Yin and Yang: Double Action in Action

illus3On the left we have our basic micro-cosmic orbit energetic pattern; two half circles joining to create a whole, with a diameter extending from root to crown, yin to yang. (Almost equal halves: the back circle, the yang governing vessel is slightly longer than the front, yin conception vessel. The meeting points are at the mouth and anus, the two ends of the gut body. How interesting! It is said that at birth, when a baby first opens her mouth to breathe, the circuit opens. The general practice is then to keep the energy field connected through all of the challenges of life.)

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There are key points along the circle that we can focus on and bring energy to in order to active the whole, and we can link the points by moving our attention from point to point, using the breath. We can link the yin points to feel and find the conception vessel, or the yang points to find the governing vessel (GV-1 is just in front of the coccyx, on the other side of the anus from CV-1. We can also explore them as yin yang pairs such as GV-4 and CV-6, CV-17 and GV-9, or CV-1 and GV-20. The governing vessel nurtures the six yang channels and organs, while the conception vessel does the same for the yin channels and organs. This this circuit integrates the whole.

When we can hold yin and yang simultaneously, we have a ‘double action’. There may be waxing/waning as during movement, or staying stable, but yin and yang are always (when healthy) both dynamically engaged. (There are many more points of the governing and conception vessels that are used in acupuncture treatments. The ones on the diagram have been chosen by my teacher’s teacher, Jeffrey Yuen, to be of special importance in integrating the micro-cosmic orbit, which supports all the channels, and thus all the points. This is link offers an excellent introduction to Jeffrey’s cosmic level insight in teaching Chinese Medicine. )

getPart-3The acupuncture points (actually they are cavities, but it is much easier to bring your attention to a point rather than a cavity) are accessed through the skin, but their effects extend into the body, as well as into the energetic field surrounding the body. This allows us to visualize the larger circle as demonstrated by the hula hoop. Points CV-12 and CV-17 can be found at the center line of the body, along the thrusting vessel, even though they are listed as being on the front. Ultimately and ideally, all points are energized and energy flows freely in both directions around the circle, and up and down the center line. Reality tells us that energy gets sluggish in some places and overactive in others, so helping remediate this is a practice.

pasch2The micro-cosmic orbit is a sagittal plane circle and can be very helpful in guiding our movements in and out of forward and backbends. This is the foundational action in all of B.K.S. Iyengars poses.

In paschimottanasana, he first activates the yang-back body-governing vessel as the yin/front body/conception vessel yields and opens, front and back acting as a single whole. The front tends to collapse in going forward, so this awakening alleviates that. Then he completes the pose by transitioning, smoothly reversing yin and yang, front and back, releasing the yang back body governing vessel to create a deep yin forward bend. The movements in and out are a dynamic double action. When staying in the pose, the double action remains as energy flow as the physical body remains still.

Check out ‘Light on Yoga’ and you will see all his forward bends are shown this way. For a bonus, check out this youtube clip featuring Iyengar at the ripe old age of 59, when he was in his prime. This is what fully integrated embodiment looks like! Pay special attention to the expanding and condensing of his body, in the transitions, but also when he completes the poses.)

lf I go from tadasana to uttanasana and back again, I can create a similar field where I imagine the circle turning like a wheel, half way in one direction to get down, and the reverse to come back. Down the front and up the back to go down, down the back and up the front to come up. This is movement. I can also, in tadasana or any pose for that matter, without moving physically, move the energy in the same pattern, as if the hula hoop moves, but I don’t. I can also do both at the same time, if I just move the energy. The circles pass through each other and I can complete both circles over and over, just using imagination, attention and breath or qi. This is a double action. Two apparently opposite actions, working together to create a dynamic field of energized presence. I can do a similar double action transitioning in or out, or remaining in any pose. This sustains the pose in a dynamic field to minimize holding/contracting and collapse.

pisayogaWe also have a lateral plane circle that helps give us a three dimensional sense of embodiment. The common points are root and crown and the diameter, but now we have fish bodypoints on the sides of the body (our lateral line) to explore. This is the trikonasana circle or fish body. Balancing all points on the circle in both directions is the goal. I tend to collapse the underside, so I pay extra attention here, from inner back heel rooting into the ground all the way through the inner ear and beyond to keep the lateral circle open. Right and left are another yin/yang pair that communicate back and forth moment to moment, in transition, or in satying in the pose. Once I’ve landed in trikonasana and remain there for a while, I can explore the microcosmic orbit to stabilize front and back as well. The same principle operates in all of the lateral poses such as parsvakonasana, ardha chandrasana and anantasana and more.

