Monthly Archives: March 2014
Vunerability is transparency. I think the currency of leadership is transparency, and you have got to be truthful. I don’t think you should be vunerable every day, but there are moments when you have got to share your soul and your conscience with people, show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.
Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz
A seafloor mandala created by a five inch male pufferfish to attract females. The males spend seven to nine days swimming back and forth while hitting the sand with fins and tail in strategic spots. They also adorn the peaks with shells and coral. The circles can be up to seven feet in diameter. After a mate is attracted, they mate and she lays her eggs in the center of the circle. The male sticks around till the eggs hatch, but no longer maintains the circle once the task of attracting a female has been successfully accomplished. Amazing!
Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam
As a result of yoga or sustained, focused attention, the Self or Seer is firmly established in its own form, and we act from a place from our own true, authentic Self. —Yoga Sutra I.3
How is it that yoga can be such a powerful support, even when the body is not able to do asana practice or even to sit to do certain breathing practices? First and foremost, yoga is for the mind, not the body. (Though asana and other practices involving the body can be a useful way to influence and refine the mind, and the body can certainly benefit.) Yoga Sutra 1.3 says that as a result of yoga or sustained, focused attention, the Self or Seer (drastuh) is established (avasthanam) in its own form (svarupe). In other words, by focusing and refining the mind through yoga, you gain clearer perception and learn to distinguish the mind, body, and emotions from your true essence or Self. You come to know that Self and act from that place of the Self, thus reducing your experience of suffering.
Tatah pratyakcetanadhigamah api antarayabhavasca
Then, the inner conscious is revealed, we come to know the true Self, and our obstacles are reduced. —Yoga Sutra I.29
In Sutra 1.29, Patanjali tells us that as a result of yoga practice (tatah), and specifically the surrender to a higher power (isvara pranidhana), our inner conscious (pratyakcetana) is revealed (adhigamah), and we experience a reduction (abhava) in the obstacles (antaraya) we may face. Patanjali lists nine potential obstacles in the next sutra, beginning with illness or disease (vyadhi), but tells us that they need be obstacles for us only if the mind is disturbed. If we can connect with the Self, we are less likely to be disturbed and will therefore suffer less.
If it sounds simple, it isn’t. It’s one thing to understand Patanjali’s logic and promise of kaivalyam, or independence from suffering. It’s entirely another to practice consistently enough to actually experience it. But this is why we practice.
The tools Patanjali offers throughout the Yoga Sutra are designed to help quiet all the distractions of the mind, including patterns and ways of thinking that may be dragging you down. As you go through this process, you begin to know the difference between your fluctuating and impermanent mind, body, and emotions, and something else deep within you. When you recognize the impermanent parts of you as distinct and separate from that steady, quiet, knowing place of your true Self (which Patanjali describes as pure, unchanging, and permanent), you begin to cultivate a greater connection with that authentic Self. From this place of connection, you can observe your emotions and reactions and recognize them as separate from your true nature, valid and painful though they may be. This is the promise of yoga. And while the process of getting there may not be simple, the end result is easy to understand: We feel better.
If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, what you are undergoes a transformation.
Holding poses for a longer period of time is an extremely beneficial addition to your practice. Whether you hold your poses in a Yang or a Yin class, it will help you feel more steady and strong. The four main benefits, as I see it, of holding poses are as follows:
1. Builds Strength
Holding a pose for a longer period helps build strength and stamina. For example when you hold Warrior II for a longer period, the muscles of your legs and arms have to work harder to maintain the pose.
2. Time for your alignment
When you hold a pose, you have time to actually feel, to adjust and to readjust. Watch out for allowing your mind to become completely occupied with this. While it’s fine to take some time to focus on your alignment don’t allow it to become your sole focus in the pose.
3. Time for emotions to come up
Holding a pose for longer then you are used to can often give space for emotions to arise. You go beyond the point that is comfortable (obviously you come out of the pose if it feels painful or does not feel ‘right’). Going beyond the comfort zone can bring up fear and other emotions.
