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.)

Qi gong Image

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.

 

Boston Notes: 2

Microscosmic Orbit, Abdominal Breathing and
Finding Support in the Asanas

(A little more detail than we covered in May, but consider it your homework for October.

Find your root chakra, aka CV-1 or the ‘seat of yin’.
Find your crown chakra, aka GV-20 , the ‘seat of yang’ or ‘hundred convergences’.
illus3
Visualize your ‘Conception Vessel’, Yin in nature, running along the front of the body, from the center of the perineum up to the bottom lip. As we are working with the energy fields, we can visualize this as most of the front circle as shown in the hula hoop below.

Visualize the Governing Vessel, Yang in nature, running from your perineum, up the back body, around the crown chakra and down to the upper lip.

Imagine them linked in a circle like the hoop below, outside the body, except for root and crown. Because we are working with the energy field as well as specific regions of the body, we can use the getPart-3circular image. Imagine a flow of energy following the circle, beginning at CV-1, moving up the front and down the back, linking root and crown. Then reverse, from CV-1 up the back and down the front.

For a greater challenge, try the double action of both at the same time to create the sense of a suspended field of energy. Relax as much as possible and then find the chakra line, aka the ‘Thrusting Vessel’, running as a diameter connecting root and crown from the inside.

Tucking and Untucking

If we take the double action just at the root chakra, or CV-1, we have the dynamic tuck/untuck action that activates and integrates the pelvic floor with legs and core. Try in simple sitting poses at first. Then tadasana. In uttanasana, try this: In going from tadasana into uttanasana, the primary action is untucking the sitting bones as the pelvis flexes/rotates around the femur heads. At the same time let the tucking action be taken at the coccyx to complete the double action. The reverse happens when going from uttanasana back to tadasana. Here the primary action is tucking the sitting bones down, ccpt_12_16extending the pelvis around the femurs. Subtly let the tail bone untuck to complete the double action. Next feel the double action all the way through the crown as well.

So, to reiterate, all backbends fundamentally require strong pelvic extension over the femurs, or strong tucking. Counterbalance by subtly untucking the coccyx. Now, as a beginner, your sitting bones and coccxy may be stuck together and the double action is difficult. Whatever action releases the spine for you in the moment is the correct one. Tucking the coccyx may feel opening. For beginners in forward bends, tight groins and hamstrings limit the ability to untuck the sitting bones. Be careful not to contract the spine trying to untuck. All forward bends require strong untucking of the sitting bones to deepen the flexion, but this has to come from a release of the front spine/psoas. Work with the image/energy of the circles to keep from collapsing or overworking.

For many beginning students, tadasana is a back bend because the groins are short and getting the pelvis parallel to the legs is a challenge. The double action can be learned in tadadana by squeezing a block with the thighs, internally rotating the femurs rolling the block backwards to untuck. Keep the action of the legs while you extend/tuck the pelvis. This action in double action of the pelvic region in tadasana is present in every asana, which is why tasdasana is said to be the root of all the asanas.

IMG_8003In the asymetrica poses, where one hip joint flexes and one extends, the double action gets a bit tricky. In the pose to the left, the left hip is going into flexion requiring an ‘untucking of the sitting bones and a ‘tucking’ of the tail bone. The Right leg is tucking the sitting bones and untucking the tail. If you feel this deeply you ay notice that untucking opens the botton of the groin, below the pubis, and tucking opens the top of the groin, above the pubis. Ideally both top and bottom of the groins stay open to keep the energy freely flowing between torso and legs. Easier said than done!

Opening the Neck and Throat

To work with neck challenges, there is a double action between neck and skull that you can explore. In the diagram below, the base of the skull is near GV-16. When flexing the skull (bowing the head) GV-16 goes up. This will tend to push CV-22 just behind the sternal notch downward. The double action is to lift CV – 22 when flexing the neck. this keeps the throat soft and open. When looking upward and GV-16 is dropping, pull CV-22 downward as well. This keeps the back of the neck from collapsing into an isolated contraction. To help, us your fingers on the scalene muscles on the sides of the throat. Looking down, draw the scalenes up. Looking up, draw the scalenes down.

