Monday, September 30, 2013

Standing Asanas

Standing postures are the most fundamental class of all asanas because they create the foundation for your practice by laying the groundwork for the more advanced postures. They help you increase power, strength, and stability on the legs. In addition, they aid in proper digestion, circulation, mobility, and spatial awareness. During a series of standing postures the heart and lung actively detox the blood. Following standing postures, the nervous system is better insulated, therefore leaving you feeling refreshed, attentive, and settled.

Standing asanas strengthen the leg-muscles and joints, and increase the suppleness and strength of the spine. Owing to their rotational and flexing movements, the spinal muscles and inter-vertebral joints are kept mobile and well-aligned. The arteries of the legs are stretched, increasing the blood supply to the lower limbs, and preventing thrombosis in the calf muscles. These asanas also tone the cardio-vascular system. The lateral wall of the heart is fully stretched, increasing the supply of fresh blood to the heart.

Standing poses have elements of all the other poses; you can bend forward, back, and to the side. You can twist, balance, and even go upside down. As stretched out postures, they utilize large muscles, warm the body at the start of your practice and also develop stamina. Standing postures demand involvement from the whole body. 

While they make you stronger and more flexible, they have an integrating force. Just as in life, without a steady foundation in these postures, you will never be able to extend to reach your maximum. Standing poses teach you about firm grounding, and only from there can you radiate outward, blossoming to reach your full potential.

"An asana is not a posture which you assume mechanically. It involves thought, at the end of which a balance is achieved between movement and resistance."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Smile :)

I love when you look at someone with a smile on your face, and they break into a smile back at you, not because they know why you’re smiling, but because you’re happy, and that’s enough to make them happy.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Love Liberates

"I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn't just hold—that's ego. Love liberates. It doesn't bind. Love says, 'I love you. I love you if you're in China. I love you if you're across town. I love you if you're in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I'd like to have your arms around me. I'd like to hear your voice in my ear. But that's not possible now, so I love you. Go.'" — Dr. Maya Angelou

Friday, September 27, 2013

Are you right or left brain dominant?

Our brains have a right and a left hemisphere. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and the left hemisphere the right side. The left hemisphere is associated with logical, sequential thinking, for language. On the other hand, the right hemisphere is involved with taking an overall view. Artistic abilities, spatial orientation and recognition, are the domain of the right hemispheric influence. 

Left hemisphere is about words, analytic categories and the right hemisphere is about pictures, associated with emotional, interpersonal and spatial realms. Left hemisphere seems to be more oriented towards happy thoughts, optimism and the right towards pessimism, reaction, and hostility. Negative emotions are processed in the inner right hemisphere in the front part of the brain. The left side represents our head and the right side our heart.

“I am the right brain.  I am creativity, a free spirit.  I am passion. Yearning, sensuality.  I am the sound of roaring laughter.  I am taste, the feeling of sand beneath bare feet.  I am movement. I am vivid colour, the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art, poetry.  I sense.  I feel.  I am everything I wanted to be.”

The right hemisphere gives us a more direct sense of the whole body, our emotions and the pictures of our experience. Nonverbal signals are created and perceived by the right side of the brain. It is more active during the first years of life. Later as the left hemisphere becomes more active words become more important. 

There are cyclical phases of growth and development in the right and left hemispheres through childhood and adolescence. The right side is sensitive to the subtle cues of language, facial expression, to body language; as a result one can observe the difference between what someone says and what they may really mean. The right side is more process oriented, taking into consideration the larger picture. The right side sees the overall content in things. It is also what makes us feel connected to the universe, as being part of the big picture.

“I am the left brain.  I am a scientist, a mathematician.  I love the familiar.  I categorize.  I am accurate, linear, analytical.  Strategic, practical, I am always in control.  A master of words and language.  Realistic, I calculate equations and play with numbers.  Order, logic.  I know exactly who I am.”

The left side is the intellectual, motivating and driving part of our mind. It represents our individualistic side.  Conventional education focuses on factual knowledge and problem solving, which is the domain of the left hemisphere. 

While the two hemispheres complement each other and work together when we interact with others, sometimes one side is more dominant than the other and represents two aspects of our personality, different set of values. Normally we engage both hemispheres, each in its own way, and each complimenting the other. It is in our interest to keep a healthy balance between the different types of influences that the two hemispheres exert on our mind, our motivations and perspectives in life.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Twisting Poses

Traditional yoga wisdom teaches us that twisting poses play a vital role in maintaining the health of our bodies and minds. The twisting motion is important because it incorporates so many central points of the body. Yoga twists require the work of the abdominal muscles, oblique muscles, spine, neck, shoulders and pelvis. Each twist improves the strength and flexibility in all of these areas.

