INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH
INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH - April 2018
For those of you who didn't know, every month Sukha Mukha Yoga focuses on a theme. We explore it by incorporating it in our classes and our daily lives. During April we will look at The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and focus specifically on Chapter 3: The Portion On Accomplishments; Vibhuti Pada.
In this chapter Patanjali describes all the accomplishments which come as-by-products of your yoga practice: Vibhuti Pada.
These accomplishments are also sometimes called the siddhis, or supernatural powers that begin to come with the practice of the final three limbs of Raja Yoga: dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (contemplation).
By non-attachment even to that (siddhis), the seed of bondage is destroyed and thus follows kaivalya (independence).
This means that we will be bound by these siddhis because they are the outcome of the mind. Our minds want to achieve this or that, to feel proud, to show off, to show you can do something. The same can be said for beauty, money, power, strength, scientific knowledge. Patanjali encourages us to let the siddhis come to you. He says, “These are all the possibilities, no doubt, but don’t run after them. You may get hurt by them. Let them run after you.”
Patanjali warns that pursuit of supernatural powers, while forgetting the greater goal of absoluteness, is definitely another obstacle on our spiritual path. If we become attached and seeking the siddhis, then we are distracted from our goals of eternal peace and eternal joy.
Jump to Inspiration of the month:
As Part of the Inspiration of the month, our teacher, Dana Amir has written a piece concentrating on Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 2.46: the physical postures are meant to contain two seemingly opposite qualities, sthira and sukha; steadiness and ease.
I remember hearing that sutra for the first time. “How can I be at ease and steady at the same time?” I thought to myself… “They are opposites!” I took it as an intension to try and embrace the opposites in my physical practice and learn to trust it. Just by listening carefully to the instructions given to me in class: “left side, right side. Inhale, exhale. Expand, contract. Warm up, cool down…” I realised how so many opposites are already incorporated in our practice and how we just do it, without asking questions, we trust it. Even the word: Hatha (the style I was practicing) - can be translated as ha meaning, "sun" and tha, meaning "moon." This refers to the balance of masculine aspects: active, hot, sun and feminine aspects: receptive, cool, moon, within all of us. Hatha yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites.
Seated and Resting Pigeon Pose - Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana
Seated and rested pigeon are deeply grounding, restful and soothing and stretches the muscles of the external rotators of the bent leg, the iliopsoas muscles- the muscles responsible for lifting the thigh and the groin of the extended leg.
Saying this, it is also an extremely challenging pose for most of us and tends to bring a lot of emotions to the surface. According to Chinese medicine, this pose triggers quite a few Meridians, some of which linked to the liver and gallbladder and this might explain some of these emotions.
Make sure you measure how long you stay on each side and try and remain for an equal time on the other side.
Some of the benefits of this pose are:
Increases external range of motion of femur in hip socket
Lengthens hip flexors
Prepares body for backbends
Prepares body for seated postures such as Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Supports the opening of the hips to support spinal elongation with less effort
Use this pose for flexibility and stress relief. Pigeon pose is a great reliever for less back pain as opening the hips can bring the pelvis back to neutral and mitigate pain. Hip openers can help your knee and if you practice it on both sides, you get flexion and extension of your knees and your hips.
Caution: If at any point the knee of the bent leg starts to hurt, come out of the pose immediately.
An alternative pose can be lying on the back with feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, knees pointing up to the ceiling. Then placing one ankle on top of the other knee and gently pressing the thigh away. This is a safe hip opener that does not place any pressure on the knees.
One of the most common challenges with pigeon pose is that one of the hips tends to collapse to the earth. It is quite challenging to know without the guidance of a teacher if our hips are square or not, and often we believe they are when they are most definitely not.
A good and easy way to attend to this is by using props. Try placing a block underneath you so your hips remain flat and your body can fully surrender. My preferred option is to use a bolster as often when we place a block under one hip we collapse into the other hip. By placing a bolster or a folded blanket we support both hips and allow them to remain in neutral and even position.
Over time your hips will loosen and you can play around with the different heights of blocks or use a folded blanket. For even more support, place two more blocks under your elbows.
1. Begin in Downward-Facing Dog. Raise your right leg into the sky and bend your knee to peel open your right hip, drawing your right heel toward your left sit bone. Inhale to stretch your leg long behind you. Exhale to draw your shin forward, parallel with the top of your mat. Place a prop such as a block (see above 'using props') under your right hip, if needed.
