!"