As a meditation, exploration and practice, I can zero in on any region of the body and F000162f16-10-9781437727753refine the double action. We will use the pelvic floor as it holds the seat of the yin, the root chakra, and is the foundation for all postures. The two circles are shown as they cross at the pelvic floor. Imagine this is a bowl, so the lines are curved and the center point drops down (into the page from the reader’s perspective) creating a coccyx instead of the sacrum as one of the 4 cardinal points. Now we also have four quadrants or volumes to explore. (This is similar to the image shown in Bonnie’s video clip in the previous post.)

On the micro-cosmic orbit, in a forward bending action, or coming out of a backbend, (untucking) , the energy runs from pubic bone to coccyx, but if I a not careful, the energy may get stuck and I will just compress the front two quadrants. In a backbending action, or coming out of a forward bend, the energy runs from the pubis to the coccyx (tucking). My weakness will be to just close the back two quadrants and block the energy there.

Before I move into a pose, I can energetically move the coccyx and pubis together and apart, making the energy line connecting them longer or stronger. Or I can do both at the Theraband-Black-300x200same time, as a double action. Try these now as you are hot-coil-spring-250x250sitting reading this. To help get a feel for how the double action energy manifests in the tissue, Imagine either compressing a spring as it pushes back, or stretching thera-band as it offers resistance.  Feel the dynamic charge of energy. You can modulate the intensity. Start strong and then back off until the the energy is very clear but subtle. Locate the intersection point and make sure it is centered. If you feel adventurous, add CV-6 and GV-4 to create longer arcs of energy. Imagine the whole circles as you focus on the lower bowl. Feel CV-6 and GV-4 parallel to the ground and CV-1 at absolute center. As this becomes stable, your ability to sit lightly will increase tremendously.

 

Hip Remediation:

I have been working with some issues in my right hip for several years now thanks to some Bony-Surfaces-of-the-Hip-Joint-Head-of-Femur-and-Acetabulum.unfortunate encounters with ice dams and window wells my last winter in Arlington. What has been most helpful is to bring this double action I feel on the microcosmic orbit first into my spine/pelvis and then into the hip joints. In what ever hip-opening pose I am working with, I first monitor the 4 orquadrants of the pelvic floor, noticing which quadrants are compressed or overstretched. Because the legs attach to the pelvis, they affect the pelvic floor and vice versa. My right rear quadrant of the pelvic floor is the major culprit in my hip challenge, and I can connect that to the other three to help provide support in releasing.

Now imagine each hip joint has four quadrants in the same plane as the pelvic floor and monitor those. When seated, the pelvis is now 90 degrees to the femurs and I now have a second floor to add to the four rooms of the first (pelvic) floor. Instead of four quadrants, I now have eight volumes or spaces. These are composed of the yin and yang pairs of each combination of the three directions: lower front right, lower front left, upper front right, etc.   Ramanand calls the upper front rooms the tops of the groins, from the acetabula up the illium, and the bottom front rooms, the bottom of the groins, from the acetabula to the sitting bones.There are four more spaces at the back of the hips as well.

To bend forward moving from the pelvis, whether sitting or standing, what I want to do is open the bottom of the groins, from the acetabulum to the sitting bones, and the bottom back hips as well, and release into this space.In coming out of a forward bend, which is the same actions as going into a backbend, I want to open the upper stories, front and back. In backbends, lengthening the tail is very useful in keeping the upper back space from contracting.

If I truly want to ‘open’ the hip joint and engage all eight spaces, I can simultaneously, energetically roll the head of the femur in the opposite direction of the acetabulum. In a forward bend, the acetabulum untucks (pubis to coccyx, down the front and up the back) while the femur ‘tucks’ coccyx to pubis, down the back and up the front. This is bringing the microcosmic orbit into the action of bones and flesh. This is creating a double action with the femur head and the acetabulum, paralleling the double action of the microcosmic orbit through the pelvic floor.

In supta padangusthasana like poses, the femur head of the lifting leg moves around the socket, but the IMG_8003energetic action is the same as uttanasana. The femur head feels as if it were ‘tucking’ while the socket continues to untuck. When the motion is complete, I sustain the double action energetically to melt the joint. Start with the micro-cosmic orbit to engage the whole. Focus in on the four quadrants of the pelvic floor, and then add the upper and lower spaces. Then focus even more closely on the actions of the femurs and acetabula. When you find a sense of balance, rest in the infinite space that feeds the yin and yang. This is dynamic somatic meditation in action.