2. Tuck your toes under and walk your hands back to lengthen your spine. Make sure your hips are centred, with the right hip drawing back and the left hip drawing forward into a Seated Pigeon. Slowly begin to walk your hands forward into Resting Pigeon, lying your chest toward the ground. Stay still and take at least 8 to 10 breaths.
3. Walk both of your hands under your shoulders, lift your chest, and step back into Downward-Facing Dog. Pedal your feet to relieve your legs, and then repeat on the left side, lifting your leg up and bending your knee to open your hip before drawing it forward to the top of your mat in Seated Pigeon Pose.
4. Release your knees to the ground into Child's Pose. Take 3 to 5 breaths here, then rise up onto your shins and lower down onto your back for Happy Baby Pose. Stay here for 5 breaths.
5. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet together, opening your hips into Goddess Pose. Place the blocks under your knees for support. Place one hand on your belly and one on your heart. Breathe into your heart and chest, through your belly and into your lower abdomen to further release the hips.
6. After 8 to 10 breaths like this, lengthen your legs out in front of you into Deep Relaxation Pose, allowing your body to release into the ground for 5 to 10 minutes. Slowly rise up to sit.
Taken from 'Yoga, Body & Mind' by Jasmine Tarkeshi
Sheetali/Shitali Pranayama - Cooling Breath
Sheetali / Shitali Pranayama is known as the Cooling Breath. It is a breathing practice that cools the body, the mind, and the emotions. Sheetali comes from the Sanskrit root sheet, which means "cold" or "frigid." and translates as ‘that which is calm, passionless, and soothing’. Sheetali pranayama is mentioned in the yoga texts Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and Gheranda Samhita.
Shitali Breath Instructions:
The guidance of a teacher is always recommended.
If you ever feel unwell or dizzy - stop the practice immediately.
These practices are to be done moderately and with much observation, as they are extremely powerful.
1. These practices are best practices on an empty stomach
2. choose a comfortable seated position; hips higher than knees, spine long.
3. take a few moments to observe and become aware of your natural breath and state of being (physically, mentally and emotionally)
4. Remember that if at any point through the practice you feel unwell, stop the practice and come back to your natural breath.
5. Inhale options:
-If you can roll the tongue: roll the tongue from the sides so that it forms a narrow tube. The tongue is folded from both the sides and the edges almost meet at the center on the top. Then Inhale slowly
-If you cannot roll the tongue: simply make a shape of a circle, as if you breathing through a straw, lift the chin slightly and inhale this way.
6. Close the lips (no matter which option you took), lower the chin slightly towards the neck (Jalandhara bandja), and exhale slowly through the nose
7. Repeat stages 5 and 6 a few times (6-10 times)
8. After the last exhale, bring the neck back to natural, come back to your natural breath, and observe the effects of the practice.
Benefits of Shitali Breath
Through the practice of pranayama, you can reduce all of the mental noise—the agitation, distractions, and self-doubt—that prevents you from connecting with your own inner light, your true Self. In this way, pranayama can have a profound effect on your life.
Balances excess pitta Dosha (Ayurvedic constitution)
Cools the body and clears excess heat
Kindles the digestive fire and promotes optimal digestion
Mitigates hyper acidity in the digestive tract
Soothes inflammatory skin conditions
Helps to calm inflammation throughout the body
Calms and soothes the mind, supporting mental tranquility
Bolsters the flow of prana throughout the body
Fosters a sense of satisfaction
Soothes colicky pain
Alleviates excess hunger
Quells excess thirst
Reduces blood pressure
When to Use Shitali Breath
Twice a day, or as needed during stressful times. Shitali Pranayama is particularly supportive when you're feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.
Before You Begin
Shitali requires an ability to roll the tongue by curling the lateral edges upward to form a tube. If you do not have this ability, an alternate variation of the cooling breath (known as sheetkari) is described below, in the “How to Practice” section.
These instructions are meant to provide a safe, general introduction to these pranayamas. Of course, it is always best to learn a new technique in person, with a qualified teacher.
1. Low blood pressure,
2. Respiratory disorders (such as asthma, bronchitis, or excessive mucus),
3. Chronic constipation,
4. Those with heart disease should practice without the breath retention.