 

Qi gong Image

 

 

 

 

 

Abdominal Breathing:

In the chart above, notice the three diamonds. These correspond to the three bony cavities of the body; the skull, the rib cage, and the pelvis. Or in Tao’ist practice, three energy fields known as ‘dan tians’. In neuroscience, there are three different nervous systems corresponding to these spaces; the brain, the heart and the gut body, each with its own mode of ‘consciousness.

In general, when the breath flows freely through the lower dan tian or the region from the navel to the pelvic floor, the mind becomes quiet, the emotions settle, and the organism can store energy, like a battery being charged.

Sitting comfortably, imagining the three spaces and the energy field of the body, allow the inhalation to descend down to the pelvic floor. Feel CV-1, the seat of the yin pulling down like the subtle drawing of a bow. Feel the kidneys descending creating space for the lungs to expand. Keep the heart lifting gently, as if CV-12 is lifting as CV-1 drops. Feel the pelvis widening and deepening as well.

As you exhale, feel effortlessly CV-1 lifting and the abdominal wall slowly squeezing to release the breath. Keep your attention remaining down in the lower center during the exhalation so you strengthen your sense of ground and weight. Don’t force the breath, but invite it to expand and condense smoothly and evenly. You can practice smooth steady exhaling by adding an ‘O’ or ‘AH” sound, or blowing into a saxophone or other horn and sustaining an even tone.

The key is to keep you awareness down in to lower center and use the breath to soften and open the organs, tissues and cells. This ‘yin’ breathing is quieting and energizing.

Microcosmic Orbit Meditation.

When the abdominal breathing becomes stronger and easier, you can explore using some of the acupuncture cavities as reference points to focus your attention.

As you inhale and CV-1 descends, draw the energy up the front to CV-6. On the exhalation, let your attention flow back to CV-1. Repeat.

Or, inhale CV-1 to CV-6 to CV-12; exhale to GV-4 to CV-1, completing a small circuit. Repeat.

Or, inhale CV-1 to GV-4 to CV-12: exhale to CV-6 to CV-1. Repeat.

Use the chart to help you remember the cavities. Work your way up to CV 22 and then GV-20, up the front/down the back and then up the back and then down the front, always returning to CV-1.

Complete your practice by allowing the body to digest and integrate, either in simple sitting or savasana.

 

Yoga and the Inner Sea of Chi

Notes from the Boston classes: October 2016, and more …

IMG_0396As we sail, swim and float through the inner sea of chi, we discover how to use yoga poses and explorations to transform dense, confused dysfunctional energy to a more integrated, coherent subtle energy. We can then use the subtle energy to strengthen and heal the psyche/soul and refine our emerging adventures in the imaginal realm.

Sounds easy, but it is not. Most of the dysfunctional energy, expressed both personally and culturally, is not going away easily and we need to develop a strong sense of the ‘discomfort resilience’ mentioned in the previous post. To be immersed in the world of form, the feminine path of awakening, requires to hold a vast spaciousness to contain the suffering within and without that we will feel deeply. The current election insanity makes that very clear. Old patterns, deeply embedded in the cultural DNA, are also resilient.

Some very well known spiritual guidance is available to us on this journey. Patanjali describes the transformation of dense to subtle energy on the personal level in his second sutra on asana seen below. The whole of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching is devoted to the transformation on the personal and societal level.

II-47 pra-yatna shaithilyaananta sam-aa-pattibhyaam
With the release of effort and absorption in the limitless (posture is mastered).

