When life gives you lemons, make lemonade
(various Carnegie, Hubbard, etc.)
That is how I feel about my Daily Lessons in life. And boy do I get them. Not a day goes by that I don't learn something about myself. It could be the smallest inkling of understanding that I will store away in my memory bank or something major to shift even my belief systems. I had this period of time over the summer where the lightbulb was turning on frequently. It didn't change who I was at this point of discovery, but just made things awfully clear of who I was. That is this gist of yoga. To aid and support on your way to becoming more clear of who you are. Bringing the hyperopia (far-sightedness) lens into focus, where things closer to you are blurry.
Maybe you feel it as you move in asana and feel that brick wall of your edge, or try to take a deeper breath, and let it all go, but can't. Maybe you discover that your thoughts are invading the stillness in savasana. These are all discoveries, big and small. They move you closer to who you are, through all of the layers of your being, we uncover.
Check out this article on the Koshas and how we are multi-layer beings and start your own journey of discovery.
Each layer has a corresponding sanskrit name.
Physical - Annamaya Kosha
Energy - Pranamaya Kosha
Mental - Manomaya Kosha
Wisdom - Vijnanamaya Kosha
Bliss - Anandamaya Kosha
Everyday we may don several hats and become a mother, father, friend, co-worker, lover, nurse, and so on. Separate identities but intrinsically YOU. Essentially, these koshas are the various parts of you which are not separate but connected to your intrinsic self. In the practice of yoga, we strive to get to this self by ways of discovering our parts.
In asana or postures, we connect to our physical body, feeling the weight of the bones, stretching and relaxing our muscles and fascia. We feel our physical presence, our Annamaya kosha. With breath we move prana (energy) to various parts of our body. We can then begin to observe if we feel tired, restless, dull, calm or energized. We tap into our Pranamaya kosha. This kosha moves through the physical one. The mental body, the Manomaya kosha is the part of you that creates some type of semblance out of this world around you. We notice this as thoughts, images, perceptions and emotions passing through us. These mental bubbles are formed from beliefs, opinions and assumptions that have been formed over our lifetime influenced by people, situations and history. The witness or observation part of ourselves is the Vijnanamaya kosha. Our innate wisdom is present here, our intuition kicks in and a feeling of embodiment seeps in. Inspiration may be derived from this layer. And finally the bliss body, the Anandamaya kosha. This is not the be all to end all body or layer. It is just one more dimension to your self as you flow in and out of the layers. This state of bliss is where you may find yourself in meditation where you recognize this natural state of happiness, contentment, and freedom.
Uncover these layers through awareness in asana, breath, journaling thoughts, of observation of you in space and time, and meditation, chanting or during a deep savasana.
Journaling & More
Who Am I??
- Begin with your physical self, practice asana (postures) and observe your physical being. Write down what physical sensations you are feeling before and after the practice.
- After warming up, do a restorative pose of your choice. Before entering the pose, observe your breath, your energy in your body. Write this down in your journal. Upon releasing from the pose, write down how the breath feels now.
- Sit down comfortably and observe your thoughts (racing, calm, quiet, anxious, future/past thoughts, etc.). Write these down. Then consider what you would be without these thoughts. Just notice your breath, energy and any shifts.
- As you are doing something, observe yourself as in I am here doing such and such. Just witness you at that moment.
- Post-meditation, savasana, chanting - go on, move on, stay present. That's all!
Three Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)
The “three parts” are the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest. During Three-Part Breath, you first completely fill your lungs with air, as though you are breathing into your belly, ribcage, and upper chest. Then you exhale completely, reversing the flow. Bringing your hands to your belly with a round of abdominal breathing may be the first stage of the breath, followed by hands to the outside of the ribs and then finally hands to the heart center, feeling the breath move in and out of these three parts. Practice this breath for a few minutes prior to your yoga or meditation practice. The benefits to this deeper breath is that there is more flow of blood to the body, the lungs expand for better circulation, creates calm and centering and readies you for your yoga practice and/or meditation.
Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana)
This breath invites the calm in, balancing both sides of our nasal passages and our brain. We tend to breath predominately with either the left or right nasal passage and we become unbalanced. A few minutes at the start of a class or practice, can merge the two hemispheres of the brain and allow you to become more receptive.
Breathing through the right or left nostrils gives different effects.
increases heart rate, increases verbal performance, stimulates left brain, increases rate of blinking
Left Nostril decreases heart rate, increases spatial performance, stimulates right brain, reduces rate of blinking,
The Practice: Find a comfortable seat or laying down. Using the right hand, bring the middle and index fingers to rest toward the palm. Alternatively, they can be placed at your third eye (forehead area). Begin with even breaths through both nostrils, gently close off right nostril, then inhale through left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Gently close off left nostril, as you inhale through right and exhale through left. Keep the same count for both sides. That is one round. Repeat for 5 to 6 rounds or more. Tongue comes to rest on roof of mouth.
Other variations of this breath are:
Mental Nadi Shodhana. Mentally instruct the breath to come in and out through alternating nostrils. Can even visualize breathing in from one far away place and breathing out to another far away place (Mt. Everest (Inhale), African plains (Exhale)
- Retaining the breath after the inhale while keeping both nostrils gently closed.
- Extending the exhale longer than inhale
- Cessation of breath after the exhale, with only one nostril closed
Reclined Bound Angle
Props: bolster, 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), 4 blankets and one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems.
*This week's class featured a foot wrap, adding comfort and support for the feet, as well as a way to bring the feet in closer to your groin, opening the hips a little more. Hope that you enjoyed.
Straddle Forward Fold (option for folding over chair, couch, bench)
Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline, add another block under bolster for stability. We used the wall in this week's class placing the bolster at a higher elevation. Place a double-fold blanket on floor next to low end of bolster and a long rolled blanket on top next to bolster (for sacral support). Sit with your back to the short, low end of the bolster. Place two blocks where your knees will rest (can top with a soft blanket or use other props as necessary for propping knees) Bring your legs into Bound Angle Pose with the soles of your feet together. Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment. Lie back on the bolster. Place supports under your arms so that they are not dangling and there is no feeling of stretch in the chest. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.
Props: 1-2 bolsters, 2-4 blankets, may use a chair, if difficult to reach bolster.
Benefits: calming, gently stretches lower back, nice transition from the days activities. A good pose to do if you need a few minutes break from your daily work, easy to do and easily accessible. Good for headaches. Breathing is easier since muscles of the respiratory system are relaxed.
Legs Up Variation (Wrapped Legs)
Place blanket single-fold on bolster draping down. Legs can stretch through chair or straddle or cross-legged. Arms placed folded on chair in front of you. Rest forehead on arms. Tilt chin slightly toward your chest. Close eyes. For comfort or lower back issues, sit on blanket, add rolled up blankets under knees if legs in straddle, or blocks/blankets under knees if cross legged. May add a blanket at sacrum for grounding.
Props: 2 bolsters, 3 or more blankets, eye pillow, neck rolls
Benefits: grounding, calming to the nervous system, allows the lymph to drain supporting the immune system, releases tension from the legs and feet, helpful for insomnia.
Place one bolster vertically on your mat, lay a long blanket over it horizontally and then another bolster on top of the blanket. Lay your legs on top bolster and pull one end of the blanket over tucking under your legs. Other end of blanket lays over the first layer. Add a blanket to the belly and neck pillows for under the neck and wrists. Eye pillow for the eyes.
Labels: Alternate Nostril Breathing, Childs Pose - Straddle Variation, Koshas, Legs Up Variation, Reclined Bound Angle, Three-Part Breath