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August 20, 2018 1 Comment
Greetings Yogis, it is the month of August in the year 2018, and while it may have been minutes, or days or even years since you last took a deep, slow, fully conscious breath, fear not! However long it has been, the great teachings of the ages assure us, that what is important is not how long we have strayed away breath but that we come back it here and now. As you read on, you can begin to tune into the rhythm of your own breath, noticing where it is moving in the body. Maybe just by bringing your attention to it, the breath deepens automatically. Try not to force anything- as the great teacher and founder of Ananda Yoga (the lineage of Yoga practiced at East West Bookshop) Swami Kriyananda taught, “All progress in Yoga is made through greater and greater relaxation.”
Recently I was preparing for a specialized Yoga class at East West Bookshop based off of these teachings. The class was called Musical Chair Yoga. The only similarity to the party game we all know was that there was music, and yes, chairs! In this class however, the emphasis was on deep relaxation. Each Student had their own chair, there was no running, and everyone was a winner! Through peaceful restorative Yoga Asanas (Sanskrit word for postures) we used the body to suggest to the mind deep states of peace. Calm and harmonious music filled the studio to help guide the students feelings into uplifted places. In Ananda Yoga affirmations of truth are offered with each posed to give the practitioner’s mind something to focus on while the body is in the Asana. For example; “I am calm, I am poised.” This yogic version Musical chairs looked more like a prayer vigil than a party, yet smiles and feelings of joy permeated the atmosphere nonetheless!
As I studied the effects of various Pranayama’s (Yogic breathing practices) I came across and interesting fact in Gyandev McCords book, “Spiritual Yoga”. He says that at any given time one of our two nostrils is dominant to the other, meaning that we breath more through it. Try it yourself! Take a breath in through the nose. Notice how one side is more full and clear than the other- interesting! The dominant nostril changes sides every 90-120 minutes. I had shared this idea with a close friend of mine and for the past couple of weeks we have been attuning ourselves to the breath and which of our nostrils is dominant. We have been keeping each other up do date on which nostril side is dominant by simply by saying, “left!” during the course of a conversation or casually mentioning “right!” when we greet each other or say goodbye! A fun way to stay attuned to your breath. See if you can notice when your dominant nostril changes throughout the day and notice the effects of how simply keeping the breath in your awareness anchors you to the present moment. I have found this to be a most helpful practice.
Here is a practice to help you beat the outer heat of summer and the inner heat of a restless mind.
This practice is called Sitali Pranayam.
Practice as follows ;
One of modern history’s greatest Hatha Yogi’s- B.K.S Iyengar, is quoted as saying, “Pranyama is more than a physiological breathing exercise. Because breath is life, the art of judicious, thoughtful, ungreedy breathing is a prayer of gratitude we offer to life itself.” The point of focus on the breath may vary between different teachings, but the central focus of all great mediation traditions is ubiquitous-when the mind wanders, bring the attention back to the breath. In a way, the practice of meditation or gaining control of our consciousness is not about how long we can stay concentrated one pointedly, but more about how many times we can retrieve our awareness from wandering away. By continuing to watch the breath we continue show up for the present moment and we affirm that the here and now is our reality, that our consciousness is beyond time, and that we have freedom to choose how we feel in any moment.
P.S. Please Join me every Monday @ East West Bookshop for Morning Sadhana Yoga class @630am!
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Awesome blog Stan! Love this technique :)