Affirmation of the Month:
"Nothing on earth can hold me! My soul, like a weightless balloon, soars upward through skies of eternal freedom!"
from J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda), Affirmations for Self-Healing
Jeffrey Goldberg’s Practice Tip: Bandhas in Yoga Practice
In the past, we talked about proper alignment in the poses and all of the benefits that come from proper alignment, both in terms of safe physical practice and to increase the proper flow of life force (prana) throughout the body. Last month, we discussed the importance of proper breathing and aligning your breath with the movements of the poses.
In this month's tip, the use of the basic Bandhas during asana practice will be introduced, although they are useful in meditation practice as well. The Bandhas are internal energy locks to direct the flow of life-force or prana generated by the poses.
The Mulabandha, or root lock, moves energy from the base of the spine upward from the first to the second energy center (or chakra). Bring your mental focus at the perineum. You are at the right place when your awareness is directed to your muscle that you would use to stop the flow of urine (pubococcygeus muscle). The lock itself is not muscular, however, but is a subtle energy lock. Activation of the lock does not require muscular strength but instead conscious awareness and willingness or willpower.
During yoga postures, you should connect with the muscles of this region, but then go deeper by engaging an energetic awareness. The root lock should come into your awareness during every yoga posture (unless you are rounding your back). By maintaining the natural curves of the spine using proper alignment, there will form a synergy between the yoga postures and the root lock. With awareness and practice, root lock occurs spontaneously. It is the foundation of your practice.
Uddiyanabandha, or upward navel lock, moves the energy from the lower energy centers to the heart center. It eliminates stagnant energy from the navel area. To engage this lock, bring your mental focus to the abdomen, holding your breath out after exhaling (but without straining), try to bring your navel in and upward to touch your spine. The upward navel lock is utilized in forward bend yoga postures. It is essential not to round the back during these poses or the energetic benefits of the forward bends will be lost. Note too that backward bends are good to do after forward bends because they open up the heart center and send the energy upward from there.
Jalandharabandha, or throat lock, energetically connects the heart center with the head and can be used with certain yoga postures when in proper alignment, keeping the neck long and the throat soft while connecting the energy between the heart and spiritual eye through the throat. The chin moves toward the chest, dropping down but also inward, lengthening the cervical spine. The jaw must not be clenched. The throat lock pumps energy through the throat center into the spiritual eye and crown and keeps the energy that has risen from sinking down, leaking, or being dissipated. Most inverted poses utilize the throat lock. Generally, throat lock should be performed on an inhaled or exhaled retention, without forcing it or straining.
When these three bandhas are used together, it is called Mahabandha. It will cure both a sleepy mind and a restless mind. Include Mahabandha in yoga postures, meditation, and while engaged in the affairs of everyday life. It will balance your energy throughout the energy centers.
With proper yoga posture practice and alignment, the locks will activate spontaneously. Proper practice is effortless.
Next month: Ajnabandha (Spiritual Eye Lock) and Drishti (Eye Gaze) during asana practice will be explored.
Bri Winton’s Dynamic Human Anatomy:
Dynamic human anatomy is what I am working on discovering and teaching right now. I believe that this is the first step to becoming a sacred athlete. To be a sacred athlete you must understand both the rigid and fluid aspects of the body as well as movement. This part of AngelHeal Tips and Tricks will be a long string of my findings as I too learn more and more about the human body. I am using yoga as my method of discovery and inquiry, but that is by no means the only way to go about this; it just happens to be my favorite.
My favorite books right now are Ray Long's Scientific Keys and Leslie Kaminoff's Yoga Anatomy, and will use those along with other sources while we go. Those books are available on Amazon or any major bookseller if you want to go through this with me.
Many people view life as ranging between the apparent opposites; either black or white, round or square, hot or cold. Likewise, in anatomy people tend to focus on either flexibility or strength, fluidity or stability, micro or macro functions. People treat these pairs as if they were different things; as if you could only have one or the other. It's this false perspective that may result in physical damage whether applied to yoga poses or to life in general.
The opposing pairs are the means by which change and growth occur. The mantra “Sita Ram” explores the unity of the opposites. All of life is simply a dance between the opposing qualities which are spiritually one; not opposing in reality. Embracing the opposites as one is the essence of dynamic human anatormy. Google defines dynamic as "characterized by constant change, activity or progress" or "a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process". So obviously the human body is dynamic. Our bodies are constantly changing, active, and progressing. Hatha yoga is all about the unity of the opposites in your body and so dynamic anatomy is a perfect fit.
Our learning about our bodies must also be dynamic. If we simply impose rigid rules over how the body works, we are resisting and blocking out a million other possible ways in which it might work. Rigidity blocks each individual’s ability to evolve, and therefore humanity itself will evolve only by embracing a dynamic point of view.
Next month, we will play with the poses! We will start to look at dynamic anatomy with individual poses.
Quotation of the month:
"The Heart is the only Reality. The mind is only a transient phase. To remain as one's Self is to enter the Heart."
Ramana Maharishi, quoted in Reflections on Talks with Sri Ramana Maharishi, by S.S. Cohen, p 112.
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