2014 YLT 1st Half Summary

imagesGeneral Principles:

1. Establishing Presence, Opening the Heart:
How can we practice ‘Presence’, stabilize our awakening, realize the unbounded present moment, silent and still, un-graspable and yet, ever available, and images-3rest here, abide here, as the world of form, the manifest universe, unfolds in its own way, in its own time; and from here allow the heart to open into its natural fullness so we can engage our karmic path with both wisdom and compassion.

2. Learning the rules of the world of form, as expressed in: the yin and yang, the tamas, rajas and sattva, the balance of opposites.

3. Studying the nature of the gross body, matter, the sthula sharira, through gravity and weight, muscle, bone and connective tissues, anatomy and kinesiology; using Tom Myers’ ‘Anatomy Trains’ model and other fascial continuities that link movement and perception, and enhancing perception and sensitivity through the practice of yoga postures and flow, gestures and movement.

4. Investigating the level one of the energy body, the physiological or pranic realms through breath perception, observation, and guided practice of asana and pranayama.

5. Exploring ‘mind’ and ‘mind activity’ as expressed in attention, perception, memory,heart-energy discrimination, identification, discovery, emotions, actions and creativity.

6. Discovering and aligning the energy body with the ‘Cosmic Fields’, using gravity, asana and the imagery of sacred geometry. Building a strong and grounded connection to the ‘Heart Toroidal Field”.

Specific Explorations :
(for the first half of the course; more to come!)

1: Develop familiarity with basic standing poses as ‘tools’ for somatic discovery. These include uttanasana, prasarita padottanasana, trikonasana, ardha chandrasana, parsvakonasana, parsvottanasana, parvrtta ardha handrasana, parvrtta parsvakonasana. Please add your own favorites to this list if necessary.

2. Use these poses to explore the three basic movements of the hip sockets: flexion/extension (or forward and back bending…do not confuse spine with hips!): lateral flexion and extension or ‘fish body’: and rotation or twisting. Again differentiate hips and spine here.

3. Practice dog pose and all variations, including ‘flipping’. Learn to art of ‘double action’ or opposite extension.

images-124. Grow yourself a tail and use it in all poses to ‘trifurcate’ the mula or root chakra energy. From dog, begin with simple inversions and add sirsasana and sarvangasana when ready. Also simple back bends (sphynx, cobra, up dog, ustrasana, and twists.

5. Become familiar with the ‘Deep Front Line’ of the Anatomy Trains lines. Find it feel it, work from here, integrate perception, stabilize your presence here.

6. Learn the role of props as tools to provide support and leverage to help open up the body. Blocks, belts, bolsters, blankets, weights (sandbags or barbell plates) and chairs are the main ones. Foam rollers and therabands are also wonderful tools. Use for supported bridge and variations to refine double action, aka integrating prana and apana.

7. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: First Pass: get a feel for the structure of the book, the nature of sutras and the different types of information conveyed. Next: Choose a 12 or so key sutras, ones that you can work with. Include as essential I-2 – 1-4, II-46 – II-48, II-1 and I-33. Live with them. Sleep with them.

8. Read some Dan Siegel to get a sense of interpersonal neuro-biology and modern neuroscientific models of mind. What is neural integration and how does that relate to yoga? What is emotional self-regulation?

9. Observe your own ‘ahamkara’, the I making’ aspect of mind activity. Shift it from ‘identifying with’ the thoughts, ideas, beliefs and objects in the mind to ‘spacious emptiness’ aka presence. Make friends with the many ‘voices’ or ‘parts’ that have important roles to play in mind. Create teams of parts that can complement each other as they perform their duties. Just be clear that, although they may pose as “I”, they are imposters. “I AM’ is limitless, luminess emptiness…

10. Listen to ‘awakening teachers’ through their cd’s (‘Sounds True‘ has an extensive collection), or even better, live and in person.images-1 Read their writings. Soak it in until awakening becomes second nature. Then keep re-minding your self, ‘stay awake’, ‘stay present’. The reminders are everywhere! My personal living favorites are Adyashanti and Eckhart Tolle, but there areUnknown many awakening teachers out and about these days, each with their own unique gifts and gaps. Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nirsagatta Maharaj are two giants of the last century.

