Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On Yoga

Today I have written down some notes I have made either for classes or in hopes of remembering.  Funny thing about the mind, or at least mine...I keep having to re-remember.

Because these notes are from over the years most ideas will have been taken from one place or another.  I didn't write down the source all the time, something I am trying to remember to do better.

Mr. Iyengar has often written that yoga is a complete subject. It is a science, art and philosophy.

The practice of yoga aims at overcoming the limitations of the body.  It is the perfect balance between the body and mind to achieve self-realization.  Yoga teaches that obstacles in the path of our self realization indicate themselves in physical and mental illnesses.

When the physical state is not perfect, then the mental state is imbalanced.  Yoga practice helps to overcome this imbalance.  To be balanced and reach self-realization one must be self-aware.  This isn't just an awareness you notice once and think you've got it.  It is constant, ongoing.  What may be truth for you at one point will change over time because we experience things like changing hormonal levels, physical levels, emotional levels and psychological levels throughout our whole life.

So, Yoga practice helps us to be more self-aware, to notice and accept our subtle changes in body, mind and breath to reach self-realization.

Yoga asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breath work) not only benefit the muscles and bones of the body, but also the organs, glands and nervous system.  Yoga brings equilibrium and healing to the physical body which helps bring emotional balance and mental clarity.

Yoga asanas tone the whole body - yoga is integration - one pose can have many benefits because to be balanced or whole, all the systems of the body must be balanced. Our systems do not work separately, they are also integrated together.

So, that is why it is important to slow down, breath and listen, otherwise you may miss your "aha" moment.  The moment you realize all that is truly important.

Pamela Nelson


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Progressive Relaxation

I wrote earlier this week on "A Well-Performed Savasana".  It discussed more the reason why we do savasana and a general feeling one might have in the pose.

Below is a bit of a guide to help remain relaxed once in the pose.  Soon, I will give a step by step to coming into and out of the pose.  A bit backwards maybe...but that is how my week is going!
You can also check out Light on Pranayama, by B.K.S. Iyengar for a detailed description.

So, at the end of yoga class one should always come into savasana.  It is a time to completely relax the body, breath and mind but not be in a state of sleep.  It is conscious relaxation.  As an instructor it can be difficult to know when one truly is in SAVASANA, as the body may be still....but is the mind?  Sometimes we can lie perfectly still, but our minds continue to race on..."When will this be over..I have so much to do.."

Below is a guide to help quiet the mind and keep the focus to the present moment, as it is the only one we can be sure of. 

This is a progressive relaxation:

As you lie on you back breathe deeply into your left foot.  Pause at the top of your breath and visualize the leg filling with the breath.  Tense the left leg, lift if slightly off the ground and then exhale completely relaxing the left leg and imagine it dissolving into the breath.

Repeat this with your right leg.

Now begin to breath into the left hand.  Spread the palm and fingers open, and then make a fist.  Hold the breath as you visualize your left arm filling with the breath.  Lift the arm off the floor a bit and then exhaling relax the arm completely and feel it dissolve with the breath.

Repeat on the right arm.

Next, inhale and completely fill the abdomen. Hold the breath, then exhale through the mouth and deeply relax.

Breath now into the lungs, feel the ribcage expanding as the lungs fill to their maximum.  Hold the breath, then exhale deeply and completely relaxing the back and chest.

Continue to lie feeling the breath rise and fall gently.  Feel the limbs becoming heavier and heavier, sinking down more and more into the earth.  Let the earth support you as you continue to draw inward.

Stay for as long as you are able.

Come out of the pose slowly so as not to over activate the body and mind to suddenly.

Gently wiggle the fingers and toes.
Roll the arms and legs.
Bring slight movement to the head.
Bend the knees one at a time and lift the right arm up by the right ear and roll to the right side.
Stay here with the chin drawn into the chest for a few breaths.
On the next inhale, press the floor to come up.
Stay seated quietly, enjoying these moments of stillness.