There are physiological benefits to the circulatory system and internal organs, structural benefits to the musculoskeletal system, and focusing benefits to your consciousness.

Indian yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar describes twists as a "squeeze-and-soak" action: The organs are compressed during a twist, pushing out blood filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. When we release the twist, fresh blood flows in, carrying oxygen and the building blocks for tissue healing. So from the physiological standpoint, twists stimulate circulation and have a cleansing and refreshing effect on the torso organs and associated glands.

Days spent sitting at an office desk or in a car causes connective tissues, muscles, tendons and ligaments to shorten, limiting joint mobility. Twisting can help regain flexibility in the spine, as well as in the hips, shoulders and abdomen. Twisting also stretches the muscles in the back, helping to relieve tension and pain.

Yoga twists involve the spine, as well as several major joints, including the hips and shoulders. In fact, full range of motion in spinal rotation is essential to many yoga poses. Unfortunately, many people lose full spinal rotation in the course of living a sedentary lifestyle. Some losses can occur if joints fuse due to trauma, surgery, or arthritis, but most range of motion loss comes from the shortening of soft tissues. If you don't lengthen the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia (connective tissues) to their full length at least a few times a week, they will gradually shorten and limit the nearby joint's mobility. In the case of twisting, the limitation is usually in soft tissues around the spine, abdomen, rib cage, and hips. If you regularly practice yoga twists, there are some clear benefits to these same joints and soft tissues. Not only do you maintain the normal length and resilience of the soft tissues, but you also help to maintain the health of the discs and facet joints (the small pair of joints on the back of the spine where each two vertebrae overlap).

To maintain or restore the normal spinal rotation, it is recommended that you practice a simple spinal twist once or twice a day. (Note: If you have a spinal disc injury, consult your health-care provider before practicing twists of any kind.) A variation of the twist Bharadvajasana (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Bharadvaja) done sitting on a chair is an excellent option because it is so easy to integrate into everyday life.

A flexible spine can help you to go deeper in many foundational yoga poses. Poses that aren't traditionally thought of as twists, such as Revolved Triangle Pose, Side Angle Pose and Half Moon Pose, require strong rotation in the torso as the chest is opened and expanded. Increased strength and flexibility in the obliques from twisting can also help yogis tackle more advanced poses such as Eight-Angle Pose and Side Crane Pose.

For those with spinal impairments, such as a slipped disc, yoga twists should only be attempted under the guidance of a professional. Check with a professional if you are pregnant, or experiencing a peptic ulcer or a hernia. Twists are rendered ineffective if the spine is not elongated properly. The twist should start from the lower back and raise up the spine. The neck should be the last part of the spine to twist, as the neck is the most flexible part of the spine.

Tips for Performing Yoga Twists:

- Twisting motions are more difficult for some than others. Only twist as much as feels comfortable to you. If you perform twisting 
yoga poses on a regular basis, you will gradually be able to increase your range of motion and the depth of your twists.

- It's important to bring focus to each yoga twist. Before you begin a twist, use your core 
muscles to center your pelvis and hips. This provides a stable base to balance the spine. Keep your shoulders comfortably back and your posture upright. This is the ideal way to start a twist.

- Begin a twist by slowly inhaling and lengthening your spine. This is important for protecting the spine during the twist. Begin to twist as you exhale slowly, starting from your pelvis and twisting upwards to the neck. With each breath in, gently lengthen your spine further. Picture the spine stretching upward. With each breath out, gently twist a little deeper into the movement. Again, it is important to never twist beyond comfort.

- When you are finished with your twists, lie still on your back for several minutes to allow the 
benefits to sink in. Allow your muscles to relax. It's the ideal way to end a rejuvenating session of yoga.

- Those who have herniated spinal discs and those at risk of herniating discs should stick with seated twists, as standing twists could cause further damage in these cases.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rainbow In The Clouds

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded."-   Maya Angelou

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

Everything in LIFE is temporary.
So if things are going good, enjoy it 
because it won’t last forever.
And if things are going bad, don’t worry.
It can’t last forever either.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Alternative Healing

Medicine and the way we treat sickness is changing. The future has come or maybe it’s the past. Spirituality has met science and has become our new advancement for medicine. It’s the best of both worlds.

The concept promoted by these new alternative therapies are to replace the drug use its side effects and our dependency on pharmacy. Instead of pain killers it may be acupuncture, instead of getting a minor operation it’s a need to balance energies.