There are two parts to Patanjali’s observation about refining asana practice. Both imply that the inherent tendency of the body, of aliveness, is toward harmony. In part one, as balance is restored through yoga practice, there is more ‘just allowing’ of what is natural to emerge from within and less imposing from without. Effort here implies an addition of energy that is not quite aligned with the forces and currents of the moment. We need to beUnknown-1 able to distinguish when our energetic actions are aligned, and when they are not. This requires listening, sensing and feeling as many layers of the body flow as possible. The fluid body is our link between structure and flow. Then action can be effortless. Taoists use the term wu wei, literally meaning no effort.

Patanjali’s second observation also comes right from Taoism. When the organism is whole and aligned in gravity, the whole cosmos is present in support. This is ananta, the serpent-couch of Vishnu, the sustainer of the cosmos, the sustainer of the pose. Our path is absorption in ananta, resting in the Tao, living fully alive.

From the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 37, Nameless Simplicity (Stephen Mitchell translation)

The Tao never does anything
Yet through it all things are done

If powerful men and women could center themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.

When there is no desire
all things are at peace.

We have a long way to go…

My Definitions:
Dense energy is out of phase with the inherent coherent flow of life in the body/mind/cosmos. It manifests as unnecessary effort, strain or contraction in the tissues and sense organs and accumulates over time creating the dense energy body. It can also be felt as unhealthy emotions, dysfunctional belief systems and other forms of stored trauma wired into the system.

Subtle energy is in harmony with the deepest expressions of health and coherence, the Tao, within and without, and in the body can be felt as subtle energy currents, waves and tidal flows.

Imaginal Realms: Emergent expressions of fundamental aliveness that connect the deeper levels of embodied cellular intelligence, through the dream process, to levels of reality outside the normal constraints of space and time. A major shift in human consciousness is taking place here.

The Process:
In a yoga pose, sequence or full practice, the main point is to awaken, and deeply refine our sensitivities so we can feel when we are in balance, and when we are not. The fluid body, the inner sea of chi, is where we travel, feel, sense, notice and align ourselves to the deeper realms of cosmic intelligence. This in turn will help us enliven and balance all levels of our energy so that when we go out into the world, we can bring some level of maturity, equanimity, kindness and creativity into our relationships. Same with our journeys into the realms beyond time and space. How might we go about this?

Cosmic Orientation and the Seven Sacred Directions

images-6The seven sacred directions give us a 3 dimensional model or map, with 3 axes and a center point, to help monitor and modulate our journey through the sea of chi. As our attention flows through the 3 dimensional space, we open the polarity of the axes through the center point, so that the energy and information flows both ways. We can then let attention come back to the center, the heart, and dissolve into infinite spacious awareness where the deepest healing takes place.

1st direction. Open your heart. It always begins and ends in the heart. It is almost a cliche, but the primary practice/orientation is to awaken and open our hearts and establish a stable base there. Over and over, 24/7/365.24…. Feel your heart by touching your sternum, breathing into the chest, or any other way that allows you to make embodied connection with your physical heart. Be there. Stay there.

2nd direction. Open to Mother Earth  also known as grounding or awakening the yin energy. Feel a line of energy/love growing down from your heart, through your root chakra deep into Mother Earth. Establish your connection to the underworld. Stabilize this. Patanjali calls this sthira, the stability of Mother Earth and gravity.

3rd direction: Open to Father Sky. From your heart center, open through your crown chakra to the sky and heavenly realms. Feel the lightness and spaciousness, the sukham of the sky. Connect back through your heart down to Mother Earth and return from Mother up to the heavens. Feel the open channel connecting Father, Mother and You, in the holy trinity.

You have now opened your primary axis/chakra line, head to tail, heaven to earth, 7th to 1st chakras. We will return to this also, again and again, every moment, every pose. It is where we connect most deeply with the cosmic axis of ananta in sitting and standing.

4th and 5th directions: Right and Left. From the chakra line, expand sideways in both directions, right and left. This is the emergence of our bi-lateral symmetry, two sides of the brain all the way to our two hands and feet. For most cultures, the front body is associated with the east and the rising sun, which makes the right side the south, and the left the north. We all have dominant sides, from hands and feet to eyes and ears. Balance involves allowing right and left to communicate with each other, through the central axis/chakra line. Key postures accentuating this include anantasana, trikonasana, ardha chandrasana, and all twists.