Pamela Nelson

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Well Performed Savasana

Sava means corpse in Sanskrit. The word sava though is derived from the verbal root Su, which means "to generate or to enliven". 
As the visual poetry shows below, the cycle of life - from death comes life.

This poem found in Yoga Rahasya, vol 17, No 4, 2010 is by Arjun von Caemmerer.  The word Savasana is meant to be a symmetrical cycle, with the letter O or number 0 in the centre to convey this cyclic nature of practice.  It says that while we end practice with Savasana, it is equally a point of departure, a new beginning.

A        A
S         O        S
A          A

So, Savasana is the Corpse Pose or the Final Relaxation Pose.  It is one of the hardest to perform as the physical body is meant to be as still as a corpse, yet the mind is kept passively active.  It is not a state of sleep.

Most often this pose is done at the end of a yoga session, but it can also be done anytime the body, mind and nervous system needs to draw inward.  When done properly the pose releases tension from the muscles and joints, the mind is quiet and the nerves relaxed.  It has been described to me as a time when the intelligence from the asanas done can be incorporated into each cell of the body.

Light on Pranayama, by B.K.S. Iyengar gives very detailed instructions on coming into and out of the physical pose of savasana, and he also gives hints and tips on the internal aspects of the pose.  It is definitely a worthwhile read.
He says there must be unity of the body, the breath, the mind and the intellect.  The balance between these four brings stillness.  To accomplish this the breath must be kept smooth, the ribs relaxed, with the breath touching the empty space of the nostrils. 
The attempt is to achieve silence in all the five sheaths or kosas.

B.K.S. Iyengar's book, Light on Life, describes this cutting of tension, this relaxation as the loss of ones identity, which brings freedom, gives us the truth of who we are and who we are not.  In a good savasana one feels present, yet formless, with a lack of specific identity.  A few moments where one feels they are on a thin line of awareness, set only in the present moment, without movement or time.

In Mr.Iyengar's article, "Savasana: The Glimpses of the State between Jagratavastha and Turyavastha", he says often one will feel as though their skin and muscles are shrinking, drawing inward, while the bones feel like they are elongating.  There is a pleasant feeling of heaviness in the body and a deep mental peace as the ego is surrendered.  He states, "In forgetting oneself, one discovers oneself."

If your mind is not able to relax, if thoughts continue to race even though the body is still, this is not savasana.  A fluctuation of the mind creates vibrations and hardness in the face and to the nerves.  Try to keep the intelligence quiet.  If this is difficult bring your awareness back to the breath.  Keep the eyes downward so as not to disturb the brain.  Just accept, acknowledge and let go of each thought, coming back to your breath, dropping the ego to the heart center.

So, it is o.k. if you sometimes fall asleep at the end of a yoga class..this is natural, but try not to skip your savasana as it is an important pose, and as B.K.S. Iyengar writes in Light on Pranayama, "it is the most refreshing and rewarding."

Pamela Nelson - Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor

Words of Wisdom - 2

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Morning Routine 2 - General Practice

Good Morning!  Below is a new morning routine for those that have been practicing with Morning Routine 1 for awhile.  Just a reminder that the poses and information are a general guideline.  If you have specific health issues, it is better to check with your doctor.  If you still want to do Morning Routine 1, it is found in the November 2010 blogs.

Begin seated in Virasana, as pictured below.  To come into Virasana, bring the knees as close together as you can and the feet to the outside of the hips.  Place the thumbs or fingers behind the knee and draw the flesh of the muscle back to create more space behind the knee.  Sit on enough height that the knees do not have any pain and the spine is long.  The full pose is sitting on the floor between the feet.  Do this version only if there is no knee pain and/or no rounding to the lower back.