The concept behind all this is simple, there is an intelligence that pervades the universe, when we become unaligned with it we become sick. Claims from new age practitioners are that our health problems are a result of misalignment of the latent natural energy within. To have perfect health, emotional spiritual as well as physical this energy must be aligned with various techniques that are unknown to general practitioners but used by those who have trained in new alternative ways to heal. We need to treat not only the body but the mind and essentially the Spirit.

Alternative Healing may be defined as any method of healing that varies from traditional Western Medicine practices. Many of the healing techniques that are accepted and effective in other countries have not yet been adopted in the Western countries.

This atmosphere is changing, however, as a growing number of Western doctors are starting to realize that some of their patients are healing faster and more effectively when they do utilize these other methods. Many people are now educating themselves as to the variety of healing methods that are available to them and are combining the best of both worlds.

Alternative medicine exists in all cultures to some degree and terms such as traditional medicine, indigenous medicine or folk medicine etc. are used to describe such practices. These medicines date back hundred or even thousands of years depending on the country and culture concerned.

There are more than 100 systems of alternative medicines still in practice all over the world.  Every country, region or area has its own traditional system of health and medical cares such as for the Chinese it is acupuncture; for the French, magnetic healing; for the English, Herbalism; for India, Ayurveda with Siddha being widely practice in the southern part of the country; for Japan, Shiatsu etc.

The most popular forms of alternative medicine are Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Yoga, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Kinesiology, Iridology, Reflexology, Massage, Chiropractic care, Magneto therapy, Shiatsu, Herbalism, Meditation, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Chromo therapy, Diet therapy, Hydropathy and Reiki.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Act of Love

“The only way of full knowledge lies in the act of love; this act, transcends thought, it transcends words. It is the daring plunge into the experience of union. To love somebody is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.” – Eric Fromm, The Art of Loving

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just Do Right

“See, you don’t have to think about doing the right thing if you are for the right thing then you’ll do it without thinking.” ― Maya Angelou

Friday, September 20, 2013


The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga by Tim Feldmann

Our yoga practice can give rise to difficult emotions, causing unnecessary confusion in our lives. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras offer a surprising context to help us understand this phenonoma.

It seems there is a growing frustration in our contemporary yoga community as the popularity of this ancient Indian practice reaches new frontiers in our part of the world. Recently I have had several students approach me with a particular question about the presence of strong negative emotions in their practice and their lives. Sometimes the practice of yoga triggers deeply seeded behavioral pattern and brings them to the surface. For example, you sometimes find that when you practice yoga you may actually feel increasingly more aggravated than before. When you leave yoga class you may even find yourself barking at the people closest to you, such as your children, co-workers and loved ones. When you practice you may even find that the irritation increases and you might be wondering what is wrong with you and your practice if it takes you to this "un-yogic" place. But have faith, this is exactly what the practice is meant to do.

During my time teaching yoga I have often witnessed new students coming into the practice with the intention and expectation of finding relief from their inner turmoil. Somewhere along the line they have gotten the idea that yoga can make our inner turmoil vanish, perhaps even that the purpose of yoga is to make the turmoil immediately dissipate. If you believe that yoga is meant to take you quickly down the road to inner peace, the experience of anger and other difficult emotions are naturally of great concern. I find myself in the situation quite often where I have to explain a student that there is a misunderstanding about the true intention of the yoga practice and the response varies from disbelief to disappointment. Some students have responded with statements such as "how can you say that yoga is not designed to make my suffering disappear?". Yet it is not so!

Yoga is here to bring us closer to reality, closer to what is really going on inside and outside of ourselves. Yoga aims at bringing light towards what really is and to find the courage to see clearly and the peace to accept whatever arises without the necessity to remove or change it. If grief is there, if anger is there or if pride is there our yoga practice is sure to slowly strip away the layers of subconscious veils in a time and fashion appropriate to what we can handle. Methodically, like a surgeon's scalpel we uncover years of psychological armor, escapism and denial and by doing so we slowly reclaim a life beyond it all.

Even though we rarely like to admit it, we are all the kind of person who runs away from our fears, deny our anger and block out our selfishness only to justify the whole story to your own advantage. Me too. We are like this not because we are mean, bad or unworthy, but because this behavioral pattern is one of our most common tools towards dealing with the impact of life. And it is not making us a bad human being - it is simply making us a human being. In the ancient Asian spiritual traditions this was a clearly stated fact, but for most of us contemporary Westerners this concept is a bit out of our comfort zone.