6th and 7th directions: Front and Back, the most difficult to orient to. We use the navel and umbilicus as our entry into this line and embryological flexion/extension to explore its deeper dimensions. Backbends open the front line by releasing the endodermal/gut body, organs, from mouth to anus, from compression. Forward bends open and soothe the back body/ectodermal nervous system.

The Postures:

Sitting: Start in any comfortable seated position. Center your self in your heart, open the chakra line, right/left and front/back spaces. Track sensations in all directions with the help of the breath. Where is there ease of expanding/condensing? This is the subtle energy we want to nurture and expand. In what directions/locations are there sensations of dullness or collapse? Where are there sensations of tightness and over exertion? These are examples of dense energy we are looking to transform.

Dullness or collapse definitely is an unconscious habit coming from the past. The tension of over exertion may also be old, but it could also be coming from a belief that this is what is supposed to be happening in the pose. We are all programmed to over work and rarely recognize this. This is where the feeling of effortlessness has to be discovered. Our habit is to identify with the gross body, the muscles specifically in asana, and use them as the anchor of the posture. When sthira, the lightness and spaciousness become a key component of our attention and feeling, we can begin to work less from the dense energy of muscles and more from a subtle energy of deeper realms of the prana or chi.

This is not to imply that the muscles are not engaged. Just that the access to them comes from a more subtle and integrated aspect of the energy field. There is a Sanskrit word ‘rasa’, which roughly translates as taste or essence, and in spiritual practice refers to a ‘taste’ of enlightenment, like a drop of nectar from the gods. This rasa is felt in the body in the fluids as the source of aliveness and it is this sense that we are looking for to guide our travels through and with the body. So as you sit, taste the delight where you can find it and stay there, savoring it. When the attention goes to effort or collapse, reconnect with the rasa of the pose. In cranio-sacral practice, the cerebro-spinal fluid is referred to as liquid light and there is a strong possibility that this is the ‘rasa’. Whatever we call it, find it!!

Standing: In tadasana, notice how your legs continue the chakra line through the feet into Mother Earth. Also find your imaginal energy tail to further open and ground the 1st chakra. When your stability comes from a fluid energetic connection through the chakras into the gravity, the unnecessary tension can dissolve, somewhat. There will still be lines and more complex patterns of tension that will persist, but if you can find, feel and nurture the subtle energies that are liberated through the energetic alignment, they become your resource sustaining the pose, whatever it may be. Explore all you favorite standing poses this way.

Forward and Backbending: The subtle energies of flexion and extension come from our embryological origins. Digest this lovely animation to get a feel of the these motions. There is folding from head to tail, and also a folding or wrapping around from back to front along the sides of the body. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMnpxP6EeIY

We all tend to collapse the endodermal organs/front body in forward flexion, and overwork the large erector spinae muscles in back bending. Somewhere inside of you is the embryological field that allows these movements to be more and more effortless. Of course, even the embryological fields have distortions and other issues, but, none-the -less, the power of the subtlety is still very present. In time we can begin to heal the embryological field patterns as well.

Fun with a Taoist approach to the Breath: Looping Viloma Pranayama. In this variation, we balance yin and yang energies through in breath and out breath, and the action of the ribs and diaphragm, transforming dense energy into subtle energy. Remember, inhalation, the action of the prana vayu is an expansion centered in the chest imgresand spreading all the way through the diaphragm into the skull and pelvis. Exhalation, the action of the apana vayu is a squeezing or condensing centered in the lower abdomen and acting from the pelvic floor to the the volume just below the diaphragm, and subtly including the intercostal muscles. Each is actually supported by and contains a seed of the other.