 

Nodes, Networks and Some Breathing

Nodes or nodal points were introduced in the previous post on Indra’s Net, and, as we are all nodes in the great cosmic network, I would like to expand a bit on this crucial concept. (Network = Grid = Web) A node is an organizing center where multiple streams of energy and lax-breaking-newsinformation converge, are processed and redistributed. LAX, the Los Angeles International Airport is a major transportation node that allows people and products to move about the planet. Facebook is a major social network node facilitating the flow of information about people, businesses and community services to anyone with access to a computer. (Except if you live in China, where you may be blocked by the government!) Each participant is also a node. The more followers you have, the larger the node.

As beings awakening to the multi layered web that is Creation, we need to know how we ourselves are embodied expressions of nested layers of nodes, as well as a primary node embedded in a social network, a planetary network and the macro-cosmic network. A healthy social grid is crucial to our own personal health as well as that of society and the planet. If we can awaken and activate the deep cellular intelligence of our inner grid, bringing forth wisdom gleaned from our evolutionary and embryological journeys and plug this into the social grid, the planetary healing can be greatly enhanced.

Now the embodied nodes linking the social grid are almost totally unconscious, and the ‘intellectual’ if I may dare use that term, social nodes are running on over drive.  If all we know about the world comes through the media node of Fox News or Twitter, we will have a ratherredes-neuronales-599x450 limited understanding of our historical moment. The same could be said, of course, if our only news source is NPR. Even if we can access the wisdom of many other nodes available through the social network system, it is only when this wisdom is awake and vibrating in the embodied social field, and not just floating around as ideas, that the necessary healing can begin to bubble up into the culture. And when you are actually embodying wisdom, it flows into the embodied social web, from the inside, bypassing the media driven drivel and dysfunctionality that passes for contemporary cultural exchange.

This blog is a node in the social grid, (and you have to be embodying this, as best you can to fully digest the info) and I have two amazing nodes for you to integrate into your own web of connections. The first is a ‘book as node’ and the second is the amazing array of youtube offerings from Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen.

The health and organization of the human body is dependent upon healthy network of nodes and the Tao’ists have always had a deep appreciation and understanding of how health is an expresssion of the inter-connectedness of life and the Universe. My TCM node and shiatsu master John Hickey just turned me on to a book integrating51lxL5Vb93L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ three of my major passions in life. “The Spark in the Machine”, (terrible name… but, whatever !) by Dr. Daniel Keown, is a treasure trove for somatic exploration. He uses fascial planes and spaces between them to link the energy flows and principles of embryology, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine with some aspects of Western Medicine. And he talks about nodes!!! Here, the author is describing the primary embryological miracle.

“In order to grow, the embryo needs organization more than any other feature… In nine months the single cell will multiply until it is ten trillion cells,… approaching 1 septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) possible lines of communication. It’s a ridiculously large number and quite clearly impossible to manage. The body, though is no different to any intelligent and well run organization – it creates chains of command. These chains of command drastically simplify the organizational system and consists of nodes around which the body organizes itself. … In the body a node is an embryological point that controls growth, an organizing center (OC)…. as the embryo gets bigger, other OCs will have to arise … In fact the body is a teeming mass of organizing centers all cooperating and competing with each other for control of the cells of the body.”

For those coming to my workshops in the coming year, much of what we will cover will be drawing upon material from this delightful book, and here are some breathing practices to get you started.

Yin Yang Breathing

In any relaxed position, feel your breath as an expression of yin and yang, diaphragm and ribs, inhalation and exhalation, expanding and condensing, however you may feel and find this. Remember, yin and yangimgres-1 are never separated, always communicating, always oscillating. When healthy we know this feel this and embody this. When dis-eased, we forget, are confused, and act unconsciously, often resisting or restraining the natural inner rhythms.

As a tangible image to help with feeling this, try doing some elbow curls holding a light weight like a small book in your hand. You can flex the elbow in two ways; suddenly, or slowly and deliberately. Same with extending the elbow. When moving suddenly, the flexors and extensors (yin and yang) are not listening to each other or supporting each other. You can feel this! When moving slowly you can also feel both possibilities working together. In flexion, the triceps slowly yields in balance with the biceps slowly shortening. In extension, the biceps slowly yields in harmony with the triceps shortening. As this pattern becomes more deeply embodied, you will be able to speed up without losing the integration.

Now feel this in the ribs. As they expand on the in-breath, feel the subtle resistance that slows the action down. On the exhalation, as the ribs begin the condensing action, feel the expansion offering enough resistance to slow the action down. On every breath, feel how both actions are always present. As one waxes, the other wanes. Then a pause and the process reverses.