Sit in Virasana for 3-5 minutes.  The toes should all face back...they should not round in.  Press into the shins.  Allow the skin of the thighs to release towards the knees.  Although the back should be slightly concave, draw the tailbone under slightly to lengthen the lower back and at the same time lengthen the spine up to the crown of the head.  Release the shoulders back and down away from the ears.  Lower tips of the shoulder blades draw in and down and the kidneys move in and up.  The neck lengthens softly, eyes closed.  Focus on smooth, even breaths.

Dandasana - Staff Pose
Seated on enough height that the legs can be straight and the back straight and perpendicular to the floor.  Lengthen through the back of the legs and press out through the heels and toe mounds.  Outer thighs roll in so kneecaps face the ceiling.  Engage the quadricep muscles and press the thighbones towards the floor.  If you are up on quite a bit of height..a bolster or a few block, place a rolled blanket under the back of the knees to press into.  Roll shoulders back and down, lift spine.  Broaden the collarbones out towards the shoulders.  Maintain for 3-5 breaths.

Inhale, then on exhalation draw right knee towards the chest keeping spine long, even weight on both sit bones, shoulders releasing down the back and the left leg straight and engaged.  The abdomen and hip crease need to remain soft and relaxed.  Stay for a few breaths.

Then come into Sukasana (easy pose), crossing right ankle over left and begin to twist to the right.

Baddha Konasana - Bound angle Pose
Sitting on a folded blanket, block or bolster bring soles of feet together and press firmly.  If can interlace the fingers around the toes, if not place a strap around the outer edge of the feet, cross the straps and wrap around hands.  This acts as an extension to the arms.  Rolling the shoulders back and down continue to press the feet.  Release the inner groins and slowly move knees towards the floor.  Stay for 3-5 breaths.

Repeat last four poses, substituting the left leg.

The next four poses are linked together.  Begin on your back with right ankle crossed over left.  Hold toes with thumbs, pointer and index fingers.  Tuck head in a bit and roll on the spine a few times.  This massages the back and spine.

Come up to balance on the sit bones.

Modified boat pose.  Balancing on sit bones, uncross ankles and keep shins parallel to the floor.  Spine is long and shoulder blades move down and into the back.  Lift the sternum bone up.  Arms extend towards feet parallel to the floor.  Stay for a few breaths.

Paripuna Navasana - If can maintain balance and not round back straighten legs and hold for 3-5 breaths.

Repeat poses from rolling on the spine.  This time cross the left ankle over the right.

Come onto hands and knees for Cat/Cow.  Bring your hands under your shoulders, spreading your fingers to distribute the weight.  Keep your knees under your hips with your shins hip width apart and parallel.  Press firmly into the floor with your hands and shins, lengthen your spine and inhale arch your abdomen towards the floor, tailbone up towards the ceiling, chest open and looking up.  If you have lower back issues keep your back flat.

Exhale, tucking your tailbone under and your chin to your chest.  Draw the abdomen up towards the spine.  Release the head between the shoulders and keep pressing the shins and hands into the floor.

Repeat Cat/Cow a few times.

Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward facing dog pose
Tuck toes under and pressing into hands and toes lift the tailbone up towards the ceiling.  Stay on the toes until get length to the upper body. Press evenly into hands and feet/toes.  Lengthen the side body and draw the shoulder blades into the back and down.  Keep moving the shoulders away from the ears.
Only proceed to straighten legs and press heels towards the floor if can maintain a concave back.  If back begins to hunch or round come back to bending knees.  Stay for 5-6 breaths.
For more instruction on Downward Dog pose see March 2011 Pose of the Month.

Inhale, look up and step right foot forward.  If need come down onto back knee and use hand to move front foot forward so that ankle is directly under knee.  Press into back toes and press heel back, lifting thigh up.  Press into front foot and soften front hip crease so can release into a deeper lunge.  Keep back straight and shoulders rolling down the back.

Place hands on blocks if find back is rounding when trying to bring hands to the floor or if you have knee issues come up a bit.

