Yoga: ideas for the year ahead
We started a new term of yoga and a new theme for the year ahead: the breath, cakras and the seasons. These ideas will develop as we practice through the year. I have tried to offer ideas that have a physical connection as well as energetic. I am aware that I ‘pack’ a lot in at the start of a new theme but we have plenty of time for these ideas to develop and be discussed. In the different groups I am aware that ideas about energetic centres (cakras) and energy channels (nadis) resonate with some and not for others. I would like you to receive these ideas as a bhavana which is a tool for practice. A bhavana is ‘an instrument of becoming’, a suggested way to experience practice. This can be very specific such as during one posture or for the whole practice. How you choose to use the ideas is up to you, some will work for you and some will not.
Yoga practice is a place to connect. In a world of electricity and continual light, spending time connecting with the time of year and quality of the seasons is good for us. Some people dread the winter months but they are an important time for rest, recuperation and allowing new ideas to be envisioned and take root. We talk about taking our practice off the mat. It is also important to acknowledge our life and the space we occupy in the world when we are on the mat. We are part of the Universe not observers.
In Autumn we can focus on the exhale and svadhisthana (the sacral cakra). Like Autumn, the exhale symbolises letting go, releasing fruit and withdrawing. It can undo habits that no longer serve us. The first step is to become aware of those habits. In doing so, we might realise what will sustain us through the winter months so we can put the support in place that we may be nourished and replenished; and we also realise the opposite – what are we holding onto that holds us in a place of lack?
The asana practice brings us into svadhisthana or sacral cakra. Svadhisthana translates as that which stands by itself. This is our seat of self-worth and self-esteem. It connects to the element of water and our creativity and ability to go with the flow. To honour svadhisthana we can consider our relationship to pleasure: what delights our senses? how can we be creative? It is necessary to balance our desire to be sated with being seduced by indulgence. As for Autumn, we need to balance what is needed for pleasure and nourishment and what is just desire and want. Physically we can look to svadhisthana for support and a central place from which to move into forward bends, twists and extension. It can change the quality of the practice, to give a foundation from which we can lengthen and grow.
This is a link to the blog which summarises our year of cakra practice:
We have started pranayama with ujjayi. We are using a bhavana to feel the inhale travelling up the central nadi channel (susumna) and the exhale travelling down two nadis (ida and pingala) (Funky Guru (2011)). This is in preparation for working with anuloma ujjayi. Of the many nadis, these three are said to be the most important. They
start in the base cakra, at the perineum. Ida weaves up the body to end at the left nostril and is linked to the moon and the feminine. Pingala weaves to the right nostril and is linked to the sun and the masculine. Susumna travels in a straight line from the perineum to the crown and is linked to fire and our spiritual core. Each time the nadis intersect is a cakra point. We are working with bhavana in pranayama to cultivate a sense of these channels. It is said that when susumna is free of blocks and prana can flow in this central axis then we are ‘at one with life’ (Funky Guru (2010)). You are invited to use this bhavana for your own individual experience.
One definition of a yogi is ‘one whose prana is contained’. When we are unwell or blocked in some way our prana or personal energy sits outside the body unable to sustain us. Yoga practice aims to cleanse the body, to create an environment to welcome prana back into the nadis.
Finally we started playing with varun(a) or water mudra, water being the element of Autumn and Svadhisthana. Energetically the different fingers relate to different elements and their associated cakras. Varun mudra touches the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger and straightens the middle digits. You want the tips to touch lightly so there is no tension but not so lightly that they move apart. I have been playing with this mudra this week. I start with all of my fingers curled and relaxed. As I deepen my meditation I try to straighten the other fingers one by one.
I like playing with these ideas, they align my internal and external world. Every teacher has a personal view of the world. I offer them to you as a support for your practice.
I look forward to continuing our discussions and connections.
*The Funky Guru Ltd (2010) 108 Gems for Understanding Nadi and Cakra, the Subtle Body Sutras Part 1
*The Funky Guru Ltd (2011) 108 Essential Tips for Teaching Seated Breathing Practices
Hirschi G (2000) Mudras, Yoga in your Hands, Weiser Books, Boston, MA
Desikachar TKV (1995) THe Heart of Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice, Inner Traditions International, VermontSS
Swami Saradananda (2001) Chakra Meditation, Discover Energy, Creativity, Focus, Love, Communication, Wisdom and Spirit, Watkins Pulishing, London
*The Funky Guru is produced by Ranju Roy and Dave Charlton, Sadhana Mala