Blood Breathing and Qi Breathing

Blood and Qi in Chinese Medicine are ‘the yin and yang of ordinary life activity’. Ted Kaptchuk describes it thusly. ” Qi activates, blood relaxes. Qi quickens, Blood softens. Qi is tense and tight; Blood is smooth and languid. Qi embodies effort, blood is effortless. Qi is becoming, Blood is being.” Also, Blood is the Mother of the Qi, that is, it nourishes it. And Qi is the commander of the Blood, that is the Qi moves the Blood. You can and will discover the sensations, qualities and feelings described as you dive into your practice and notice.

Simple Qi Breathing: Sitting comfortably, let your inhalations fill the pelvis and abdominal areas. Feel the lower diamond region in the diagram below, CV-1, CV-6 CV-12 and GV-4 expanding in all directions. On the exhalation, release with a subtle opposite tension, so there is not a sudden collapse but Qi gong Imagea slow easy release of the breath. If you are working on grounding and rooting, imagine the exhalation traveling down through the pelvic floor and CV-1 into Mother Earth. You are strengthening the Qi in the lower energy center while helping to quiet the mind. A lot of Qi is wasted in dysfunctional mental activity taking place in the brain. In this practice, the Qi moves down to bring stability (sthira) and quietness. another option is to let the exhalation rise up to stretch the diaphragm and nourish the heart.

Blood Breathing: This practice came to me after reading about the lungs in ‘The Spark in the Machine’. Introduction: With every inhalation, the chest expands, creating a negative pressure that pulls air into the lungs from the outside. This negative pressure also pulls blood into the heart. The lungs are essentially blood and air, not much physical matter. Also, the lungs are the only organ to receive all of the output form the heart on every beat. Thus the lungs have a major role in cleansing, filtering and purifying the blood, removing small clots and bubbles in addition to the carbon dioxide and carbolic acid. In Chinese medicine, the lungs are said to transform ‘Dampness’, which is essentially an accumulation of stagnant fluid.

The Practice: (It helps to have an open flexible chest that comes from supported backbends or other yoga practices.) In any comfortable posture, relax, quiet the mind and begin to inhale by expanding the chest. Keep the spine, sense organs and brain relaxed. Open the ribs, activate the diaphragm and create some elasticity. When ready, instead of imagining the lungs filling with air, feel the lungs filling with blood, as if the lungs/chest walls are a vacuum that pulls blood from the heart into the lungs. On the exhalation, release the 0-rTJS302aJIeKbxTpblood gently back to the heart and imagine it traveling out through the body.

As you get stronger/slower, feel the chest/lungs drawing the blood from the liver and kidneys straight through the heart and on into the lungs, releasing slowly and gently. During the inhalation, you can squeeze the liver like you would a sponge to help drain the mid body. Now feel the lymphatics in the whole abdominal/pelvic area being drained by the vaccuum of the lungs. Feel the whole body replenished on the out-breath by healthy vibrant Blood. Add the legs, all the way to your feet, and the arms as well. Visualize this as a single circuit. This, by the way is the Vyana Vayu in action, in yoga terminology. When you are done, relax and feel the inner glow. I have been playing with this while swimming, much easier on my snorkel (no arms) stroke than the crawl.

The second node on our amazing web of embodied wisdom comes through Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and the Body Mind Centering Community that helps produce these amazing video clips. There are many available, all small tastes from her vast video series. But each is worth a week or month or more of practice. Here is a link to one on the dynamic possibilities of the pelvic floor, using a diamond with four quadrants as an image. Take this new awareness into the breathing practices above, as well as all of your daily activities (like sitting and reading this!)

Once you find one of her youtube offerings, many more will line up. And of course, if you are deeply intrigued and have never worked with Bonnie before, buy one of the videos and get the full story. The extent of her embodied wisdom is off the charts vast and much is available through her video series.

Bonnie on the Pelvic Floor (and the perineal body as the seat of the yin)

 

Qi gong ImageReview: Our Foundation Practice is the Microcosmic Orbit Meditation. With focal attention, imagination, patience and perception, feel the circle of energy connecting crown and root chakras (seat of yang and seat of yin). You can trace a point moving around a circle, like a gondola seat moving around a Ferris Wheelferris-wheel-on-batumi-boulevard-in-batumi_4. Or, you can move your attention from point to point, like the tip of the minute hand of a clock moving from number to number, seat of yang at 12, seat of yin at 6. Remember to explore both directions! In the beginning, you can stay down in the lower body, as in the Qi breathing practice above. No need to engage too many points at any one time. this is a life long practice and we are just beginning, so no hurry, no worries.