Ukatasana - Chair/Powerful Pose
Step back foot up to front foot. Press into feet, draw tailbone towards floor and come up to Ukatasana.  Hook tailbone under slightly and lengthen up spine.  Shoulders release back and down.  Arms extend out parallel to the floor or up by ears.  Keep pressing evenly into feet, stay for 3-5 breaths and then inhale and come up to Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
Tadasana - Mountain Pose

Come back to hands and knees - and repeat poses from Downward Dog, Lunge with left foot forward and Ukatasana, Tadasana
In Tadasana, interlace fingers and press palms out while keeping shoulders moving back and down.
Inhale and raise arms up. Maintain action in legs as lengthen arms up.
As press feet into floor, keep lengthen side body and release over to a right side bend.  Inhale to come back up.  Lower arms back down and change interlace of fingers repeating on other side.

If you have limited time you can stop here and go to last pose - Savasana.
If you have a bit longer continue with following poses or alternate the above sequence with the following sequence.
From Tadasana - Mountain Pose
Inhale and raise arms up over head.
Exhale and bending forward at the hip crease come into Ardha Uttanasana - Half Forward Bend.
If hands do not reach floor or if back is not concave place on blocks.  If have lower back issues or if find bending from waist and not hip crease then bend knees slightly.  Press firmly into feet, lift kneecaps up towards hips to keep thigh muscles engaged.  Press thigh bones back and keep chest open, sternum lifting up, shoulder moving down the back.
Exhale and come into forward bend, Uttanasana.  Again, keep hands on blocks if they don't easily come to floor.  Head and neck should be relaxed.
Inhale, come back to half forward bend, then step feet back into plank pose (above).
Body should be in a straight line.  Buttocks should not be higher or lower then rest of body.  If need bring knees to the floor but maintain a long spine with shoulder releasing down the back.
If legs straight keep the thighbones lifting up and press out heels.
8-point Chaturanga
Drop knees to floor, then chest and chin keeping tailbone lifting up and shoulders moving down the back. Hold for a few breaths.  The 8-points are the 2 feet, 2 knees, 2 hands, chest and chin.
Lengthen out to come up to Bhujangasana - Cobra Pose
Outer thighs roll in, legs are firm and tailbone draws down towards the floor.  Coil spine up from here.  Hands are near side ribs and elbows stay close to the body, shoulders move back and down away from the ears.  Look either forward or up towards the ceiling.
If can press directly up to Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog Pose or if have back issue or feel not quite strong enough yet come back to Child's Pose first - knees bent, buttocks moves towards heels and then press up into Down Dog.
You can alternate pressing heels to floor to stretch back of legs and then come to full pose.
Inhale, look up from Down Dog and step right foot forward to lunge, back foot now at an angle and inhale press up to Virabhadrasana II.  Front knee bends to 90 degrees and angles out towards pinkie side toe.  Back leg is straight and back thigh bone presses back.  Press evenly between the two feet.  Torso remains perpendicular to the floor, spine long and arms extend out parallel to the floor.  Turn head to look over front fingers.
Inhale straightening front leg, turn toes so feet parallel to each other and step or jump back to Tadasana.
Repeat above sequence doing Virabhadrasana II on other side.

Stay in Tadasana for a few breaths.  Notice the sensations in the body.

Savasana - Relaxation
Come down to floor, recline back and first hug knees to chest.  Can rock side to side.
Then adjust body so it is in a straight line keeping legs together at first.  Then let legs fall out to the sides.  If you have low back pain place a bolster under the back of the thighs and release legs.  Roll shoulders under slightly and rest arms out to the sides with palms facing up.  Move inner arm out slightly to move outer tip of shoulders closer to floor.  Keep the chest open, yet relaxed.  Keep side of neck relaxed and allow the flesh of the forehead to move towards the bridge of the nose.  Draw the sense organs inwards as focus on breath.  Stay 5 minutes.