Every one of us immediately reacts when life becomes uncomfortable, we try to change it. But sometimes we can’t and we have to accept it. Practicing acceptance is a good thing to do while holding your pose for a while. Learning to stay with the breath and staying present to any emotion that arises will help. Exercising acceptance on the mat will really help you when something happens in your daily life that brings up particular emotions that you don’t particularly like, but you know you can’t or don’t want to change. You can apply the same principles; staying with the breath and observing the feelings go by without attaching to them.
4. Stabilizes the Mind
So holding a pose challenges the mind. Just like in Yin Yoga, when you hold a pose for longer, staying still in the pose takes more effort to be present. There is also more space for stuff to come up about shopping lists, difficulties in life and that kind of thing. Through breathing consciously and staying with your anchor (the breath for example) you can stabilize your mind. By constantly recommitting to your anchor, whether it’s your breath, physical sensations in your body or something you choose yourself really helps to cultivate stability in your mind.
It’s all about balance
If you are quick and flighty or slow and steady, it’s ultimately all about finding balance in your practice so getting the right mix of a faster flow and a slower one where you hold your poses is up to you!
4 Benefits of Holding a Pose by Esther Ekhart
Mula Bandha may be the most befuddling, underinstructed technique in the world of yoga. Here, one intrepid reporter gets to the root of things and discovers that Mula Bandha is not just a physical action but a doorway into bliss.
So, once you “get it,” how will the bandhas change your practice? In the Ashtanga tradition, Mula Bandha is so critical to the correct performance of asana that K. Pattabhi Jois, the leader of the tradition, instructs his students to keep Mula Bandha engaged throughout every practice; in fact, he’s often quoted as saying that it should stay engaged 24/7. That’s a metaphorical overstatement, of course, meant to emphasize the importance of Mula Bandha, which when mastered and used correctly has the potential to transform even the most lackluster practice.
Mula Bandha is what helps Ashtanga practitioners find the balance they need to tackle arm balances and inversions, and the strength and control they need for difficult tasks, such as jumping through and jumping back. But the list of the physical benefits to a yoga practice is nearly endless, and Freeman can rattle them off handily: “It’s grounding, so students feel much more stable. They won’t lose balance. Correct movement of limbs becomes more natural. When they do a backbend, they’ll be less likely to compress the spine. They’ll find more space under the belly, which is very convenient for twists.”
“By practicing Mula Bandha, you gain a real sense of the central axis of the body,” says Freeman, a student of Jois. “You learn to move from the lower belly, feeling the pelvic floor and letting it participate in aligning the body. It will help you integrate the movements of the body and give you the sense that you are composed of radiance…One becomes juicier, more intuitive, more sensitive, and more able to express feeling with the entire body through every movement.”
The Inside Line
That inward path, let’s not forget, is the point of yoga. “I think it’s important for people to remember the original context of hatha yoga,” says Pomeda, who was a Vedic monk in the Sarasvati order for 18 years. “This opens up your perspective, puts the practice into a much larger framework. From that reference point, all practices are geared to the awakening of kundalini and the attainment of the highest realization.”
Kundalini is the feminine energy that is classically depicted as a serpent coiled and asleep at the base of the spine, which is also the seat of Mula Bandha. When she awakens, she rises up through the spine to merge with universal consciousness at the crown chakra, found at the top of the head. The bandhas —particularly Mula Bandha and Jalandhara engaged together—can be used to help create the internal pressure necessary to roust her out of her comfy home, where she might otherwise snooze away forever.
And though spiritual life certainly does not end with Mula Bandha, it does, in a sense, begin there. “Engaging Mula Bandha creates a foundation,” Harrigan says. “The root of the tree is important for the entire tree. Likewise, Mula Bandha is important for making asana and pranayama beneficial. Without the bandhas, these exercises have only physical effects.”
Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article Bound for Glory By Hillari Dowdle, Asana Instruction by Tim Miller
To learn more about how to integrate Mula Bandha into your daily asana practice, read Mula Bandha in Action.