Advanced Practice:

Shades Pas De Deux_Gene Schiavone

Work on your levitation.

2014 YLT 6th Weekend Summary

Primary Theme of Course: monitoring and modulating the flow of energy and information, from our home base in the Infinite, Luminous Now, to bring our unique creativity into the present moment.

Opening meditation: Resting in Stillness: Allowing time to flow right on through.

images-1Most of the time we experience our ‘selves’ as moving through time; getting through the day, week, year. A simple change of perspective allows the sense of time to flow through us. This is what Eckhart Tolle calls the ‘Power of Now’, now being the infinite present through which time, and all creation, spontaneously flows. This is also the point of view of Purusha, the drastuh svarupe of sutra I-3, of atman, and many more words and phrases that point to ‘the timelessness of being’. This is home. Stabilize presence here.

Main Theme Weekend 6:  Mind, Part 3: Selves: Unique, Universal and more…

Selves:  We are tracking the ongoing flow of energy and information moving through various layers of embodiment. In part three of our explorations of the layers of mind, we have come to the mental creations that are involved in the ‘sense of self’, the ‘I, me and mine’ thoughts. As mentioned in Mind: Part 1, the role of a mature ahamkara is to create a sense of self that can remain stable while it organizes the many layers and levels of mental life. This requires integration with the buddhi, the innate intelligence. This is not necessarily an easy process as, for most of us, the buddhi is lees than fully developed and this self sense morphs into a complex constellation of competing and limited ‘selves’, each claiming to be the true ‘I am’. As these are contructs of prakriti, they are inherently limited and impermanent and thus cannot be the ‘True Self’ or Purusha.

As we discover in mindfulness, where and how we pay attention greatly shapes this self sense and the development of these partial selves. Also, awakening simply allows attention to have a deeper and longer sense of just resting in ‘Now” /timelessness/drashtu svarupe/ Purusha. This resting in timelessness will gradually shift the self sense from the partial selves to “I am this (timelessness), the “True Self”. Then the True Self is both Unique and Universal and operates through the other ‘selves’ to bring creativity to the world.

Because we also inhabit the world of time, prakriti, or impermanence, as the Buddhists would say, we have and need these other ‘selves’ that appear and modify our energy, our behavior, our actions in the world. Some of these ‘selves’ are creative, compassionate and wise, and arise out of our deep connection to the fullness of the present moment, the True Self. We want to nurture these. Others are small-minded, self-centered, petty, and destructive. These sources of suffering are based upon trauma, habit and conditioning and can be modified through mindful attention and thoughtful practice, what Patanjali calls in I-2, ‘citta vrtti nirodha’, ‘resolving the dysfunctional mind states into healthy flow, or ‘citta prasadana‘ from I-33.

imagesI have experience with two approaches to the exploration of these ‘selves’ which come from western psychotherapy. The first is known as “Internal Family Systems”, and was developed originally by Richard Schwartz. In brief, the IFS model postulates that the human mind often has numerous ‘sub personalities or selves, that are called ‘parts’, (implying that none are the ‘whole’ person). They are probably of different ages, with different skills, deficits, life experiences and desires. They are all valuable and necessary to the healthy functioning mind, but, for various reasons, often take on more problematic, conflicted or destructive roles.