Pamela Nelson

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Evening Yoga Routine 1 - General Practice

Good Evening...Below is a general practice that can be done in the evenings, or anytime you would like to calm and quiet the mind and body.

Seated Meditation - Begin seated on enough height that the knees and hips are even.  Adjust the skin of the buttocks so that you can feel equal pressure between both sitt bones.  Allow the tailbone to descend as you ascend the spine up through the crown of the head.  The side body lengthens evenly, as well as the neck, keeping the crown of the head parallel to the ceiling.  Release the shoulder back and down. Feel the lower tips of the shoulder blades moving in and down, the kidneys in and up. Close the eyes, looking down to heart centre and focus on the breath.  Keep the breath soft and even through both nostrils.  If the mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the breath.  Stay for 3-5 minutes.

Supta Baddha Konasana - Reclined bound angle pose.  For instruction on getting into this pose see December 2010 - Pose of the Month.  Stay for 3-5 minutes.

Adho Mukha Virasana - Supported with 1-2 bolsters.  Spread knees the width of the mat apart and bring big toes together.  Draw tailbone towards the heels.  Place the bolster(s) between the legs.  Place hands on either side of the bolster(s) and as you exhale begin to release abdomen first onto the bolster(s), then chest and then head, turning head to rest on one side.

Standing Forward Bend - with blocks

Using either the chair (as below) or blocks (as above).  Begin standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with feet hip width apart and parallel.  Bend forward from the hips and rest the head on the blocks or chair.  If the bringing the head to the blocks is a challenge or if have back/knee issues use the chair.  Keep the legs straight by engaging the thigh muscles and pressing the thighbones back, with outer thighs rolling in slightly.  Try to keep the tailbone over the heels.  Stay for 3-5 minutes.

Standing Forward Bend - with chair

Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog Pose
Resting head on block, adjust weight so evenly balanced on all limbs and keep elbows and knees firm.
See blog for March 2011 - Pose of the Month for more instruction on this pose.
Stay for 3-5 minutes.

Prasarita Padottanasana - Wide-legged standing forward bend, resting forehead on seat of chair.
Stand with legs 4-5 feet apart, toes pointing forward so feet are parallel.  Keep the legs firm by lifting kneecaps up towards hips.  Bend forward at the hip crease and adjust chair so you can rest head on chair.  Lengthen through the back of the legs as lift tailbone up.  Lengthen the side body evenly also from hips towards armpits.  Shoulders continue to release back and down.  Smooth, soft breaths..staying for 3-5 minutes.

Chest opener over bolster.  Place a foam block under buttocks and have bolster behind horizontally and two foam blocks to rest back of head on.  Keep knees bent as recline back and hook armpits around bolster. Open arms out to the sides and rest head on blocks.  Extend legs out and draw tailbone toward heels.  Stay for 3-5 minutes.

Sit on the side of a chair, with feet hip width apart and parallel to each other.  Make sure sit bones are even on the chair seat.  Press into the feet and sit bones and inhale lengthening the spine up. Exhale and begin to turn from the lower back towards the seat back.  On the next exhalation turn from the mid-back, then turn the shoulders and head to look behind you.  Inhale and exhale, returning to a forward position.  Swing legs around to the other side and repeat.  Do 2-3 times on each side, holding 3-4 breaths each side.

Pachimottanasana - Seated forward bend - with chair to rest forehead on.
Sit on a foam block or folded blanket with legs stretched out in front, keeping legs and feet together.  Outer thighs roll inward and press out through inner heels.  Inhale and stretch arms up overhead to lengthen the side body and create space in the hip crease.  Exhale, bending forward at hips and rest head on seat of chair.  Arms can stretch up on back of chair as in picture above or can cross arms over head and rest forehead on top of folded arms.  Stay with easy breaths for 3-5 minutes.