The Six Enemies towards spiritual evolution, known in Sanskrit as 'Ari Chat Varga', are identified in the classic yogic school of thought. Knowledge of them is a fundamental and inseparable part of the yoga journey. They will be part of our nature no matter how many yoga classes we attend in this life. Kama (Desire), Krodha (Anger), Lobha (Greed), Moha (Pride) & Matsarya (Jealousy) are innate conditions within the human being which will always be present, always take us for an occasional ride and always stick their head up from time to time. The old Rishis, yogis and sages, realized all too well from their exclusive retreats from society that we consist of more than lotus pettles and warm wishes for our fellow man. We experience irritation, restlessness, sadness and anger on a regular basis. Sometimes the Six Enemies surface in straight forward ways such as 'why is my teacher giving him/her a new fun asana when I am clearly better and have practiced much longer and could rock that out!?' But they also appear in more subtle, subliminal ways like simply being grumpy and irritable, restless and eerie towards ourselves, life and everybody around us. If you are living life in its fullness the 'Six Enemies' will be triggered often. They tie into each other and always follow each other creating complex weaves of uncomfortable emotional constructions which we would rather be without. Yet they are universal and we can co-exist with them as long as we maintain a certain amount of ease and discipline in our lives which is where and why the yogic practices has found its authority in historic India as well as with the popularity in current Western society.

At the same time the classic school of yogic thought offers a way out of the misery of this troubled, emotional mess. Shri Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras states that the strength of The Six Enemies is inversely proportional to the practice of yoga and meditation, to our Darshana. The method towards dissipating these troublesome emotions which from time to time poisons our minds, is, yes our yoga practice itself! Confused? Did you get lost in a loop? Well, here is how it works:

When Patanjali talks about practicing yoga he means practicing the full 8-limbs of yoga: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. Asana practice has somewhat become widely accepted in the West as the method to obtain the yogic, sattvic qualities which promote a peaceful and happy life. Yet, where regular asana practice is certainly a key tool there is more to it than just that. The two first limbs, the Yamas and Niyamas - Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (thruthfullness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (refraining from sexual indulgence) & Aparigraha (detachment), as well as Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study towards self knowledge)& Isvarapranidhana (surrender to God/higher self) - accurately create a powerful navigational map which we can turn to in the face of our emerging Ari chat Vargas. The Yamas and Niyamas can helps us with this often overwhelming task. By picking up this map we have the opportunity to lay some distance to our inner 'bad breath' and focus on our new guiding light however far in the distance. The next step is finding a vessel to help us move through the darkness towards the light tower.

And this is where yoga's asana practice comes into the picture because the practice is the vessel. Yoga's asana practice gives us the opportunity to shed some of the layers which 'protect' us from feeling, seeing and perceiving what is really happening on the decks below, by cultivating awareness and sensitivity in body and mind, by submitting to a method grander than ourselves and by sticking to it. It is often also at precisely this moment we begin to feel that the practice is not working as it sparks a sea of negative emotions which we were previously not experiencing. It is here that we begin to doubt the good within ourselves and the good of the practice. It is here that self-deprecation peaks its head up and we want to drop out and return to our previous way of living. But that would obviously be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead Patanjali calls upon our courage and endurance, sometimes called 'the path of the spiritual warrior', to navigate through this icky, vulnerable and scary places along the path. If we are committed to a fuller and richer life, a more informed and wiser living, this is the only real path there is.

So, take a deep a breath and accept that you are carrying these negative emotions yourself. If you claim not to have them you probably have the most work to do! When heavy feelings arise nothing is wrong with you nor your practice. In fact your yoga practice is going the way it should be going. Simply recognize the profoundness of the moment and that now is your time to begin looking a little further, study with a little more dedication and explore the Yogic Darshana a little deeper. By doing so you can turn your troublesome experience into a true act of self exploration and reap the wisdom from such a personal exploration - and that is what the yoga practice is about, the knowledge and wisdom gained from direct and personal experience of living.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

King and Queen

Headstand and shoulder stand are referred to as the king and queen of all yoga asanas. Headstand is referred to as the king of all poses, while shoulder stand is referred to as queen of all poses. Headstand develops the masculine qualities of willpower, sharpness of the brain and clarity of thought, while shoulder stand develops the feminine qualities of patience and emotional stability. These two poses are opposites energetically. 

Headstand tends to heat the body and stimulate the nervous system and tones the neck muscles. Shoulder stand tends to cool or neutralize the body and sedate the nervous system while releasing the muscles of the neck and shoulders. In practice together, the logical sequence is to do headstand first, followed by shoulder stand either immediately after, or later in your practice session. Headstand can leave you feeling very stimulated, so once it’s done you really are committed to doing the other. Shoulder stand can be safely practiced on its own as it has the amazing ability to neutralize the nervous system.