Also, in IFS there is a “Self”. This Self is the seat of consciousness, is already and always highly integrated, and ideally is the CEO of the mind. Its role is to delegate authority and mediate disputes among the parts. The Self is not a part, but can be lost in the background noise of conflicted parts. Think of it as the integrated linking of Ahamkara and Buddhi, to use the yogic terminology. The role of IFS therapy is to help differentiate the Self from the parts, establish the “Self” at the center where it belongs, and help the ‘self identity’ remain grounded in the ‘Self’, rather than jumping from part to part. The centered ‘Self’ can then help resolve conflicts amongst the parts Unknownby giving each a voice to be heard and a role to play in the ongoing flow of mind activity.

According to IFS, when trauma upsets the mental/emotional system, polarization arises among the parts and they organize into warring factions, usually taking on extreme roles. These factions generally fall into three categories. The managers try to ‘maintain control of the confusion, usually by repressing the injured, wounded, unhappy parts. These unhappy parts, known as ‘exiles‘, are too painful for other voices to acknowledge, so they are kept ‘locked up’ in the unconscious. If any of the exiles ‘escape’ and start to demand attention, or take over, the ‘firefighters’ jump in and try to ‘extinguish’ the intensity of the exiles. They will try anything to dissipate the fire, including encouraging over-indulgences in drugs, alcohol, food or sex. Thus, although they seem to have the same goal as the managers, that is, keeping the exiles quiet, firefighters often operate by creating even more damage and suffering, leading to even stronger exiles, requiring more work from the managers. It is a vicious cycle of repression, explosion and suffering. Only reestablishing the ‘Self” can begin to restore order to the system.The role of the therapist is to help the client ‘differentiate the ‘Self’ from the parts, and then facilitate a dialogue between the Self and the various parts, to help sort out healthy roles.

The second pyscho-therapeutic approach that I have experienced is known as the ‘Big Mind’ process, an offshoot of “Voice Dialogue”, created by Hal and Sidra Stone. Big Mind comes from the insight of Zen Master Genpo Dennis Merzel, or Genpo Roshii, who met imagesthe Stones when they were brought in to help resolve some conflicts in the Zen center he was involved with. He later combined Voice Dialogue with Zen insight to expand the number of ‘voices’ available. In Big Mind,  the word ‘voices’ is synonymous with ‘parts’ in IFS. They are the sub personalities of the psyche and can be dualistic or non-dualistic. You can see the obvious parallels to IFS in the voices. Some dualistic ones include the: protector, controller, seeker, doubt, anger, fear, the damaged self, victim, the wounded child, shame and the rejected one. The non dualistic voices can include Big Mind, Big Heart, Great Joy, Great Gratitude , Great Doubt, and the Master.  These all arise from a grounded sense of Self as unbounded and free. Like in IFS, the dualistic voices have a key role to play, but need to be seen, heard and integrated into the ongoing flow. The Non-dualistic voices are responsible for this healing.

As you explore your own inner voices, you may find some that are familiar and some that have been hiding. Name them if you can and let them speak. Be observant and creative. Create voice collectives or sub systems that can work together harmoniously. If the exiles manage to escape surreptitiously and you find yourself reeling from the emotional shock waves, you have to find ground and some spaciousness. Then you (the Self) can negotiate.

Pranayama: Viloma I and II
Viloma breathing involves a creating a series of pauses during the flow of inhalation and exhalation, like walking up and down stairs. Viloma I is (roughly): inhale-inhale-pause-inhale-inhale-pause-inhale-inhale -pause- normal exhalation -pause- next cycle.Viloma II is (roughly): normal inhalation, pause-exhale-exhale-pause-exhale-exhale-pause-exhale-exhale- pause – next cycle. If you are a natural inhaler, Viloma I will feel easy and Viloma II more challenging. If you are a natural exhaler, vice versa. It seems to be 50 – 50 in the yoga population.

Of the 5 prana vayus, prana and apana come first. Prana is the expanding of inhalation, apana the squeezing/condensing of exhalation. In Viloma we find the ‘seed of the opposite’ in the cycles, finding apana in the pranic inhalation and prana in the apanic exhalation. Later in the asanas, we will explore how the samana vayu acts to help integrate prana and apana.