Viparita Karani - Legs up the Wall Pose
Various ways to enter pose.  Lie on floor with legs going up the wall.  Bend knees and press feet into the wall.  Lift pelvis up bring bolster underneath.  Support buttocks on bolster.  Wiggle closer to wall as need so legs stay touching the wall.  Roll the outer shoulders under to open chest more, back of head rests on floor and release arms down by sides.  Breath with smooth breaths keeping abdomen relaxed.

Savasana - Concious Relaxation
Lie on back and place a folded blanket or foam block under the head and neck. Adjust body so it is in a straight line keeping legs together at first.  Then let legs fall out to the sides.  If you have low back pain place a bolster under the back of the thighs and release legs.  Roll shoulders under slightly and rest arms out to the sides with palms facing up.  Move inner arm out slightly to move outer tip of shoulders closer to floor.  Keep the chest open, yet relaxed.  Keep side of neck relaxed and allow the flesh of the forehead to move towards the bridge of the nose.  Draw the sense organs inwards as focus on breath.  Stay 5 minutes.

Pamela Nelson

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kosas - Sheaths of the Body

The word “kosas” means layers or sheaths of the body.  Each layer needs to be integrated and in harmony with each other to be complete.  In Light on Pranayama, by B.K.S. Iyengar he says that the Vedantic philosophy states there are three types of body (sarira) the envelope the soul.  The three types of body consist of five inter-penetrating and inter-dependent sheaths or kosas.  The five kosas are Annamaya kosa, Pranamaya kosa, manomaya kosa, vijnanamaya kosa and anandamaya kosa.

The annamaya kosa forms the first type of body, the sthula sarira or the gross body.  The pranamaya, manomaya and vijnanamaya kosas form the second type of body, the suksma sarira or the stuble body.  The anandamaya kosa forms the third type of body, the karana sarira or the causal body.
Below are the five kosas defined with a quote from Mr. Iyengar’s book, Light on Life about each kosa.
Annamaya kosa – anatomical sheath of nourishment
“It is the anatomical body that encompasses the other four bodies, or kosas.” P.4
“Only by first attending to the physical body can we hope to accomplish anything in our spiritual lives.” P.22
Pranamaya kosa – physiological sheath, includes respiratory and other systems of the body
“The energy body, pranamaya kosa, is the sheath in which we begin to cultivate our breath and also our emotions.” P.64
“Since prana is energy and life force, pranayama means the extension and expansion of all our vital energy.  It has to be clear that you cannot just increase the volume of anything as volatile and explosive as pure energy without taking steps to contain, harness and direct it.” P.66
Manomaya kosa – mental sheath, affects awareness, feeling and motivation
 “You cannot hope to experience inner peace or freedom without understanding the workings of your mind and of human consciousness in general.  All behavior, both constructive and destructive, is dependent on our thoughts.” P.107
“The study of mind and consciousness, therefore, lies at the heart of yoga.” P.107
Vijnanamaya kosa – intellectual sheath, affects the process of reasoning and judgment
 “On the inner frontier of this fourth sheath lies the discovery of the individual soul (jivatman), that spark of divinity that resides in all of us in our Divine Body.  In between these two borders of deepening self knowledge and the culture of our higher intelligence, pure insight rests.  Here comes the culmination of the exploration of the whole of our being as an individual.” P.148
Anandamaya kosa – ethereal, universal sheath, spiritual sheath of joy
“The end of duality that comes from meditation is the end of separation and the end of all conflict.” P.186
 “The final integration of the sheaths of being at last brings access to the knowledge of the soul to join that of the heart and body.” P.224

Friday, April 8, 2011

Words of Wisdom

Feelings come and go
like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing
my anchor.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Summer Sadhana in Christopher Lake - July 4th-9th, 2011

Summer Sadhana

The word Sadhana in Sanskrit means sustained or dedicated practice.
A Sadhaka is a practitioner.

A Yoga Sadhana can help enhance and deepen your home practice.