Shoulder Stand

The importance of sarvangasana cannot be over-emphasized. "It is one of the greatest boons conferred on humanity by our ancient sages," Mr. Iyengar states. It is the "mother of asana," as a mother strives for harmony and happiness in the home, so this asana strives for the harmony and happiness of the human system. It is a cure-all for most common ailments.

There are several endocrine organs or ductless glands in the human system, which bathe in blood, absorb the nutrients from the blood and secrete hormones for the proper functioning of a balanced and well-developed body and brain. If the glands fail to function properly, the hormones are not produced as they should be and the body starts to deteriorate. Many asanas have a direct effect on the glands and help them function properly. Sarvangasana does this for the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which are located in the neck region, since due to the firm chinlock their blood supply is increased. This ample supply of blood increases their efficiency in maintaining the body and the brain in good balance. Further, since the body is inverted the venous blood flows to the heart by force of gravity, without any strain. Healthy blood is allowed to circulate around the neck and chest. As a result, people suffering from breathlessness, palpitation, asthma, bronchitis and throat ailments get relief. As the head remains firm in this inverted position, and the supply of the blood to it is regulated by the firm chinlock, the nerves are soothed and headaches disappear.

Continued practice of this asana eradicates common colds and other nasal disturbances. Due to the soothing effect of the pose on the nerves, those suffering from irritation, shortness of temper, nervous breakdown and insomnia are relieved. The change in gravitational pull on the body also affects the abdominal organs so that the bowels move freely and constipation is relieved. The asana is recommended for urinary disorders and uterine displacement, menstrual trouble, and hernia. It also helps to relieve epilepsy, low vitality and anemia. It activates the abdominal organs and relieves people suffering from stomach and intestinal ulcers and severe pain in the abdomen.

Shoulder stand strengthens the upper body, legs and abdomen, opens the chest, and stretches the neck, shoulders and upper back muscles. Helps to relieve varicose veins and drains used blood from the legs, pelvis and abdominal area. It is very soothing to the nervous system and therefore good to practice when one is tense, upset, nervous, irritated, fatigued, or when suffering from insomnia.

It is no over-statement to say that if a person regularly practices sarvangasana they will feel new vigor and strength, and will be happy, confident and at peace. New life will flow into them; their mind will be at peace and will feel the joy of life.

People suffering from high blood pressure, detached retina, glaucoma, hernias, cardiovascular disease, cervical spondylitis, slipped discs should not practice shoulder stand. Those suffering from neck injuries should seek advice from an experienced yoga teacher before beginning to practice shoulder stand. It is advisable for women during menstruation to avoid inversions.


Sirsasana is one of the most important asanas in yoga. It revitalizes the entire body and stimulates the mind.

Headstand ensures a proper blood supply and stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands in the brain, glands that are responsible for growth and sex hormones. Our growth, health and vitality depend on the proper functioning of these two glands that control the chemical balance of the body.

Regular practice of sirsasana makes healthy pure blood flow through the brain cells. This rejuvenates them so that thinking power increases and thoughts become clearer. Headstand stimulates the nervous system, increasing mental alertness and clarity. It is a centering, calming and soothing pose. People suffering from loss of sleep, memory and vitality have recovered by the regular practice of this asana.

Headstand strengthens the spine, neck, shoulders and arms. The muscular system of the abdomen and legs are toned. Blood and lymph fluid is relieved from the legs and ankles and with regular practice prevents the buildup of fluid in the legs and feet. Coupled with shoulder stand it is a benefit to people suffering from constipation. The lung tissue is stimulated, which relieves colds, coughs, tonsillitis, bad breath and palpitations.

By reversing the pull of gravity on the organs, especially the intestines, it helps to cleanse them and overcome problems of the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines and reproductive system. Headstand increases gastric fire and produces heat in the body. When done properly, headstand helps the spine become properly aligned, improving posture, facilitating good breathing and reducing muscular stress. The weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm encourages deep breathing, which gently massages the internal organs. Sirsasana is used to treat asthma, hay fever, diabetes, headaches, anxiety and menopausal imbalance.

Headstand provides an opportunity for experimenting safely with the unfamiliar and the fear it creates. Headstand can be scary; it literally turns your world upside down.

People suffering from high blood pressure, detached retina, glaucoma, hernias, cardiovascular disease, cervical spondylitis, thrombosis, arteriosclerosis, and kidney problems should not practice headstand. Those suffering from neck injuries should seek advice from an experienced yoga teacher before beginning to practice headstand. It is advisable for women during menstruation to avoid inversions.