Practice 1: If you are a beginner, use the pauses to reverse direction a bit. In viloma I, inhale-inhale-slight exhalation-inhale-inhale-slight exhalation etc. Viloma II is: exhale-exhale-slight inhalation-exhale-exhale-slight inhalation etc. I call this ‘Looping’ Viloma as the energy loops at each pause.

Practice 2: If that is comfortable, use the pauses to begin to differentiate ribs and diaphragm. Inhalation is used to expand the ribs/chest/intercostals, exhalation to tone abdominal wall and stretch and lengthen the diaphragm. Viloma I: inhale-inhale-inhale-keep chest expanding as you squeeze the belly in from the sides and peel the edges of the diaphragm in away from the ribs; inhale – inhale- repeat -etc. Viloma II: exhale-exhale-exhale-expand the chest out-keeping the diaphragm squeezing inward – exhale-exhale etc.

Practice 3: When the ribs and diaphragm are in harmony, the pauses of Viloma are an opportunity to rest in deep stillness, neither inhaling nor exhaling. This is preparation for the longer kumbhakas or retentions in ujjayi pranayama.

images-1Asana Inquiry: Opening 3rd chakra energies to help integrate prana and apana. In posture and movement, we find that the solar plexus region mediates between the upper and lower limbs to facilitate effortless movement.Unknown In the photo on the left, the limbs load or charge up the 3rd chakra with chi as the head and tail stay long and open. Then, as seen below, the energy explodes out opposite directions through the limbs which come up off the ground. They land and the cycle repeats as long as the cheetah is running. Can we find this action in every pose, starting with tadasana.

We can start by doing one leg at a time. Standing near a wall and facing it, bend one knee up to the chest, opening the kidneys and liver. when you next extend the leg down and back in an arc, try not to use the spinal muscles or quads. Track the circular flow down the DFL. Do not force the heel to the floor or you may compress the ankle. Do each side a few times and then add an arm. As the knee comes to the chest, also fold in your arm. When you extend the leg down, extend the arm up. eventually ad tail and head. Soak into the 3rd chakra, then squeeze and squirt into all six limbs (leg, leg, arm, arm, tail, head.)

Repeat above in all standing poses and downward dog pose, and then transition to flipping the dog, adding the spiral. Then explore same action in sphynx, bent knee sphynx, salabhasana, dhanurasana and ustrasana. If you are doing inversions, explore in sirsasana and sarvangasana.

UnknownMore advanced work: explore above in jumping from bakasana to chaturanga or plank. Remember to extend through crown chakra as well as tail to balance the move. For some help with this, here is a blog post from Kathryn Budig.

Day 2. Same as above and add parvottanasana as intro to revolved half moon, triangle and side angle as well as pigeon. Maintain the ‘cheetah action’.

Sutras Discussion: In the sutra on saucha, II-40, cleanliness, there are some derogatory comments on the body. Only  highly repressed males could come up with this one. Please take the anti -feminine sutras and commentary as patriarchal bs and an interesting historical note, and then move on. Is cleanliness important. Of course. On many levels. But how does that become ‘hugging your loved ones is repellent’ ! ! ? ?

The yamas and nyamas are about having healthy, positive relationships, with your ‘selves’ and with others. They are common sense and key rules for any society.

Our discussion on the ‘selves’ comes back to PYS I-4, vrtti saryupyam itaratra. At other times, i.e., when not in the state of ‘yoga’, i.e., not knowing the ‘Self’ as infinite being), there is identification with the parts, with mind activity posing as “Self”. Vrttis are not a problem. Multiple parts/voices/sub-personalities are not a problem. Only when there is identification with them, when the ahamkara lands in the world of form and confuses ‘I AM’ with something limited, is there an issue that needs addressing, as this is suffering.