Over time, many people lose the support and balance of the vayus, as the chest collapses and the belly distends. The diaphram, ribs and spine all become tight and constricted. In this variation of viloma, we encourage the prana vayu/chest to sustain a sense of expansion and the apana vayu/abdominal wall to sustain a sense of condensing, during both inhalation and exhalation. Traditional viloma divides the inhalation and exhalation into smaller steps with pauses in between, like walking up and down stairs. The pauses are mini kumbhakas or retentions and prepare you for longer retentions as your practice matures. Three pauses is a commonly taught style, but you may have more or less as you feel your way through the practice. We will use the pauses a little differently.

Viloma I: inhalation with pauses. The tendency here will be to use dense energy to drive the in breath. We want to change this. Take a few minutes to relax and settle in to a comfortable breathing pattern, lying or sitting as you prefer. When ready to begin viloma, pause after the first third and notice. Am I tensing up anywhere, especially along the spine, bit also in the neck and shoulders, sense organs, pelvis or legs. If so, use the pause the relax the dense energy in as many of these places as possible. Soften the spine without collapsing the chest as the key to this. Increase the abdominal tone to help sustain the chest lifting.

You may actually feel that you are exhaling slightly. No problem. In the beginning, releasing tension will also release some air. As you become familiar with the practice, the release during the pause will just be of the dense energy. Repeat for two or more pauses, and then exhale evenly. If the exhaltion is strained, do a shorter cycle next time. It may feel like: inhale 1,2, 3, exhale 1, inhale 1,2,3, exhale 1, inhale 1,2,3, even exhalation, rest. Over time the expansion of the chest becomes more supported by abdominal tone. As the abdominal wall becomes stronger and more integrated, the diaphragm and chest open and soften more and more, allowing the in breath to be long and effortless.

Viloma II: Exhalation with pauses: Like Viloma I, only now the exhalation has pauses. The tendency here is to collapse the chest too quickly, cutting off the ability to complete a full exhalation. Use the pauses to recharge the prana vayu/chest, which may feel like a slight inhalation. Make sure the driving energy of exhalation is a squeezing of the abdominal cavity /apana vayu. Repeat for 2 or more cycles. It may feel like inhale, exhale 1,2, 3 inhale 1, 2, exhale 1,2,3, inhale 1,2, exhale 1,2 3 rest. Or whatever works for you.

Viloma II is my favorite because it totally changed my sense of the breath. As a beginner in pranayama, I could inhale faily easily, but my exhalations never felt complete. When I slowed the exhalation down in Viloma, and added a slight in breath on the pause, I finally felt that I could get the diaphragm and ribs to move together in harmony. The exhaltion/apana vayu began to support the inhalation/prana vayu and vice versa. From a Taoist perspective, the the seed of the yin supports the full expression of the yang and the seed of the yang supports the full expression of the yin.

A helpful exploration in structure: We had some fun awakening the clavicles, especially clavicleimportant in weight bearing poses like dog pose and hand balance, but also useful in all poses. First, achor the clavicle to the sternum at the sterno-clavicular joint. This is often unstable and unconscious. Use the fingers of one hand to hold this while you move the arm and sholder girdle around. Second, widen the clavicle out sidewasy toward the scapula without losing the anchored S-C joint. Feel the clavicle lengthening energetically in both directions. What ever else you do with the shouldrs and arms, do not lose this feeling. Start with climbing the wall and then go to dog pose and variations, hand stand, and any other poses you wish to explore.

Imaginal Practice:

1.Continue to develop your imaginal ‘sacred space’ / healing spa / refuge. Use all of your senses: what sounds do you hear? What are the scents and aromas wafting about? How does your body feel in the different areas of your healing garden?

images2.Develop a relationship with a gatekeeper. This person/entity will protect you, your space, your friends, but will also challenge you to grow. Ganesha is a very popular gatekeeper in India and he can be very helpful to us yogis. As a master of wisdom and knowledge, and a remover of obstacles, Ganesha will be a great gatekeeper for you. Chant his root mantra to help alert him to your presence.

Om gam ganapataye namaha