Time spent upside down everyday, especially in sarvangasana and sirsasana, is one of the best things you could possibly do for yourself. These poses bring health and vitality to the body while calming and soothing the mind and spirit.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Going upside down

Inverted poses are an extremely important group of asanas. Inverted asanas reverse the action of gravity on the body; instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head. Similarly, on the emotional and psychic levels, inverted asanas turn everything upside down, throwing a new light on old patterns of behavior and being. Generally, these practices improve health, reduce anxiety and stress and increase self-confidence. They also increase mental power, concentration and stimulate the chakras.

Even if you can’t do a full yoga practice, just try to get upside down every single day for at least a few minutes. An inversion practice can be as simple as a standing forward bend or legs up the wall or as complex as a scorpion handstand. Whatever your strength, energy level, and balance allow, put your heart above your head and reap the many benefits of inverting.

There are four major systems in the body that the practice of inversions positively influences: cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine.

The circulatory system is comprised of the heart, lungs and the entire system of vessels that feed oxygen and collect carbon dioxide and other waste products from the cells. Arteries fan out in an intricate tributary system from the heart, which pumps freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs outward. Veins return blood to the heart and, unlike arteries, make up a low-pressure system that depends on muscular movement or gravity to move blood along. One-way valves at regular intervals prevent backwash and keep fluids moving towards the heart in a system know as venous return. Turning yourself upside down encourages venous return.

Inversions also ensure healthier and more effective lung tissue. When standing or sitting upright, gravity pulls our fluids earthward, and blood "perfuses" or saturates the lower lungs more thoroughly. The lower lung tissue is thus more compressed than the upper lungs. As a result, the air we inhale moves naturally into the open alveoli of the upper lungs. Unless we take a good, deep breath, we do not raise the ration of air to blood in the lower lungs. When we invert, blood perfuses the well-ventilated upper lobes of the lungs, thus ensuring more efficient oxygen-to-blood exchange and healthier lung tissue.

Inverting also gives the heart a break. The heart works persistently to ensure that freshly oxygenated blood makes its way up to the brain and its sensory organs. When inverting, the pressure differential across the body is reversed, and blood floods to the brain with little work from the heart.

The lymphatic system is responsible for waste removal, fluid balance, and immune system response. Lymph vessels arise among the capillary beds of the circulatory system, but comprise a separate system that transports stray proteins, waste materials, and extra fluids, filtering the fluid back through the lymph nodes and dumping what remains into the circulatory system at the subclavian veins, under the collarbones. The lymphatic system is analogous to a sewage system, an intricate, underground network tied to every house in town which keeps the citizens healthy.

Lymph, like the blood returning to your heart via the veins, is dependent upon muscular movement and gravity to facilitate its return. Because the lymphatic system is a closed pressure system and has one-way valves that keep lymph moving towards the heart, when one turns upside down, the entire lymphatic system is stimulated, thus strengthening your immune system. Viparita karani is a good example of this, as it is a mild inversion that one can enjoy with no stress on the body.

There is a theory in yoga that organs become displaced over time due to gravity. Inversions help return organs to their original places where they function most effectively.

During menstruation women are advised to avoid inversions. When the body is inverted, gravity causes the vessels supplying blood to the uterus to be partially blocked, and this can temporarily stop the flow. The energy of the body at this time in a woman’s cycle is moving down into the earth. Going upside down during the menses disturbs this natural rhythm and can result in a feeling of shakiness, disorientation, or nausea. During your moon cycle, it is important to honor your body by going with, rather than against, this natural flow.

The fountain of youth - the esoteric side of inversions 

"In Yoga philosophy we have a “nectar of life” called Amritabindu that we store in our crown chakra. It is written that after taking food, the blood absorbs the nutrients and after 32 days 1 drop of new blood is made.  It takes 32 drops of this new blood to make one single drop of Amritabindu (vital life nectar).  This amritabindhu is stored in the Sahasrara (crown) chakra.  Our amritabindhu can be depleted by living badly, eating badly, and thinking negative thoughts—it begins to travel downwards and is consumed by the upward flow of agni (our digestive fire) at the third chakra.  When amritabindhu is lost, life itself is lost.