Octahedrons: Master Keys to the Chakras

images-7Our on-going journey, as consciousness transitions from structure to energy to light as a basis for support, is full of delightful surprises. To work with this little gem, you will need a strong imagination, lots of patience, and a sense of play. We are going to use octahedrons as a master key to help liberate the light energy in the chakras. As this is a fractal, we can use them anywhere through the embodied fields, including joints, organs and cells.

The regular octahedron is one of the five platonic solids, a three dimensional shape where all of the faces are the same regular (all sides equal) polygon, and the same number of polygons meet at each corner. In the octahedron there are eight equilateral triangles, with four triangles meeting at images-6each corner. This little 87 carat beauty to the right is a yellow diamond, which, unfortunately was stolen from the Harvard cuprite2Minerological Museum and has probably been cut into smaller pieces. The cuprite crystals below are much smaller. Above is green fluorite.


The other Platonic solids include: the tetrahedron, 4 triangles, 3 at a corner: imgresthe cube or hexahedron with 6 squares, 3 to a corner; the dodecahedron with 12 pentagons and 3 meeting at the corners; and the icosahedron with 20 triangles and 5 meeting at the corners. Plato was fascinated with these shapes and associated each with one of the 4 classical elements: earth as the cube, water the iscosahedron, air the octahedron and fire with the tetrahedron. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with the dodecahedron, so he suggested that the gods use it in aligning the heavens.

In a later post we will convert the octahedron images-3with 6 corners to a stellated octahedron with 8 and have lots of fun playing with that. But for now we will return to the simple octahedron and explore how it can be used as a ‘key’ to unlock the chakras and other energy constellations in the body.

The octahedron has a square center with four corners and two end points. If we stand it up and spin it like a top, we can see it as analagous to the earth spinning on its axis, with the square as the equator and the points as the poles. To take the analogy further, this axis becomes the chakra line or central channel Unknownrunning through the human body, the the 7th chakra as the north pole and the 1st chakra as the south pole. (The universe is a giant fractal!) images-8




Now imagine that our octahedron is like an imaginary allen wrench, which is sort of like a key, (with a square rather than hexagonal cross section) that we can insert into any of the chakras and rotate one way or the other. HOw do you find the chakras? Make a good guess, but as you will find, this pattern is well loved everywhere in the body. We’ll begin with the heart chakra, the center of cosmic balance, just behind the physical heart. Which way to imgres-1insert the key? We have three choices.

Option 1: the tips align with the chakra line and turning creates rotation along the spinal axis. This looks like the earth turning as above. Because the center is a square, four quarter turns completes one rotation. Then reverse for four more turns. Explore back and forth and feel how the energy and structure responds.

In the beginning, because we tend to have a much stronger presence in the physical plane, the muscles will try to help. As best possible, let the structure, the muscles and bones, be receptive. They may move, but the feeling is like driftwood floating down a very slow moving stream. As you become more grounded in the energy plane, (the stream), allow the energy to be receptive and feel that the points of light at he corners of the octahedron are creating the motion.

Option 2: insert sideways with tips in direction of arms. Turning the key creates flexion and extension energies, or coiling and uncoiling. Choose a direction and complete the four quarter turns. Reverse. Explore the possibilities and responses. Minimize the physical plane help, but let it respond to the imagination.images-4

Option 3: insert from front to back. Turning now creates lateral flexion and extension or side bending. Choose a direction to start, repeat the four quarter turns and their reversal. Explore the responses and openings.

If it helps, imagine that the octahedron is isoceles; that is, the tips extend out further from the center, to get a better ‘grip’ as you turn. To complete this chakra, now imagine all three directions are actualized simultaneously with the tips as points of light. As we started with the heart chakra you can try green, but white light will do as well.

Then explore all the chakras this way, visualizing and opening all 3 spatial directions. this is an open ended exploration. Let your intuition guide you. be patient and repeat, even briefly whenever you can remember. Feel free to bring the octahedrons to anywhere in the body you feel stuck. See what happens. Have fun exploring!