One thing to note in your asana practice is the volume you can feel when this expands to three dimensions. fish bodyGirdle vessel

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In any pose, make sure you sustain the fullness inside and do not collapse. In a forward bend, it is easy to close down the front half of the circle. In trikonasana, the same collapse can occur on the side circle. In any part of the body you can lose the ‘girdle’ space (latitude circles). Imagine the sphere as a node and feel the other spheres around you, especially the sun and moon. This is a universal shape.

Indra’s Web and You

archives_ngc6946Indra’s Web (or Net) is a metaphorical description of the structure of the Cosmos as an interconnected web of pearls extending in all directions and dimensions, where each of the pearls is both unique, and a microcosmic expression of the whole web. The pearls, or nodal points, receive and transmit energy and information throughout the whole net, adding and offering their own unique experience, and receiving that from others. Thus the whole process is alive, growing, learning and recreating itself moment to moment.

The ‘Fireworks Galaxy” (ngc 6946) above offers an entry point for the imagination to play with this fabulous vision. This galaxy, a nodal point in the web, is one of an estimated (as of January 2017) two trillion galaxies in the ‘known universe’. Our own ‘average size’ Milky Way Galaxy is estimated to have 200 to 250 billion stars, which gives us a rough approximation of  5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.  Don’t try to wrap your mind around that number. Rather let your mind go, so it’s free to rest in infinity.

Now, imagine that each of these stars is also a nodal point in Indra’s web, a web within a web, radiant, vibrating, linked through the web to all the other stars, sending light energy throughout the cosmos. Our sun is one of those nodal points, providing the crucial life energy for Mother Earth, but as a node in the web, it is also transmitting information from all the other stars as well.

news588-i1.0Lets add the cells in your body, all 35,000,000,000 of them, another web within a web. By the way, 80% of these are red blood cells, by number; by weight, because they are quite small as cells go, only 4%. More nodes in the web, all vibrating, communicating with the environment and the web as a whole. If you add in the 35,000,000,000 bacterial cells inhibiting your body, you have 70 trillion vibrating nodes of cellular consciousness in your somasphere. The bacterial cells are quite small, maybe 200 grams worth, or .3% of your mass, but crucial to your happiness.

Now, imagine the atoms in your body also as nodal points in Indra’s Web. There are 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them roughly, arranged in differingDNA_molecule_closeup patterns like the DNA molecule, each vibrating with its own unique note, creating chords with other atoms to make molecules. And also vibrating, through and throughout the web, with the fundamental pulse of the Cosmos.

So we have the web within, the web without and now we add ourselves. Each of us, as a soul being, is also a node in the great web, connected to the whole, and transmitting energy in all directions.  This is one of the great realizations of a yoga practice, as Patanjali states in the Samadhi Pada:

I-40 paramaanu-parama-mahattvaanto’sya vashikaarah
Mastery (of one who has refined the mind) extends from the smallest particle to the totality of creation

Patanjali the physicist describes how the mind of one who is fully stabilized extends from the sub-atomic realms of the quantum field all the way to the galaxies and beyond. The universe is the mahat, the great mind that is the mind of the yogi.

Feel this. Imagine this. Feel this. Let the primary frequency of your energy be love and compassion, as best you can as a human being. Find new connections, new relationships, new sources of learning and growth. Be a mentor, a mentee. From the depths of your soul ask what you need for healing and go for it. Ask where you creativity wants to take you and go for it. Be patient. Find a support system and take advantage of it. Cultivate your imagination more and more.

As nodal points in Indra’s Net, we have an amazing opportunity to learn and grow by using and refining our imagination and our external and internal sensitivity. External sensitivity involves opening to the relational fields of both human interaction and Mother PageImage-512192-5065180-khbhk30of59Nature. By stepping outside, or beyond the confines of our skin, we open to all the ways in which the universe is informing us of wholeness, love, coherence, cooperation, and the infinite challenges involved in working as a community of cosmic nodes. My internal sensitivity takes me inside my skin, into the world of Qi and blood, of breath, emotions and thought, of imagination, dreams and deep stillness, where 4 billion years of evolutionary learning have primed me to awaken to the depths of the present moment, through my cells, senses and imagination.

There is no pose that takes you there, but every pose has the possibility. There is no special place that helps awaken you, but every place is a node in the web, if we can just learn to see. This is not something that will come in the future, but is always available now, in this moment, the only moment. You are the web, you are embedded in the web, and the web is embedded in you.