The practice of inverted asana particularly sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and sirsasana (headstand) are the method for storing our amritabindhu.  When we are inverted our amritabindhu remains safely in Sahasrara chakra, its downward flow is prevented—leading to an extension of our life span.  The agni always travels in an upward direction, in the inverted asana it travels towards the anus cleansing and purifying the organs of digestion and the rectum/anus.  If mula bandha is strong and the digestive fire can travel all the way to the anus and the Muladhara chakra (root chakra) it will stimulate the release of Traya Granthis (knots that block our energy flow) and begin the gradual process of awakening our Kundalini energy." - Excerpts from Astanga Yoga by Lino Miele

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Om is a sacred symbol and an ancient mantra or chant representing the infinite Brahma, the absolute or all, which conveys omniscience (all-encompassing knowledge), omnipresence (always present everywhere) and omnipotence (all-powerfulness). It is believed to be the basic sound of the universe, the cosmic vibration and contains all other sounds. When repeated correctly it penetrates all and creates harmony and unity with all that exists - with mind, body and spirit and that to all others.

In honor of Yogic tradition, many yoga teachers begin and close classes with chanting Om to create harmony and unity among the students and teacher.

Depending on the teacher, it will be chanted differently. Some yoga teachers will pronounce all three syllables. While others will combine the A and the U. It is meant to create a bridge between the spiritual and physical dimensions and resonate the third eye.  When all 3 sounds are chanted separately (AH – OO – MM) it connects the heart, throat and crown chakras. When chanted the sound of Om affirms a Divine presence in all forms of manifestation.

The mantra Om was first written about in the Katha Upanishad:

The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence, I will tell you briefly: it is OM. This syllable OM is indeed Brahman. This syllable is the Highest. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahma.

It is described as the primordial seed from which all other sound arises and therefore all of creation. It is the reverberation, the resonance of the vibrational sound of the Universe. It is actually made of three sounds: A-U-M. These three sounds have profound meaning. They represent the 4 states of Supreme Being. The A is pronounced as in AHHH, represents the waking or conscious state. When chanted you feel the vibration in the belly. The U pronounced as in OOOO represents the dreaming state and is felt in the chest when chanted. The M is pronounced with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth and sounds more like a bee buzzing. The M represents deep sleep and is felt at the root of the nose. It is significant that U is between the A and M as dreaming comes between waking and deep sleep. The final state is the silence followed by the chanting of Om. This is called Turiya. It is in this lingering silence that exists the state of perfect bliss or pure consciousness. (It is interesting to note that these 4 states of being can be transposed onto the Sanskrit symbol for Om as well.)

People have used Om as a mantra since ancient times, chanting the sound or silently repeating it in meditation to expand their awareness of the divine. In the Yoga Sutras, the philosopher Patanjali states that the repetition of Om, along with a deep contemplation of its meaning, is a direct path to enlightenment. He writes, “Om should be repeated and its essence realized. Then the mind will turn inward and the obstacles that stand in the way of progress will disappear.”

Although Om is considered a sacred syllable, in India those of the Hindu faith use it frequently in daily life, beginning the day, a journey, or a project by uttering the sound. The symbol is also incorporated into the design of all Hindu temples and family shrines. In the Western world, repeating Om at the beginning and end of yoga classes is common, and more and more people are using the sound as a mantra for meditation and sacred ceremonies.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shiva and Shakti

Once upon a time, before the sea existed, there was nobody living here, except Shiva and Shakti. Shakti is the most beautiful of all goddesses, and Shiva is her husband and lover. They love each other so much that even a short moment of separation is terrible for them. They are like wetness that is never separate from water, sweetness that is never separate from sugar, and warmth that is never separate from sunlight.

Once, Shiva went away to Mt. Kailash, to live as a hermit for awhile, and Shakti was not allowed to go with him. She stayed alone, below in the mountains, and felt very sad. Her longing for Shiva was so strong that she didn’t know what to do with herself. Everything around her seemed to be boring and purposeless, and she felt very restless. Shakti is inseparable from Shiva – just as heat from fire, light from the sun, night from the sky, or a reflection from the mirror.

So, Shakti went around to all the Gods to ask for advice, but they couldn’t help her. When she was most desperate, she even went to Yama (the God of death); but he refused to see her, as she was not on his list of expected visitors.

Finally, she went to Indra (God of rain) and told him about her difficulties. He listened, and then said: You will meet Shiva again. In the meantime, you must practice Sadhana; this will serve two purposes. First, it will help you to progress spiritually, and will decrease the time you have to live without Shiva. You will also feel a certain inner contact with him, as he is practicing Sadhana, also. Secondly, your restlessness will disappear. The practice is to meditate on Om, the beginning-less sound. This practice will take you very far on the spiritual path. Just sit down for meditation, close your eyes, and repeat Om loudly, every time you exhale.