Join me July 4-9th at my home studio in Christopher Lake, Sk.

Limit 5

For more information or to register please contact:
Pamela Nelson

Sadhaka and Sadhana - and what is that?

The word sadhana in Sanskrit means practice or dynamic effort.  When one begins to delve into the deeper aspects of yoga, a yoga sadhana has begun. A sadhaka is a yoga practitioner, who uses the body, the organs of action, the senses of perception, the mind, the intellect and the consciousness to pursue a steady practice to reach Self-realisation.  As the depth of understanding increases the depth of the sadhana also increases.  Mr. Iyengar says in Light on Astanga Yoga, that Sadhana is done to quench the thirst for knowledge of the Self.
He also says that there is a great difference between just practicing yoga and a yoga sadhana
In Light on Life he says:
Sadhana is the way of accomplishing something.  That something is - by effective performance and correct execution- the achievement of the real.  What is real must be true and so leads us toward purity and emancipation.  This is yoga sadhana and not the mechanical repetition merely of yoga practice or yogabhyasa.  The end of yoga sadhana is wisdom.  You might translate yoga sadhana here as "the yoga pilgrimage" as it is a journey that leads somewhere, not the mere treadmill of thoughtless practice.
Thus, as stated in Light on Pranayama, yoga leads the sadhaka from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to light and from death to immortality. The fire of yogic discipline helps the sadhaka burn up within the self the impurities of desire, anger, greed, infatuation, pride and envy. 

To have a teacher is an important part of learning and should never stop since we never know where we will find our teachers in life, but your real sadhana begins when you bring this home and use your own intelligence, will power and desire to progress on your journey.  Mr. Iyengar says in Light on Life, then it comes from you, and its effect is profound.  This is not yoga by the body for the body, but yoga by the body for the mind, for the intelligence.

Pamela Nelson

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Book Review - Light on Life - by B.K.S. Iyengar

Light on Life - The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom
By: B.K.S. Iyengar

Light on Life has become one of my favorite books.  I know I said in the last book review that I will try not to put my opinion into it to influence yours one way or the other, but every time I pick it up I learn or re-learn valuable lessons on yoga and life.  At first I held off buying Light on Life.  I already had so many books and didn't know what more I could possibly absorb.  But, this book is so valuable to read and re-read.

It is also a great book for learning more about the man,  Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, as he gives insights into his life and his journey.  Mr. Iyengar has spent more than 75 years on the yogic journey and has been an inspiration to so many with his teachings and willingness to share his knowledge.

Unlike Light on Yoga, where instructions are given on asanas this book focuses more on the inner journey that yoga takes one on.  His chapters focus on the kosas, sheaths of being. He describes each and then helps explain how to integrate each of them together to achieve wholeness.

Taken from the Introduction:
You do not need to seek freedom in some distant land, for it exists within your own body, heart, mind and soul.  Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you must choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.

If you read this book let me know what you think.
email: plnyoga@plnyoga.vpweb.com

Pamela Nelson

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Quote for Today - Be a Source of Hope

Be a Source of Hope

Whatever happens
Never lose hope!
Develop your heart.
In your country, too much energy
Is devoted to cultivating the mind.
Be a source of compassion,
Not just for your friends,
But for everyone.
Be a source of compassion.
Work for peace.
And I tell you again,
Never lose hope,
Whatever happens,
Whatever happens around you
Never lose hope!

From: My Spiritual Journey, by The Dalai Lama

Friday, April 1, 2011

April - Pose of the Month - Virabhadrasana I

Virabhadrasana I - Warrior I Pose

This posture is named after the warrior sage, Virabhadra.  It is a strong standing pose that strengthens the spine and brings flexibility to the knees and thighs. The arms and chest are also stretched.  This pose should not be done if you have high blood pressure or a cardiac condition.  With all poses please be mindful of your own body as the instructions are a general guideline.

