Saturday, May 8, 2010

Yogic Sleep to Wake Up

This week in the studio we will be exploring the Yogic Sleep Meditation, Yoga Nidra. The goal of the Hatha Yoga process, asana, pranayama and relaxation practice, is the state of balance in order to set the stage for Kundalini Shakti to rise. You may not understand the concept of Kundalini Shakti or Enlightenment, but if you have practiced Hatha Yoga with some regularity, you have absolutely seen some changes in your body, your mind and your life. Your body begins to transform- those areas that were soft start to strengthen, those areas that were hard become supple, your gate becomes more graceful, aches and pains diminish, digestion becomes very efficient, the skin and eyes look more radiant and energy levels go through the roof. Yogis find with practice that a reliable happiness begins to flower and we find ourselves being overwhelmed by negative emotions less and less. Peace and contentment become the default emotional state for Yogis. Changes in the body and the mind create change in life. For Yogis, life is an adventure. The dance of creation between the Universe and individual free will becomes tangible reality for Yogis. Life becomes ground zero for infinite possibility. For simplicity's sake, let's call Kundalini Shakti the change and growth that Yogis' experience- the Yogic growth spurt. At the most advanced levels, Kundalini awakening culminates in some epiphany regarding life on planet Earth. The light of understanding begins to dawn in Yogis at the most primordial realms. Your understanding of life as we know it, will change and the practice of Yoga Nidra can facilitate that flash of insight.
A word of caution if you intend to read on......the concept that follows is a doozy. If your Yoga practice is working and you have created some physical space in your body, you have also created some space in your mind. There is some wiggle room now in your mind- you have an open mind and there is some space for the possibility of new wisdom. Clarity of vision is possible. For some, epiphanies are instantaneous, but for most of us, it is necessary to chew on new ideas for some time to let the new information germinate in the psyche. The seed is planted and some gestation period is required before the birth of a new vision is possible.
The chanting of the Om is the summation of 4 distinct sounds. The A sound to begin, the O sound next, followed by the Mmm and completed with the sound of silence. There are 4 possible states of consciousness and they are intertwined with the sounds of Om. The first sound, the A sound, corresponds to the first possible state of consciousness, the waking state. We are all familiar with the waking state, in fact Joseph Campbell says that western culture has an unhealthy attachment to waking state- we give it top priority in this culture. The second state of consciousness is the dream state which corresponds to the O sound. The dream state is interesting- we find ourselves in crazy situations with "other people", but when we wake up, we find that those "other people" were really us- they were a creation and a projection of our own minds. The drama, fear, heartache or romance of the dream state were not "real" either- they were also a creation and projection of our own mind. The next possible state of consciousness is the deep, dreamless sleep state which is connected to the Mmm sound. We know we have visited this state when we awaken refreshed and science and medicine tell us that humans will go insane when they are deprived of this nourishing state for too long. The deep, dreamless state is perhaps the state that is most accurate and "real" according to Yogic and Tantric tradition. It is in this state that we return to our Source, the vast expanse of Pure Consciousness that we are. This state is absolutely nourishing and revitalizing, which is why we need it so much and feel better when we have experienced it. The nature of that state is Truth which never changes, consciousness that is aware of itself and bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda). The fourth possible state of consciousness which is connected to the sound of silence that follows the Om is the state that Yogis aspire to- the transcendant state- the possibility of waking up from waking state on the Earthly plane- experiencing Yoga while living life- Heaven on Earth- the state of Grace and the state of Communion. The Baghavad Gita teaches us "Yogastha Kurukarmani." Established in Yoga, perform action. Life is infinitely more joyful when we perform our duties and obligations on Earth, while in that state of communion with Pure Consciousness, with some connection to that default state of bliss. The flash of understanding that becomes possible when Kundalini Shakti is awakened from Her slumber is that waking state and dream state are the same. In both states there are stories- stories of drama, joy, gain, loss, redemption, romance, etc with "other people" that are merely creations and projections of our own minds- these other people are extensions of us, part of us that we choose to see as separate for right now. In both states there is this huge sigh of relief when we awaken, this thought of how it seemed so real then, but in the light of day, or understanding, we know it as temporary. The clarity of this new understanding brings comfort to the Yogi. This epiphany always goes hand in hand with the alleviation of suffering which is why any master who has seen this vision later teaches it to others as the path of salvation.
Your holiness is your salvation.
Rolf Gates
Mythology is a public dream and dreams are personal mythologies.
Joseph Campbell
In Yogic Sleep meditation, the Yogi practices the deep, dreamless sleep state with the waking state in order to get a glimpse of the transcendant state.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Core Work: Journey to the Moola

All this week in the studio we will be working with the vast area in the body that we call the core. This area includes the pelvic floor muscle group, lower abdominal muscles, upper abdominal muscles, the hip flexors and the diaphragm. Tone in the core- a perfect combination of suppleness and strength- is an accurate indicator of overall fitness and health. If you are strong, your core is strong. If your core is strong, you are strong. 70% of the immune system is in the core, so working with the core is also a great way to keep the immune system functioning efficiently. The tone of the pelvic floor directly affects the alignment of the spine. When the pelvic floor is weak there is a wide range sagging effect and prolapse of the spinal column as well as organs and glands in the trunk of the body. Keeping the pelvic floor healthy holds the spine in optimal alignment and repositions organs and glands back to healthier locations in the body. The sciences of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine teach us that it is possible to stimulate every energy line in the body by working in the pelvic floor so through the pranic system, we send healing energy to every nook and cranny of the body when we engage the pelvic floor.
Working with the core prepares us for the advanced techniques of Moola Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha- the root lock and belly lock respectively. These techniques were kept top secret for thousands of years. One would need to travel to remote locations on the globe and study with a master in order to receive these teachings. Yet now, both of these techniques are commonly taught in many traditions of Yoga to even brand new students. There are no mistakes, obviously the world is now ready for moola bandha, but I think it is necessary to impart these teachings with a warning statement. Both of these techniques are absolutely empowering because they initiate the Yogic growth spurt- the awakening of Kundalini Shakti. In the same way that one would not dam a river without first knowing what to do with the energy created, it is necessary to make sure we are prepared for the energy awakened by these techniques and to be very mindful of the actions we perform. Tantra does not have a concept of sin in the way most westerners are familiar with, rather there is the concept of karma- cause and effect. There are actions that create beneficial results and there are actions that create suffering. If we practice moola bandha and we are a liar, we become a very good liar. If we practice moola bandha and we are a thief, we become a very good thief. Techniques this powerful need to be practiced with reverence.

For kundalini to rise, the body must be able to cope with its force and the nervous system must be made strong, healthy and mature. This is attained through Yogic practice. When preparations are complete, kundalini will rise spontaneously of its own accord, liberating and expanding the consciousness. When you awakened your kundalini you stand of the threshold of infinity
Moola Bandha The Master Key

This mechanism, known as kundalini, is the real cause of all genuine spiritual phenomena, the biological basis of evolution and development of personality, the secret origin of all esoteric and occult doctrines, the master key to the unsolved mystery of creation, the inexhaustible source of philosophy, art and science and the fountainhead of all religions past, present and future.
Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man