So, when the evening came, Shakti sat down in Padmasana and started repeating Om loudly. She found so much peace in this simple practice that it was impossible for her to stop. She sat in deep meditation for days, months, and years. Very heavy rains poured down on Shakti, but her meditation was so deep that she didn’t notice it at all. In a short time, the ground around her was covered with water. Soon, the water level had reached her waist. It rained and rained, and still Shakti didn’t notice anything. Finally, her whole body was covered with water, but her meditation was unbroken. She was still repeating, Om, Om, Om…

This is the sound of the sea, even today. At the bottom of the ocean, Shakti is still sitting deep in meditation, repeating her mantra. Every time she breathes in, the waves go back; every time she breathes out, they come forward again. So Om, the mystical eternal sound we hear in the ocean, is the voice of God. And so the ocean will go on roaring Om, Om, Om… until Shiva and Shakti are united again. And the sea is the best storyteller in the world. Just listen. You can learn everything from it, for everything is the sound of Om. This is the word which is powerful in silence.

SHIVA symbolizes consciousness, the masculine principle.
SHAKTI symbolizes the feminine principle, the activating power and energy.

SHAKTI (or Prakriti) means energy, power, movement, change, nature. It is the maternal principle – the provider, abundance. In the human as well as in the animal kingdom the mother offers nourishment, warmth and security. There is no greater love than the love of a mother. The mother carries and nourishes the child in her own body. When it is born she provides it with mother’s milk and raises it at the sacrifice of her own self until it becomes self-reliant.

SHIVA (or Purusha), on the other hand, is pure consciousness – the unchanging, unlimited and unswayable observer. Purusha has no desires whatsoever; these are inherent only in Prakriti. Purusha is the empty, clear screen onto which Prakriti projects her colourful film.

Shiva and Shakti are manifestations of the all-in-one divine consciousness - different sides of the same coin. In many pictures these two primal powers are each depicted as being one half of the same image; one side female and one side male. The left side is the Divine Mother, Pārvatī, the “feminine” energy, and the right side represents Shiva, the “masculine” consciousness.

Shiva and Shakti exist within each of us as the masculine and feminine principles. This has an effect on the physical level – it is the cause of sexual attraction. Within man there exists a tendency towards the feminine qualities, and within woman a tendency towards the masculine. Through this the masculine consciousness is attracted by the feminine and vice versa.

Shiva resides in the Sahasrāra Chakra and Shakti in the Mūlādhāra Chakra. When Prakriti and Purusha unite in the Sahasrāra Chakra, knowledge, knower and the object of knowledge become one. Once we have experienced this no desires remain within us because we realize unequivocally that everything we have ever yearned for is carried within us. In this state of absolute consciousness there are no polarities and therefore no more sorrows; there is only everlasting joy, unconditional love, unlimited compassion and total understanding for all living beings.

For as long as consciousness is connected to the physical body it is unable to remain constantly in the Sahasrāra Chakra and so returns to the residence of the Ātmā in the Heart Centre (Anāhata Chakra). A realized person always thinks, feels and acts from the heart. Embedded in eternal love and eternal happiness, that person is always conscious of the immortal Ātmā, the ocean of bliss, and their consciousness is forever connected to the divine consciousness.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is it Love or Lust?

Love is rational. It is based on intuition and positive emotions.
Lust is non-rational. It is based on superficiality and negative emotions.

Love aims for things which are long term and will give you bliss and happiness.
Lust aims for things which are short term, and will give you pleasure and excitement.

Love will give you fulfillment. It will make you content with what you have.
Lust constantly wants more and more. Its hunger will never end.

Love is pure, it will only lead you into doing good, moral or ethical things.
Lust is dirty, it can lead you into doing bad, immoral or unethical things.

Love will not make you go against your values. It will dance to your tune. You will see harmony.
Lust will make you go against your values. It will dance to other tunes. You will see chaos.

Love gives you and everyone else the freedom to be who they want. You will detach from things.
Lust will make you depended on other people. And try to change them. You will attach to things.

Love will first make you focus on the inner being, then on what the eyes are seeing.
Lust will first make you focus on what the eyes are seeing, then on the inner being.

Love is altruistic. It cares about what the other person wants. It gives and takes. It is based on mutuality.
Lust is egoistical. It does not care about what another person wants. It only cares about selfish desires.

Love grows out of your soul. It gravitates towards consciousness, spirituality and purpose. It is meaningful and intellectual.
Lust grows out of your body. It gravitates towards senses: Touch, smell, feel, taste. It is meaningless and entertaining.

Love is wholesome. It is free. It is spontaneous. It is like a river, it flows.
Lust is one dimensional. It is restricting. It is impulsive. It is like a desert, it is dry.

Love is mindful and is based on reality.
Lust is mindless and is based on fantasy.

Love will make a human act like a human.
Lust will make a human act like an animal.