I have shown three variations.  The first shows the arms going up after turning to the side, the second the arms are up before rotating to the side and the third uses the wall for support and helps correct alignment.

Variation 1:

Begin in Tadasana in the center of your mat.  Press evenly into the big toe mound, little toe mound and heel of each foot.  Lift kneecaps, press thighs back.  Draw tailbone in and up the spine, lifting inner groins up.  Broaden the collarbones to the outer tips of the shoulders and release the shoulders down the back.  Gently lengthen the sides of the neck and gaze forward with soft eyes. 

Inhale and step or jump the feet about 4-4.5ft apart landing in Utthita Hasta Padasana.  Feet are parallel, arms extending out, also parallel to floor.  Press evenly into both feet, feeling torso balanced between the legs.  Keep the spine lifting, shoulders releasing down the back away from the ears.
This next stage arms are not raised until after body rotation.  The arms are kept parallel to floor (Vimanasana -airplane arms) and as exhale turn the torso and right leg out 90 degrees. The left left rotates in about 60 degrees.  The heel of the front foot aligns to the instep of the back foot.  The whole torso also rotates right so that the chest and pelvis face forward.  Keep legs straight to begin with by lifting the kneecaps up toward the thighs.  Again, feel torso balanced between the front and back foot by pressing evenly into both feet, legs firm.
Without changing legs, turn palms to face ceiling and raise arms overhead, moving the shoulder blades into the body and down and extending up through fingertips. Draw the inner sides of the legs up as you press feet into floor.
Exhale, bend the front knee 90 degrees angling the knee towards the pinkie side toe.  Keep pressing into the back foot and lift the back knee, keeping the back leg straight.  The hips are square to each other.  Draw the tailbone in and up to protect the lower back.
Lengthen through the back of the neck and begin to look up.  If have neck issues continue to look forward.
Keep pressing into both feet, draw the tailbone in and up to lengthen the spine, keep both sides of the torso lengthening evenly, chest open and breath even.  Stay for a few breaths and then inhale pressing into both feet, straighten the front leg, turn the feet back parallel to each other and step or jump back to Tadasana.  Repeat on other side.
If you are struggling to keep back heel pressing into the floor and keep the back leg straight you can place a block or rolled mat under the back heel.

Variation 2:

In this variation the arms are raised before rotating the torso.  Begin following first two steps above.

Then, turn palms to face ceiling and as draw shoulder blades down and into the back, raise arms up overhead until perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.
Press palms together only if arms remain straight.  If elbows bend then straighten arms and keep parallel to each other.
Continue with rest of pose as above.
Variation 3:

This variation uses the wall and is good to do when learning the pose for alignment or if feeling tired or off balance.

Begin facing the wall and press the right toes up the wall.  Have hands on wall for support.
Step the left foot back about 4-4.5 ft. and press arms into wall.  The toes pressing into the wall helps to bring awareness into the front leg.  Keep both legs straight by drawing kneecaps up toward thighs, tailbone tucks in slightly, lengthen the spine up and release shoulders away from the ears and down the back.
On the exhalation bend the front knee to 90 degrees.  A block can be placed between the wall and knee so that the knee does not go past the ankle.  Keep pressing into back foot and lifting the back knee up.
Then, inhale and raise the arms up parallel to each other and if can look up with a long neck.  Stay for a few breaths.
To come up.  Press into both feet and straighten the front leg.  If using the block, remove so doesn't fall onto toes!  Step back foot forward and come into Tadasana and repeat with other leg forward.

Benefits:  Helps relieve backache, lumbago and sciatica.  Helps to strengthen back muscles, tones abdominal muscles, relieves acidity and improves digestion.  Can also help to strengthen the bladder and correct a displaced uterus.

Cautions: Do not do if have high blood pressure, a bulging or herniated disk or a heart condition.  Also, avoid during menstruation.

Pamela Nelson